Meet the Brits who are fighting back against government corruption and classism in the most punk way possible.
Exposing political corruption and the divisions in society, confrontational UK punks Bad Breeding are as real as it gets. It’s time to fight back against the bullshit
You don’t need to be a politics junkie to realise that 2017 finds the world in a more uncertain and perilous position than at any time during the last 50 years. As a result, you might expect heavy music – and punk rock in particular – to be producing endless bands with a shitload of pertinent, rebellious insights. Unfortunately, a great deal of 21st century ‘punk’ has fuck-all to say and is aimed squarely at an young audience who are largely unfamiliar with the concept of punk as protest. And that’s why Bad Breeding are the most vital band in the UK right now.
Formed in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, in 2013, this visceral and uncompromising quartet have harnessed the power of tortured guitars and swivel-eyed bellowing to shine a light on society’s innumerable ills.
“None of us have any particular skill when it comes to instruments; it was more a case of just coming together and playing out of frustration,” says vocalist Christopher Dodd. “Our position in Stevenage puts us in an odd situation where if you want to explore any notion of cultural identity, you either have to pay 20 quid for a 20-minute train journey into London, or spend your time making something for yourself. It was clear that writing and performing was not only cathartic for us on a personal level, but it also gave us the chance to comment on our own identity in Stevenage, one that’s often maligned, distorted and abused by the right-wing press and politicians.”
An anonymous, 50s-built ‘new town’ and somewhat faceless satellite of London, Stevenage may not seem like the most likely breeding ground for a game-changing punk rock band. But as Christopher explains, the evolution of the extraordinary racket that Bad Breeding have conjured on their eponymous 2016 debut and this year’s follow-up, Divide, is intrinsically linked to the grey streets and disintegrating infrastructure of the band’s stomping ground.
“Stevenage is at the heart of all that we do, it’s all been informed by growing up here,” he says. “It’s a place fraught with problems, but it’s also somewhere that has taught us a lot of positive things about
struggle and being able to back yourself when necessary. Politically and socially, it provides us with a lot to write about. The town’s continuously been on the receiving end of governmental failures and financial self-interest.”
lthough largely written prior to the startling climax and bitter aftermath of last year’s EU referendum campaign, the new Bad Breeding album could hardly be a more apposite summary of the UK’s current state of fractured confusion. Songs like the vicious Whip Hand (‘They exploit, you pay / Whip hand cracking on the backs of the vulnerable’) and the selfexplanatory Death (‘Consumed again by putrid frauds / Pushing cheap lies and loans’) paint a hideously bleak picture of working class life in the UK under a Tory government; of corrupt landlords, unscrupulous politicians, dishonest
“We’ve been failed by the government” BAD BREEDING’S HOMETOWN HAS BEEN LEFT TO DECLINE
media and the deleterious effect that all of the above have on real people’s lives.
“Much of the record was written with the Brexit campaign rumbling overhead,” Christopher nods. “It was our way of attempting to make sense of the confusion. At times, we simply found ourselves instinctively lashing out in bewilderment at what was unravelling around us – the division and derision of certain sections of society, the enablement of xenophobia and the manipulation of working-class identity by politicians and press organisations.”
Of course, none of this earnest exploring of social and personal politics would have much impact if the music underpinning it was straightforward, cookie-cutter punk rock. Instead, Bad Breeding seem to be channelling the wayward spirit of the original anarcho-punk wave that exploded in the late 70s in the UK, as bands such as Crass, Flux Of Pink Indians and Icons Of Filth churned out edgy and untamed bursts of feral noise and incensed, working-class polemic that pointedly prized conviction and creativity over musicianship and marketing. Christopher and his bandmates – Matt Toll (guitar), Charlie Rose (bass) and Ashlea Bennett (drums) – are far too young to remember those days, but the parallels are obvious.
“Our main appreciation of Crass is in that complete commitment and conviction to creating art free from the initial intrusions of commodification,” Christopher states. “In some ways, they proved that you didn’t need the most skill to stand up for what you believed in. If you wanted to represent yourself through something, whether that’s art, music or literature, you just did it.”
From its fiercely intelligent lyrics to its compelling, monochrome artwork, Divide is far more than just a rowdy punk rock record. Produced by Ben Greenberg (of NYC industrial terrorists Uniform), its grotesque, three-chord assaults are embellished with the grinding, hissing brutality of industrial machinery and piercing feedback that makes the album both ridiculously thrilling and deeply uncomfortable to listen to. Similarly, Bad Breeding have steadily earned themselves a fearsome reputation as one of the UK’s most insanely exhilarating live bands, but don’t expect Christopher and his comrades to play the usual music biz games. At a time when we desperately need bands that give a shit about the world around us, Bad Breeding are living proof that compromise is a choice, silence is not an option and doing it yourself is the only way to make your true voice heard.
“This band serves as an outlet for us to discuss things that we don’t necessarily get the chance to elsewhere,” says the singer. “That’s the most important thing for us – the chance to contribute to conversations we’re often excluded from as young people. Our engagement with what you might describe as the ‘music industry’ is something we spend a lot of time deliberating and is something we only approach on our own terms. Much of it is riddled with deceit and a sort of calculated tendency to be a closed shop. But it’d be pointless for us to hide away from using a platform to make a point. There’s very little point arguing in a vacuum.”