Without further ado, here’s everything you wanted to know about Broadcast Zero but were afraid to ask…
For those of us not familiar with Broadcast Zero, who are you and what are you all about? How would you describe the band?
Nick: Well, my name is Nick and I’m the lead singer and one of the guitar players in Broadcast Zero. We’re a four-piece punk band hailing from Kitchener/Waterloo, Ontario. Other members currently include Phil on guitar, Sean on bass, and Kyle on drums. Phil and I started this band back in 2005 because we were sick and tired of so few actual punk bands around. Both of us had grown up listening to great Toronto punk rock from the mid-nineties and thought some sort of resurgence was in order. I wouldn’t describe us as a nineties punk band though, cause, well. . . . seriously, it’s 2008. We like to pull from a large number of influences that range far and wide, but in the end its straight-up, no-gimmicks, punk rock.
Phil: Funny thing was, as soon as we started playing shows, we found a ton of kick ass bands startin’ up with us, so right away we made a little scene from just 3-4 bands that emerged from the garage/basement around the same time. All those bands are still going strong too, playin’ all over Ontario.
On the Broadcast Zero website you say “There is more to punk rock than simply picking up an instrument and playing a few chords. There is also a responsibility to community.” How so and why?
Nick: You know that old ambiguous phrase that starts with “punk is. . .” Well, for us, punk is not fashion or music or, I’d even go as far to say, a lifestyle. Punk rock is, for us, a state of mind. It’s about being conscious and aware of your surroundings. There’s a lot of bullshit going on in this world and recognition of those problems is the first step in solving them. Coincidently, that change and recognition must begin within ourselves. Here’s where I’m supposed to say it’s about self-reflection and self-improvement but it’s not. It’s about self-destruction or better yet, self-deconstruction. Here’s the order of events – recognize, deconstruct, reconstruct – punk exists, for us, mostly in that recognition and deconstruction range.
As members of a punk band we have a responsibility to inspire that mindset for other people. While the change begins within ourselves it can then extend into the rest of the world and that is why we need to communicate ideas whenever we can. This band is associated with Phil’s zine Do More/Say Less which should be in full production mode early in 2008. I’ll let Phil talk about his zine and affiliations with various groups. But I will leave other bands, younger and older, with one important thought: If you have a microphone in your hand fucking say something! Make it count! Take advantage of the great opportunity to make a difference. And, always support your local scene – without them we are powerless.
Phil: The DMSL zine Nick mentioned is just a great way to promote bands and causes we bump into along the way. I’ve always held the belief that if you help other bands out and promote the music in general, and not just your own cause, the chances that a better punk scene will evolve increases. I mean that was what punk was really about, having bands that were accessible and something everyone could be apart of without the superficial aspect of the music industry involved. I think for the most part punk rock has been very successful in those terms. The problem is that you have to scale the bands down to the point where there aren’t thousands of dollars available to the bands, which is just fine with me as long as the punk ethic of building a community is at work and bands don’t have to rely on bigwigs for financing and touring, they can rely on a network of people genuinely interested in the music. Essentially, since it’s we the fans of punk and we the people that play in the bands, we should be the ones taking care of business as they say. I think this active and direct involvement in the music is what has kept me so interested in punk rock to this day.
As for what Nick mentioned about the opportunity to hold an audience and say something worthwhile, I totally agree. I grew up going to shows where it was normal for bands to speak up on stage about whatever issues they cared about. It was also normal to fuck around and probably say lots of stupid things as well, but the point is, there were a few years there where it seemed like no one was really talking about anything let alone incorporating it into their lyrics.
Punk rock is a participatory sport, without the banter, its just a lot more boring to me. So I guess that is why we involve ourselves with groups like AWOL and Common Cause, in attempt to have something interesting to say on stage once in awhile (aside from the usual jokin’ around). Also, and I know people hear this a lot but its always worth saying again, even though our society in Canada has many holes, we really are privileged to be livin’ here and it’s our duty to say “hey look, I have everything I need but I’m still going to learn about the world and try to make it better.” It’s the whole bite the hand that feeds; the message instantly becomes much stronger when resistance comes from places you wouldn’t expect it. It ties into Nick’s theory of deconstructing your reality; it is something every one must do to avoid the “routine” and “safe” life they have planned out for you.
