by / August 21st, 2017 /

Interview: Paranoid Visions..”We didn’t want it to have a sell by date”

Paranoid Visions formed in ‘81. Heavily influenced by bands like CRASS and the DIY ethic/music of the Anarcho Punk movement, they caught the second wave in the early eighties. For that first decade they were synonymous with punk in Ireland, playing shows both at home and across the UK – often with bands that inspired their formation. Their live shows were legendary; their recorded output was a little erratic. They split in ‘92, reconvening for sporadic shows. Then after a prolonged hiatus, the band reconvened for good in 2005. The CRASS influence came full circle in 2013 with the formation of an ever evolving side project with former CRASS frontman Steve Ignorant. They’ve released records together and played shows to both critical and commercial success. Over the last 36 years several members have come and gone, but at the core there has always been P.A. and Deko, with the current line-up, since 2008, featuring Aoife Destruction on vocals and Steo Pain on samples and other weirdness. Daniel James joined later on guitar, and the most recent inductees are Tomasz Jastrzebski on bass, and Jay Bagnall on drums. Over the last few years they have been fantastically prolific, arguably releasing their best work.

Their new record, Rebellion, is in part a tribute to the Rebellion Festival that takes place annually at the Winter gardens in Blackpool. It has become an important date on the punk calendar, and has helped Paranoid Visions garner new fans, having a positive effect on the popularity of the band internationally. But more importantly it demonstrates how the band continues to evolve and experiment to great effect.

Rebellion contains four new Paranoid Visions tracks. The anti-fascist ‘No Pasaran (are you getting the picture)’ kicks off the record, an unrelenting critique of racism, especially poignant in the context of what appears to be a growth in visible bigotry. Its aggression is stirring. The back to back ‘Ego Maniac’ and ‘Greytown’ complement each other, vigorous and insistent urgency. ‘Ego Maniac’ has a kinetic rhythm propelled by driving guitars, while ‘Greytown’ is in complete juxtaposition to the banality that motivates it. It’s a pile driver of a track with an infectious hook, expressive guitar solos and a tempo that tears through you. It’s aggressive and uplifting, a fist raising energetic anthem to kick against monotony. There’s a theatrical element to ‘Dead Zoo’. The delivery and rhythm swings like Jacque Brel by way of Iggy Pop, swaying and froing through a vivid depiction of the bleak misery of addiction. Doom laden and visually evocative, it’s a highlight of the record.

The flip-side of Rebellion features three live in-studio versions of tracks from the last PV studio album. Testimony to how well the band is performing, they demonstrate a band at the height of their live prowess. They’re phenomenal. The excitement of those chaotic and vital shows in the eighties and nineties a given, the band have never sounded as good live. They are tight and performing like their lives depend on it, the idea of an album full of similarly recorded tracks would leave you salivating. Two further tracks bring it to a close, a blistering version of The Ruts’ classic ‘West Shine (On Me)’, and never failing to surprise, a dance remix of ‘Statement of Intent’ from Cryptic Cross Words, and like the album track it features The Shend (The Cravats). caught up with P.A. to discuss the new record and its inception, live recording, Rebellion festival, and more.

Over the course of the last few records your production has tightened, was there a conscious decision to focus on this, to push it up a level?

Yeah, that’s exactly what it was. We switched studios, that was the first thing, because we used to record some in our home studios. We were also hopping around to other people that we knew and dealt with. We recorded three tracks up with Buck Defect in his Doghouse Studios (Belfast), and basically the rhythm track. That was ‘It’s A Bloody Road to Freedom/Though Love’ 7″ and also ‘Loudmouth’ off Now and Then…!.

A guy I knew had a studio up in Dunboyne and the engineer we worked with there completely understood what we wanted in terms of guitar sound, more so than we could even articulate. He did his own research on bands we were discussing and we were very impressed. Then we went in to do the album (Cryptic Cross Words) from scratch and he said he would quite like to produce the mix himself. He had a total idea of what we wanted it to sound like but he’d needed to do an awful lot of background work on it, a lot of building on it, and the time to do it. We said we’d give it a go. It was a bit of a risk! But when we went back in and listened to it, we went “holy shit, that is exactly what we wanted it to sound like” – those kind of Siouxsie and the Banshees guitar sounds and stuff, you know, it’s very hard to explain to somebody what you would like it to sound like. So basically it became our first proper co-production with an engineer. 

You can really see a trajectory over the last few albums, a more produced and epic sound, but there has also been a lot of members that have come and gone, especially bass players. Outside of the production has this been a factor in the change? 

