DISAFFECT, QUARANTINE, DEBRIS, RUIN, SCATHA, BRAIN ANGUISH – these are the names you are definitely familiar with. These are the names that have shaped punk for decades now. These are the names that co-define punk from Scotland, along with other fine bands. And they all have one man in common and I talked to this man about his bands, their influence on others, his solo performances with acoustic guitar in his hands, and being young while getting old. Please meet Brian Curran.
SP: Out of many bands you’ve played in, I guess DISAFFECT was the longest going and was one of the first 90’s anarcho punk bands that started this dual vocals hysteria in punk scene worldwide… Why do you think was the phenomenon of this band?
Brian: My short answer is I have absolutely no idea. It’s true that there were a lot of dual female/male vocal bands in the 90s, Nausea probably being the most well-known at that time. I can’t speak for any other bands, but for Disaffect I thought the split vocals added a good dynamic to the overall sound. There was a lot of bands at that time as you know, mostly dominated with sole or dual male vocals and maybe being slightly different made us something of interest to listen to. Personally, I have always liked bands with female vocals so I was more than happy to be in a band with a female vocalist. Quarantine were also a female/male vocal band and similar to Disaffect, it brought a good dynamic and something different to the whole sound.
SP: Let’s start with DISAFFECT then. It was a very productive band, releasing many records. Did you also play many gigs?
We could have been more productive I guess if I wasn’t in full time employment during the existence of the band, but yeah we did not too badly release wise. We put out 2 EPs, 2 split EPs, an LP and a live LP plus a Demo tape and a CD with everything we released on vinyl. I’m not sure how many gigs we did, we played pretty regularly. I’m actually in the process of trying to track down a note of all the gigs we played. Besides playing locally and in England, we also managed 3 European tours taking in Belgium, France, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, Italy and Spain.
SP: So why did it all come to an end?
Brian: Like everything it probably just ran its course and came to a natural end. There was no falling out or animosity between anyone in the band as first foremost we were all friends before being a band.
SP: Was QUARANTINE next step? The band existed only, what, 2 years? Why? It was a very fresh take on hardcore punk at that time and very promising as well…
Brian: I think we were probably together around 3 years as a band. After Disaffect broke up I went to Australia for about 4 months, gave up my flat in Glasgow etc. When I came home I was keen to start playing in a band again. Andy and IB had already started on Scatha with Angus, Billy & Jason, so I decided to do something with Jamie who was the drummer of Sedition and Disturbed. Tracey who had just newly moved to Glasgow was also looking to get involved in doing something and that was the start of Quarantine. The name came about as a bit of an after thought as we had a gig, but no name as yet. The name was from a sticker on the side of IBs drum case so we told the people putting on the gig that Quarantine was the name of the band. Looking back at the lyrics etc, Quarantine was a pretty apt name. Yeah, we were a bit different to the other bands that were kicking about at the time in the UK. Not really sure what people thought of us at first as we weren’t an anarcho/crust type band. We actually worked pretty well as a band and song writing etc. was a pretty easy process. I think at the time we were all on the same page as to what we wanted the band to be and it worked out pretty well. We managed to do 4 European tours whilst together and put out an LP, EP a Demo and various comp LPs with songs that hadn’t appeared on any other releases. I personally really enjoyed playing in Quarantine, singing and playing guitar, liked the songs and it was what I really wanted to do. Before we broke up we even got offered a tour of the US with Dystopia which would have been awesome, but in reality Jamie decided on the morning of a tour of Ireland that he didn’t want to do it anymore and that was that. If Jamie would have been happy to carry on I think we probably would have lasted a bit longer and maybe put out a few recordings, but that is all hypothetical of course. Again like Disaffect though, there was no animosity the band just ended and that was that. Tracey eventually moved to China to study and I started doing stuff with Debris.
SP: I know QUARANTINE are coming back for two re-union gigs. What was the idea behind it? Did you all just feel you miss playing, or there is a special occasion for that?
Brian: It’s only one gig in Berlin in August 2018. It’s not a reunion as such. Our friend Stephan asked us if we would play at his 40th Birthday bash last year and we said yes to that one gig and we are really looking forward to doing it. Logistically, it wouldn’t be possible to commit to anymore gigs anyway. I will say though that it’s been great playing those songs again with Tracey in the studio and Tommy (Headless Kross, Atomgevitter) has been doing a great job on drums and totally exceeded our expectations.