You say you’re involved with organizations like AWOL and Common Cause…who/what are they? Are there any other groups or organizations you’re affiliated with, as a band or individuals?
Phil: AWOL is a student activist group in KW that is slowly appealing to the larger community as more and more “non-students” are becoming involved. It essentially is a group of people dedicated to peace and struggling to slow down the imperial war machine, as well as linking this with the looming climate change disaster. There have been lots of great actions in a pretty short time and there’s a real strong core group of individuals who keep it well organized and active. The support I’d say has been pretty great not to mention that lots of fun is being had in the process. Although AWOL is focused towards anti-war and the environment, it definitely fuses a positive culture to go along with it. I’m just highly impressed at how much partying can happen along side great organization and effective demonstrations. In general, there’s just a lot of organization going on, along side a lot of education. I think it’s doing a good job of preparing people to join the activist network and work within a new system towards change.
That’s probably what Common Cause is doing in the end as well. They are an Anarchist Organization slowly building chapters across Ontario, Canada. From what I’ve seen, they have tons of experience and seem to be on the ball in terms of setting everything up and beginning to be effective. I think their message and goals are just so positive and uplifting that it’s something I’m willing to help out in anyway.
Right now I’m just trying to hook up shows to raise some awareness as well as distro out their newsletter. Being in a band, you get to travel a lot so why not take that opportunity to spread some ideas around right? I definitely think both these groups are exactly the change we need to fight capitalism as well as improve society. Furthermore, the way of thinking that is being proposed is just exactly how I’ve felt since I could remember…get involved, meet the people in your community, make shit fuckin’ happen, don’t wait around for change, be that change…that sort of thinking has yet to let me down, although with a full time job and a band, its definitely hard work. I’m super thankful for those who make it all happen, cause it’s definitely not me doing most of the work. Its pretty nice to be in touch with people that can make you think like this and get you motivated, I mean, we all have jobs and lives…so it’s no excuse!
Broadcast Zero seems to play around and about Ontario a fair bit. Any other bands out there you’d recommend?
Nick: One of the great things about playing in a band is that we get to meet a lot of great people and we get to see a lot of great talent. You’d be surprised how few complete assholes we’ve met – I can count 4. Great bands in Ontario you should check out. The Rotten out of Kitchener have been doing punk rock for nearly a decade. Also check out Piss Drunk Hooligans (PDH), Dead City Citizens, The Fallout and The Decay.
Phil: We’ve also been lucky enough to play with some of our favourite bands like Knucklehead and The Rebel Spell. Seeing bands like this still able to tour and do it on their own, is just a great inspiration to us. People like to say punk is dead or whatever, but I ask them to go out to the shows, meet the people we have met, and it’s a different story. There really are great bands and great people supporting this thing and ensuring it gets through whatever “trendy” phases punk is always coming in and out of.
I guess you could say punk rock has a strong backbone, regardless of how big or small the crowds can get at times. It’s all a matter of perspective, some of the best shows I’ve seen had under 20 people there and on the other hand, some of the worst shows had 500 or more.
You’re currently busy recording. How’s that going and what can we expect in terms of music and message?
Nick: We’re heading into Drive Studios in early February 2008 to record our first full-length album. Musically, we’re not a throwback band and we’re not some weird sounding so-called punk that you listen to and go…. “huh, that’s what’s passing for punk these days?” Phil and I are collectively influenced by punk bands ranging from 70s-80s England to 90s Toronto to the stuff that came out on Epitaph or Fat. Essentially, if you like punk rock there should be something you’ll find on this album that you’ll enjoy.
