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Seein’ Red

April 3rd, 2007 · post by pavel · Make a comment


Seein’ Red, from Holland, formed back in the ’80s out of the ashes of Lärm, who along with Heresy could arguably be said to be one of the most important European hardcore bands of the ’80s. Lärm pretty much created the notion of power violence with their intensely political songs and insane live shows. They split in the late ’80s feeling like the audiences they were playing to didn’t give a shit about the message. Soon after they formed Seein’ Red, who in some ways could be seen as even more political than Lärm. Their fastcore style has been an inspiration to kids across the world inspiring bands in pretty much every genre of hardcore, whilst they’ve always remained staunchly DIY in all their activity. The following interview was done with the band over the summer of 2006.

LH: This is kind of a boring question, but could you please briefly introduce yourself?
Seein red: We are Paul van den Berg- guitar & vocals (born: 1960 , job:garbageman), Olav van den Berg- Drums (born:1962, Job: Printer), Jos Houtveen – Bas (born:1963, Job:teacher).

We met each other around 1979 and started our first band The Sextons in 1980, after that we had some other short lived bands: Disturbers and Total Chaoz. But our first serious band was Lärm which we did for almost 7 years. After Lärm split up we started Seein’ Red and that band is still alive. Olav & Paul also played in Manliftingbanner, Profound & Colt Turkey. Jos played in Orwell Nation and Kriegstanz and is currently also playing in Staathaat.

LH: Is it true that you haven’t known any chords on guitar for the 15 years that you’ve played with a band?
SR: The first five years we pretty much played on out-of-tune guitars, because we didn’t know how to tune our instruments. Later we got ourselves a stage-tuner, so we finally could tune our guitars. Still, I didn’t known any chords, until I read an interview of Helmet in which the guitarist said that he always tuned his guitar in E, so he could play the e-chord with just one finger. That sounded great to me, so with my stage tuner I tuned my guitar in E and since that day I always play the guitar with just one finger. Even after 26 years that I’ve played in bands I still don’t know any chords, except for that e-chord. It doesn’t matter because it didn’t stop me from playing the guitar, and writing all this music noise for Lärm and Seein’ Red. To me that’s the true power of punk, that you don’t have to be a fucking musician to make punk!

LH: You’re still active within the so-called hardcore scene; do you feel this term ’scene’ justifies its use? Do you feel the self-proclaimed unity of punk, hardcore and other sub-genres of this rank?
SR: The term scene still justifies its use, because that’s what it is: a scene, nothing more and nothing less. It never really became something more powerful, like a movement or a community, it’s just a scene. We don’t really feel that self-proclaimed unity, because there’s hardly any connection anymore between all the little scenes and sub-genres within the so-called hardcore scene. Everybody seems to be looking for their own personal space and safety of a sub-genre or a crew, etc. If there’s something like unity in the scene then it’s happening on a really small level and mostly based on friendships, better known as the network of friends. The lack of unity and solidarity within the scene is probably the source of our weakness.

LH: How about the connection between the different generations inside the scene? I see the roots you come from are slowly being forgotten by the kids and bands of your format become legends and heroes to those who just discovered that something like hardcore punk does exist. Don’t you feel alienated from all those new young bands because they don’t share the same background as you do? Or do you think that music varies, and ideas stay the same?
SR: Our own experiences are actually pretty positive. We always got along really well with a lot of the new young bands and the new generation of punks coming to shows. Maybe it’s because we have always stayed active and stayed in touch with quite a lot of new bands and new sounds, and we are, to a certain extent, active record buyers so we buy a lot of new records and love a lot of the new bands. In that way we don’t really feel alienated from all those new young bands. Just look at the split records we did, most of them are done with a younger generation of bands.

A lot of new kids though don’t know about our roots and where we are coming from, and sometimes that leads to a generation gap but can you really blame the young kids for that? What makes us sad is that a lot of punks from our generation, which we grew up with, have left the scene and turned their backs to the music as well as the ideas. Maybe that gives us a feeling of alienation because sometimes we are the only old punks at a concert. Too many people give up at a certain age and only a few old punks stay committed.