SP: Is it possible for QUARANTINE to come back and be a proper and regular band? To make up for what it lost back in the day, so to say…
Brian: At this time it’s highly unlikely as Tracey is still living and working full time in China making it logistically impossible to do something that required a commitment.
SP: Is it possible for DISAFFECT to come back?
Brian: The chances of Disaffect making a comeback are even more remote than Quarantine. I don’t think or believe any of the members of the band has a desire to perform as a band again. From a personal point of view, I loved playing in Disaffect, but I don’t feel I need to try a recreate what we did when we were together.
SP: Come backs. They are very popular these days. Do you reckon it’s a natural consequence of time passing and people getting old realising what they were really missing and what was important for them?
Brian: I think that is a big part of it. I can only speak for the punk scene in Glasgow and bands that have been playing again in recent years (Sedition, The Disturbed). The Glasgow punk scene was a really tight community and as I’ve said earlier we were all good friends together before we started playing in bands together. For the 2 bands I have mentioned, this isn’t a reformation to make money or anything like that but more a case of doing things with your friends and something you enjoy.
SP: BRAIN ANGUISH is a project you are currently involved in with Angus. Is that true that BRAIN ANGUISH was active many years ago and you decided to revive it to give it new life?
Brian: Hahahaha. The mysticism of Brain Anguish runs deep. So deep in fact, that even Angus and I sometimes wonder what it’s all about. That one song has been kicking around for a while, we just don’t really know for sure how long.
SP: There is only one track you put on Bandcamp so far. When can we hear more and when are the releases coming?
Brian: It’s true, we move at a slow pace. But to do things right it takes time and we’d rather do something that we are happy with rather than churn out stuff by the numbers just to get it up and running. At present we do have about 8 songs and we have recorded another song to put out there, it’s just waiting on some final touches to the mastering etc. before we are happy with what it is. Everything is coming soon, just not too soon.
SP: Was using a drum machine out of necessity, no drummer around or just a plan?
Brian: It was always the plan. It was just easier to do it with a drum machine. We knew it was going to be a slow burning project and that the distance would make regular rehearsals difficult, so having a drum mahine assists with that. We write most of the song structures together over the internet, and Angus works out the drums to provide a beat for those riffs. It works out pretty well with just the two of us. We also have pretty busy lives so adding another member would just add more restrictions into when we could do things.
SP: Listening to this track one can tell you ARE still angry, despite the age, ha ha. You haven’t mellowed in any way. Active, rebellious and creative. Many become tempered by maturity. Do you think that not becoming old (meaning acting old) has something to do with being in punk movement as such? I mean, punk is always creative, keeping you sharp and on the edge, only the body gets old, and we only look uglier, but mind is still edgy and beautiful with age, thanks to punk…
Brian: I think there is plenty reason to be still angry after all these years. In some respects things are worse today than they were in the 80s. Granted, there has been progress in one hand with trying to break down barriers and create inclusiveness for marginalised peoples, all the while the media creates a culture of fear allowing Nazis, homophobes and the ignorant masses to raise their ugly heads and spout their hate speak rhetoric. Brexit is an example of this. Whatever reason people try to justify for voting Brexit it is a protectionist outlook, nothing but inward thinking. The whole look after yourself and keep others out mentality. It doesn’t make any sense. So in that respect, yes I’m still angry and frustrated that nothing has got better since I was writing songs 25 – 30 years ago. In regards to the age part of your question, I agree to some extent. Age in itself is an attitude. If you feel and act old, then you will be old. I don’t go out my way to surround myself with young people, but the majority of people I know and choose to associate with are creative people doing things, be it in the punk scene or not and a lot of those people are younger than me. I think that engaging with your brain and thinking about things in general keeps you young. Punk in itself is ageless. Gigs in Glasgow are attended by old and young people and (as far as I have encountered) age isn’t an issue when it comes to people working together and doing things.
SP: You have been doing your acoustic singing for a few years now, with a few records on account. Where did the idea for that come from? Did you simply miss being on stage and/or your head was so full of words that you just need a tube to shout them out?
