Just a small town boy.
I grew up in a small logging town in Canada and punk just drew me in, it was the most exciting and captivating entity I knew. I remember it was around 1980 where about three or four of us got into punk. We got a lot of shit where people would stop and get out of there cars and try to fight us. Although how we dressed then was nothing compared to today's standard of punk. We varied slightly at what the other kids were looking like. We had short brown hair with maybe tight jeans and work boots on, whereas everyone else had long hair and was into heavy metal. I guess cutting your hair short made you stand out. It angered people.
Through my own experience of growing up in a small town I can understand why a lot people who live in small towns get into punk. I love gigging in small towns and delivering that same freedom that punk brought to me when I was a teenager. Also to be able to get your message across and speak out against homophobia and racism, and then having fun at the same time. But don't get me wrong, we like playing in big towns as well.
We have had no formal training, we are all self taught. I used to jam on the guitar by playing along with the Ramones and then developed playing songs by ear. I'm starting to learn tablature because it comes in handy to communicate about music and what chord is what. I still really don't know how to read music notation but I'm working on it.
1995: back when it all started
We formed about 16-17 years ago in 1995. Me, Darragh on drums and Mik on guitar. Mik left the band in about 2000, after 4 eps and 2 CD/LPs. We ended up getting Robin who's now our permanent guitarist. In the last 2 years Darragh left so we got Bram (from Belgium) on the drums. So now the permanent line up is me on bass and vocals, Robin on guitar and vocals, and Bram on drums.
We were just punks that said, “Let's jam.”
I didn't just decide to join a punk band. I was a punk first and then, just for a laugh, me and my mates decided to create our own music. We never had any concrete ambition of forming a punk band. At the beginning we had no goals or aspirations, but we received a lot of positive feedback from playing live at parties. We did a demo tape and promoted it ourselves and that started to sell quite well. Then we would go out to Europe and do a 2 week tour which would just be a 2 week piss up! We eventually became more focused with each year and then people started to approach us and request us to play. I remember our first official tour was to promote the "Jobclub" cassette tape around Holland and Germany with a a dutch band called Game Over (members went on to form Antidote!), we followed this with a self financed tour of North Eastern United States and Canada in 1996. Now we operate a bit more like a "real" band and plan our next recording to coincide with tours and try to promote more in advance through DIY channels.
In the beginning we would pay out of our own pockets, but now the band manages to finance itself. For instance, if we fly out to do a festival the promoters usually pay us enough to cover the flights and once at the festival we can sell a bit of merchandise, then that money is put back into producing more merchandise. Bigger festivals can sometimes manage to pay on top of flights which is nice. We wouldn't be able to do the band as a living as it doesn't pay the rent. The Restarts is a labour of love. We all work freelance to support ourselves and the band is like a full-time, but serious, hobby.
The signing on days
In the past we were all unemployed and signing on the dole, we would go on tour but would have to get someone to go into the job centre and sign on for us. Because if you missed your sign on day you wouldn't get your giro and then couldnt pay your rent when you got back home. As some of us got jobs or educational training became alot more difficult to go on tour. The lucky thing now is we work freelance so we can be flexible with our time. We just need to save up enough money before we go on tour so we can have the rent covered and be away for six weeks.
The name The Restarts
The name came about as a joke from our signing on days. "Restarts" were motivational courses to try to get you off the dole and back into work. We were always trying to avoid them because they would effect our freedom to tour. We justified signing on as if "the employment office" was helping "finance our records and tours" much like how an "arts grant" today would assist a struggling artist. It would always be the same scenario “Oh we’ve got a tour booked” and then one of us would say “Fuck I got a restart interview that week.” Which could then result in a painfully humiliating course requiring daily attendance, thus jeopardising the tour. However; we would always find ways to get out of it, sometimes even paying someone half the giro to attend on our behalf. One day we jokingly said, “lets call ourselves the Restarts.” and that ended up sticking.
Using the chaotic energy of punk to agitate society and create change.
Everyone has their own concept of what punk is. For me it's about fighting back and saying your piece. Punk allows you to vent and to try and change things, even random things such as your own boredom. We use some political rants to kind of get our anger out. But I'm not saying you have to be political to be punk, we just use the politics as a common identifier. For example; most people hate racism so when you're in a room rocking out the same message it makes you feel like a unit and would hopefully isolate and encourage someone with racist thinking away from that ideology. We don't have a serious political manifesto but we do feel you need to find a balance. Our idea of punk is about being socially aware and using the chaotic energy of punk to agitate society to create change. It's not about being overtly politically correct that you forget how to live your life, it has to be fun and you have to be happy. However; you need that foundation of respecting people, being creative and being open minded.
