The Domestics are East Anglian punk legends, they’ve been slogging at it for years, having a blast and raising awareness for important causes in true punk spirit. In late October 2016 I got a chance to speak to the lads about their history, punk music, venue closures and the band’s upcoming plans.
Jack: Hey guys, thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. How are you doing?
James: No problem, Jack. I’m good. Couldn’t sleep so up early on a Saturday, listening to No Sleep ‘til Hammersmith and answering these questions with a bucket of black coffee.
Rhodes: It’s 9am and I’ve just got into work whilst I type this so very sleepy until the caffeine kicks in. Other than that in general I am hunky dory.
Simon: I am dying of plague, help me.
Mint: Hi Jack, very good thanks. Thanks for doing questions.
Jack: Let’s talk about history, how did The Domestics form?
James: Well, I was living in Colchester around 2006, 2007-ish and then ended up moving to Sudbury where my girlfriend lived. I hadn’t done a full live band for a few years, although I’d been putting out the odd home-recorded ‘one man band’ release here and there. I set up a really basic home studio in a shed I bought cheap off eBay and rebuilt and started working on stuff for my own amusement – weird dub stuff in the main. I’d been playing on and off in punk, and punkish bands since my mid-teens and suddenly realised that I seemed to have also amassed about a dozen punk tunes amidst the dub stuff. An idle thought about maybe getting a few people together to play these songs live locally for shits ‘n’ giggles formed and then I realised I didn’t really know any musicians in the area. Anyway, I put an advert up in hillbilly supermarket, Roys, and Rhodes replied…
Rhodes: Yeah, I popped in Roys to get some booze making paraphernalia and probably some gardening bits, saw James’ ad. I’d been recording more so over the previous couple of years under Dusty Curtain Face Records and Runny Bum Records, DIY lo-fi stuff, done it for gin usually and wanted to get back into playing live again so replied and met him for a pint. He already had a bassist so I jumped on guitar instead to start. I then muscled in on bass duties and got my other mates in the band like I do [Laughs]!
Simon: I joined later on after The Domestics had already recorded their first album with their previous drummer. They roped me in for a band practice and it went pretty well, I basically went really fast and people liked it.
Mint: Everyone knows that if you want to start a punk band the best thing to do is put an ad up in Roys.
Jack: Was being in a punk band one of the key appeals of forming this band?
James: Well I guess the idea of being in a punk band would have to seem somewhat appealing if you were going to form a punk band! But in all honesty there was no plan whatsoever at the start. A couple of local gigs to empty some pubs…no more ambition than that. Didn’t really see it going any further than that. Occasionally I have to sit myself down and think about that as a baseline so I can appreciate all the stuff we’ve achieved. It’s mental really.
Simon: I think it was for me, I mean I love punk and its my primary genre that I go to when I want to listen to music. But the main appeal of being in a punk band for me is the DIY scene itself, so many friendly faces on the touring circuit that I would miss a lot if I didn’t tour with a punk band.
Mint: I wasn’t massively into punk when I joined so no, not for me, although I love it now. Just thought it might be fun (and it has been).
Jack: Even though it was dismissed as a fad, punk music has survived. Why has not only survived, but thrived in the underground?
James: Punk as a loud fart in the face of mainstream society was a fad really; y’know the late 70s stuff. Bill Grundy, all that. Don’t get me wrong, it was a vital catalyst for the movement and wider societal changes too, but once something is regularly covered in the tabloids its days are numbered in terms of that level of visibility – it’s just unsustainable. Most of those old bands doing the rounds these days are fucking awful too – a few aren’t; those that still have the spirit. Few and far between though. The punk scene worldwide I think is probably stronger in terms of quality bands than it’s ever been. I buy way too many records but there’s still great stuff I miss. The hardcore scenes in the U.S., Japan, Sweden, Spain and elsewhere are producing some amazing stuff. The UK too, but some of it is still too in thrall to 90s post-Green Day, Fat Wreck production values and all that sort of crap that makes the 90s and early 2000s the worst era for punk in my book.
Where there is frustration, anger and discontent in the world there’ll always be a place for punk, whatever musical form that may take. Its accessibility, the DIY nature of it all and the sense of empowerment it brings is very important.
