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Oi Polloi (Scotland - Oi! & streetcrust)

 

Next band don't need much introduction. After thirty years the band is still writing new songs and doing gigs. Thanks to Deek for his time!

April 2011 - Author: Paul Benschop - band website

7er Jungs

Who are the current bandmembers?
The current line-up is:
Òigridh - bass
Olssen - guitar
Deek - vocals
Tongs - drums
Olssen, Tongs and I have been playing together for over a decade now and we've known each other a lot longer. Òigridh is the young pretty boy but he's been with us for a good few years as well now too so we'd like to think we're a fairly well-oiled machine these days!

The questions everyone wants to know, are you skins, punks, hippies, crusties or ...?
We're actually hardcore anarcho-herberts who play a blend of street-crust and progressive Oi!!

Heheh, people do love to try to label everything and put everyone in boxes don't they? I think your question just shows that people don't always know what to make of us and that's not necessarily a bad thing - although the four categories you mention would be a pretty good description of the mix of kinds of people that make up our audience as we've always had plenty anti-fascist skins at our gigs along with all kinds of punks and a smattering of "hippy" types. For ourselves though, well, we obviously play political punk music with strong Oi and crust influences but we don't all have dreadlocks and dress in black rags covered in d-beat band patches so we're not crusty enough for the crusties but we also have too much hair to be skins - although it isn't spiky enough for the streetpunks either - confusing eh?

Basically these days we're more interested in the music and the DIY and political ideas that go along with it than in conforming to some kind of uniform appearance. You know, in the past I've had the odd mohican hair cut or shaved head or the standard hedgehog-style spiky hair and so have plenty of the others who have been in the band over the years, but it just doesn't seem so important any more for me personally - but good luck to people who do like to look like sharp-dressed skins or punks with crazy hair etc - makes the world a more colourful and interesting place and that's great.

It shouldn't be mandatory to have to look a certain way to be accepted in the "scene" though - that excellent Chron Gen song "Outlaw" says it all - anyone who hasn't heard it should have a listen to it on their myspace page.

The "hippy" tag that sometimes gets thrown at us by some people in the Oi scene does make me laugh though. I mean, if someone wants to grow their hair long, smoke loads of grass and sit around in sandals playing acoustic guitar in the back of a VW camper van painted with flowers and CND signs (or whatever your stereotypical view of "hippies" is!) then I certainly have absolutely no problem with that whatsoever - in fact I'd suggest that the world would be a better place if more people were like that (rather than say, glorifying kicking fuck out of other working class people like themselves just because they support a different football team or whatever) - but that's not exactly a totally accurate description of any of us!

We're more likely to be down the pub in steel-capped boots having a laugh over a few pints and while my record collection doesn't include any Bob Dylan there is an awful lot of Cockney Rejects, 4-Skins, Cock Sparrer etc in there. Just because I'd like my daughter to actually still have the possibility of seeing a whale in the wild when she grows up or to be able to swim in a relatively clean sea and experience the beauty of walking through old-growth native woodlands or appreciate the wonder of ancient stone circles it doesn't make me some kind of barefooted patchouli oil-smothered stoner or mean I don't still like early Sham 69 and The Oppressed!

Oi Polloi

This year the band reaches its 30th anniversary. Any special plans for that?
Actually, no, we don't have any special plans at all. We're not really so much into this looking back nostalgia kind of thing, we just get on with what we've always been doing - having a laugh and having a say. To be honest in some ways it doesn't feel like 30 years at all - time flies when you're having fun!

Never considered to quit? I don't think punk is for young people only, but i remember a gig you did in Holland a few years ago, the audiance was quite young or maybe underaged. While being on tour you constantly meet new people and for some reason they dissapear with the years. Never lost your motivation for the band by this?
I've never really considered quitting yet because it's just too much fun to stop basically. I mean getting to travel all over the world to really crazy interesting places where you meet loads of great people and get given lots of free booze and delicious vegan food as well as hearing all sorts of other amazing bands - brilliant! Plus of course we get to play the music we love to crowds of people who are totally into it - it's fucking great!! That's not to say it's all roses though - I mean sometimes you lose money or you may have some nightmarish experience after a gig staying in some squat full of fleas and human shit or meet some real arseholes or get attacked by fucking nazis or something but overall gigging is a really positive experience. Everyone in a band knows how much fun that is - especially when the crowd are going crazy - you can't beat that. You make a lot of good friends over the years on tour too and I'd definitely miss seeing these people if we stopped touring. It's true that sometimes some of these people stop coming to gigs but it's not always a case of them "selling out" or whatever - a lot of folk may have to stop being so involved in the scene when they have families or because of work commitments but they may still be involved in the background or doing other political work and there are always old friends that we see on tour even if they don't actually come to watch the gigs.

