Ruined Families: An Education in Unlearning
Ruined Families talk about the political aesthetics of hardcore punk music and the underlying ideas behind their new record "Education"
2016 has been a tough year, however, being involved in the DIY hardcore punk scene is still something I feel wholeheartedly passionate about. In retrospection, there are so many bands and records I’ve listened to, live or on record, during the past year. Some of them are truly admirable and worthwhile both musically and lyrically, but there are just a few to inspire and electrify all my senses in actually vital and immediate way. Ruined Families is such a band, and their new LP ‘Education’ is their ultimate manifestation of unrestrained do-it-yourself passion. Their album is a furious and blazing critique of a collapsing economic system, and a détournement to the underground music culture and its political aesthetics.
I’d like to start things off by trying to get some background on how did punk and hardcore shape the lives of all of you. What was the impetus to become interested in something beyond the mainstream music and dominant political narratives?
For us punk and hardcore music was part of teenage and post-teenage emancipation, even though each one of us got into it in a different way. Sentiments of personal liberation were reinforced by the lived experience of participating in punk practices and activities—going to shows, buying records and playing in bands. In the mid-90s when we were teenagers, different kinds of globalised culture were introduced in Greece, including graffiti, hip-hop and punk music, which were all fused together and represented a strange form of underground culture. From this scene which was characterised by different types of creative expression, we were somehow drawn into punk. I’m not sure if politics or music came first, but I think both have been interdependent along the way.
To what extent did Athens, and political climate in Greece, make you the people you are and have shaped Ruined Families as a band?
Living and growing up in Greece has played a crucial role in our personal formation. Our subjectivities have been shaped by many local cultural references, but also by the occasional denial of such references. When we were younger we wanted to push away some of these elements. Growing up makes it easier for us to understand and embrace certain characteristics of this ‘greekness’, but, it also makes it difficult to tolerate its flaws.
During the last few years, the crisis has worked as a catalyst that accelerated different dynamics in the Greek society. For everyday people, this economic and social issue has been translated into different emotional stages; anger, grief, desperation, hope, disappointment. Undoubtedly, this ever-changing character of the crisis has played a crucial role. However, in this record we tried to zoom out from the issue of the crisis and attempted to adopt new ways of thinking about the current landscape, where such conditions of crisis seem to have spread globally.
You have a new album simply called “Education”, why did you choose this name and what’s the main concept behind that record? How did this album come to be?
Education is essentially a record about unlearning. It represents a transition in our way of thinking and playing music. It started as an attempt to counter two problems. The first has to do with new digital and algorithmic technologies—how they change contemporary music cultures and what this means to play punk music in such a period. The second one has to do with political aesthetics; it attempts to counter the problem of how to create common modes of feeling that surpass the mass neoliberalization of everything and the concentration of information created by emerging digital culture. In this sense, the title of the album represents our personal attempt to explore such questions.
What kind of narratives do you have in your heads when creating art? How important do you feel it is for musicians, artists, or writers to communicate political topics and themes through their art?
This is an important question especially when it comes to the reasons why people decide to start bands nowadays. Today’s punk music is often introvert and in many instances it is used in a confessional way, mostly to express some kind of social anger or deal with personal issues. As much as I believe that these are very important, I think that it is increasingly necessary for punk music to have certain goals and targets and to try to set its limits. Punk should be oppositional and should adapt to contemporary problems.
In today’s hypermediated world, everyone can talk about everything, listen to any kind of music and wear any band’s t-shirt. In this environment, it becomes increasingly difficult for punk bands to convey political messages and attract a wider, more sensible audience. Also, the limits between politics and mass culture have become blurry. For example, we see rappers and popstars such as Beyonce or Kanye West getting involved into politics. Where does punk belong in this condition? Who does it represent?
It is my belief that punk is able to convey new ideas and that it can still be a cultural form that represents the interests of those that feel oppressed or socially excluded. However, I believe that some kind of political communication and strategic thinking are crucial for punk bands in order to create some kind of separation and differentiate from other genres of popular music.
Ideally, what experience or impact would someone take away from your live shows?
That’s a difficult question. At every show we can’t completely control the result of the performance as we try to improvise according to the venue, the audience and our mood. I‘d be happy if people feel that what they saw was vivid and powerful.
European nationalists, militant Neo-Nazis, and all kind of right-wing populists wish to see the world divided into gated communities in which national identity serves as some sort of a modern nation-state caste system. What life will be like for all of us in an era of ever-increasing police surveillance, state-control and far-right governance?
I think we have to wait and see to what extent this scenario will materialise. At the moment, it’s evident that right and far-right ideologies are prevailing over more progressive ones. However, I do not want to fall into imagining dystopic scenarios or falling into what Wendy Brown calls a ‘left melancholia’. It is increasingly important to strategize, to organize and meet people. More than that I believe that it is crucial to imagine and speculate different futures. We definitely need to bring back the notion of the future and not let nationalists and socially conservatives take it away and design it for us.
The first time we met I was hithchiking out of Rokycany in Czech Republic where you have played Fluff Fest shortly after releasing your first LP “Four Wall Freedom”, and then you gave me a ride in your van. What music is on heavy rotation in your tour van right now? And what’s the best tour so far?
That was a great incident and a very nice meeting. Following the release of this record, we have not toured, so we have not spent much time in a van together yet. However, we will be touring soon and I will update you accordingly. Here’s some stuff that we have been listening to lately at home: Ravencult, Masada, Drei Affen, Oren Ambarchi, Manuel Gottsching and Steven Warwick.
All our tours have been really good so far, especially since we get to meet new people and experience new places.
Are there any other bands from Greece you would like to recommend? And what about the scene there in general?
There are a few bands creating their own style of experimental hardcore in Greece at the moment. We would like to recommend Broken Fingers, Mavro Gala and Minerva Superduty, which are all good friends of ours and really cool bands.
Anything else you would like to add?
Thanks for the interview. See you on the road in 2017.