Finally the discography LP of ManLiftingBanner will be released, including eight new songs. Time to catch up with singer Michiel and talk about the past, present and future of one of the best known Dutch bands in the history of hardcore and their ongoing commitment to communism.
The Revolution Continues double LP will be out in a few weeks. I know Crucial Response was long since planning to release the discography on vinyl, but who came up with the idea of including new material?
We did. Peter (from Crucial Response) wanted to add stuff from the Share Common Ground sessions; an abortive attempt to record an album after the first ep and before the 10”. Some of us, including me, felt these songs do not represent the ManLiftingBanner sound. So instead we suggested to do new songs. At first I came up with the idea to do a theme around the poet Langston Hughes whose poems are politically sharp up to this day and whose poems translate very well into hardcore songs somehow. In the end we just did one of his poems in a very characteristic ManLiftingBanner song I Dream A World and we put a Leonard Cohen classic to an Oi-ish background, Everybody Knows.
It appeared me and Bart have been out of the business for a while. Stuff that was easy decades ago is not so easy and cheap these days.
Did you also debate releasing the discography and putting the new songs on a new record?
Well there was a debate on Profound stuff being re-released, including the demo, that project is luckily on hold (I’m not in favor of it). We also debated which ManLiftingBanner songs to include. In the end we chose to do all the songs of the ep and 10” sessions, minus end the fear part 2, which was just a joke. Peter insisted not to do any of the live stuff that had been released and we agreed on that. So it came down to either a double 10” or a double album, the first was our option but was pretty expensive. The gatefold cover we wanted was the other issue, instead we got a full-color booklet. So yeah it was some wheeling and dealing and it appeared me and Bart have been out of the business for a while. Stuff that was easy decades ago is not so easy and cheap these days.
I know Big was ready to leave the hardcore scene behind, he said so on stage at that last Birds Of A Feather show. When and how did things come back together and did you guys decided to be a ‘real’ band once again?
Well let’s be clear on that, we got certain pictures of Big that he doesn’t want all over the internet… Another reason could be that Big wanted to do this for old time’s sake. We’ve discussed his motives to quit being in the band and I see where he’s hinting at. In a sense he’s in the same state of mind I was in when I decided to quit with DeadStoolPigeon, for in what sense did it really affect political change and in Big’s context spiritual change. Like me back then he’s been setting his priorities, he’s got a family live now with Claartje and Ronja (his daughter), at times a really boring job and he wants to reasses what he’s gonna put his mind and energy to.
Knowing all that I’m really glad he still wanted to do this with us and for us and he had a lot of fun in the process, he promised to do some release shows and maybe he’ll do some more, let’s keep our fingers crossed, but I won’t pressure him into something he decided was in the past for him. If it ends up like that we’ll have to get another guitar player.
The new songs on the discography, are they really new or are we talking about song written in the nineties but that somehow never made it to a record?
No, we had some songs which we never recorded, like A Joke, True Hardcore and Carving, Paul was in favor of recording the former, which we might on a future record if we change the song a bit. True Hardcore really doesn’t cut it lyricwise and Carving ended up being a DeadStoolPigeon song. If we hadn’t come up with these 8 new songs we might have filled it up with The Hammer Hits Hard (Colt Turkey) but we all agreed these new songs, one written a week before the recording, were the best stuff we had, so yes they’re all written since april 2011 and brand new. It’s still pretty much ManLiftingBanner with a little bit of DeadStoolpigeon thrown in. Judas Priest meets Straight Ahead.
Manliftingbanner has done some reunion shows ever since breaking up. Why did you wait until 2011-2012 to really sit down together and work on new stuff.
In 2008 it really felt good and at the time I was working with Marcel and Jeroen (The Oath) on some material, and I loved getting it together again. Paul and Olav hinted over the past 2 years that they wouldn’t mind doing more with ManLiftingBanner and Bart also was getting into the idea. So when the discography thing came up something that simmered in our brains got the spark that was needed to ignite the flame.
Like Joe Strummer stated in ‘Rude Boy’ we weren’t into following some uniformed bastard posing as communists while being state capitalists and robbing their own working class nor were we into the men in suits who did that same thing on ‘their’ side of the planet.
The one thing must people know Manliftingbanner for is putting communism into hardcore. Lots of western kids love it but I have also read comments from people from former communist countries who are really against that part of the band. For them communism is a whole different thing than for you. You must have come across these people as well. How do you deal with them?
Well to be quite honest at the time we came up with it, it wasn’t really popular either. We got into really fierce debates wherever we came, because the walls had just fallen, the Soviet-Union collapsed in 1991, so people went: ‘But can’t you see it doesn’t work?!’ or ‘Can’t you see what they did there now the truth came out?!’
Bart and I are International Socialists and the slogan they had at the time summed up our stance on communism: “Neither Washington nor Moscow, but International Socialism”. Like Joe Strummer stated in ‘Rude Boy’ we weren’t into following some uniformed bastard posing as communists while being state capitalists and robbing their own working class nor were we into the men in suits who did that same thing on ‘their’ side of the planet.
