Staffan (Sectarian Violence/Stay Hungry)

Featuring members of Coke Bust (DC), Stay Hungry (Sweden), and Inherit (UK), Sectarian Violence is a trans-national super-group of sorts, playing a blistering fast brand of straightedge hardcore. The band recently completed a European tour and released their self-titled 7" earlier this spring, and was nice enough to speak with Punknews staff interviewer Andrew Clark. Bassist Staffan discusses the intricacies of being in a geographically dispersed band, politics in hardcore, and the band's upcoming east coast tour of the US.

Thank you for taking the time to do this interview with Punknews. Could you please introduce yourself and what you do in the band?
Certainly. I am Staffan from Gothenburg, Sweden, and I play bass for Sectarian Violence. I am about to turn 32 and I also play in Stay Hungry, do a zine called "Law & Order" and book shows here in my city. The other guys in the band are Nick Tape from Washington DC, who also sings for Coke Bust and sets up shows. In the UK we have Pat and Andrew who play guitar, and Tom on drums. The UK lads are involved in Carry the Weight Records and bands like Inherit, Wayfarer and Final Rage.

Having read a bit about Sectarian Violence’s origins, I know you guys are pretty geographically spread-out. How did you come up with the idea to put together a band that might not be able to tour a lot or practice in person?
I knew the UK guys from when Stay Hungry toured with their old band Never Again in 2010, and later the same year they did their second to last show at the Edge Day show in Gothenburg that I took part in organizing, and at which Coke Bust also played. We all kicked off and had a lot of fun. We had been kidding around with the name Sectarian Violence on the aforementioned tour and decided it was time to set things in motion. I don’t think we knew where it would lead us, and it would probably have surprised us to know where it in the end has led us. Things have happened quite fast and it’s been a cool ride.

Do you feel like there are any advantages to being in a nontraditional band like this one?
The advantages definitely outweigh the disadvantages. We all have loads of connections in Europe from touring here and being a part of the scene in other ways, by booking bands and doing zines, labels and so on. And Nick has a lot of good connections in the US due to the same thing. So far Nick has had the biggest burden on his shoulders, travelling to Europe a couple of times, but I also think he wouldn’t even consider it a burden anyway. It’s really cheap and easy for me to get to the UK, even compared to when I have to travel to rehearse with my Swedish band, so for me it’s not a big deal. I love this set up. It has allowed me to tour with some of my favorite persons in the world and experience incredible things together with them. There’s no reason to settle down for being comfortable. Who cares about a little extra work and inconvenience when you are served the kind of chances we are via this band?

How has being involved with Sectarian Violence varied from your other musical endeavors?
I guess the geographical thing is the main thing that comes to mind. Personally, I’d also say that Sectarian Violence has a more direct political profile than Stay Hungry, in which we might have a little more subtle thing going on. In any case, I no longer think much about the fact that the band is different from many other ones. I love this band and dealing with the people in it.

Switching gears a bit, I am curious about the band’s name. Is it referring to the phrase often used in the media to describe conflict in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan or something more general?
We all see eye to eye on issues like imperialist aggression and wars against countries such as the ones mentioned in your question, and that is definitely a part of it. In Iraq, the occupation forces has played out Sunnis and Shias against each other with tactics from CIA’s old tradition in El Salvador, using militias and death squads to tear up divisions and sectarian violence between groups of the population that initially fought together against the occupation (for example, Shia leaders in Baghdad supported and even sent soldiers to the Sunni fighters during the battle of Fallujah). But sectarian violence has a lot of history elsewhere too, such as in Ireland, where it has also been in the wake of imperialist occupation. On the mini UK tour edition of the EP that we sold during four shows there in October last year (it was actually a large bunch of test presses, but don’t tell anyone), we had a picture of a African kid (sorry, don’t know what exact country) with his hands chopped off sort of fade into a picture of King Leopold, who was responsible for the Belgian colonial atrocities in Africa. In those days, the Belgians cut off the hands of unruly Congolese men and women because they knew that they would no longer be able to work, which was a severe punishment. Countries there still suffer from conflicts initiated or exacerbated by the colonial powers with the purpose to divide and conquer, take Rwanda as a recent example. On the actual cover of the EP, there’s a picture from the Sabra and Shatila massacres in Beirut in 1982, when the Israeli army let Christian Falangist militia into the Palestine refugee camps after the armed Palestinian wings had left them. We think the name is striking, and it certainly draws attention and provokes reactions, but it is not picked for some pure shock value, we have a lot of ideas and opinions to back it up.

