I posted a couple of weeks ago about a compilation CD from Moscow in support of Alem Assefa. Well, here's an interview I did last year with Vova, one of the members of a band called Hoods Up 495, and the brains behind the compilation. Hoods Up 495 is political, anti-fascist hiphop/hardcore from Moscow... in other words, a bunch of very brave guys! Check out the interview, it's got some great information about the situation now and growing up in the Soviet Union...
In The Water: Greetings! Could you tell me something about Hoods Up 495?
Like where are you guys from, who are the members, where does the name come
from, and how would you describe your music?
Vova: Hey man! Thanx a ton for support and your interest in our band! We started this band in spring 2006. There are two of us in the band - Ispectah Wreck and Daddy Damage (me). The name speaks for itself: HOODS UP means something like get ready, and 495 is a code of Moscow-city. We call our music circle pit hip hop actually its some mix of hip-hop, hardcore-punk, ska, heavy-metal etc with political antifascist lyrics.
Did you guys all play music before this band? I understand you were in some punk bands in Moscow before... how was that experience?
Yeah, we played and still play in some punk bands, those who alive today are Razor Bois (Oi!/ska-punk) and Frank Castle Gonna Break Your Neck! (hardcore in the vein of Heresy, Urban Waste, SS Decontrol, Negative Approach etc). We also were involved in setting up non-profit DIY gigs, doing some zines etc.
What is the punk scene in Moscow like? How has it changed in the past few years?
In my opinion, Russian punk scene is still weak, but it gets better slowly.
We still dont have enough bands that play real punk rock, most of them are just trying to get easy money, playing some emo or other commercial bullshit. At the same time suckers cant even imitate major emo-bands, their shit sounds even worse. But the real problem is that most of Russian punk still feel OK to deal with Nazis. I dont know any clubs around where the Nazis dont feel comfortable. On the most of the gigs you may see groups of assholes parading around with svastika tattoos, white power bands t-shirts. Nazi assholes often beat up other kids.
At the same time, I can’t get why people go to the venues that allow Nazis to come in.
You also may find in Russia such a phenomenon as nazi-punks. I remember times when I was a lil kid and some punks were trying to attack me because of my antifascist pins and patches. They used to say that all real punks are Nazis. There were lots of nazi-punk bands and bands that feel OK to share the stage and labels with them. There is a huge nazi-label in Russia called KTR. It was formed by some assholes from the nazi-metal band Korrozia Metalla which were extremely popular in this country for a long time. By the way, they got their sorry asses kicked by Napalm Death, when ND was touring Moscow. KTR released lots of nazi bands, white power magazines and other shit. Its a well known fact that they were always sponsored by different right-wing parties Today, many of the bands that were on KTR for years pretend it has never happened. Some of them even try to call themselves antifascist, because they hope to tour some foreign countries and get some money Its ridiculous where was their antifascism when they played on one gig with a pack of Nazis.
How about the hiphop scene?
Unfortunately, I cant say anything good about Russian hip-hop. Most if it is some gangsta-wanna-be pathetic crap or some emotional pseudo-poetical pretences. Lots of those rappers are also always happy to show their love to some patriotic ideas and Christian church. Thats just ridiculous
How did you get the idea to do 'circle pit hip hop'; or mix some parts of punk and hip hop together? Are you into both kinds of music?
You are an openly anti-fascist band, and very open about your politics. I heard that the situation in Russia regarding Nazis and fascists skinheads is getting really really terrible these days, with regular beatings and murders of minorities and anti-fascists? Could you please tell me about this situation?
Youre right, situation is absolutely terrible. The main reasons are strong right-wing government propaganda, very high level of peoples ignorance and spineless position of the rest of the society. Last year there was a huge nazi march in the centre of Moscow approved by the authorities. Its a pretty interesting fact that when some antifascist activists set up a protest meeting on the way of the nazi march they were arrested. Its such a usual situation here, antifascist actions get stopped by the cops and participants get arrested and beaten up, while Nazis, religious radicals, homophobes and other right-wing scum are free to voice their opinion anytime anywhere.
I read about the violence at the recent attempt to have 'Pride day' in Moscow...
Yeah, Love Parade was officially denied by Moscow mayor and his corrupt-ass administration. There were lot of homophobic talking on TV and in papers Both Christian and Muslim leaders were calling their true believers to go out and beat down the perverts. I’m not joking, those were blatant calls for violence, nothing less! As we can see, those religious rivals got so much in common actually. You know, attacks on gay clubs are usual in this country. So on the day of Love Parade all the centre of the city was full of Nazis and riot cops and there were no doubts that they are on the same sideI think that our country showed its ugly fascist face to the whole world. I just hope that nobody has any illusions about Russia now.
Is the situation worse in Moscow, or is it also in other places throughout the country?
It depends on the place. In Moscow and St Petersburg Nazis are more organized, but at the same time in such big cities you may also find active antifascists, while there are some small towns, which are in total control of some nazi organization. You know, there are lots of officilal organizations and political parties here, which are blatantly right-wing. Whose members are spreading white-power propaganda, attacking people etc.
Have you guys been personally affected by this upsurge of the fascist movement in Russia? Do you feel it is dangerous to be an openly anti-fascist band, and do you have problems at your shows or anything?
You know, its dangerous here just to look different from the faceless human mass.
If you have a Mohawk, dreadlocks or just a punk-rock t-shirt you may get
attacked in the broad-day light as an enemy of the great Russian nation.
Our gigs were set up by us, so we had a facecontrol, trying to not let Nazis
All our bands we play in are openly anti-fascist, so we got a lot of hatemail, death-threats and shit, we were snitched by some friends for life who decided that it would be more safe for them to change sides Anyway, fuck nazi shitheads and their apolitical whores! They are nothing but a sub-scum and we dont give a fuck about them...