We really can’t say capitalism has brought much joy here since, neither did it over there. Lenin’s statues weren’t put up there by Lenin and as to the people mentioning him in the same sentence with Stalin: a river of blood divides them. Lenin to me is the greatest man of the praxis of revolution, Stalin its killer.
What I always wondered about Manliftingbanner is in how far is communism is the right word for the things you like to change in the world. When talking about communism most people immediately think about Stalin, Mao and other dictators who in the name of communism terrorized their countries. Isn’t it a bit too much sloganeering when you talk about your commitment to communism?
Communism is a world without a state in which everybody produces according to his or her capacities and everybody receives according to need. Such a system, because it would be the first system that would be constructed and supported by the great majority, could evolve into a system without a state or any form of repression. This is a far cry from the deathcamps of Stalin and Mao and so was the revolution of 1917-1921. So was the revolution in Portugal in 1974, France in 1968, and the Spring Revolution in the Arab World.
Mao’s revolution was a guerilla war against imperialism and feudalism and ended up in a dictatorship but not of the majority of the people against the minority of landowners and capitalists which is the socialist revolution, but a dictatorship of a hierarchically and militarily organised party.
Stalin could come to power because the soviet-democracy of the revolution was finished of in the Civil War of intervention and the Whites trying to reinstall there regime and continue their murderous participation in the First World War, killing of hundreds of thousands of Russians by the bullet or famine.
All the wars of the last two decades of the West have been started in the name of democracy and freedom. Did they deliver any of that or just pillaging and death? Would you agree with people in Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia that freedom equals murder and democracy equals death? I would tell them that freedom and democracy are still very nice concepts well worth to be fought for, especially real freedom and real democracy, and would explain that the imperialist version was actually just greed and hunger for oil wrapped up in a banner of democracy, like Stalin and Mao abused the symbols of communism.
When I was 14 I went tot the huge anti-nuke demonstration in The Hague, protesting US nuclear missiles being placed here in the name of freedom and democracy. That was my political baptism.
In the book about 25 years of straight edge in Europe/The Netherlands I read that some of the bandmembers went on a US tour with Youth Of Today. Can you tell me how they reacted on your ideals? When and how do you think they went the Krishna way and you took the path towards political activism. And in how far did it lead up to your conclusion that capitalism is your enemy?
That was before ManLiftingBanner, 1988, and actually they didn’t mind really. Porcelly and Sammy sang along to MDC all the way down from SF to LA while Ray was chanting. The last album of YOT was way more political than any other Straight Edge band by that time. When they played here we saw Walter and he was pretty much into socialist ideas. Sick Of It All also when we met them later on with DeadStoolPigeon.
I think they got into Krishna for the same reason we took politics more serious. Straight Edge is a pretty hollow concept which attracts both leftwing and very rightwing people and as a thing by itself, what does it achieve? From day one we were always more political than Straight Edge. Profound had very political lyrics as well.
Capitalism always was my enemy. At first I was just generally left-wing and up to my 19th I considered myself some sort of anarchist. Capitalism was always equal to exploitation, killing the environment, raping Third World countries of their riches. Communism wasn’t that far off for me to go. From my 12th I had been into politics. When I was 14 I went tot the huge anti-nuke demonstration in The Hague, protesting US nuclear missiles being placed here in the name of freedom and democracy. That was my political baptism.
Whereas the lyrics of Manliftingbanner mainly deal with the problems of the lower class people, most hardcore kids are probably from the middle and upper class. Aren’t you in a way preaching to the wrong crowd?
If you look at Hardcore on a global scale you’ll find many hardcore kids are lower class as well, in the US it isn’t much different. Maybe it’s like that for the Straight Edge crowd but, although I’m Straight Edge, I stopped calling myself that in 1992 so… But what can you do if this is the kind of music you’re into and you can actually make as well. Anyone can be won over to communist ideas, one by experience, the other by debate. But it’s not our intent to convert people like that. It’s the stuff we feel strong about, so we sing about it and if people get into these ideas that allright!
From what I get so far the new songs are inspired by the Occupy movement. What does inspire you about it? And what should be the next step of action?
I’d say they’re first and foremost inspired by what happened in Tunesia, Egypt, Bahrein, Syria and Greece. The Occupy movement came after that but most lyrics were written by then. Occupy is a great inspiration ofcourse because it sees masses of young people questioning the most basic elements of capitalism. It shows to the world the real face of capitalism and does so in simple and effective slogans. Capitalists were forced into defense, those arrogant bastards were suddenly thrown out of there sales pitch.
Whether the Occupy movement as a movement will be able to survive and grow depends on its ability to broaden the movement to other social issues and working class struggles.
What are the plans with Manliftingbanner, do you want to go and tour abroad?
Yes definitely! But work, social life and politics demand their toll, so we’ll have to make those tours short. That’s why we still play so fast.Back to interviews overview