Brian: I have always said that music is the most important thing in my life. Without it I have nothing. Someone once told me that was because I wasn’t a father at that stage and when I become a parent I will realise that music is no longer the most important thing in your life. I have thought about that statement a lot over the years and even now, where I am a parent and a husband, I would still say that music is the most important thing in my life. Of course, I love my partner and my child and put their needs first. However, I would argue that without music I wouldn’t be the person I am. I wouldn’t be able to build these relationships, I wouldn’t be able to form friendships and be a loving father. It sounds corny, but music has shaped my whole existence it has made me who I am and that’s why I know without music in my life I am nothing. So to answer your question, I started playing acoustic solo music because 1) I wanted to and 2) I needed to. I had absolutely no idea what was going to become of it as I hadn’t thought that far ahead when I started messing about with an acoustic and writing songs. I was in a stage in my life when I wouldn’t have been able to commit to doing a band and doing stuff myself is obviously on my own terms and I can suit myself. However, I wasn’t looking to do it as an actual thing; it was more about the need to create something than do nothing. The gigs started when I managed to get a slot on a Sedition gig in Glasgow and Liege. It was probably the most nervous I ever been doing a gig. But I enjoyed it, so I have kept doing it. So far I have released 3 EP/LP type recordings that are benefits for Scottish Autism as my son is autistic and I wanted to raise awareness of that and the challenges people on the autistic spectrum have. That’s why the 3 recordings is called the ‘Triage of Impairments’. I’m still writing songs and still wanting to play gigs and still enjoy it.
SP: How much interest do you get in your solo performances? Do you have many gig offers? How is it to play such set between noisy punk bands? How do people react?
Brian: Once I have played a gig I usually get people telling me that they enjoyed what I was doing, which is great. I think people expect me to be a bad version of Bob Dylan (if there is such a thing) and are actually quite surprised that I still deliver the songs with the same energy as I would if doing a band. Gig wise, with the exception of a few people I know, getting gig offers are few and far between. I’m not bitter about that though, so don’t take it the wrong way. I honestly think people don’t really get what I am trying to do. I think I’m kind of stuck in a situation where I am too punk for the acoustic types and too acoustic for the punks. It’s also the case that I am not in a position to be as visible at gigs as much as I once was for various reasons, which is no doubt detrimental to me being offered gigs as punk is as much about community than it is music.
SP: Do you play non punk shows? Who comes to see you and what is the response?
Brian: With only 2 exceptions where I played at a folk festival and some other strange gig where I wanted to play at a festival in Glasgow and the promoter gave me a ‘Live performance interview’. Not surprisingly, I didn’t get to play at the festival and I was given some advice that “I should really try and form a band”. Yeah, cheers mate. I would say I only do punk gigs, whether those punk gigs are all acoustic or not. The acoustic acts I play with all come from the punk scene to some degree. I’ve also got no issue playing with bands and most gigs I have done have been like this. Even though I have an acoustic guitar I still see (in my own head) that I’m playing punk and I’ve done many gigs with Bratakus, as well as played gigs with Doom , Cress etc. I get a fairly good response at every gig I have played and I appreciate anyone who goes out their way to watch me play. Don’t get me wrong I do see a large part of the audience firing out the door when they see an acoustic guitar coming in to view, but that’s life. I said when people do stay and watch they are usually surprised that I still play 3 chord punk songs with shouty vocals. I’m acoustic punk not folk punk.
SP: Isn’t it time to form a proper anarcho punk band, active live and in studio? Angry and inspiring? Like in the old days?
Brian: I thought me and Angus were already doing this?
SP: Well, yes, but to some extent only. I said “active live and in studio” and BA is kind of … well, why are you so mysterious about the band, ha ha? Is something big coming you don’t want to mention?
Brian: Haha, fair point. Yes, we’re still in the rehearsal stage but are hoping to play before the year is out. I wouldn’t say we’re being mysterious, I think we’re just conscious that people are waiting on us putting more stuff out and we want to do something that is worthwhile and not just for the sake of it.
But to fully answer your question. I don’t know if the world needs another anarcho punk band, but as I love this style of music I would say why not. I would never of thought songs by the old anarcho bands (Crass, Conflict, Flux, Icons of Filth etc.) would still be relevant 30 odd years later, but in reality the songs could have been written this week! We may not need a carbon copy of the anarcho style of music, but we do need to be writing lyrics that addresses issues such as the rise of fascism, corruption, animal rights etc. Besides, there’s a new bunch of people in the punk scene now and may not necessarily be aware of these topics, therefore there is an element of no longer preaching to the converted if you know what I mean. Getting into punk/hardcore opened up a lot of political things I hadn’t really thought about before hand and I believe that can still happen for people today. So the short answer is: Yes!
