okay, enjoy the reading!..
Are you afraid of our revenge? You should be!
Ciao ragazzx! Let's start in the best possible way, since your name has always fascinated: where did the choice to call yourselves Matrak Attakk come from and what meaning does it have? And what made prompted you to create the band?
The name Matrak Attakk was given by a former member of the band and dates back to 2015. At that time we were based in Gent and we were communicating in the Dutch language. Matrak is a French word ( adopted from the Flemish dialect) and it means baton. Attakk spelled that way is of course (little) poetic license and the reference to the KKK is the correlation between police crimes and the KKK. Then the subtlety that not everyone noticed is that the name was changed from MatraK AttaKK to Matrak Attakk.
The second question requires a long answer since I am the only remaining original member takes me back to how the group was born!
We had moved on from the ashes of another group from 2013-2014 called Share Your Needles, the drummer and one of the singers left, first one then the other, and the 4 of us decided to stay together, but since the former singer was already complaining about us staying together plus continuing with that name, some members decided to change the name before our first concert in early April 2015. The most voted name was the one that Moshrat, former co-singer, chose which was just that. It sounded good and we all agreed on it. The band was then born out of a desire to continue making music in drop C and play and record.
You call yourselves an anarchist, queer, and feminist group. What significance do you give to these dimensions of political struggle and how important is it for you to spread certain discourses within the hardcore punk scene? Are you engaged in any specific collective or path of struggle?
Continuing the logical thread of question 1, the group stayed in Ghent until 4 out of 6 left and after that
I moved to Liege with one of the guitarists to a squat where we reformed MatraK Attakk two months before we went on tour. Since I had been struggling to create this tour as well, canceling it hadn't even crossed my mind, plus the new members were politically much closer to me. So just since then, in 2017, the group in addition to being anti-psych has also become anarcho-queer-feminist. I don't want to separate the 3 words, because writing them with a hyphen clarifies the kind of "Queerness" and "Feminism" in which we are reflected.
Although you left out anti-psychiatry in the question, let's say that was my motive, most important in the search for a band like MxA and to push me into punk since 2004-05. On the first CD released for Vleesklak and Dead Punx Society it is mostly about anti-psych.
Having met Toto who took the drums and Py who took the bass at the time, I decided to let go of anarcho-feminist lyrics and also to consider Italian as a language to write lyrics, also to change the musical intonation a bit and to rediscover forgotten meanderings of my brain. Without giving unsolicited publicity to collectives, nor highlighting people and movements that prefer to remain in the shadows, I can tell you that four words are difficult and too catalogative to summarize the struggles in which we are (have been) engaged. Some examples are benefits, boycotts, anarcho queer feminist initiatives but also anti-hispecist, internationalist anti-fascist or simply solidarity with those who at the moment needed it most. As indeed, many people do and continue to do in the global DIY punk scene. Over the years you have released a good number of splits, what is your connection with this format? How do you usually choose bands to share a split with?
Well let's say Py is the split enthusiast, I have been pushing for full lenghts for years ahah! According to him it is boring to have an album by one band. Anyway Toto who was a creative and productive essence from 2017 to 2018, pushed us to record (clearly on our own and in the Highway to hell squat where I, Toto and Py lived, before Remco rejoined us when Toto left) and since we had 6 songs we couldn't do anything but a split, a friend from Mutabo Milos Romac, recommended PAKT to us, since we had just recorded a few songs, having been in Slovenia we knew the band a little bit and having heard the band and since they also wrote in different languages with political but original lyrics and I liked Nika's voice a lot, we decided they would be ideal for a split with us, so we asked them if they felt like doing a split. With Grenzlinie, let's say having been a band of mine as a teenager, finding myself with a master that I didn't even know I had and 3 songs that were supposed to go into a split with Cluster Bomb Unit I decided to use them for a '7 with Matrak, so it was done quickly, since the split album with Discordance was also coming out in 2019. Discordance, Py found them since he knew some of the members that we even had the pleasure to meet later on during our tours in Greece... We did split tapes with Ascidie (friends of Toto and Py) and Global Horror because we know them for real precisely and about the next split LP I'll answer you later. Finally last year you released the new album "What the Fuck Is under the Spotlight?" a devastating concreted of militant, pissed-off anarcho crustcore. What has influenced you from a politically and personally in writing that record and the various lyrics?