It was mainly down to Jay and Tomasz, that’s the new rhythm section. Jay is incredibly tight, he’s an outstanding drummer. Tomasz is one of the few proper bass players we ever had. We’ve had a couple of others, like Chris (Burke – currently with The Nilz). If you’re a proper bass player, playing with a drummer who is like a metronome just tightens everything up. It tightens the vocal as you can rely on the rhythm, rather than the overall sound of the band. And you’re right; you can see a trajectory from ‘Two Black Eyes’ as a single to the Rebellion record that’s just out now, you can see a gradual increase in quality of recording and sharpness of production, without losing the backbone of what we do. It’s just got a bigger and bigger sound. It’s probably down to the band and the recording, but also, having more faith in that side of it. You’re not afraid to throw extra days into the mixing process. Traditionally I would have thought if we spend another 200/300 quid on it, it wouldn’t sound any better. Whereas now we know, we spent longer on the Rebellion four tracks than we spent mixing the whole Cryptic.. album!

The live tracks really testify to how well you’re playing at the moment, is that why they are on there, to validate that?

Exactly, the lads up in Oblivion (recording studios – Dunboyne) wanted us to do a showpiece, for want of a better word. If we came up to the studios and paid the costs, they’ll record it 100% live with ambient and close mics, DI’s and whatever else, a static camera and a movable camera, and make three live videos. I extracted the audio and listened to it on its own, and it was really good. It sounds live, but it’s a very tight recording, no overdubs, it totally stands up.

Originally the four new tracks were going to be an EP on their own. They were too long for a 7″. So we thought we’d do a 12”. Then you’re looking at the price and how much people are willing to pay for it, and the numbers just don’t stack up. You’re going to either lose a fortune doing it or you’re going to have to charge a fortune for it. So we said we’d put more tracks on. Those three live ones (and the remix version the Black Pitts had done of ‘Statement’) and Deko’s version of ‘West One (Ruts)’, so technically it’s a nine track LP. It’s much better value for money but doesn’t actually cost more money to do. 

On to the title of the record, the Rebellion festival has become an important annual event for you, how long have you been involved now?  

This is the 11th year in a row we’ve done. We’ve done the Amsterdam one three times, and we’ve done the Vienna one and the Birmingham one and I think we might have done a London one, not sure. The whole thing is like being part of a huge family. I always thought it was a personal thing, or maybe the band thought it too, but last year for the first time my wife came and she knows nobody apart from a few of the Dublin crowd. She even said you can get this feeling of celebration and camaraderie hovering ’round the building. Everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet.

That’s why it’s worth paying tribute to. In addition to that it is the biggest alternative independent festival in the world, and that’s a really great claim to fame.

It’s not some kind of tacky attempt at writing an anthem for the festival, name dropping bands, or trying to explain in verse what takes place, not that I would expect you would do that, but this is very much a Paranoid Visions record; it just pays tribute to Rebellion in a subtle way, overtly with the cover (designed by the Lee Harvey’s Paul O’Brien), but subtly overall.

It’s like the saying “a puppy’s for life, not just for Christmas”, well, this record is for life, not just Rebellion. We didn’t want it to have a sell by date. The title reflects what it is, but it’s just a great word anyway. It’s unusual for us to do a Paranoid Visions record with one word in the title, usually they are elongated titles, just sprawling titles. We usually start with a title then work backyards. The title and the artwork are always as important to the overall package.

As part of your continued involvement with Steve Ignorant, this year at Rebellion you did something very special with him, will we get to hear that at some stage?

Officially speaking, it was the only time we will do that set. I had the idea of doing something that paid some kind of tribute to the 40 years Steve has been singing in bands. That’s what I said to him. We’ll do some Crass songs, we’ll do some Schwartzeneggar and Startfords (Stratford Mercenaries) and then the new stuff that we do or whatever else. Eventually he decided we could do it. But for him it’s very important that the tone is right. I want to use the word humble, but it sounds stupid. Just to put it into perspective. He didn’t like the idea of doing something with the seven of us throwing an awful lot of work into it and it being all about him. He said that it didn’t do us justice, and he wasn’t comfortable. He wasn’t comfortable with just doing loads of Crass songs for the sake of doing them either. With Steve, there has to be a raison d’être, and that’s why we did the new ones we do together,  seven or eight Crass songs. We did a cover version of Flux of Pink Indian’s ‘Tube Disasters’ and Conflict’s ‘Berkshire Cunt’, and Aoife’s version of ‘Persons Unknown’ by Poison Girls. It becomes an overall celebration of the genre more than anything else because a lot of that stuff exists because of him. It was basically doing a history of his involvement in the Anarcho Punk scene, as seen through his eyes and played by us.

Steve has been very vocal about how much fun he has playing and recording with you. He said as much again after the Rebellion show. Will you continue to work with him for as long as he is happy to do so?

