A while back (nearly a year) the almighty portland's Tragedy came for three gigs in greece. Besides the total fury that the band unleashed back then, they also were very cool guys, with no crust-superstars attitude. Individuals that with the one or the other way contributeted (and still contributes) in the diy scene for almost 20 years and they are still "down to earth". G. and F. isolated the almighty Burdette brothers and with fake promises (for fresh baklavas) made them answer some questions in the backyard of the polytechnic school in athens.
Thanx to G. who gave me the permission to post it. So, put the first Lp on your turntable and alongside some "You can die in their hands, but no on your own" screams, check it out.
Q : Since you guys come from the u.s, and to most people in Athens the whole hardcore punk- crust scene is very unknown, I 'd like you guys if you could, to say a couple of words about the scene, and about what goes on especially in Portland where you guys live, or maybe in the states in general, like about, spaces where you guys play, the mentality of the people in the punk rock scene, is the scene political? Are there any solidarity concerts go on?
Paul : Well it's a big country, it's hard to say, it might be completely different in Portland Oregon and in Florida for example. We don't have places like this at all, there's no occupying anything. Pretty much most diy shows happen at peoples basements, and I think there are gigs that happen that are political like you're saying but I wouldn't say that there's any kind of solidarity. I think there's so many bactions within punk, I don't feel like there's any kind of feeling of solidarity within punk as a whole. Τhere's lots of punks in Portland and lots of different scenes. I don't think there's much of a unifying....
Todd : We live in such a police state in our country, that if you tried to do something like this, it would be pretty crazy, I can't imagine it happening.
Paul : Squats just don't exist.
Q : Do people try to organize stuff? Do lots of concerts happen in people's basements like you said?
Todd : That's how most of the concerts happen. At peoples houses, but it's always changing place, you can't do the same place all the time because the cops come. There's one or two bars where will play, because there cheap and the places are cool, but normally we don't like to play bars, and we like to play 'all ages' gigs so we have to always change and play a different place. But we don't have one place, a center, a youth center or anything like that. It's very difficult to have something like that.
Paul : We don't have no state funding, there's no squatting, rent is expensive so if you can't make a place survive economically, then it doesn't happen.
Todd : In Germany the state pays for stuff like that and you can have a squat, but we don't have anything like that, we don't even have a health care system, we are a third world country that's acting like the greatest country in the world.
Q : Ok to take you a bit back, since you guys have been in a band for some years….we’ve heard from people from the states that a lot of changes happened after 9/11 and the crash of the twin towers and how repression increased and how the movement broke up- after Seattle there were people on the streets and they tried to organize stuff and after that everything changed caused the repression was so tough….what impacts have you seen after 9/11 not only on the movement but also on the punk scene.
Todd : I think it’s the opposite, I think the punk scene, the anti-war movement, the counter culture movement in the states got stronger under Bush, and that happened because most free thinking people saw that it was bullshit, from the very beginning. I think it made everything stronger.
Paul : the movement you describe from Seattle I think it destroyed itself ..I think that there were so many different bactions that had different interests. I don’t think there was a wide scale, anything in common, what you’re describing I think is altogether different.
Todd : But that’s what’s so funny about punk or any kind of counter culture, sometimes is stronger in very bad times, cause when things get really bad then people have to do something. So the best times for punk rock in my opinion were…Reagan, Thatcher in England, and Bush in the U.S., in my lifetime these were the best eras of punk rock…and the time when the people felt the most anger and passion. So that’s kind of the irony of punk, that when things get really bad, that’s when things get better.
Q : It’s good that you say that because it leads me to my next question. We have been hearing about the elections in the states,do you think that having a new president -even if it’s from the democrats- is going to change anything and have you seen any difference since he was elected?
Todd : The only thing I have seen change is that people don’t care anymore because they think everything is ok now. That’s the only thing I’ve seen change. there’s still new wars in new places, there’s still no health care in our country, nothing has gotten better, nothing.
Paul : Obama promised to close Guantanamo but he’s expanding the major prison in Afghanistan, which is where the most political prisoners from the war have been to begin with. So I think that it seems like he’s doing a lot of things on paper- it’s symbolic closing Guantanamo but he also condemned all these signing statements that Bush did, which is basically that when congress passes something in a law and the president signs it they can essentially add an addendum to it, say like well, this law may be fine but I also think the law should say that I get a haircut every Tuesday or something and he can decide it and it’s a law.
Todd : I actually think he’s a more dangerous president than Bush because so many people believe what he says. He’s potentially more dangerous. I think so. Because he has a lot of the same advisors, he’s continuing a lot of the same policies that Bush had, but he can say it in a different way and people will think it’s good because he’s a new face.
