ANTISECT remain one of the more obscure bands from the early 80’s UK anarcho/peacepunk milieu, but their album In Darkness There is No Choice (released in 1983 on Flux of Pink Indians’ Spiderleg Records) easily ranks among the top anarcho-punk records of all time. What set ANTISECT apart from their peers was their ability to convey a sharp social message while playing some of the most aggressive and heavy music of their time. The band followed up with a ep called Out from the Void which musically put the band on a parallel course with decidedly non-punk bands such as HELLHAMMER, VENOM and MOTORHEAD. While recording their second full length, the band suddenly broke up in 1987, leaving behind an unfinished legacy that’s left behind a lot more questions than answers… Fast forward 24 years later when suddenly (as if out from the void) Antisect announce they have reformed. To help fill in some of those unanswered questions we present to you Antisect guitar player and founding member Pete “Lippy” Lyons put to the question by Ooch from Bristol.
PE: Seriously, what is your opinion of war? Only joking…I know you made a decision to limit the amount of zine interviews you took part in. Do you think this might have helped fuel some of the bizarre rumours flying around about you at the time-e.g. that everyone in the band were registered drug addicts, members of the band wore false hair, the band refused to smile on stage, etc.
ANTISECT: Nah. We didn’t make a decision to limit the number of fanzine interviews at all. Though at the time, when you receive the umpteenth interview that asks you the same questions that you’ve already answered in countless other interviews along the way, you start to wonder if the person doing the current interview has actually read any of ’em or actually knows anything of what the band is about to begin with. And when you get that kind of vibe, the tendency is to think, “For fuck’s sake! Another one…” and your enthusiasm for taking part wanes a little. In retrospect, I guess we could’ve been a little more understanding, but fuck! Do a little bit of research, eh? Rumours? Most of ’em passed us by to be honest. We were far too busy getting fucked up on bad drugs and good alcohol.
PE: When writing/recording the In Darkness There Is No Choice LP, were you consciously writing a record that was different from anarcho-punk releases? It seemed a lot more thought out with a lot better sound than most releases at the time.
ANTISECT: Musically, we had a fairly wide range of interests-mainly rock though, from punk through to metal with the odd bit of psychedelia thrown in. So I suppose we just ended up with something that reflected what we were influenced by at the time and I guess what came out was different enough to stand out in its own way. It was a case of doing the best we could and throwing it out there. Lyrically, we just wanted to make sure that what we wrote properly represented who we were. Of course, ideologically there were plenty of borrowings from the whole CRASS end of things but as people, on the whole, we were quite different from them with very different backgrounds and although some of what we did along the way could be considered a bit naive here and there, I think I can pretty much say that as far as I’m concerned, I still stand by 99.9% of what we wrote. Though I gotta say I listen to it now and there are large parts of it that sound fucking awful to me. The sloppiness of the playing here and there, and stuff like that. But at the end of the day, we weren’t musicians, we were kids who’d been inspired by the whole “anyone can do it” thing and that’s how we approached it. We wanted to do certain things here and there and at that time you had to go to some pretty extreme lengths to get certain effects.
PE: Were you surprised at the reception it got when it came out?
ANTISECT: We didn’t really know what to expect. Bearing in mind that, although there was stuff going on all over the country, most of the scene was based in London, so we were kind of in our own little bubble away from most of it. It wasn’t till during the first few shows in London after it came out that we began to get any kind of idea of the reception it was getting.
PE: Some members of the band were involved in direct action. When did you decide to cease these activities? Was it a gradual slowing down? Did you get disillusioned with it?
