Interview with Mark Newlands / Bloody Fist

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datacide: Bloody Fist is in a way one of the most influential labels in the hardcore scene – how do you see your position there and what’s your background?
bloody fist: Background is basically what I grew up listening to, hip hop, electro, other strange electronic music, industrial music, all that sort of thing, I kind of have a sympathy for the avant garde I suppose. What comes out on Fist is a collation of everything that I listened to when I was growing up, all thrown into one big melting pot, and I think that at least the stuff that I write is that that I just described, and the other music that comes out that we release from the other guys who write music down there is a similar sort of thing, it’s a collation of what they were listening to as they were growing up, getting into music , all sorts of things like that, beginning to experiment with machinery. That’s the explanation for what we release.
As for our position in the hardcore scene, I don’t know, and I’m not really that interested in keeping a check on that; we do what we do, and if that means we’re stuck off in a corner away from everyone else, then fine. If people are into it, if they think it’s good and it’s a worthwhile label then even better, but it’s not something we consciously work towards. If we put a record out and it doesn’t sell, then fuck it. We put it out and if we’re pleased with the product then this is fine.
datacide: That’s the musical background… what’s the situation in Australia, is there a scene there for these things are growing out of, that’s one question, then the other question is, you say you’re influenced by the things you were growing up with… Bloody Fist is obviously working with samples, thereby creating a sort of mixing desk where different things are combined [what are your aims there]
Bloody Fist: The scene in Australia is small, and in small pockets around the country. Most of the hardcore records come out of one city, although there are records coming from places like Melbourne and Sidney, but I think the majority of records, at the moment at least come from Newcastle. The scenes are different in each city as well. The scene is probably the most interesting in Newcastle I’d say. The parties are usually very cheap or free, whereas in Sidney the parties have a bit of a spillover from the rave scene, I’m not really sure what the scenes are in other parts of the country. I can really only speak from our city’s point of view where there’s not that many ravers into it, as a matter of fact there’s hardly any ravers in Newcastle. Most of the people into our music are gothic or part of some other subculture which doesn’t involve raving. That’s largely a wrap up of the proper hardcore scene, obviously there’s a large happy hardcore scene, I’d say that’s probably the case anywhere in any place of the world.
And as far as the second part of the question goes – Every o ne who records for the label basically uses incredibly cheap methods of making noise, and this usually involves an Amiga. Most of the people involved have had an Amiga lying around for 10 years, other guys buy Amigas very cheaply second hand and start experimenting. Basically a lot of the material is of a cut’n’paste mentality. The records are put together out of bits and pieces of things we have lying around. So you’ll find a record by an artist on our label is very indicative of what’s in their record collection or what they listen to at home or noises they hear around the place or that they make. Another thing is also that the music kind of reflects the environment. A lot. Which is not a very nice one, it’s a pretty gritty place, it’s of a very industrial nature. Most of the people involved with the label there are related to someone who works in industry or something like that, maybe that has a subconscious effect on their material. That’s basically how the music happens; but there are lots of different styles that we release, the preferred style for myself is of course cut’n’paste and slab sampling, and obviously we started with rap music and things. That combined with sounds I’m influenced by, my environment, growing up and things, that washed into one big mish mash of material.
datacide: When you’re playing yourself you use a lot of techniques from hip hop, like scratching, cut’n’paste techniques. How come you developed mixing these techniques with the influences from hardcore and gabber.
Bloody Fist: Again it was something from when I was growing up, I listened to hip hop a lot as I was growing up and this got me into slab sampling which I found very interesting, the whole cut and paste mentality is something I’m interested in, obviously a metaphor for other things, things in life in general that are made up of other things. As far as gabber and hardcore goes, the elements I like about that is obviously the industrial element in a lot of it and the aggressiveness of it, and as far as combining that with techniques when I’m DJing such as scratching, alternating and dropping and what have you, this is something I enjoy doing when I’m DJing. I do not like standing and playing one record after the other, and I don’t like listening to and watching people doing this, it bores me to death. That’s kind of the same thing that Grandmaster Flash said in the early 80’s and that’s why he started messing around with records. As much as I like the music, I find it a jaw to stand there and play it in the cliched fashion of one after the other, I like to make things sound a bit more interesting , mix it up and make it sound a bit more unexpected, as cleanly mixed and as interestingly put together as possible.
datacide: How important is it – you say the music reflects the environment – that there’s a social comment, a political comment even?
