I SHOT CYRUS
Seppi, who's booking the forthcoming European Tour for I Shot Cyrus asked me if I wanted to include an interview with the band on my site. I thought that was cool, so here it is, done by Seppi and answered by Tatiana, bass player in IxSxC. These are definitely the longest answers I've ever seen in an interview, Tatiana rules! Even though I don't agree with everything Seppi / Tatiana had to say (especially the political stuff) I nevertheless found this interview worth to be published, so thanks Seppi! (Stefan)
Probably people over here haven't heard that much about you as a band, therefore it might make sense introducing yourselves first. How did Isc get started, how did you develop music wise and in which projects are the band members involved besides Isc?
Hey! We're the hardcore band I Shot Cyrus, from Sao Paulo, Brazil. We first started in 1997, as a project between members of Point Of No Return and Newspeak, who wanted to play fast and simple hardcore. In the first practices, we were kind of doing a Chain Of Strength/No For an Answer thing, although we always played it faster. But after a couple of months we got bored and started to play even faster and write angrier, punkier songs. The neo-youth crew thing was becoming big and most of the bands were not very good, didn't have the same anger as the original ones and a whole cult/stereotype was developing, which we didn't follow. And what was the point of having a band that sounded like a million others? It wasn't fun or challenging.
So, we started adding other influences in the mix, especially European bands and early 80's American stuff, and started playing faster and heavier. Our first phase is documented in the Thrashmaster comp, which is an LP from 1999 with other bands like Infect, Discarga, etc… After we recorded the Thrashmaster songs in 99, our first drummer left the band and we invited our friend Pierre, to play drums for us. Pierre wasn't really a drummer (although he also played drums for a band called Insanus), so he had a very unique style, which consisted mainly of just being able to play semi-blast beats and nothing slower than that, kind of like Lärm or something. So, we were forced to drop some songs and adapt the possible ones to his ultra-fast beats. It was a great thing, because our first drummer couldn't really play as fast as I'd like him to.
So, we started writing more extreme sounding stuff, having his crazy drum style in mind. That's when we really started to sound original, I think. We recorded more songs with Pierre in 2001, which came out in comps and split releases in Brazil and Europe. And then he also left the band in 2002, and I called Boka to replace him. It was great, because Boka's been playing drums for centuries and recorded tons of records records with Ratos de Porao (a great old hardcore band from Brazil), so he's one hell of a drummer. His ability to play anything gave us freedom to write all kinds of songs, and that's what we did on the new record we recorded this year. Now we can play all kinds of different tempos, and it makes it more exciting.
So now, we (and our other bands) are:
Kalota - vocals (also in Point Of No Return)
Pedro - Guitar (no other famous bands, except as a substitute guitarist in PONR whenever someone can't make it to gigs)
Tatiana - Bass (Infect and No Violence)
And Boka - Drums (Ratos de Porao)
What do you think about the whole "bandana thrash"/80s revival thing? Do you feel like you're a part of it?
I thought it was really cool when it first started. We thought we were alone doing that, and then the "Bandana Thrash" comp. came out and we suddenly found out we were in league with other bands from all over the world. It was a great relief from the neat, clean and overproduced hardcore that dominated the 90s, and much angrier and more creative than the neo-youthcrew phenomenon, and of course it doesn't glorify dumbness and apathy, like part of the this "neo-oldschool" thing seems to do.
Everything becomes just another stereotype after a while, though which sucks. We don't wear these "special" clothes so we can look a certain way, and we certainly don't try to sound a certain way so we can be part of a trend. Some people don't even realize that this whole bandana thing was supposed to be a joke. It's kind of ridiculous when hardcore bands just emulate something that already happened, just like a rockabilly band or something. Whatever was new, exciting, or even, shocking in 1983, is obviously not the same nowadays. But the essence, which is what really matters, the energy and the basic idea of pissed off kids yelling their discontent over fast and angry music, is timeless! And that's what we do. Instead of pretending we're in the 80's, we take the elements that made us excited about it in the first place and recycle them into something similar, but adapted to our current epoch. So, are 80's bands our main influence? Yes. Do we try to sound like we're from 1983? No. We leave revivals for the rockabilly and mod scenes, we prefer to recycle, hehe.
You´ll be on tour trough Europe in August. Could you please explain your feelings concerning this upcoming trip? What are your expectations?
