|THE ARCHIVE ORGAN INTERVIEW... 2001|
Where are HHH from and how did you form?
We're all from Peterborough and we initially formed in the summer of `98. At that time, the Peterborough music scene was stagnant and a lot of us, who were friends already from when we had played in metal bands as kids, really wanted to do something about it. It just so happened that at the same time, we were all getting into hardcore a lot more. We really wanted to see something happening in our own town and so decided to just do something about it. That "something" turned out to be HHH. We played our first show after just two weeks of practising, under the embarrassing moniker of "Break The Chains". We mainly played covers of stuff like Warzone and Gorilla Biscuits and we were awful, but that wasn't really the point! We just wanted to get out there and show to the local kids that it was possible to do something. This went hand in hand with the shows we were putting on, and the distro and record label that Gavin from Positive Outlook started up at around the same time. Eventually we decided that we should try and take the band a bit more seriously and recorded a demo, and from there we got more shows thanks to the fact we were meeting lots of bands by regularly putting stuff on in Peterborough.
From which bands do you draw your influences?
It sounds like a clichéd answer, but we all try to bring different influences into the song writing. At the beginning, we were more influenced by straight-up sounding bands like Gorilla Biscuits and Battery, but over time that changed a lot as we got a bit better at playing and got more of a feel for dynamics and stuff like that. We also try and bring in as much as we can from outside of hardcore. I think as a genre it can be a bit blinkered, which isn't to say that I don't love straight-up hardcore, but it's just the direction we've found ourselves going in. Our guitarist Nip, who wrote most of "Making Changes", is a big fan of prog rock and jazz-fusion and I think that comes across in a lot of the songs. We've also always been greatly influenced by the Scandinavian rocking old school hardcore bands like Outlast, Endstand and Carnated, and of course by Iron Maiden! For the new songs, we've become a five piece, getting a second guitarist in, so we've got lots of harmonies and stuff like that going on. Personally, I love bands like Lifetime, Kid Dynamite, Turning Point and Kill Your Idols, so I think I unwittingly force that on everyone else.
I love the album 'Making Changes'...What have you been up to since the release of the album?
Well, since the album came out we've been up to loads. We've toured the UK twice - back in April 2000 (which finished up with us playing Evilfest) and in June of 2001 with Stand from Grimsby.The latter especially was amazing. Every show was great and we played a lot of new places, and got to hook up with In The Clear for a few dates of their last tour. We also had a pretty ill-fated tour of Northern Europe with Engage (from Dundee). We tried booking the whole thing ourselves from here, which in retrospect was a moronically ambitious thing to do. Everything that possibly could have gone wrong did, aside from actual death. Our van broke down in Denmark before we'd even played a show, one of our drivers had to fly home ill, shows were cancelled and venues were closed down literally days before we were supposed to play them. I still had a blast though, and a couple of the shows were really great. We played this one show on the Reeperbahn (the mile-long red light district) in Hamburg. This kid had found us a last minute show at a rock bar run by bona fide gangsters. The place looked a bit like the bar in Cheers, but the comparisons ended right there. There were only about ten hardcore kids there, and the rest of the crowd consisted of the most terrifying specimens of humanity I've ever been confronted with. Bikers were literally passed out on the floor and we caught total degenerates snorting coke off our cabs before we played. It was heavy metal! "Interesting" nights like that made up for ones where, for instance, we drove almost four hundred miles to north Sweden to play for fifteen minutes to six kids in a YMCA hall, with no food or place to stay at afterwards! We also recorded three new songs back in April, but in classic hardcore fashion we've had problems releasing them. The original plan was to put out a split 7" with Engage but that hasn't yet come to fruition. We've got one of the tracks on No Record's International Food Not Bombs compilation and we're getting two on an Argentinean old school compilation, and one on a compilation from Malaysia too. Hopefully we'll get them released in their own right before long. As for a follow-up, I hope we can get something brand new recorded and released by the summer. However these things never work out how you expect!
How is the 'scene' in Peterborough? From an outsider's point of view I hear it is pretty healthy, what with the Positive Outlook crew and so on...
