“Maybe we can’t change the world from what it is, but we can live outside their system in various aspects”. Interview with ZERO AGAIN.

Zero Again

Hailing from Bristol, UK, ZERO AGAIN are definitely no beginners to punk. Their line-up features Dean from Regret & Ephemeral Foetus on vocals, Payney from Bring To Ruin & This System Kills on guitar, Glenn from Grand Collapse & Four Letter Word on drums, and Ian on bass, who used to play with Warwound, Stampin’ Ground and Decadence Within. The band formed in covid times and has thus not yet managed to play a gig, but has worked hard and recorded several tracks for two EPs and compilation albums. Their music blends various hardcore punk styles and ranges from Rudimentary Peni bass lines to Dead Kennedys punk, Tragedy hardcore and Neurosis heaviness or Killing Joke lightness. The lyrics reflect today’s world of emptiness, brutality, oligarchy, isolation in covid reality and police oppression. Their debut EP entitled “Out of the Crooked Timber of Humanity” is out now on Sanctus Propaganda making it a perfect opportunity to talk to the band about their music and the UK society in general. Purchase the EP here https://sanctuspropaganda.com/shop/ and enjoy the interview.

SP: ZERO AGAIN is a fairly young band, yet you worked quite fast to produce results in the form of two EPs coming out soon. Tell us about the very beginnings please. Looks like you are all busy in other bands (or some of you were), and here is another one on top of that. Whose idea was it and how did you form the line up?

Ian: I guess you can blame me for that. I’ve been kicking around the idea of a band called Zero Again for a while, and had all these weird Peni-esque bass lines cluttering up my brain, so when my last band Warwound started winding down, I mentioned to (drummer) Glenn that we really ought to do a band together. He was into the idea of doing something slower and heavier than his other band Grand Collapse, and Dean seemed the ideal candidate to be vocalist, as we loved his voice in his old band Regret, and he was good mates with Glenn already, so we put it out there that we were looking for a guitarist, and we were chuffed to bits when Payney stepped forward, as he has a great track record in punk bands. He is also in Social Experiment and System of Slaves. But yeah, the idea was gestating for a while, and demos were being bounced around long before we got in a rehearsal room together, and because it’s not our first rodeo, it all came together pretty quickly once we put our mind to it. I think we probably had eight jams before we went in the studio and recorded thirteen songs, but we wanted to capture the energy inherent in an intense punk band by not over-thinking or over-producing things.

Dean: I hadn’t done anything for 18 months after Regret slowly came to a close, so jumped at the chance to do something again. After being approached, Ian flooded us with bass lines that we started building the tracks up with. Him and Paul then had some jams so that a few of us were familiar with the tracks before we got into the rehearsal rooms.

SP: Looks like it’s been all planned before by Ian, haha. Had you been writing the lines for a long time, mate?

Ian: Well, I always record any riffs that fall out of me when I’m just jamming on my own, and I’d accumulated a load over the last few years… I presented some of them to Warwound and they were just too weird, but they were still good punk riffs, so I always kept them archived away… of course, once everyone got locked down ‘cos of COVID, I tried to keep positive and sane by playing every day and the stockpile of riffs started to get really fucking big!

SP: Starting a band in covid times is on one hand easier as we all tend to have more time and can do a lot of music at homes these days as well, but on the other the perspective of gigging is rather unknown. Add Brexit to it and we are all fucked, ha?

Paul: I’m not sure I had more time because of covid, if I am being honest; I have had to work as normal throughout plus, with three bands it will always be busy, and to be fair I think it helped me, as in playing better as a guitarist and opened me up to more ideas. I guess the lack of gigs helped. Though that really only benefitted Social Experiment, as rehearsal is on weekends, so the new LP is now written ready to record… whereas Zero and SOS are weekday evening jams…
With Brexit. I think if there’s a will there’s a way; you just have to look at doing things differently. And get more knowledge of what we need to do. I think the hardest part about gigs realistically is the covid situation, ie. when they can be possible again.

Dean: Similar here really, I’ve worked all the way through but have spent less time in the pub. It was good to have something to focus on.