I wrote the lyrics for "What the Fuck Is under the Spotlight?" at the turn of 2019 and 2020, the outbreak of the covid era. So it starts from the burning forests to the lockdown, repression, discrimination and alienation of the latter. Let me preface this by saying that I write without thinking too much and just let the keyboard guide me and throw out what is in my heart, which makes "What the fuck.. " is a pissed off diary of this strange time, although the covid is never mentioned openly since the redundancy of news about it made me not want to talk about it, as well as the confusion of the moment and the mixed feelings we all felt stopped me from giving opinions and making judgments, but to describe what was happening with the eyes of what I was at the time, looking at what was going on around and what were the consequences in people's souls denouncing how humanity, is regressing to an individualism and selfishness that never existed. And I'm not referring to whether or not to wear a mask, such discussions I leave to those who don't know what else to say, but I'm referring to the indifference of the powerful to those who don't have a home, as people continued to be fined, evicted, expelled and beaten during the covid, and the abused and beaten women had no choice but to stay in their oppressors' homes, the police had the real green light to beat up and kill those they always hated (in northern Europe, especially people of Muslim religion and non-white), and to arrest those who continued to demonstrate for political causes (and I am NOT referring to the anti green pass riots) and humiliate, beat up political opponents. Returning to the topic of feminism and queer issues, as much as the history of hardcore punk has seen many bands belonging to the LGBTQ+ community representing queer and anti-sexist instances (just think of Homomilitia or Los Crudos), the scene can by no means be considered as a place that is always safe and foreign to machist, sexist, or homo-transphobic attitudes. As Matrak Attakk what are the shitty and prevaricatory attitudes that you still notice within the scene or at concerts? And how are your lyrics or the feminist speeches you make during your live shows?
I subscribe! Well the way I see it is: punk and diy circles are, by instance and party, places where sexism of all kinds has been banned, so I feel free to denounce any form of repression, provocative or prevaricatory attitude I see since I have the microphone and therefore I can stop something bad that is happening.
Clearly the older I get the more I realize that sometimes I overreacted, sometimes I didn't see, now I try to gain maturity in reporting what happens, when it happens.
During our 'career' of 7 years things have happened, especially to me in the sexist sphere, after years I think the jerks are starting to be afraid of me, but still things happen that I can only name in list from the mildest to the worst : blowing us off, people walking away after a speech, insults, taunts from other punk groups, groping, beating, the infamous dick in the air followed by jerking off before being out, ending with hands in the butt and genitals, to be svegl* or not...AMEN!
Clearly most of the time, especially lately that I am learning not to talk too long trying to be clear concise and less boring (although I don't always succeed), the people who come to see and the bands who play with us, the organizers etc. share what I am talking about or at least respect what we come to say, or maybe they don't listen, but the older you get the more you are left talking I must say...
Do you think that still today punk in all its forms can be a viable means of expressing and spread sharp messages against this world of oppression and repression, exploitation of human beings as much as of animals, as well as against capitalism that devastates and plunders the environment? For Matrak Attakk, what potential does punk have?
Yes, punk can be, as long as bands talk about these issues you mentioned and others, there will be people who will be forced to be let's say 'bombarded' by these alternative discourses that you don't often hear outside, and this will still push people to inform themselves, read, watch or listen to those who have something to say about it. Often at concerts the bands don't talk much anymore, but at least they wear a shirt of someone who does, or they sell for free, or they just behave well with others, which lately is no small thing. Still every once in a while, every so often I would say, someone asks me about some text, and I almost melt on that still there are people who like to read and mirror themselves in the words of someone who can express what you wanted to say but didn't know how, someone who can get concepts and words out of you that you couldn't externalize ... as long as that happens, it's true. As long as these bands with so much to say are not absorbed into the commercial (which is already happening to the more catchy and/or recommended) then there is a danger of them lapsing into cliche and killing what still exists in our scene. In your split with Discordance you have a piece in which you deal with the social and political issue of revolutionary Rojava. What relevance does this experience revolving around issues of ecological and feminist issues for Matrak Attakk?
Northern Syria, the Kurdish people, the YPJ, and all the fighter groups that have played and are playing a role in the Rojava struggle makes me very passionate about it. I try to go and listen and read everything I can find about them and I tried years ago to write a summary fanzine about them, so much so that I sought out Martin from Adrestia since he had created an information network about Rojava called 'Punks for Rojava' which served until a few years ago to collect money and send it directly through a Kurdish person who is now gone, to YPJ, YPG and internationalists who needed it in their freedom fight. So we started collecting money at every tour or concert, even printing black-and-white T-shirts (the Swedish ones were in color and cost too much for our taste) and T-shirts with a personal design for those who didn't want a kalashikov on the shirt nor a flag (and it's a good thing we do DIY screen printing) to sell them for less so everyone could afford it , in short MxA in its small way tried to send money to Rojava and subsequently to the various benefits JinWar, Red Crescent Kurdistan, Make Rojava Green Again, and clearly to provide any kind of support needed to fighters.