SP: Do you imagine yourself making music with much younger punks, say 20 years old? What differences in approach to life do you think you’d notice or punk recognises no differences in that department?
Brian: I have no issue playing with people who are younger than me. My main barrier would be the time I would be able to commit to that. Doing a band is a big commitment so that usually has a bearing on my ability to do stuff or not. Would there be differences in approach to stuff? Probably. We’re starting from a different point in time, but I think the fundamentals are still the same. For example, I wouldn’t play in a band with somebody who has a totally different outlook and attitude to what I believe myself. There are lots of bands in Glasgow at the moment with a pretty healthy scene with a socially aware DIY ethic.
SP: Are there many young punks in the scene in UK right now? Are they rather on the active side or not necessarily? Being in UK at various gigs, I rarely see young people.
Brian: Again I can only speak for the place where I live and I can say that there is a pretty healthy punk scene in Glasgow. I have always been interested in going to see new bands and to stay involved in the scene and being friends with Bratakus has certainly helped opening up new bands to me. For example, I go to gigs that 10 years ago I may not have considered. Musically Glasgow is pretty diverse and always has been. There were always bands like Dawson, Whirling Pig Dervish, Stretch Heads playing along side bands like Sedition, Disaffect, Quarantine etc. and that is still the case today. Lots of bands, playing various styles, under one punk umbrella. You should check out some great bands like Bratakus, Joyce Delaney, Sick of Talk, Brain Fluid, Anxiety, Rapid Tan, Twistettes, Fnords, Droves, Acid Cannibals, Headless Kross, Grieve, ILK, Sumshapes.
SP: Many say that the world history that is being written right now is the one that repeats the pre-nazi era. Would you agree that we are on the brink of huge eruption of fascism? Is todays world capable of repeating mass human killing?
Brian: I think things are so fucked up right now that anything is possible. There definitely is a surge in right wing views that people openly express that they may not have 10 years ago. The western world’s governments and media drive home the message of fear and that fear is stirring in peoples’ minds and generating some pretty scary right wing thinking. Brexit and the election of Trump is evidence of that. These things always start with a drip, then a trickle before the tap is fully open and I think a trickle is where we are at currently. When you speak about mass killing however, it hasn’t ever stopped. Look at what’s happening in Syria right now and indeed in particular with Kurdish people in Afrin. Mass murder and state sponsored terrorism is a real thing and as long as the media keeps selling the willing masses on the thought of it being done to “protect our values of freedom” the more it will keep on happening. We’re in a pretty fucked up place and I don’t have any answers or solutions to how we can solve it. But I am worried as any sane person would be of what the future holds for our children and their children.
SP: 20 years ago, when punks were writing lyrics about environment exploitation, drawing attention to ecological issues and reminding that it is all up to us what we do with this planet …. 20 years later we’ve gone a long way in destroying it. We’ve cut down the trees, we’ve raised and killed millions of animals for nothing, we’ve sucked up resources, we’ve made some species extinct, we’ve learned how to pump chemicals into food which we later consume, etc, etc. Looking at all this, there is only one conclusion. A human being is stupid, there is no turning back, and we will never learn. There is no future… So, isn’t life for just finding some little space for yourself, living it the positive way, having fun and leaving some good piece of music after we are gone for good?
Brian: Yep, that’s one way of looking at it. I don’t believe human beings are stupid. Yes, some are solely interested in profit and material gain and have no consideration for the consequences to the environment and indeed all life on this planet. They even know the damage they are doing but their greed and selfishness outweighs their ability to stop, think and try and change the path they are on. These people aren’t stupid; they are the multinationals, governments, the law makers, the oppressors and those who hold up our capitalist society. However, in saying all that you have always got to believe somethings are possible to change. Some choose to accept that the aforementioned are doing this on our behalf for the greater good and ignorantly consume, shit and throw away. Then there is a minority, who questions the actions of these powerful bodies, and is starting to make choices that go against the ‘normal’ paths that have been laid out before them. These people are labeled, freaks, weirdos etc. and demonized. I would put myself in the latter camp. And small changes aren’t difficult. Some things are simple, stop eating meat (there has been a rise in veganism), start reducing your waste. There are local groups out doing things in the community that you can get involved in. It may seem like small steps, but these steps can go along way and every movement for change has to start somewhere. It’s probably not going to happen in our life time, but for the sake of every living thing in the planet today, tomorrow and future we have to do something.