Ian: I think Paul is right – punk will find a way around Brexit… I suspect we’ll be following the US model for touring, which basically means coming across separately as ‘tourists’ and borrowing gear, but we don’t need permission to play – we just need enough people to want us there and someone to help set it up. As regards recording at home, most of the band are ridiculously old school and not at all tech savvy, so we’re sending video clips to each other rather than demos recorded with interfaces and everything… I tried to go down that route, but the fucking thing wouldn’t do what I asked it to, so I sold it.

SP: What are the social moods in UK regarding Brexit and the Conservative Party rules as regards to the pandemic? Has your country been divided by the government and their right-wing politics just like it happened in Poland, where I live, or take US, for instance…

Paul: The Tories have always used the policies of divide and conquer, it’s how they win – by splitting people and having them argue and bicker in social groups rather than coming together and uniting, as then working class folk become a potential threat. The whole Brexit is a farce though; look at the vote – 52% to 48% – if such a vote existed in say Parliament then the Tories would never get in, nor would most right wing parties. So instead, they changed constituencies to favour them… then it had to be ‘x amount’ passed the post or the vote would be classed a hung parliament. The whole ‘Leave’ campaign was based on deceit and lies, though unfortunately there’s a lot of folk with less intelligence who didn’t really know what they were voting for, but joined the facade on the thinking that ‘Britain is more important’ – they probably didn’t think their rights would be affected. Plus, if you looked at the vote in age groups, I’m guessing that the older groups – 60 plus – are more likely to be the stronghold of voting leave. I come across this regular in work where older folk thought they were owed something, and blamed all the problems on people coming to the UK. And they probably read it/watched in the media, which as we know is orientated towards the right wing, as most are Tory donors.
Regarding the pandemic they have blatantly took the piss, and most can’t actually see that 22 billion spent? And millions given to companies that were just made, or had very little knowledge, except having connections to the Tory party, then benefits given to fox hunting groups… basically getting contracts under the table… the whole ‘track and trace’, that they call NHS, is a privatised company… along with many more poor decisions. Personally I think the money would be better spent on those in higher risk groups and concentrating on those in real danger rather than have a policy of ‘Let’s try the same thing again – this didn’t work the first time…’ Even when it was first announced in the UK, they held off so Cheltenham horse racing could go ahead. As that appeased their rich funders. Politicians in general have no empathy for what they were actually voted in to do. They clearly spend more time voting themselves pay rises, and leave the working class to cope inadequately with the cost of living rising. And then they have the cheek to claim expenses to top up their wages.

SP: Would you agree that the older we get the more we are into politics on basis of merit? In the past we used to shout “fuck the system”, now we are ready to provide solutions to political parties and put our vote in the ballot. I am not saying it’s wrong whatsoever but then I remind myself that whoever is in control will fuck it up anyway…

Ian: Yeah, it’s a good point. I used to be vehemently against voting… the whole ‘Whoever you vote for, government wins’ thing… then I started to vote for the Green Party, but felt that was a wasted vote, because they didn’t have a chance against the main parties here… now I almost see it like you’re voting for the least worse party – which isn’t much of a choice, but it’s a choice. Of sorts. I mean, how I wish a few more people had turned out for the Brexit vote – and we wouldn’t be in this shit show we’re in right now. In fact, there’s the case for casting your vote right there. Imagine if a few less people had voted for Biden in the last US election too. I mean, Biden is no saint, but he’s infinitely better for the planet than Trump. Don’t get me wrong, I look at the snake pit that is modern politics, and feel more like screaming ‘fuck the system’ than ever, but we have to temper idealism with realism, and where we have some small chance of influencing some positive social change we have to take it.

SP: Where do you think this European populist right-wing politics derives from these days? Do you think people have already recognised their intentions and are either ready to stand up against and take to the streets or change the course of action during next elections? Or is the US example too far away from the European perspective?

