Wednesday, February 8, 2012

[interview] Post-Tour Retrospective w/ RAIVORAITTIUS (hardcore-punk from Turku/Tampere, Finland)

It's been more than half a year since RAIVORAITTIUS were on our shores, and they might already be a distant memory in some of our minds, but as that old adage so omnipresent in DIY-punk goes: "better late than never"! This interview is the first of its kind to be featured on LIONCITYDIY, although we're pretty certain it's been done before elsewhere (although we are unclear exactly where... so if you DO know, show us, and make us feel very unoriginal). Expect more of these where they came from in spits and starts over the next months.

Introduce yourselves, please. Folks may have forgotten about you already!

Tuukka: My name is Tuukka and I play bass. My biggest interests are comics and music.

Jussi: Hi, my name is Jussi and I play guitar. I like riding my bike in the night time. Lately I've been really into R.A.M.B.O, HIS HERO IS GONE, and CATHARSIS (all American, hmm...), but generally I have a diverse taste in music.

Timo: Hi, folks! I'm Timo and I do vocals.

Janne:  Janne, I play drums. It's a new band, we just started to play with the current line-up beginning of 2011. I play in a couple of other bands too: guitar in d-beat crust band VELOITUS, vocals in grindcore band BÜFO and keyboard & drum machine in 1980's inspired synth-pop group PLEASE YOUR KNEES. Beside playing music, I'm a film director and producer. I study media management and work in a theater as a lighting and sound engineer.

The 4 of you did a month-long SE Asia tour in June last year. How did that come about? How did it fall together?

Jussi: Janne found the contact to 7x0x7 through Yeap from PISSCHRIST I guess. From there on, we can thank 7x0x7 and especially Cher for everything. And of course all the people who put up all the shows, gave us food and a place to stay or helped us in other ways. The whole thing was just a huge casserole of international punk-solidarity. Dodon, who came along with us in Java made touring there a lot easier. Without him, we would never have known when to get off the bus or which bus to get on. He also told us when to take a shower (yeah, thanks for acknowledging our maturity, D!) or when we needed to dress better in order to not get into trouble in malls or such. In the end, I'm rather surprised at how smoothly everything went. We didn't have any major problems I think.

Janne: I've always wanted to tour outside of Europe and as I had travelled in Southeast Asia before, I was thinking that it could be a interesting region to tour with a band.  My other band BÜFO was touring in Poland and Czech with an Australian band PISSCHRIST in 2006 and we also played a show with them in Germany in 2008. During the tour I got to know the guys from the band, we kept in touch and about a year later I asked Yeap, the singer of PISSCHRIST, if he had some contacts in SE Asia. I knew that they had done some shows over there and Yeap is originally from Malaysia. At that time, RAIVORAITTIUS, as it is now, didn't even exist, Jussi and I had just been jamming together a couple of times. Anyway, I was planning to tour SE Asia with BÜFO in 2011, and Yeap asked me to contact the 7x0x7 collective. So I did, and they promised to organize the tour for BÜFO. Schedule for the tour was almost ready when BÜFO's drummer Ilmari left the band. I think he wanted to concentrate more on his other bands: THE PHOENIX FOUNDATION, 1981 and XSPECIESTRAITORX. This was the beginning of 2011 and we didn't know who could replace him at such short notice and learn the songs before the tour. I thought that maybe a new band that we just started with Jussi, Tuukka and Timo would be able to do the tour instead if we had more material and more practice. Everyone in the new band was keen to do the tour and folks at the 7x0x7 collective were okay for changing BÜFO to RAIVORAITTIUS.

Tell us one highlight of the tour. Was it [the tour] like anything you ever expected?

Tuukka: There were many highlights, but for convenience I'll mention just one: dancing to local pop music with the crust-punks in Medan. Everyone was all smiles and we had a great time. Sounds corny but at the moment I felt like we were all one. It would have been impossible to expect the tour to be the way it was. The reception in all the cities and venues were just amazing. The hospitality and excitement the people showed was exceptional.

Jussi: One of the highlights for me was a solitary moment in Medan, Indonesia. I had been sleeping in this big room with a concrete floor and big windows. It was late afternoon when I woke up and it was completely silent. The sun was shining in low and I was lying at the edge of a shadow. There were a lot of wonderful moments and many of them were a bit more exciting than this one, but this was the first one to come to my mind now. I was really excited to see people in the punk scene who are also politically active. I'm a lazy sod, so I greatly admire people who get shit done. Oh, and I'm still proud of my one-hand-cartwheel-basketball-whoop I did in Pati, Indonesia.

Timo: It's really hard to choose just one highlight from the whole month of highlights. I guess I'll have to go with the honor of meeting with the Kendeng mountain resistance in Pati, Indonesia. Visiting the people living from and with the ecosystem of the mountain, whose lifestyle has been compromised by the greed of the cement companies. Check it out and show your solidarity!

