Hailing from the North East of England and featuring members of Punk/HC luminaries Voorhees, Major Accident, Crashed Out and Gimp Fist, The Struggle draw on the energy of HC with the catchy hooks of Oi/Street Punk to create a rough and ready, yet melodic statement. MM catches up with affable guitarist Tom Chapman on the eve of the band’s debut album release, “Endless” on Contra/Pirate Press Records.
Interview by Conan Troutman
MM: Introduce Yourselves.
TC: The Struggle is Laze on drums, Tom on guitar Chris Wright on bass and Chris Wright on vocals. That never leads to any confusion!
MM: What’s the bands background?
TC: I had a couple of song ideas rolling round in my head, and wanted to put a band together to try them out. After a year or so with a different line-up (we had Max from the band Last Rough Cause on vocals) we got Chris Wright in and the line-up was complete. We went from being a basic project to deciding to make a go of it as a proper “band”.
MM: Tom I know you also play in Voorhees; do you find it ahem; a Struggle to balance your duties between the two bands?
TC: Hah, you could say that. Just to make it interesting, all members of the band play in other bands as well. Chris also plays bass in Gimp Fist, Laze also plays drums in Major Accident and a couple of other bands, and Chris also sings in Crashed Out. It is a very rare occasion when we are all free from other commitments so we don’t get out and play as much as we would maybe like to. So far there haven’t been many date clashes between Voorhees and The Struggle!
MM: When I reviewed your single I made comparisons to Angelic Upstarts and Reducers SF; were those bands an influence? You’ve recorded covers by those bands too right?
TC: We’ve recorded a Reducers SF cover but it’s not yet released – we’ve also covered “Police Oppression” by Angelic Upstarts at a couple of gigs. I’m not sure we have any particular band or style in mind when we are writing songs. Sometimes I’ll have what I consider to be a hardcore riff but by the time we put it through the blender it sounds completely different. We do love bands like the Upstarts and Reducers but individually I think our tastes are pretty different so what comes together is probably miles away from what the original idea was!
MM: What are the bands other influences; not just musically but books, films, individuals etc.
TC: I know Chris (vocals) reads a lot of non-fiction and picks up local folk tales and legends that inspire him to write their stories as songs. As a band we don’t especially have collective influences as we all listen to different stuff. I pick up on things from the world around me and it might be something I see out of the window, something in the news or a song on the radio that kicks the song writing process into action. When we start practising it someone might say it’s got a bit of a Blitz feel to it, or Exploited, or whatever but as long as it sounds good then we’ll work it into a song.
MM: Given your lyrical/political stance I’m guessing you’re fans of The Oppressed too?
TC: The Oppressed are one of those classic bands that we all listened to and we’ve all probably played gigs with them at some point or another.
MM: How do you feel about fence sitter skins; do you feel that their neutrality is one of the factors in the continuing presence of Bonehead skins in the scene?
TC: The Oi!/ skinhead scene is a weird one. I don’t think any other scene has politics in the spotlight as much as the skins do. I mean, you can happily be a metaller all your life and not once will anyone ask you about politics. When I was younger and active in the hardcore scene, I kind of made the assumption that everyone in the scene was left-leaning as that just seemed how the DIY world is wired. Hanging out in places like the 1 in 12 club kinda has that effect on you… Looking back I’m not sure that many of the folk in the scene cared about politics one way or the other, a lot of people will just have been happy to go with the flow. With the Oi! scene you seem to be in the spotlight the whole time and be expected to make a statement whenever possible. Fortunately the boneheads seem to have their own scene and the two seem pretty separate. I’m sure there are a few people that sit in both camps but I think that’s up to them. We don’t really play with fence-sitter bands at all to be honest.
MM: A lot of Trad Skins feel the scene should remain apolitical; what are your thoughts on that?
TC: Again this is an odd one. I think a lot of people want to steer clear from party politics regardless of the side you’re talking about and I think that’s fair enough – I’m sure most punks, skins, hardcore kids, metallers or whatever will agree that politicians are corrupt and are out primarily to feather their own nests. I’m not surprised that people don’t want to discuss that sort of thing! But, at the end of the day everything we say or do is political in some shape or form and I think if people do have extreme views on important topics, they need to be called into question.
