the (International) Noise Conspiracy
Inge Johansson: Bass

December 4, 2001
Great American Music Hall, San Francisco
The Subversive Sound - It's Working
Reviews and music critics struggle to say that the Noise Conspiracy's CDs are great but they caution the reader to "get past the politics" to get into the music. The Conspiracy's Subversive Sound is working because the desire for the music is manifest, but INC is making the establishment itchy under the collar. There's no movement, like Punk, to surround or buffer the messages of INC, which puts the listener in a more exposed, vulnerable state of listening. The soulful grooves, the organ cascades, and the charming playfulness puts the listener in dancing shoes, an unexpected place to ponder "Bigger Cages, Longer Chains". Socialism and the collective good galvanized with praise for introspective consciousness isn't usually this fun. So we get weird reviews and commentary because the media are caught out in a void, where they can't use the usual stereotypes or genre binders as interpretative crutches. Instead they must confront and enjoy the music without the stagnant structures to interpret what Noise Conspiracy makes them think or feel. And that's where INC wants us to be: in a space free of fear, thinking & feeling with our own hearts and minds, unharnessed from the corporate and societal velvet ropes. It's subversive all right, got em' dancing and havin' fun while pumping them full of (gasp) ideas...

The Difficulty of Being a Rock Band in a Capitalistic Society

While they're advocating socialism, anti-consumerism, and Marxist thought, INC is still a rock band. They promote themselves as a package with music videos, matching outfits, and fortify their songs with lots of "Yeah" and "Baby" while maintaining a crystalized cognition of their political values. This duality of conscious behavior - the knowledge of being (making themselves) a commodity while fighting the ramifications of human endeavor as a commodity - seems like an extra burden on any band. But with the grace of thoughtfulness and the intelligence of artists who believe in what they're doing, this band manages to say, "We see it, we know it, but we're a rock band. Yes, we're encouraging people to consume (of course we sell T-shirts)", but the encouragement to consume ideas, books, and art which inspires the individual to be free of the herd mentality and the chains of consumerism, well... that's part of the package they're consciously creating. And they're over it as a complexity, a duality, a schism that is forced upon artists who want to make a living doing what they love. It's not easy being a Socialist in a Capitalistic society, "just like we hope it will be difficult to be a Capitalist in a Socialist society."

I'm a Convert and I Wanted Answers
I never needed to get past the lyrics to get the Noise Conspiracy. Exactly the opposite. If anything, I listen to this music more fervently to hear the voice of my discontent and be comforted by the camraderie. Unlike other bands (The The), who rail at you as one of the consumerist herd, INC is saying "we". When there's alienation, capitulation of values, isolation from the standard mores of a society who persists in valuing life as the accumulation of status symbols, "we" suffer. The Noise Conspiracy's solution is vibrant and valid - expression through art with the vigilant and diligent consciousness required to maintain joy in a world whose religion of consumerism is persuasive, but not powerful enough to drown out voices of dissent and the Subversive Sound.

International Noise Conspiracy - Inge: Interview Dec, 2001

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VIDEO VISION (V V): Earlier you were asking the tour manager to put Jello Biafra on the guest list. Tell us how this relationship came about.

INGE, INTERNATIONAL NOISE CONSPIRACY (INC): I've always been interested in political music. Dead Kennedys is one of my absolute favorite bands of all time. If it wasn't for the Dead Kennedys, I wouldn't be in the International Noise Conspiracy, I know that for sure. Because that was one of those bands that kicked my ass ten years ago, and made me think about things, and why are they talking about certain kinds of issues ... so I started reading books and seeing films and learning about what they were singing about. I've just been in touch with that guy (Jello) for a while, so yeah, I would love for him to show up.

V V: The power of the Dead Kennedys lyrics and the issues they covered got you into the political arena?

INC: No, not just the Dead Kennedys. It was a lot of things and people.

Inge - International Noise Conspiracy: Live, December 2001

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V V: Who else was influential in this way?

