THE CHRIS CAPS INTERVIEW – MARCH 2015
When Tim Andrews made the decision to quit the band early in 2013 so began a lengthy search for the person to take over. We wanted someone who not only fitted the bill musically, but shared a similar political and philosophical outlook to the rest of the band. Despite what one might think, this was no easy task. Thankfully, perhaps owing to the lengthening list of past vocalists, the band’s musical identity had become more about it’s sound and style than the personality of anyone who may have previously fronted it. Politically though, it had to be the right person. As well as having a broader alignment with us, it had to be someone who was secure enough in their principles and outlook to be able to express that with confidence and conviction.
One person eventually came to the fore. We set up an initial rehearsal and immediately we all felt the buzz of renewed energy that Chris brought in with him at that session. It was a no brainer. Chris joined the band in the Summer of 2013 and we began rehearsals for his first show with us at what eventually became the ill fated festival appearance at Hygget in Sweden in August of that year. Since that turbulent initiation Chris has settled in to being a righteous frontman and an integral part of all that is Antisect. In this long overdue first interview he gets down to spill the beans on his views on amongst other things, Emma Goldman, Judas Priest and x-ray vision….
You’ve been the Antisect vocalist for nearly a couple of years now. What’s the experience been like and what have been your impressions? Do you think that the “alternative” music scene has, or can have a tangible effect on the lives of it’s audience? If so, what? If not, why do you think not?
The experience has been pretty crazy. It all kind of happened without me really understanding or knowing what was going on. I guess, I still feel pretty confused by it all but then I do seem to be in a perpetual state of confusion and uncertainty. That being said, it’s been excellent too. My life has had its ups and downs and my band/music experience had only seen me play London and, on the odd occasion, somewhere more northwards. Now with Antisect, I’ve been to all sorts of places and played to all sorts of people. And that’s awesome. Some people only seem to care about the music but a lot of people want to talk politics and that’s always been a key thing for me and music – an opportunity to communicate with others and see where our ideas differ and align.
I think the alternative music scene can definitely effect people’s lives. Massively. It can help people form an identity where they couldn’t find one before. And alternative politics and alternative music understandably go hand-in-hand. Of course, the effect of any culture upon an individual is dependent upon how willing a person is to embrace it. Essentially, if you’re cynical and shitty about it, it’s not going to help you any.
What have been the biggest influences in your life so far – Personally, politically and musically?
Personally, it’s the old cliché of friends and family. I’ve been a long way from perfectly behaved in my life but they’ve helped see me through my growing pains. Peter Singer, though, not affecting my politics directly has been a massive influence on my ethical outlook and that has informed my personality too, I think.
Politically, my history teacher mocked one of my friends for having an anarchy A on his planner at school (I think his brother had got a lot into Anarchism and post-Marxism and it had rubbed off on my friend). Anyway, I wondered why my History teacher was so dismissive of the ideology and looked it up. Iain Mackay’s Anarchist FAQ really clarified everything for me. Next, I was reading articles by Kropotkin, Bakunin and Goldman. These three still are big influences as are Marx, Chomsky, bell hooks and others.
Musically, the Dead Kennedys opened my eyes to a whole new way of understanding music, politics and expression. Bands before might have had socio-political lyrics or anti-this-or-that but nothing hit me with such overtly political righteous indignation. Punk, hardcore and thrash became the music I was most enthusiastic about (Minor Threat, Cro-Mags, Nuclear Assault, Subhumans etc etc). I have a top 8 list of bands (I’m not going to make it 10 just because it makes people feel comfortable) and they are (in no order): Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Dead Kennedys, Napalm Death, Entombed, Sick of it All, Fugazi and Rush.
Antisect is a band that’s always stood for challenging the present systems of power, control and the political and industrial establishment, by means of asserting more personal responsibility, assuming you too hold with this, what do you see as being practical ways of taking more control over our own lives?
There’s a quote in a Michael Franti song where he says ‘The personal revolution is far more difficult/ And is the first step in any revolution’. That line has always resonated with me. Shouting at a corrupt, shallow and thoughtless society is all well and good but if you live your life in a thoughtless and shallow way then you’re probably better off keeping your mouth shut. In terms of actions, I think it’s interactions with others that are key. Make links with people that are of a similar mindset and cooperate as much and as well as possible. Try to follow the platinum rule (treat people better than you expect to be treated). Purchase consciously, avoid things that express or support questionable ideology and spend your time trying to promote a positive way of being. I believe there are a variety of ways to react and rebel to the establishment and that they can have their own validity, even if they are contradictory. For example, some people may believe that pacifist action is the best method while others might see the necessity for violence. I don’t think there is a right answer to this and different people will choose different paths – and I believe these distinct paths will cross over and complement each other.
Do you feel it’s hypocritical to engage with current political systems in order to affect change if we might not wholly believe in them? If not, why? And if so, what might the alternatives be? Do you agree with direct action? Would you ever support the use of violence in order to achieve a “greater good”?
