True punk purists can sniff out fake shit as easy as, well, actual shit. Show me a lead singer with sleeve tats or a lip-ring -- and Iíll show him my back until I wait to hear what heís got to say.
The same dumbing-down that killed hip-hop -- labels abandoning artistic fervor and thought-provoking content for rented cars, strippers and necklaces -- is now threatening punkís socially challenging mores and ethos. Itís the age-old image-over-subject syndrome, and record labels are projectile vomiting these bands out Exorcist-style. But not if Neil Spies and his band S.T.U.N. ( aka Scream Toward the Uprising of Non-Conformity) can help it.
S.T.U.N. melds the anarchistic mentality of Refused, the pop smarts of The Clash and Rage's "hereís your assÖ I just stomped itĒ aural barrage into a tightly-wound bundle of frayed, celebratory noise on their Geffen debut Evolution of Energy. What other band has the smarts to cover a Wire song while riddling their album with Lydon-esque PiL influences (hey Neil, howsabout a cover of ďAlbatrossĒ on the next album)? Answer: only S.T.U.N.
While they haven't entrenched themselves as deeply in anarchism as Refused and ďReawoke Malatesta's dream,Ē -- they're certainly not far. In fact, they are just a moment away:
Whatís life been like after the Warped tour?
Itís been really good. We had about 4 days off, but we did a video shoot that took a couple of those days with Joakim Ahlund, who directed Refused's "New Noise" video. Christiane (the group's lead singer) ended up with 3 stitches. Me and Chris run into eachother a lot. Joakim made this guitar for me that had 4 lights in it, and Chris ran into it. It was a real great vibe and heís an amazing director.
On Warped, was there a segregation between the really poppy, mall punk bands and the more credible, serious bands ?
With our band there wasnít, but no, I think it was a community. Everybody was hanging around and seeing every band. I know that us being S.T.U.N. we hung out with pretty much everyone at one point or another, and that was the point of the festival. It was grueling and tiresome, but we got to meet all the kids and all the bands.
Do you feel that rock has lost its sense of danger and spontanaety?
I think theres a void of urgency, not just being wild on stage. I think music industry tried to recreate something that sells well and it lasts till kids are sick of it, when something new needs to come out. I see a musical revolution coming again. I think Nirvana and Refused were the last great bands.
You guys tend to get lots of comparisons to Refused. What's it like to be compared to a band that's so respected and has such a legend, both critically and within the scene?
Itís a big compliment to us because I think theyíre just the last great band. Unfortunately, not enough people know about Refused, but maybe thatís because they didnít intend to reach a lot of people, but their work is brilliant. And that goes along with your other question about the void in music. Thereís no music coming out that has done its research that stands up to whatís going on in our times. With Refused being such a great band, they opened the doors for bands like us to take it to the masses.
Are the current times -- war, terrorism and questionable politics -- the perfect setting for your debut album to be coming out?
Well, no. The setting doesn't fit our record, the record is fitting the setting. Weíre communicating how important it is to live in the moment, and you canít do that without knowing whatís going on. The people need to know that the system is controlling their lives. Our songs are philosophical, political at times, sexually liberating and empowering of the self. So much of America is shoveling paperwork believing everything theyíre told, not able to learn about their real dreams and thoughts. Weíre using double standards, OKíing terrorism when it fits in with our plan. Double standards get paid back with double standards, and weapons are used to fight weapons. You have to take a step, and the first step is awareness, and force the people that control our country to show us the goods.
We're destroying the atmosphere with gasoline cars. If everybody got an electric car, it would be better for the atmosphere and cheaper to produce, but then once oil is involved it becomes politics.
The media is such a part of the drive. A lot of people canít say what they feel or they get fired from their job. Tom Morelloís doing a great thing with his Axis of Justice, and they need to stand up to empower other people. A lot of kids donít know that they can be an activist or be good at something because their parents tell them they canít do it. Itís a sad fact. We want to empower kids to know about their world, have a good time doing it and to create something of their own.