Ian: I’m not sure where it comes from, but it’s always been there, bubbling under the surface. And these people feel more emboldened and justified in their opinions than ever before, because of what they see happening in the US, because of what they see and read in the media, about immigration and recession, and it’s just easier to blame someone else than contemplate how you might be a part of the problem as well. I’ve always tried to steer away from the simplistic left wing/right wing classification, because it always felt too ‘black and white’ to lump people in either one or the other, when people are such complex things and there are so many variables… I’ve always thought that you’re either a kind person or you’re not – and clearly people who discriminate against others for superficial reasons are not ‘kind’!
Also populism in its democratic form wouldn’t have had factions of ordinary people turning on each other – they would surely be looking to work together against the corrupt and wealthy exploiting them from positions of power? That’s why my mind boggles at how someone like Trump has subverted the concept to his own end… and why a working class American would believe that a narcissistic billionaire is genuinely interested in their best interests is beyond me. Anyway, whichever way you cut it, and whatever you call it, Trump tapped into something nasty and poisonous percolating in society, and Brexit tapped a similar vein, albeit to a lesser extent, here; unfortunately I’m sure there are similar elements to be exploited in similar ways all around the world. So I wouldn’t be particularly surprised to see violence spilling over anywhere really – the whole world situation feels like a pressure cooker, and venting is inevitable.

SP: I hope the British haven’t forgotten how to protest on a massive scale. What protests have there been since the poll tax?

Paul: I wouldn’t personally say forgotten how to protest… there have been quite a few protests since the poll tax. Extinction Rebellion have regular events. The Bank protests. BLM been more recent. Taking down the statues relating to slavery. I think nowadays the media in general is owned by billionaires and most are predominantly right wing, so basically they show on the TV or in the papers what they want you to read. A lot will get brushed under the carpet. As it doesn’t fit with their agenda. I think this coincides with the rising of the right wing. I have played gigs in the past where there been protests, demonstrations in London, that have had no coverage in the media. Even the actual gig was a squatted venue, but the police leave it go ahead as they can’t technically enter a squatted business premises for 24 hr, only the owner… they never rush through a siege order as the cost will go into the £ millions, so it’s not cost effective – instead they black out any media coverage. And turn up 24 hours later. I do find it irritating myself when you go on places like Facebook, social media etc. and all you see is memes – it’s a bit like saying, ‘Yeah, I called Boris a cunt, so today is justified…’ Just armchair anarchists, so I guess that does make you wonder sometimes – if the shit hits the fan how many will be there or will it be another meme on Facebook. Don’t get me wrong, I can see the humour in it as well, though it’s a bit like giving energy out to something that doesn’t really create positivity. It keeps politicians constantly on threads.

SP: That’s what I meant Paul. Don’t you think that with social media we all tend to be more and more comfortable, distance ourselves more from the reality and become easy targets? The more I think about my everyday life now and, say 30 years ago before Internet era, I come to the conclusion that life without internet was much more active in all departments and definitely more productive. Sure, communication wise it was slower, but then, we didn’t know any other way…

Paul: Yeah that’s so true. The Internet certainly has its pros and cons and, at the moment, I get the feeling it adds more to negativity. I guess what I mean is, if you relate it to energy then there are a lot of negative comments you come across in group pages on Facebook of people having a moan, argument etc., just feeding more dark energy into everything, so it gets out of control. There is clearly a lack of good vibes or positivity, as sooner or later something with good intentions gets dragged through the gutter. Maybe this whole lockdown imprisonment adds a lot to that, as without any sort of real connection to reality, it brings people down? It certainly must have an effect on mental stability. Before the Internet I think there was more people with genuine positivity that created something. Whereas now those people are still there. But unfortunately, when it comes to the Internet it adds to the equation of the arseholes who can’t create any good energy, so they spend their time putting dark energy into everything, thus creating a bad atmosphere. Social media in general works via algorithms as well, so maybe that is pushing the negativity at the same time? So it comes back the cliched ‘divide and conquer’ technique which has been around in history for 1000s of years. Either way you look at it, it’s a very difficult choice. I have played in punk bands for, not sure… 35 years? And the part I love about it all is the friendships that have been made, the unity among normal everyday people, the good energy, creating lifelong friends. But then the Internet has it good points too, keeping in touch etc.. So I think as people we just got to keep positive and sooner or later we will achieve better things. Maybe we can’t change the world from what it is, but we can live outside their system in various aspects.