Bloody Fist: I think the aggressiveness is an outlet of anger, having to put up with everyday shit from people, you can go and burn their house down, or you could make a record. I prefer to make a record. Its a bit more creative in the long run, you could possibly make a bit of money out of it and it’s a fun and interesting way of releasing aggression, not to mention creative… That’s where I think the aggression ties in, as far as the unconfortableness of it, this basically comes I think from 2 things. I guess the environment as I said is not a very nice place where we grew up, where we live. It’s very polluted, it’s a very horrible place. You know, it smells, everything. Something we’re going to create is going to be influenced by things around us, things we had to put up with growing up; this explains the uncomfortableness of the music. I’m not making apologies for that, that’s just how it is. That’s realism for you, that spills over into music whether you like it or not. And I think that the uncomfortableness also comes from a reaction towards the mainstream and popular culture that’s constantly shoved down our throats, that’s forced on the people via television, radio, mass media etcetc. I think that also fuels the fire and keeps the aggressiveness there and the uncomfortableness.
datacide: What’s the situation like in Australia in general – that creates that resistance that you describe in a way…
Bloody Fist: I can’t really speak for Australia in general, I can only speak for our city. I can speak for everyone involved in the label and what the experience was growing up; the mass media bit and the popular culture bit you’re subjected to that anywhere in the country, but I think the combination of that and the surrounds of the environment which we create and manufacture the music in adds to the result. I’m really not so sure with other parts of the country. I would probably say the more popular style of hardcore and a lot of the happy music that comes out is fuelled either by drugs, and probably money as well and probably sex to some degree. That’s basically the same anywhere. I think they use music as a prostitute, a means to an end. I don’t particularly think they’re expressing so much with those sort of records; that’s just the way I perceive it. I think the records that come from our city and the sound of them kinda reflects how people actually fee, not how you want people to feel listening to it. It’s a very personal kind of thing, the difference between the records I enjoy putting out and playing, and the records I really dislike and the records that I don’t buy.
datacide: You did quite a few tours abroad. What’s your impression, analysing that Australian situation and comparing it to the places you’ve seen in Europe?
Bloody Fist: Europe is interesting, people only know you from the records you put out, they don’t know anything about you, whereas where we come from and where we play usually people know a bit more, you know, we’re quite well known where we come from, while over here you only have the reputation from the records. So that’s interesting, that’s a bit different, there’s much less of a personal element to performing. And the main difference that I see with the European crowds is you get much more respect than we do get in our home country because obviously there’s a thing with Australians it’s the tall poppy syndrome, especially if you’re coming from Newcastle, if you’re ever good at something, do well or excel at something, then no one will congratulate, they’ll just give you shit about it. This obviously as well as fuelling the music further makes us act a bit surprised that people gave us a bit of respect and were interested in coming and hearing our music and would come to the show because of the music and nothing else, whereas this isn’t always the case at home. But we’ve only been to Europe once so far to play live, with DJing it’s kind of different as well and the crowds are different wherever you play I think. I don’t usually DJ hardcore in Newcastle where I come from, but I do in Sidney and the response there is nothing compared to what I get in Europe. Especially places like Newcastle in England where people were very loud and up for what I was doing and pleased to hear it all, whereas people maybe in Germany and other parts of Europe are more snide about what you’re doing and take things incredibly incredibly serious and try twist your arm into doing what they expect you should do, playing hardcore records…
datacide: What about the people whose stuff you’re putting out; you release your own stuff and some other people’s. Is there a close collaboration, is it a small closed scene, or do people just give you demo tapes and you hook up with them then, or is it a group of people you hang out with anyway.
Bloody Fist: Initially it was just a bunch of friends who were into it, everyone decided to go off into their own little part of the world, their little corner, write music themselves, and I’m quite happy to put anything out from the guys I hang out with because I know that they’re all skilled in their own way art programming, I have no qualms about that. But as Bloody Fist is getting older, especially now that we’ve been around for 3 years, the label’s been operational for 3 years, we are getting tons and tons of demos from people in our own city that I’ve never heard of, and I think the majority of that music is interesting and very different from what I’m hearing especially from Europe. So I’m interested in putting these sort of things out, and basically as more people get involved with the label, the bigger the sort of friendship gets and everyone meets everyone else and it becomes a bigger and bigger and bigger group all the time. There’s also people involved with the label who don’t record, don’t make records, who just help out, or they hang out or they drink with us or something like that and when we’re in trouble or need favours then they’re always there to help out, I think they’re all part of it as well and they’re pretty important. There’s more people who as they find out we exist in this city are interested in becoming involved and seeing what we’re up to. Basically what we do is manufacture music, we’re basically a mini-manufacturing industry, in our city, a very underground one, a very small one. That’s basically what we do, manufacture music and export it with the more people involved the better. But we kinda make a point of only releasing stuff from where we come from, basically it’s on tab there, we don’t need to look elsewhere to put it our. Another thing is, most of the guys who are recording for us and with us do not listen to hardcore, do not buy hardcore records usually, they’re kind of isolated from the scene, so what they put out isn’t that influenced by what’s coming out of Europe or coming out of other places maybe like Japan. I mean a lot of that music is interesting, but these guys don’t carry it as an influence, they come up with something a bit fresher than a lot of the bulk of hardcore records that come out. As long as those guys maintain that angle, then all the better. Basically everyone feeds off everyone else in Newcastle everyone kind of looks at what everyone else is doing and takes some ideas into account; in that way it’s a bit incestuous I suppose. I think in that respect as far as musicality goes as far as our label goes it’s a good thing.
