“Against nationalism” – an interview with Philipp from Contraszt! Records & FINISTERRE

Contraszt! Records is a small DIY hardcore punk label based in Köln, Germany. He has released approximately 40 records in the last 7 years, including ALPINIST, DRIP OF LIES,...

Contraszt! Records is a small DIY hardcore punk label based in Köln, Germany. He has released approximately 40 records in the last 7 years, including ALPINIST, DRIP OF LIES, GERANIÜM, FALL OF EFRAFA, MASAKARI, HONGO, MASSMORD and  FINISTERRE  to mention a few. The last of the listed bands features Philipp on guitar and they have recently released an amazing dark hardcore / sludge / crust punk split with  Strassbourg, France’s  GERANIÜM. It was nothing but a grand occasion to discuss their work, ideas, political viewpoints and antifascist/anticapitalist stand. Enjoy!

Hey guys! What’s up? Shoot us a little introduction to the band, will you? Who are, where do you come from and what do you stand for?

Hey Karol, thanks a lot for taking your time to do this interview with us – we really appreciate it and your whole effort you put into IDIOTEQ. We started with FINISTERRE around spring 2007…ugh, that’s already more than six years ago?!? Back then, it was the first time for most of us playing in a band. Only Lukas (Bass) and Robin (Drums) have been playing in bands before, but for Hütte (Guitar), Manuela (Vocals) and me (Guitar) it was (more or less) the first band we had. When we started we had a second vocalist, but he left the band after our second tour. We were a bunch of friends, most of us living together at a trailorsquat in Cologne/Germany and the idea to make a band came up like those ideas come up: Some of us talked about it, we meet up, did the first song and then things went their way. We had the opportunity to go on several tours since then, see a lot of amazing places in this world, got to know a lot of wonderful people and became close friends with some over the years . But also speaking out against all kinds of inequalities in this world was always a main aspect behind the band and a reason why we started. I have the impression that more and more bands these days mostly focus on the musical part of Punk/HC and forget about the political aspect, but for us FINISTERRE was always (and is) also an opportunity to express our anger and to take a definite stand against all kinds of oppression!

Alright, so let’s move on through minor stuff, just to expound more on what’s really important. Who came up with the name? Why FINISTERRE?

Some weeks after our first rehearsal, Manuela und me went on a longer trip to south-eastern Asia. I was reading a book, where the protagonist went to a district in Galicia/north-western Spain called FINISTERRE. I forgot the reason, why he actually went there, but I liked the indirectness of the name and its meaning. It’s old Latin for “the end of the world”. For me it’s a symbol of the narrowness of human knowledge and in its metaphorical meaning the question, where we are all heading to (very crust-clichée like!). A little after, we also found out that there’s also a guy called Alejandro FINISTERRE who died around the time, when we started the band and who was fighting against the Franco-Regime in Spain. Aged 17 he was injured by bombs of the Legion Condor and while in hospital he invented a game, nowadays known as table-football. Being an anarchist, he later had to flee from Spain and went to Mexico. But also there, he wasn’t save: he was kidnapped and brought on an airplane that should bring him back to Spain for his trial. With the threat of blowing up the airplane with secret explosives, he forced the pilot to land. It is said that this was the first hijack of an airplane in history. Funny sidefact: The person who invented table football is the same as the first hijacker of an airplane in history.

Wow :) Now that’s what I call a story behind a name, haha!

Ok, here’s a quadruple question, sorry in advance ;)

Musically, what artists had the biggest impact on your work? Is it possible to pull inspiration from artists representing completely different genres? Would you like to share your thoughts on any bands or artists that people would be surprised that you like? How can you transform a soft and tender inspiration into a heavy a sound that sets our teeth on edge?

Haha, ok I’ll try to respond to all of them. I don’t think you can break it down to a certain artist that had the biggest impact on our music. Of course, we decided to play some sort of dark HC/Punk, but we never said, we want to sound like this or that band. And btw, it would not have worked out, because everyone is into completely different music. For example Robin heard bands like TRAGEDY, FROM ASHES RISE and FALL OF EFRAFA for the first time while being on tour – after we had been making music together for some years, haha. So everyone in the band of course brought his/her own musical taste into the band…do you think, you can hear inspirations from different genres in our music? I’d be surprised and delighted the same time! Personally a lot of my musical socialization took place in the 1990s, so besides newer stuff I listen to a lot of Indie-/ PostPunk / RiotGrrrl stuff from that time like THE GITS, TEAM DRESCH, BIKINI KILL… Anyway, I think the taste of music in the band range from B-52’s to Black Metal and maybe you can find inspirations, but it’s not that we bring this in intentionally. It’s more that someone just comes up with an idea and then we take it or leave it. When I prepare songs/ideas, I do that at home with my acoustic guitar, which leads naturally to a different songwriting than making a song in our rehearsal room with a distorted, heavy guitar sound.