Dean: With being a bit (haha) younger than Paul, I grew up when the Internet was coming through so don’t really know much else. By the time I was 16/17, things had already started to drift over to the online forums. As Payney says, social media has many benefits but like everything we (humans) get our hands on, we’ll find a way to spoil it. I can’t really comprehend how bands sorted tours out before it – and I personally view that as impressive. Ideally with something like the Web you’d hope it will leave people with more time/energy to do things they want to or feel passionate about doing, but sadly that’s not the case.

SP: … and quite on the contrary we got ourselves locked down in front of the screens before they invented the real and compulsory lockdown. So where are we heading now as humanity? I know it’s a broad question, but since you referred to the punk movement 30-35 years ago when it was young, aggressive, non conformist and very spontaneous and when we look at the current state of things punk is rather “oh we’re doomed, humanity fucked it up in the past 30 years”.

Paul: It’s a hard one. The Internet’s probably been gathering momentum for say 20 years plus. And before that it was game consoles and now everyone’s plugged into phones… the world has changed from back then. Progression or regression? I guess that’s up to how you see the pros and cons of it all. 100 or so years ago, we was burning fossil fuels like there was no tomorrow. Capitalists organisations had the knowledge to reduce the carbon footprint but obviously profits came first. Apart from some indigenous tribes around the world, humans have never really lived in an equilibrium with the planet, and with profits coming first, the downturn of mankind itself will be the greed… With technology now it’s moved on fast though we are still getting yesterday’s technology as the military gets it first; we get the hand-me-downs of what they want us to have, and now there’s probably higher surveillance than there ever was. With laws changed throughout the world a lot of squats etc. are in real danger – how many have been lost in Germany since this lockdown? As the rights of protest or people flying in to protect them have been easily diminished under lockdown rules… Coming back to the punk scene, yeah, I think it was fresh in a DIY scale 30 or so years ag.. . Nowadays it’s been watered down with every genre in music managing to fit the word ‘punk’ into it… I think the slogans like ‘punk is dead’ or ‘punk’s not dead’ have derived from classic old songs that people themselves have carried the gauntlet to say yeah it’s dead or not dead, blah blah blah… You don’t get that, in, say, metal as not one band writes a classic song ‘metal is dead’ / ‘not dead’. As to where it leaves us in the bigger picture? I think the best way to look at it is more like: do the things you want to do, and feel are right; not everyone is going to agree, but we can only live our lives the best we can. The world will always be here unless some psychopath wants to blow it up in the name of power/greed, or a meteorite hits us… whether humanity is a part of that future, or life as we know it, is another matter. Personally, I just don’t think it wise to keep a big cloud over our heads. I try and be as optimistic as I can. I don’t use the Internet a lot; with a busy life, work, music, allotment, gardening etc., I just find that better for my soul.

SP: The lyrics for “Out Of The Crooked Timber Of Humanity” EP however, do leave the reader with a moment of despair. They seem to be “covid inspired” and I must say “No One To Mourn” did give me shivers on me back. Are we going to get out of this hell or it is just the beginning of new era on planet Earth?

Dean: With the band starting during lockdown and it being something we hadn’t been through before it became something that was in the forefront of everyone’s daily life. I don’t think it was an intentional thing, more a representation of the current climate. The lyrics primarily were Ian’s in the first instance and then I’d develop them when the ‘right’ song came together – add to, reorder, tweak lines – so Ian may say different towards the original intention. Personally, I think we’ll pull away from a complete hell but will need to adjust to a new ‘normal’. When this all first kicked in I’d had hopes of people changing their attitudes towards fast food chains, local collaboration (looking out for neighbours, food parcels etc) and services but as soon as lock downs were lifted, there were queues a mile long outside McDonald’s drive-throughs; the neighbourhood spirit has diminished and now in lockdown no. 3, the public is turning on the NHS.