While it's also certainly the case that in some places the audiences can sometimes be so much younger than ourselves so that it feels almost like being a trendy teacher at a school disco or something that's not the case everywhere and at a lot of the gigs in countries like the UK, Germany, France etc there are still quite a few folk older than us - there are still a lot of punks in their thirties and early forties - thankfully! According to our Myspace friends breakdown 10% of them are in the 35-44 age range (like us!) and another 5% are even older. Anyway we need to keep on rocking so that we can be rolling on stage in wheelchairs singing songs about how the state old age pensions are too low etc Plus we already have plans to re-invent ourselves as a total skinhead band when we go bald - there will be no more talk of us being hippies then!

Oi Polloi

How many compilations can one band release? Was this the band's idea to do so many or are it just the labels?
The reason that there have been so many collections of our stuff over the years has just been because we've always wanted to keep as much of our stuff as possible still available rather than see stuff go for crazy prices on e-bay etc. For example most of the 7" EPs that we collected together on the "Six Of The Best" CD were no longer available on their own, likewise the stuff on "Total Resistance To The Fucking System" and the other comps. We just want to keep our stuff out there for people who want it to be able to get hold of it.

Sure, nowadays folk can download stuff from file-sharing sites but then you don't get any of the sleevenotes or artwork that have always been integral parts of the releases as far as we are concerned. Also if people don't have the lyrics that kind of defeats the purpose of what we're doing really. So yeah, it's always been something that has come from us rather than being a result of any label pressure or anything.

We generally work with fairly small labels anyway so that kind of thing of labels pressurising us to do something very rarely happens. That's good but of course the downside of it is that there are often then only fairly small pressings of a few thousand copies of our stuff by a label that may not even be operating a couple of years later - which is precisely why we've had to reissue stuff on these compilations to keep everything available.

Oi Polloi

In an earlier interview you said you like playing in Germany as you speak German as well. Within the german left there're some problems with this anti-germanism and pro-israel views. How does the crowd react when you make a statement on Israel or when you play a song like 'Americans Out'?
Ha, I could write a book on this subject! You're definitely right that these 'anti-German' clowns do cause a lot of problems in the German scene but in the final analysis it seems that we've only benefited from their lunacy as they've really just created a lot of good publicity for us every time they've tried to stop our gigs because of our support for justice for the Palestinians and our opposition to a lot of the US government's foreign policy.

So far, all they've usually done is write a lot of pseudo-intellectual nonsense online slagging us off and most sane people see it for the garbage it is so at our gigs when we speak out about Israel or the US in Germany the response is generally overwhelmingly positive because the vast majority of the people that come to see us support what we're saying. The few anti-Germans who ever turn up tend to stay at the back and keep quiet. It doesn't really help their cause that they make so many ridiculous claims about us too - you know, that we're "right-wing Scottish nationalists" because we've occasionally worn kilts on stage (something that has a lot more to do with the comfort of having a nice breeze round our private parts than being stuck in sweaty underpants under hot stage lights if the truth be known!) or that we always burn the Israeli flag at our gigs or whatever.

We're obviously no fans of the Israeli government but we've actually never burnt an Israeli flag - although we do make a habit of burning the flag of whatever country we're playing in if we can get hold of one so there have been plenty of German flags going up in flames at our gigs there. I honestly think that most of these people know fine well that we're not nationalists or "anti-semites" or whatever they claim but when they can't beat us in reasoned debate on the issues they resort to these ad hominem attacks as it's the only thing they can come up with. I could go on but if anyone is really interested more in their beliefs and our responses to them then they can check this but be warned, it's fairly heavy going... (Click here to visit the link, ed.).

Th ankfully so far they've yet to succeed in stopping a single one of our gigs - desoite giving it their best shot - and in fact the only time I can remember us getting some grief while we were on stage was once in Köln where we were met with a large section of the crowd chanting "USA! USA!" when we were introducing our song about US imperialism in central America "Hands Off Nicaragua". I think the fact that they would celebrate the USA in the context of what the US did in Nicaragua with their support of the right-wing Contras etc shows just how fucked-up these people really are.