Are you the only composer in the band?

No, I am not. Everyone in the band is taking part in the song writing and contributes his/her share in the development of the songs. Usually it’s me or Huette coming up with ideas/riffs and then we build one piece to another altogether. The last piece is always the lyrics, that Manuela writes after the song is musically finished. It never really happens that one of us is appearing with a complete song written by him/herself alone.

How about the lyrical content? Your stuff is very politically driven, no doubt about it. How come you decided to follow this way? Are you political activists? How did that interest come about?

It was never a clear decision that we consciously took, as far as I remember. It was more a natural consequence of the things we were involved in and dealing with in our everyday life. I generally question that there’s actually a non-political way of living. With every action you take, you always also act in a political way, because behind every action, there’s a certain view on things and a certain understanding of the world, that you either accept or you question. And you always create the world around you while acting/speaking. You’re always responsible for your actions.

I don’t want to get further into this here, because I think your question was meant in a different way. Most of us were/are involved in some activism over the last years. The main focus locally in the last years was the struggle for a radical, autonomous center in our city Cologne. After some squatting actions, we finally managed to get a legal contract for a building, that now serves as networking center for all kinds of (radical-left) political actions and is the main spot for DIY Shows in Cologne. It’s also where our rehearsal room is placed. So, you see it’s a very important place for us :-)

I know exactly what you mean, man. Two weeks ago, during the March of Independence in Warsaw, nationalist militants broke off from the march and attacked the squat “Przychodnia“. The police stood by and did not intervene for at least 20 minutes (read more at this or this location). Do you have such problems in Cologne?

Yes, I heard about the shit that was going on this year’s Polish Independence day. I am happy that the people in the “Przychodnia” Squat prepared themselves for a possible attack and were able to defend their place. I don’t want to think about what would have happened otherwise… I am happy that we don’t have this problem in Cologne. Luckily there’s only a few militant Neonazis in our city and they are really weak at the moment. Cologne stands out in a positive way concerning this, because in some towns around us, it actually is a big threat and attacks on Antifas and Autonomous Spaces are quite regular, for example in Aachen, Wuppertal, Dortmund.

The bigger problem in Cologne is a right-wing party, which has a lot of support in the public. Their strategy is to do a lot of demonstrations against refugee camps and our autonomous centre, but they haven’t attacked in a physical way up to now.

Speaking about politics and committing yourself to one side or another, do you consider yourself a citizen of the world? What’s your opinion of nationalism in the current European context?

I consider myself an anarchist who lives in a globalized world and fights against borders and nationalism. Does this make me a citizen of the world? Isn’t there a whole concept behind this idea of “citizenship of the world”?

Nationalism is on the rise again in Europe since the so called “crises” began. It’s really shocking to see all those right-wing parties getting more and more votes recently and it seems to be a European wide phenomenon. Front National in France, Vlaams Belang in Belgium and Chrysi Avgi in Greece might be the best known, but right-wing parties are getting stronger and stronger almost everywhere. I fear, that it’s just a matter of time until they get into power somewhere. But it’s not only the votes, it’s also shocking to see, that their xenophobic and nationalistic ideas get such a big support in the heads of the people. Even if those people would vote differently, their ideas stay the same.
In my opinion, it’s not only the financial crises that leads to the rise of nationalism in Europe. It’s also the result of a crises of post-democratic politics, as Chantal Mouffe points out in her book “On the political” that I can highly recommend. It’s also the increasing consensus politics in Europe, that you can identify in many parliaments/governments that leads to the rise of the far right in Europe.

Do you think political organizations are more effective than religious groups?

I’m not sure, if I understand this question correctly. Politics is not primarily a matter of effectiveness: Organizing oneself can sometimes lead to more effects and sometimes slow down movements. This question is getting controversially discussed since nearly 150 years within anarchist, emancipatory circles and I don’t want to give a simple answer to this one.
I think, I can speak for everyone in the band that we are taking a clear stand against religion in general. In my opinion it serves – especially in their institutionalized form – as the cause for countless crimes against people and political/religious dissidents. It’s also one main source for patriarchy and other structural injustices in the world. I often hear the argument, that the problem is the church and not religion. That’s partly correct, but you shouldn’t forget about the main principle behind religion: The negation of humanity in favor of the divine.

Now to your question, if I think political organizations are more effective than religious groups:

History has proven that sadly both groups had a huge impact on this world; in some periods political organisations were more effective, in others religious groups were stronger. I think, they have shown to be most “effective” (in a negative way), when they team up and that’s where the biggest threat is.

