Melodic hardcore band I Refuse have seen a lot of action over this past summer. The band enjoyed a North American tour, which included dates in Canada and the United States. In addition, they recorded and released their newest EP, Speaks Fork-Tongued, a recording replete with as many political overtones as chugging guitars. Self-proclaimed "foodie" and guitar player for I Refuse, Dominic Maggiolo, gives us some insight behind the band's moral underpinnings and ruminates over what it means to be a modern-day punk rocker in this candid discussion with Brandon Campbell.
Ok, so first, can you tell me a little about yourself. How do you fit into the band?
Maggiolo: My name is Dominic Maggiolo, I'm one of the guitarists in I Refuse, and I'm the foodie in the group.
Haha. I take it you have bad eating habits?
Oh, no, not at all. I'm extremely passionate about food, food culture and compassionate eating. Itâs one of the single most important things we can do to ourselves; eat right, feel right (insert eat well rhetoric). Haha.I actually just got back from the farmers market.
I apologize for the misguided assumption. Do you try to keep the other guys eating well?
Haha, no need to apologize, seriously. I think they all do a great job at doing that for themselves. Even on our Sunday jams, we like to make a nice supper, take a break from jamming and eat. Itâs just a good way to talk, hang out. Food should be enjoyed with your friends and family anyway. I really didn't mean to make the interview geared around food, sorry haha.
It's your interview. Steer it any way you choose.
Haha, whatâs your favorite dish?
It's almost a clichÃ© now, but I love pad Thai.
Seriously, you can't go wrong with that! One thing that really bummed me out the other day was finding out that one of the restaurants I like going too serves a pad Thai. Unfortunately they have fish sauce in it, so I can't have it. Itâs hard to find a good pad Thai around this city thatâs fully vegetarian. I mean, I could always make it and it really isn't that hard. Though, when in the mood to have some and you're out with friends, you know… Haha
I am not a vegetarian, but I have had plenty of friends that are, so I can empathize about the struggle to accommodate to a diet. On the other hand, I don't judge for cheating either.
I would rather just cook for myself, haha. Most vegetarian restaurants here in Ottawa are horrible.
I noticed on the band's website, that there is a link posted to go to ChooseVeg.com. It would seem I Refuse is very much behind the vegetarian movement, is that true?
All of us in the band are vegetarians and have been for quite some time now, even going back as far as their childhood. We aren't overtly pushy when it comes to vegetarianism. We have a strong moral stand point on it and we do it for ourselves.
I guess that could be said about most of the internal and said politics of our band.
I've noticed that. After reading through the lyrics on your new seven inch, it became clear that the band takes a direct and strong verbal approach. However, I noticed that you guys do not specifically rally against any particular individual or event. So, I have to ask, what specifically inspires your lyrics? Is it war, the President or simply injustice in general?
Well, you could say that it's one of those or all three. The truth of the matter is that in these days, as long as you keep your eyes open, there is injustice everywhere. Not to sound clichÃ© or corny, but we feel that no matter how small, any freedom is worth fighting for. For example, a few nights ago, I attended a show with a personal favorite band. The bouncers started taking out kids, and a lot of people ended up hurt. This happened at a show where the only people we had to be scared of were the bouncers. We don't feel that one cause should be the inspiration behind everything, but rather a plethora of causes or beliefs that inspire a person to do what they can to make the world better for all of us, young and old.
Well said. I think those ideas are captured in your lyrics. You don't seem too keen on Ottawa's restaurants or bouncers. Does it at least have a favorable artistic or musical culture?
Hahaha. Ottawa has tons of different scenes, whether it be punk rock, metal or hip hop. I actually just moved here a year ago to start my Masters; so in all, I'm still sort of new to everything. All I really know is the punk rock/hardcore scene, which, I think had betters days here in Ottawa, simply by what people have told me. I'm not going to judge though. Music scenes have been the same all over the world and never change. Itâs the people in it that change and make it different. Punk rock/DIY has always been the same. When it comes to the artistic culture here in Ottawa, I wouldn't be able to comment much on it. I'm a huge fan of street art, though; I've noticed crews (clean-up crews) buff things really fast. We're the nationâs capital; we have to look clean, right? Hah. Otherwise, we have a beautiful national art museum (among others), which has tons of exhibits. Not only that, but we have a few local "modern" art stores. I have still so much to discover in this city. We have to branch out to different scenes to grow. .
