Flux of Pink Indians came to be known as one of the leading anarcho punk bands of the 80s. It was an outfit that grew out of a little known late 70s Bishop Stortford punk band called The Epileptics. In terms of their music, their best known track is probably Tube Disasters, released by Crass Records on the Neu Smell EP, although as with all anarcho punk bands, overall the libertarian politics overshadowed most individual tracks. Towards the end of the 80s, the band became the truncated Flux, and released the excellent, Adrian Sherwood influenced Uncarved Block album on what was to become a long running, hugely significant independent record label called One Little Indian. The label had been co-founded by Derek Birkett, the band’s bass guitarist.
This interview was conducted after the No Class bods had boarded the sherbert in their native West London, with the orient as their destination: Leyton, to be precise. Once the rehearsal studio had been found we were directed into a small room where we found the band with ringing ears, but nevertheless an interview went ahead, despite our dodgy tape recorder and a constant barrage of heavy rock riffs from a nearby room. We didn’t talk about the numerous line up changes as it’s a bit old hat, but if you’re interested Kick 4 documents them well, so does Anti-Climax 9. Colsk, Derek, Kevin and Martin were all present but Derek did most of the talking.
NC: We began by asking the band if music is a way of life for them:
No, it’s not. We play in a band to say things that we wanna say and cos we enjoy music.
NC: You’ve never done a radio session for John Peel have you?
We’ve never been asked to do one. There’s no point is there really? If he asked us directly maybe we’d consider it. I think the only advantage of doing one is that you almost force yourself upon people, don’t you? But I wouldn’t like to do a Peel session cos they’re too dictatorial, you have to use their producers, you have to use their engineers, you have to have it done in two days…I wouldn’t want to do one.
NC: We then asked if they were in the Musicians’ Union.
No, fuck off. Don’t belong to any organisation. They’re a farce. They’re trying to ban synth music. I can see why they’re banning it but I just don’t agree. I think the whole philosophy of what we’ve said is that we didn’t agree with any oppression and telling people what to do. You have to be musicians anyway, don’ t you? They wouldn’t have us. They tried to say that if you used a session musician on a record you have to pay ’em £45 an hour, or something. That’s stupid cos if we wanted to use a session musician there’s no way we could afford to pay someone that amount of money. It’s the same with all big trade unions movements, you can join if you agree with what they do, but the trouble with these people is they statrt affiliating themselves, you have to be Musicians Against Abortion, which they’ve started to do, Musicians for the Falklands (laughter).
NC: How much influence did Elvis Presley have on your music?
Did he, personally? Indirectly he has, rock’n’roll and all that shit. I quite like him, funny enough. I got that Sun album before they stuck strings and crap on, which is a bloody good album. No, he hasn’t influenced us, anyway. In a way he has cos you got bored with Elvis Presley so you went off and did something else. I don’t think you have any one influence. I listen to hundreds of different sorts of music and there’s special bits of each type of music I like. I try and put together the bits I like, so I suppose you’ve got thousands of influences. Then you’ve got other external influences. If you’re singing something angry you tend to fucking play angrily. No, he wasn’t a direct influence.
NC: So, would you say your music’s aggressive?
I would say so.
NC: What do you base your aggression on?
Well, because if you feel very strongly that it’s wrong to eat three million animals a year; it’s very difficult to put that in a song and make it feel pleasant. It’s not a very pleasant subject. War’s not a very pleasant subject. If you feel angry about it, it comes across as being angry. There’s other things like the poem on the (Neu Smell) record…. Live it ends up being angry, but in the record it’s not, is it? There’s different ways of putting things across. I think it’s very dangerous to say ‘Oh, we don’t agree with this so we’ve got to thrash it out’ cos that doesn’t half limit who you’re getting through to, like we’re very aware that it’s not good to confine yourself to one movement or one section of people. Punk really isn’t a fashion. All that it started off as was a rejection, mainly a music business rejection, if you were to be honest, like £3.50 gigs and all that sort of shit, and other bands came along and took i6t a stage further and made punk into a protest movement that as rejecting what they thought was wrong. I don’t think you have to thrash. It’s not all thrash is it? A lot of it is, some of it isn’t.
NC: It’s a fashion now.
It’s a fashion to a lot of people, but you’d be surprised the number of people it isn’t a fashion to. The only reason it’s become a fashion is cos the big businessmen saw that there was something there to exploit and they exploited it. If they can sell it they will sell it. You only have to look at MacDonalds. They package shit and sell it, and people eat it. That Philips advert on television, you know where they say Firrips, or something, and pretend to be Japanese. Philips’ sales have gone up about two thirds since that and everybody is absolutely staggered and it’s because they bought some crappy advert. Walls did that thing with their sausages: an advertising campaign where she only served up one sausage. It was an outrage, obscene, so they had to give you two sausages. They ran that campaign for a few months and sausage sales doubled. All these, I should think it’s mainly housewives- I know it’s a sexist thing to have said – were afraid that their husbands or families would be outraged if they served one sausage. It really is a joke.
NC: Talking of consumerism, is your logo a marketable product?
