of GERM ATTAK
Interviewed May 1, 2011.
I talked with Jo, singer and guitarist for Germ Attak, as part of an ongoing series of interviews for another project. But since Germ Attak (an Ottawa, Canada, punk/hardcore band formed in 2005) was breaking up after six years, I thought I'd expand the interview and put some of it up here.
Germ Attak (an Ottawa, Canada hardcore band with Swedish and Finnish hardcore influences) had releases on various labels including Drunk With Power Records, Loud Punk Records, Shogun Records, Whisper In Darkness Records, and Yellow Dog Records and all combined have sold 10,000+ records. They toured extensively including Europe (in Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Sweden, Slovakia, and Poland), Asia (Singapore, Malaysia, Indonisia and Japan), extensively in Canada, 40+ cities in the U.S. and one stop in Tijuana, Mexico.
Germ Attak played their final show on August 13th at the Montgomery Legion in Ottawa, August 13, 2011.
Here's a statement from Jo that was part of the event invite:
"germ attak is breaking up after over 6 years of playing real punk. the reasons: 1- old bands might be good live, but their records are terrible. might as well quit while in advance. dont wanna drag the name into the ground. 2- will hates playing drums and when simon quit the band it seemed hopeless to find a decent replacement. we only continued cause we had a new record and wanted to promote that record as a thank you to the label who released it. rick is a guitar player at heart.not a bass player. 5-i (jo),have lost all motivation to do anything in life 6-germ attak has released 10 records and toured most of the world. that's more than any punk band in Ottawa ever. 6- to move on to new things. life is short. dont wanna stagnate."
Janine: Before getting involved in punk music, did you follow any other kind of music?
Jo: No. Actually I grew up hating all kinds of music as a kid 'til I heard straight up hardcore punk as a teenager. To me, music was what was playing on the radio or on television or what my dad played or the music in church. I had no interest in it whatsoever. I couldn't even wrap my head around why people liked it. I didn't like it as a child, I didn't sing songs, I hated Walt Disney movies and singalongs. The first band I ever listened to and liked was straight up hardcore punk. Exploited, MDC, Conflict, DRI, DOA. Stuff like that. All at once it was like, fuck, this is great, this is extreme, this is raw, this is real.
Janine: The music your dad was listening to, what kind was that?
Jo: My father's really into contemporary adult christian rock. [laughs]
Janine: Okay! So this is a bit of a change then. Describe the music Germ Attak plays.
Jo: Musically speaking, it's kind of a throwback, a half-decent analysis of UK punk released in '80 to '84 stylistically and aesthetically and - to a point - lyrically themed. Maybe not as stupid perhaps. Maybe a broader view of things. It's retro music ultimately. It's not revolutionary as far as punk goes but it is in the sense that it's a style that's totally been abandoned and nobody really cares for.
Janine: Original material mostly?
Jo: We've done maybe 30 covers over the years.
Janine: And the original material?
Jo: Over a hundred songs recorded.
Janine: How long has Germ Attak been together?
Jo: Not very long. Almost six years.
Janine: That's pretty long. Punk bands tend not to last very long.
Jo: Yeah exactly. That's why we're breaking up. To go with that idea that punk shouldn't last long. I find that old bands that stay together might still put on live shows but new records that they release are always shit and there seems to be no exception to that rule so I figure quit while you're ahead and try something new. So that's why Germ Attak is breaking up this summer.
Simon and Jo. Gatineau, Aug. 2010
Will. Gatineau, Aug. 2010
Janine: Just after your tour?
Janine: Who are your favourite punk bands right now?
Jo: An active band? Probably the band with the best record in 2011 would be Montreal's INEPSY. I think it's really catchy. It sounds like it'll pass the test of time. Otherwise, I don't know… all sorts of weirdo stuff. Really noisy abrasive hardcore punk like Lebenden Toten, Criminal Damage…
Janine: Are there any other bands that you stiil like from way back?
Jo: All those groups I mentioned earlier: Conflict, MDC. Exploited, Dead Kennedys, Sex Pistols, U.K. Subs. Those are the bands I heard all at once and those have always stuck. Those are the classics really.
Janine: Do you get hassled for the way you dress?
Janine: Really? Still?
Jo: Even now. I'm not a teenager anymore, I'm a father, etc.… and I still get hassled in the street by random people. I still have physical confrontations. I still get picked on by the police. Quite often actually.
