FREEDOM is that kind of bands that makes you want to lace up a pair of 14 eye boots and shave your head. From their demo to their latest “USA HARDCORE” full length on Triple B records they did nothing wrong. This interview was supposed to feature on STRAIGHT & ALERT FANZINE #2 but since waiting forever for other bands to answer affected my motivation to keep going with a printed fanzine, I didn’t want to put this interview aside forever. So here it is. Get ready for the FREEDOM SLAM!
Basics first: Could you please introduce FREEDOM to the world, its members, your jobs / occupations, if you play in any other bands and any other useful information?
Freedom is a hardcore punk band from Detroit, Michigan USA. We have been a band since the very end of 2012. The band is Mikey on bass, Nick on guitar, Jake behind the drums, Alec on guitar, and myself, Denis, on vocals. Jake is in another band called Citizen. Alec plays guitar in another Detroit band called True Love. All of us aside from Alec also play in a band called Spiked Collar.
I assume you’ve been asked this a hundred times but what ideas stand behind the name of your last full length “USA HARDCORE”?
Many people have asked us or talked about the name of the record. Some people think we are being arrogant or labeling ourselves as the ambassadors for hardcore in America or something like that. The real reason we chose to name our LP “U.S.A. Hardcore” is because over the course of us being a band we have had the opportunity to play in almost every part of the United States. Through all of those shows we made friends, played with countless great old and new bands, and got to experience hardcore as a community all over. The title is a tribute to all those cities, bands, and people we have been given the chance to be a part of. It’s our contribution to that which we love so much: U.S.A. Hardcore.
I won’t say that I am taking any risk saying you guys are influenced by all the good mid 80’s NYHC especially “Balls Of Destruction”-era Madball or Outburst. Could you name like 3 or 4 bands that also influenced Freedom and in which ways in particular (the sound, the riffs, the lyrics, the imagery etc)?
We draw almost all of our influence from the many bands that have come out of the city of New York ever since the beginnings of hardcore. Collectively, Agnostic Front is the biggest influence on us as a band. The music, lyrics, imagery and overall vibe and mentality they have as a band is everything we aspire to continue bringing to hardcore today. Other big influences would be The Abused, WarZone, and Straight Ahead. Those bands all had the energy and message behind them that inspires us.
Talking about Madball, they are still playing, celebrating this year the 20th anniversary of “Demonstrating My Style”. Unfortunately (in my opinion) now they just do the same mainstream soup than Sick Of It All, Walls Of Jericho and all these big Hardcore bands which lost their original intensity over the years . What’s your opinion on these bands? I think Hardcore has to be something that embraces the raw and intense energy of an ephemeral instant so it’s hard for bands to keep going with the same visceral intention through time. Do you think bands can keep playing for years and still have the same intensity and rage?
I think it’s very hard for a band to keep playing for years and years and feel the exact same way. We all change with time so expecting a band’s music to not change and evolve along the way doesn’t make sense to me. I can’t speak for every band that continues to play hardcore and still releases new music, but my personal experiences with bands like Agnostic Front and Madball have shown me that the driving force behind still being a band through the years is a love for hardcore. The same mentality is there. It has grown and changed with the times but the energy is still there.
If you could live from your music (and live enough comfortably), would you be ready to keep playing tunes that you are enjoying less and less over the years, and continue to put out records because you HAVE TO?
I would not play in a hardcore band if I did not enjoy the music or didn’t feel a strong love for the entire subculture.
Could you name bands that have been playing for over 15/20 years and kept putting out good records over the time? I can think of Integrity, Ringworm or Converge.
This question is all based on personal preference, but going along with what I said earlier the two bands that come to mind are Madball and Agnostic Front. Even though I don’t have the same connection and love for every single release these bands have put out, collectively I enjoy and relate to their music over their entire careers more than any other band that has been around for as long as they have.
Last one on this topic. THIS IS HARDCORE FEST has this year almost 10 reunited bands, with a very special one: TURNING POINT, which is actually a tribute show to the original singer who died in 2002. What do you think about 80’s / 90’s band reuniting? Any good / bad experience with some of you caught live?
I’ve had some great experiences seeing bands that have that reunited. It’s been happening a lot more in the last couple of years. Seeing bands like Breakdown, Negative Approach, Killing Time, Cold As Life, and BURN have been great experiences. Seeing a band you love but thought you’d never get to see can either bring all their music to life or it can leave you with a bad taste in your mouth. I’ve had my share of both in the last couple of years. I look forward to seeing the Turning Point tribute set.
Any plans to come over Europe any time soon? Are there any places where you’d really like to go and why? (Not especially talking about places with a hardcore scene but more about spots you’d like to see or visit in general)
We have talked about and tried to plan playing in Europe a lot. Personally, the places I’d like to both see and play the most are the UK and France. Besides being full of great things to see, so many punk and oi bands I love have come from England and France and I want to experience the hardcore and punk scenes today.
USA are known as “the land of the Free”. What does this mean to you? Do you consider Freedom exists in this country, through all its meanings (like you are asking in “Military Issue”)? Or is it just the freedom to carry a gun and be as liberal in work as you want to? I know I’m exaggerating but you get my point, right?