Jineology issues, ecology, and how Kurdish and Middle Eastern women view sisterhood, how they have revolutionized the preconception of feminism and eco-feminism in the heads of us Western feminists is amazing and I watch them from afar full of admiration. In a book I read recently, a Kurdish woman explains to a Westerner that we are actually much more oppressed than they are with absolute finesse. I cannot help but agree with her. Purely musical question. You define yourselves as an anarcho-crust-core band, so what are the groups that have and continue to influence you in composing your music?
Well for this question I have to write to others, as far as I'm concerned, groups and personalities like: Wendy O Williams & The Plasmatics, Motorhead, Detente (with Dawn Crosby), Lost World, Harum Scarum, Acute, Patti Smith, but also Bathory, Venom, Judas Priest,Alice Cooper, CRASS, Anti Product, Contravene, Naked Aggression, Diamanda Galas, Bonnie Tyler and a few others, have influenced me a lot!
ANTOINE : French punkabbestas with hot beers and no bubbles, François Juno, The Who ( thanks to Peter genius with 3 strings), Zebda.
PY : old crust and anarcho punk
MIGOU : Stench, Noisegrind, NWOBHM, Cardi B and Amebix What can you tell us instead about the Belgian politicized and diy punk scene? What are currently the collectives, squats that are most active in pursuing a more militant dimension of hardcorepunk?
CRI: I lived in Belgium from 2007 to 2020, 3 years in Antwerp, 6 in Ghent and 3 in Liege. I must say that there is a lot of DIY scene in Belgium, there were a lot of bands between Gent, Antwerp and Brussels, at least I knew more about those! In Antwerp there was the Lintfabriek from 1981 to 2007, clearly I missed it! It was not a squat but a podium attended by diy and non-diy alternative bands from all over the world! There was the Koevoet (cf. crowbar), though, a squat with DIY concerts! I was situated at Den Drempel (RIP) and Pandemonium (RIP) when I was 21-24, The Music City on the other hand still exists and is a small but nice place where diy bands from all over the world play and quite often too. Also at Kids Rhytm and Blus Cafe there are often little concerts... I know a wonderful church was squatted for a short time, but I escaped from that city when Bart de Wever (famous Flemish politician very right-wing who came to government with NVA) was elected mayor (a Renzi of Antwerpen ahah) since the police checks, fines and nightly arrests grew by leaps and bounds. I can say that Travolta and Arrogant are diy bands with more political lyrics and ideas for the folks who pass through there.
In Ghent, on the other hand, I went there to study psychology, but I knew it had a history of squats and anarchy that was more interesting than the other Flemish cities! Although clearly I always arrive late when the splendor fades. I was involved in feminist collectives though a little too 'respectable' for me, where I learned a lot, however. The problem with these feminist collectives is that they don't like punk.
So to find more anarchist places, I had to find a mixed group (pre MxA). At that time there was the Bakunin Pogo Bar (RIP, former Barbar), the Van Monk with the anti-fascist gym, the Landhuis, the Camping, Ter Goten (although it's in Herzele), 'De Bank' (RIP), Den Bristol (RIP), Tubel (RIP), Het Assez! (rented anarchist center in Gentdal '93) and many others whose names I don't remember, let's say these were the ones I frequented, or opened, or where I lived with other people and where there were or still are activities.
However although an active squat in itself is an expression of anarchy, I cannot say that all squatters are political and like to do political initiatives, and there were many discussions between political and purely musical activists. Volkskeuken (people's kitchens) were going great, along with the diy punk concerts.
The Landhuis was purely hippie/travelers but when I ended up living there I turned it into a purely punk place, I was doing 3 concerts a week in 2015 and clearly after almost a year the hippies didn't like it and I flew out. haha! Then was born 'On the Rag!' my anarcho-feminist benefit festival where I was trying to make a line up full of women, clearly I wasn't succeeding perfectly, but it was a benefit festival in a squat, from 2015 to 2019.
