Remek: We’re a bunch of bad jokers
An interview with Czech DIY band Remek
Remek from Prague is a DIY hardcore punk rooted in the late 90’s emo sound and the political side of hardcore punk. They have been around for quite some time now, formed after the demise of their old projects Lakmé and Dakhma. The following interview appeared in the 4th issue of my zine Tigersuit. Note it’s an old interview and some things changed since then. In October 2015 Remek is going on Balkan tour (Croatia, Slovenia, BiH, Serbia, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Hungary and Slovakia), together with their peers of Gattaca. More info at https://remekdiy.wordpress.com/
Ahoj! I’ll start with a question that I’m very curious to ask you. Your name comes from Vladimir Remek, the first Czechoslovakian cosmonaut. He is also the first astronaut ever to go into space, who is not from the USA or the Soviet Union… but he is still alive and he is a current politician in the European Parliament. Isn’t it very strange to name your band after current politician?
Marek: Hey, thanks for your interest in our band. We are a bunch of bad jokers, so our band name is kind of a joke. We had an idea to call our new band with some communist name, first idea was Artek, but lately we were hanging out together and someone said: “why we don’t call our band Remek?” So that’s the story behind the name, nothing special, and nothing really special. We simply like the word and the cosmonaut story as well.
What is it about playing in the band that makes you most inspired? I think you’re all involved in the DIY hardcore/punk thing for quite a long time before forming Remek, and some of you have been in bands like Lakmé and Dakhma, which play kind of the same stuff as Remek, musically and lyrically. You’re all involved in almost every aspect of the hardcore/punk DIY culture, like organizing shows, doing zines, running a distro, being involved in activism and propagating veganism and alternative ideas. I guess, writing music and lyrics, playing shows and touring is the most ultimate and fun experience in the hardcore/punk culture.
Marek: For me, the most special think on being in DIY scene is the opportunity to create something by myself and/or together with people like me. Making things without need of some specialist or event creator, just taking control over our lives. And I’m not musician, I just sing for the band and write most of our lyrics, but it’s not any artist thing for me, it is more about inner pressure I have.
Simona: There are many things. Besides music, art and other things I can mention mainly the boys from Remek. Playing in a band is a big part of my life, but it’s not the main thing. School and activities around it fulfill me in the same way.
Juraj: Although I have been playing in DIY bands for more than 14 years I am not musician as well as Marek said before. It’s not that arty thing or fame and glory that drives me to do so. I just want to hang out with bunch of friends who want to do very similar things and it doesn’t matter if it is a show, tour or just couple of hours spent in rehearsal room. I do think that hardcore/punk culture depends on music and still carries important ideas using music as a medium.
Honza: For me it’s pretty much the same. I have some issues do deal with, be it some personal issues or things around me that somehow strike me (daily life, politics, cruel world…). And music is my personal way how to “use” this pressure in a creative way. The same thing is releasing zines or doing other things. I see a lot of things around that I am not satisfied with and that makes me sad or angry or happy and I can’t simply leave the pressure inside or kill it. To speak out is the best solution for me. I want things to change.
What would you say about the band, the lyrics, the message and the emotions you’re expressing with Remek to someone who is not familiar with what you’re about? Obviously you can say “We’re a DIY band, go and download all our stuff for free from our website, because we don’t care about profits, but don’t forget to read the lyrics and song explanations. And if you like vinyl records, we have some both for our own and your pleasure”…
Marek: We are 4 good friends. Honza, Juraj, Simona, Marek. We are punx, we love to do songs together, and we like to travel together and make new friends. We are vegan band and we love the idea of political message in music. We use our band as catalyst for changes – in our personal lives and in society itself.
Honza: I’d add that we love to challenge things. We like to try to do things in a way that is not usual or that is maybe somehow a taboo, even within the hardcore-punk scene. If you trust that what you’re doing is good, there’s no reason you shouldn’t try to do it… yourself, of course.