Paul : I honestly think in terms of good and evil ,Bush, Cheynny was worse. I think he (Obama) might have had better intentions, but I think there is something so much more powerful than who ever is the president, and I think that no matter what intentions he may have he’s going to have to answer to that. I think like Todd said he is potentially more dangerous and that he has to continue to answer at the same interests.
Todd : I think it’s kind of like when a big business gets a new boss, the boss wants to fire all the old people and get a bunch of new people so that he can make it his thing. That’s how I feel about Obama. He wants to end the war in Iraq but he wants to make his own war. He wants to start a new war in Afghanistan or Pakistan, or continue the war in Afghanistan but make it his war. Or like Paul said he wants to close Guantanamo bay but expand a different prison, I feel he wants to put his own stamp on it. To say I’m not like Bush, but it seems like the same kind of shit to me.
Q : You guys have been a band for like 9 years, and you ‘re still going on tours. Especially from the states I imagine it’s kind of hard going overseas and through Europe. I’d like you guys to describe how it's been especially compare to the beginning, how is it to be touring and what gets you going after 9 years?
Todd : It’s definitely harder than it was when we were younger, because now you start to appreciate things a little differently, you appreciate a nice comfortable bed, the way you eat at home. I mean people feed us very well but the way you eat is different.
Paul : The last few days when we came from Rome, we slept two hours after a show in Rome, flew to Athens got taken to an apartment slept a little bit and I thought to my self: “this is difficult, but would I rather be at home? No.” Sure as time goes on things seem a little more difficult, but I feel lucky to be able to do this.
Todd : There is nothing worse than getting to travel and complaining about it. We still feel lucky to be able to travel but Tragedy have been together for 9 years and Paul and I are brothers, and together with Billy the bass Player we have been playing music together for almost 20 years now, were kind of use to each other.
Paul : and with Yannick we have been 13 years.
Q : So what keeps you guys going, and keeps you stuck to diy, to putting out stuff on your own and organizing tours on your own and doesn’t get you into some kind of big commercial label, not wanting to seek a career.
Todd : I just don’t think that any of us think about combining music with business, I mean we have to because we are touring and we’re selling stuff.. we have to think about business a little bit but we don’t want the business side of it to change our expression of music.
Q : There are many bands that have gone through the diy scene – started out putting out records on their own, forming bands playing in underground places, squats and stuff and suddenly during change of time they go to commercial label, they start playing in festivals with security guards, and sponsors and commercials. What do you think about bands like that
Paul : I think, honestly, usually when bands make that decision, I don't even think it's a smart business move. I think that people think that they're going to break in to something new, but the economics of the rock industry are such, that you have to truly be generating an immense amount of popularity. Because everyone involved in a situation wants to get something out of it. I think that the beauty of diy is that we're all saying “we're here for the music, we're not here for business”,but unfortunately there are economics of it,like, we have to rent a P.A., sometimes we need to rent a space, and if you're a band on tour you got to pay for your plane tickets, and we had to make some T-shirts and stuff like that. I mean there are economics involved, but I think when things become economically focused, then suddenly you have people there to make money, and if everyone is there to make money, suddenly the price of everything becomes more expensive. So I think, to me the spirit of it is, that, what other scene could you travel the world, meet people, and do it for relatively little money. In my opinion even if you lose money on a tour, you got to travel the world, meet new people play music, experience different cultures, it's pretty lucky.
Todd : At the place I work they don't know much about punk so people I work with ask me “how do you do it? How do you travel Europe, Greece or Finland or Russia?How do you get a concert there?” I think we take it for granted because we've been doing it for so long, but when you really think about it, it's pretty amazing. That a shitty punk rock or hardcore band can travel the world,get to meet people...we 're just grateful that we get to do it. But I think the question about bands making that decision is that mainly we don't think of ourselves as a professional band, we just think of ourselves as friends playing music, we don't think in that way that were a professional band, and I don't think we're good enough at our instruments to be a professional band anyway, we just don't think that way, it's not something we'd ever talk about or consider, but in the same way I don't really care what other bands do either.
Paul : I think that if you're going to tour all the time, you're making a decision that you're not going to have a normal life at home and you're going to spend hours and hours on the road, you're going to get tired, you're going to have a hard time paying bills at home and not have any stability at home. Sometimes it's hard to criticize someone who says ”Hey I m going to go do that and it would be nice if I could be able to pay the bills while I 'm gone. I can relate to it, I can't criticize it. I own a business ,I do construction and I can do what I do because I can choose to leave, and I don't have to give notice to anyone, but for me I have chosen my profession and my lifestyle around touring. I think I 'm lucky to travel the world for really cheaply.
Q : Why do you think that happens to bands? For example from playing shows diy to go to what they think is bigger...