INC: Influences are everywhere. It wasn't only music, it was a lot of books too. But there were a lot of bands who were and are influential. It wasn't just the DKs, it was The Clash, Billy Bragg, Public Enemy, Chubbawumba, Gang of Four, MC5 ... it all came step by step. There's always been a shortage, yet a lot at the same time, of good political music out there.

V V: Right! Let's talk about that. One of the most important features of INC is the political ideas, correct? (Yeah!) Given the strong politics of the lyrics it seems like it would be difficult, if not impossible, to separate the politics from the music. A couple of questions about that ... How do you respond to either critics/reviewers and audiences who love the CD or the show, but who imply that the listener needs to get past the politics, then it's a great band or CD?

INC: Yeah ... when we released our first record, Survival Sickness, there were a lot of reviews like, "This is a good rock record, really great rock songs, good riffs, good bass lines, catch-phrases, but it's too much politics." And that record was released in year 2000. And I was pretty shocked that a political record could upset the reviewers in the Year 2000! It's been a long time since 1968 and Woodstock. And we didn't think we would cause that much trouble and tension when we released it, but obviously it did. So to the people who say "Ya gotta get past the politics to enjoy INC", I would say that with the Noise Conspiracy it's totally impossible. You can go to our shows, you can dance to the music with it's soul and punk features, but what you don't know is that there is some serious Marxist theory going right into your head while you're dancing around. It's up to you later to sort it out. Later you have to figure out what those questions and lyrics are about and what you will do with that.

Sara and Dennis - International Noise Conspiracy: Live, December 2001

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V V: For a lot of bands who come out of a punk or hardcore movement, the politics is integral to the music and the scene, and I never read reviews about these bands, or even punk history (going back to the Dead Kennedys and others) where there is a criticism of the political nature of the lyrics while raving about the music. What is it about International Noise Conspiracy that is provoking people to want to separate the music from the politics? Especially in the Year 2000, or 2001? When it hasn't happened to others like The Clash, or Billy Bragg?

INC: I think that many of the hardcore and punk bands that were political were, tragically enough, preaching to the already converted. By doing that they reached only a limited crowd and also tragically, limited themselves. But the way we are as a band, we want to be everywhere. We play in the crusty squats in Germany if somebody books us there, and we appear on MTV is someone puts us there. Therefore, I think we become harder to define, what we are actually doing, and not be taken as "just a punk band". We try to be more than "just a punk band" by being everywhere. And as we become harder to define, I think we become more of a threat. And that's what we want to be.

Dennis and Sara - International Noise Conspiracy: Live, December 2001

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V V: Right! Do you think the matching outfits and catchy tempos also confuse people ... the danceability of the "Smash It Up" versus what's going on in the lyrics is crossing genres and such...

INC: Yeah, we're not like Discharge, or Black Flag in that we're not a noisy political band... I would say that we're sort of like Situationists in that sense. Because we're putting (forward a )political ideology and critique of the Capitalist economy and analyzing it in a context that it doesn't really belong - in a sassy, rockin' way...

V V: And a very sexy way, which isn't usually the perception or display of economic critique...

INC: Thank you very much ... And it's about making Socialism something fun, and sexy - you know, something positive. And something that people that people can take to/with them, instead of being grim: it's so hard, it's so tough. Ya know, things are grim right now, they're looking bad right now. But we want to be out there with an optimistic view of things, and make it danceable, and accessible to people because I think that's our only chance with people right now. To reach them emotionally. And to get them involved. Maybe we can show them that if we're this passionate about this, we can encourage them to be passionate (about the same ideas) too.

Dennis on the Balcony - International Noise Conspiracy: Live, December 2001

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V V: You can speak for yourself here, or for the whole band if you want about this next topic: How have you been involved or affected by what's happened in Seattle, Quebec, Genoa , etc. What's your reaction been - how involved did you feel? Did you or any of the band feel affected, get involved? How do you feel about the Global Justice / Anti-Capitalist Movement ( a term I have issues with, to which Inge says, But it is!)