ANTISECT: With the exception of Wink, everyone who was with the band at the time of In Darkness was involved in direct action of some sort. We were pretty active locally and on some of the larger scale things like the various RAF base demos and the first couple of “Stop the City” days. The turning point in the whole thing about direct action for me was after taking part in a fairly major event involving a certain big name pharmaceutical company where a lot of good people were caught and eventually sent down for their part in it. It screwed a lot of people up and I came out of it feeling that as good as it was to take part in direct action, whatever small influence you could have was diluted if it then meant that you could be taken out of the game by being stuck inside. Basically there was a lot of stuff going on at the time that was kind of on the edge and I just felt that it wasn’t the direction I wanted to take. The animal rights side of things in particular was getting increasingly tunnel-visioned and blinkered in its view. For me it was very much one part of a broader concept of how I felt we could live, but for others, the world’s injustices seemed to begin and end with animals alone, and in some quarters there was an element creeping in that seemed to be saying that humans were expendable. For instance, I could never go along with the idea that planting a car bomb was a justifiable course of action. Plus, in truth, there were an awful lot of just plain tossers that wanted to align themselves with something they thought was cool in a bid to make themselves appear more interesting and I just couldn’t be fucked hanging around with them.
PE: Do you still hold any of those beliefs today?
ANTISECT: Well, I still believe that combined with a few other things, the world would be a better place if we were less exploitative, and that to me involves changing our attitudes to the way we treat other species. I don’t eat meat and can’t really see myself ever doing so. I’m definitely not as proactive on the subject as I used to be. Don’t get me wrong… if some poor fool wants to challenge me on it, then I’m more than willing to accommodate the debate. I just don’t feel the inclination to confront people the way I used to.
PE: Did it annoy you when people accused you of going metal, when the band’s sound started to progress in the Out From the Void-era sound?
ANTISECT: Not at all. I’ve never cared what people thought we were. Life’s too short to be concerned about stuff like that. We just did what felt good at the time and that was how we went along. Like I said, we were all listening to metal amongst other things from the start anyway, and I think that was quite evident in parts of In Darkness.. The word “accuse” is a bit of a funny one. Makes it sound like a wrongdoing or something. Fuck! It’s all just noise, ya know?
PE: What did happen to the partly recorded second album Welcome to the New Dark Ages? It was meant to come out on Mortarhate, then Temple Records.
ANTISECT: We’d gotten around two-thirds of the way through recording it when things began to fall apart. Rumours abound, but the last thing I remember was the second bunch of sessions at Alaska Studios in Waterloo – waaaay too many substances. In all honesty, though, we really liked the material that we were putting down. We always had a kind of a sense of “this ain’t quite right” about it. We entered into the arrangement with Mortarhate but it soon became obvious that we didn’t really feel part of that whole thing. As people, we were a little different and the whole vibe of it all was just kind of fucked up-largely down to the fact that at the time we didn’t know whether we were fucking coming or going. We were beginning to get disillusioned with what was going on around us and that, coupled with the kind of lifestyles we were living at the time, just made it really hard to hold things together. It’s a shame really, because it was shaping up to be something that I think we would’ve been quite proud of. We had a lot more control over the way the sound was taking shape. It was probably fair to say that it would have been more rock than punk, though. I still feel a bit crappy about how we left it with Mortarhate, but that was kind of how things were at that time. Later on we talked with Genesis P. Orridge about doing a new batch of recordings for Temple Records but that kind of felt a bit weird, too. It was also the first time that any of us had been presented with a proper recording contract and at that point, the very idea that someone would suggest we needed to sign a contract just kinda drove us away from it.
PE: Do any tapes exist of what little there was recorded?
ANTISECT: There were monitor mix/work in progress versions of bits of it that were run off to cassette at the time, but fuck knows what became of them.
PE: Are you surprised by the interest in ANTISECT today? How do you feel when you see people with ANTISECT logos plastered all over them when some of them weren’t even born when the band were last active?
ANTISECT: I find it kind of difficult to gauge the interest in ANTISECT today. I know I do get a bit fucked off when I go online and see people selling t-shirts etc. and it’s kind of strange to think that other people have probably made more money out of ANTISECT than we ever did. Not that money was ever what we were about, but I think you know what I mean. I do feel a little humbled that people still seek it out, though, and it does feel good to think that we might have made a difference to one or two people along the way. New generations will always be drawn to stuff from other eras, so that doesn’t surprise me as such.
