Rentokill is a hardcore punk band from Austria. Formed about four years ago they’ve just released their second album, ‘Antichorus’. This is an interview with Jack from the band conducted just before the album came out.
LH: You guys come from Austria, which probably couldn’t be described as the punk rock capital of Europe, but still a lot of awesome bands have come out of the area. What environmental (political/social/natural) factors make Austria a good breeding ground for angsty political punk?
Jack: That’s a funny point; we’re getting asked this question quite often. I can’t say that there is a big political or social factor that differs Austria from other European countries. It’s pretty conservative, people in a way are quite unconfident with themselves, for no reason, and compensate discontent by consuming mass media as well as cheap corporate goods. I could point at the geographical location at the eastern borders of the European Union, to underline the situation of refugees, for example, but still I don’t think that there is a big difference to other countries nearby. What maybe makes a difference is the fact that Austria is small, so you soon know many of the bands around. You soon know most of the bands personally, which gives you the chance to share experiences, see what’s possible, and how to achieve it.
LH: I have temporarily joined the horrible world of working 9-5. I find this experience totally draining and demoralising sometimes. How do you manage to stay motivated and positive in your everyday lives?
Jack: Well, I’m lucky to have a job where I don’t have to be 9-5. And I decided not to have one again in my life. Life can offer so much more than earning and spending money. Our bass-player has a full-time job, for example, and I did before. I know it can suck the last drops of energy out of your body, but I don’t see the reason in it anymore. In our society, work is still presented as something that elevates your existence, not on a personal level but in some indefinable collective means. I have the feeling that, especially in Austria, this might root in the time after the Second World War. If you talk to people who have experienced this themselves, they’ll keep talking about how important it is to have work, and food, and of course security. But good-doer’s thoughts quickly turned into the main framework for a pure capitalist society, and we’ve all lost the original points. People are told to be proud of their contribution on the one hand, and to compensate remaining negative feelings by buying corporately produced bullshit on the other. “What’s good for the economy is good for everyone”. Under slogans like these, it is hard to achieve some re-thinking among major parts of this society.
LH: At a time when a lot of subcultures have been whored by big business and exploited by celebrities, do you believe that music is still an honest form of communication and a force for change?
Jack: I can’t say. There will be musicians that want to make music, and those who want to make money, or become some form of celebrity or whatever. Who cares? There will always be people that recognize music that comes in a true form, whatever that means. And I don’t think music should be considered as a potential force for change rather than another source of ideas, maybe even “information”. You might look at a band’s website because you like the band, and there you find some recommended books, movies, lyrics, and what’s so bad about that? And personally, I see no problem in working with an – independent – record label, if the collaboration has something to offer for both sides.
LH: I’m quite interested in the concept of national service in Austria. How do you guys feel about ‘interrupting’ your youth to serve your country? Do you think you gained anything from doing this? Has the experience influenced any of your actions within the punk scene?
Jack: I know few people who gained from this; in a way I consider positive for their or other’s lives. In terms of military service, a lot of people wonder why nobody puts more effort into establishing serious emergency management or the like, instead of tokenisticly recruiting young people for something they don’t have any time to think about. I guess perpetual neutrality is still somewhere in our heads. And anybody who believes that patrolling the eastern Austrian borders is necessary should turn the gun and pull the trigger. Talking about civil service, the only alternative in this country, I believe there could be way better solutions to integrate (young) people within the social or medical system. But if you are forced to do something, chances are low that you will enjoy it and in fact a lot of people don’t enjoy it.