I really don't know what to expect. On one hand, 2 of us have been there twice with Point Of No Return, and another one has been there more than 10 times with Ratos de Porao. But on the other hand, we've never been there with IxSxCx, and we're still pretty much unknown there. I expect to see many friends again, as well as meet other cool people. I think people who like our other bands (Point Of No Return, Ratos de Porao and Infect) will like I Shot Cyrus, musically and/or lyrically, but then, I'm not counting on huge shows or anything like that, since it's our first time there and we just had our first full length record out. I know that not many people know us, but at the same time I hope we're a pleasant surprise to them. And I also expect to have tons of fun, because we love touring and we love each other and our European helpers.
Most of you have been in Europe before. What were your impressions and how does HC over here differ from HC in brazil? In Europe (as well as in the U.S. probably) it seems like huge parts of "the scene" get absorbed or at least infiltrated and instrumentalised by capitalist corporations. Companies like Eastpack (the U.S. Airforce´s main provider with bags) e.g. are sponsoring metal/HC fests like Pressure Fest and are not only welcomed with open arms by the organizers, but also tolerated by 90% of the kids, who don't even see what's wrong with all this. I guess it's totally different in Brazil, right? South America seems to me like one of the rare regions were hardcore can still be considered a counter-culture with the aim of smashing capitalism and all other forms of exploitation and oppression. Is this really the case or am I over-optimistic here?
I believe it's the case if you're talking about the DIY scene we're part of. But there's also a more mainstream, more comercial and totally apolitical scene, with the same kind of values as anywhere else I think. The special thing here is that this DIY/political hardcore scene is really big and we're able to do shows for 1000 people without security, with low door prices, no "sponsors", political discussions and talks between bands, all organized by the kids themselves on a totally non-profit basis. But then, not everybody in this scene is involved or even very interested in politics, and among the people that are, there are also different kinds of politics. There are many different kinds of people, and I don’t think that's bad, it's just natural. The difference here is that a fest like the Pressure fest, with corporate sponsors and shit, wouldn't feature the same bands and audience as the DIY shows. Overall, I think we're doing a good thing here, but of course we have the idiots and the apathetic people, just like anywhere else.
Are a lot of hardcore-kids involved in radical resistance activities? What kind of struggles are you involved in and what are some recent developments you'd like us to know about? Maybe you could also recommend us some websites where we could get further information about the political situation in Brazil and South America.
Yes, many punk/HC kids are involved in political activities. If you go to any demonstration where the so-called anti-capitalist movement participates in, you'll see lots of punk/HC kids. The indymedia center here is also full of HC kids, and so are many other groups. We, collectively, in the scene, try to keep in touch with the international struggles, as well as local ones. We organize a periodical show called the "Verdurada", where we always have someone to talk about political issues between bands. Recently, for instance, we did stuff about the crisis in Argentina, the war in Iraq, transgenical foods, and so on. We've also had people from all kinds of Brazilian movements, like the Landless Workers Movement, the Homeless Movement, etc. There's a place, for instance, called "Acampamento Anita Garibaldi", which is an autonomous settlement formed by the Homeless Movement, where they live and work, grow food and do political work as well, and we help them as much as we can with food we collect at shows and different kinds of political support. Recently we (I.S.C.) were also supposed to play a show in a demonstration against the nomination of a former torturer from the military dictatorship as chief of the police force's department of intelligence.
In the band, Tatiana is in a Marxist group called "Estrategia Revolucionaria", Boka is in his city's local anarchist collective, and Pedro and Kalota are not members of any organization right now, (have been in the past), but support and participate in the anti-capitalist movement and occasionally join organizations in specific struggles. And of course, the bands themselves can be regarded as a form of resistance activity, although nothing's gonna change if we just sing about it.
The best websites in English about local struggles I can think of right now are the English part of the Sao Paulo IndyMedia site (http://www.midiaindependente.org/en/blue/) and the landless workers movement (http://www.mstbrazil.org/).
One of you is female, which is a great and relieving fact in a scene that is so fucking male-dominated. Could you please tell us about the involvement of women in the Brazilian Scene and the sexism they're confronted with? Is it as bad as here in Europe, where bands, distros, labels, booking etc. is done by men in 95 of 100 cases, where men are reducing women to body parts on message-boards, and even threatening feminist-activists with violence and rape? Is there anything like that in Brazil and how do you deal with it (e.g. at shows)?