INC: But it is! It is, Finally (!) an Anti-Capitalist Movement. Seattle started something. Before that, before we first came to the U.S., we were worried. We thought the "Yankees" are going to hate us, and McCarthy is going to shoot us at the gates and we're not going to be let in. Like people would yell at us "You fuckin' pinkos. Go back to your own country and change your own country! Move to Northern Korea!", or something like that. But that didn't happen. Every night we played we met people who were in Seattle or influenced by what happened in Seattle, and they would tell us, "Your band feels like a part of all this. You made me realize I'm not alone thinking these things. Therefore, me and my friends did such-and-such because we got inspired." And that happened every night! And that was so inspiring, because that happened in the home of Capitalism, and Militarism. The United States! And hearing people talk about these issues in the United States, that's just awesome!

Look at what happened in Seattle, and then in Quebec - which nobody heard about, because it wasn't violent - when there were 50,000 people marching in the streets against the Globalization Economy ... then we got Genoa, Prague, Barcelona, then Gothenburg in Sweden, which we attended as a band this summer for the top meeting of the European Union. 25,000 people protested in Gothenburg, against the EU, to make Europe a Capitalistic slave state ( I will get into that more later). We all participated in that protest, to march with the people, to try and duck from the flying stones and stuff like that. We actually played a gig there; for two days there were riots and on the night of the second day we played our show. One of the organizations that put up the demonstrators had an isolated kind of area, close to a park where they had forums and discussion groups. And it was amazing, after two days of protesting and rioting and 25,000 people united there together to speak out... People were there from everywhere, from the liberals to the radical Anarchists Black Bloc ... all united and protesting together against the common enemy, which this time is so awesome. Because just like those other moments, like Seattle and Prague, not really marching against one government, or corporation. They are marching against an idea - they are protesting an economical system: against Capitalism, and Globalization economies, and an economic structure and the economic power structures that we're living under. And awesome because there were all these people from different backgrounds fighting together, united together.

Inge and Sara - International Noise Conspiracy: Live, December 2001

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Gothenburg was totally beautiful : for once it made sense to be in a political rock band, and to to play there. That was the embodiment of the idea of the International Noise Conspiracy: to be the soundtrack of the ongoing struggle against Capitalism. When we went to do the soundcheck, 500 meters from where we were playing there was a peaceful, anti-violence demonstration, that got surrounded by 500 cops in riot gear who arrested everybody - for sitting down in the square. So people had to sneak past that massive arrest to get down to the show, and after two days of violence and arrests and confrontations with the state violence machine and being denied the right to speak out at the EU meeting, people were pretty shaky. And they had to have the musical , emotional frame for all that, and we were there to do it. It felt like, Yeah, this is what the band is all about. When we get the chance we love to play our music in it's political context, rather than just always playing a "rock show".

Dennis - International Noise Conspiracy: Live, December 2001

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V V: Going back to our discussion earlier, we were talking about depoliticizing the music, yet the band is political and is happy to be playing in it's political context. But you're also selling your band and image ... you're sort of playing both sides of the story. How does that go?

INC: Yeah. True. But we're a rock band ... what do you expect ?

V V: OK, but my real question is: Do you ever feel the need to soften the (political) message, or does anyone ever put pressure on you to change, or is there any government or industry pressure that questions your lyrics ... and does the band feel like there's any difficulties traveling to the U.S. with the kind of environment currently enforced ( my question was a lot more garbled than this, but I was attempting to question the ability of government or the entertainment industry to repress artistic expression that was deemed "terrorist" or dissenting - and whether INC had sensed any censorship or experienced any restriction of movement )

INC: Yeah, when we were getting ready for this tour, coming to the United States, people said "You can't go there." When America has declared war, actually not declared war, but just blowing up Afghanistan... People warned us not to come to the United States and talk about these things. "It's very sensitive" and "It's not really the time and place for this"... Of course we took that into consideration because we know how this "thing that happened" on Sept. 11, and how deeply that affected everyone, especially people in America, and we don't want to be rude about it, but it happened because of a reason. We thought, should we cave in to the sort of McCarthyism that's going on right now, like the banned radio songs.