By looking at the lyrics in many of the songs on the 7" and demo tape, it seems like the focus is very much political in nature. Are you and other band members politically active outside of music?
In various ways, yeah.We definitely differ here and have varying opinions on how to deal with things. Personally speaking, I have a long history of working within the socialist/left wing movement in Sweden, often with an international focus. I’ve also been very politically active in my old work place at the Volvo cars factory in Gothenburg, until the layoffs a couple years ago. I’d say our view on politics and political activism might differ from many others in the punk scene, which is fine.

I am excited to see bands like yours put out music that express political views that, in my opinion, have been lacking in punk for a while. How has your messages been received by audiences so far?
Well the EP itself has been received better than we could possibly have wished for, and the tour we just did in Europe went down the same way. So obviously we’re doing something right and I hope it’s more than just the music. We haven’t gotten any bad reactions so far, and quite a few very appreciative ones. I think we come across as serious yet laid back guys, which I think is good for us.

Is there anything you hope that listeners get out of your music?
Here’s the deal. I think hardcore as just a means of releasing energy and blowing off steam can serve a positive purpose in the lives of a lot of people, and it can obviously also provide a social life for a lot of outcasts and freaks. Not every band needs to be The Instigators or Earth Crisis or Propagandhi. Some bands are great just for playing kick ass music and I can even deal with some bands crying over broken hearts or friends betraying each other or whatnot. But in order for hardcore music to be something different, something that sets it apart from other forms of music and for it to be special, it has to have a certain political nerve to it. That can certainly be served in different ways, but it has to be there in some form or another. If not, we’re just another form of rock n roll. And if we provide an outlet for getting rid of anger and releasing energy, but do not fill up the space that’s emptied with some substance, then all we’re really doing is to provide some sort of cultural consolation for whatever it is that builds up tension in us. If hardcore is to be a counter culture, it has to be able to do more than that.

Congratulations on recently releasing a 7" via Richmond label Grave Mistake, which seems to be signing lots of awesome bands like Night Birds, now defunct Government Warning, and you guys. How has it been working with them?
Nick knows Alex Grave Mistake, and his other band Coke Bust has a 7" out on the label. He made sure to play Alex our recording. Obviously that was a lucky draw for us. Brand new band and we get offered an EP on a label as great as that. Alex had a lot of bad luck with the pressing plant and many had probably given up after a while, but he stuck with it like a champ and pulled through for us. We can’t thank him enough for that.

Any plans for future releases this year?
We recorded a bunch of songs for a demo tape that we sold during the Euro tour, from which we just returned to our various homes. There will be a US version of the same tape for our East Coast tour in June. During that tour, we will also record songs for a 12", which will be very exciting. Hopefully that release will see the light of day before the year is over.

Last word goes to you.
Thanks a lot for the interview. A big chunk of gratitude to everyone who helped us with shows and came out during our Euro tour.Check out some dope European bands: Iron to Gold, Inherit, No Turning Back, Undergång, Obnoxious Youth, Angers Curse, Anchor, Abolition, Iron Curtain, Get Wise, Static Void, Angers Curse, Foreseen, Problems, Not Afraid, Unveil, Abolition, HårdaTider, Lose the Life and a lot more. Check the site for more info on Swedish bands. Check for the East Coast tour dates. And also, don’t bullshit the kids, ‘cause most of us know, if we want to see an asshole we’ll go to a Poison show.