Saying “keep politics out of it” is dangerous if it becomes a way of inviting the right wing in through the back door. Oi! bands have also always sang about politics of some sort, I don’t think there is a single classic band that hasn’t had at least one song about class struggles for example. I can understand the idea of wanting to go out and have a good night out without getting caught up in a political debate all the time but life isn’t as simple as that. Would I love it if everyone at any gig was always on the same page? Of course I would, but that’s never going to happen. Say for example, going to a football match – should that be politicised?
MM: Have you always been into the Oi scene or did you discover it by delving deeper into the roots of the Hardcore scene? What does being a Skinhead mean to you?
TC: Personally I discovered it when listening to hardcore and punk. Bands like Judge and Sick of It All had a strong Oi! influence, and I had punk comps with songs from bands like Angelic Upstarts, Cockney Rejects and Blitz on there. So I pretty much listened to Punk, Oi, Hardcore, you name it. When The Business brought out “The Whole Truth” I think that changed the game, and all of a sudden the genre got a boot up the backside and revived the Oi! scene. As far as being a skinhead I’m not one, never have been!
MM: Your new album is coming out on German label Contra Records; how did that come about? Did you have any interest from any UK labels such as Rebellion/Captain Oi? When is the album being released?
TC: The new album is being released by Contra records in Europe and Pirates Press in the USA. I’ve been an admirer of both labels for a long time and have worked with them both for years, so when we were looking for a labels to partner up with they were some obvious examples for me as I love the work they do and everything about them – releases that look and sound great. Seeing as the relationship with them has been so straightforward we’ve never had a reason to “shop around” for a label. To work with both labels is a total privilege as far as I’m concerned.
MM: Can you talk us through the new album ‘Endless’ track by track?
TC: Expose The Truth – corrupt politicians, simple!
Break Out – about stepping out of the daily grind, focusing on what you want to do and not just what might be expected of you.
Our Time – a nostalgic look back at the bad old days.
The Struggle – fighting to keep your motivation levels up to get through every day.
Tear & A Smile – raising a glass to dear departed friends.
Want A War – another look at the days when the police saw fit to close down gigs etc but didn’t quite get the quiet compliance they may have expected.
Just Like You – one day the underdogs will have the upper hand.
Take It Or Leave It – a punk rock anthem.
Geordie Aggro – Chrissy singing about a night on the Toon!
Addiction – substance abuse sucking you under.
Starting Out – young punks in love!
Different Name – how we are subject to the divide and conquer approach by the establishment.
MM: Unlike a lot of Oi bands you seemed to have embraced digital media? Do you feel there’s still a place for printed fanzines?
TC: There aren’t many printed zines about any more, that’s for sure. There are a couple of long standing zines in Germany still going strong and in the UK you have Artcore which goes from strength to strength. I know a couple of other people still involved in writing and publishing print zines. We’re fine with social media and the digital format. It feels like people’s attention spans have got shorter, so things like a quick YouTube video, status update on a page and that kind thing seem to work best when it comes to keeping people’s attention nowadays. I personally love a printed zine, just like I prefer vinyl and cd over digital music.
MM: Have the band toured much nationally? You’ve played some shows in France and Germany right?
TC: Seeing as we’re all busy with other bands, we only actually get to play once in a blue moon! We’ve played Germany once, and are hoping to get back over there soon as well as other place in Europe. We do have a bunch of shows lined up this year and hope to do more once the album us out. Nationally we’ve played out a bit, in London, Derby, Yorkshire, the North East, Rebellion fest last year.
MM: You must be pretty stoked to be playing Rebellion again this year?
TC: Yeah we’re always honoured to be invited to play. It’s by no means a guarantee that you’ll get a slot and I personally love the festival so it’s great to play a part of it. I do normally work a stall there anyway, generally doing merch for Cock Sparrer or Buzzcocks, or second hand records. I like the festival atmosphere and the mini world that springs up for just shy of a week in sunny Blackpool every August.
MM: How can people get in touch?
TC: The best place is to message us via Facebook; we do our best to respond as quickly as we can.