Strike Anywhere: Nationalism Keeps You From Enjoying Your Life
After-the-gig conversation with the antifascist hardcore punk band Strike Anywhere
On July 12th, 2007 we interview Strike Anywhere’s singer Thomas Barnett just after their first gig in Bulgaria, sharing the stage with La Plebe from San Francisco, California. The band played at Backstage club in Sofia and we were eager to start a conversation on band’s politics and DIY attitudes.
Are you satisfied with the show tonight and how are you feeling after the show?
Yes, very much! We had some technical issues, but I hope it did not hurt the show. But in the end it was awesome time. This whole place has been wonderful to us. La Plebe, Empty Face, and everybody. I’m glad people stuck around, because we know that Bulgarian people know La Plebe but we have no right to expect anyone to know us here, so, the people that stayed and sang along – you know, we’re grateful.
How was the tour so far and what do you expect from the next shows?
It’s been incredibly long, it’s crazy. We’ve been as far as Portugal, and then drive to Romania and here, and up to Stockholm, Sweden… Tomorrow we drive to Thessaloníki, then we drive back up trough four countries, through Zagreb, Croatia, and then we have two days in Germany after that. So this is the longest tour, with the most land cover driving in a van. We had accident with the van, robberies, people broken in and stolen our things. We hit a car in Budapest, and when we were driving through Transylvania the hood of the engine came up into the windscreen, we had to stop on the road and try to pull it down and we bond bungee chords, tying the hood down. So we had all this crazy times at the shows make it all worth it of course. We had the best times playing for you guys. I hope people like it.
What do you want to achieve by playing music, what’s the idea of the band? And tell us a bit about your political beliefs.
The message lies in our lyrics. When we’re making a record we have lyrics, but we have also explanations. In our most recent record we have have pages of text, talking about what the songs are about and what we’re trying to achieve. We’ve been a band for about 8 years, and we’ve traveled the whole planet…
We believe that human society needs to get liberated from corporate bondage, from the mythology of nation-states and nationalism. We believe we make you think we’re Green Anarchists or Social Ecologists and we operate in many different ways – sometimes we play really big shows with corporate bands, and sometimes we play tiny DIY shows and we do everything in the middle, because we think the message is important and we think that society is really conflicted and that there’s a lot of reasons to not bottle up the punk message for just the chosen few… because we think a lot of people hear it through the radio and the music television, but more and more people are getting into it through the internet.
There’s an independent and DIY music community that’s happening because music is now free, which makes it harder for us to tour and eat and stuff but it’s more worth it because more people can get a hold of the ideas. So, it’s a very strange time with touring and music. A lot of bands that would want to come here don’t have the chance to, don’t have the resources to do it. When we get home, and La Plebe gets home, we’ll all have to go back to work in the States, because non of us are wealthy at all…. amazing.
So, you’re not just playing music, but you work as well?
Yes. For an year we’ve been touring almost the whole time and we had a little break at home for a week or something… I’m kind of like a green grosserer. I work at a farm market for organic and bio produce. So we all pick up jobs…
Great. We’ve heard you’re vegan, so what else do you do for animal rights, of course your job seems also linked with that?
A lot of animal rescue. Where dogs and cats, especially dogs, are used for fights. Street animals and animals that are used in the pitbull fighting trade. Which is people betting on dogfighting and trying to liberate these animals from that situation, involves being in extremely poor and violent American neighborhoods (ghettos), and risking a lot to take these animals out of their situation. But it’s more like social work, word diplomacy, trying to educate people about animals, and their rights and their needs, that they’re not just a security system, where all it does it make you feel tough, that it’s a living being with a heart and mind. That’s basically what I’m doing and my bandmates are doing.
Yeah and we’ve also written songs and donated music for benefit records, that contribute money to the legal defense of activists who are imprisoned for animal rights activism, like property crimes in the US law are classified under the Patriot Act as terrorism. So they’re taking all green, red and black anarchists and taking the fuck out of the law and treat them as terrorists, as crimes against the State. Which is so insane and it’s really hard to explain what a mess it is. So that’s how I act out for animal rights. We put benefit shows for other animal legal defense funds too.. We play the shows and give all the money to different groups.
Are you afraid of what machines could do as much as of what people are doing?
People! Machines are just tools. I think technology is a way to keep us distant from each other in a kind of distorted society, and keep us isolated. Like, you guys wouldn’t have to come to the show now, you could have stayed home and watch it on Youtube, instead of being here. But I don’t think that all technology should be destroyed. I know a lot of friends who are primitivists but I’m not that one. Use our tools wisely and way of consciousness wherever we can. For example, the Internet – many people here would not know our songs and because of that Alex (Last Hope) took a chance and invited us and so made it possible for us to play tonight, and we are very grateful.
What’s your opinion on nationalism, is it a big problem in the US as it is here in Eastern Europe?
We also have a big problem with nationalism in the States. The isolation and strangeness of American life. Nationalism is a root to some kind of economic power and respect and all it is is a weapon to use against the nation-state. It’s kind of like being macho. But on a country wide level. It keeps you from enjoying your life. There are whole nations with people who are repressed because they think they’re the greatest. It’s a strange contradiction. We’re obviously not into it.
We think nation-states are an illusion and they’re a construct that let global capitalism continue to feed on. And then all of a sudden all their rest of the poor people think that the only way they can have power is to be proud as fuck to be from wherever they’re from instead of organizing. I believe that organizing as a class and understanding the way that the world really works is extremely important. But a lot of this information is getting harder and harder to get because of media consolidation. And we have a couple of songs about this, one of them is called “Infrared”. We played it tonight.
We’re from the side of Amerikkka that lost a civil war, and people are still really upset about that. Every country has a civil war, and there are monuments, and graveyards, and lost families everywhere and it’s a mess. So, in some way, we can understand what was happened right to the west from here, with your neighbours in Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina. It’s just all about outside forces coming in and making people hate each other that never had to in the first place. And this is how we see nationalism as sort of like a self-exploitative mechanism.