It's all Punk Rock
We get put into a lot of genres which I like because it means we've got our fingers in a few pies. It never ceases to amaze me when people put us in yet another genre. Originally when we started we got called 'Thrash' or 'Crust' because we ended up playing with a lot of grind/noise bands and we had very shouty undecipherable lyrics. We then covered the ska song 'Time Hard' by the Pioneers which in turn influenced us to peppered our set with a few more ska songs which appealed to Ska-core fans. Our slower songs exposed our influence of more old school 'punk rock' and along with our sporting of mohawks and spiked hair we got labeled as 'Street punk'. We had one song (Mind yer own Business) that started with the shout "Oiiiiiiiiiii" and used a slower skinhead type tempo which associated us with ’Oi’ music. The 'Anarcho Punk' label came from us employing political observations and lyrics. I personally think it all falls under the big umbrella of plain old "Punk Rock."
The more genres you cover the more people will be interested. Some people joke and rib us a bit saying, “I like the new album except the Ska songs,” but then again some people just like the ska stuff. The world wide punk scene is pretty massive and it caters to big bands like Rancid and Green Day, right down to small DIY crust or anarcho bands, so we try to be able to fit in everywhere, not intentionally mind you, this was just the result of playing in different styles. Some ska punk fans may hear some of our ska tracks and get interested, and then hopefully they might get switched on to some of our more heavier music as well.
Originally all three of us wrote lyrics and music, but the last split album with MDC it was me and Robin, we both contribute 50/50 and Bram then works out the drum beats. We write about 12-15 songs for an album and then we cut away the weaker songs and that's the album. But we’ve always had an open policy where anyone in the band is free to submit a song.
Music before lyrics
The way we work is a bit segregated, however; for me the music comes first. All three of us write guitar riffs and songs. I will then put a bass line to it and work with Bram to create what drum beats work best. In rehearsal we'll all present stuff we have written and try and piece it all together. We usually finalise the song structure; something like: verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge etc, and then work on the lyrics later on. If we find that we require a third or fourth verse we can then adjust the song structure accordingly. jam together, Bram will contribute the beats and fills and then Robin will have his input, sometimes the song will change and a solo would be added. Then the lyric process starts. I listen to the riff over and over again as I'm thinking about the subject matter I want to talk about or address. The lyrics then slowly come together.
We all do a lot of writing individually at home and see what works, then bring them to the table. Some of which do get thrown in the bin. We are currently trying to start the actually 'writing process' together as we got some really positive results on the last album.
Tackling creative hurdles
It can be hard to get over that creative hurdle, however; at other times it just comes to you. If you think about it you have a lot of free mental space, when your riding a bus, before you fall asleep or, as I've found, when I'm working. Sometimes when I'm doing painting and decorator work I wear head phones and just put a selection of riffs on repeat and end up utilising an 8 hour day working on them, kinda multi-tasking.
You have to get into the habits of taking notes with your guitar riffs, or bass lines, because sometimes a riff might come to you but can disappear just as fast unless you document it. Over time I have started to put the riffs into my computer via sound editing software and I've built up quite a library of little parts. This has made the writing process much easier. Basically it's like a writer taking notes. I go into my library and think this part can go with this part.
I know some people do write the lyrics first but I find that hard. When I get a beat in my mind I know the words that will fit into that syllable structure. So if I've written a riff and someone else puts their lyrics to it I find it hard to squeeze their words into my structure because the tempo dictates what I want to say. In some songs we use some sound bites and sample a few quotes as a way of delivering your message, trying to explain what the song is about. In the “Pied Piper of punk rock” it was Spider who we sampled talking at the beginning - Spider, real name Warren Hastings, was a close friend of The Restarts who regularly put on punk shows and helped out punk rock kids in trouble. He passed away in 2009.
Story behind the song, 'Backwards'
The song is basically my main gripe about the traditionalists tied to age old ideologies. It's about people who are trying to pull us back when we need to go forward. If you look back through history the amount we have achieved with the 1960's American Civil Rights movement dealing with racial equality, to woman's liberation and gay rights. Yet some people are against all these achievements and are trying to pull us backwards to the dark ages, quoting the old testament and prehistoric barbaric ideologies. I find the whole idea about being tied to the bible, or any kind of religious manuscript, which was written before we know the Earth was round is ludicrous. I mean, the bible promotes slavery and stoning people to death for the smallest of crimes such as adultery!
Story behind 'Intelligent Design'
The song is about the political debate they are having in the states about teaching intelligent design as part as the School Curriculum in science lessons. Christians are now saying they believe in Evolution, however; it was God, or an Intelligent Designer, that was controlling it. Basically these Christians are now back paddling on the evolution debate. I used a sample of Pat Roberts, a right wing Christian from the Southern USA, in the song to outline the absolute bigotry that the fundamental christians support.
I believe that theology needs to be kept separate from science. I don't have a problem if someone believes in creationism as long as they don't use it as a tool to control people. If we let the Creationists win then fundamentalism will become law and everyone will have to obey what the church dictates, and then madness will ensue. I like that evolution has discredited religion. But at the same time I don't disrespect someone's personal rights, they can believe in what they want, if it makes people happy.
Where to buy the music?
Spotify or any download site, all our links are on the web shop on our own site at www.restarts.co.uk and any decent DIY record shop should have our CD's in.