LH: Some parts of the indie music subculture have slowly become mainstream in last decade. From the viewpoint of someone who was there when the indie thing created itself, what is it like? How do you feel witnessing the corporate giants taking over the indie labels, bands, etc?
SR: Welcome to free market enterprise. If the mainstream industry smells a profit they will certainly try to get their greedy hands on any indie music subculture to put it on the market and sell it. In the very early days of punk you saw the same thing happening; major labels jumped on the bands and corporate fashion companies started to sell punk fashion. As always that created a counter culture of new and even more radical bands and the birth of the DIY scene.

Of course we feel pretty sad to see how corporate giants are taking over parts of the indie scene, to see bands, labels, people from that indie-scene going for the big money. But let’s face it, we live in a capitalist world and that’s how capitalism works and it’s playing a destructive role in all of our lives. The only hope we’ve got is that there are still a lot of committed people around who resist the fucking mainstream and it’s corporate business and will not bow for the bucks. In that way we believe there always will be a counter-culture where people will use their art as a weapon against the oppressive system.

LH: Do you adopt any specific kind of politic doctrine?
SR: On our It Takes Three to Fuck Shit Up EP, we had this lyric sheet which stated:
“If you’re opposed to the current system and you want change, there’s no point in being anything but a Marxist.” We think that’s still relevant today. if you talk about adopting a certain doctrine than in our case it’s the Marxist doctrine, although we see it more as a guideline. As people who are eager to learn, we have gone through a lot of ideological phases. Our political roots lie in the anarchist movement and from there we drifted towards anarcho- and council communism and pretty much ended up as being communists. More important than all these labels is what we really think and that’s what bring us together. The ideas and politics you have are more important than what you call them.

In all those past 26 years we got inspired by revolutionaries like Bakunin, Marx, Engels, Anton Pannekoek, Gramsci, Lenin, Che, etc, but also by movements like the squat-movement, Black Panthers, the R.A.F., Red Brigades, Zapatistas etc, or by music; Rondos, Woody Guthrie, Dead Kennedys, Victor Jarra, Crass, The Clash, etc. It’s a wide variety of political influences from grassroots Anarchism to revolutionary communism to the punk rock DIY ideals. We still take inspiration from all these traditions. From Marx the analysis of how capitalism works and why it is a dynamic but irrational system, and of class struggle as the motor force of history, so we are definitely more on the communist side of the left political spectrum.

LH: What do you think about spreading political ideas and communism in particular in hardcore scene? There is still a stronger stream claiming that hardcore should have nothing to do with politics, that it is just music.
SR: We think it’s part of our history, the roots of punk and hardcore are political or at least have a social conscience. Punk was about fucking rebellion against the status quo. Spreading and sharing political ideas is still as important as it was when it all started. Now more than ever we need a culture of resistance against all the oppressive conditions that exist in this rotten world.

About spreading communism? If you are opposed to the current political system than you might as well give a sustainable alternative, so we try to give a perspective, a theory and strategy in the struggle, give the people something to think about and hopefully they’ll make up their minds about it, whether they agree or disagree with us. This stream within hardcore that’s claiming that hardcore is just music and has nothing to do with politics, who just play the game of the mainstream, and probably that’s all they want to be; the future ‘indie’ rock stars. I’m pretty sure that you will find them on the oppressive, abusive or profiteering end of the system. That part of hardcore will lose all its relevance!

LH: My last question; how long will you keep playing? Would you become a hardcore version of Rolling Stones?
SR: We have never planned anything. When we started our first band we thought we would do it for maybe a few years, and now we it’s 26 years later and we’re still playing in a punk band. We probably will stop if we don’t have fun doing it, if we run out of inspiration and dedication, or if one of us decides to quit the band. It is possible that we’ll keep on doing this for a long time and become the hardcore version of the Rolling Stones. Although we are more like The Who!

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