FIVE MINUTES WITH CRAZY ARM
You’re playing at Badlands Festival this year – are you excited?
Of course! Lincoln has always been one of our favourite cities to play and I sorely miss the legendary Crash Doubt sessions. I’m sure it’ll get super messy, just like the last time I was in town when I dislocated my thumb after drunkenly falling over while dancing in a gay bar. Only in Lincoln.
What’s your ‘elevator pitch’ for Crazy Arm? How would you sum up your music in one sentence?
Fugazi with banjos, but without banjos. That was a good one for a while. Until we actually started using a banjo. Hobocore was another one. More succinctly, I’d say it’s a sprawling mess of punk, Americana and folk-roots with a pinko commie bent. Sometimes antiquated, always anti-fascist!
You’ve played in Lincoln a bunch of times now, what do you like about coming here and what’s been your favourite show so far?
The people never fail us! We’ve made some great friends up there over the years and the shows are always a blast. We even nabbed one of your drummers for a good few years. Cheers Matty boy! My favourite shows were probably full band acoustic at the Duke of Wellington in 2011 and Crash Doubt Festival in 2012. I actually used to come to Lincoln a lot in my late teens and early 20s, around 1987. I was a hunt saboteur back then and we were introduced to the Lincoln sabs at a week-long event in Exeter. We all got on well, so me and a friend would hitch-hike to Lincoln, whenever we got the chance, to sabotage hunts and go to anarcho-punk shows. It was the era of Chumbawamba, mullet dreadlocks and doe-eyed optimism. God, I miss those days.
There is a huge variety of punk rock in the UK and Badlands Festival features a mix of everything from crust and d-beat, through to skate punk and more melodic-indie driven punk. Which UK bands have caught your eye lately that are pushing the boundaries of what punk rock can be?
To be honest, I don’t listen to much new UK punk rock. I’m getting complacent in my old age. Having said that, I’m heartened by the ever-increasing amount of women in punk bands. Petrol Girls most certainly hit the spot, musically and lyrically, and there’s a band called Probably Not, from Exeter, who are making a really cool post- hardcore noise. Other than that, I’m pretty clueless.
What will you be listening to in the Crazy Arm van on the 5+ hour drive up to Lincoln?
It’ll go something like this, deep breath… Baroness, Constantines, Nick Cave, Grails, Woven Hand, Joni Mitchell, 16 Horsepower, Propagandhi, Arcade Fire, Bon Iver, DeVotchka, Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Murder By Death, Rocket From The Crypt, The Hold Steady, Mount Eerie, First Aid Kit, Steely Dan, X, The Handsome Family, Gene Vincent, Tragedy, Shearwater, America, The Clash, Bry Webb, Hot Snakes, Reeltime Travellers, John Grant, Midlake, Johnny Cash, Planes Mistaken For Stars, Mogwai and Ted Leo. But Jon [Dailey – guitarist] and I love to listen to Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo’s Film Review podcast as much as anything else. We’re converts to the Church of Wittertainment.
Lyrically, Crazy Arm has always been a politically conscious band. Are you still motivated to write political lyrics? Does the current political climate inspire you to take action, or does it bring on feelings of apathy?
I’m always motivated, and still do write from a political perspective, but I’ve never been one for writing detailed or sledgehammer lyrics that don’t leave any room for interpretation. Crazy Arm is a rock band and I want the songs to sound good, first and foremost. If you really want to learn about, say, disaster capitalism you don’t listen to a record, you read a book by Naomi Klein or Noam Chomsky. But if I can push someone in that direction then I’m happy. Also, overtly political bands like Propagandhi are very learned wordsmiths and I could never write with that kind of intellectual rigour. I seem to be getting more neurotic and troubled as I get older, and I find myself writing about the simple act of staying mentally stable in an increasingly toxic environment, more than anything else.
As for political activism, I’ve maintained a militant awareness for over 30 years, but I think state-sanctioned protest marches and Facebook campaigns are the antithesis of activism. They’re self-serving and largely ineffective. I admire bands like Petrol Girls who put their money where their mouth is and participate in initiatives centred around their radical feminism and sense of community. That seems a far more constructive type of militancy to me. But it’s a strangely intense era right now. People are having to adopt a whole new vocabulary to understand what’s happening around them. For instance, a lot of people, especially men, are hearing and (mis-)using the words ‘misogyny’ or ‘antifa’ or ‘feminism’ for the first time in their lives and they’re struggling even with those simple concepts, let alone more complex concepts like non-binary and trans issues. I think the next few years will be deeply unsettling and we’re all going to have to step up.
Crazy Arm will be playing 2000 Trees acoustically this year, what else do you have on the horizon?
Indeed, we will! We’re also playing an acoustic set at Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival and a rock set at Boomtown Fair, as well as a handful of weekenders around the country. But the priority is getting our new record, ‘Dark Hands, Thunderbolts’, finished. We’re nearly there! Once that’s ready, we’ll get back out and do some proper touring around the UK, Europe and beyond. South Korea and USA have also been mentioned but one step at a time!
Tickets for Badlands Festival are on sale now and there just a handful of early-bird tickets left for £10 each before the general sale begins. Get yours here: https://badlandsfestival.bigcartel.com
Saturday 18th June at The Jolly Brewer and The Alleykat Club, Lincoln. Featuring Crazy Arm, The Human Project, Miss Vincent, Wolfbeast Destroyer, Three Day Millionaires, Nieviem and many more still to be announced.
Join the Facebook Event here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1043669599115081