WAR//PLAGUE from Minneapolis showed their latest face on a split 7” with WARWOUND, which in my opinion is the most brilliant piece of metal crust available in the US at the moment. With 2 LPs and a split LP with Police Bastard on the menu plus the latest split 7” with AXEGRINDER they are my target for this interview, when punks over 40 talk politics. And some music.
I interviewed Andy Lefton (guitarist, backing vocals) and Andy Lutz (singer, guitarist).
Note: the interview also appeared in a Polish fanzine called CHAOS W MOJEJ GŁOWIE. Here is the English version.
Your name seems to very well define the todays world. Or do you think that no matter when WAR//PLAGUE exists, there will always be a threat of war between nations. The history tends to repeat and it’s all a history of cycles…
Lefton: In our lifetimes, we’ll always be in a constant state of war. No matter where in the world or with who, that threat will always linger. We’re living in a time of transition, I feel. Where the old world is dying out and rolling up, and we’re in the “rolling up” stage. Many people are being caught up in that old world and fighting with everything they have to keep it alive, but the new world is rolling out and we’re here to make sure that new world brings more peace and understanding to a world that lacks the compassion needed to move forward as a society.
Lutz: Yea, our name does seem to be very relevant right now… but I also think war will always plague us. We are living in a very strange time right now. It seems like all the things people, bands, books, etc have been warning about for years is coming true. I mean, it’s just baffling… we have a fucking reality TV star in charge of the country! I’d love to say after Trump is out of the office, there will be no more war, no more violence. But the sad fact is that it will continue for the foreseeable future.
How do you see the current general political situation in the world. Is the threat of nuclear war a threat only?
Lefton: The world is a very unstable place right now. In my lifetime, it’s always been at risk with man’s lust for conquest. I see nuclear war as a very real and very executable threat. With our current political climate, we are closer now than ever and it’s a very uneasy feeling.
Lutz: It feels like things are quickly spiraling out of control, but that seems to have become the norm, unfortunately. Between Trump, White House corruption, Russia, North Korea, the Middle East, etc, etc, etc…. Nuclear war has always been a looming possibility, not just a threat. However, with the current ‘war mongers’ in office, it becomes even more real. It really does echo the Reagan era/arms race, but scarier.
Asking about your opinion on Trump’s actions would be useless. But where do you think this will take America? Do you envision white America getting stronger and stronger or the wake up call is soon to happen?
Lefton: Unfortunately, this country has a strong history of racism, lack of eduction and overall intolerance. There has definitely been good progress over the ages to accept diversity and have compassion for each other, but due to the current social and political environment, it’s stirred up a lot of the racist scum. In my opinion, this is the last leg of a dying breed. This world has progressed in a positive direction over the ages and all this old world way of thinking (hate, fascism, etc) is not sustainable and I feel many people are waking to the fact that we need to move forward in a positive direction and are willing to fight for what’s right. We’ll see what the next couple decades bring.
Lutz: I think what’s going on now is a lot of closet racists are coming out. I don’t see that side of America getting stronger. It’s more of a final cry of the middle-aged-angry-white man. Things are changing and they don’t like it. Rich politicians are using this to their advantage. These people are so misinformed and they think the current administration is there to help them, when in fact they are using them for there own self-serving agendas. The wake up call has already happened. There are protests all the time, and not just small protests. Large scale in the 10’s of thousands. As long as Trump’s white house is in command, massive social unrest will continue.
Channels like Discovery show Americans building fallout shelters. Is it the trend on a larger scale or just media making a fuss out of it? I remember when there was anthrax threat after 9/11 in US media showed people wrappng their houses in plastic…
Lutz: I think that’s just the media/networks trying to cash in on hysteria. I don’t watch TV, but the media loves creating panic, it means good ratings. I’m not aware of anyone building shelters where we’re at, that’s not to say it’s not happening, but I refuse to live my life in fear.
Lefton: It is total hysteria. The population here is easily duped into paranoia and always looking over your shoulder. The media has absolute control over the people and have the power to convince people that there is an enemy. No matter what, we are living in a time when free thought and independent living is rare due to the media machine and partisanship that’s torn this place apart.
