What the hell happened to all the punk bands that were around? I mean true punk bands, the kind that stirred up shit? When there was no internet around, everyone had a goddamn band and suddenly they all vanished and nowadays everything is post-something: post-hardcore, post-metal or post-punk, but you know what? There’s nothing after punk, so if you’ve gone beyond that ledge, you’ve gone too far and you should either come back or keep going and never look back.
That in-your-fucking-face attitude of early punk and metal is too absent from everything that is done nowadays and everyone seems to be too worried about sounding good, but what about the goddamn attitude?
It’s not a question of Systemik Viølence being the best punk band around, it’s a question of them being part of a very restricted group of bands that are actually doing something truly punk-rock and confronting it from the inside with its own demons of political correctness. Because we live in a time were everything in punk-rock and metal seems to be oh so standardized as everything else – if not worse – and the masters of the scenes keep dictating a set of rules that most people keep following, when this should be about the exact opposite because it all starts looking like a bunch of leaders and a bunch of followers. It’s great that you have a patched jacket like all your friends and favorite bands or that every fucking indie band on any major label claims to have punk rock roots and dyi ethics even though they never put up a show for themselves, but who gives a fuck about that when no one seizes the chance to actually say something meaningful?
That’s why it’s great that Sistemik Violence look as menacing as early Scandinavian black metal and as outrageous as the first crust bands, and it’s even better that they are on a crusade to piss-off punks and metalheads that simply dress the part – no political views, no nothing, just hanging out with a beer at the show.
It’s a grand declaration of love when Systemik Viølence state that they wear masks because people care about bands depending on who is in them and now because of what they do. It’s more important that the guy from band A plays on band B and that guy from label C puts out record D than the real juice of things. It has become more of a who’s who than anything else and these guys take their time to kick the teeth of all those inflated egos.
It’s like pissing on holy water when they put out a brand new 7’’ in Portuguese called Anarchy-Violence. It has so much filth and fury that it makes me want to slap every preppy looking asshole that ever came through my life. I have a hard time telling if they sound more punk or metal because my love of both is as great as theirs and it’s fantastic that I don’t even have to decide. They go directly to the source: the time where Bathory and Discharge came from similar places and metal and punk bread together.
In truth, none of this is really surprising because this is the band that has songs with poetry directly from the corpse loins laying in the gutter with titles as beautiful as “Kill all rapists now” or “You give punk a bad name”. And what about the 4-minute song just called Shit in Portuguese?
When Systemik Viølence state that punk has gone soft, it takes just one look at them to agree and to believe that maybe shit is about to change. Don’t be fooled by their declared references, Anti-Cimex and Gism, because Sistemik Violence sound like Sistemik Violence even if they hunt on the same territory than those bands. When these crazy cats play something called “Destroy the future” how can you not have the immediate urge to riot?
The best part is that their music keeps up with their game because songs are as catchy as crabs at a whorehouse. And all four of them walk the talk, and when you speak with them, you understand that they mean every fucking word they say because they are tired of the same bullshit system that keeps grinding us down and are even more tired of punks that criticize a system with whom they never had to deal with, because they never had to work a day on their lives. Sure, it’s punk as fuck not having to work, but no one feels as angry as the guy who is exploited, subdued and caged and there’s no best fuel for punk-rock than forced slavery.
But since everything doesn’t have to be so goddamn serious and the four guys in Systemik Viølence have a great sense of humor – otherwise how could anyone survive this fucked up world? – I met them on a typical Portuguese coffee shop for an interview.
Why did you choose that name?
SV: At the time we created the band, my idea was to have a real political and relevant project, not just the kind of band that existed to have fun. And for us, one of the most important subjects today, is violence people experience in their everyday life, which might not be physical violence but it’s the kind of violence that the system imposes on our lives. We actually thought of Systematic Violence for a name, but since there was already a band called Systematic Death we let it go. We even thought of a name with SS, but then we would be chased by Antifa.
Which might be a good thing?
Sooner or later they’ll chase us anyway.
So what was your path to get to here?
All of us have had plenty of different bands before Systemik Viølence and we knew each other for a long time, but none of us had ever played in a band openly punk with a clear political message.
But clearly your influences aren’t only punk-rock. There’s Venom references, and even a Bon Jovi one within your music. How does Satan coexist with Anarchy?
Besides Venom, there’s also Sarcófago, Blasphemy and a whole lot more. The four of us have very different mindsets within the band, but we are totally aligned because all the different influences kind of meet halfway. And even though there’s a spectrum of very different tastes, there’s a common ground which is 80s punk and metal bands like Venom, Bathory, Motorhead, Discharge and GBH. That time when the barrier between punk and metal was blurred is our point of connection. When you hear Venom singing about Satan or Discharge singing about anarchy, the feeling of rage and opposition is basically the same. In our case, Satan is a symbol of opposition.
Why do you have some songs in Portuguese and some in English?
Writing in our mother tongue is brutal for transmitting a certain emotional charge, which is the case of “Merda” or “Rotina Assassina”. You wouldn’t be able to feel the same way about the song if it was sung in English. It would eventually lose the sensibility and the despair. And then there’s the fact that we don’t give a shit about the fact that we might not be understood just because we don’t sing in English. Or singing in Portuguese only like Moonspell do, just to be more successful in our own country and be able to play shows like Queima das Fitas [traditional end-of-college party in Portugal – editor’s note]. It’s just a matter of what makes sense at the time.
