Oi Polloi's been a very important band in my life, with their inspiring lyrics I've gotten many eye-openers from them. Therefore I'm proud to present an interview with this long lived scottish punkband. The questions has been answered by Deek on e-mail, since the interview I sent last summer by snail-mail, got lost in the mail.
You guys have been around for a while, but can I get a short summary of Oi Polloi's history?
The band originally formed back in 1981 when we were all schoolkids. We just started for a bit of fun but when we did our first demo we found out all about the underground DIY punk scene and it all took off from there. We got into the recording studio for the first time in 1983 I think and since then we've done numerous singles and LPs. We did our first gigs outside the UK in 1988 and have since played all over Western Europe with the one exception of Iceland (any offers??). We've also played the Baltic States, Poland, Czech and Slovak republics, Hungary and Slovenia and toured north America three times. We've no plans to stop rocking any time soon!
The band members seem to come and go in Oi Polloi, could you give me a presentation of the current line-up of members in Oi Polloi?
Yes, there have been a lot of line-up changes over the years as folk have left to form new bands or because of work or relationship committments or simply because the large amount of touring we tend to do can be pretty difficult to do alongside other things - it is not for everyone. Despite that however, for the last five odd years we've been the same (and best ever!) line-up of Cameron Tongs on drums, Ricky Olsen on guitar, Calum on bass and Deek on vocals. We work well together and everyone gets on so it's a good set up - you can judge for yourself when you hear the new records!
How is the punkscene in Scottland?, there isn't many bands (at least that I've heard of ) except you and Scatha.
There are plenty of good bands here. TRIBE are the new band of the old Scatha vocalist and if you liked Scatha you'll like them. Then there are Afterbirth, Social Insecurity and Wardead for those who like D-beat thrash. There's Sad Society who do 77 style stuff very well and Swellbellies who are like a thinking person's Exploited and there's also the metallic hardcore of In Decades Decline and the crust-core of Filthpact from Aberdeenshire. There are lots more too but that is just a sample of our favourites. Good bands and some great gigs - the usual problem is a lack of decent venues though but we always tend to come up with something.
Have you experience that it's been hard to reach out with your music over the years?
We had some problems getting gigs when we first started when we were kids but that was a long time ago. Nowadays we get more gig and record offers than we can deal with - a good situation to be in I guess.
You describe yourselves as activists who play anarcho-punk in the interview, in "Falafel Fanzine no. 5", a couple of years ago. Are you guys still as involved in activism as you were before? If so, what projects are you currently active in?
Calum works with refugees and homeless folk and I'm involved in Gaelic language activism of differfent sorts. We all go on demos and we do plenty benefit gigs etc. Ricky and his girlfriend run a vegan kitchen in his pub once or twice a week too. Cam and I used to do a lot of hunt sabbing but we've not been involved in that for a long time now - still think it's very worthwhile but we're just doing other things these days.
Your EP "Carson?" is completely in Gaelic, and it's absolutely breathtaking to listen to, what made you decide to do that?
We believe in diversity. We don't want to see a world where everyone thinks and speaks the same. The McDonalds dream of everything the world over being the same is a nightmare to us. We believe in indigenous cultures too so the natural thing was to start singing in our own indigenous Celtic language. I'd wanted to learn Gaelic at school but never had the chance so I learned in adulthood first at college in Edinburgh and then went and lived on the Isle of Skye for a few years and then Lewis in the remote outer Hebrides islands to be in Gaelic speaking communities where I could use my Gaelic in my work etc. We actually recorded the record before I could speak the language properly so we then had to wait a couple of years before releasing it so that I could learn the language properly to be able to talk about it.
In the song "Cumhachd Niuclach? Cha Ghabh Idir!" on "Carson?" you sing about Gaelic speaking persons being harassed and persecuted. Was this song written under the influence of personal experiences?
Well, we never had the chance to learn Gaelic at school and I've had the odd stupid comment over the years but it's more about the situation in general - we weren't at school in the Highlands at the time when you'd be beaten for speaking Gaelic. That was an appalling situation though and there are still a lot of people with very prejudiced attitudes to the language in positions of power.
What is Oi Polloi currently up to? There has been rumours about a new Oi Polloi LP, is that true? And if so, what can we expect from the new record?