What is the scene in Czech Republic right now? Usually the Czech people have a very low self-esteem and they say that the scene is very small and there is nothing happening, which is totally not true. There’s the amazing Fluff Fest in Rokycany, and I have been to DIY shows and festivals not only in Prague but also in smaller towns in Czech Republic and Slovakia, and it always have been amazing and I’ve met great people, who are not only interested in music, but doing a lot of stuff and maintaining a political attitude and activism. And there are so many crust, grindcore, and hardcore bands from all over Czech Republic, some really hard-working labels, I’ve seen awesome zines, and (besides his great zine Hluboká Orba) Filip from See You In Hell wrote a book about the history of Czechoslovakian punk…
Marek: I agree with you. We have very healthy scene right now. There are lots of bands, labels, show promoters all around Czech. I can recommend you few bands I like: Gattaca (emocrust with Honza from Remek), Palahniuk (angry emo punk), Sin of Lilith (screamo), Evidence Smrti (blackened crust), Lahar (thrash) and many others.
I take part in some other projects beside Remek – Marnost (black metal), Osawatomie (fast political hardcore / emoviolence), Revenge of the Nerds zine.
Juraj: You have mentioned Slovakia as well and I think that there is also pretty much going on these days. There are some individuals and small collectives who still organize small DIY shows, run labels and bands, does vegan days/fests etc. Check out some great bands – Time of My Life, The Flame Still Burns, or Dawn To Come.
Honza: As Marek mentioned some good bands, I’d like to focus on zines. You already wrote about Hluboká Orba – it’s always a big piece of work and Filip’s got my huge respect. Trhavina (made by Gride singer) is very similar in terms of format and selection of articles, but has a nice personal touch. My personal favourites are Napalmanach (made by Skulda from Sheeva Yoga) and How Can Limokid Kill Your Dreams? Napalmanach is a powerviolence enthusiast zine with some articles focused on politics or history. I really like it, also because Skulda’s writing style is just amazing. HCLKYD is a zine done by the former Lahar singer and consists mainly from articles from his friends who I know. It’s got nice design and I really enjoy reading it. And a special category is for Black Block Dog zine done by another friend. It’s heavily influenced by 90s zines and scene, contains good interviews and articles you do can feel a lot of passion from it. The other good zines are Smrt (by a guy from Festa Desperato), Chyba (by Gattaca drummer) and many more. Oh, now I remember that I was suprprised how good was a new Papagájův hlasatel zine that is done by a bunch of old punks. It’s again similar to Hluboká Orba.
Together with Marek I also play in Marnost and Osawatomie and do the Revenge of the Nerds zine. Besides that I play in Gattaca.
Maybe this might be a good place to talk about a new project we started with Juraj and Blum (Gattaca other guitarist). It’s an internet label called Coffee Breath Records where we are releasing live recordings and demo recordings of bands that we like. People can download it for free but there is an option of paying voluntary donation to our “fund.” All the money that we will collect will be used for financing activism. I think that the first collective that we will support will be the newly established Food Not Bombs collective in Plzen. As you might know the winter is very tough right now and homeless people are having really hard times so this is a way for us how to help a bit at least. I don’t think we will collect much money but it’s good to give it a try.
What are your convictions for being vegan and what it is like to be an animal rights/vegan activist in your country? In 2008 I’ve met Michal Kolesar and interviewed him about the animal rights activism in Czech Republic, is he still around or the collective Realita TV, what’s the current situation in the field of AR activism? What about Food Not Bombs in Czech Republic?
Marek: I’m vegan for more than 10 years; it’s more than natural for me. There are some groups working for animal liberation in different ways, from open rescues / ALF to promoting animal liberation. I m not sure what to say about Michal Kolesar´s activities, you better check his website and see yourself.
And yes, there is FNB in Czech right now – I know about groups in Prague and Plzen – they are not just giving food to people in need, they do more activities like collecting old clothes (especially in Winter it’s really important…).
Some friends of us are organizing vegan dinners for “normal” people promoting veganism. And some friends are doing the vegan cooking videos on youtube.
