Fat ControllerSo how does music react to Extinction Rebellion?


With planet earth going to hell in a pollution spewing, toxic handcart the youth are revolting (especially in the eyes of the right wing press who are clattering out endless column inches on the ‘unwashed’) leaving music with a very awkward conundrum. Whilst it’s natural constituency are on the streets music has been caught flat footed.

What was once at the forefront of forward thinking has been caught with its loon pants around its ankles looking old and befuddled.

Do we need a radical rethink of the high decibel lifestyle? At one time music was the glue and the soundtrack to radical, fast forward thinking but has it become as staid,  tired and as conservative as the very forces it was once assumed to oppose.

Is there are part to play in this latest generation defining battle for the soul of the plant or are have we become lumbering, gas emitting, carbon rated dinosaurs plodding around on a stinking, choking, dying planet.

Music, by its very nature, is wasteful. The band aesthetic – formed in the sixties –  was one of endless quest and conquer at high cost to the planet making millionaires out of radicals. Perhaps at its own selfish core it did change the world – and in a lot of good ways but perhaps, ultimately, not for the best. It’s not a long stretch of the imagination to see that Donald Trump, with his infantile tantrums and me! me! me! mindset, makes him the sixth Rolling Stone but without their innate cool and talent.

Being in band is wasteful existence.

All those miles travelled, either by plane or stuck on the M6 in an endless traffic jam is filling the world with tiny poisonous particles and adding to the tons of poison in the atmosphere. Is there a solution? is there less carbon spewing transport? maybe the very notion of big vans full of equipment slogging up and down motorways is now dated? perhaps venues should have backline and bands turn up plug in and play? maybe it’s time to car share with the support band – awkward I know in the closeted world of music but just think of all the new in jokes you could learn! maybe we could all travel by electric fulled transport and the venues because recharge hubs – sci fi thinking in desperate times?

And then there are air miles – no-one here is claiming to be pure – long haul travel is part and parcel of the music and media existence and as you change the wording of the Pop Group’s anthem and genius ‘We Are All Prostitutes’ into ‘We are All Hypocrites’ as you board another flight and wonder what the solution is. Of course you could just stay at home but there is a value in making these international connections that is far more than for your own sake.

Of course one solution is that music becomes local. Everyone does their art within a walking radius of their home. Like in the Middle Ages where there would always be a couple of sprightly and gnarled jesters dancing in the corner of the local market. Or maybe music and ideas should be international? with one of the altruistic, modern purposes of the stuff is to make connections with the rest of the planet and form international relationships which are invaluable in these dangerous and deadly times. Times when the key blocks of power in the world like mainland Europe, Russia, the USA, China and emerging India are all fighting for power on Planet Smog. Of course music is only making small steps in this and you have to wonder is there a cleaner way of doing this apart from cycling all the way to Russia or China? c’mon technology please catch up with the poisons.

Dressing room waste – Yep we know one of the attractions of rock n roll used to be living in an age of bacchanalia where the backstage was overflowing with excess all areas. But is it time to leave the excess to the onstage? has anyone ever been in a big bands dressing room at the end of the night when everyone has gone home? Starving support bands know this one – the big band backstage raid – where there are rooms full of fruit waiting to be thrown in the bin, a beggars banquet waiting for the skip  – half drunk bottles of spirits, food that could feed a city all left for the flies and the bin bags. It’s an insane decadence from another age. Maybe its time to check your rider and ask yourself do you really need that third bottle of whisky, those 426 apples, those 18 dead animals, those endless dayglo packets of crisps that are nervously nibbled and left half empty on the floor.


It always makes us chuckle when people take to facebook or their laptops to complain about technology and social media but there you have the modern conundrum. We know that the vital chips in our tech or mercilessly mined in small African countries, leaving a poison trail behind them but we need our communication as we think internationally and smoke signals are slower and, to be honest, more harmful for the environment. Yet again is there a better and cleaner way of doing this? I would be happy to use wooden tech if someone would invent it! Are there any solutions or are we all trapped in this endless cycle?


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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


  1. Such a good article John. The point about venues proving backline is certainly a really good one – a couple of pedals or even a phone app are much more energy efficient to carry around than heads and cabs and would make very little difference to the sound heard overall in a live venue.

  2. Well said John. It shows that you have put thought into the lifestyle aspects of the music biz.
    The creative artist in any field can often go to extremes before coming “back to the middle” (as India Arie sings). Without some forms of excess art may be bland and may not find new forms and styles.
    The best artist has a pioneer spirit that breaks through into new territory, even into states that were once taboo or forbidden, hence the outcry and condemnation when a form such as rock, disco or punk first arrives. This all seems to be a necessary process that renews music and people’s spirits.
    The best art is also usually radical either in its challenging form or in its message and it is in the message that artists may respond best to the shift that Extinction Rebellion is powering. Having said that, as individuals we should consider the “footprint” we leave on the planet.
    I feel that Extinction Rebellion represents the hopeful positive spirit of the age we are passing through. The old centre is being challenged, is crumbling all around us and this is happening globally. What once seemed to be fixed certainties (news, beliefs, information, power structures, “progress” even) are decaying before our eyes. There seems to be a feeling that governments, banks, corporations, institutions are no longer trustworthy and in fact are prospering too greatly while the common folk are pushed towards a slave state.
    I see all this as aspects of a paradigm shift that has been delayed for far too long. Shared beliefs (paradigms) have always shifted. As old ones are tested and inevitably decay, new ones arise and replace them. Though this process was once localised (eg, Ancient Greece, its gods and rituals), the mechanistic paradigm that powered the industrial revolution, enabled slavery and raped the planet rose to become a global norm. This norm is now dead.
    A new paradigm has been suppressed for far too long as those in power seek to maintain their wealth and authority at any cost.
    Though I was once optimistic that a paradigm shift would happen seamlessly, without disruption, sadly I now believe that a darker age may be the transitional “interval” while the “scene” is changed.
    These thoughts are my immediate response to your timely piece. Let us each fully decide where we stand and prepare for a very challenging future.


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