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Exclusive! We Talk To Josh From BOOTLICKER About Their New Track “Red Serge”

Off of their highly anticipated upcoming album 1000 Yard Stare (available May 17th, pre-order here), we’re honored to premiere BOOTLICKER’s “Red Serge,” a brutal slice of raw punk fury aimed squarely at the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). The song serves as both diatribe and history lesson of the RCMP and their long history of gross misconduct and abuse. We spoke with Josh from BOOTLICKER about the RCMP, their presence in Canada, and how that affects the Indigenous community as well as the rest of the country.

As a non-Canadian citizen I’m curious to know, how is the RCMP viewed in Canada? Is it generally positive, negative, or neutral?

The RCMP optics are complicated. Depending on class and access you could fall in line with any three on that spectrum. There’s a weird fascination all over the world with the Canadian Mounty as a kind of goofy, happy-go-lucky caricature that says words funny but it doesn’t show any of its bloody history. If you’re on the lower rungs of society or blessed to have half a brain you’re likely not a fan of the RCMP or the structure of Police in general. Like, the RCMP was set up as a colonial paramilitary force to deal with Indigenous populations and that’s still a primary function. 

Is this subject matter discussed frequently or is it looked over?

I think in punk circles there’s always a healthy hatred for the police and it’s probably a discussion in most other circles. Or at least it should be. 

How is their history talked about in schools? U.S. history is generally white-washed in regards to its treatment of Indigenous people, is it similar with the RCMP?

I can remember hearing the story of Louis Riel and the Indigenous rebellion being taught in a very limited way and it was always from a “those damn natives” kind of perspective. I do remember going to a Residential School site turned Museum in Kamloops where I grew up and the sentiment around Indigenous people was kind of seen as a kind of curiosity. Like, oh look at this cute culture over here that we fixed. Did we learn that there was an active genocide going on or anything of substance about Indigenous people? Not even close. State indoctrination starts early, I still remember shit I was taught from years ago pop up in my head only to realize that it was bullshit. Still, even when they recently discovered mass graves a couple of years ago (starting in Kamloops, at that same place I visited as a child) there were some governmental people and racist pieces of shit trying to whitewash it saying that the system was good for natives but maybe missed the mark sometimes. Kinda shocking stuff if it wasn’t par for the course.

Is there a high presence of RCMP felt there in day to day life?

It depends on where you are and who you are. I’m white and generally don’t get hassled by cops for simply existing. The RCMP can be contracted by municipalities or provinces to be the local police force but that’s not always the case. In smaller towns you’re mostly dealing with RCMP unless the province has its own force but most don’t. You can also think about the RCMP as being kind of an equivalent to the FBI. It’s more complicated than that but somewhat similar. The RCMP is just so incredibly bloated and inefficient when it comes to actual police work. An example of that was when Robert Picton was taking women in the DTES of Vancouver (which has its own local police force) back to his farm in Coquitlam (which has an RCMP contracted force). One of the features of that case was the absolute mess between the two forces’ information sharing. Coquitlam and Vancouver are directly next to each other but for some reason they couldn’t work together efficiently enough to stop one of the most prolific serial killers of the modern age. At a time when forensic and communication technologies are far more advanced than they had been in the past and there were people on the street literally telling police that there was a serial killer operating there. Could it be because Indigenous women made up many of his victims? Undoubtedly. Any political actions or protests and resistance will have an RCMP presence as well. 

In the U.S., defunding the police is a controversial political talking point, is there any equivalent of that in Canada, particularly in regard to the RCMP?

I’d be shocked if just a freeze on police funding occurred and more money was put into social safety nets and programs and fucking reparations that actually have an impact on people’s lives instead of just making them more policed. The problem with “defund the police” was that it was too easy to call the proponents of it a bunch of psychos that wanted chaos. People don’t get to control the narrative so the actual function of Defund was lost on people. The same thing happened here as it did everywhere else. We all just watched police budgets raise and the police state strengthen. At the absolute least, there needs to be a full dismantling of the RCMP and a distribution of funding that actually makes sense. There’s always going to be some maniac doing maniac things which will require some kind of physical response from some kind of body but even then – with all of the funding the RCMP gets, you don’t have to look very far to see how terrible they are at handling even that. Look at the mass murder spree in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia in 2020. There’s a great book out called “22 Murders” by Paul Palango detailing just how badly botched that response was. All that being said, I venture to guess that maniacs doing maniac things won’t be as common an issue if societies focused on funding programs that aren’t training snipers to watch Indigenous resistance just trying to protect their own home from capitalist oil interests.

Can you think of any other punk or hardcore songs/bands that speak on this subject?

Specifically in regard to the RCMP history I’m not totally sure. Lewis wrote Red Serge and I know that he’s been pretty keen on early Canadian colonial history. I’m sure that’s where the idea had come from. As far as cool songs about hating the RCMP, the three that stick in my mind are by Death Sentence, DOA and Discords. Death Sentence and Discords both wrote songs about the RCMP in 1982 I think? DOA’s track is called Royal Police. It’s the worst track on their first E.P and still better than anything I’ll write.

What does Bootlicker have planned for the future?

We’ve got the new record coming out early May and a new Japan only 7″ for our tour in Japan in May. Skull Fest in August. Hopefully some more stuff.

You can hear “Red Serge” streaming now on platforms everywhere and be sure to pick up BOOTLICKER’s 1000 Yard Stare, available May 17th on Neon Taste Records (North America) and Static Shock Records (UK/Europe).

Written By

Chicago based.

Sentient 51423

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