No. It’s become one, but that’s nothing to do with us. I don’t give a shit now. I did when it first happened and T-Shirts and badges were being sold. We had thought of maybe prosecuting. We did go down and complain a few times. It’s not our fault that people buy T-Shirts for £3.50 or badges for 40p. The responsibility lies with people who buy it. We made a statement of the new record saying…. I can appreciate why people do it because they feel so strongly about the things that we say that they wanna – in their own way – show that they support the message and feel a part of it. I respect that but it seems a pity that you have to wear a Flux of Pink Indians T-Shirt or badge. You should go out and do your own thing. Like we’ve said, a ban’s fuck all really. It’s just one way of saying something. There’s lots of other people who go and protest outside Boots cos they don’t like animals in make-up, or going to sabotage hunts cost hey don’t like hunts. I quite like it when loads of people come to our gigs and people write to you and say that you’re really great and what you’re doing is really good. That isn’t really how it should be. They should think ‘Fucking hell, that’s good, I’ll go off and do my own.’ The only way that things that we say will ever come about is if people stop following and go and do their own thing. Punk bands like Crass and The Damned, they’re a fucking farce. The whole thing is really. Not the bands, the movement is. You shouldn’t have leaders. I think it’s absurd that either us or conflict, or Crass or Poison Girls that are trying to put across an individual message become leaders. It just doesn’t make sense. I’m as guilty as everyone else cos I tend to follow things.
NC: Everyone does.
Only cos they’ve been conditioned to follow. With the first single we said about vegetarianism, saying eating meat’s wrong. You only have to do something really simple like that, break one thing of the conditioning, and if people accept that eating meat’s wrong they may stop eating meat. It was wrong to have chosen one thing like that, but it works because people stop eating meat and they think ‘Fucking hell, well if that’s wrong, maybe something else is wrong, maybe all these bombs hanging over us is wrong or fucking putting people in prison is wrong, or rape’s wrong, kicking people in the head isn’t funny or masculine.’ I think it does work.
NC: How do you judge if it works?
The only way that I can judge is the people you actually meet. On a very superficial level, I’ve met people who used to eat meat and they don’t now eat meat. People who use to relish all the shit on television, all the violence, who used to think rape was funny and that women really wanted to be fucked, that that was what they wanted. On a very superficial level, I’ve met people that I know what we’ve done’s worked. Even if we’ve only changed one person, and I know for sure that we’ve changed one person, then it was all worthwhile, cos that one person will then go away and confront people who are eating meat and sat ‘What the fuck are you doing? That was killed for you.’ That’s all we’ve done. We’ve said we think it’s wrong. We can exist. We don’t eat meat. We don’t go fucking following blindly a football team and kicking everybody else in the head. We won’t go off and fight in the Falklands. Maybe people’ll look at us and say ‘Maybe they’re right, I’ll think about it.’
NC: But people blindly follow the band.
I don’t think they do blindly follow.
NC: People might just be attracted to the aggressive music and not the message it carries.
The responsibility for that lies with us and we’re aware of it. That’s why on the (Strive To Survive) record we’ve done things that a thrash punk band shouldn’t have done. There’s some very slow stuff on the record. We did a poem on the first single, which a punk band shouldn’t have done. We did it cos it was very important to us to get across to people. On the first single we had that big broadsheet inside with all the information written. We tried that, that way one way of getting across. With the next record we’ve done it more visual. Hopefully when somebody picks up our record and it’s got all these pages inside, all these pictures, they’ll think ‘Fuck it, maybe it is a bit more than the music.’ They ought to. With Neu Smell I think it failed on various levels as people have asked us – some people, not many – what Tube Disasters meant, which we went to great length to try and explain inside the single. I think with the new record we’ve cleared up any misunderstandings on Neu Smell. It should be very clear to people what it is we’re into, or what it is we’re trying to present.
NC: So at gigs you do get people who take the lyrical subject matter seriously, who’re not just into the music?
You get people who write and ask….. You get a fair number of people just who write and ask when the next record’s coming out, can they have a badge. But you get a hell of a lot of people who say ‘Why don’t you eat meat, you shitheads. Eating meat isn’t wrong.’ And you write back to them and explain more fully why it’s wrong, why something else is wrong. We quoted a piece out of The Bible on the last record in connection with the meat eating. That upset a lot of people who agreed with what we were saying, but they were torn between their religious beliefs and… It’s not up to me to say to them God’s a farce, religion’s a farce. All we did was I wrote back and gave them several other quotes showing that there was conflicting statements within The Bible. It’s up to them to decide whether it’s right. It just makes them think, that’s the important thing. You’re conditioned just to accept. If anything, the main thing we do is get people to question that acceptance. It works on varying levels. Some people might just come to the gig, jump up and down and have a real good time and then fuck off and lay into an old woman on the way home, but a hell of a lot of people do think about it and talk to you about it after gigs and start their own bands. A measure of the punk success is the bloody fanzines, isn’t it? You don’t find millions of heavy metal fanzines. All the heavy metal fanzines tend to show heavy metal bands thrusting their fucking crotches out and bloody sexist poses, standing over women and baring their muscles. They never deal with real life issues, them bastards.
NC: Getting back to religion, we asked them if it has affected their music.
I wouldn’t say it’s affected the music.
NC: So why did you mention it on the Neu Smell sleeve?
One of the first things if you’re a vegetarian and you’re saying eating meat’s wrong, one of the commonest replies is that it says in The Bible you can eat it. I got so tired with that sort of response from people that I looked through The Bible and chose one quote that says you shouldn’t eat, and people come back to me and say sat ‘Fuck it, it says here you can eat meat.’ That’s the whole thing, it contradicts itself and it’s so unclear that it’s just a joke that it’s been held up as some meter of authority. I think it’s really sick, I’m almost ashamed of it to have put out a vegetarian record when two of the musicians on it weren’t vegetarian, which is a joke. After we’d done it we felt so bad that we really fucking hassled the other two and said we really can’t go on saying this when we’re not all vegetarians. We either drop it or we fucking go. We talked about it, we decided we wanted to keep it, so we decided that they’d have to leave the band.
NC: Lastly, what does Flux of Pink Indians mean?
A gathering of white skinned Indian sympathizers. It came about because the members who were in Flux originally felt strongly about the Indians over in America, the way they were being treated.