South London's punk activists Conflict continue its survivalist brand of subversion Paco tells Truepunk. Interview by Steve Tauschke with drummer Francisco 'Paco' Carreno.
Has Conflict been an ongoing concern or has the band taken time out over the years?
"We've sort of taken breaks but we've never stopped completely. The longest time out we've had is about two and half years. We all got our own little projects, for example I play in three other bands and the other guys play in various other bands and do various other things.
"And we all live across the country and as the years have gone by certain people have left and others have joined from not-so-local areas. So it's becoming increasingly harder to get together so often. Also, looking at it from a scene point of view, actually seeing where you're going as a band, you have to actually climb out of the scene and look from above and see where you're coming from and where you're going. I think that's the best of doing it."
Your known as an anarcho-punk band .. can you give us a thumbnail sketch of where you sit politically in broad terms?
"I'll try to put it in a nutshell. When we started out we were all very young and angry and everything was negative. When I joined the band I was 15 and still at school and doing gigs and they tried to throw me out because I was taking time off to do the gigs. So everything was negative and very anti-system and 'fuck-the-lot-of-them', you know.
"As we got older - I'm 31 now - after 16 or 17 years, you tend to look at it with more of an open view and you start questioning your own thoughts. So the politics was really antagonistic and it's sort of been finely tuned onwards since then as we've gotten older and wiser I suppose, if that makes any sense."
I suppose punk doesn't stand for much in this day and age.
"No, not really. I think it's always been more a state of mind than a state of fashion."
Does Conflict experience censorship in the UK?
"The last time Conflict tried to play London the police stopped it six days before the show which meant no matter how much money we had we couldn't overturn the injunction in time to put on the show. So we pissed off and hired a warehouse and didn't tell anybody and then gave out a mobile number at the last minute and had the gig anyway - too late for the police to stop it!"
You did have an infamous run-in with the cops one time didn't you?
"Oh, we've had loads of infamous run-ins with the cops but yeah that one was the Brixton Academy, that was the biggie. What's the scene like over there in Australia? I've heard various things, like there's quite a strong fascist element, in Sydney in particular?"
Do you mean skinhead element?
"Well, there's all sorts over here. You can't tell who's who anymore. In 1981 if a skinhead walked down the road he was a fascist Nazi skinhead and the punk who walked down the road was an anarcho-punk whereas now, blimey, you'd need a catalogue to tell who's doing what, what color socks they're wearing and what badges they've got under their lapels. And also the fashionable haircuts among 16 to 30-year-olds is a complete skinhead haircut so you can't tell who's doing what anymore.
"There's been a massive influx of 15 and 16-year-old kids starting their own bands, kids really into hardcore and into their political ideals and stuff. And a lot of straight-edgers which I don't particularly fully agree with but that's fully up to them. The good thing is kids are just into being in bands now and it's started a really good scene in London."
Has forming your own label Mortarhate given you more freedom?
"Well, yeah, if we joined a major label it would have contradicted everything we talked about. And we didn't want anybody in a suit telling us what was going to be an A or B side and what was going to be released when. We decided we wand to release anything we wanted to, whenever we wanted and if it was a flop or a success then it was totally down to us."
So has the band recorded anything recently?
"No, the lat thing we recorded was (1993's) Conclusion which is a bit slack on our part. We've been talking about it for a while, for the last year and a half, but it just hasn't happened not through despondency it just hasn't happened through not being able to happen really."