I guess for us Europeans it is a bit, let’s say for lack of better word, “easier”. We are many nations on one continent and we learn from each others mistakes and “tomorrow” we can apply this knowledge into practice. Hence the result of elections in France. America has always proclaimed itself a big, strong and independent nation knowing what’s best for them…
Lutz: I think a big problem here is our Government (a lot of times) doesn’t want to acknowledge the mistakes of the past, mainly because they have figured out how to profit from said mistakes. Slowly, people are waking up. It just feels like the average voter has a short attention span and doesn’t like change, so it’s easier to pull the wool over their eyes. That said, the people who voted for Trump will be making painful discoveries over the next 4 years, many of them are already reaping the despair of their choice.
Lefton: America is far from great. It’s a very young and inexperienced country compared to the rest of the world. So it has a lot of growing pains and sadly, the public is still in the midst of learning and this creates a divided place where currently, certain areas of the population want strife and division. It’s complete ignorance.
Obama has established free health care in US. How did that affect the whole healthcare, economic and social situation? And how do you see it?
Lutz: Well, there is no free health care. He created the Affordable Care Act. This makes it possible for Americans who can not afford insurance to get coverage and allows for more choices, not just people who can afford it. It also put regulations on insurers and providers – basically to keep them more “honest” and not screw people over. I’m just summarizing here, as it is actually pretty complicated. The law makes it so that you have to have minimum essential coverage, or you will be fined. The Republicans hate the ACA, aka Obamacare, and they’re trying to change it. Mainly because they want to profit off of it more. The current shit show Trump is trying to get passed has been a disaster. Basically it will screw over a lot of poor and old Americans. Again, this is a pretty complex topic. The ACA is not perfect, but it’s way better than what Trump wants; he just wants to line the pockets of Republican Party members, donors, pharmaceutical companies, etc.
Part of your line-up used to play in FLUX OF DISRODER and PROVOKED. Tell us about these bands. There were others as well, weren’t there?
Lutz: Yea, I use to play guitar and do backing vocals in Provoked with Leffer (Lefton). We had a lot of fun in that band, a lot of good times. When Provoked broke up, the two of us decided we still had a lot we wanted to accomplish and formed WAR//PLAGUE. Before that, I played guitar and did lead vocals in Pontius Pilate, and when Leffer moved to Minneapolis (99) he joined the band. Chad was in Calloused and Path of Destruction and Vern did a stint in Resistant Culture and a bunch of metal bands. I think what we are doing now is really an accumulation of all the writing, touring and recording we’ve done over the years.
Lefton: Ah, Flux of Disorder….that was many, many years ago. That band was based out of Colorado before I moved to Minneapolis. We existed from 1992 to 1996 or 97, can’t remember exactly. After that I started DEAD STATE, released two 7” records and then moved to Minneapolis where I met Lutz and we’ve been playing together ever since. So yes, I played in PONTIUS PILATE, Provoked and now WAR//PLAGUE. I also currently play in TAU CROSS … but that’s another story 🙂
How did you team up with Warwound? Looks like both bands deliver a similar heavy sound. Or was it just a friendly decision?
Lefton: Yeah, that just sort of happened organically. I was working with Damian on the SACRILEGE re-release of “Realms” and at the same time he was putting together new tunes and gigging with Warwound. So we established a good relationship over that time and I ended up booking and playing the Warwound show here in Minneapolis and it just happened that way over time. I mainly worked closely with Ian Glasper on the split as he reached out to MCR and Dr. Strange Records to help do the release. That was definitely a fun release to do!
How did the split 7” with AXEGRINDER come about? They kind of changed their style…what do you think about it? And why did you decide to release it on the Record Store Day?
Lefton: This actually happened in an instant to some degree and the label decided on RSD. I was working with Easy Action Records in the U.K. doing art for the AMEBIX re issues. They asked me “Hey, we’re doing a split single series of bands across the globe, but each band has to be from a different country, are you interested?”. I thought it was cool they asked us and said “why not!”. Not even 5 minutes after getting that message I got a chat from Trevor of AXEGRINDER (we’ve been friends for a bit) and I got the crazy idea to ask them if they’d want to do it with us. He came back a day later and agreed, so we were very excited!
A lot of people feel their track is different, and it is to some degree but I also feel they’ve matured into something great. The reason I say this, is because I’ve heard the entire LP they’re doing and it is a bit different than the track with us. As a matter of fact, their new stuff on the LP is much more like older AXEGRINDER. It’s really good!
