Talk Show Host: 027: Syd.31

I’ve bemoaned the relative lack of political bands over recent years, but there are still such bands out there, with something to say. One such band is Syd.31, led by Jason Pearson, and they recently put a new single out that was featured prominently by Louder Than War.

So, I thought it a good time to catch up with Jason and talk about music, and of course politics. Jason, good to speak. I have to confess I hadn’t even heard of your band when you were announced for Infest a few years back – can you fill me in how the band came out?

Syd.31 (Jason): Thanks, it’s really great to chat and catch up. Yeah, no one had really heard of us before that. We hadn’t been going long at all when we were given that slot, maybe 18 months. Infest took a chance on us, probably because were doing something different. And lots of people danced it, it was amazing. Just hearing that crowd singing along to our set was very emotional indeed.

Just before Syd.31 I was doing a Fad Gadget/Devo type band for about two years which seemed to do well but the singer was a horrible, aggressive person. He kept constantly resigning so I let him quit and took over on vocals and renamed the band. I had never been a front man before, so it was pretty scary. I kept getting migraines and not being able to breath. But withing a few weeks we were opening for XP8 with a brand new set and I’ve been gigging ever since. Being the front man and the songwriter/producer too means I have been able to create a band I would want to go see. I can create my own dream band. We have been in existence four years now and its been amazing, such as signing to Analogue Trash, doing a UK tour, headlining gigs and festivals. It all seems to have gone well, so this time I’m going to push it and see how far I really can go. You recently released a new video for We Are The Freaks. Do you still feel it is important to celebrate being outsiders?

Syd.31 (Jason): Yeah, although we wouldn’t strictly use the term ‘celebrate’ as such. Many bands, especially in the goth scene and darker circles of music celebrate being a freak, by singing how exciting their sex life is, or how much they party or take drugs, almost like “oooh aint I so freaky, watch me snort coke”. It sounds like infantile boasting about what they can get away and its not what I’m about. In this regard I’m more ‘street’ goth or just going back to my punk roots. Being a freak is fucking horrible, violent and just makes you feel unwanted.

I have had so many punch-ups because people have decided they didn’t like my mohican or some shit like that. Its normally a bunch of neanderthal thugs that would call you a freak while half a dozen of them kick the shit out of you and your partner, because you are different. The blood in our video isn’t a fetish thing. It represents the violence we face and will continue to face as the world lurches to the far right. In an increasingly intolerant world, they ALWAYS target the outsiders first, those that don’t fit in. Gay, disabled, foreign, black, not being ‘patriotic’ enough… all get targeted first.

That’s what We Are The Freaks is about. Its not so much a celebration but serves as both a warning and telling people you are not alone. As the song says ‘There is no one like us so no one like us’. We have some very fucking dark times ahead for those that society will treat as freaks. What are the plans beyond this single – is there another EP or album to follow?

Syd.31 (Jason): We have done two EPs to test the water and both seem to do well, we sold out even after doing additional print runs. Now its time for a full length album, which should be out in March to coincide with a certain big event in British politics *cough Article 50 cough*. The album is called The Last Punks on Earth and is basically aggressive noise influenced by some of my favourite punks bands, with the occasional pop anthem just to help break it up. The whole album is a warning against the far right while also biographical about some of the shit I’ve seen. I want it to sound like an album the very last punks on Earth would make and I think I’ve done just that. It deliberately carries a broken sound with a ‘warts ‘n all’ feel to it. I want to capture the moment in time were we could see the end of everything we hold dear. In a world dominated by the right wing we actually stand to lose fucking everything and I want people to understand that in this album.

Infest 2014: Bands: I was curious to see that you have a song called Dieter Rams in Dead on your Start A War EP [for readers – Dieter Rams was the legendary Braun designer that influenced, in particular, so much of what Apple do]. An odd choice, perhaps, for a punk-influenced band, or is there more to this than I’m seeing?

Syd.31 (Jason): Not an odd choice for punk at all, well my brand of punk anyway, which is thinking intelligent punk. There is always a time and place for dumb punk songs, but that’s not really me in my music. I did my undergraduate degree in politics, then a masters and then got offered a PhD in politics due to my work on factors involved in the recruitment of terrorism and the international security environment I turned that down, but still not sure if that was the right thing or not. At some point I should show you where we predicted 9/11 by following global trends. But populist politicians never fucking listen to experts and a big reason why I walked away. It probably means I’m the most overly qualified political punk at the moment.

Dieter Rams was a good designer indeed, but his real skill was conceptualizing the purpose of design. We seem to have forgotten that. Rams was all about making a good product to fulfil roles. Apple and their ilk take good design as meaning a good unit-shifter, goods become consumables. When was the last time we heard about a radical design that served a purpose? Instead, just as an example, phone design over the last 16 years have been about making the old version obsolete purely so that we have to buy something new, not because the old model is unfit. Look at the number of different charger cable designs with each new phone. Its not to improve good design, its to make us continually buy. And with constant updates and peripheries we need to upgrade we can only ask ‘do we own our products or do our products own us?’ In that regard Dieter Rams is dead. Talking of influence, what were your formative musical experiences?

Syd.31 (Jason): That’s easy, Its these three albums – Substance by New Order, Idol Songs by Billy Idol and 101 by Depeche Mode. It was about 87-88 when I had my proper musical awakening when I was growing up in Zimbabwe and just looking for good musical imports from the UK. From those three albums I ended up discovering my love of hardcore punk, acid-house and trance, metal and drum n bass. I now mash it all together so I sound like Discharge and Misfits jamming with Chase ‘n Status and Fear Factory while we do happy hardcore version of Joy Division songs. Within a few months of getting these albums, I had borrowed my dad’s PA system and started djing at the local mine club ( I was just 14) playing pop, electro and shit loads of Italo disco. I guess I’m still trying to re-create those three albums, but much more shouty, and political.

Infest 2014: Bands: Syd.31 You’ve always come across as an overtly political band. In these times – where the right are rather uncomfortably resurgent – do you feel it is important to be so?

Syd.31 (Jason): Politics is life and death, from the cradle to the grave. All our opportunities and futures are because of politics. Never ever fucking trust a rich man that said he got there by hard work alone. They were publicly educated, or employ staff that used public schools, hospitals, drive to work on roads built by taxpayers, are protected by a public police – that’s all politics. Where and when we die is more to do with politics than genetics. And right now we have the most terrifying right wing wreckers of society we have ever seen. I’m sick to my back teeth of people saying they won’t vote because it wont change anything. After another Tory win, Brexit by less than 2% and then Trump. What more do we have to say to get people out and fucking vote? Its the most important civil duty you can do because politics is life and death.

I am indeed overtly political but bands don’t always have to be, even though its whats gets me creative and inspires me. Quite often I just love listening to some dumb punk songs or silly pop. I utterly love Vengaboys and Aqua, I love Charlie XCX too. There is a lot of snobbishness against art and entertainment that seems trivial, but we need that too, for a release. If people want to turn on and watch a bit of X-Factor or Coronation street, go for it. Just don’t let become all you are or ever take it seriously. And don’t let it dictate the cultural hegemony and set ‘norms’ by those who own and who’s views are over represented in the media, like the Murdochs.

Oh, lordy, I’ve gone all political and very Antonio Gramsci again.

Yeah, as you can see. I feel its important to be political.

The new album Last Punks on Earth is out in March 2017 on Analogue Trash Records, and you can obtain previous Syd.31 releases there too.

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