Here in Brazil something interesting happens. At any shows it's easy to see equal numbers of men and women. I think it's great, since 8 years ago, when I started getting involved with the sXe scene, there were less than 10 girls, and at punk gigs it wasn't very different. I play in 3 bands myself, Infect, which is formed only by girls, No Violence (I'm the only girl in the band), and I Shot Cyrus. The guitar player in Infect also plays (with boys) in another band called War Inside and the drummer is starting another all-girl band. There's another all girl band called Suicidio Quimico in another city called Curitiba playing ultra-fast hardcore. There's Austero, with 2 girls, Em Chamas and Abuso Sonoro (a pretty old and well known band) with female singers, and many others. There are lots of women expressing themselves in many ways. Some girls rather do zines, others take pictures, others only participate in political activities, others organize DIY events. But regardless, in comparison with the numbers of girls going to shows, there are still not many bands with female participation. It's sad, because there are really MANY girls who could do more that just be mere spectators. I think they're a little bit scared of "risking their asses", taking a fucking instrument and learning it, starting a band, even if it's gonna suck in the beginning. Sometimes I ask friends why they don't start a band, and they say: "because I can't play". Fuck, who was born already knowing how to play??? Learn it, damn it! Men aren't born with a special talent for music just because they're men.
About the sexism, it sucks to get up onstage and hear guys screaming you're "hot", or asking you to take your clothes off. It's really gross. From my personal experience, what I can say is that we always react in these cases, at least when we can hear it. When we didn't hear it, other people who hear it have done a good job at stopping them and making them feel bad about it. But it doesn't happen very often, fortunately.
What happens the most is people talking shit about the personal lives of more active girls, and believe it or not, it's other girls who do most of the gossiping! Often, they're more sexist than men, unfortunately. Having your life "investigated" and discussed by members of "the scene" ends up being the price to pay for leaving a passive position of expecting other people to do stuff in your place and only be the guys' girlfriends and watchers.
As far as I know, these threats of rape don't happen here. Though some weeks ago I heard about a girl having her 'intimate parts' rubbed against her will at a hardcore show in another city. I was surprised and full of hate! And if that wasn’t enough, the girl had to face the people's reaction (which, unfortunately didn't surprise me much). Some retards even said that the guy wouldn't have done it if she didn't want it. No comments…
Another thing that happens is scumbag boyfriends who beat up their girlfriends. Yes, I'm talking about hardcore kids. We have a song about it in I Shot Cyrus, called 'Na Lamina da Faca' (On the blade of the knife - it's about women taking violent revenge against abusive men). Some are even well known, even playing in bands with lyrics against household violence. It's really complicated to deal with it, because in almost every case the girl is too ashamed to talk about it. And therefore, it's really hard to know who's getting beat up. Imagine that, in a scene where 99% of the girls consider themselves as feminists. Admiting you get beat up by your boyfriend is not an easy thing. I believe the first step is admiting things aren't going on as they should and stop depending on the guy. Stop believing it happen "just this time". There are no collectives, as far as I know, that helps hardcore/punk girls who've been beat up by boyfriends. The stories I know are all from my own experience and from people I know. What I can't tell you is that in Infect only, 3 girls have been through it, which makes me wonder what many more girls are going through. We have lyrics and lyrics on the subject, and that's what we do. It's very complicated. When I see a girl with purple stains on her face, I usually stare at the boyfriend a lot and look at the girl, willing to talk to her. But I don't know, it's weird to come to someone you've never talked to before and say "do this, do that". So anyway, I hope our music gives them a little bit of strength to people who go through this.
Although I heard that it's so much harder to run a band (getting equipment e.g.) in South America then here, there seem to be a lot of dedicated and amazing bands there. Does the scene mainly consist of privileged middle-class kids or are there people from „lower„ classes involved as well? How hard is it for poor people to survive and how is Brazil's wealth distributed? Small upper-class, huge amount of poor people, and a richer working-class and middle-class in between?
Years ago, hardcore in Brazil was composed mainly of working class people. Nowadays, with the popularization of punk, there's a higher percentage of middle class people. It's hard to talk about this to Europeans, because in Brazil someone who earns 300 euros a month can be pretty much middle class, or at least a well paid working class person, and although Sao Paulo and the south are much richer, in the whole country, only 20% of the people earn more than 500 reais (166 euros) a month. So even a "lower middle class" person in Sao Paulo is richer than 80% of the whole population of the country… I don't need to mention that Brazil has one of the worst wealth distributions in the world, with some VERY rich people, a shrinking middle class and a huge mass of poor people. In the regions with strong hardcore scenes, there are proportionally more middle class people and a more specialized working class. But in the countryside in the northern regions, class division is absurd and there's an even bigger difference between rich and poor.
But yes, there are plenty of "lower class" people involved in hardcore/punk, it's not just a rich kid thing. In the Marxist definition, most hardcore kids in Brazil are "upper working class" or middle class (from lower to upper), with some very poor people and a few (not many though) rich people.