Simon: I think the key is that there will always be a resistance to mainstream pop culture, and that resistance is punk in itself, so it can never really die out in that sense. Punk is way more than just music, it’s a way of life for so many people who are fed up of dealing with the norms of society and want a way out. Where there is resistance against the mainstream, there is punk.
Jack: How did you discover punk music?
James: A few sources really. There were three guys I knew back in my hometown (Clacton-on-Sea, fact fans) that were a few years older than me that were lending me records and doing me tapes of stuff – Discharge, early Screeching Weasel, Poison Idea, SST, Subhumans, Squat or Rot comps, Squat or Rot comps…so much stuff I struggle to remember it all really. Cheers to Pete, Dave and Colin for that, it was a good grounding. Also James Sherry’s hardcore column in Metal Hammer. Actually I got into metal at around 13 but was out of it more or less by the time I was 15/16 – I guess I shouldn’t say this in a predominantly metal zine!
Punk pressed the ‘loud’ and ‘fast’ buttons for me in the way that metal had but seemed to have a better outlook – numerous metallers, in my hometown at least, were pretty racist and ignorant generally. That’s not to say that all punkers are progressive thinkers, but in the main ideas about equality, freedom, mutual respect regardless of colour, creed, gender, sexuality etc. seemed far more commonplace in the punk scene and even at that young age that seemed preferable. I can’t speak for the metal scene now; this was all quite a long time ago now. Punk and hardcore also seemed to be pushing the sonic boundaries more than the thrash and death metal I’d been listening to and it all seemed a bit more ‘real’ somehow.
Rhodes: Like most people in my early teens I found that gate way band Nirvana, I shortly after was picking up some more poppy punk records which don’t really do it for me these days. Then I got a copy of Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables by Dead Kennedys and appreciated the faster heavier stuff, I was more into Slayer, Faith No More at the time so pop punk wasn’t really going to cut it. It wasn’t really till meeting James I started picking up more obscure Swedish and Japanese punk which I am a huge fan of now.
Simon: My gateway bands were AFI and Rancid, and a lot of the 90’s era US street punk bands like The Casualties and The Virus. My friends at school got into it and I got into it through them.
Mint: Mainly through playing with the Domestics. I’ve liked the DEAD KENNEDYS for years but apart from that I was listening to everything from TOM WAITS to MR BUNGLE to JACKIE WILSON before joining.
Jack: How does it make you feel that many of your influences such as Discharge and Flag are still going and making music?
James: Indifferent really. Mildly incensed on the wrong day. To me, those bands – to use your examples of Discharge and Black Flag – aren’t really the bands I fell in love with way back when I was a teenager. To me, Discharge is the first few 7”s, Why? And Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing and Black Flag is the early 7”s, Damaged, My War and Slip it In. All the legal wrangling with Greg Ginn is just cringe-inducing. Have you heard the recent-ish Black Flag album? Fuck! All you can say for it is that it’s clearly Greg playing guitar – he does have a recognizable style, I’ll give him that – but really?! It’s weak, really weak. The new Discharge lineup does look like it’d be good live – better than when I saw them with Rat on vocals a few years back anyway; that wasn’t good! But really, there’s too much of this nostalgia. The Domestics has as much in common with Career Suicide, Limp Wrist, Sudor, Violent Reaction, HERÄTYS and that sort of thing as old 80s stuff. The bands we’re most commonly compared to are Out Cold and Ripcord. I don’t really see the Ripcord comparison but maybe I’m just too close to it; I’m not complaining, it’s always used as a compliment. I’d say an updated Gauze and Outcold sum us up quite well.
Rhodes: I don’t really know Discharge and I’ve got a Black Flag bootleg 12” that’s pretty good but that is it. I’m unfamiliar with their work to be honest. I’m more a fan of the bands James mentions above and hear them in comparison more so in The Domestics.
Simon: I’m still up for a bit of Discharge if they’re about; not too bad these days. The current state of Black Flag is awful from what I’ve heard however. I’m just way more excited to hear current and upcoming bands that have potential to really create a surge throughout the punk scene, it’s pretty exciting when that happens!