If you’re asking whether I believe in ‘changing the system from within’. My answer is a fairly emphatic ‘NO’. The best you can hope for is damage limitation if you’re working within the system. I don’t necessarily see anything wrong with voting or appealing to your MP or whatever. However, I think it would be naïve to expect any genuine change from such methods. I also reject Marxist notions of forming a political party – the SWP and the like. I don’t sit with the mentality that all Trotskyites are wankers or whatever but, while I believe cooperation is valuable, I do think their approach is wrong.
What in your opinion would be the most significant step we could take, as a society, to improve the world’s quality of life?
Bloody hell, that’s a tough question! I suppose the most important way I think we need to develop ourselves collectively is towards a sustainable system and a sustainable economy. Capitalism in its current format is an insane house of cards, precarious and constantly on the brink of collapse. Even if you ignore the corruption and the complete lack of interest in compassion for our lives and our environment, capitalism as it stands centres on perpetual growth. Infinite growth on a finite world is inherently disastrous – that is, unsustainable. If we focussed on running things in a sensible fashion and weren’t driven by greed and personal accumulation, I think that would be a clear indication that we were ready for a more cooperative and harmonious society.
What are your feelings towards organised religion? Do you believe that any of the more established doctrines could be more valid or relevant than others?
I describe myself as ‘effectively atheist’. This is comparable to Dawkins’ position – that is, I accept that existence is incomprehensibly huge and my knowledge is incomprehensibly limited and this means I can’t know for absolute certainty that God does not exist. However, I find the concept of God as it is traditionally understood as inherently contradictory. I believe most followers of organised religions either ignore these contradictions or reconcile it as ‘God’s mystery’. Or else they change their understanding of God to be something personal and unrecognisable as part of an organised religion. However, as long as a person’s allegiance to a faith doesn’t try to restrict others I’m not overly concerned. All organised religions have their problems – the most immediate area of concern is their promotion of patriarchy and their treatment of women as secondary to men. Some religions are less guilty and almost all have improved but their inherent sexism is undeniable and inexcusable. I believe, on the whole, the more liberal and less dogmatic a faith, the better. A person’s views should not be determined by their religion but by reason. This doesn’t mean religion cannot inform beliefs around ethics and society but doctrine should not override more credible evidence.
What do you believe constitutes art? What in your opinion should it represent?
Another difficult question. I don’t know what doesn’t constitute art. I think art should invoke a reaction and I believe it is best when it involves personal expression – something that is important to the artist. Beyond that, I’m loathe to reject anything as ‘not art’. I might think it’s shit, I might think it’s evil, but I’m not sure if I can say it’s not art. That being said, I struggle with ‘product as art’. If you’re making something for the sole purpose of making money, then it’s a manufacturing exercise and not an artistic one. Making money from your art I suppose is fair enough but it should not be the sole or, I’d suggest, even the main motivator.
What was the first show you went to? What’s the most memorable show you’ve been to so far and what made it stand out?
I seem to remember my neighbour taking me to Bon Jovi when I was about 14! Loved it at the time, even though my taste was a bit heavier. Seeing Jello Biafra get back on the music with the Guantanamo School of Medicine was great – I appreciate his commitment to combine music and politics, including his political between and mid-song rants. Likewise, seeing Rage Against the Machine during their reformation helped fulfil some teenage dreams. Finally, seeing Mastodon at the Underworld after the release of Remission was an incredibly intense and sweaty show. You can’t beat a bit of heavy rage in your face,
What are your feelings with regards to humanity’s relationship with other species? Do you eat animals? What made you take the decision to do so or not do so?
As I said above, Singer has been a big influence on my ethics and it was reading and considering his arguments that made me reject eating meat. I am not a massive animal lover and I don’t own any pets. That being said I wouldn’t wish the shit animals go through on anyone or anything. I would describe myself as a speciesist – I would prioritise human suffering over animal suffering. But it’s not an either/or situation – not eating meat is hardly a detriment to me and is insurmountable compared to the horrors animals experience through people living a non-vegan lifestyle. In a country like the UK there is very little reason for almost anyone to eat meat. And though the European welfare standards are probably the best in the world, the level of suffering and abuse remains unacceptable to me. I think our relationship with animals can be described as seriously fucked up. It relates to my point about unsustainability – meat production and intensive farming is contributing to the destruction of the planet on a horrific scale. When you consider issues of environmental damage and feeding the world, it seems difficult to support an industry that also causes suffering to unfathomably large number of sentient beings.
What would you rather be? A feathery horse with no legs but x-ray vision, or a bicycle with two cocks but no saddle, and why?
Now we get into the serious matters! First, I’d say that bicycles with two cocks clearly implies a phallocentric, male dominated view-point. Second, a feathery horse implies a mammal-bird hybrid which would help to transcend speciesism. Third, x-ray vision would be awesome. So it’s a no-brainer really – the horse every time. Cheers.