Janne: The highlight was making friends with people and eating Indonesian food! That's two already!

How did the general response differ in the different countries/cities? How did kids react to your music, and to you, as people?

Tuukka: Generally, Indonesians were most excited about us both as people and as a band. I think the other countries had more opportunities to see touring bands so it wasn't such a novel experience for the people in those places. At some shows we didn't get any response besides some lazy clapping, but at other shows the whole crowd was a screaming moshpit. It's good to remember this if the first couple of shows happen to be really good -- the band shouldn't expect the rest of the tour to be the same throughout.

Jussi: Tuukka pretty much nailed this one already. In smaller places people were apparently more interested in us as people and as a band. In a lot of places in Indonesia, people were stopping us on the streets to take photos with us. I don't know if it was because we are white or if it was because we look like punks. It was weird. Pretty much everywhere we went the hospitality was overwhelming. The standard of hospitality was very high, which kind of made the places that were slightly less overwhelmingly hospitable seem not that good, but that's just psychological.

Timo: The people in Indonesia were mostly really curious about us as people and as a band. The "modern" style of hardcore is really big there and our blend of the 80's Finnish and American HC seemed to be something else. Some loved the rawness and others seemed disappointed that we were not playing metalcore. In other countries we didn't have the exotic value we had in Indonesia, but everywhere we went, we were positively surprised by the feeling of solidarity and equality in the DIY-punk scenes.

Janne: All the places were nice, but the Indonesian crowd was the best and they seemed to be the most interested in us too.

There are obviously a lot of complex race and class dynamics when a Western band tours SE Asia. How do you think you navigated that?

Tuukka: Because we are from the West, people seemed to be very curious about us, but only in a positive way -- no one was hostile towards us. I guess people also thought we were rich because we could come all the way to the other side of the world, but the truth is almost all of us had to borrow money to go on this tour and we were on a really tight budget the whole time. It felt bad to say no to some of the people who wanted to trade their own shirts for our band shirts, but we really needed the money from the shirt sales.

Jussi: It was weird, being the white minority. I mean, it was weird that being white accounted for getting special treatment in some places, like not being security-checked in the promised land of security checks, the Philippines. Our Philippine friends were asked if they got paid for hanging out with us or for being our guides. I hope we navigated this and all the other situations without doing any harm. I think what is needed is just respect for other people. In the end, we are all equal, even though in the present (and past) fucked-up situations, we don't get treated that way. Equality should be obvious. That's my compass for inter-human-navigation and I'd recommend it for anyone and everyone.

Timo: A hard question! As a political-punk band we obviously had something to preach about, and our cultural background was vastly different from the crowds. We thought about the perverse situation of Western people coming to SE Asia to "spread the word", but I guess there are no clear solutions to the problematic dynamics of the whole thing. Luckily we had a friend touring with us with the most of Indonesia, helping us understand local customs and ways, as well as helping us out with our poor language skills. Without Dodon, we probably wouldn't have had nearly as much understanding of everything around us. I guess the key in approaching the race and class (as well as other) dynamics is to listen and to try to understand, to communicate equality in as many ways as possible.

Janne: Realizing that despite us being poor students back home, we still had a chance to travel to the other side of the world. The awesome people we met and the bands that we played with in SE Asia might never have enough money to do that, and it made me feel guilty sometimes, especially when travelling in the countries that have been in their history colonized and exploited by Europeans and Americans. Even now the exploitation continues, except that colonialists have been replaced by multinational corporations. I'm not a big fan of our destructive Western culture that has spread all over the world like cancer, but unfortunately I'm part of it whether I like it or not. I hope that people wouldn't see the materialistic Western lifestyle as something desirable. Even our DIY punk rock movement has its own idols that are looked upon. I guess I'm just trying to say that we should be aware of this kind of cultural imperialism even in the punk community. I hope we can get SE Asian bands to play in Europe sometime soon – punk rock cultural exchange!

Other bands have said that touring SE Asia is an experience in and of itself which is unlike any other. What do you reckon? Are there any differences between touring here and elsewhere, and how so?

Janne: The crowd in SE Asia reminded me of the Russian audience during BÜFO's tour in 2009. Everyone dancing and having good time with the music. In most parts of Europe it's more of people standing and watching the show unless it's a big and popular band. In central Europe like for example in Germany punx are spoiled with heaps of touring bands that go there, so it's not a big deal for them to see a foreign band. Financially, touring SE Asia was hard because we did not cover our expenses at all, but despite that the experience was worth it for sure! In my European tours with Büfo we almost always covered our travelling costs with the ticket income from the shows.