Jack: I think it was Ian Mckaye that said “punk is where you come together to exchange ideas without money being involved,” has money polluted punk in anyway?
James: In the sense that I think a lot of bands still think they’re going to be signed to Epitaph and make a ton of money. Whenever I see bands on Facebook talking about being ‘signed’ it makes me laugh. That’s barely a thing these days is it? Not in punk anyway. I mean we’ve put records out on numerous labels but I don’t consider us ‘signed’ to any of them any more than they consider us to be ‘signed’ to them. Gentleman’s agreements. Mutual respect. DIY.
The issue of money in punk can be tricky. We live in a capitalist system and that’s not going to change any time soon, if ever; it’s a difficult genie to put back in the bottle. If we wanted to make money we’d not be playing this obnoxious hardcore racket; we do this because we love it. That said, we won’t pay to play like some bands do (and I include not getting your expenses covered as paying to play because you are effectively doing that in that situation). Fuel unfortunately isn’t free. We keep the cost of our merch low but make a very modest profit on it. This helps with recording costs, vehicle maintenance etc. – we’re now at the point where we usually have enough in the kitty to record when we need to and that sort of thing, which makes life a little easier. That said, we spend very little on recording ‘cos we do it fast! So really, the money in punk question is all about balance. Some of the only bands making any real money out of punk these days are the ‘name’ bands from the late 70s/early 80s that do a couple of gigs a year for several grand at these nostalgia fests where granddad dusts off his bondage trousers to go to his annual punk gig. They’re often shit anyway; just trading on a name.
Simon: I don’t think it’s been affected too much, the DIY punk circuit is very strong and closely knit, money grabbing big time punk bands don’t even get considered as a part of it really.
Jack: Is punk a mentality?
James: I guess it is. Mostly it’s about not being an arsehole and doing what feels right.
Simon: It’s more about how spiky my hair is.
Mint: It’s different things to different people. For me, I think it boils down to thinking about other people, not just yourself and sometimes dancing around like a tit and doing starjumps and that.
Jack: You’ve just released Format of Control on Kibou Records, is there a theme to the 7”?
James: Well actually the Format of Control E.P. isn’t released on Kibou Records – my label – it’s out on Global Resistance Records. They mostly put out anarcho-style punk, except the Wolfhour LP that they co-released with Kibou. Good label and Chaz who runs it is a top bloke. It ended up being called Format of Control when I realised that each song talks about the notion of control in some way. The opening track, ‘Control,’ is fairly obvious; with the protagonist having an awakening of sorts about the lack of control they have in their lives and wanting to wrestle some back. ‘Plugged In’ covers the way in which we have allowed ourselves to become controlled by technology; how we feel we’re only living if we know what’s happening from minute to minute and how so much of the information we fill our lives with is trivial dogshit that makes our lives not one bit better but distracts us from activities that could be genuinely life-enhancing. ‘Black Friday’ is about the annual phenomenon in which people will trample their fellow man or woman to get a discounted giant TV. Again, the propagation of consumerism can be seen as a form of control; if our core desires are for consumer products then we’re not thinking about other, arguably more important things like politics, communities, family and friends. ‘Kill Me’ is an older song that appeared on a comp 7” some time ago but we reworked it a bit. This one is about the ultimate form of taking control…or the end result of having no control, depending on your perspective.
Jack: What was the recording process like for this release?
James: We went into Springvale Studios in Ipswich and recorded these four tracks and one other for a Transpunk comp 7” in one evening. We always record drums, bass and one guitar live then record the second guitar and stick the vocals on afterwards. We rarely do more than two or three takes maximum. You should iron out any bugs before you get in the studio then blast it out as quickly as possible so the energy doesn’t drop through repetition. So yeah, smooth sailing as it always has been up to this point.
Mint: All pretty plain-sailing really. The good thing is, if something doesn’t go right, the songs are only a minute long so you can just bang it out again. It doesn’t take long.
Jack: The 7” is a fundraiser for the hunt saboteur association, how did you become involved in this organisation?