Are you hopeful about political change?

Of course, I am!!! If not, why should I be fighting for one?

There’s a lot of people complaining that nothing will ever change and of course, if you hope for a change to happen tomorrow, then I guess you will be disappointed. There had been so many political changes in history and the situation we are living in at the moment is quite a young one. Why should we be thinking, we are living at the end of time?!? Also take a look into other areas of this world: political changes are happening everywhere.

Political revolutions always come fast and unexpected. We should keep on working on the destabilization of the system and towards a social and political revolution.

Is there an ultimate goal in politics? What would have to happen, what would have to be achieved to make you believe that the fight is over, that this new state of things is optimal? Is it even possible?

The ideal society is an theoretical and utopian construct, but this shouldn’t stop you from trying to get closer towards it step by step. Therefore also the fight to achieve this utopian goal has to be permanent. I believe that there will always be some sort of injustice in the world in one definition or another. And being critical and never be satisfied with a certain status quo should be the principle of emancipatory politics.

Alright Philipp. Enough about politics, let’s talk FINISTERRE :) You’ve just revealed your newest split with GERANIÜM. Is this your first collaborative release? How did the idea appear? Did you both cook it up during your recent September run?

Yeah, you’re right, Karol. This is enough about politics for now!

To do a split record was a long time plan between GERANIÜM and us. I think the idea first came up about two years ago, but it just took so long to finally realize it (especially because we are just so slow and lazy in writing new songs). We know each other for quite a while, played shitloads of shows together and quickly became close friends. We just fell in love with those dudes and I guess it was a heartfelt wish for everyone involved and just a matter of time to do press this friendship symbolically on vinyl. And we are all really excited that some other long-term friends, Eric & Bolic or ROPE OR GUILLOTINE and Joe of ROOT OF EVIL COLLECTIVE, decided to put it out on vinyl. So this split EP is not only a piece of wax, it’s kind of a friendship bond (like a wedding ring, hahaha!)

It’s actually our second collaborative release we did. Our first record from 2007 is a split LP with ALPINIST. It was originally meant to be our demo tape, but somehow ended up on this split. ALPINIST and now JUNGBLUTH is another band, we became good friends with over the years. It’s really wonderful to see that there’s actually a close network of bands, who are all good friends with each other….I wish, we could do split records with all of them!

Haha, amazing :)

I love the cover art for the split. Can you elaborate on your point about it?

The artwork for the split EP was drawn by Pierre / Business for Satan, an artist & tatooist from Strasbourg. He’s a good friend of GERANIÜM and since we all really like his style & the stuff that he’s doing, we were all really happy when he agreed to draw something for the split. We left him all freedom in his art, so I guess you’d have to ask him in the point behind it. When he mentioned that it’s actually gonna be a knight on a horse, we first were quite sceptical, but in the end we are really happy with the outcome of it. It’s definitely the most crusty design we ever had, haha!

Sure it is! :)

So tell me about that latest tour with GERANIÜM. Please share some memories from that time.

It was great to go on tour again in summer! With our old bones, we just became very sensitive to the cold, haha.

The tour itself was split in two parts. The first days we spend on ourselves and visited places in southern Germany, Switzerland and Italy – we had mostly short drives, so we had plenty of time for tourist actions like swimming & walking. After we d/pp class=”MsoNormal” style=”margin-bottom: 13.0pt; mso-pagination: none; mso-layout-grid-align: none; text-autospace: none;”id some tours with very long drives in the past, it was really nice not to only sit in the van but to have more time for this nice part of touring as well. We had the opportunity to play in Italy for the first time, but unfortunately the gig was cancelled by the police just after we arrived. It was moved to another squat in Milano spontaneously, but at this alternative place the show was unfortunately also not possible to happen due to neighbor’s complaints. Anyway, we had a good evening and hopefully we’ll be able to play in Italy at another time.

For the second half of the tour, our friends in GERANIÜM joined. Of course, everyone was really looking forward to hang out with these crazy folks. The drives were much longer, but we still enjoyed the tour very much. For the dates in Spain, our old friend Inti, who’s running the label DISCOS ENFERMOS and who helped releasing our split LP with ALPINIST joined in our van. We had shitloads of fun with him and it was wonderful spending these days with him! Unfortunatly we were not able to go to this vineyard that he friend of GERANIÜM owns and runs in the Bordeaux area. It would have probably have been a good opportunity to buy some cheap, but delicious red wines.

What shows do you have planned this year? What about the 2014?