Speaking about styles and the way it evolves, ANTISECT have also changed. Do you dig it?
Lutz: I saw ANTISECT play a few years ago on their US tour and thought they were pretty great. I have nothing but respect for the band and whatever route they choose to go. The new stuff I’ve heard doesn’t really speak to me musically, but it’s their band and their music, so I don’t think my opinion really matters as long as they’re creating what they want.
Lefton: I will always have the utmost respect for ANTISECT as they taught me a lot about what I do now in my life. They were definite educators growing up as a young punk. I can say they showed me how to be compassionate towards animals…and humans and stand up for what matters in this world. So for me, ANTISECT is more about the emotion and ethos in the music than the music itself. I LOVE the old stuff…no doubt about that. But musically now, it’s not my cup ‘o tea. Regardless, I hope they have as much an impact on the young punks now as they did in my youth.
Your musical style has evolved a bit throughout the years. What is your emotional state as a band today, musicwise?
Lutz: Musically I think we are stronger than ever, we can’t seem to slow down even when we want to. We’re currently writing new material and I think it’s some of the most pissed off sounding stuff we’ve written yet.
Lefton: Writing music is such a natural thing for us. Our pace of writing is very fast moving, and what I mean is that we are in constant flux with our flow of writing and it never really stops. We’ve never really been the type of people to try and copy other forms, although we do have similar sounds, etc, we just always have ideas churning in our heads and so that keeps us quite active. I think the current music we’re building is very angry at what’s happening in the world now…and you’ll notice that once we’re able to record it 🙂
In the past many bands from UK inspired the US crust scene. How is it today, any inspiration from UK new crust scene or do US crust bands seek elsewhere?
Lefton: I tend to be a bit opinionated on subjects like this because I feel so strongly on it. Of course we all have influences and personally, I love UK/Euro crust punk, It’s been a major influence on everything I do, so yes, I feel we do have some of that going on with us. But in this day and age with the internet, etc, there’s a difference between being influenced and blatantly copying a sound. There’s a lot of regurgitated sound and clone bands out there and it really dilutes what punk is about. I think it’s easy for a youngster to get online and be sucked into what the new flavor is….be it D-Beat this or that, or Japanese Hardcore, etc. I love all of that stuff and everyone should. Just try not to copy it because it’s popular. Punk needs to be kept alive (which it is) not cloned 1000 times. This is why I love the earlier UK/Euro sound. It was well written and thought provoking music.
There are many other facets to the punk sound that influences me. I love early U.S. Hardcore and I REALLY love U.K. Peace punk. Everything from the early CRASS (all bands) stuff to Thatcher on Acid, Chumbwamba, etc. That music will always have a lasting impression on me.
Lutz: Well, speaking from my point of view and location. We get inspiration from all over the globe, past and present. I think crust has become a bit of a hodge podge in general, especially with the internet and access to so many different bands. Though some bands might hop on what’s “in style” at the moment. We kind of just write what comes natural, but I’ve always had an affinity for UK and Swedish styles, classic stuff.
Your debut 7” was released in a UK label, Active Rebellion. What was the reason for that. Nobody was interested in doing it in US? Has the single ever made to US anyways?
Lutz: If I remember correctly, they liked our demo and offered to release a 7 inch. We liked what they were doing and it just kind of happened. Shout out to Irena! There are copies in the US, but not many.
There are rumors of a discography CD. True of false and if true can you tell us what the CD is going to include?
Lutz: True. Just not sure when, but we are working on it. It’s a big project to collect a decades worth of music. I believe it will be a collection of everything. EPs, LPs, splits, etc. Maybe some photos and other things.
Lefton: Yes, this will happen. It’ll be a nice package with over 40 songs, history, pictures, etc. We’re probably going to self-release it since I don’t think many labels would be interested in doing CD’s. So it’ll take a bit of time since our lives tend to be quite busy these days.
You probably realize a Minneapolis punk band will be associated with MISERY and PROFANE EXISTENCE. Anything else you would mention that made MN punk worldwide famous?