We're just putting the finishing touches to a load of new recordings. We've been in the studio for more than a month now which is unheard of for us but we've almost finished our new LP which is 14 tracks of new Gaelic songs which we aim to have out at the end of April. We've also been doing a four song English language 7" on the theme of male sexual health with songs about circumcision, testicular cancer, prison rape and masturbation as well as four tracks for a split mini-LP with Nikmat Olalim from Israel who we toured with a couple of years ago - nice guys. In general you can expect more angry hard political punk. The new Lp we are particularly pleased with though. We've put a lot of work into it and we think people will like it - there are a few things that might surprise some people - but you'll just have to wait and see!
You are heading out on a tour in europe this spring, what are your expectations for it?
We're looking forward to it a lot. Hopefully it will be a lot of fun! Our new LP should be out for the tour so we're looking forward to the reaction. I expect we'll meet a lot of cool people, eat lots of delicious vegan food, probably drink a bit too much at times and get a certain amount of hassle from cops and border guards - that's the usual way it goes. We'll also probably meet some of these idiots in Germany who will give us hassle because we don't approve of US foreign policy and believe the Israelis should get out of the occupied territories and leave the Palestinians alone. I don't know if you're aware of the "Anti-Deutschen" movement but they are pretty fucked up with slogans like "Fuck the Palestinians!" and "The tanks in Ramallah are the Antifascist Action of the middle east" - I think their idea of "anti-fascist action" is somewhat different from ours. Still, they've got a lot of guilt from their history which unsurprisingly has twisted them up - depressing.
Oi Polloi has got a very distinctive sound, which makes you wonder, what your personal musical influences are. What bands has influenced you the most?
Initially the music of a lot of the early Oi bands like the Cockney Rejects and the 4Skins was very influential but the lyrical influence soon started coming more from the anarcho-punk side of things, from bands like Crass and Flux of Pink Indians. Discharge, Icons of Filth and Rudimentary Peni were big influences too. We've always tried to mix the singalong oi style with the more intelligent lyrics of anarcho-punk. Nowadays there may be the odd slightly metallic influence in there or even a hint of prog-rock as Ricky loves that - check the new LP!
Considering Oi Polloi's extensive history, how do you think Oi Polloi has influenced you all as persons?
Well all the travel and meeting crazy people has got to have broadened our minds. Meeting so many great folk and seeing the excellent positive things that so many of them are involved in or have created also has given us a lot of faith in the fact that an alternative to this fucked up system IS possible. All in all I think it's had a very positive effect on us.
Deek was involved in, and sang on "Kansalais Tottele Mattomuus" EP – “Fuck Their Fuckin' System” in 2002. What inspired you to do that? Are you currently involved in any projects aside from Oi Polloi, or will there be any in the future?
Kansalaistottelemattomuus is something I got asked to do by some Finnish friends who needed a vocalist and it's been fun. We recorded another EP at the same time as we did that one so hopefully that stuff will come out later this year. We're actually going into the studio to record another 7" next month as well so watch out for that one too. Ricky is in a couple of other bands like Moniack and Brown Jenkin who do "medieval rock" and Cam plays in a Cajun band called Les Miserables and does keyboards in an electropop band called Dateless (who are really great) and a cabaret band called Alles Schwindel with our driver Alice.
I couldn't attend to it myself, but I've been told that you did an awesome gig, here in Sweden, at Augustibuller in August last year, what did you personally think of it?
We all really, really enjoyed it - well organised, nice people and a lot of fun! We got to meet some cool people too and the audience were really good - thanks to everyone who listened to us.
Have you got any plans on coming to Sweden and play again?
Well, we're hoping we get to play at this big concert for minority language musicians in October in Sami-Land or Lapland or whatever you call it - I think the place is called something like Östersund - does that sound right? (It sure does. /Andreas) It would be great if that comes off. We'll be back sometime even if that doesn't happen - Sweden is always good for us - well, the punk concerts are - can't say the same of your wonderful police force who I had the pleasure of meeting in Goteborg a few years back - you know the score.
Any last words of wisdom for the readers?
Yeah. Don't watch TV. Question everything. It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. Oh - and have a listen to our LP when it comes out!
c/o Antifascist Action
PO Box 421
- Andreas, Feb. -06
This interview was initially published in Folkzine #1, but has been put up here now that the fanzine is sold out.