PE: Do you keep in touch with what’s happening in the punk scene now?
ANTISECT: To be honest, there’s so much stuff out there now it’s pretty hard to keep a handle on it all. From time to time someone will point me in the direction of something that I’ll like, but I could probably have a new favourite band every week.
PE: Are you aware of the influence ANTISECT has had on bands even to this day?
ANTISECT: Well, I guess it depends on the area of influence we’re talking about. Politically, CRASS had far more of an influence than probably all the others who were anywhere near that genre put together. They were older, wiser and certainly more comprehensive in their lifestyles than most of us, and if the first generation of punk had been the catalyst for me to sit up and say, “Fuck that! I’m doing this…” then CRASS were the people that helped me join up the dots and figure out at least some of how to do it. By the time In Darkness… came out, we were much less “fuck the system” than we used to be and were heading more into the world of personal politics and how we relate to the world around us. If you’re talking about being aware of ANTISECT’s musical influence, then yeah, I bump into people from time to time who say really great things and it is genuinely humbling and I never know quite what to say or do when it happens because to me, in the greater scheme of things, we’re just a fucking band, with influences like anybody else. Ya know?
PE: What music do you enjoy listening to these days?
ANTISECT: Well, for a start, my musical tastes have broadened considerably over the years. I’ve been heavily involved in the production side of it for the last 20 years or so and that’s taught me a lot about areas of music that I just wouldn’t have paid too much attention to when I was younger. I can now listen to just about anything when the mood takes me. I still have a leaning towards the noisier end of guitar stuff, but all sorts really, ya know? Music for me is about reflecting my moods and feelings. I don’t feel anger all the time, so I don’t listen to angry music all the time. I don’t feel sadness or sorrow all the time, so I don’t listen to fucking LEONARD COHEN all the time. (In fact I never listen to LEONARD COHEN, actually) Sometimes I just enjoy listening to throwaway pop. Sometimes it irritates the fuck out of me and I wanna machine gun it all to death. The great thing about it, though, is that there’s always something out there that will float my boat at any given time and it really is the only fucking universal language that people from one side of the world to the other can relate to and understand, and that is a much undervalued commodity.
PE: How do you feel about a lot of the bands you were playing gigs with back in the ’80s reforming now? Can they still be relevant after all these years?
ANTISECT: No qualms with it whatsoever. For one, I think that we need to remember that essentially we’re talking about music here, not a political movement. For the vast majority of people, it was the music that came first. The music was the thing that originally excited us before some of us began exploring the political side of things. If people want to see bands that they missed out on years ago, why the fuck should the band have any kind of guilt trip about accommodating that? Nostalgia isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Putting a smile on people’s faces and enjoying it for what it is has a value. Whilst I’m sure there are a lot of fucked up characters out there who are getting back together either to try and cash in on perceived past glories or simply because their lives may have led them to a null point, I think it is maybe important to remember that most of us were a bit fucked up back in the day and there have been a hell of a lot of people who have struggled to come to terms with leading a “normal” life since whatever they had during those times imploded. Yeah. It could be argued that “punk” was about the rage of youth, etc. etc., and that’s a valid point, but I don’t think it necessarily applies to all the bands that were out there. With regards to ANTISECT, Tt’s come up time and again and to be honest, I never gave it too much thought. But we met up a while back, essentially because we just wanted to see each other again and shoot the shit, and what came out of it was a genuine affection for each other and a feeling that even though our lives had taken us off in various different directions, we did still have a fuck of a lot in common and there was a weird bond there. For me, the question of reforming was more about reconciling the people we were back then with the people we are now. Our opinions, values and justifications for doing things develop and modify over time, but change is not the same thing as hypocrisy. Believe me, we have had more than one lengthy debate come argument about where our various ethics lie today, and we all in our own way believe we are right. It’s thrown up one or two thorny issues, but the important thing for us is that we engage. We are interested in what we and other people have to say about stuff and we do believe that that’s a healthy way to be. I’ve never claimed to have all the answers and while all the things that mattered to me back then still matter to me today, I do genuinely enjoy being challenged from time to time. I believe there are always new angles to consider and even if I don’t agree with them, I usually find the process of debate has strengthened my own resolve. The world is not a static place, ya know? Nothing is permanent. Nothing is set in stone. Though a lot of us might feel more comfortable if it was, that just isn’t my reality. None of us are the same people we were back then and I’m sure we’d all agree that it’s wrong to pretend we are. What’s important to us is whether we can justify to ourselves who we are now and whether we feel comfortable with it, and to an extent, I think we can. We all thought it about long and hard and came to the conclusion that yeah, we feel we have got something to bring to the table, so why the fuck not? ANTISECT evolved into a band that were much more about questioning attitudes and beliefs of all forms and that’s definitely one of the main characteristics that has stayed with us to this day.
