Sunday, 14 August 2022

At Ease with the Dis: an Interview with Alex from Disease

Today, let's take a break from crust music. Summer is hitting us hard in Europe what with the end of the world and all that, and even though I have been able to work on my tan, I still feel a little bad about it. I do feel like I did my bit by wearing shirts from apocalyptic bands for more than twenty years but still. But let's take a break from the doom and gloom, and talk about something completely different and decidedly joyful: d-beat. Yeah right. And in fact, let's have a whole interview about it with a special guest, Alex guitar player and grand distorter of the d-beater-than-thou band Disease and the d-beat raw punk-themed fanzine Just a Nightmare (to be fair, he also does crust in there so maybe I did not wander that far off in the end) and he even plays in the noizepunk affair Angza. 

In case you have never heard of Disease, which I very much doubt since they have been going since 2012 and have been very prolific, they hail from Skopje - that's in Macedonia in case if you need to know because you went through the American school system - and can be said to be the ultimate Disclose-loving, distorted d-beat unit. Not many bands can claim to do it as well as they do in a subgenre that has weirdly become quite busy in the past ten years. Check out their latest offerings if you need any convincing. They will stud your face. 

Beside the sonic projects of Alex and the detailed eventful story of Disease, crucial aspects of the mighty D-war are tackled in this interview as you will see, from the d-beat phenomenon, the worship of Disclose, to the journey into Discharge and the 10 year long personal involvement with this very peculiar genre in the world of extreme music. 

A massive thank you to Alex for taking the time to answer these questions. Bupp-u-dupp-u-du let's go.   

TSN: Let’s get straight to the point. Do you remember the first time you heard Discharge? Did you know about them beforehand or was it a total discovery? What record was it? What did you think? What were you originally into as a spotty teenage punk?

A: Hey Romain, that’s a sharp start indeed ha!
I remember the first time of course, I didn’t knew them from before, I got this tape from a friend with printed diy cover, which would I later discover it was the The Nightmare Continues live LP. It stricken me hard cause it was different then everything I’ve heard before. I remember the song that stuck in my head was "Drunk with power". Then I found a bootleg CD in a local record store The Final Bloodbath.
As a kid discovering new punk music and bands was hard but enjoyable. We would’ve most of the time taking suggestions from the older local punks about bands. Ramones, The Clash, were a must, a lot of oi music cause punks & skins around that time were hanging out together, Sex Pistols, Exploited, Dead Kennedys, also EX-Yu bands like KBO, Hladno pivo, Goblini, S.M.F etc, which these days I’m not into most of these bands. I was heavy into Casualties, then I discovered Disorder which I fell in deep love with, then Discharge and things were never the same. 

TSN: And what about Disclose? How and when did you first listen to them? What did you think? Some people absolute hate Disclose at first and then learn to enjoy the music like an acquired taste, was it your case?

A: I found out about Disclose sometime later after discovering Discharge. I think I got introduced with Kawakami and Disclose from Ergin (Black against night/ Dejector/Cimiterium) and his brother Dule but I can’t remember how and when. They were living in Struga and when there was a gig in Skopje a whole crew of crusties from Struga would come for the gig, we would hang out, drink, do some other stupid stuff and just have a good time.
I was hit hard from Disclose from since the first time I heard em and fell in love straight away. I always searched for something more extreme from what I knew at  the time and Disclose just filled the missing piece I searched for.

TSN: What was the original idea behind the formation Disease back in 2012? What were the main motivations? Did you play in other similar (or not) bands before? What about the others? Did you struggle to find a dis name? Did you have other possible names for the band? Were you aware of Mallorca’s Disease? 