Juraj: I am vegan more than 10 years too and can’t imagine doing it other way. I finished marathon run race last year, so I can proof vegans can do it too. Hehe, just kidding (but I am serious about that marathon). I would encourage all people who want to try vegan lifestyle, it is definitely easier than how it looks like on a first sight, there is plenty of vegan products, web cookbooks, paper cookbooks, guides where to eat, what to eat etc. I think the situation is much better than some years ago.
Honza: I’ve been vegetarian for about 9 years and I’ve been vegan for last 3 years. I actually can not say I am a 100 percent vegan because from time to time I eat some food with milk or eggs when I find it in garbage or when my grandmother gives me something. But it’s few times a year. It just makes sense to me from certain points of view. I chose this lifestyle simply because I find animal breeding industry cruel and unjustifiable. And I don’t live in a prehistoric forest where killing an animal for food would be question of life or death, so I chose not to kill, because I have this option. Frankly said, besides choosing not to consume animal products and supporting various activities by playing benefit shows or attending there, I do not take part on animal rights activism so I can’t answer the question.
I think that Realita.TV doesn’t exist anymore as a collective under that name. However, Michal is still active, you can check out his work at www.michalkolesar.net. The other people are also still active and do many inspiring things. For example there’s this nice website www.veganka.cz where you can find a lot of vegan recipes as well as some practical information, news etc. But it’s in Czech, haha.
How did you jump into the philosophy of veganism and animal liberation? Why do you believe it’s important to be vegan and do you consider veganism as a revolutionary act in itself? What about Straight Edge?
Marek: I became a vegan through hardcore and straight edge sometimes in late the 90’s. Being vegan is the easiest way how to minimize your negative impact on the world around you. That’s the revolutionary part, I think.
About straight edge, I started calling myself SXE in 1998, but I don’t call myself SXE anymore. I sold out few years ago, I was a bit sick of all the hardcore, but later on I reclaim it back. Now I try to live drug free, but to be serious, I don’t feel the right to call myself straight edge anymore, haha. And drug free lifestyle for me is more of a personal choice than political one, but on the other side, when you think about it, you can hardly do anything more anarchist than abstinence from alcohol and cigarettes, simply because it’s one of the main state incomes on taxes.
Juraj: It was very similar for me, I became vegan through hardcore. I have never called myself straight edge, although I am living my life without any drugs (ok, I use caffeine, but you can’t be on tour with Remek/Gattaca girls and boys and not to drink any coffee). I find refusing animal products and drugs revolutionary and I think it really matters to speak about it and promote vegan straight edge lifestyle. Animal products mean exploitation and killing of living beings to me and drugs mean total state control (legal drugs) and losing of freedom (any drugs). I don’t want to push anybody on being vegan straight edge, but think about these topics. To cut a piece of egoism off and do something that matters is at least one thing anybody can do.
Honza: I also went vegan through hardcore-punk. When you find yourself in an environment where you have enough information about things that are going on around you it naturally affects your thinking about the world around you. So when I started reading all those zines and leaflets and attending all those benefit shows I felt I just don’t need to kill other animals to be alive and healthy.
With straight edge it was a bit different. I used to go to punk shows a lot and we drank a lot. Once I went to see a band that turned up being a straight edge band. I was amazed that those guys still had the same fun as I had but they didn’t drink at all. When I thought about it later on I realized I used to drink just because it was a social protocol and because everybody else around was drinking too. Seeing that band helped me to find out that drinking to have fun was not what I wanted and so I quit. I never smoked cigarettes and I stopped smoking weed even before, because I didn’t like it. Now I’ve been free of drugs like that for about 10 years and it feels natural for me. I still use caffeine, though. I usually don’t use the label of SXE and do not wear patches, t-shirts or badges. It’s just how I live my life. But, of course, from time I use the term SXE when I think it’s relevant (but mainly when I think it’s funny to use it. However, when it comes to drug abuse I don’t think only about my own life but about lives of people around me who I like or have some relationship to. I know a bunch of people who turned into sad hopeless beings partly because of drug abuse (be it alcohol, weed or something else). I hate seeing my friends down or acting like total idiots because their joy of drugs took over them. From my point of view and from my experiences mainly alcohol is really shitty thing. It really changes people. Sometimes you see people who are normally nice and cool and after they drink a bit they become violent assholes, stop thinking and start doing stupid things like driving drunk etc. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to preach, people should decide themselves, but I wrote this to illustrate factors that lead me to abstinence.