Aside from the band, how do you, and how can you, confront this rise in fascist shit?
I think that the main and, maybe, the only way to stop fascist disease is to boycott everything and everybody who has anything in common with nazi crap. Just dont go to the clubs that allow Nazis to come in and parade around with svastika tattoos, dont buy anything from right-wing fucks, dont deal with labels that release white-power bands, dont fucking shake hands with so called right-wing persons. When Nazis see that they are accepted by community, they want more and more. Today you let them come to your gig, tomorrow they start beatin up kids and tell you what you should play and what shouldnt. We need just to cut their air, make em get back to the underground and suffocate there.
Your song 'FenceWalking ScumFuck' is about punks and other people who still
hang out with nazis and go to shows that they organize and buy their music. Is
this really what people do? Do people just say 'oh i'm not political' and then
hang out with nazis??
Oh, man! There is a countless number of excuses those people are comin with. They say ‘I’m not into politics’, they say ‘he’s an old friend of mine’, they say ‘I don’t care that the gig is organized by nazi friendly businessmen, I just need to see my fav band and relax after a hard day.’ Bitches got lots of excuses. If even punk rock kids say this crap, you may imagine what other people say. I wonder if they can tell this shit to the parents of people, killed or crippled by their nazi friends.
I can’t believe that they are too stupid not to understand that their apolitical position is nothing but a support of the hate crimes and they got some big blood spots on their hands. They understand it clearly, but just dont care. If your friend is a nazi, why dont you try to help him to get out of that crap. The fact that a person is your friend doesnt make him/her better than others and doesnt allow him/her to spread ideas of hate and destroy others’ lives. I had to quit any relations with some people who I knew for really long. That shit wasnt easy, but I don’t see any other ways. If you cope with nazi scum, you are not any better than them or even worse, cause they are the enemies and you’re the traitor and backstabber!
Yeah, there are people who resist nazi bullshit, who fight Nazis on the streets, who spread the flyers and other propaganda. But those people are the minority. There is a lot of shit comin from apolitical persons. Like ‘fuck those antifa kids, cause they fought Nazis last time, and this time Nazis came and kicked our ass, though we’re apolitical.’ Its unbelievable, but that’s true And the majority of people who understand at least something accuse antifascists of using the same methods that the Nazis use! But these people never come with any ideas or something. They just bluff around. Its OK to be nazi here, its not OK to be an antifascist!
Of course it is not just skinheads that is the problem, right? Surely there are more powerful people and political parties who benefit from this violence and the anti-foreigner ideas? I heard about parties like Rodina that have very similar ideas?
Yeah as I’ve said before, there are lots of official organizations, which are blatantly fascist. But government does nothing about them politicians are always extremely interested in those right-wing fools and support them here and there.
What about the situation in Russia under the Soviet Union? Were there no fascist skinheads, or were they just kept 'under the carpet'? Was there a punk scene in Soviet Union?
There were no nazi skinheads, but there were patriotic organizations, like PAMYAT, who actually were blatant nationalist anti-Semitic fuckers. They got serious support from the Soviet authorities, because anti-Semitism was almost official in USSR. There were also some youth subcultures like Lyubera they consisted of some suburban jocks, organized by Komsomol (communist youth organization) to attack the first rock gigs and beat down hippies, punks and everybody who looked anti-Soviet.
How do you feel life in Russia is different now than under Soviet Union? I know it is hard to say, but do you feel now that its better, worse, or just another, different kind of authoritarian and fascist situation?
Its definitely better, because the USSR was a total hell, while in Russia you at least got a chance. Soviet people couldnt leave the country for most it was impossible, today the borders are open, though in some countries they still dont wanna see us. (I don’t blame them, they got their reasons). In the Soviet Union you may get into concentration camp for telling a funny story about some government leader. Even in the end of the Soviet Era people didn't have the right of free speech. And dont forget the hunger, total poverty, awful conditions of life. Actually, the USSR was nothing but a huge concentration camp, which was trying to threaten his neighbors. So I can’t keep myself from laughing when I see some punk-rockers sporting soviet symbols. What are they trying to say? That they praise one of the most bloody authoritarian regimes of all time, blatant nationalism, homophobia (according to the Soviet law gay people went straight to jail) and total destruction of anybody who dares to have a brain? And its a shame to see those commie-kids here in Russia, where their grandparents were exploited, thrown in jails and killed by the sick soviet criminals.
Are you hopeful about the future and about stopping the fascist trend in Russia right now? There seems to be a lot of hard work to do...
Man, I don’t know. The only way is an all-over propaganda. Like when the antifascist message will become widely spread so that the people who dont care (the majority of our population) will just follow another trend and will hate Nazis. But that can be reached only if nazi culture is abolished in every sphere of every day life. Like when you turn on your TV you see some antifascist propaganda, you read some trendy authors book and you also see it, and finally when Mr P himself will says: I hate Nazis- make them bleed! But I Dont see anything like that coming in the nearest future Patriotism is the hottest trend of modern Russia and it seems like it gonna stay this way for pretty long time.
So how can we get in touch with punks in Russia contact them and buy their music? How about if someone from Hong Kong or other places in Asiawants to play shows in Russia?
I guess, only via internet because for most of Russian punks
its still very hard to get out of this country. But look out for fencewalking
suckers and especially bands who were/was on KTR and Neuro-Empire those are the
main nazi-friendly businessmen here. Fuck them!
Anything we can do outside to support the anti-fascist struggle in Russia?
Send us Jackie Chan so he will kick mr Putin in the stomach!