Lutz: Oh man… there’s so much. Besides the obvious like Hüsker Dü, Misery, Profane, Havoc, State of Fear, D4, etc, etc, etc… tons of DIY clubs and basements that have come and gone. There’s also the famous Extreme Noise Records! Lots of alternative food options. Like if you’re vegan or vegetarian, there is no shortage of options. Then there’s also mainstays like First Ave and the Triple Rock. I think people here are just active in general – in both music and politics. I don’t want to sound like a travel agent, but it’s a pretty cool city.
Lefton: It really is a great city, a lot going with art, music, culture, etc. I moved here in 1999 to be a part of it all and it was the best decision I made. The good thing about this place is that is self-sustaining in regards to the DIY ethics in the community. People have a strong connection to what’s going on here and that helps keep things alive and strong.
I want to talk about PE a bit. The collective had a bit of a crisis when it stopped, the zine was gone, the record label was gone. Why did that happen?
Lefton: Oh, I do miss those days. PE had a very strong work force back in the day. I can’t really speak for Dan, who owns PE, but I can share what I know from my experience.
PE had many ups and downs and eventually Dan handed the “keys” over to other folks that didn’t have the same spirit to operate it as previous folks. So that was a major downfall which ultimately became the demise of the whole collective. It just became too expensive to do the zine, run the label and constantly put out records. I felt fortunate enough to work along side some of the greatest people in the DIY underground that helped build what we have now. But sadly, things just diminished over time and that true PE spirit went away. Dan eventually handed everything over to Chris from Appalachian Terror Unit so he’s doing it full time as a sort-of different chapter of the PE saga, but those days of how it was with the zine and all the local community working together are gone.
I guess the people who run the collective these days are different to the ones that started it. Are you involved in it and to what extent?
Lefton: As previously mentioned, Chris (ATU) is currently running the PE label. I’m not directly involved with the operation as I have my label (and forum) Organize and Arise where I do co-release records with PE and also my own releases, as well as WAR//PLAGUE stuff.
In Europe there is this hype of being vegetarian or vegan. Many celebrities claim they are vegans, the healthy lifestyle shouts from almost each cover of women’s magazine. Is it also the case for US? For Europeans the average picture of an average American is a fat person with a huge Cola bucket and fries. Has America woken up when it comes to nutrition and eating styles?
Lefton: Lucky enough for me my wife is a Clinical Dietician at the University Hospital, so I get good nutrition! We don’t eat meat so I’m happy to have her in my life and help with good, healthy choices. As for the popularity in eating healthy, etc, I suppose that’s a good thing. As long as folks are doing it to ACTUALLY be healthy and food conscience and not just for popularity sake.
As I mentioned, my Wife works at the hospital and the stories I hear and the epidemic of obesity here in the States is monumentally horrifying. Again…media drives everything so there’s always a barrage of advertisements everywhere you go for fast food. The lack of education for healthy eating here in America is the biggest factor. The corporate giants that dictate what America eats make all the decisions. It’s really, really sad that we have this country where education is lacking in proper food choices and so the population is fed these lies which ultimately leads to poor health and driving healthcare costs. It’s un-fucking-believable.
Lutz: That’s interesting. If a healthier lifestyle has become mainstream, I’m not sure that’s a bad thing – ya know? I mean, if people are eating less meat and trying to be healthy, that’s good. If people are just saying their vegetarian because it’s popular and not actually acting on it, that’s kinda weird. There is an obesity epidemic in the States, but it’s not what the media shows. There are a lot of healthy people, but I think it depends on the demographic of the States. What a lot of people don’t understand is all that junk food is cheap, so a lot of poor families eat it because it’s so accessible. A healthy lifestyle can be a bit more expensive. Weird right? Fresh organic produce could theoretically cost a family more than a couple of big macs, it’s pretty sad that our country has made it difficult to eat healthy. I’ve met people that never eat any kind of vegetable, ever. That’s part of the problem, they’re hooked to this poison and haven’t been correctly educated on why they shouldn’t be eating it. I’m not saying I’m some fitness buff or even a health expert, but I also don’t eat that junk, drink cola or any of that crap. Beer on the other hand…
What do children get to eat at schools? Are fast-food chains present there or have they been chased away like in UK, for instance? Have you got children?
