In this political and social climate, Austin based band Blxpltn are a welcome and needed force of future punk intensity.
The US faces a troubling period where Trump’s ability to create further divisiveness is worrying. For some, (of course) in both the ethnic and white contingences his shoot from the hip approach is welcomed. He does after all have staunch (albeit dwindling) supporters. For others however Trumpism is a dangerous ideology (if you will). It’s an ideology that reeks of a man with megalomaniac tendencies.
In terms of thoughts the duo of Jonathan Horstmann (JH) and TaSzlin Muerte (TM) are under no such issues of division-Trump and his uber capitalist outlook represents danger. While time has created a climate perfect for a band like Blxpltn Trump has not been a catalyst for the genesis of the band. On the contrary Blxpltn are a musical force who have always sought to voice the opinions of the marginalised. From people of colour, the LGBTQ community, women, immigrants and the forgotten members of society Blxpltn’s message of fighting the status quo is important and certainly an outlook that we at #itchysilk love.
In 2017 Blxpltn look to build on the success that brought them a performance at the renowned Afropunk Festival with the new single, Education Destruction. The single follows their second album New York Fascist Week (2016) and maintains the quality of that sophomore. Grating guitars, machine gun like drum patterns, and vocals of ear busting volume speak of the real and dangerous mis-information of education.
With that firstly give us the background on you individually and how you came into music?
J H: In a Christian household I was raised a fundamentalist where studying music was required. At 15 I discovered punk, started sharing it with my friends. Then I got kicked out of a Christian high school for starting an anti-war movement. BLXPLTN was bound to happen.
T M: I was raised in a right-wing Judeo-Christian cult. Women weren’t allowed to wear pants, makeup, or jewellery, and men weren’t allowed to have beards. Then I got a skateboard, a Wu-Tang record, and some cannabis when I was 13, and everything changed. I was on my own at 16. Here we are now.
And what about the genesis of Blxpltn-talk about why you came together and indeed was there this higher reason like a burning feeling to say something that was a catalyst?
JH: The band was formed as a positive outlet for a lot of daily frustrations. We never wanted to make it bigger or more grand than that. In the beginning I always thought that my songs needed to mean something on a greater scale, but Tasz has taught me a lot about letting inspiration come from seemingly non-political places. But honestly what isn’t political?
TM: We found ourselves making regular punk songs about being generally pissed off and then Trayvon Martin was murdered and Stop & Frisk was going on in New York. We were like WTF. So instead of just taking it out on white people, we started making songs about it. It was a social experiment. A sonic experiment. We discovered that a lot of people are racist or complacent. But we also gained allies, some we’d never spoken to, who were just waiting for us to say something. Those have been our strongest supporters. Some of the smallest nonchalant white kids have been the most vocal and most supportive. We never noticed them until we delivered our message.
Punk has always had an association with social powerful commentary. Why is punk such a powerful medium?
JH: If you’re gonna say something worth saying, someone is going to be offended. Punk has never had a duty not to offend, so it’s a very safe medium to speak truth to power. I think it takes much more guts to be….say a socially aware country musician.
TM: It’s a powerful medium partly because it’s rife with mistakes. Performance, misquoting, political incorrectness, it always sparks conversation. It’s the original Facebook or twitter. You say what you want. Some things might be wrong, and someone in your community will correct you. It’s a safe place to do that and it’s a show but also a forum. It’s the united nations of music. But if you want to be extreme, there is a line. Punks want Nazis eradicated.
Before getting onto music-the political climate is evidently ripe for the punk voice what are some of the issues (briefly) which concern you?
JH: There’s too much to talk about. Citizen’s United? American Isolationism? The rise of the Alt-right? Fuck the Alt-right.
TM: The prison industrial complex. The treatment of indigenous peoples. The people who cultivated the land were killed, or forced onto reservations. Have you ever been to a reservation? Have you tried drinking a glass of water on a reservation? It leaves a film. The Flint, MI Crisis is not a new one. Black people are ancestors of unpaid, abused laborers who also built this country. We were told we weren’t human. We weren’t allowed to read. Then we weren’t allowed to vote. Women couldn’t vote. The atrocities that black women faced were unthinkable. Americans have eradicated native languages, from Africa to Hawaii. We’ve stolen knowledge of beautiful landscapes and made them slaves to tourism. We surf their waves, we eat their food. We call the cops on them when they get “out of line.” We are all invaders. Respect the ‘Aina. This question alone could be a whole interview
Look at Black History Month. It’s not about black history
Your second album New York Fascist Week we were curious about the title just elaborate a bit.
