In our latest Band Spotlight, we chat to Dunstan Bruce of Leeds/Brighton anarcho-punks, Interrobang?!
S] What are you finding most challenging now, as an artist?
Responding to the state of the world as it currently is. I hear people saying all the time, “Oh we need political music more than ever now”. We do, I agree but not to merely reinforce what we already think; surely not?
That’s just the Facebook echo chamber effect. We need art to challenge and help us re-think. We need music to inspire us and entertain yes and be a vehicle for change but also to say and do something that we hadn’t previously considered. It’s finding those ways of saying Fuck Trump without saying Fuck Trump because we all Fuck Trump. That said I do enjoy people Fucking Trump and it is important to always Fuck Trump but as an artist I want to find new ways of Fucking Trump, exciting and different ways of Fucking Trump. Imaginative and challenging ways of Fucking Trump.
As a middle-aged man as well I want to speak to my generation; I want to open up those blocked avenues of communication that us men are very, very good at closing down. I’m as much responsible as the next man so I’m battling with my own demons daily too. Being honest helps massively. And open. And Fucking Trump helps too.
S] What have you learned about yourself through the music that you’ve made since you started out, until this point?
That I’m not a musician. I used to be obsessed with it saying, Entertainer on my passport. Now I’m just glad I still have a passport. Music is absolutely brilliant means of communication I have found. It’s a brilliant way to show off too. I like showing off. I like creating these zones or places where we all meet and we find strength in numbers and a commonality.
That is more powerful than the music itself. I’m a bit of a loner on a day-to-day basis but put me on a stage and I thrive. I’ve learnt this over time that it is weirdly where I function best; when I’m performing. Interrobang is a very personal affair, lyrically. I’m opening up, laying myself bare; it can be a risky thing to do at times but I feel like amongst friends, similar souls and that’s a powerful glue right there.
S] What motivates you outside of music, think people, places and movies, for example?
There’s a temptation to name names here suffice to say I love to surround myself with incredibly powerful, inspiring, gorgeous women. I love women, me. They fucking rock. Alice Nutter, Lou Watts, Cassie Fox, Sophie Robinson, Miriam Klein Stahl, Lena Woolf, Daisy Asquith, Vic Cutting, Lucy Robinson, Fiona Teague, Helen Cox. These women come in and out of my daily life; they’re not necessarily famous but they all fucking rock.
S] How has your attitude to touring changed and developed?
I’m stupidly excited/terrified about Interrobang?! going out on tour. It’s a massive leap in the dark. Into the unknown. Touring with Chumbawamba became a slick operation where we just had to turn up and get on the bus. Easy. This is going back to square one; it is has a greater purpose too. I didn’t just want to go on tour and play some rock and roll; I want this tour to be more than that.
There’s a Howard Zinn quote I love:
“We don’t have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in the process of change. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.”
We all know by now that just singing a politically righteous song isn’t going to change the world. In fact I still quite like that maxim from some band back in the 80s who once said “The music is not a threat; action that music inspires can be a threat”.
Interrobang?! have never wanted to be seen as simple entertainment. We have always wanted to be part of a broader coalition of musicians, performers, artists and activists. We have something to say about the state of the world and our role within it so we don’t want this tour to just be a promotional venture; we want it to be more than that.
To this end we are engaging with a local charity or organisation in each town. These charities are mostly involved in helping the homeless, helping refugees or supporting local foodbanks. What we would like to do is ask each and every member of the audience to bring something along to the show to donate to the organisation, be it a pair of socks, a torch, some batteries, tinned food or drink, whatever would be useful, so that we can collect these on the door and donate to the chosen organisation of the night.
We want to help put something back into each local community. It might sound worthy and just a small drop in a very big ocean but in this day and age any and every contribution can help. It has been so heart-warming to see how positively all the promoters on this tour have responded to the idea; we are publicising this whole idea at each and every opportunity in the hope that in some small way we can make a difference.
S] And what about your attitude to success?
It’s a strange beast is success; I mean, how do you even measure it? Financially? By your level of fame? By your mental health? By the fact that you have remained best friends you started out with all those years ago? By just surviving and being alive? Fame-type success is something that you’ve got to use in the best way you know how. Once Chumbawamba had that platform we tried to use it as best we could. We tried to subvert the mainstream, we tried to say stuff to the world that we weren’t already hearing, we tried to give a voice to those who didn’t have one. Nowadays, success for me is organising a tour and putting out an album as Interrobang; I’m incredibly proud of everything that we are and I still want to share that with the world. Whether it leads to worldwide fame again is largely irrelevant.
S] How does this debut record push you in new ways as artists?
Working with Harry and Griff in a smaller environment has been such a pleasure and a privilege. They are both artiosts and craftsmen; I am in total awe of their abilities and they make me feel like an absolute charlatan, a chancer, a prankster. It became evident early on that this wasn’t a hobby; it was a very, very serious, intense project we were embarking on and to be honest I was delighted about that. It started at a time when I had just turned 50 and I had a lot to say about my middle-aged malaise and this became the perfect outlet for all of that. It was a challenge; opening up in the way I did, lyrically. I had never done that before. Chumbawamba was a totally different lyrical beast. Being a trio and being completely responsible for your role in that trio means that there is never anywhere to hide. You can’t have an off day, a day where you just want to kick back; we have committed wholly to this project and believe in it so, so passionately. I just hope that rubs off.