Oi Polloi

What's true about the story you work part time as a comedy actor? Is it a big TV station and how did you end up playing there?
Ha ha, you've been reading Wikipedia haven't you?! I've no idea why that is on the Oi Polloi page there as it's totally irrelevant to the band and it's a bit misleading too which is a good reason to always be wary of internet sources like that. Yeah, I did appear as Moses in this comedy programme but only for about five seconds and I only had one line so I'm definitely not a comedy actor! What happened was that I used to work in Gaelic language television for a few years but I was on the production side of things, not in front of the camera. One programme we were working on was a kind of mixture of comedy and reality TV following these aspiring comedy writers around the highlands and islands of Scotland as they wrote new sketches every night for shows put on in different remote places with a group of actors who travelled with them.

Well one night the producer realised at the last moment that one of the sketches needed one more person in it than there were actors and as they were looking for someone with a beard they asked me if I'd step in to help out for one sketch. So I said "OK", got all dressed up in this white robe and there was my five seconds of fame on Scottish TV!

There's a new full length upcoming called 'Duisg!', can you tell a bit more about it? Is there any special theme lyricwise? Will it be in gaelic again?
What I can tell you about it is that we're still a long way away from having finished it so that wikipedia page that claims it should be out in 2011 looks somewhat optimistic! We have recorded the basic tracks though and the bass, drums and most of the vocals are done so I'd imagine that despite our difficulties with getting the time to finish it it will be out in early 2012 - fingers crossed!

There are the usual Oi Polloi themes - anti-fascism, prisoner support, cops, animal rights, war, Palestine, the system etc etc - it's all very political punk as usual and there are a couple of new subjects like championing the LINUX computer operating system and open-source software instead of shit like Microsoft. Although we also recorded a lot of other stuff at the same time as the LP, much of which is in English or other languages like Finnish and even Latin (don't ask - it's a long story!), the LP itself is going to be all in Gaelic again. Bet you didn't know that "bathar-bog tùs-fosgailte" was Gaelic for "open-source software" now did you?!

Can you tell a bit more about your recording process these days? How different is recording your new stuff from your early studio sessions?
Well, as we've been using recording studios for over a quarter of a century now we couldn't really avoid learning some good tricks and so on as we went along so I guess we know how to use them a bit more efficiently these days.

Of course there's a lot more computer technology involved nowadays too that wasn't the case when we first started - everything was on reel to reel tapes and the engineer would have to assemble the finished master tapes with the razor blade and so on - guess that sounds terribly primitive these days. We still used a reel to reel machine to do a lot of our last LP though as we definitely like that analogue sound. In fact people who are interested in stuff like that can see all this in the forthcoming Oi Polloi DVD that is amazingly now finished and should be out later this year. A friend from Sweden has been working on it for over 5 years now and it shows us recording the last LP and then follows us on the six week European tour we did to coincide with the record's release. There's a trailer (link opens in new window. ed) for it on You Tube for those who are curious.

Oi Polloi

Since you sing in Gaelic the band is very aware of the Scottish identity. Can you explain why anti-britsish imperialism in for example Northen Ireland and Scotland devellopped in such different direction?
I should just emphasise again here that the reason we sing in Gaelic has absolutely nothing to do with any kind of patriotic or xenophobic Scottish nationalism. Our involvement with this minority language is a linguistic human rights issue, it's about the rights of speakers and about promoting and maintaining linguistic and cultural diversity in the face of rampant anglo-American cultural and linguistic imperialism - it's got nothing to do with some sort of bizarre Braveheart-esque "Scottish pride" or some nonsense like that.

We don't believe patriotism has anything to do with punk - it's total bollocks. We've got a lot more in common with some Finnish punks or antifascist Spanish skinheads for example than we do with some rich Tory-voting Edinburgh banker just because he happens to be Scottish. It's been said before but the real borders aren't between nationalities but between rich and poor.

As to your question about Ireland and Scotland well, you could write a book answering that - and in fact if anyone reading is interested in this subject then one of the best that I'd recommend is "The Celtic Revolution - A Study in Anti-Imperialism" by Peter Berresford Ellis. The relevant chapters on Scotland and Ireland go some way to answering that and you can read it online actually at Google books - it's very interesting stuff.

Do you have any closing comments?
We're looking forward to seeing lots more punx, anti-fascist skins and 'hippies'(!) at our upcoming gigs this summer - come and say hallo and have a pint or two with us! Oh yeah - and I should plug yet another forthcoming Oi Polloi compilation LP (yes, another one!) - it's a 12 song collection of our more recent Oi-type stuff from the last few years and should be out in June on Italian label Anfibio Records entitled "100% Anti-Fascist Oi!" - the name says it all!