A: The first band that I was a part of was called Defekt. It was an anarcho street punk band formed in 2001 by a few friends. As time was passing by, our ways went in different direction, so the first Defekt gig will be in 2007 with totally different members line up except me as the original member.
All the members were changing constantly, there’s been probably more than 15 people that played in Defekt. We recorded 2 full length albums and one EP. In 2012 I left the band, and after apparently it disbanded.
 I was playing with the idea in my head of making a ‘one man d-beat raw punk’ band for quite a few years. When I saw that the new Defekt’s guitar player knows to play drums, I asked if would like to make a new band in the Disclose direction and he agreed. The main motive and inspiration was very simple, just playing d-beat raw punk, Disclose punk, trying to keep the Disclose and Kawakami legacy alive and the rawpunk banner up high!
I don’t think we had big issues with the name, I remember I we chose Disease over Dispair (which also exists already). I was very aware of Mallorca’s Disease of course, although I didn’t really minded it. Same as with Dispair. About Mallorca’s Disease, I knew they were already disbanded by this time, and I knew I wanted the band to have a different sound to theirs. And of course, there’s already been a couple of bands sharing the same name, we would’ve not be the first. For example Dispose, but when I hear one of those bands I know exactly which Dispose I’m listening cause it’s such a big difference in the sound. Same with Disable etc.
The process of getting tight as a band was slow. I knew what I wanted to do but I didn’t really had anything from equipment. I lost my guitar and amp few years ago during the years when I was an addict. So at the start I was borrowing guitars for practice and gigs from friends, same with the pedals.
In 2013 I had to go to prison so Disease was on hiatus for half a year although we did one gig while I was out of it for a weekend. While serving prison time, I was wasting time working in the buffet. Since I wasn’t getting payment for the work I was doing for a few months (which was 20 euros per month) and the idiotic behavior of the prison guards, together with another fellow inmate that was also working in the buffet, we decided to start stealing the buffet money on daily basis, for which we are responsible for, for some weird reason.
Long story short, my served my time, got out and bought the guitar that I still play today from those prison money I stole. I am not a thief, but…
Bass players were constantly changing, and in 2015 Spagi joined the band. We did a European tour in the hell warm summer of 2015 and after, the drummer decided to quit. So, Marko joined the band as a drummer, and we did the Neverending war crimes LP. I look at Disease timeline as 2 different periods, the time till 2015 and after since Spagi and Marko joined the band. Their mark and input in the band made it what it is today. This is the formation that will make the band, make the sound and the noise of Disease that people know of today.
Meantime while sharping the sound, Per (Giftgasattack) and Nils (Dispose) were, and still are my mentors. They gave me countless advices on how to achieve the guitar sound I wanted, together with Toda with whom we are in a deep noise love affair haha!
Besides Defekt and Disease, all Disease members together with the vocalist of Born for slaughter/Stagnator are taking part in Angza. We formed Angza after the 2017 tour. We wanted to do something different and ugly, so we started rehearsing and we released Импулс на морбидно себе 7’’ on Black Against Night records. At the moment Angza is working on a new release, for whom we are almost near the end in the making of the songs process.
I’ve also played for a short period of time in New Police State but went to prison and had to leave the band, Crawling chaos was a one time lasting project we did with Nils (Dispose), Spagi (Disease) and Zhenya (Masspollution), latest is a project I did with Julio (Nukelickers) called World Bastard, and the upcoming project that is called Stalinstadt with Per (GGA), Toda (ECD) and Igor (Electric Masochist), and few other  bands that weren’t serious and never recorded anything in the early 00’s. Spagi is also a part of Transhunter and Голи Деца, he was playing in Irritatement till its disbanding. Marko is active with Стагнатор and Арлекин, through the years he’s also been a part of few other bands like Од Вратот Надолу, Bill Skins Fifth, Јаболко за даскалот, and few more. And we have all taken part in few other bands/projects more or less known. Fixa except Angza, was playing in Born for slaughter, Irritatement.

TSN: Macedonia is not exactly famous for its d-beat scene, how did people first react when Disease played locally? Any anecdotes about early gigs? Any pub landlord pulling the plug after two songs?

