Stevenage based BAD BREEDING carry the torch for the last angry punks as they talk Brexit, the meme generation, Trump and what to do next.
Words by Ashley Lampard
Approx reading time: 7 mins
Their music isn’t clean; it sounds bass heavy, distorted and angry, with indistinguishable lyrics absorbing the industrial estate and frustration that it is written in. Bad Breeding exists in a brief window between part time jobs in construction where the foursome come together and conjure, creating a primitive atmosphere and explosive energy that captures today’s fucking annoyed youth.
When lead singer, Chris Dodd, talks about inspiration he cites stuff he found in his dad’s record collection - The Pop Group, Rudimentary Peni, Flux of Pink Indians. He explains that, “much of the motivation in this band rarely comes from a sole desire to just make music as such, it’s more about wanting to stand up for ourselves and to make a point of being able to be creative without the luxuries of time and money that have polluted the modern cultural landscape.”
In recent years their hometown of Stevenage has become a modern commuters home and has brought with it an expected wave of gentrification. The pubs and venues that they would visit at the weekend have become fairly non-existent, and like a lot of towns and villages, the locals have been replaced with “chain-pubs, nauseating coffee shops and estate agents”.
“Out went the struggling free houses, dodgy late-night licensing and local promoters. What you’re left with now is sterile space bereft of context or meaningful history, a cultural void in many ways, he says.”
It is this cultural void that Bad Breeding seem to embody, something felt by a lot of normal 20-somethings who have found themselves in a shifting economy, without the opportunities that they were promised and an apparent lack of control over their country's future. The video for ‘No Progress’ is a reflection on this, with a shots of Farage thrown in to hammer home the message. All of their videos have a pretty similar subject matter, showcasing a sincere relevance to the current political mess.
“I think we could have stuck that video online at any time in the past six years and it would have felt pertinent, but yeah, even more so over the past six months. The song was put together in such a way that it carried many overarching themes that bled into what people were being subjected to both pre and post the referendum on Europe.
The work is a reflection of the environment in which they live, as Dodd explains: “Given our surroundings and the way we’ve come to grow up in Stevenage, being ambiguous in our approach has never been on the cards. Most of what we do is direct – maybe even reactionary in some ways – given that our lives are based on proportionate replies to what’s thrown in front of us in a society blighted by governmental misdirection and greed.”
Dodd believes that the referendum, like the ‘gamble’ the bankers made during the financial crash, has “arguably come as the result of opportunism and careerism from the ruling class”.
“The Leave victory hardly came as a surprise given that it principally took the highly-complex issue of immigration and reduced it to a ‘yes or no’ answer, he explains. “After the vote there were these arguments that attempted to display the entire working class to be uneducated racists, when in some ways you might argue that the vote gave sections of society that have largely been ignored, demonised and marginalised – by both government policy and the media – the opportunity to say something impactful.”
Disillusioned with today’s media, Dodd explains: “It doesn’t help that most of the coverage from both the left and right was rarely ever properly informed by the communities the media were claiming to know so much about. I think that’s always been one of the main failures of the British press - it’s so awash with distortion and trend-inducing narratives that you scarcely know what to believe when you go online or buy a newspaper.”
Alongside the politicians and the distorting media coverage, he believes that it is the everyday racism and the spike in hate crimes around the vote that could be the problem, “the idea that deciding to vote Leave suddenly made racism tolerable is disgusting. That’s something we should all be willing to fight against. The discussion around Europe and being hateful because of someone’s ethnicity aren’t dependent on each other and those who have blurred those lines to the detriment of multiculturalism need properly calling out.
“We should be looking at the particular parties and media organisations that have tacitly sought to nurture the environment we now find ourselves trying to navigate.”
It is often suggested that Brexit and the rise of Trump in the U.S is an expression of the working class that Bad Breeding’s music is speaking to. Rather than embody the apparent racism and fear that surround these subjects however, they try and embody the mind-set of unity and progress in attempting to build something new rather than nihilistic abandonment. The lyrics on the album are inspired by trying to break down this idea of working-class nihilism within the music, of the how the understandings and misunderstandings are manipulated by the media and politicians.
Being from a lower-income background, Dodd believes, “doesn’t mean that you can’t have your say on issues you feel passionate about”.
He explains: “On the other hand, however, the main objective for me was to harness anger in order to establish something new, that focuses on communal feeling and a shared understanding of the complexity of what’s occurring around us.”
It sometimes seems that the London-based, left-leaning remain voters are in direct opposition to these ideals, which can change the way members of a working-class background outside of the capital can view the residents of a place like London, believing it to be pretty much in its own bubble. Believing that being from a certain area of the country doesn’t make your experience more valuable than someone else’s. As Dodd says, “comparing one city’s standpoint to the lives of people in disenfranchised towns across the country was always going to throw up wildly differing and problematic opinions on subjects.”
“I can’t help but feel that sort of rejection comes from an ignorant place. The issue is more complex than that, he explains. “I think we’ll look back and wonder why we blamed each other so much without properly questioning the catalytic issues that are plaguing us: rampant inequality, social cleansing and the opportunism of certain politicians, institutions and sections of the media to further their own agendas.”
Even though it is the youth that acted in such a large majority to remain within the EU, there remains a certain fear within the age of memes, where ideas bounce around the Internet as if in an echo chamber, that not enough was done to look outside and consider what is being done. As he explains, “it was interesting to see people around my age decrying on social media how their futures had been robbed following Brexit – that you should blame the old or Rotherham – but a few months down the line they were out catching Pokémon at the weekend and making dance videos to celebrate the life of a dead gorilla.”
Bad Breeding argue that this impact of an echo chamber does not stop on the screen, but it can be found through the somewhat passivity of left-leaning politics too. They believe that however clear the problems appear to be, the socialist ways of tackling them are often presented in such a way that people daren’t look outside of social media or a comment section.
“One thing I’ve noticed in recent years is that venting online can only do so much. Reducing criticism or creative ideas down into digestible snippets for Twitter and Facebook only goes so far. What really interests me now is what you can do at a local level and the internet can be harnessed to do wonderful things locally, he says. “Without getting too preachy, there is so much that can be achieved within local communities to combat the social injustices we see growing around us.”
Words by Ashley Lampard