Well, the scene here
is sadly going downhill very quickly. There have never been that many kids
here who are into hardcore, but at the beginning this didn't really matter
because we were the only people doing anything here at all. Back in 1999,
the only non-local bands that played Peterborough were hardcore and punk,
and at the time there was no regular rock club, so we'd get loads and loads
of kids turning up just for something to do. We also had The Crown, which
was a great venue that we basically had free reign over. For a while, people
were travelling from all over the place including Norwich, Kettering, Cambridge
and London, so attendances were always ace. We had some amazing bands play
in that period, including Shai Hulud and All Out War. It got to the point
where bands were actually asking us to come and play here before we even
had a chance to ask them! However, everything started going wrong last
year when The
Crown closed down, leaving us without a weekend venue. At the same time, a local rock club started up and various promoters started booking metal and more commercial bands around town. Gavin from Positive Outlook, who had been doing a market stall selling stuff off his distro, had to stop because he was losing money on the rent every week. Now, to be honest, you are lucky if you get thirty kids to shows. It's sad, but you see it time and time again- nothing seems to last. It has turned around really weirdly with a lot of local metal kids being totally against us and against hardcore. If I had a penny for every anonymous Internet posting we've had about us on the ridiculous "Peterborough local music forum", I'd probably have about a pound!
How do you view the UKHC scene at the moment? How does it compare to various other scenes on your travels in Europe?
I think the scene is as divided as ever. Most of the southern and London bands never seem to play north of Watford, which is a shame as a lot of them are very cool. That part of the scene seems extremely insular. Then you've got the Blackfish bands that don't seem to play out much either. Outside of that is the "other" UK hardcore scene, amongst which I count bands like Canaan, Safeguard, Anthem Of The Century, 30 Seconds Until Armageddon, In The Clear, Fig 4.0, etc. Sadly in very recent times a lot of these bands have decided to call it quits, which absolutely sucks as a couple of them were literally world class. Then, you've got the "1 in 12"/Armed With Anger bands who tend to get overlooked by a lot of new kids involved in HC. Bands like Stalingrad (now sadly split up), Voorhees and Shank are hardly what the average Kerrang kid would think of as "UK hardcore", yet these bands have probably done more than the rest of the UK put together. Its hard to talk on a general level, but this past summer has seen literally some of the craziest shows I've ever been to, let alone played at. I'm especially thinking of Beachfest down on the South coast, which was completely insane, and of course the last In The Clear show. I've never seen so many kids so into UK bands, and it's pretty inspiring. At the last In The Clear show, there must have been at least 100 people up front, and at Beachfest, Canaan got the kind of reaction usually reserved for a band like Hatebreed. Compared with the rest of Europe, I think we have some great bands here but people are too focused on this concept of "UKHC". It's like some kind of club or something, and this strangely fake show of unity does nothing but intimidate newer kids and bands. In Germany, you don't get kids running around shouting "DEUTCHLAND HAAARDCOOORE!".There, there is less of a forced attempt for unity and to be honest, I think that is a good thing. The "UKHC" thing is a weird phenomena and if I'm bitterly honest, I think it is one that was engineered by certain people to try and sell records. In the end it has just alienated a lot of bands that now would rather call themselves "a hardcore band from the UK" rather than "UKHC". It has a stigma attached to it, and that really sucks. It also seems to attract a handful of real losers who don't have a punk bone in their bodies, which brings the whole thing down even more.
Have you been to Europe since the 'eventful' tour?
Ha, no, but I would go back in a second! We're planning a long weekend in Belgium and Holland at the beginning of next year. I also want to make it down to Austria and Italy if we get the chance. There has been talk of us going to Portugal and Spain and touring with Pointing Finger, and that would obviously be awesome. However, with two of the band at university and two in full time work, it can be hard to get everyone together for a tour.
I find HHH lyrics are incredibly inspiring...who writes them and what influences them?
Dan writes all the lyrics so I don't want to speak for him, but as a band we are united in our criticism of certain aspects of the "hardcore scene" and so I can happily say I stand 100% behind the stuff he writes. We all feel that a lot of people involved in the "scene" are horribly elitist and hypocritical, and so much emphasis is put on the labels people choose for themselves rather than their motives for doing so. A lot of hardcore kids are merely pack-mentality fashion victims who toe the majority opinion. I don't necessarily mean "fashion" in terms of clothing either- the fact that a lot of kids can pick up an entire lifestyle choice or political mindset without being challenged offends me far more than if they were to change their hairstyle every week. It should never be that the words of one person (for example, Brian from Catharsis) are as revered as they are, because they are merely the opinions of an individual. When you get individuals like him within hardcore who seem to build up legions of followers, you know something is going wrong. I'm proud to play in a band where the straightedge front-man sings about "true 'til death" not necessarily being the best way- but I'd hope that people could form their own opinions about the lyrics. Too many hardcore kids seem to look on personal or political choices as being some kind of test of endurance rather than a reflection of their personal beliefs. The newer songs are a bit different lyrically from those on Making Changes. For instance there is one song about the situation in Israel. It was written before the recent crisis in Afghanistan, but now it seems more relevant than ever. There is also a song about the grief we get off local music scene types who don't really understand what we are doing. The songs are pretty pissed off and a lot more aggressive than the older lyrics, which reflects the more energetic music on the newer songs.