Were there any experiences that were particularly unpleasant that occurred while on tour?

Jussi: I was going through some emotional stress while touring. At home, I spend most of my time alone or with my wife, so it was tough not being able to do either. I snapped a few times and raised my voice. I'm sorry about that, for anyone concerned. I have trouble controlling my impulses when I get irritated and pissed off. One thing that wasn't really unpleasant for me but might be something to consider for bands who are considering touring in SE Asia: the sleeping conditions vary hugely. A lot of times we slept on the hard floor or shared a bed between the four of us. A lot of nice spooning there! The most usual thing was sleeping on a rug on the floor. So if you need somewhere soft to sleep, bring a sleeping bag with you.

Tuukka: Travelling on a train for four hours without the possibility to sit down and a ten hour bus ride that was supposed to take six hours and nobody spoke English so we were constantly thinking that we had already passed the city we were supposed to go to.

Timo: The most unpleasant experience was probably the bus that broke down in the middle of nowhere in Indonesia, with no one around us being able to speak English. As we had no experience of the buses or cities there beforehand, we spent the whole ten-hour bus ride trying to ask people if the next stop was ours, and if the bus that we got into after the first one broke down was the right one. Haha. Our Indonesian language skills were also a bit lacking, so we probably pronounced the name of our destination really funny as well.

Janne: I love touring life but some of the band members couldn't handle stressful situations too well and were time to time physically and mentally worn out during the tour, which led to unnecessary arguments about stupid things. There were also some losing of tempers and mental breakdowns even. Seeing this side of the other people was surprising.

Favourite country/city to play in, and why?

Timo: I can't really choose. People were great everywhere and I love doing gigs. Hell, I'd even go to the "20 beatdown bands and us" gig (where the crowd left as they got a whiff of what we were about) again and love it!

Tuukka: My favourite cities to play in were Bekasi and Bandung in Indonesia. Those were our first shows on the tour and the people in both those cities were super nice and the crowds were really active and seemed to really like the music.

Jussi: I liked Pati, Indonesia most, because the show had an inspiring political agenda. It was part of a protest against companies trying to exploit the Kendeng mountain range. The audience consisted of not only young punks, but also a lot of farmers and their families, who came to shake hands and talk with us after the show. And also we heard later that some young punks had become more involved with the struggle after seeing and hearing us talk about it. Hearing that was one of the best things that ever happened to me.

Janne: It's hard to name just one place -- every show with an insane moshpit was good. Maybe the first show in Bekasi, Indonesia because I didn't know yet what to expect and then when we started to play it was just total mayhem, with people falling over the drum set, stage diving and all.

In your tour blog, Jussi wrote that there may be something that you had learnt at the end of it all. The blog has left us with a cliffhanger of sorts so we're clearly in suspense. What is it, what are they?

Jussi: It's not like I hadn't figured it out before, but going somewhere so far that's supposed to be so different made it clear, that it's ridiculous to be afraid of cultural differences or to protect national interests or to believe oneself to be better than others. We're all just people from the same planet... fuck, we aren't even that, we're just energy packed into a physical form. It makes greed look ridiculous. "I want to pile these shiny things into this area, which is mine, so they can't be used over there, which is theirs." It doesn't make any sense. And the world is dictated by that. I've always had the feeling that everything is going to end. But not now. No matter how bad the situation, we're not dead yet. There are still species not extinct, though they are getting scarce. There's still friendship and resistance. There's a tiny speck of hope, and I guess that makes living worth all the pain.

Janne: I've been setting up shows DIY style for more than ten years but I still learned a lot from the kids. Some of the venues where we played were totally random, and it made me realize that shows can be be organized almost everywhere. Something that we should try here in Finland too.

Timo: I guess that the biggest revelation to me was that punk and DIY is truly global. That people and cultures may be different, but that the struggles to do things outside of global capitalism and to treat others as equals help us connect with each other.

Tuukka: I have learned that people are 95% the same everywhere. The remaining 5% counts for cultural differences. I also learned how little possessions one needs to be happy. Travelling for two months with just a backpack with some clothes in it is a good experience. Also seeing how little material wealth some of our hosts had, but at the same time seeing all their social and mental wealth, it was easy to figure out which one is more important.

Thanks for letting us have a chance to do this retrospective with you. First of its kind, it seems! Or at least on this portal. Any last words?

Timo: Thank you for doing this! Peace, love and anarchism! Up the punx and all that!

Janne: Huge thanks to everybody who set up shows for us, hung out, gave us food, place to stay and danced the night away with us! Stay vegan and smash the state!

Tuukka: For bands, I'd like to say if you get the chance to go on tour in SE Asia you should do it! I also want to thank all the people who were involved with our tour, the aspect of the tour I think about now in retrospect were the people, not the places.

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