A: I think we were well accepted from the friends, since the scene here is very small, we know most of each other. But I’m pretty sure it was more of a friendly acceptance than it was cause they liked the noise haha! I think just a few people have understanding of what we do here.
All I remember from the early gigs is that I was always in a search to borrow someone’s guitar, but maybe nothing more than that. As I’m writing this, you made me go back in time and as I see now, I think I can say we have played all in all around 10 times in Macedonia in total. We’ve had barely any engagement with pub landlords cause there are no real places and venues for punk gigs here. So we did most of the gigs at the rehearsal place, that’s where we do gig for the touring bands that visit Skopje City. 

TSN: Are there many punks into d-beat or crust in Skopje? What does a typical Skopje punk listen to? Any good local bands you’d recommend? What’s the historical Macedonian band? I know and enjoy Brigade O.D. but there must be others.  

Oh no, not at all. I’m not sure what a typical Skopje punk is these days here, or if there is one at all. Tank Warning Net, New Police State, early Disclass, Fluks, Born For Slaughter, FxPxOx are some of the punk bands I really like and ones that left a mark on the scene I believe. Some of the historical early punk bands are, Badmingtons, Fol Jazik, Saraceni, Morbid Joker.

TSN: Disease celebrates its tenth anniversary in 2022. How does that make you feel? Did you consider the band as a serious project right from the start or was it something that just grew throughout the years? How do you feel looking back at all your productions? What more do you wish to achieve with Disease?

A: Yeah, that’s correct, 2022 marks the 10 years of existence of the band, it’s a reminder that time goes fast for sure, a lot of things happened since the start of the band, but as well with our personal lives, good and bad. I do looked on it very serious from the very start, although from the outside perspective it might not look like that since it’s quite chaotic. Looking back on it, there are releases I like, don’t like, and hate ha!
I do separate the bands era from 2015, before and after, the lineup is the same since 2015 so this is the Disease that people know. Definitely the sound of the band is a lot different than at the start. One  doesn’t need to pay too much attention to notice the difference before Marko and Spagi joined the band, and after. As I mentioned earlier, their input and mark in the band is extremely huge and changed everything, made the band a real band and the sound as we wanted it to sound like. 

TSN: The d-beat phenomenon has been going strong for decades now and has gone worldwide. I don’t think there is any equivalent in the music world of a style that is characterized by the intentional accurate imitation of one band. Why do you think the Dis style is so appealing to so many of all ages and nationalities? From an outside perspective, people often find it boring because it is always the same. So why why why but why? Can there even be an « original » d-beat band?

A: I can’t really talk for others or in general, but just for myself. It was sincere, true, raw and non-compromising, and still is. Staying to the primitive roots and no bullshit rockstars. It’s always been in the shadow and not for everyone, but I think that’s how it should be. Punk is sacred! I personally love when I hear orthodox D-beat raw punk bands but I also think that there should be some kind of creativity and innovation, at least in your own way,  we also try to do it, not my place to say if we have achieved that.
‘Original’ D-beat band? Not sure,  but who cares!?

TSN: Your main influence is clearly Disclose and the raw distorted d-beat style they created. After 22 records and tapes (according to Discogs, correct me if I’m wrong) how can you still write new songs in that style? What is the typical songwriting process in Disease? How many songs have you written so far? How much time do you spend on your guitar sound? And why do you record so often and put out so many records? Why don’t you have a split with Agathocles yet?

A: I don’t really even know how many releases we have so far. We are an active band that does new songs very often. I find quite a bunch of layers in the style that keeps us fresh. The song making process with Disease is very simple. Usually I would bring some riffs at rehearsal, we jam it a bit, do some changes where it’s needed, feel the song flow and if it’s good then that’s it.
We love to do splits with friends and bands we like. It’s kind of a punk friendship between the bands. A split with Agathocles, one day maybe we will, who knows!?
I spent around 3 years gathering all the stuff I needed for the sound, pedals etc etc, with help from the friends.