It’s really hard for people to survive here, even if you have a good education it's hard to get a job, and if you do, you probably won't get paid very well. If, like most people, you don't have an education and left school to start working before high school, then you're pretty much screwed and your life will consist of spending 3 hours a day canned inside a crowded bus, work for 8 hours in a shitty job, and then get just enough money to eat rice and beans and pay rent in a really violent and far away neighborhood controlled by bandits and corrupt policemen. And you better pray not to lose your job, because it could get even worse than that. Right now, about 20% of the people is unemployed in Sao Paulo, and that's about 3 million people. Talk about potential criminals…
It seems to work quite fine for South American bands touring Europe. At least a fair amount of kids get you the support and recognition you deserve. What about European bands touring South America? So far only huge bands like Heaven Shall Burn and quite well known ones like Vitamin X or Highscore have had the chance to get over there, but there are so many other awesome bands who would love visiting you as well and I'm quite sure the kids would love them (maybe even more than the bands named before) as they consider themselves part of a counter-culture just like most South American kids seem to do. Do you think less known European bands could count on your help as Marcos Liberation was promising at several shows when Point of no Return have been here last summer?
Yes, for sure! Most of the times the bands that come are not well known here anyway. Heaven Shall Burn, Vitamin X and Highscore for instance, didn't come here because they were well know. They came here and them became well know. Most kids here aren't so aware of what goes on in the European scene anyway, so whatever bands that are good, have something good to say and are not assholes, can play great shows here and have a great time. The only problem, of course, is money. Our currency is way cheaper than the Euro, so it's gonna be really cheap for you to buy stuff here, travel around, eat, etc. but you won't make a lot of money. If the bands look at it as some kind of musical vacation and don't expect to make money, it's always gonna be a thrill!
Marcos Liberation told me that you guys were starting an organization fighting for the rights of non-human animals last year. How is this developing? I guess it must be really hard trying to convince people that they should consider the rights of non-human animals when they're totally occupied with their everyday struggle for survival.
Yeah, Marcos was starting it, with help from other kids, but it's hard to get the organization legalized, which is something he wants to do, so he's still raising money and support for it. Yes, it's hard to convince people to go vegetarian when they can't afford to choose what to eat, but that's not the goal anyway. The goal is mainly to raise the discussion and make people more aware on the subject, let them know that it's not more expensive to be vegetarian, for instance, and of course, denounce animal abuse, and show how it relates with human exploitation. And of course, even poor people (those who aren't starving) can benefit from vegetarianism, and we have many examples of that in the hardcore scene in Brazil.
What does your utopia look like and how can we all help turning it into reality?
Some people cringe on the word Utopia, because they understand it as some kind of unattainable ideal society, imagined only through purely idealistic thoughts. I'm not one of them. I understand this word as the idea of some kind of society for the future, which doesn't mean I'm not in touch with reality or that it's an impossible dream. As the late Italian revolutionary Amadeo Bordiga said, "revolutionaries are explorers of the future", and it’s up to revolutionaries to understand today's reality and the current world properly, in order to find out the best ways to go.
But despite all pragmatism, we should always keep in mind what we want and never forget that our program should be the path towards the future, and if you will, towards the realization of utopia. Bordiga also said that utopia is not prediction, but perspective of the future. And therefore, we don't need to idealize, to invent, but to, through the interpretation of the present, develop a perspective of how a future world of freedom would be like.
With that in mind, I understand that a free world (utopia) would necessarily be a world without money, wages, states and classes, because these are the categories that retain us from controlling our own lives and being the masters of our destinies, both collectively and individually. About the way to get there, I think the first step is everybody finding our that there is no hope under capitalism, no matter how much people push us the idea that it can be reformed and resolve it's own contradictions. If people realized that (and that could be intellectually or intuitively, through theory and practice), and realized that it's the very nature of this system that's responsible for their poverty, their boredom, their decontrol over their own lives, their decontrol over the society they live in, the huge differences between them and other people, wars, all kind of massacres, dictatorships, fake democracy, corruption and all that, they could crush capitalism in no time.
But for that to happen, we would have to break away from the material and ideological traps of capitalism, and create our own, independent (from capital and institutional politics) organs of struggle. Exploited workers and oppressed people of all kinds must, first and foremost, organize their own struggle, independently from the state and from political institutions within the capitalist machine.
I don't want to sound arrogant, like I have all the answers, so I'll stop here. Even in the band, we have different approaches on our anti-capitalism. But the point we all agree is: there's no hope under capitalism, and therefore, we must find out ways to overcome it, instead of looking for ways to reform it or "improve it". The system is something we must destroy, not something we must improve, because it's nature is in itself, something that's necessarily made to privilege a minority, and think only in terms of reforming it would only mean better, more modern ways to keep exploitation going.