Phil: It’s the kinda album you can listen to in any mood, which is something we thought would be great for a record. I have so many albums that are among my favourites, but it’s hard to listen to them because all the songs will be on the depressing side for example. Aside from that, I think it’s a fun album but without any lack of serious lyrical content. I think most people will find it very relevant.
Nick: There are a lot of different messages present on this album depending on the song. Generally, the theme of the album is about balancing responsibility with pleasure; it’s about challenging the social, moral and political ideologies which have shaped ourselves, our community and our world; it’s about recognizing inequality and oppression; it’s about maintaining a positive attitude in a negative situation.
Sounds good! How about telling us what a couple of the songs are about… I’m interested in knowing what some of the particular messages are that you’re trying to get across…
Speak For Your Self: I think the title appropriately mediates the message of the song but I’ll give a little more description nevertheless. Everything we do – actions, thoughts, opinions, dreams, aspirations are motivated, influenced, and even controlled by a variety of other sources. It is not to say that these sources are evil or wrong, but they certainly could be. Maybe our actions can never be our own, maybe our words will never truly be ours, but that shouldn’t stop us from trying to recognize our social, cultural and political constructors. “Deconstruct their lies, reconstruct your lives.” Marriage is always a great example – why get married? Is it love? What the hell is love? And not that stupid bullshit that people pull out like “Hollywood” love, I’m talking about 18th century Victorian era conceptualizations of romance that have, no doubt, shaped Hollywood and many of us all at the same time. Is it religious? Why are non-religious people getting married? The simplest point I can make is this: “just because” is not a good enough answer. Asking questions is no easy task, answering them is an even more impressive feat.
Same Old Story: The mentality of punk rock that I spoke of earlier has always been a positive force in my life and I see the same inspirational value that it offers others. I wrote Same Old Story about my friends who slowly digressed from punk rock, as many do, as they pass into their late teens and early twenties. Really the song attempts to make people aware that thinking punk rock does not necessarily have to be a high school trend or a speck of dust in our history. “You didn’t know what to do but it felt alright. Socialism in your heart and a whole lot of fight. You talked of better worlds over ryes and beers, all it really did was lessen your fears.” You often hear people talk about the spark of youth – well, we see it in every small town we play and it’s sad to think that such a powerful energy to create change can disappear over the course of a few short years. “You’re 24 now, you’ve got a job and a suit. You traded in your spikes, studs and boots. You’re living like they told you when you were young, living like you hated when you were young.” For me, it’s the same old story – close friends and kids on every scene just suddenly disappear and fade into the world they, in some obscure, young way, were opposing. The saddest part is that it’s when we’re older that we can realistically enact change.
The songs are not all that complex. Songs like Jimmy Fought The World is about good old fashioned rebellion by any means necessary. Songs like Off the Wagon and Neverland are about some of the problems (we run into the odd show) regarding finances and booze. Other songs like I Don’t Care and The Devil Song are about giving into the unbelievable temptation to absolutely give up – which is a feeling we all get at some point. As I said earlier, I think there’s something on this album for anyone who enjoys punk rock.
Phil: Yes we run into financing problems…but I’m the one who usually solves them. We also run into booze problems that’s true as well. I don’t solve those though I perpetuate them.
As a band that’s in the middle of recording/releasing a CD (and, I would assume, putting your own hard-earned money into it) you’ve got to have some thoughts on the whole ‘illegal downloading’/file sharing issue…are you going to be pissed if I download your stuff for free?
Nick: You’re going to hell if you download music online. No, just kidding. I have had this debate before regarding this topic with avid anti-downloading people and I think both arguments have their points. From a consumer perspective, I personally like the packaging and would make the effort to buy albums that I really enjoy. What downloading does is that it allows you to ensure that you don’t buy an absolutely crap-tastic album. I’ve also had the opportunity to hear some absolutely fantastic bands that I never would have heard of before because of downloading music. I also like the idea of being able to listen to bands before I go see them, so if we’re going to play a show in, say, Chatham, I can go ahead an download music from the bands that are playing so I know what I’ll be listening to while I’m there.