SP: How do you think younger generations could benefit from punk ideology?
Brian: What is the punk ideology? It would depend on who you ask I guess. I watched a documentary recently about Southern California where the message appeared to be the opposite to everything I regard as punk (i.e. start a band, sign to a major label, make lots of money and fuck everyone and everything). I obviously grew up in the generation where it was all about community, the “Network of Friends”. Basically treat others with respect and live your life without wanting to fuck people over. To quote Flux of Pink Indians “Strive to survive causing least suffering possible”. That’s pretty much how I try to live my life. I think that’s a pretty good starting point for everyone, whether they be punks or not.
SP: Don’t you think, that some things punk was shouting about and putting on display, now have become mainstream. From punk appearance to lifestyle, such us ecology and veganism. So there is a lot of positive influence but it needs time. So shouldn’t punk as a movement be more open to mainstream with their ideas, so that they get to so-called normal people and there will be more good than bad in this world?
Brian: Punk fashion, punk music has definitely exploded into mainstream culture. The main reason for this is because when something becomes mainstream it is no longer a threat. It simply becomes a commodity. Punk and other counter cultures were born out of movements that went against mainstream society, therefore, in my humble opinion the whole idea of what punk is and what it means must exist outside the mainstream to strive and continue. Mainstream society isn’t interested in people making their own choices, thinking for themselves, doing things for themselves, and generally taking control of their own lives. This is what punk means to me, which goes against the values of mainstream society, which is generally, work, consume, die and keep the capitalist society a float and don’t upset the apple cart. Of course, we all live in this society, so there are certain things that we have to do just to survive. Mainly work and make money. With this in mind, punk was something that I could get involved in that was separate from the mainstream. It was, and is more that music. As I’ve said elsewhere it’s a community. A community of people working outside as much as possible from mainstream culture to create music, express opinions and ideas, which in turn become how one leads their life. In complete contrast to that, Veganism is bleeding into mainstream society and getting popular. This of course is a good thing and being vegan is now pretty easy. Like vegetarianism in the 90s, we’ll see how many people are left when the companies stop making money and move on to the next adventure, but for now there isn’t a better time to be vegan.
SP: Has Facebook and other social media killed something in punk movement?
Brian: Hmm, its an interesting question. I think social media is an excellent form of communication and a great way to let folk know what’s going on like new bands, gigs etc. We shouldn’t turn away from things that we can use to our advantage and social media is great for that. Look at how successful protests have been with the use of social media to get the message out. For example, the G8 protests allowed people to organize effectively and get one step ahead of the police. Not to mention putting out videos etc to the wider world to see what was happening and getting people on side. So for that social media is a good tool. The disadvantage is that some people are shutting outside the real world and only living within social media and in fact socially isolating themselves. When people, who would have previously contributed to doing stuff in the ‘punk community/scene’ have their face in a screen 24/7 it impacts on their scene and others people attending gigs, events etc It’s a fine balance.
SP: Are there any bands from UK, say younger generation punks, worth looking at closer?
Brian: Plenty of bands worth checking out, with some I mentioned earlier on. But if you’re referring particularly to the younger generation then you won’t go too far wrong with – Bratakus, Sick of Talk, Joyce Delaney, Brain Fluid, Anxiety, Rapid Tan, Boak, Famine, Radioactive Rats, Burning Flag (not young punks, but pretty bloody good)
SP: What are the plans for you in 2018?
Brian: I have plenty of plans. For Brain Anguish we’re hoping to be playing gigs before the end of the year, probably with more stuff recorded too. Quarantine will be doing the one off gig in August in Berlin and as for my acoustic stuff, I’m playing at the 30th Anniversary at the 1 in 12 Club in April and planning to go back to Gran Canaria to play there. I also have about 12 songs that I have written that I hope to get recorded (I just need to give myself a kick, and find some money to do it). In addition, I’m always looking to play gigs with my solo stuff, so if anyone wants to put me on in their local squat, pub, club, field or front room drop me a line.
Thanks for the interview Wojtek. Appreciate it mate.