2013 was a really busy years for FINISTERRE. We released a 12″ EP and the split 7″ with GERANIÜM, did two tours (UK + Ireland; Switzerland, France, Spain) and besides that have been pretty active with our other bands. I think, after coming back from the last tour, it was good to have some time to relax and focus on other things. It gave back a lot of energy and everyone is really enthusiastic about what’s coming next. For this year, we have two shows left and try to rehearse a bit more. Rehearsing is always a bit complicated as we are not all living in the same city, so – at the moment – we just manage to rehearse every 2-3 months. And that’s not much, if you want to write new songs. Next plan is to do another full length LP, but I think it will take us at least until 2015 to write it. Speaking of plans for 2014, we gonna do a short tour in April and later that year – hopefully October – we’re planning to go to the US for a second time.

What does performing live mean to you guys?

It means a lot. I guess, we are playing way more often live then we actually rehearse, haha. As I said, that’s due to the fact, that we’re not able to rehearse more often than every 2-3 months. But it’s fine the way it is – and being on the road and playing live is one of the most wonderful things you can do!

What is the Koln music scene like these days? What are your memories of this local environment and what are your views on how it subsequently develops?

Köln has been an almost forgotten city within the DIY-HC/Punk scene for years. For its size (fourth biggest city in Germany), it has been pretty boring for a long time due to non-existing infrastructures and a small scene in general. I remember, when I started to set up shows almost 10 years ago, I could have been really satisfied if there were more than 30 people coming to a weekend-show. Luckily this has changed in the last couple of years. We have some really nice DIY-Venues, a handful of show-collectives that are quite good linked with each other and more and more people interested in what’s going on. I’m really happy with this development. As it’s quite a new phenomenon, it’s wonderful to see so many people being active and so enthusiastic. It’s quite vibrant to live here at the moment!

Great! Have you ever been to Poland? What do you think of our music scene? Any associations maybe? :)

I’ve been to Poland a couple times now – we’ve been on tour there with FINISTERRE and I was driving PROTESTANT on their last tour. I’ve always had weakness for Polish punk and I’m really impressed by several specifics. It’s great to see that there are so many women taking an active part and being involved in the scene. I think in this point, Poland positively stands out from a lot of other European countries, where the scene is way more male dominated. It’s probably not as equal as it looks from the outside, but it’s an impression I got when I visited Poland in the past. Also in my opinion Poland has some of the most beautiful squats, haha (for example Rozbrat Squat)…I got to know really amazing and inspiring people on these visits, some friendship arose. With my label CONTRASZT! RECORDS, I deal quite regularly with people / labels from Poland. For example with Michal/NNNW or Mike/ UP THE PUNKS….Pawel (DRIP OF LIES / THE FIGHT) became a close friend, and I am happy that I were able to release DRIP OF LIES’s LP. So there’s some connection and I feel a strong personal connection to the Polish DIY-Punk/HC scene.

That’s what I wanted to hear, haha :D

Despite the strong network, what are some of the challenges of operating as a DIY band within the larger capitalist system?

Of course it’s an illusion to think, you can exist outside this capitalist system. Also as a DIY – Band you rely on petrol for your van, buy equipment/instruments etc…..But still you can try to keep it low and try to do as much yourself, so that you don’t depend on global companies. Sometimes it can be terribly nerve-wrecking and time-consuming to try to a lot yourself. I once made a sarcastic comment about this whole DIY-thing: “The worst part about DIY is that you actually have to do it yourself”, haha…but still, I am really happy, that we are able to print our shirts & covers ourselves, book our own tours, help other bands on their tours etc. It’s an ideal, that we’ve chosen and I just love it!

You can’t just survive off your music – am I right? Can you tell me more about making ends meet while still having the time and a lot of energy for your music-related passions?

Hell no. Of course not. I think, there wasn’t a single tour where we didn’t have to spend extra money at the end of it. But it was always definitely worth it – on every single tour!

Most people in the band are working more. Full-Time or Part-Time. I am actually unemployed at the moment, so I have a lot of time for my bands, the label and other stuff. Luckily the label is going quite well at the moment, which gives me some extra bucks to put into new releases and to survive… still, I sometimes get really close to my personal limits. But hey, this is the life I chose and I am still completely happy that I have the possibility to do all this!

Ok Philipp! Thanks a lot for your time. I’ve enjoyed our talk a lot! Is there anything you’d like to leave us with? Any final words?

Thanks a lot, Karol, for your interest in FINISTERRE and taking your time to do this interview! Keep up the good work with IDIOTEQ and I wish you all the best for your near future!!!

Thanks again! Take care man!

FINISTERRE live photo by AllSchools Network. Second live photo by Betti Ci.

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DIY rock music enthusiast and web-zine publisher from Warsaw, Poland. Supporting DIY ethics, local artists and promoting hardcore punk, rock, post rock and alternative music of all kinds via IDIOTEQ online channels. Contact via www.idioteq.com@gmail.com

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