Lars and Dennis - International Noise Conspiracy: Live, December 2001

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I've seen the list, and it's every Rage Against the Machine song ever done, or "Sabotage" by the Beastie Boys, or "I'm on Fire" by Bruce Springsteen. {breaks into non-breathing giggles} And "Jump" by Van Halen! You know, real subversive songs! So we're looking at the picture that is being drawn for the American people - CNN and all their numbers ... the War between Good and Evil, I think they even call it. And then on the other hand you have the talk shows, everyone being so cynical about what's going on which kind of breeds this mood of "Yeah, hey, everything is fucked but whatever ... God bless America." So we thought, should we cave in to this stuff or should we just go over and speak out. And really stand up and speak our minds, "Why did it happen?", "Why are there a billion people out there hating America and Western Culture?", "Why are there people hating the Pentagon? Enough to blow it up?" It's a vital point to stand up and talk about those things right now, therefore we decided to head for America for an American tour to be breath of fresh air.

Sara - International Noise Conspiracy: Live, December 2001

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V V: We definitely need all the dissenting voices we can get now. Surrounding us is the sentiment "You're with us or you're against us", and the American Left has been too cautious to dissent with dialogue - there's a fear about offending and being unable to have the freedom to disagree.

INC: But that's really important right now. It's a crucial point right now to do that. Hearing stories about people in America who have been killed for their turbans as a Bin Laden supporter ... someone has to talk about this. It's bullshit, I don't have any other words for it. I'm scared about where we are going as people when those kind of things happen. That's why it's important to us to be here and talking about it ... but I know it's cool for us, because we're white people and no one really questions us about getting on an airplane and flying to the U.S., but if I had a different name, then it wouldn't be so easy for us to come here.

Inge - International Noise Conspiracy: Live, December 2001

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V V: If Art can affect politics, if Art can be a wellspring of creativity that helps consumers be freed from their consumer needs - themes that run through the two recent INC full length CDs - do you feel that INC is reaching new audiences who want to be a part of this creative {anti-consumer} process? How can INC affect a cultural creative process, and be a guide out of the consumer process - this cycle of wage slavery to get more money to buy more things, thereby needing to work even more to continue to consume, etc.?

INC: I get it. Yeah, we're against the culture of consumption and that mentality ... but on the other hand, we're a rock band with "merchandise", we're on a semi big label, and we have promotional videos on MTV. We're a commodity. But, as all record labels seek out concepts to sell they had this band from Sweden with guitar riffs, and hair dos, and the suits, and crazy jumps in the air, and the fist in the air attitude ... of course that's a selling concept to kids who want to rebel - and we know that. So we try to keep a step ahead (all of the time ) and shape this "product" to whatever we want it to be. And make it more than just that. Try to give it a little more substance. I don't know if we're succeeding in that or not. And it's true, that we're also encouraging consumption of things like books and culture and the things that are inspiring! So we're sort of on both sides because we're operating in a Capitalistic economy, with the tools that it's offering us. Sadly enough. But that's just how it is. But we have chosen to do that because if we sell ourselves like we do now, we're able to do Noise Conspiracy 7 days a week. And we're able to speak out, to people like you, who will broadcast this on TV, about our ideas ... If we had decided to do this on a DIY level and try to stay out of that system , then we would be selling in markets, and factories and... I worked in a nursing home before, and I did that 5 days a week and the Noise Conspiracy 2 days a week. I would much rather be doing it this way for 7 days a week because I think if you're serious about what you're doing and what you're saying then you should push it as far as you can. It's always hard, or impossible, to be a socialist in a capitalistic society, in the same way that I hope it will be hard to be a capitalist in a socialist society. But we're honest about it. We don't try and say, "No, we don't sell T-shirts , we're not having an image, we're not a commodity. " We know we are, so we're past that.