James: The 7” is one of a series of nine being released by Global Resistance over the course of around 12 months. Format of Control is the forth one. Yeah, all profits from the record will go to the Hunt Saboteurs Association. I don’t sab myself – I work long hours, do all the admin for the band as well as play in it, run Kibou Records label and distro, do Pull The Trigger zine, have been travelling to Sweden to work on the Bring the Drones album – there just aren’t enough hours in the day, but I totally support the good work they do. Hunts are still going on despite the ban; evidence seems to crop up on an almost weekly basis that these are not just ‘trail’ exercises. he bottom line is: Do you want to live in a society that thinks ripping live animals apart for fun is OK? I don’t. I can’t even begin to understand the mentality of someone who would. I can’t be on the frontline but if we can do something to help the HSA with this record then that’s a good thing.
Jack: Are there any other causes you want to raise awareness for in this interview?
James: There are such an array of good causes that I’m wary of listing some for fear of missing others! No one has the money or time to support them all. Just be good humans and consider what you can give – not necessarily financially – to causes that resonate with you.
Rhodes: Yes, the buy stuff off my distro cause as I am skint most the time. It’s all cheap and good stuff and I need to deplete it. If you see me at a gig with my box buy it all please.
Simon: I shout in a band called Casual Nausea, check it if you like your punk messy and ridiculous. Also, if you are looking for punk gigs in the Ipswich area, check out Uncomfortable Beach Party promotions, always putting on good loud punk bands!
Jack: Format of Control has been released on a 7”. What is so great about vinyl and why does it go so well with punk music?
James: I’ve owned records since I was six years old. I love ‘em. The U.S. DIY scene never got hoodwinked by the CD ‘revolution’ and along with dance music and hip-hop has kept vinyl alive throughout. I guess the past few years have seen people wise up about the sound of CDs – compressed to fuck so things get ‘lost’ in the mix, lack of warmth etc. – and vinyl has become increasingly popular again. However, the bubble will probably burst soon enough once the handlebar moustache, penny farthing-riding brigade move onto something else. I can tell you as someone that runs a label that there are massive problems with vinyl manufacturing at present. Turnaround times have pretty much doubled over the past 2 – 3 years. Mistakes are being made (I’ve had 2 7”s pressed on the wrong colour vinyl since the label began and I think this has happened to almost every label I know!) because the few remaining plants are running way beyond capacity. There’s a lack of machinery and a skills gap too. The prices for UK customers went up by a massive 10.35% in September due to the weak pound (and maybe a little greed too?!). That’s the second price-hike in a year. That means all the DIY labels in the UK will have to raise their prices just to keep going. People will moan about that but what can you do? It costs shitloads to press records!
Sorry, went off on a bit of a tangent…I’m not sure why punk and vinyl go so well together. Maybe because it’s the most sonically ‘alive’ sounding format. Also, the artwork can be bigger – punk is often trying to communicate ideas as well as music so this is helpful. All I can say is: I LOVE RECORDS!
Rhodes: I love records and cassettes!
Simon: It’s pretty great but I get annoyed with having to buy them at gigs and sort of carrying them around awkwardly so as not to damage them. Why didn’t minidiscs ever take off?
Mint: Records are brilliant, I can’t put my finger on why really, there’s just something good about putting a record on. I’ve got a little soft spot for tapes too.
Jack: What was it like playing Manchester Punk Festival?
James: A blast! We played it the first year it was on. Proper sweaty, people diving off the stage, mic stands flying kinda gig. Just what we like! The people running that fest – Anarchistic Undertones, TNS Records and Moving North – are doing a good job there. We got on through TNS who played a big part in putting out our Routine & Ritual album. They love us, we love them. It’s squishy. I’m always saying there should be more hardcore on the bill but they seem to be doing well enough without my input…it’s getting bigger every year!
Rhodes: Bloody top, well organized event full of lovely people and top bands. The TNS lot have been great to us and we love them all to bits.
Simon: Its always a good time playing Manchester punk fest! Its ridiculously cheap too, I think its only gonna get bigger as the years go by.
Mint: It was brilliant. The whole festival is brilliant. I went last year and got hit in the face with a boat. Top stuff.
Jack You’re going to returning to The Waiting Room in Colchester for Shalloween, as it’s a Halloween gig are you going to be doing anything special?