Where did you move from and how did you connect with I Refuse?
I moved from Sudbury Ontario, a mining city in Northern Ontario. I came from a strong music scene with some notable bands from there. Such as Vicious Cycle, Statues, Killing Queens etc. I used to play in a band called This Ship Will burn, a rock and roll band in the vein of Motorhead. I Refuse and This Ship Will Burn booked a two week Canadian tour and from there stayed friends. I've stayed in touch with them ever since I moved here until they asked me to join the band.
How long have you been playing with I Refuse and was your transition in to the new band a smooth one?
I've been in the band for roughly a year now. The transition was super easy. I had already moved here to start my Masters at the University of Ottawa. I had originally planned to start an alt country band once I got all my gear in Ottawa. Weeks passed and I was still settling in, making it hard to get together with people and jam. Not to mention, most of my gear was still at my parents. Mariful, the singer of the group, said to come out and practice one day (they were looking for another guitarist). They had all the gear I needed. From there on, I used Mariful's guitar, head and cab until my parents came out a few months later to give me my gear. I actually had to learn a full set in 3 weeks because we had a show with Young Widows.
How did you do with that?
I think the show went well! This was actually when the band had a bit of a different line up. It was tons of fun!
How long has I Refuse been playing and has the band had a lot of lineup changes over the years?
The band has been around since 2005, itâs had countless line ups and to be honest the band hasn't had a solid line up until about a year ago. We're super driven and inspired. I said lineup way too much, haha
Haha. I won't hold it against you. So, is there a constant member who has been with the band since the beginning?
Itâs been Mariful since the start (the singer). Itâs been his vision since 2004 or so.
Am I correct in assuming he sets the direction for the band lyrically and musically?
Lyrically yes, though, since the new line up, itâs been a group decision. Geordon, as well, the bass player in the band, writes tons of lyrics. Musically, itâs all of us. We all have our input. We all write together (even acoustically) and all have our say. It really wasn't like that up until this year, this line up really change the overall attitude of this band and the way it works.
Do you see that as a good thing?
Oh totally! I mean, we just released our new CD EP/LP and we're in the midst of writing our full length right now. This line up is super motivated and we're working really, really fast. It also helps that we've all had experiences in committed bands before. So itâs a bit easier to work all together!
Are you guys touring any time soon to promote the new recording?
We actually just got back (well, not just), but we toured both Canada and the US this summer.
How was the tour?
In Canada we toured with a band from the states called The Effort and in the States with Unrestrained. Haha, letâs just say Rayleen didn't make it. We had tons of van issues. However, we made it to our shows. We played them and had a blast! This was mine and Geordon (the bass player's), first time touring the states and it was quite the experience.
Hahaha, thatâs the name of our van.
Haha. Ok, understood. Did the band have a good reception abroad?
To be honest, I think we fit with the U.S. crowd more than we do with a Canadian crowd. I can't begin to say how nice and generous the U.S. kids were. I thought I would never say that.
What do you think the difference is between the two nations, as far as the hardcore music crowd is concerned?
The band has toured the states before I joined, so they had built a slight fan base, but the overall reception in the U.S. is awesome! I think I Refuse appeals to a much "older" crowd. Our sound flows with that 90s crowd. Canada really likes a lot of the garage/indie/art punk/rock bands going on right now (i.e. Fucked Up, Vicious Cycle, and Attack in Black). And the states are taking a totally different approach to things and I think we appeal to that crowd.
Would you guys prefer to have a better reception at home or are you satisfied with having a more accepting, yet far reaching audience?