datacide: You not only released stuff on your own label, also on Industrial Strength and I don’t know if you did on other labels. Is there any different approach to the stuff you give to other labels or does it just happen that you give certain tracks to IS …
Bloody Fist: When we release on other labels they approach us, we never usually approach other labels at all, especially now because we had bad experiences with other labels we’ve dealt with like not paying up or not paying up on time or something like that. The good thing about Industrial Strength and the only reason we release continually with them is that they pay an advance on the record and they sell a lot, they have a wide coverage as far as distribution goes, they pick and choose what they want from our stable and repertoire. We don’t go around saying we’ll make tracks in this style for that label, it’s not something I’m interested in doing and no one else from my city does that either. We make tracks in our own pace whenever we want, if someone else is interested and willing to pay up they can take it.
datacide: On an international level, what sort of other music or labels or producers etc. capture your imagination, do interest you, where you feel like they’re doing something worthwhile or something going into a similar direction, influenced maybe by different environments.
Bloody Fist: Not so sure about the environments part of that as I didn’t spend a lot of time in different places in Europe where hardcore comes from, but the things I’m interested in as far as hardcore goes is a lot of the French records, at the moment I think they’re very interesting, they’re very cold, very inhuman; this is something I liked when I was a child, I liked things that sounded like machines, I like the sound of machines, and I think that the French hardcore is the closest to this at the moment, even though I couldn’t produce something like that, wouldn’t know how to go about it producing something like that, I really like that, I really appreciate that, and I think they’re doing a really good job of it and it’s innovative, and it will be interesting to see where French hardcore goes in the next 6-12 months. Basically most of the other stuff on the hardcore scene I’m not so fond of, there are bits and pieces that I do enjoy, there’s some interesting new Austrian records, things like that, and of course I like the dark sounding things, I like PCP, but I think there are far too many hardcore records coming out and far too much rubbish, it’s getting really hard to find interesting records nowadays. Other music I like is dark drum & bass, very big fan of that, I like old British hardcore, old breakbeat, from ‘91/’92, even ‘93, and followed that up to jungle, but I always liked the darkside. I think the dark drum & bass is basically a 1997 version of what I was listening to in ‘92. That’s a summary of the electronic music I really like at the moment, even though there’s a hell of a lot more around, and I don’t get the chance to hear it all, I can appreciate a lot of it, but, you know, I’m very particular about what I buy and what I listen to.
datacide: Where do you see your own productions heading, for the label and for what you produce yourself? What sort of elements are you picking up more, there seems to be a tendency towards more noise stuff, particularly on Fist 11, but then again there’s Fist 12 in a more traditional way of speedcore and old British hardcore influence. Are you spreading the styles more on the label or is there a particular direction you’re heading?
Bloody Fist: Out of all the guys who produce for us, everyone has their own interest, their own direction, and as far as I’m concerned I’m quite happy for all of them to go off on their own tangent, make whatever they like and I put it out for them, the ideas they have, as far as I’m concerned they’re fail safe. I don’t reckon those guys could put a foot wrong, especially people like Memetic, because they’re so isolated and they have so little to do with the rest of the hardcore scene, I think their stuff is always guaranteed fresh and interesting. With people like Syndicate, well maybe they have a little bit more to do with the scene they hear a few more records. People have different ideas in mind when they program, people like different elements of it as well, people like repetitiveness, people like aggressiveness, other people like the more noisy machine style and of course the combination of element is always on the cards as well. There are a lot different styles being split off now and people going off on different tangents as far as the label’s going and I’m quite happy to put all of it out, as long as it’s interesting and as long as it’s got a bit of balls, I think then, yeah, it’s worth putting it out. After the next couple of records there is a power electronics record coming out by Fraumann they’ve been around for a couple of years in Newcastle. They’ve always done what they do, and I think this is interesting. There are records around in the hardcore scene that are very close to power electronics, it’ll be interesting to chuck that record out amongst it all to see if it causes a stir, if everyone ignores it, or if it throws a spanner in the works or something, it’ll be interesting to do and it will be unexpected as well from our label I imagine, especially to people who are interested only in the fast beats, I think it could injure them slightly when this record comes out, I hope so. I like to keep people on their toes and thinking, you know. I’d hate to put out a record where people would know what it’s gonna be like even before they put it on the deck. Obviously there are great similarities between some records that we do put out, but that goes with the territory, I mean hardcore does sound similar in some respect I imagine.
datacide: In the same sort of respect, how do you think things will develop in general, in the – I’m slightly uncomfortable with the term – hardcore scene? But also with new technologies – do you think they’ll change the way things will develop – have you done any videos, or CD-ROM, web sites.