And it’s like that: “Kill all rapists now”?
Yes, we would love to fuck them all up, hanging them by the balls. Because, a mistake is getting late to a meeting or breaking the dishes when you’re washing them, but raping a man or a woman is never a mistake. Or a child. There are limits and then there’s the symbolism of each other’s personal space which is a barrier that says a lot of our nature when it is broken.
It’s a position that Antifa would probably not approve. Killing rapists, I mean.
If that was the only thing they wouldn’t approve in use, it would be great. These days we can’t even understand the position of left or right, they kind of feel like the same shit, it all amounts to the same. Anything related to ideology ends up being the same kind of demagogic possession.
Are you at war with the punk scene? And does that mean there still is one?
We are at war with the punk scene, the hardcore scene, the metal scene, with underground music. We are really at war not with punk, but with punk fans. Our life motto is “love punk, hate punks” and the same goes for metal. And that kind of is our black flag, we don’t want to belong to your scene because we are doing this shit with or without you.
Do you think there are more people hating or loving you?
It’s a mixed feeling because when you raise a black flag like we do, there’s a lot of people that leave their rabbit hole and identify themselves with us. But there sure are more people criticizing than actually hearing bands.
The system is clearly rotten, but what is your political tendency?
Satanarkism! Making the connection between anarchism, Satanism and alternative lifestyles without losing the notion that we are slaves. Other than that, it’s all shit.
You speak a lot of labor slavery. Do you have jobs?
Yes, and we have been very stigmatized by “punks” because of that, since from where they’re standing you can’t play punk and work at the same time. But the thing is, we have this punk band because we work. Because if we had it easy like most punks do, we wouldn’t be pissed off with the system. You can’t know what’s wrong with work if you aren’t forced to work and most of those people don’t even have a rent to pay. It’s basically a vicious circle, where the more the system beats you down, the angrier you get. It’s not people we know that we are enraged with, it’s those that hold the whip. And if it wasn’t for the fact that we have to work, there would be no reason for us to be in a punk band.
How do we distinguish posers from those that are true?
It’s all about the attitude, because people show who they are by the way they act. It’s not about what you listen to or how you dress. If you go to YouTube you have tutorials about being punk, and people who view that are the same people that question our integrity, people that don’t know the background of all this and didn’t live a lot of stuff that made us who we are. You can see that by facts like everyone listening to Blasphemy now because it’s a trend, when five years ago no one gave a shit about them. And the same goes for Hispanic punk-rock.
You guys are on Spotify. Doesn’t that bother you?
We don’t even know who put us there but as long as there a chance of someone listening to us instead of NOFX, we are cool with that.
Do you think NOFX is the worst thing you can listen to, on Spotify?
No, because Moonspell is there. But hey, we really dislike NOFX, which reminds me this one time we were drinking with Monarch’s bassist and we noticed that he had a NOFX tattoo on his hand, because it was one of their major influences, according to his explanation. That was a total conversation killer right there. Definitely, one of the worst bands we saw live, NOFX. Not Monarch, whom we totally love.
In Guantanamo they should play NOFX to torture prisoners, not Deicide.
NOFX can’t like their own music, it’s impossible. I’d rather be poor and rally against the system than play that shit.
Being a sellout is changing to sell more records or signing for a big label and maintaining the same attitude?
Being a sellout is being whatever you need to be in different situations in order to get some kind of return. It’s someone trying to fit in whatever is hip at the moment. It doesn’t necessarily involve signing for a major label.
But that stigma exists.
When a band gets attention there’s always someone that gets pissed off, especially if they sign for a major label, but if the band stays true to itself, it makes no difference. Unless you give in to pressure and change what’s inside, but that lack of inspiration is noticeable miles away. It’s a question of selling your soul, not really earning money. If you’re on a major, you have the opportunity to reach more people, particularly people with whom you wouldn’t have contact with, instead of just preaching to the quire.
Usually the problem with punk bands signing major labels is that they have to make some sort of compromise.
Yes, that’s the main problem with it. But that band has to decide how far are they willing to go.
Who is a major sell-out?
Fernando Ribeiro of Moonspell.
Just kidding, we have a lot of respect for what they did in the early nineties. Their tour with Morbid Angel was done with a map and a van and they had to go all through Europe like that.
But you guys do know that before Moonspell did that, there were punk bands already doing the same?
Because it seems that Moonspell doesn’t know that.
Moonspell are looking for validation for their sacrifices in praise of Portuguese metal, but there are no sacrum-religious experiences here. There are no idols.
But who is really a sell-out?
Henry Rollins. Besides doing Calvin Klein ads, there’s no political stance behind him, not that is life has to be devoted to the political side of things only, but he was a big inspiration for punk, and then he pretty much shitted on all that. He abandoned activisms a while ago, so that’s that.
Are there a lot of venues for punk bands to play around here?
No. There are places to play but no one to put up shows with certain bands.
One of those being yours?
Yes. People are afraid of us.