Fuck Nationalism - International Noise Conspiracy: Live, December 2001

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V V: Let's talk about your music videos. You seem really committed to music video, two from Survival Sickness and already you have a video completed for "Capitalism Stole My Virginity" soon after the release of A New Morning, Changing Weather. It's unusual enough for a small label to put out any music videos and for INC, there's already three. Where does this commitment to music video stem from? How do you put this in context of MTV and what it stands for?

INC: There's another video coming soon too, so that's 4 videos. We never thought that MTV would actually pick it up. We made videos where we were rocking out and we had pictures of Karl Marx and Emma Goldman and Durutti and The Clash - our heroes. We had slogans saying "Smash Neo-Liberalism" all over the place. We never thought MTV would ... but they did. And the reason for that {fit of giggling and squirming} is that we are good looking. That's what I heard. I'm sorry but... {more laughing} that's actually inside information from MTV. And I hate MTV . I hate that there are a bunch of business men and Fred Durst types that are deciding what kids should be listening to ... or not. There's a weird thing about watching all the big music shows, including MTV, and switching channels between them , and they're all showing the same music videos. And that sort of proves how few (bands or videos) are allowed to be in the broadcasts and how marginalized it is. But we decided ... well it was fun to do the videos. We wanted to promote the band, and make it a package. I'd just rather see our video on MTV than the new Limp Bizkit video. And I'm happy every time I see Rage Against the Machine videos.

Sara - International Noise Conspiracy: Live, December 2001

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V V: How about the new video for "Capitalism Stole My Virginity"? It seems like everyone in the video is reading the Greil Marcus book, "Lipstick Traces" at least once, or that the book got as many camera shots as the band.

INC: That video was really chaotic for a couple of reasons. The whole party thing. And we shot the whole thing on the 11th of September! So between the shots we were running to the TV watching what was happening, saying "Holy shit! What's going on! Capitalism stole my virginity!" It was pretty intense. We wanted to do a good looking video, with funny people having a good time and dancing and being corny. But all around the room there are political books lying around, and we hope people will spot that. The Greil Marcus book is a political perspective on punk rock and the commodification of punk rock. {laughter on all side as we look at each other while we commodify ...}

Where the Feet Fly, the Mind will Follow - International Noise Conspiracy: Live, December 2001

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V V: What's the creative process of the band?  Who writes the songs, and/or the lyrics, and who writes the CD sleeve  material ?

INC: On Survival Sickness, we did manifestos for the songs instead of lyrics. The manifestos were like small sheets that cover the issue that we are talking about in the song. Of course, the lyrics speak for themselves as well, but they are also limited to standards of a rock song: verse, chorus, verse, double chorus, etc. And we thought that what we were saying was more than the lyrics could convey. And we took up a lot of song space with things like "Baby" and "Yeah" because it sounds very good. It was a way for the audience to get more in depth with the issue. On A New Morning, Changing Weather we printed the lyrics and for every song lyric there are quotes by famous and infamous people and book suggestions or book tips. This put the lyrics in a bigger picture, and maybe it will get people to read Bakunin or listen to Bikini Kill. We recorded 21 songs for the record and chose 11 songs. After we chose the songs that we want to represent us this time, we thought about the books, and the records and the movies that would represent us. We collaborate, and people are interested in different things. So we all have different books we're reading and certain issues that are key. That's how we know that the sum of the members of the collective Noise Conspiracy is way more powerful than any isolated member of the band could be. We're commies! We work very much on Communist principals with the band stuff. Lots of voting and group decisions. It takes a long time but it works out.

Streams of interview coming soon, email if you want notification!
Interviewer: Catherine Lee

Camera & Photos: Rodwin Pabello and Lina Eriksson

Transcription & Editing: Catherine Lee

© 2001 Evans Media Group, Inc.

Related Links:

Video Vision CD Reviews - "Music" section

Burning Heart Records (USA)

Digital Farmers

Black Mask

G7 Welcoming Commitee :: An Activist Record Label Striving for Social Change

Conspiracy Gurl :: Lots of links