Of course we would love to get a great reception everywhere. But as far as choosing between the two, I think that we're just happy that there are people in the world that like what we're doing, regardless of location.
Back to the band's politics. In the band's "about" section on the site you make mention of how Ottawa was "built on unseeded Algonquin land and recognize the legacy of colonialism and imperialism upon which the nation of Canada has been built." Why put that in your about section?
That's completely true and itâs important to question our modern ideas and to bring light to the fact that a lot of Canadian and other histories are extremely romanticized. Not to mention, there is a large indigenous population here in Ottawa, who are misunderstood and made fun of. Unfortunately, a lot of it has to do with poverty and drug/alcohol problems. I wish I had my friend Musky here to answer this question. He would bring a lot more to the table on this topic than I would. He actually filled in for Dane on the US tour and did a great job at doing so!
It would seem the band is more than just a creative outlet for you guys. It is obvious you have deep moral and political convictions.
We're all passionate individuals. I'm not going to lie to you and say we're all committed to every issue surrounding the world. The thing I love about this band is that we're all into different things, especially politically. We're also not experts. We love to learn and have people teach us.
Between the lyrics and your website it is easy to pick up on your exuberance and idealism.
Awesome. I mean, punk rock is suppose to be in your face, but at the same time, who said you can't spread a message and add some bar chords to them.
Well said! Punk rock shouldn't just be about mindless rebellion. I like a little thought mixed in with the aggression. It makes for a powerful experience.
I think our generation has come to that though.
Come to what exactly?
Having more forward thinking messages than lyrics geared around partying and being a jackass. Let me rephrase that.
I think youth, especially teens and young adults are beginning to realize that education is a lot more important than working in the mines. Sure, there were forward thinking individuals, back in the 50's, 60's, 70's (and so on), however, I think being "smart" is becoming something a lot more mainstream and something a lot more important.
I think simple, fun music has its place, but often times I look for something a bit more substantiative.
I couldn't agree more. Some of my favorite bands sing about stuff I'm totally against. But it doesn't mean, I can't think for myself. I'm also not a sociology professor.
Again, well said Maggiolo.
Thanks Brandon! I like your questions.
It's nice to talk to a kindred spirit on punk rock.
It really is. The thing I also realized and noticed is that even now, you will have teachers, students, kids with awesome careers who are still into punk rock but realize that education is also an important thing and I think punk rock is the perfect way to also be yourself. That sounds so clichÃ©, but itâs true.
As I've gotten older I've met many professional, yet free-thinking individuals who still play in bands and listen to the Dead Kennedys.
I mean, when you have Greg Graffin from Bad Religion, Dan Yemin etc.
When I was growing up, I always thought that kids who listened to punk rock didn't want jobs or anything, but to my surprise they were all professionals or educated!
I think that's the way it should be.
Punk rock is a great platform to launch a lifelong obsession with questioning and investigation.
Exactly. Just because you listen to punk rock doesn't mean you can't be educated or have a great career.
I think the important thing is to not lose focus on the things that truly matter. Materialism is always lurking around the corner and can obfuscate an otherwise clear and rebellious mind.
Agreed. Though, I think to a certain extent, "we're all hypocrites" as Tom Gable said.
Hahaha! Well, one last question before we part ways.
What artists, musical or otherwise, do you most take influence from in your life? Who would you recommend to help mold a developing artistic mind?
Julia Child as far a cooking goes. Her sense of culture and family made her a pioneer in the foodie world. Dr. David Suzuki an environmentalist and forward thinking individual inspired me ever since I saw him speak when I was 16 years old. Musically, bands like the Bouncing Souls, Hot Water Music, Rites Of Spring, Good Riddance, and Bad Religion. Even Rage Against The Machine. I love Tom Morello. I could go on. I grew up on 90's punk rock and will always love it. My parents as well. Screw it. They were and always have been super supportive of me.
You have to give a shout out to the parents.
I do! Hi Mom and Dad! Haha.
Maggiolo, thank you so much for your time.
Thanks Brandon, you've been great!