Bloody Fist: Not so sure where things will head, I just roll with it, check it out as it happens, you know. Maybe we’ll develop something new style wise, but not so much as a conscious thing. If someone thinks, hey those guys down there have done something new and interesting, this is a new standard, could be interesting but I’m not saying we’re going to do that, it could happen, probably won’t happen, we’ll just see. Where everyone else is going to head I’ve no idea, what I know is hardcore techno in general is split up in a million different styles and is continually splitting off and will continue to do so until the distant cousins of styles will be so different that we’ll never be able to connect them back. I think that will happen, within 12-18 months even, there’ll be more styles happening. That’s what I like about the hardcore scene though it’s a very quick moving thing, things are always changing, metamorphosing and what have you.
As far as new technologies go with us I don’t think anyone’s that interested. Hm , It’s hard to say. I’m not particularly a big follower of new technologies, they don’t interest me, I’m quite comfortable. Some of the best records we’ve put out have been made with a computer that’s 10 years old now or even more. I’m really in pains to know of or find something that would do the job better, you know. But I understand that other branches of the whole thing will be taken in account like CD-ROM’s, internet, what have you, web sites. There is a Bloody Fist web site which I have nothing to do with, but one exists apparently, and as far as CD-ROM’s go, no plans there, no plans for videos, or even working with video technology. I’m interested in that to some degree, but I’ve no idea where to start, no time to pursue that interest. If someone comes along and wants to get involved with this and utilises new technologies in an interesting way that furthers our label somewhat, I’d be interested in hearing about that and experiment, but I’m not going out of my way to chase it all up, I’m quite happy to stick with what we’ve been doing for the last 3-4 years and just roll with it and if it changes it changes and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t.
datacide: So you’re more interested in the actual reality of the effect of your music rather than the virtual surrounding of people consuming it on their computer screen? Do you think the music works best at a party level, or do you think it works just as well when people get the records and play them at home? I ask that because I tend to think that with technologies like the web the social interaction is very reduced and CD’s you put in and play while at a party the whole scenery is completely different where a situation is created where people also communicate amongst each other where a mix is happening rather than a consummation of a product.
Bloody Fist: First of all, the whole idea for me for getting into this and starting a label off was because of the music. The music the music and nothing else. Yeah, what more can I say. It was just the music and as far as I’m concerned it still is. I think imagery and new technologies are overshadowing the music is a real shame. As far as I’m concerned the music is the most important and the emphasis we’ll continue to put will be on the music only and we will not go off on a wanky tangent, it always the music the music, and the people we work with now and the new guys coming up are all of the exact same opinion; and maybe a lot of new guy are turning to making records now who aren’t so satisfied with the way things are going wanna maybe make a contribution to restir it somehow. That’s where I stand on that.
Music working on a private or public level I think – for me personally the music works best on a private level. A lot of the music sounds cold and inhuman to start with. And a lot of the guys making the records, a lot of them are sociopathic, a lot of them aren’t particularly friendly people, or particularly interesting or particularly nice, a lot of them are dorks, were picked on at school, a lot of them are just shitheads, a lot of them are turds, a lot of them are really horrible people. I think this is good that it shows through in their records. A lot of them are just angry at something, you know, they wanna release the aggression somehow, I think that’s really good. What I do like about parties and gatherings it’s a good situation that is provided to let out all your aggression with a group of people who feel the same way, know what I mean, the venom and the power produced under one roof can be quite phenomenal I think all simultaneously. I think that’s a really funny spectacle, not funny, but interesting and that’s what I like at parties. But I think the music should be important enough to stand on its own in someone’s lounge room or in someone’s headphones. I dislike dance music with a passion. I think dance music is not what the music we release should be termed or put under. People dance to it, yes, but then again people dance to Napalm Death and that’s not dance music, so that’s my line of thinking, and when we put records out we don’t really put them out with the premise that they’re going to be played at parties, we don’t put them out with DJ’s in mind usually, sometimes that might happen, but that’s purely accidental I assure you. A lot of the music is put out with train spotter Joe Bloggs in mind, he likes the music, he likes the records, he likes the artist, he likes the sound and the feeling that the music creates. I don’t think it’s necessary to go out to a party to enjoy it or appreciate it for that matter.
24-6-97

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