Yeah, absolutely. We have a great time together and work well together. We remind him of the earlier days, just the way it started out with Crass, when it was fun. No weight on your shoulders. In Crass everything became analysed. He can’t really take loads of people coming up to him and being tongue tied. It doesn’t sit nicely with him, because that’s the kind of stuff you do to somebody who’s famous. He doesn’t see himself in that way. Us, being primarily an Irish band, we’ve got that sense of cynicism to deal with celebrity. You never sit in a room with a celebrity in Ireland and tell them how great they are, you know! Certainly not with us anyway. You have the piss taken out of you, and he really appreciates that and the fact that we don’t hero worship.

From the first time I started reading interviews with you, it’s been Crass, Cravats and Rubella Ballet, and now you’ve worked with all these people. You’ve played live with TV Smith, recorded ‘Outsider Artist’ with him. Is there anybody that’s in your sights now that you’d like to work with it, or are you afraid to say it for fear of it not happening? 

I’d like to do something with TV Smith again, if the right thing came up. The likes of the Shend and Rubella and all the people we know from those scenes, there’s no reason at all why we won’t do something with them again, it’s not that we’ll make a concerted effort to try and drag them in on something, but if a track is done, and we think it needs sax, Richard from the Cravats will be getting a call. We are talking with someone at the moment, but I can’t really talk about it yet, we’ll have to see how that pans out. It would be amazing to do something with Jello Biafra, I mean, can you imagine? I doubt that’s ever going to happen, but it would be amazing. 

So the gig at Fibbers a fortnight ago was your last Irish Paranoid Visions show of the year, in Ireland, or at least the last with Deko, but you are planning something without him for Rebellion Dublin?

The gig coincides with Deko being away, but there was no way those gigs were going on in Dublin without us playing. Especially with me booking most of the bands. TV Smith is doing his acoustic set, then we’re going to join him on stage and play three Adverts songs. He’ll do ‘Outsider Artist’ with us, , and then we’ll probably do a few songs just with Aoife, there’s about three quarters of a set we could do with her just on her own at this point. Then Pete Holidai from The Radiators is going to get up and do a couple of Radiators songs.

Was there a reason you played less shows this year, was it just how it worked out, or did you make a conscious decision to pull back?

We deliberately booked less shows, for a number of reasons. One, we wanted to spend time writing new material. Two, we needed time to rehearse the Steve set. Also, last year, and the year before, we were so busy we just didn’t have any personal time. We don’t tour. It would be a sensible thing to do a three week UK/European tour and get it out of the way. Maybe do that twice a year, but that’s not the way we operate. Last year we did Canada, America, Europe, UK and Ireland. We spread it over 12 months on separate weekends. It just became very expensive. It takes it completely out of you, and you’ve no time to yourself. If we weren’t doing that, every weekend we weren’t playing, I was running a gig. 

Just on that the tour thing, yourself and Deko both said that before, that you had learned the best way to avoid conflict and ensure longevity was to not hop in a van as a group. But ambition wise is there something you would like to do? Have you reached a plateau, or are you prepared to take it as far as it goes? 

We’d quite like to do Japan, we’re actually looking into that at the moment. We have had Australia on offer a couple of times but I think it’s too far to go for a week; we were very close to going back to America this year. We were actually offered Punk Rock Bowling but couldn’t do it. It was clashing with something Steve was doing with Slice of Life. Steve is back with Slice of Life in October as part of the Dando Sessions.

You’ve been very supportive of new acts, with FOAD putting new bands on bills and releasing work. If you could tell us about some of the new music you’re currently listening to, specifically Irish acts?

The Turn. I think they’re from down Limerick way, they’re an incredible band. Jesus, they’re absolutely fantastic. I love Audible Joes, I just heard Spaz Attack for the first time over the weekend, and I thought they were brilliant! There’s J’aime Rachelle out of Belfast, acoustic stuff, and it’s fantastic. She’s doing the acoustic stage of the Dando Sessions. Actually, we’re doing a series. What’s the best way of describing this? We’re getting four bands, and we’re getting them to commit to four tracks each. Then we’re going to release a single with one track by each of the four bands, and then after that the other three tracks of the band will be coming out as their own EP, sort of four or five weeks apart from each other. They’re all going to have a matching sleeve so it’s all identifiable. It’s keeping in line with the Dando sessions being a tribute to the Dandelion Market sessions in the late seventies, Advance was a tribute to the shop Advance Records around Stephens Green back in the seventies/early eighties. These EP’s are going to have the collective title of No Romance, which was the shop Johnny Finger’s sister used to run that sold all the punk gear in Gaiety Green.

Rebellion is on out now on FOAD Musick