“The Land of the Free” comes with strings attached but it’s all a matter of perspective. Living in America, there are a lot of issues, from institutional racism, sexism, and denial of rights to specific groups people. But there are so many places around the world where people are denying things most people would consider basic human rights. Most people living here would like to see many things being different, but many people move to America because they are given many more opportunities than they would have in their home countries. To some people it really is the land of the free, but to others it can be the opposite.
Upcoming Presidential Elections are coming very soon; maybe by the time this fanzine will be out we’ll know who has won. What is your feeling about what’s going on now in the USA? Can Trump be the next most powerful man in the world?
Donald Trump would be the worst president in the history of the United States. The reasons are more than obvious to any logical person and those who do support him represent the worst part of America.
“Anti-Poison” is one of the clearest statement of what straight edge means to me. Words like these were resonating for me 10 years ago and still do as hard now. What are you personal stories with straight edge? Why did you choose not only not to do drugs / drink alcohol, but to claim it and make that become a part of your personality?
I can’t speak for anyone else in the band, but for me, growing up seeing the negative effects of substances like alcohol and drugs on the lives of people in my family and friends always made me want to stay away from any of that. I have never and will never have a need for that in my life.
I’m curious to know what the song “The End” deals with. Could you help me out?
The lyrics for “The End” were written by myself and my good friend Gil. We were inspired to write a song of this style by the song “The Blame” by Agnostic Front. Lyrically, the song deals with the acceptance of death and not living life with restraints. People try to either figure out the meaning of life or spend their whole lives arguing and denying the truth that’s right in front of them. These people spend so much time concerned with these things that they don’t even get to enjoy their lives. No one knows where life will take you, but who says we have to know?
By the way, the artwork of “USA Hardcore” doesn’t look really optimistic and positive. Is it a way to sum up what USA / the world are about nowadays with a drawing? What did you want to express with this piece of art and who did it?
The artwork is a metaphorical representation of life not just in America but everywhere. So many people live with the threat of war, poverty, imprisonment, and death every day. But underneath all of that pain and fear is the opportunity to overcome through cooperation. I drew the cover artwork.
The last few years have seen the return of the whole Skinhead-ish vibe in Hardcore with bands like yours or all the New Wave Of British Hardcore in UK. Have you noticed any changes in your local or in the whole American scene(s) since that revival? Maybe more skinheads and punx coming to hardcore shows?
In Detroit and in many other cities around the country I’ve seen a lot more skinheads and punks at hardcore shows, which is exactly what I think how things should be. The only divisions between these groups of people are ones we make up. Punk and hardcore go hand in hand and skinhead culture is a big part of hardcore history. More and more people are embracing the beginnings of hardcore and punk and reviving those early mentalities.
Is there any kind of connections between all these scenes in Detroit?
Detroit has a lot of connection between these groups of people. Punks, hardcore kids, and even skinheads go to every kind of show in Detroit. I hope that bond grows more with time.
Talking about Detroit, could you tell us how is the life there? I’ve read it was rated as the “most dangerous American city” in 2011. How would you say living in a “dangerous environment” influenced your way of writing music?
We all love living in Detroit and the surrounding areas. Many places are just like any other major city in the United States. There’s danger everywhere, but Detroit gets the title as most dangerous because of a multitude of reasons that are preventing things from getting any better. I don’t feel in danger living here. People here are proud of where they’re from, despite of the hard parts of life here.
Also, it’s really famous for being the cradle of many legendary bands and artists, either it’s the world famous Soul label Motown records, the rock’n’roll legends The Stooges, obviously Negative Approach or even Eminem. Are you guys into any other kind of music than Hardcore Punk in general?
And to complete the previous one; would you say living in a city with such a rich and diverse musical background helped you having “in depth” tastes and write music in a different way than if you were from anywhere else ?
Everyone in the band likes lots of different kinds of music. Everything from Britpop and alternative to metal, our tastes in music are very diverse. I couldn’t say whether or not being from a place with a diverse musical background has helped us develop our own tastes in music.
“USA Hardcore” has been out for a few months now. What’s to come then with FREEDOM?
We’ll be playing Sound and Fury and This is Hardcore. We’re playing a few shows with Nails, playing a part of the Nuke The Nation tour, and doing a little tour through the south into California
I’ll give you 2 options, please pick one and give us a one sentence explanation.
– NEGATIVE APPROACH or NEGATIVE FX
Negative Approach. They are my favorite band to have ever come from Detroit.
– MADBALL or OUTBURST
Madball. They are the definition of being hard.
– Quentin TARANTINO or Stanley KUBRICK
Kubrick. I love the power behind the psychology of Kubrick films.
– OBAMAS’s years or G.W. BUSH’s years
Obama. No president is perfect but, George W. Bush was pretty damn stupid.
– BOSTON or NEW YORK
New York. NYHC.
– Paper FANZINE or Online WEBZINE
Paper. I love collecting zines and rereading them over and over.
Looking at the overall history of Hardcore, if you had to live during one particular period of time at one specific place/city, when and where would it be?
I would live in the Lower East Side of New York City at any point between 1981 and 1989.
Thanks for your contribution. Would you like to add anything else?
“The years pass and people change, but I’m staying true to my ways. Hardcore is my life, I’ll carry the name.”
If you wanna get some Freedom records you might be lucky on our store if we didn’t run out of them.