I got a handful of copies of your zine Revenge of The Nerds and I could see a lot of similarities with what we’re doing right here with our zine (Tigersuit Zine). It’s no surprise we’re writing on the same topics, interviewing the same bands, haha. It’ll be nice to hear more about your zine projects, especially the most materialist things about it, like how many copies do you print, how do you manage to distribute and sell them and where do you get money for the printing costs?
Marek: We love zines, that’s the reason we started Revenge… I’m not sure about numbers, I think first issue was 250 copies, second a bit more. First issue I paid from my pocket, with second one group of friends who have printing machine helped us. Right now we are working on third issue, we want to do more obscure band interviews, but we want to have more other topics now – ROTN is me and Honza and we are real nerds, so we want to write about things we are interested in – for me it’s concept of mental health, institutionalization of mental health, psychiatry, psychotherapy,…
Honza: I’d add that Revenge of the Nerds wasn’t our first zine. Marek with his friends did a zine Call 4 Justice (veganism, politics and stuff, only 2 issues) and I used to be a part of a collective printing a zine Move Your Ass (free zine, 15 issues, 1500 copies each… aiming to connect punk, crust, hardcore, reggae, oi and politics). With Revenge of the Nerds we took a bit different approach and started writing about things that we are personally interested, be it serious issues or obscure bands or labels. So many people might find it boring. But we don’t care.
Do you consider yourself bike punx and am I right that you love to ride bikes? What is like riding a bike in Prague?
Simona: No, but I’d like to. I still don’t have a bike and courage. To ride a bike in Prague takes a lot of courage.
Marek: Riding bike in Prague is same like in every big city in Europe. It’s fun and it’s dangerous. I like it a lot, but Honza is much more into bike culture (building bikes, organizing events etc.), I’m more on consumerist side of this, just riding my trendy fixed gear bike and having fun.
Juraj: I love to ride bikes. Any bikes, anytime, anywhere. I always did and always will. Wow, it sounds like some slogan or advertisement, but it’s true. It is a bit complicated to commute by bike in Prague as there is no infrastructure/space for bikes, almost no cycle paths or bike lines and drivers hate cyclists of course, but I am still having fun. Bike is the easiest way of saving nature, commuting/travelling, doing exercise and having fun together.
Honza: I love riding or assembling or repairing bikes. And I like to meet people with similar hobby. With Juraj and other friends we organized a city race last year and we are going to it this year too, but also with workshops and a concert. Last time we had about 50 people attending so I am curious about this year. Riding bike in Prague is fun, now it’s safer than it used to be I think – they made lot of signs on the roads and drivers are more careful. Of course you meet lot of assholes literally trying to kill you, but I think it’s like anywhere else.
Anything you want to add, what are your plans for the future? You’re playing also in other bands, some words about them?
Marek: Don’t know what to say more, it’s amazing that you are interested in our little band. It means a lot for me. (…)
We love vinyl records and it’s amazing to hold record of your band in your hands. I can only recommend this to you – start a band, play the shows, do the records.
And our other bands (I mentioned) – Marnost is going to release split LP with Seeds in the Barren Fields in few days, Osawatomie will record for demo / seveninch really soon. In both bands there are members of Remek and Gattaca, we are one big crew and as I said, its greatest fun we can ever have.
Take care; stay vegan and don’t forget to have fun.
Juraj: Thank you for your interest in our band and our ideas.
Check out our web page and download our music/lyrics or other stuff if you’d like to.
Honza: Thanks for interviewing us. It’s nice to see people interested in a small young band many hundred kilometres away.
Simona: Plans? Many!