James: Well, we’re doing two Halloween gigs this year – The Waiting Room on the Saturday and then The Windmill in Brixton on the Sunday. In a way we are doing something ‘special’ at The Waiting Room gig – it’ll be our first gig as a 4 piece! We’re parting company with Ed after our Basingstoke and Camden gigs on 22nd and 23rd October. It’s all very amicable; he just doesn’t have enough time at the moment to put in as much time or energy as is necessary. We’ve been rehearsing as a 4 piece for a little while now and it seems to be working out really well. Who knows how the gig will go though?! Might feel a bit weird and be a bit less joined-up than usual, but we have to pop our 4-piece cherry sometime!
Simon: I want to go as something but I don’t know what and I’m too ill to do anything except lay in bed right now, my preparation will have to be very last minute if I’m gonna go as anything….I have a sponge, white paint, and a cardboard box in my room, I am struggling.
Mint: I have a costume which is coming together.
Jack: The Waiting Room is sadly closing its doors, what will you miss the most about the venue?
James: The atmosphere. There are always good people there. Melv (Chris Moore) and the others have done a great job and I think a lot of people will be sad to see it go. A genuinely DIY space blown out of the water. A sad thing indeed.
Rhodes: I think Melv has really produced an amazing scene at The Hole In the Wall and The Waiting Room, proper DIY ethos with great bands from all over the place playing and lovely people attending. Something that’s not really been that apparent in Colchester before to my knowledge. It’s a shame the room will go but hopefully he’ll find somewhere else, just got to move the people then.
Simon: The nice short journey, as opposed to hours and hours and hours in the car travelling to other gigs we usually play. Seriously though, it has already been said by the others, its a nice little space!
Mint: It’s a really nice building and feels really different to places we usually play. We’re used to dark and dingy rather than light and airy. The main thing is the atmosphere and the people though so hopefully Melv, Abbi and the rest will pop up somewhere else soon in Colchester.
Jack: What other plans do you have coming up?
James: Well, we have a few gigs lined up in October and December and odd ones booked between January and July already. We’re working on tracks for the third album. Probably have another 4 or 5 to go. I’m guessing we may record around Feb/March time for that and get it out over the summer.
Label-wise I’m putting out Girl Power‘s Welcome to the Gun Show 12” and a 7” by Society’s Decline from Sweden before the end of the year in conjunction with a couple of other labels. It also looks like I’m going to be helping release the debut 12” by III Guerra – a band from Mallorca featuring members of Orden Mundial, Trau and others) and the Migraines LP. Hopefully it won’t be that long until the Bring The Drones album is ready to go too. I finished doing my vocals last weekend. If you don’t know Bring the Drones it’s Charlie Claesson who was in Anti-Cimex and Driller Killer (and now in the awesome Wolfhour), Denis Boardman from Doom, Ted Fransson who used to be in Gamla Pengar and on this new record yours truly and Inge Johansson from Refused, Against Me! And International Noise Conspiracy. It’s like a ‘supergroup’ where I’m the least ‘super’ by quite some margin! Just waiting to hear the first mixes. Fuck, that was like a massive name-dropping session! [Laughs]
Rhodes: I have a veg plot to attend to in my garden and an incredible amount of wood I need to chop up over the next couple of weeks to provide some winter fuel.
Simon: I just have my other band CASUAL NAUSEA, we’re breaking in a new bassist and getting on to recording our first proper album hopefully this year, pretty keen to get that going!
Mint: Rhodes’ other band Hoboope will return! Like the zombie Optimus Prime hopefully with one of our eyes hanging out.
Jack: Finally, what album best defines punk music?
James: An impossible question. I’ve spent ten minutes thinking about this and can come up with no solid answer. Punk isn’t one thing so to try and define it through one record is a non-starter for me!
Rhodes: Can’t really answer that but over the last couple of years I’ve probably played Fool’s Punk Line by A Page of Punk more than any other record. Buy it, it’s a right banger.
Simon: I really want to be able to answer this one, but I can’t!
Mint: The correct answer is Chas and Dave, whatever album you want.
Thanks very much for your time, see you in Colchester!
James: Cheers for the questions, Jack.