JH: Tasz came up with that shit LONG before Drumpf was more than a punchline. We were naive and really didn’t see that one coming. Once he became president it was like ‘what should we do with this title’ and the answer was ‘keep pushing it. People need it now more than ever.’
TM: Our producer Autry came in the first day of recording and said, “this is what we should call the record.” As two men in the fashion industry, Jonathan a model and myself a stylist and designer, it made perfect sense. We felt it was congruent to our lifestyle due to the racism and objectification we had experienced in the industry towards women and people of color. That was before there was even the thought of an actual New York Fascist in the Whitehouse. We’ve always had that issue of inadvertently predicting the future in our songs.
Are you angry, opinionated or a bit of both?
JH: I’m less angry than I used to be. I feel that to sustain yourself playing music like ours, you’ve got to really compartmentalize. If I’ve got an opinion, I’ll put it into a lyric and let it out into the world like that. Life’s too short to walk around pissed off. My partner and I are expecting our first child, a girl, and I can’t raise her around the kind of anger that I used to have-even if it is righteous anger.
TM: I’m angry because local festivals don’t want to book us because we talk about issues they feel will make the crowd angry or uncomfortable. But our shows are always a celebration. Poverty and oppression are universal. When I see people from all different races, genders and backgrounds, that’s what makes me happy. If you ever meet me at a festival, I’ll sneak you in.
Can education allow individuals and communities to defy social constraints?
JH: It really depends on what KIND of education you are talking about. The quality of education is shit. The propaganda machine is Anglo-centric? That shit is alive and well. In addition, the same people who get funding for public education also tell young black kids they need to ‘get an education and better themselves’.
TM: Look at Black History Month. It’s not about black history, it’s about white history. Our history is not being slaves. Our history is building pyramids and pioneering medicine and philosophy. It’s about women taking charge of their lives and being strong in the face of oppression. Women of color are more accomplished than men of color throughout history. History often unfairly represents women.
Break down the forthcoming album. If you can tell us about one of two tracks which you feel epitomise the album.
JH: The album is still taking shape, in my mind. There are still a lot of working titles but there is a track where we go into this dancehall thing we’ve never done. It’s about police brutality and the inevitable end of the police state. The tone is dark, groovy and then suddenly it’s like someone starts busting through a brick wall with a sledgehammer. You can hear them coming but you’re still grooving to this dancehall thing and then the bricks start falling away. Suddenly this white-hot light of righteous fury starts taking over and the guitars and vocals are in full crescendo. It’s the future and the temples are burning. Then it drops right back into the groove and you realize no one came through the wall and you’re still sitting in this cell but at least there’s a good beat.
TM: Yeah, we are still not sure what’s going to end up on the record but as a queer person of color, I felt it was important to try to normalize our sexuality. Dancehall which originated in the Caribbean, often treats queer people poorly. Songs are primarily about their demise. So, we’re trying to say we are not week, we’re strong. Whether you are straight, queer, male, female, trans, non-binary, asexual, we are here, we can run our businesses and take care of our families. The Man doesn’t see color or gender, they see people they can crush.
Does America need anarchy or rebellion to bring about change and indeed does the world need more anarchy?
JH: America needs compassion to bring about change. Compassion and polite discourse. We have neither now. I can’t say what we need, but I can say we need a different way of communicating about it. Who’s to say post rebellion US wouldn’t be 1000x worse than it is now? I think the de-escalation of the rhetoric would be helpful. But what do I know? I just play music.
HO9909 are a band we do support. The movement of black people in white dominated genres is significant.
TM: We are here now, and we’re reclaiming our shit. WE built this city on rock’n’roll, not white people. We will crush you.
Credits-Featured image by Andrew DeThomas, Redbull image by DeShaunCraddock