TSN: I have noticed that throughout your discography, there are significant changes in d-beat styles, faster käng-influenced like on Never Ending War Crimes, primitive d-beat raw punk like on the earlier recordings and now so-called Dis-bones styled d-beat. Disclose also had those same distinctions (from Tragedy, to Nightmare of Reality and Yesterday’s Fairytale, Tomorrow’s Nightmare). Was it an intentional move from your part? Do you choose the specific bits of Disclose legacy you want to work on? How do you imagine Disease’s sonic evolution?

A:Yeah, you noticed that well, not always, but I do usually have some specific bits of Disclose that we gonna work on for that one specific release. There isn’t an order or anything, it’s just how we feel at the moment. But yeah, more or less we stay in the primitive roots of the Disnoise. 

TSN: Since Kawakami’s passing, Disclose have become legendary, almost cult-like. What is your take on this? What made the band so special and unique considering that there were a lot of other d-beat/käng/crust bands in the 90’s?

A: Disclose made that chainsaw guitar, the sound on the side, Kawakami was honest d-beat raw punk warrior which can surely be noticed in the legacy he left behind. So that’s one of the key things for Disclose being the cult-like as you say, being honest, passionate and true towards what you doing. 

TSN: With the development of music streaming and a seemingly endless quantity of hardcore punk bands that we can instantly listen to, it can be difficult to follow newer bands and not feel lost. There are hundreds of d-beat bands in activity today, according to you what makes a good d-beat band? What are the traps that should be avoided in such a strictly defined genre? 

A: Yeah it’s definitely difficult to keep track on a lot of new bands. Times have changed but it is what it is. Streaming and quantity did its thing but doesn’t really matter at the end of the day. I guess being sincere towards your work is what really matters. There’s shouldn’t be rules about how it should sound but for me personally I like it as primitive as it can be. The Disclose way!

TSN: Disease also seem to tour quite a lot. The 2019 tour was quite eventful as I remember. Could you elaborate a bit? How did the whole covid mess affect you and the band? How difficult is it to be a Macedonian punk band touring?

A: It came in the same time as a joke but also serious. The tour from 2017 was 56 days so we decided to use all our available days in the EU for the next tour so we connected the dots for a full 3 months for the 2019 one. And that’s how we did it. We did tour a lot and for long.
The covid mess fucked everyone, we did postpone our Mexico tour twice. The 2nd time was a disaster cause we also lost all our money that we put into it, from visas to plain tickets, etc… We still can’t recover fully from it but, there’s been a lot of worse things that this happening in the world cause of the pandemic.

TSN: "Just a nightmare" is another side of your obsession with Dis music and raw hardcore punk. Could you tell us about the birth of this zine and why you felt the need to write about bands, their stories and creative process? What is the purpose of Just a nightmare and what do you hope to achieve? How do you pick the band you interview?

A: The zine happened very spontaneously, I decided to do kind of a friend interview with Per (Giftgasattack/Warre, etc) and it took around 2 years till we were done. When this issue came out I decided to do another one and see how things would go. Here we are 27 months later and it’s still running. I wanted to go with a bit of a different and another approach towards the interviewers and to get into the life of the persons that I talk with.
The purpose is to document the bands, process of creating the noise, timelines, and just everything about the persons life, work and deed. All stories are different, but punk. It’s punk life. I do interviews with people and bands I like and admire for some reason. 

TSN: In our modern digital age, you chose to do a paper fanzine whereas, sadly, the genre has practically gone extinct. Why? Do you think physical punk fanzines are still relevant and not just a piece of nostalgia?

A: Things are changing, the world has changed and this is where we are at now. There is a big piece of nostalgia for sure, but we can only accept things as they are.
I do think paper zines are still relevant yeah, it has proved to me with the one I do, there are people that really still appreciate and like the physical format. Why they have gone instinct? I guess with the years and the technology, things have found the easier and cheaper way to be done, which is still fine. If that means that some of us do it the hard way, then, we do suffer ha!

