Following up from their successful mini-tour in support of their brilliant new album Education, Zero Tolerance caught up with Athenian noise-makers Ruined Families for a Q&A on their new album, current state of affairs, and the future of hardcore. Screamer Takis Zontiros responded.
ZT: What is it that we need to know about Ruined Families before any conversation starts?
TZ: Ruined Families is a band playing aggressive, politically-charged hardcore punk music from Athens, Greece.
ZT: How would you describe your style?
TZ: For this record, we chose to define ourselves as a ‘futurist hardcore’ band. This self-characterization is related to the concept of our new LP as well as to our own ideas about the current state of hardcore punk. Musically our sound could be defined as a mixture of fast hardcore punk, screamo and post-punk with some bits of metal here and there.
ZT: What are your main influences and how did they shape up your sound?
TZ: During the period that we were writing this record, we were influenced mainly by European and American screamo bands of the 90s such as Shikari and Union of Uranus. These bands had a certain way of approaching punk by pushing the boundaries between metal, screamo, crust and grind. Also, we were influenced by bands such as Sonic Youth and Unwound and their distinct and varied sound.
ZT: Apart from music, what other forces have shaped the band?
TZ: Intimate and honest friendship.
ZT: What do your lyrics deal with?
TZ: Education focuses mainly on the political and aesthetic results produced by the close relationship of humans and new technologies. The lyrics try to examine how contemporary digital environments limit or advance our actions and try to highlight the fact that cyberspace -once a free-floating, liberatory space- has transformed into an endless interface of surveillance and marketing. Ultimately, Education attempts to delineate a speculative plan for punk music within digital culture.
ZT: Your new music sounds simultaneously aggressive and composed; on the verge of explosion and focused; down-to-earth and otherworldly… What is it that drives you to write music? Is it escapism? Is it a way to deal with day-to-day life?
On a similar note, what are you trying to achieve with the band?
TZ: Our goals when writing music are both personal and collective. We try to address a wide range of issues and introduce new ideas into conversation. Our desire to play music is not driven by escapism, but rather by the joy of being together. It is a transformative experience without a certain endpoint.
ZT: How different is your new album from your previous ones?
TZ: Conceptually our previous record was mainly influenced by the socio-psychological repercussions of the Greek crisis. It was mainly a ‘No Future’ record that condemned the established order at the time. Musically, the songs were more diverse and chaotic than in our new LP. With Education we try to adopt a more constructive approach rather than falling to melancholia, hopelessness or nostalgia. As much as we think that things are bleak – as they are – we are out there looking for alternatives.
ZT: How do you work on songs? Do you jam them in the studio, or is each one the creation of a sole member?
TZ: The composition process usually starts after a period of contemplation and mutual discussion regarding how we want to change our style musically and conceptually. After that it’s usually our guitarists who bring ideas that evolve into songs when the bass and drums are added. It’s a build-up process starting from the guitar parts and then adding all the other elements, while at the same time we keep discussing about the process as a whole.
ZT: You have a song titled Underground Resistance. I can’t help wondering whether this is a nod to Darkthrone; a band that has become most famous nowadays (unfortunately, perhaps) for its nods to other bands.
On a similar note, how important is history in rock music? Is rock music bound to its history or is it meant to break boundaries?
TZ: Thanks for noticing this. Underground Resistance has more than one connotations in music history and Darkthrone’s is one of them. Our initial intention was mostly to refer to the visionary Detroit techno music collective of the same name.
History is definitely important in rock music, as is with everything else. Based on Mark Fisher’s interpretation of popular music of the last four decades, every different and new music sub-genre used to try to defy the genre reigning previously. See for example, the birth of punk as an oppositional genre to rock, post-punk to punk etc.
During the mid 90s – early ‘00s we can see that this idea of different music genres being oppositional to each other slowly faded away and we started seeing bands explicitly reproducing previous music forms. At the moment we are facing a musical environment over-saturated with nostalgia and hybridity that usually approaches history in a quite formalist way.
ZT: Future plans?
TZ: We will be playing Miss the Stars Festival in Berlin in May and a short run of shows around Cry Me A River Festival in the last weekend of June. Apart from that we will be going on tour in July and we are planning more shows and tours for Autumn.
Yours truly enjoyed doing the whole ZT-TZ game, but he enjoyed listening to Education on the Ruined Families bandcamp page even more.
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