Lutz: I don’t have kids, so I don’t really know what goes on in schools these days. I believe some schools have fast food options, there are lunches supplied by schools, but they’re generally garbage. There were some efforts made by the Obama administration to get healthier food options into schools, but it looks like Trump will squash all of that. Gotta get ’em hooked early – ya know…
Lefton: Yeah, it’s fucked. These fast food companies do manage to weasel their way into these schools, etc. Like Lutz said, the Obama administration did help bring better food and quality to the kids, but with this asshole Trump cutting all these budgets and letting these corporate food companies have free reign, all that is going to suffer and all the work done over the last 8 years will turn back into shitty food and fatter kids. It’s absolutely horrible.
How about the right to possess weapon in US. What is your stance on that?
Lutz: That’s a pretty complicated question… I do think there needs to be better regulations when it comes to gun control, especially when it comes to background checks and mental stability. Here in Minnesota, it’s legal to conceal and carry a gun, as long as you’ve been certified. It’s really a double edged sword… some people are responsible, but lately there have been a lot of ‘itchy’ fingers out there. Not to mention the huge problem with police using excessive force and killing. I’m not sure how many Europeans are aware of the Black Lives Matter movement, but police shooting unarmed black men is a major problem all over the country. Many of these cops are getting away with it too. Republicans try to downplay the problem and misinform the public. Another big problem is that a majority of mass shootings are done by people that acquire guns illegally. There was just a shooting by my place last week, gang related, a bunch of teenagers. Do you think they bought that gun legally – absolutely not. With that said, the government shouldn’t be the only ones with guns, the people have a right. But like I said, this is a pretty complicated subject and not so cut and dry.
Lefton: Guns and the NRA need to be destroyed. I realize this isn’t possible, but the NRA is such a driving political force. They’re nothing more than death dealers and have massive amounts of power in the government. Due to their loose regulations and endless gun lobbyists, we have mass murder happening daily around this country. Giving the cops more power to kill innocent, unarmed people and getting away with it, and not only cops but civilians as well. It’s a very deep subject, but because of it, I learned to despise this aspect of our society. The NRA believes if you make guns more accessible to the public you have have a safer society, but it doesn’t work that way. They want to put guns in schools because it’s will help protect the children from the guns in the hands of the criminals, but the NRA want loose gun laws, which allow criminals to carry guns that will end up shooting children…what the fuck?!
Andy, professionally you are VFX artist. How did you develop your skills? Was it punk rock that taught you how to do it ‘coz you did stuff for bands?
Lefton: I’m a huge Star Wars nerd. My Father took me to see Star Wars back in 1977 and I can say that moment had a big impact on me. So when I got older, I wanted to be involved with visual effects, animation, etc. So that was the start of it! Moving to Minneapolis was partly to do music and to also get a degree in animation and VFX. I never thought my career choice would lead me to do art and such for punk bands from all over the world and even the classics such as AMEBIX, SACRILEGE and more! So that was a dream come true.
Who do you work for and do you have the comfort to choose clients? Have you ever had a dilemma whether to turn down a client because of your personal values you developed thanks to punk rock DIY movement?
Lefton: I work from my home office. I was freelancing for many years working on film and other type of animation work for TV, etc. I still work from home, but for a studio based out of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania working remotely. We use Skype, chat and email daily to communicate with clients. The future is weird 🙂
Yes, I’ve turned down work due to ethics, etc. I had a client come to me recently that needed work for a company that went against my values and said “no”. There have been times years ago that I needed work with some crappy company, but these days I’m established enough that I can make the right decisions. I hope that lasts!
What do the rest of the members do for a living?
Lutz: I’m an artist and designer, I do a little bit of everything. From band merch to comics, etc.
Any plans to visit Europe soon? How easy or difficult is it to arrange a tour for an American band in Europe these days?
Lefton: We talk about this often. It’s just a matter of getting our lives together and trying to schedule around our obligations (work, families, etc). I’m hearing it’s a bit more difficult for bands to travel overseas now with the new administration and all these stupid fucking travel bans they keep failing at. Regardless, we hope to make it happen.
Lutz: I’d love to come back over, it’s been a long time. Hopefully if the stars align it’ll happen someday. It was definitely a lot easier (and cheaper) when we were younger, but as life happens, it becomes a bit more complicated. It’s certainly something we talk about regularly.