Phil Barry has been involved in various musical projects for years, notably of course Cubanate, but nowadays his focus is on his Be My Enemy project. With the second Be My Enemy album released this week, along with a handful of gigs coming up, I caught up with Phil to talk about the past, the present and future.
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amodelofcontrol.com: Phil, how’s things?
Phil (Be My Enemy): Loving the sunshine, not so much the hayfever that goes with it. Very happy that I’m getting the new Be My Enemy (BME) album out finally.
amodelofcontrol.com: How did BME come about? Was it already in the works prior to the aborted attempt to resurrect Cubanate? Still with that, was it cubanate that were meant to support Front 242 at that KOKO show in 2011? As everyone seemed to believe at the time, anyway…
Phil (Be My Enemy): I started Be My Enemy in 2009. For a while in the 2000s, I had been wasting my time on making boring dance music. Nothing was inspiring me. Anyway it was time to move on. Realised that at the end of the day, I am guitar player first and went from there. Fooled around with some friends making very weird noises which was fun and then got myself back into making heavier guitar based noise. Re: the Cubanate reformation thing, the vibe wasn’t right or we had changed in ourselves too much, not say the track we did (We Are Crowd) wasn’t bad but it was missing the spit and the venom. I can’t remember if we were up for that 242 gig or not, there are always people trying to get Marc back into his leather trousers and back on stage. Who knows…
amodelofcontrol.com: How did the live band come together, did you have the members in mind from the start?
Phil (Be My Enemy): I put an advert up. I had a few replies but Steve and Debs [both of System:FX] were easily the kind of people I could get along with. Keef Baker I met when I played with Caustic at Resistanz in Sheffield [this]). They are all great musicians and have great projects going on themselves, System:FX is a top band and has an EP out at the moment on Juggernaut called We Are The Broken. Keef’s musical output is phenomenal with projects like Nimon and Slipdrive. Slipdrive have an album out soon out on Hymen Records.
amodelofcontrol.com: Musically the new album feels much heavier, with less techno and far more breakbeats (and bass) – was there a distinct desire to evolve the sound in this way?
Phil (Be My Enemy): Yes there was. It’s got to evolve or die. Heavier, yep, heavier lyrically as well. I’ve still a way to go I feel. Albums are a snapshot of where the artist is at that moment in time and I was feeling the broken beat making this record so there it is, the next album might be different though.
amodelofcontrol.com: Even in the just the first two songs, there are nods to rave culture (those synths!), seventies punk (Kill Your Television‘s bridge), and current politics in the UK (made even more obvious by the fury of To Protect and Serve later on). Do you feel there is a groundswell of rebellion coming through right now, like there was in those previous times – or simply that there needs to be someone helping to stoke the fire in one way or another?
Phil (Be My Enemy): I’m old enough to remember when punk exploded and when later when rave exploded. Both of those cultures were a massive two fingers up to the musical and political establishments. They really seemed to shake the country, both cultures made headline news in the UK with the press saying that this is the beginning of the decline of civilisation. What changed though? Not a lot. It put the DIY aesthetic out there which was cool. I can’t really speak for punk but most dance and rave culture is now as much a part of the establishment as it comes, Mixmag is basically Smash Hits but with articles on taking E. Actually I don’t see any rebellion at all, people are angry, for sure, but nothing changes and it won’t. Sorry to be pessimistic. I like the phrase ‘Be the change you want to see’ – I think that is a good starting point for any kind of rebellion.
amodelofcontrol.com: When you played Slimelight last year, you mentioned that Party Monster was inspired by nights there in the past. How do you think the vibe there compares with the past, and is it even the same scene any more?
Phil (Be My Enemy): My recollections of Slimelight in the mid 90s are a bit hazy as you can imagine. I’m sure it was a lot more dangerous back then, I don’t think there was an alcohol licence so there was some bloke sitting on top of beer crates selling cans for 50p. Where the main bar is now there used to be a pinball machine which we used to hog for hours, it would also double up as a useful flat mirror type surface. I can’t compare the past to now as we are talking about close to a twenty year difference. What I would say about Slimelight then and now is that it doesn’t feel like police state clubbing. Yes there are staff and bouncers but it’s not an oppressive totalitarian experience that you get visiting other gigs, clubs and raves now days, which is why on the whole I don’t bother going out.
amodelofcontrol.com: What were your influences when you first got into making music, and are they that different from your influences now?
Phil (Be My Enemy): When I first picked up a guitar I was very much into metal, thrash was just starting so all those bands. Later, when rave culture took off, I thought it would be different to try and get guitars in there as no one else was doing it. I was lucky growing up, my two older brothers exposed me to all the great music of the time, all the punk and new wave, it was a exciting time in music which fuelled me to want to do that kind of thing. What influences me now? Anything heavy and a little away from the norm. I should really be into metal but it’s amazing how all those metal acts sound exactly the same, occasionally a band comes along, usually with a different style of vocal and that grabs my attention.
amodelofcontrol.com: Judging on Bandcamp, the new album is for now a self-released album. I have to say I’m surprised at this – after the release of New Wave on DWA/BitRiot – did this work out better for you this time around, or is self-releasing the best way to go for a smaller artist nowadays?
Phil (Be My Enemy): Actually the reason I am releasing this album on my own is not because of DWA or Bit Riot, it goes back much further than that. DWA and Bit Riot are mighty fine labels. The reason goes back to the Cubanate back catalogue. For a while Marc has been trying to get ownership of the original albums back, or at very least lease them back to us because you can’t buy them or get hold of them except on torrent sites. However the corporate overlords who now own them can’t be bothered to entertain any reasonable requests, in other words, it isn’t worth wasting their time on. I doubt there is any money to be made on them but my point of view has nothing to do with cash, it was 8 years of my life and it has disappeared up the Corporate Memory Hole. Also remembering Cubanate wasn’t on a mega label back then, it was on a sub division of a German metal label that went bust. So while I was finishing up this album a few months ago and thinking about this I came to the conclusion that from now on I am going to retain 100% control of my own masters.
amodelofcontrol.com: Your return as BME has coincided with something of a resurgence of an old-school sensibility industrial coming to the fore again – and certainly this summer there is loads of industrial-with-guitars around that’s worth getting. Who of these other bands are who digging, if any?
Phil (Be My Enemy): I’m enjoying them all. Nothing has inspired me in a while but I’m digging the sounds coming from 3TEETH and Youth Code, Author & Punisher, Cocksure, new Cyanotic on the horizon. In the UK System:FX, Randolph & Mortimer. Tonnes of non-guitar stuff is really cool at the moment as well, I think things are heading in a direction I can get into.
amodelofcontrol.com: You’ve been fairly picky with live shows so far. Looking forward to Infest?
Phil (Be My Enemy): I am very picky with shows I want to play a lot more, I would like to tour as well but it’s all down to finance and being able to do it without losing money. The line up for Infest is amazing isn’t it. I love Juno Reactor and very excited to see Budgie from Siouxsie and the Banshees playing with them. So much goodness on show that weekend, really looking forward to it. Be My Enemy are also playing London at Electrowerks on Sept 6th.