Janine: To me, it's unbelievable that it's still happening, that it's actually still a rebellion.
Jo: Yeah. Exactly. I mean it's still causing some trouble.
At the same time, it's strange to see that even the things that were mostly associated with punk 25 years ago now are semi-socially acceptable: coloured hair, visible tattoos, piercings. But yet there's still some people out there that are prejudiced towards people like that. That to me is really baffling. It's part of mainstream culture but there are still some people who won't let go of that old school mentality. I've always said it that as soon as they all die off we'll live in a more free-thinking society.
Janine: You'd like to think so, but it's always amazing that you still somehow end up with conservative and red-neck youth.
(Germ Attak at an outdoor show in Gatineau in Aug. 2010)
Old / 'former' punks
Jo: The resentment I feel towards the older punk generation is that although they might be the same person inside, they have stopped getting involved in the punk rock scene and have started living a more closed in life. It's frustrating, especially when all these older people that aren't involved whatsoever in the scene and then you see them at the bar and you overhear them criticizing saying 'oh, there's no punk any more' but meanwhile if these people would just get mildly involved they would see that things are still thriving like they were 25 years ago. That's really frustrating to the point I just want take some of these people, I just want to fuck them up really badly. I definitely don't have respect for those so called 'elders', just because they're 'elders'.
Janine: What do you think of the whole 'reunion band' concept?
Jo: I don't know. I tend to go to a lot of the gigs, but I wouldn't do it personally. I think things are better left as artifacts, as a product of their own time. In some cases, popular bands that have gained cult status, I think it's kind of a shame. It's kind of a money grab… like, for example, Steve Ignorant playing Montreal last week. That was kind of bullshit if you ask me. Steve Ignorant played a whole set of Crass songs. It wasn't technically under the name Crass, but there were Crass logos everywhere. Thirty dollars a ticket.
Janine: I'm just fascinated by this whole resurgence of reunion attitude.
Jo: It started in the mid-'90s with the "Holiday in the Sun" series of festivals, now called "Wasted Festivals" which were mostly old UK punk bands reforming for one-off gigs. That spearheaded a whole chain of events that is kind of the norm now really.
Janine: One of the things I thought was interesting was that a lot the small bands -- not the huge ones that were really popular, but the small bands -- made so much good music back then that nobody heard. It was almost wasted. [These are bands that I'd want to see again... that actually were worth seeing again.]
Jo: I could definitely understand, especially if it was a band you saw and liked at the time.
I was actually going to get a notarized contract that the people in Germ Attak — including me and the two ex members — have to sign saying that they're not allowed to do a reunion.
Janine: [laughs] Yeah, but in 30 years you'll be like "remember that song? it was so good I want to play it again!" ...no?
Jo: Play it in some other band, I don't care. Just to make a point and really piss off certain people, I guess.
Janine: Is all your stuff recorded?
Jo: Yeah, most of it.
Janine: So at least you have records of it.
Jo: All my friends give me grief because I'm in a lot of bands that only record. They're recording projects. They're not real bands, we don't play gigs. They give grief because I don't play gigs but I always tell them that it's recording that stands the test of time. Ultimately that's what somebody 20 years down the line will be interested in.
Janine: That's exactly true.
Jo: I can't seem to get anybody to agree with me on this!
Janine: Well, I guess only in 20 years will it be proven right.
Janine: What are your current projects?
Jo: I played in a studio project called Iron Dogs. We have a tape released... that tape should be released as a 7-inch at the end of 2011 if all goes as planned. We also intend on doing a full length. Schizophasia just finished recording our third lp. The industrial and noise side is more prevalent in this record.
Germ Attak discography:
2011 "Lockdown" 7'' ep
2011 "fear of the Unknown" LP/CD/tape
2010 "The punk singles collection vol.1" CD
2010 "Death to cops" 7" ep
2010 "Cruxshadow" LP/CD
2009 "They live We sleep" LP/CD/Tape
2008 "Live with t.h.r.u.s.h." CD/Tape
2008 "Molokai" 7" ep
2008 "A bleak future" 7" ep
2007 "Ouroboros" LP/CD
2007 "Zapatista" 7" ep
2006 "Canadian Concentration Camp" 7" ep
Some of Jo's many projects:
Posted Aug 10, 2011.