PE:What are some of your fondest memories from those days?
ANTISECT: Too many to mention, really. It was such a vibrant scene and new things seemed to happen on a daily basis. Meeting really cool people who were all doing their own bit to triumph in the face of adversity. A lot of whom are still around today, doing stuff in other ways. It really was a case of making it up as you went along and seeing where things led you. Most of it is the ridiculous stuff really… Drunken 3.00 am snowball fight in some alpine village after getting stuck in an avalanche when our driver had “found a shortcut” to avoid having to cough up for the Mont Blanc tunnel toll? Peering down over the edge of the road, through the clouds at the lights in the villages thousands of feet below whilst he negotiated something like a 23-point turn to get us facing back downwards. Hats off, Nige. Hat’s off to you, son. The total and utter lunacy of some of the squat shows? The first tour with DISCHARGE, complete with the service station egg and flour ambushes. The complete, drugaddled, fucked-upness of the recording sessions for the second LP? The outright weirdness of the Stonehenge festivals? I could go on and on, but essentially it was all about the people who shared those times with us. It felt like we were involved in some kind of fucking civil war at times, and it is really shit to think that far too many of those we loved aren’t around to be able to look back on it
PE:How do you reflect on the anarcho scene (for want of a better phrase) these days? Do you view it as a positive experience?
ANTISECT: If you’re talking about the “anarcho scene” then, I guess I’d have to say there were definitely more positives than negatives. It inspired me to look at what’s in front of me in a completely different way and to forge values that I have held dear throughout my whole life. As paradoxical as it may be for some, it did seem to bring about its own self- imposed rules and regulations-a lot of which came about because people wanted to be seen doing “the right thing” and I don’t think I’d be wrong in saying that it twisted a lot of people up in strange ways. Whereas to me, “doing the right thing” is, and always was about weighing up the consequences of your actions and acting according to what your sensibility feels comfortable with as opposed to trying to shoehorn yourself into a peer group, however worthy you may perceive it to be. No one is ever gonna be the perfect citizen and no one is going to tick all the boxes of being the perfect fucking anarcho/punk/vegan/earth mother/father/whatever… From time to time we all “lose it”, but what helps us maintain an equilibrium is having the ability to look honestly at ourselves and accept who we are. I don’t wanna come across all fucking Zen or something, but it is, and can only ever be about ourselves. Everything else springs from that. These days, I think it’s cool as fuck that the Internet has enabled people to interact in the way they do. I pop in on the various forums and messageboards pretty regularly and really enjoy the fact that there are some proper channels for debate. The globalisation demos and stuff prove there is still as much dissent there as ever, and whilst I know that the machine will do all in its power to portray them in a negative sense, I do think that it’s important that people register their voices. We ain’t gonna go away, ya know?
MOTIVATE – DEVIATE – AGITATE – INNOVATE
PE: Finally, thanks for taking the time to answer these questions, and good luck for the future…
ANTISECT: Took me long enough, didn’t it?
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For additional images from “back in the day check out: