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A booksmusicfilmstv.com interview with Peace & Freedom Band co-founder Paul Rance in May, 2015
Paul Rance co-founded Peace & Freedom Press in 1985, and launched the booksmusicfilmstv.com website in 2005. He is a member of The Peace & Freedom Band, who were one of the first British rock groups to release music in the MP3 format. Born in Luton, Bedfordshire in 1959, Paul now lives in the village of Whaplode Drove in Lincolnshire.
Paul was recently interviewed by booksmusicfilmstv.com's Andy Bruce, and he talks frankly about some of his musical influences, the modern music scene, politics and his beliefs.
The Peace & Freedom Band page on booksmusicfilmstv.com
Were there any particular bands or styles of music that inspired you to start your own band?
All sorts. From countless punk and new wave bands to The Beatles and 10cc. The latter two, because I was always interested in sound, which I got from my Father, and those two bands were great experimenters. Also, Pink Floyd and Bowie ticked that particular box for me, and later Public Image Ltd. While, the punk and new wave era showed that you didn't need a music degree to make music. Up until The Pistols, The Clash and The Damned emerged it had seemed like that. The Buzzcocks, Elvis Costello, Blondie, The Jam, The Stranglers and The Police then showed that you could come out of that punk scene and make high quality pop music, too. Punk also connected with me, because of the anti-Establishment lyrics of a lot of the bands. You're also always influenced by what surrounds you when you're growing up, and, for me, pre-punk, I was into psychedelia in particular. I was born weeks before the dawn of the '60s, and my Mother always had pop music playing via the radio. So, during that great decade for music, it would have been strange for some of it not to have affected me. Like punk it was both the music and the lyrics of the '60s era that attracted me, though, as a small child, the protest stuff would have gone over my head. Paradoxically, the peace and love vibe of psychedelia and the anger and frustration of the punks both really struck a chord with me. Hippies and punks both weren't happy with the status quo (no, not the denim-clad lot!), and, as many have said, punks were the hippies revenge. Like, "You weren't listening to us when we were being peaceful, so now we're gonna try the angry approach."
You also publish the Peace & Freedom magazine, which has been a firm supporter of humanitarian and animals rights over the years. Was the original goal when starting the band the same and has it changed much since?
I can only speak for myself and my core values haven't changed at all. I've probably learnt to be less dogmatic - as I used to be according to former girlfriends (though I was always right!). But I still want to influence people into just doing good and being proud of it, and to encourage compassion for all living things. I actually love every type of creature, and I can just lose myself watching insects going about their business on a sunny day. It's also a very human thing to want to be remembered fondly. Remember, when you're dead, people aren't going to care how rich you were, or how many cars you owned. If you were an uncaring shit who died with a lot of money stashed away you just won't be remembered fondly at all.
P&F has always been an 'issues' band. What are the issues in the world that you feel most strongly about today?
Human rights, animal rights, the environment. The big three as I like to call them. Anyone who's not interested in all three has got nothing to say to me really. Just basic compassion. It seems like it's cool to be hard these days. The Tory elite like showing how tough they can be with poor migrants, the unemployed and the disabled. I find their attitude repulsive, and they remind me of the posh bully, Flashman, from Tom Brown's Schooldays.
Looking back, how have you seen the underground music scene change since starting the band 30 years ago?
'Underground' still means to me what it did when we started 30 years ago, i.e. you make a conscious decision to make music and release it yourself. But 'underground' has probably become a bit more hard to define now, as the surge in people owning home PCs means that it's obviously easier to create music. When we started, you had to make more of an effort to record something. While, mobile phones now make it easy and cheap to get a video made and put online. 30 years ago, making a video would have been unrealistic for most underground bands. So, it's not difficult to get music out there without having a record deal now, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's underground music. If you're really looking to attract a major record company by putting a music video on YouTube, then you don't have an underground mentality.
The internet has helped underground music, but in other ways damaged it. What are your experiences with promoting your music online?
It was better when mp3.com was in its infancy. A lot of healthy interaction with other bands. Felt like a music community, a bit like an online version of Andy Xport's ISC Tapes. The big record companies were suspicious of the net in the early days, so smaller bands weren't crushed underfoot by any corporate juggernaut then. Sadly, that is mostly the case now, though some stuff still breaks through. Ultimately, you've got to love the creative process of making music, because few succeed on their own terms. The Smiths and The Velvet Underground kinda did, but they have become much bigger since they split up.