Todd : well sometimes the diy scene is tough...sometimes it fails. I think some people get sick of quitting their job, then tour and work really hard and then have the diy scene sometimes...the scene doesn't give you the same commitment that you're giving it. Sometimes the diy scene is amazing, and sometimes it fails.
Paul : For me I just feel that there's no other choice, nothing feels better to me.
Todd : I would rather play the diy scene and have it fail then do the other, because the other option is worse.
Paul : I'd rather do what I believe in and fail, then do something I don't believe in, make a little bit more money, and then at the end of the day you don't feel good about what it is you're doing.
Todd : I think people get frustrated of dedicating their lives to playing music and always losing money.
Q : I noticed that you guys don't have a website or myspace. What do you guys think about my-space? Do you think that it's something that helps the scene and people getting music and learning about music or do you think that it's another commercial thing that isn't helping anything..
Todd : I think it's both. I mean I hate it, but I understand that to some people it's how they hear about a band. We just don't care about that kind advertising or self-advertising, so we don't have a website. We just don't care about that.
Paul : In my opinion it's the exact same answer to the last question. I think we do little that we feel distasteful about and I think we're lucky that we're able to do what we feel good about. I think that some bands they feel like they work hard, and they feel that if they do things like that maybe its not distasteful to them, they do things like that and maybe it's going to help them.
Todd : We just don't care about trying to reach more people, expand our audience, we just want to play music and if people find out about it and they like it cool, it's all good to me.
Q : You guys played one gig together with Amebix, what did you think about it, how did it seem to you guys playing with them, how did you see them playing together after all these years...
Todd : we had a good experience, also we didn't know anything about the money thing, and I have heard some weird stories about the money. But our experience was really good, they were very humble, down to earth, really nice guys and they played really well, and they worked really hard, you could tell that they put a lot of work into it, making sure that they did the songs right we had a good impression.
Paul : Honestly I don't even think that the money thing seems so weird to me. Sure the diy scene has worn Amebix patches for a really long time, but I think these guys for the most part of they've moved on, and they decided to get back together and they probably have wives and families and expenses and for them to do it cost money. I think people like us, well basically we choose to be poor, so that we can tour all the time, it's a lifestyle choice. If you move on and 20 years down the road you're doing something different, for you to be able to tour realistically costs money. You have rent to pay, family. I mean being on tour all the time I know has ruined many relationships, and I m sure they have to worry about keeping their marriages- I don't actually know that, I m just saying- it's hard for me to get too offended because they seemed humble and very genuine, and I really appreciated it. If I had met them and I had gotten a bad vibe from then it could have completely gone the other way but I felt like they truly enjoyed what they were doing.
Todd : But also I think they were asking for maybe like 3.000 dollars- If 800 people come to the gig...10 dollars each, that's 8.000 dollars. I don't think it's that weird to give them 3.000 it's less than half. I don't think it's that weird, I don't know the details but they seemed very genuine.
Q : What are your favorite Tragedy lyrics, of which song and for what reason.
Todd : I like ending fight.
Paul : I agree, because, I personally can relate to all song lyrics that I from my other band, but I think I understand the feeling of feeling desperate and exasperated and and feeling like you 're essentially losing and nothing you can do can possibly win, but you can't give up the spirit of the fight. There's a difference between understanding that basically you're losing a battle and giving up.
Todd : And even if you know you can't win, you're still fighting because it's in your blood to resist and to fight.
Paul : It's a fucked up positive-negative...I get called a lot and we get this with our lyrics and my other band gets it with their lyrics we get called negative in dsfgdgf but I think there's a difference between...I always say people often mis characterize optimism to pessimism. If you go to sleep and you wake up and you're on a room with shit up to your neck... to say I have shit up to my neck isn't pessimistic, it's realistic. So often times if you describe the world around you...
Todd : Although it's being optimistic, because you're saying I have got shit up to my neck and I don't want it anymore. I want something better.
Paul :...to recognize that the situation around you is being terrible and maybe even totally defeating, isn't necessarily pessimistic, it's just recognizing what it is and I think that to me I wouldn't really consider myself an optimist, I consider myself a survivalist or a survivor, and I think we live in fucked up times and in a fucked up world and if I think about it philosophically, I think there's no positive end, but I don't want to let it ruin my life. So i think that the best thing to do is to live your life according to what feels good to you and what feels right, you don't fight to win, you fight to fight. I think in some ways it answers the question about diy and all of it. I think you just do what feels right to you and in some ways you win no matter what because the whole goal in life is to enjoy living.
Todd : Thats the whole paradox with punk and politics anyways, that were antiwar, and then were talking about fighting back, and fighting, that kind of sums it up...