We donít force opinions on people. Weíre offering steps to take to question authority to find out about things going on in the world.
"Reuters", originally done by 70s punk legends Wire, is the perfect cover song for you guys. How'd you come about that?
It just fit in with the timing message in our music. It's about the Reuters news agency running out of tape as the world is ending, and it was a song that not enough people would get to hear. Pink Flag is one of the best punk records ever.
I'd think that 90 percent of today's kids probably have no idea who Wire even is. Do you think there's a lack of interest for punk's true forefathers, and can kids truly understand the genre without knowing its history of sounds and characters?
I learned about James Dean from Morrissey. Wireís a great band and itís the same principle with The Clash. The words, the lyrics fit in with what we do.
"Illegal Operations" is much more Minor Threat than Wire or the Sex Pistols. Did you feel it was necessary to throw in the hyperspeed element to break things up?
I hear so many different records, and I have to thank you for the Minor Threat compliment, The Clash, Jane's Addiction, when I wrote it I was trying to get The Clash breakup guitar riff with PiL stuff too. Johnny Marr used to do that, he always had a song in mind when writing his own. Itís an anthem.
Being the chief lyricist, but not the lead vocalist, is it a different process compared to if you were writing the songs for yourself to sing? Does Christiane's voice/style factor in at all?
Iím a binge writer. I lock myself up and take the thought process to a limit, coming out with a strong picture. I write the lyrics first, then the songs. Iíll bring the song into rehersal, and then weíll share about the song. I usually write about four or 5 songs at a time.
I wanted to make sure our lyrics would be make sure by 13 year old girls that donít question anything and also mean just as much to a punk rock kid thatís a huge activist. That was a huge goal of mine cause I do care. Again, the Refused opened up the door to take that mentality to the masses, and if youíre going to be able to talk to the masses you cant fly over their head.
You've described your music as "chaos with a reason". When a person is put in a chaotic situation, is that the purest form of self reflection?
If they havenít been put there before, yeah. That quote comes from me studying anarchism. Knowing that people have a choice, understanding their choice is better than bland compliance. Chaos with a reason is pretty obvious to me what that means.
What may be considered chaotic to you and I may not register as chaos to someone else though. Most would associate "chaos" with absolute lawlessness, rioting, etc.
Whatís not chaotic about sleeping on a couch and having to write a song to feed yourself? Thereís people judging others that have no idea what those others are going through. People need to put themselves in a chaotic situation if theyíre going to understand the peaceful ones. If I didnít struggle, I wouldnít know what success is like.
When you start doing something about these things, your life becomes beautiful. Every day we go up there and weíre free on stage, move when we want to move.
Judging from the lyrics and content, I'd assume you to be well read. What authors or books would you suggest to like-minded fans of your style of music to check out?
'Steal This Book,' Daniel Flynn, 'Propaganda and the Public Mind' by Noam Chomsky. Herman Hesse Iím a big fan of. Letís leave it at that, and maybe they'll read "one" of those.
What's your guilty pleasure when it comes to music?
Iím rarely guilty about anything, but Iíll answer it. Great question. What do I like that maybe doesnít fit my agenda... OkayÖ Iím such a picky guy! Maybe Billy Idol. I really donít put anything in that doesnít move me or have a strong purpose. I happened to hear Billy Idol in the club the other night and was thinking "ok, 'White Wedding', yea yea."
If there's one universal message that S.T.U.N. offers, lay it on me.
Celebrate being aware and protecting yourself in this world. Learn about whatís being done and affecting your life every day behind your back. Learn what itís doing in other countries that you donít hear on the news because they wonít tell you. Learn the true history of the world and enjoy protecting yourself. If youíre going to live, live. Donít waste your life or youíll never find happiness. Have a blast doing something positive and getting rid of the things suppressing you in the world.
Fore more info, mosey on over to www.stunmusic.com