From a musician’s point of view, its better for DIY guys like us to get our music out there anyway we can. Especially since we could never afford to travel to Europe or Japan and tour on our own dime, it allows for music to be transnational without us ever leaving the country or finding distributors in those countries. On the other hand, people should obviously be paid for their work. Fuck, I just want a few bucks after a show to buy some drinks, but that rarely happens! Always buy local music, support your local scene.
Phil: How can you be against something that is destroying the music industry? For years artists and consumers have been getting’ it up the arse, it’s about time something came along to change that. What I think is important now is that we don’t let the industry rebound and start operating the way they used to, but with digital downloads and so on. Perhaps the beauty of digital is that it is so much harder to stop, I think that is just great, keep it that way. There are just so many positives with digital releases…better for the environment; you can avoid paying for patented CD technology and so on. Plus, it puts the music in the control of the artist if anything. Buy direct means less money going to a middleman (which, historically speakin’ tends to be a huge asshole). It is too bad because I know a lot of the indie labels are having a rough time as well, but it’s inevitable and these indie labels are perhaps in the best position to deal with it, as they seem to always be more innovative, not to mention the fact that their audience is almost always a lot more loyal. The industry is insecure about all this because they know the music they put out is a scam, let alone at the prices they’ve been chargin’ all these years. Its eerily simple to me…make good music you want to make, play the shows/connect with people, and the rest will take care of itself.
Music was never about sellin’ records to begin with, that part is called capitalism and the commodification that it brings to the table. It’s just been such bullshit all these years…bands making tons of cash for their label, for what? It’s exploitation plain and simple. Fuck capital…this is a first step in moving away from our reliance on others to say we are “good enough” and to get the big “ok.”
Good music will always be supported (and should be supported through government artist funds/basic income schemes anyway). I’m not too worried about any of this, its all positive to me. Download our record for free, it’s up to you if you think it’s worth buying for the artwork/lyrics. I personally could not live without owning something tangible for my favourite records, for me, it adds to the experience that is music. It should be a personal choice, which is a highly regarded capitalist idea…yet they seem to hate it when we have “too good” a choice. Hopefully all of this will make labels behave nicer, and really I hope only the rad indie labels out there survive.
Phil: On a side note, I mentioned basic income schemes…this is an idea I’ve been researching for awhile now and I’ve come down to the conclusion that every Canadian Citizen should be provided with $10 000 loan, once per year. These loans don’t have to be paid off although various incentives will be created to encourage it. Rich people could either take the money (assholes!!!), or donate it or just let the government keep it. Poorer people could use the money to meet their most basic needs (even if that means doing crack, they at least will be given a better shot at finally turning things around). It is hard to back everything up in little space, but it is an idea we MUST look into as the current trends in Canada are towards part-time, no benefits work. At some point, everyone needs to realize how much money our society produces as a whole, but never really gets to see more than 10% of that wealth. From the modestly rich to the very poor, we are all getting’ screwed by the current system. A changin’ of what is considered “valuable” is in order, and I’d argue that those who create the culture are the ones who should be rewarded, not those who steal (and destroy) the culture and resell it at an insane profit. The solutions are out there, financing an idea like this is a piece of cake, don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise. I’ve had professors who were told by our government that we have BARELY scratched the surface on how to fund ideas like these. Norway has an insanely ingenious way of creating funding through oil fund schemes. The citizens of Norway don’t even want to spend the billions of dollars they have saved up in this fund, they’d rather keep it for future generations while at the same time ensuring the oil is not consumed at stupid/harmful levels. Can someone say “wake up Albertans? Your land is being destroyed and you’re seeing about 5% of the profits! Something is wrong with Canada; it isn’t the peacekeeping socialist paradise I believed it was when I moved here. Furthermore, the current administration definitely ain’t helping!
Big thanks to Phil and Nick for the interview.