Ian: As soon as we were locked down, I wanted to keep myself as focused and positive as possible, so I was writing lots of tunes on my bass, and lots of lyrics… I’ve always processed stuff by getting it out of my head and down on paper… I’m also a bit of a news addict, and every day when I was tuning into the latest, there was so much death and tragedy, it would inevitably colour the lyrics I was writing… ‘No One To Mourn’ was inspired by a particularly tragic story I saw during the first peak of the pandemic, where old people were being left to die alone in hospital corridors, and their families and loved ones couldn’t see them one last time… like you, that touched me, and it manifested itself in lyrics…
But it’s not like we’re making a conscious decision to go ‘death rock’ or anything, although I’m of an age now (53) where a lot of my friends and peers are starting to drop dead, and you just become more aware of your own mortality, and you look at the way others deal with it, and it’s inevitable some of your lyrics are going to have dark troubled undertones…

SP: Well, nothing’s changed, to summon a classic phrase. Did covid-19 divide people in the punk scene in UK or it’s more or less the same stance?

Ian: It divides itself without any help from external forces, so things here are kinda like they were before – with everyone at each others’ throats for no fucking reason… actually it’s probably worse now, because people are bored and fed up and sniping at each other even more than before… fucking idiots can’t seem to see that we have more in common than not.
Case in point would be a recent punk community page set up on Facebook… it was up to 3000 members in a few days, and you’re thinking, ‘Oh, this could be something good…’ but then it imploded thanks to in-fighting, and you realise that we’re all insecure assholes like the rest of ’em, and it’s a race to the fucking bottom of the barrel.

SP: Tell us about the other record, when it is going to be out and on what label. Oh, speaking about EPs … your debut EPs have just arrived at the HQ, haha…

Dean: The second EP is titled ‘Revert to Nothing…’ with another 5 tracks on, released through Kibou Records (UK), Cimex Records (SWE), The Little Jans Hammer Records (ESP) and Sick World records (NZ). It’s due to be released mid-March. Awesome news our EP has landed there at SP though!

SP: I just hope I can send it to UK these days. Boris changes his mood every now and then.

Dean: Yeah, you’re not wrong there. We’ve had a new one dropped on us today – if you’re heading to or returning back to the UK you have to spend 10 days in a quarantine hotel – but you have to pay for the pleasure. £1785 each for the duration, with a possible 10 year prison sentence if you don’t abide.

SP: Similar crap here in all sorts of departments, really: media control, anti abortion law, etc. … your EP shows two sides of ZERO AGAIN: the slow one and the faster one. Was it your intention to compose like that or it just happened and it reflects the diversity of band members’ musical tastes?

Ian: I think the only ‘rule’ we had was to not stop stuff happening if it felt right… I had a very clear idea in my head of how some of the songs were going to sound, but once the four of us got in the rehearsal room, the dynamic between us shaped them quite differently – but it felt right, so we just let it happen… all four of us seem to appreciate hardcore punk played at the full range of tempos – from very fast to very slow, and all points between… which is a good thing, as it keeps everything interesting, we can mix up the live set… we don’t want to limit ourselves or paint ourselves into a corner, so expect things to get weird, as well as fast and slow, haha!

Glenn: I’m really enjoying the slower stuff; it is a big challenge for me, because all I do is play fast. It’s definitely going to be fun to play live to give the set a bit more dynamic.

Paul: I’ve always gone on the theory if it sounds good, play it. Speed don’t mean much if you have good dynamics in music. A varied style can keep it interesting so it’s good to try something different.

SP: Alright then, looks like the EP has just been released and they are ready to be shipped. Let’s unveil the whole record on Bandcamp and ship the records to people who have ordered them. What would you like to say to people who buy the EP?

Ian: Mainly – thanks! There’s a lot of new bands out there, and not a lot of money to go round, so you can’t take it for granted that people will check out your music, so we’re very grateful when people give us a chance. We’re also very grateful to Sanctus Propaganda for putting the EP out in the first place – your support of the band is very kind. We hope people like it, and we have lots more dark imaginative hardcore punk percolating in our fevered minds for them to check out soon! Peace – or annihilation!