'Pit-bull' is an awesome song...was it one of those songs that you just wrote and thought, "yeah, this is one that the fans will go mental over"?
Ha, to be honest, Pitbull was probably the third song we ever wrote. Musically we didn't really know what was going on, so it's pretty lucky that it turned out OK! I remember that we wrote that song after going to a big UKHC all-dayer in London back in 1998. The violence at it was literally ridiculous and here we were, these skinny little teenagers, getting battered just because we wanted to sing along to Imbalance! I still agree with the sentiment behind that song today, even though I love the mosh more than I love my own mother. But yeah, I don't think we meant for Pitbull to become the gratuitous "sing along" song, but it's nice that it has become a bit of an anthem.
Have HHH a healthy following around the country?
If you had asked me this question six months ago, I'd have definitely said no. However our tour with Stand was so awesome and at every show there were people we had never met who were singing along to every word. That means so much to me I can't even start to express it! Since then, every show has been great. We played Leicester last week with Strike Anywhere and As Friends Rust and it was literally crazy with so many people singing along and diving/walking on each other's heads. I love playing shows anywhere, though. If we play and just one kid enjoys it, it makes my day- anything more than that is a bonus.
How important is the DIY ethic to you?
It's unbelievably important and something that I could rally at much length about. DIY music is political by definition, regardless of what the lyrics are about. It is anti-capitalist. It is about reclaiming a culture from capitalism and operating away from the ridiculous constraints that society sees fit to put on itself. When it works, DIY represents actual freedom on many levels. I see a lot of bands nowadays who think they can take what they want from the DIY scene without putting it back, or bands claiming to be DIY but then asking for guarantees and getting pissy about silly little things. I got a circular email a few weeks back from one UK band who looking for shows. It contained lines like "we are never booked for any less than one hundred pounds", and was asking potential promoters (DIY promoters I hasten to add) to provide details of turnouts so the band could decide if it was worth them playing the show. What the fuck is that about? Is that really the way that promoters should be treated? Do we actually need "booking agents" like Ian Armstrong/Hidden Talent who are so quick to fuck over naive kids so they can satisfy their contracts? Is it better to go in the direction of the "corporate music industry" that thinks it can sell our own culture back to us at a profit? It makes me really sad. People are all too quick to forget where they came from. I find it pretty inspirational to see a band like Knuckledust who have been around for over five years without compromising their DIY ethic. I wish there were more bands like that around.
What other bands
should we look out for?
There are some amazing bands in the UK at the moment. Just a few of my favourites are Mend This Tear, Knuckledust, Engage, Voorhees, Imbalance, Canaan and Fig 4.0. As far as more "up and coming" bands are concerned, check out Winter In June, The Hallowed and Urotsikidoji from down south, DC-9 from Stoke, Parade Of Enemies from Southampton, Steel Rules Die from Leicester, and Sworn In from Northampton.
What are your aims
with the band?
All I ever wanted out of this band was to have fun, and I guess the day that ends is the day we finish it up. However, being in a band has given me so many experiences that I'm totally thankful for. The fact that we get to travel around the UK and Europe, get letters from all around the world, and are welcomed into the homes of strangers is completely humbling for me. When the "scene" works, I'm proud to be a part of it. Thanks for the interview and to all the people reading this who helped us out in the past! If anyone wants to get in touch about a show or just to chat, email us at HHHardcore@hotmail.com, or me personally at firstname.lastname@example.org. We have a website at http://www.hhh-hc.20m.com so go there and leave abuse on the guest-book.
This interview originally appeared in Tom's own zine (see he's not only an Organ contributor, he's out there doing his own thing) PRO-TECTION