In Liege when I moved I went to live at Kre-Action, where there were all kinds of concerts and activities and many different people were living together. Toto who then played drums with us, did workshops of silkscreen printing and biking and other initiatives and Py also with him even though he didn't live there yet. There was the 'critical mass' of bicycles, there were benefits and some punks interested in both the political and the musical side, but I have to say that for years wherever I go, there are fewer and fewer punks interested in political initiatives! With Kre-Action, we have moved around several times until Py and Toto and I separeted and squatted the Highway to Hell, a big, beautiful house with two attached gardens, tombstones attached and electrical wiring, small concert hall, huge bar in the hall with 1930s water purifiers and asbestos columns that we tried to insulate and protect.
Finally between the 3 of us we managed to do more benefits and political activities such as Sunday mornings of concerts combined with 'writing letters to the prisoners' and still at every concert or so we managed to donate some income to some instance! Only after a while we soon noticed that the anarchist and feminist collectives didn't come too much to us, either because we were a bit isolated on the highway or because punk, they didn't like it! In short, the trend of the years was : either you have a festival or you have few entries! Other squats with activity were 'Pigeon Communale' (a former bank) and 'Tunnel’ (rip)
Brussels, on the other hand was teeming with queer punk politicized and clearly the grass is always greener on the other side:
Groups like Rene' Biname' made anarchist punk history in Belgium in that 'Leuvain la Neuve' where a self-managed neighborhood made of light housing exists. Places like 'Barlok' (RIP) brought Queer-Noise/Punk culture into hype without even meaning to. 'The Magasin 4' is where local bands hope to ever be called to play with their childhood idols, where Napalm Death, Oi Polloi and Discharge can play and even get paid, in short. Brussels is teeming with politicized collectives and groups: anti-speciesists like Doggy Bag Crew, queer feminists like Bitchcraft, Rainbow (for LGBTQI+ refugees)and many more!
In Leuven, there is the SOJO youth center where the people involved are anarchist and/or anti-fascist.
PY: Two of us spent several years in the Belgian, Flemish, and Walloon scene. These scenes were very active in the 1990s and 2000s, certainly compared to the size of the country, especially in the Flemish part!
The most active city in the Walloon region was Liège. There we were doing Food not Bombs, opening squats, doing concerts ... but many have grown old and others have left, now there is not really a new generation and the scene is less active. There is still a squat that does concerts but not really politicized, while as far as the French scene is concerned, there are still a few important and politicized squats in some bigger cities, but the laws have changed lately and there are more and more evictions and threats of eviction, there are not enough occupied spaces to create something big and unified.
We have many collectives buying or renting farms and country houses with land and organizing events.
Now it is much more difficult to organize something in the cities because of gentrification. It also all depends on what area. There are completely depopulated areas that don't have any kind of movement.
Among the self-managed places in the Breton countryside we can name a few such as Penkalet, La Rouille, Bovel, L'autre monde and l'Etable.
Then there are politically active cities with more generational turnover such as Rennes where there are collectives of politicized punx that revolve around a few local groups.
Strasbourg has AIM Strassbouri, who often do benefit concerts with anarchist themes.
During 2022 you had as many as four tours around Europe, how did they go?
What have been the best dates, spaces and experiences so far that you have gone through and had?
I would have to say that this year we are roughly wrapping up Europe, as covid has caused us to cancel many tours. For me it was beautiful and touching to play in places like southern Italy, Sardinia, but also coming back to Greece where you feel loved because of their great turnout at concerts, to have finally played in the Balkans where we hadn't been able to go yet which were Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia!
Or being able to see Malta and Crete, Sicily (Catania was wonderful!) , Calabria where I must say that I became very fond of Cosenza and Reggio Calabria because of the anarchist library in Cosenza and the CSOA Angelina Cartella in Reggio of having resonated at CPA in Florence after 20 years XD, of seeing Laura Raf's punk book presentation at Scintilla and receiving a copy from Beatrice as a gift to have reopened many concert seasons in Switzerland, to have seen so many friends again...to have toured together with the Interpunkce treasures, to have been accidentally drugged with hallucinogenic mushrooms, to have woken up with a new tattoo in Brno, to have swum in the lake, to have vomited, laughed, cried, danced as always.
Because there's no more taking anything for granted these days....
Upcoming projects in the Matrak Attakk household?
Well a festival in Brittany at the end of August and then recordings for a split LP with 'Persona Non Data' from Groningen, with whom we are very pleased to share a vinyl! Then from September 7 to September 26 we will be on tour in England, Scotland, Ireland! Next year we plan to go back to Scandinavia for the third time because Antoine and Migou have never been there and Finland for the second time! Then we will go to Southeast Asia and Japan for the first time, covid permitting!