As a follow up to the new band feature we ran on Kleine Schweine a few months ago we now present an interview with the band carried out by the Cath Aubergine
Six months ago we featured a new band from Leeds called Kleine Schweine whose rather unique selling point is two-minute punk songs about the late 20th century history of Eastern Europe, each armed with a shout-along chorus and a dodgy pun title – “Pass The Dubcek On The Left Hand Side”Â, or “Pride (In The Name Of Yugoslavia)”Â. They’d released a couple of free download singles at this point and were about to start work on their debut album – subject to them being able to raise enough money. Fans were invited to pledge a tenner for a CD copy, or buy additional items such as pig masks and sauerkraut: we don’t know if anyone actually took them up on the latter, but this week sees the album “The Party” unleashed on the world.
You’ll be pleased to hear that both the above mentioned tracks actually exist, and they’re on there along with the even more gloriously titled “Arkan See Clearly Now” and nine more fast and furious pieces. Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a joke band, though: the frazzled, trebly guitars are reminiscent of The Dead Kennedys, and the lyrics pithy and intelligent. Ceausescu’s death sentence is tackled from two different points of view – that of the Western observer: “Total bastard dictator / starved a nation gripped with fear” – and that of the paratrooper who led the execution squad: “This wasn’t how I thought I’d be remembered / I’m a hero to some but I’m a physical wreck / I can’t stop the feelings or the flashbacks / I’m still a murderer, I killed the president”. Like all the best music it works on more than one level – on the one hand a series of snapshots of people and events, where like the best short stories the power is in the brevity; on the other hand this is brilliant rocket-fuelled punk rock you can have a right good jump around to.
Time for a bit of a catch-up with frontman Neil Hanson then… and we’ll start with some congratulations! You made the target then?
We certainly did! We managed to raise enough to cover studio time and the production of the album as well as the cost of a load of t-shirts. We’re really chuffed at how it has panned out, particularly as when we started the pledge campaign we were a very new band without much of a fanbase.
Over the past year Pledgemusic and similar schemes definitely seem to be increasingly popular with artists who have already established a fanbase. Indeed LTW’s first coverage of the scheme was when we interviewed fellow Leeds band I Like Trains at the start of 2011, not long after they’d released their second album after parting company with the relatively big indie label that had released their debut. They were very frank about it, telling us “It worked for us, at the stage we are at in our career. It is different for bands starting out who won’t have fostered the same fan base… we need to wait for someone to build a sustainable career from scratch before we declare it the future of the music industry.” Now obviously you had been in bands before, good bands who were known at least around the Leeds music scene, but how were your experiences of using Pledge as a launchpad for a new band?
Well, even though we are loads better and more attractive than I Like Trains, the people at Pledge didn’t initially think we would be able to attract enough people to make it a success as we were new and didn’t have many fans on facebook etc but we explained who we all were and what we’d done in the past and how we planned to do it and they fell for it. Luckily we managed to pull it off so we didn’t look stupid. I suppose it’s a big ask for any new band to get people to part with their money but we tried to keep it fun with all the silly videos and stuff to keep people interested. It’s cool that we managed to finance it all without any record label support, although we have now hooked up with a label post-pledge to get the album out properly.
Having managed an emerging band myself for a couple of years I found the toughest part was not actually getting the records out as getting decent, cost-covered gigs outside of our local area – you had any experiences like this?
Yeah it’s tricky, promoters need to cover their costs and obviously unknown out of town bands don’t generally pull that many in so it doesn’t always work. The reason we haven’t played out of Leeds yet is kind of linked to this as we were waiting for the album to come out so we have stuff to sell at gigs in case the fees don’t cover the cost of a van, petrol, driver, drugs, hookers etc. We’ll be out and about soon though, promise!
Tom Robinson’s been a big supporter, that must have helped…
He has, he’s a lovely fella. We sent our first single to him in December and he played that a few times on 6Music. He then saw the darts video we did for Pledge and off the back of that he pledged to come and sing backing vocals on the album. Fast forward a few weeks to the last day of recording and Tom and all the other people who pledged to sing came up to the studio and did a bit of shouting on some of the songs, then we were having a chat and I asked him if he’d do a song for us and he said yes so we set up a couple of little drumkits for our drummer Matt as well as Steve from Hawk Eyes who was there, then our bass player Dec’s dad who used to be in bands picked up the bass, Tom grabbed a guitar and we had a big singalong to 2-4-6-8 Motorway. It was absolute class, one of those great impromptu moments.
See for yourself here….
I seem to remember one of the special items on which people could pledge was a photo of a band member dressed up as a dictator – did you get any takers on that one? If so, who did they do?
Yes we haven’t done them yet but there are about 10 to do. I’ve got to be Stalin and Chairman Mao but the one I’m really looking forward to though is Drew (guitar) as Mugabe. I think he’ll pull it off brilliantly.
I guess now is probably a good time to bring anyone up to speed who’s not heard your music yet and may be somewhat confused by the previous question – want to take us through the cast of characters on “The Party” – which you described on the Pledge page as a hard-hitting-punk-rocking-political-ranting-hero-worshipping-history-lesson of an album?
OK, well it’s a very symmetrical album, 6 of the songs are about heroes, 6 are about villains, and there are 2 songs for each of the 6 countries. It sounds pretty ridiculous but it all makes sense to me. We’ve got baddies along the lines of Ceausescu, Stalin and Serbian warlord Arkan and goodies ranging from current Albanian socialist leader Edi Rama to Gorbachev and Dubcek. Someone this week referred to it as Horrible Histories for adults. I love that.
Have you been to Bucharest? I went a couple of years ago (and reported for LTW http://louderthanwar.com/bucharest-a-city-in-transition-and-some-great-new-bands/ ) and I still can’t believe how massive Ceaucescu’s “palace” (now the Houses of Parliament) is… or have you visited anywhere else in the areas of Eastern Europe whose recent history you’ve been writing about?
I haven’t been to Bucharest but it’s on the list of places to visit, I’ve been to Berlin a couple of times and stayed out in the east and I had a very brief visit to Albania last year but next week I’m having a bit of a mad holiday to Belgrade, Sarajevo and Mostar before heading down to Kotor in Montenegro and finishing in Croatia which should be amazing. I studied European politics years ago at University which focussed on Russia and Germany so it has always interested me. A fascinating part of the world.
Last time we talked we touched on the fact that punk music is very much still a protest music in many parts of the world, of course since then this has been brought to wider attention by the Pussy Riot case…
Yeah the Pussy Riot thing is ridiculous. We’ve got a song called When You Wish Upon A Stalin that is about very bad stuff that happened years ago but it seems strangely pertinent to what is happening in Russia now – the idea that Putin can get these girls banged up because they dare to question him, it’s backward.
For me the thing I love about Kleine Schweine is the juxtaposition of quite serious subject matter with a somewhat flippant approach and a sense of fun. Like making the line “we’ll send you to the death camps of Siberia” into a singalong chorus…
Well there is a very strong sense of fun to everything we do. The subject matter is obviously extremely serious but as people I hope we don’t have our heads too far up our arses, we’re not Snow Patrol. Catchy choruses don’t necessarily have to be about shagging or whatever, why shouldn’t they be about genocidal maniacs or decent principled people who want to challenge the shit they are fed? You can sing about anything you want to but not enough people do.
The album is available from here – and if you want to catch them live they’re doing album launch gigs on Friday 2nd November at The Well, Leeds and Saturday 3rd November at The Hope And Anchor, Islington, London. Free entry to the Leeds show for album pledgers otherwise ÃÂ£4; London ÃÂ£6.
Kleine Schweine can be found on Facebook here.