Frontman Matt Reynolds tells Big Issue North that he’s learning to laugh about their forced name change but when it comes to bigotry in the hardcore scene, he refuses to brush it off as a joke. Heck play Manchester’s Star and Garter 15 March.
You had to change your name to Heck from Baby Godzilla after being threatened by a Japanese film company – must have been annoying, but are you a little bit pleased about that bit of trivia?
When the whole controversy first hit it was really hard to see a way back into the clear. The path we had laid out for ourselves over the three years before had been thrown into complete disarray. Our future as a band was now littered with questions: with a new name would we still reach the ears of the people we had already won over? Would our existing fans accept us with a new name? On paper a name may seem like quite a small thing, but something that we had always just taken for granted was now gone and all productive conversation was beginning to descend into petty squabbles and ridiculous arguments. We were inches away from giving up and calling it a day. Luckily we overcame and eventually through sheer determination everything just began to click right back into place.
It seems really silly to look back at it now. The memory of the whole ordeal has become just another part of what makes up our band’s personality. It’s made us stronger, more focused, more determined and what’s more you’re right, it’s given us something new to talk about in interviews.
How would you describe your sound for the uninitiated?
Uncompromising and never quite what you expect. To be played loud, always.
You’ve previously said ‘get angry and stay angry’ – do you feel that your music is a valuable release for those who would otherwise struggle to find one?
Music is certainly a very productive way of channelling anger. It is very important however not to confuse anger with aggression. The way I see it, anger is positive and progressive, aggression is an enormous brick wall. Our music has certainly always been a place that I’ve been able to focus my anger and if our listeners can find a release in it as well then I think we’re doing things right.
I’ve never been into the whole “beat the shit out of each other in the pit” mentality that seems to exist at a lot of hard rock and hardcore shows. When kids start mindlessly smashing their fists into each other and those around them my blood boils. If it ever happens at our shows I see the need to intervene. Our message is as much about anger as it is love and positivity. So I say scream at the top of your lungs, dance, throw yourself around and get out that energy but look out for the group at the back that doesn’t want your elbow ramming into their gums. The idea is that it’s a cathartic release, not a conflict.
And what are you angry about?
There is a fuck load of stuff that we should be angry about and what’s most important is we express and vocalise our anger. Without anger there is no change and we all stand still, be it standing up for yourself or against something bigger, it is extremely important to be heard.
To answer your question, what makes me angry more than anything is inequality. It almost seems too blatant to remark on the injustices of racism, misogyny or homophobia, of course I’m angry about their existence in a modern society, we all inherently should be. If we have the capability and even just a small streak of decency within us to see basic right and wrong then it should be fucking obvious: just be good to each other. So yes, obviously I’m pissed off about racism, misogyny and homophobia, but what I’m pissed off about more is that they can exist so unchallenged in the rock/hardcore scene. We are the so-called “forward thinking”, we are the ones with something to say and a mind for positive change. This scene is our sanctuary and yet with all our perspective we still work in a field where, for example, a photographer’s gender can be used against them despite their work. We still work in a field where one of the figureheads of a genre sees it okay to yell “white power” on stage and just brush it off as a joke. Bullshit and to hell with it all, it has to stop. We are all in this industry out of passion and obsession and we all deserve to be here.
How was it recording your first full album?
It was a learning experience to say the least. In our minds a good album should always take you on a journey or tell a story. It’s never just a collection of songs: they all interlace with each other and live in the same environment. They take you on a ride through different themes and emotions but all work together to leave you with one specific full experience. So we took writing and recording Instructions as an opportunity to experiment with what we do. The arena of a full album gave us space to pull apart the different pieces of our sound and take ideas to their conclusion. The result is the most complete body of songs we’ve ever written and I’m extremely proud of it.
What are your plans for the next few months?
Over the next few months we plan to give these new songs life by ramming them down people’s throats at full intensity. We’ll be touring the UK from its release on March 11 and then hitting the festivals (including our return to Download). After being cooped up for so long it’s guaranteed to be a combustible ride.
How much do your infamous live performances define what you are as a punk band?
Our live show to me is just another part of our expression. It doesn’t so much define what we are but is an extension of our music and what we believe in. Music is supposed to be fun, so why not have as much fun as you can as you play it?
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done on stage?
There have been a lot of very insane times for me playing our music. What is very important to me however is that our performance is never pre-meditated. The events within our shows are always executed through passion, so I never really think of “the time I climbed a really high thing” or “the time I smashed through a ceiling”. The only real way to experience what we do is to come and witness it. Our shows are transient and everything happens in the heat of its own moment. Come and see us while we still get away with it.
Instructions is released on NPAG Records on March 11th. Pre-order it from abandcalledheck.com where you can also find tickets to their UK tour.