Do you think there's still a rebellious message in today's music?
There's always rebellious people in music, but the rock scene is pretty tame these days. I miss the Oasis soap opera! Hip-hop is really where most of the rebelliousness is, but too much of that genre is pro-violence, homophobic and sexist, lyrically. I like The Black Eyed Peas, because they've supported issues concerning animal rights, the environment and human rights, and their music's inventive. But, Jay Z, what's the point? No real talent from what I can see, and he, and the equally odious Beyonce, like wearing parts of dead animals. Unfortunately, the media fawn all over 'em and keep telling us how great they are. No, they're not. Kasabian seem very rock and roll, and I like them, but you look under the surface at how rebellious many bands and artists actually are, and it's the same old shit - taking drugs, boozing, screwing around, trashing hotel rooms. Try living outside the system for decades, then we'll see how hardcore they are in terms of being rebellious. Most daren't, because they'd miss their luxurious lifestyle.
Are there any current bands that you feel an affinity with?
Radiohead are good people I think, but, though there's a lot of bands I dig from a musical standpoint, few sing about issues. Green Day deserve praise for their American Idiot album, but, like Radiohead, they're all middle-aged geezers now. So, no, there's no big, young bands that I can really feel an affinity with. Paul McCartney is a good supporter of animal rights, but I wish that'd he'd be more strident - bless him! Like Chrissie Hynde. Politics would be more interesting if compassionate rockers got involved. There's talk of Brian May being a Green MP, which would be superb. He made his pro-animal rights stance very clear at the London Olympics in 2012. There's also still some very famous rockers out there who are more into activism than you might expect. Found out recently that Phil Collins has stood alongside PETA against horrible chicken exploiters KFC, for instance. Phil has often been ridiculed for some reason. Maybe it's because he wasn't scared of showing that he was bald. Can't be too natural in the hip world of music can we?
What are your views on the austerity cuts and the re-election of the Conservatives?
Despair really. I'm more angry with the British people than the Tories. The Tories do what they always do - divide and rule. People are either gullible and fall for the right-wing tabloid propaganda, or they simply voted Tory because they don't care about the poor and disabled. I fear there's more people in this country who agree with the sick views of Katie Hopkins than we'd all like to believe. Though they tend to be cowards who keep their mouths shut, and then strike when it's voting time. That'd kinda explain why the polls indicated that the election would be close - and it ended up not being close at all. People were too ashamed to admit that they'd be voting Tory. Don't get me wrong, if it was a choice between voting Tory or The Kitten Killers Party I'd vote Tory. But that wasn't the choice, and many people have basically given the thumbs up to austerity, and are saying to the weaker members of society: "F**k you."
Do you think politics is working or do we need a revolution?
A revolution, though revolutions don't always work obviously. The French Revolution was carnage, and the Russian Revolution wasn't much better. But there was the peaceful Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia in the late 1980s, and that should be the template for the UK. Politics hasn't really worked in the UK since the 1970s. We've had the poll tax fiasco, now it's the austerity cuts. Too much corruption from people in power, too much injustice - Hillsborough, the Jimmy Savile cover-ups, crooked bankers and politicians, the expenses scandal. The list is endless. People who set standards, i.e. those who make the laws for the rest of us, should be beyond reproach. But they're often as immoral as it gets. Would the military and the Establishment allow a revolution? It's unlikely, unless you could win enough hearts and minds so that it would be futile to resist. The British Establishment has always been brutal. You've only to have a basic knowledge of the workings of the British Empire to understand that. Sure, we could be under a worse kind of rule, like the Satanic Islamic State, but you should always strive to live in a compassionate society. Britain certainly isn't that, and anyone who thinks differently is sadly deluded, or has lived in a cosseted environment all their life.
Gandhi called the state a soulless machine. Do your experiences of the state lead you to agree with him?
Yes, of course. Gandhi should know if anyone should. People familiar with my dealings with the state/system regarding my Mother will realise how contemptuous I am of the state/system. Our song Unfeeling Monsters and my book Mother Becomes Stardust underlines all that. The problem is that most of the individuals who carry out the state/system's dirty work aren't evil people. Most of them are scared of losing their jobs if they question specific decisions. It's all very clever and sly really, because it's always hard to get at the real bastards - the ones at the top. But, like any machine, it will not last forever and then it'll get really interesting. I want to see it all fall to bits, and then let's start again. It probably won't happen in my lifetime, but it will happen.
- Andy Bruce/booksmusicfilmstv.com.
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