TSN: You obviously spend a lot of time on visuals and pay a great loving tribute to the classic d-beat/crust aesthetics. How much time do you typically spend on an issue of the zine? And like with Disease, you are incredibly prolific, one issue a month. What rhythm of publication do you intend to keep and how many copies do you print? Was there any inspiration behind your zine?

A: I don’t really remember how I decided to make it a monthly zine, but as you said, it’s pretty much the same with Disease, I guess it’s just a pattern of myself with some things, which is sometimes good, but sometimes very bad as well.
I spend  a lot of time preparing the interview for the zine. The technical part with designing the pages I can do it in a week or two. Mostly it depends on the mood if I am able to do it. So far it’s been 27 months and issues. I’m sure there will be 2 more at least. What will come after I can’t really say, but as it is what everything, all things comes to an end one day. 

TSN: The past few years have seen bands paying tribute (seriously like Decade and for fun like Thisclose) to the once taboo Grave New World era of Discharge. As a young punk, I just pretended Grave New World never happened. How do you explain the recent relative popularity of a rather mediocre album? Are Final Bombs great or just plain terrible?

A: I mean, everyone can do what they want, if someone wanna pay tribute to that part of Discharge history, go for it, let's hear how it will turn out. We talked with Gav from Decade about the influences and Shooting up the world record, so I know why they do it. So yeah, let it be haha!

TSN: Alright, time to chose now. You have to give at least a short explanation for each answer:

- Favourite Discharge song: "HNSNSN", song hard as a megaton explosion.

- Favourite Disclose song: Ugh, Fear of the nuclear age! The perfect D-beat raw punk song!

- If you did not have the choice would you rather listen to Massacre Divine or Shooting’ up the World? WHY! No explanation on this one!

- Disaster’s War Cry or Dischange’s Seeing Feeling Bleeding? Disaster’s War Cry.

- Antisect or Anti-System? Antisect

- Heresy or Ripcord? Heresy

- EU’s Arse or Underage? Eu’s arse

- MG15 or Subversion? Subversion, fuck it haha!

- Deadlock or Final Bloodbath? Final Bloodbath

- Wolfpack or Driller Killer? Driller Killer

- Chaos UK’s Short Sharp Shock or Disorder’s PerditionI’m beating myself over this, but I have to go with Short Sharp Shock just because of the impact it left on me the first time I heard it. Otherwise, the Chaotic Disordaaargh!

- Leather, Bristles, Studs and Acne or Troops of Tomorrow? GBH!

- Avskum’s Crucified by the System or Disarm’s Dömd? Dömd

- Svart Parad or Bombanfall? Svart Parad

- Tragedy or Nightmare or Reality? Nightmare or Reality!!!!!

- SDS or Gloom? Gloom!

- Kaaos or Riistetyt? Kaaos!

- Hiatus or Disrupt? Hiatus

- Diatribe or The Iconoclast? Diatribe

- Dogs or cats? Both!

- Five bands from Macedonia, from any era, that you would recommend: New Police State, Tank Warning Net, Transhunter, Flux, early Disclass.

- Five hardcore bands from France that you actually like: Les Bloody Fuckers, Warning/Warning, Final Blast, Displode, Kial?

- Five favourite 80’s käng bands: Totalitar, Mob 47, Bombanfall, No Security, Crudity.

- Five favourite 90’s d-beat bands: Disclose, Besthoven, Decontrol, Disaster, Dischange.

- Five favourite 00’s d-beat bands: Dispose, Warvictims, Giftgasattack, D-Clone, No Fucker.

- Five favourite 10’s d-beat bands: Physique, Dropend, Honnor SS, Life Lock, ECD, Svaveldioxid.

- Five favourite Dis names: Disclose, Discharge, Discard, Disorder, Disappoint, Disbelief, Dispose.


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