Part of Dazed's Activism Week
This week, Dazed is celebrating the individuals making powerful, radical protest art in 2017. In an effort to drown out the noise of 2017 – the political and social turmoil, the fake news and the special relationships – we asked twelve musicians to send us a specially-made piece of music that, to them at least, sounds like the country they live in.
The response was massive, with the likes of NON’s Chino Amobi, Rose McGowan and No Bra sending in powerful tyrades against the politics and the patriarchy of the day – their alternative national anthems. Mica Levi left us an upside down answering machine message, drone maven Lasse Merhaug made nearly 40 minutes of nightmarishness and LuckyMe duo Naked puked up a dozen or so Caramel bars, a staple snack in their native Scotland.
The results are in.
ROSE MCGOWAN (US)
Tuscany-born actor, activist and filmmaker Rose McGowan released her short film Woman’s Womb at New York’s Untitled Space Gallery last month (speaking about it here). McGowan makes music – listen to debut single “RM486’’ – and is currently writing her memoirs. She sent Dazed “Planet 9’’, a passionate monologue backlit by a droning cacophony.
“I feel like women have not been able to properly mourn what it means to lose to this man and all men, continually. This one feels particularly vicious, but what he's about is what we've been saying all along. The system is rigged against women. I wanted to give voice to our emotions and thoughts. I've spoken to so many women about how we are not represented in the media in the aftermath of the election. Trans bathrooms, while important, get more coverage than the systematic dismantling of Roe v. Wade which will directly affect women by literally killing us. So, here it is, my national anthem. Planet 9 for a new place where we are all safe and loved, but we must fight for this place. Our lives depend on it. I ask that when people listen, they do so with their eyes shut. Listening twice is also recommended.” – Rose McGowan
CHINO AMOBI (NON)
Chino Amobi is the Virgina, US-based arm of international music outfit, NON Records. The “NON National Anthem’’ was performed and recorded live in Cape Town with South African duo, FAKA. He offered a few statements on the NON project, below:
NON NATIONAL ANTHEM.
NON, THE ENEMY OF THE WORLD.
– Chino Amobi
MICA LEVI (UK)
Mica Levi is undoubtedly one of the most talented, unpredictable composers around. Aside from her work with guitar-bass-drums ensemble Good Sad Happy Bad, she wrote the scores for Jackie and Under the Skin – a warped, backwards take on Bernard Herrmann string arrangements. For her national anthem, she sent us a mobile number to ring – it was recorded as a mystical answering machine message.
NO BRA (GERMANY)
Born in Germany and living between New York and London, Susanne ‘No Bra’ Oberbeck – who features in the spring 2017 issue of Dazed – makes a kind of moustachioed industrial punk-electro. “No National Anthem” is a slow heckle at the leaders of the free world.
“With the song, I just wanted to say that I don't support nationalism. And also since I haven't lived in Germany in 25 years, I thought a song about it would have to be based on rumours and gossip. Which led me to think about how a lot of assumptions about other nationalities and cultures tend to be based on rumours.” – No Bra
Naked is Agnes Gryczkowska and Alexander Johnston. They make industrial pop music – melodies crushed between steel girders. They’re signed to LuckyMe Records (Hudson Mohawke, Machinedrum, Lunice) and met as students in Edinburgh. Last month, I asked them how their anthem was coming along, and Agnes sent me a picture of a toilet seat. She’d spent the afternoon recording herself singing various national anthems while vomiting. The result is the pounding, vitriolic “Spit”, mastered by Sicilian harsh techno musician, Shapednoise.
“Nationalism became a sickness. Political power doesn’t seem to start with values but with the destruction of values. We live in a world where democracy turns into domination and domination turns into an unnamed, invisible hegemony. Aggressive nationalism and the idea of power are seen by us as violent and cruel forces. Our national anthems no longer stand for what we want to stand for.
We have therefore physically gagged on them, distorted them and spat them right back out. Aggie vomits the Polish, Scottish and British anthems - we then took the recording and the decaying sick and destroyed it even further - turning it into something that became ours. Our own march of disgust, anger and relentless forward movement. In a world where your country no longer stands for you, you have to stand for yourself. United.” – Naked
Gnoomes are guitarist Dmitriy Konyushevich, vocalist/bassist Alex Pyankov and drummer Pavel Fedoseev. The city of Perm, Russia is where they’re from – the word translates as “faraway land”, which in term helps to convey their washed out, epic take on instrumental shoegazing. In between recording sessions for their sophomore LP Tschak! – out on March 10 – the band were jailed for five days for use of psychedelics, and now have to face monthly drugs tests. Their oscillating Russian anthem “Tsar Bell” is pure synth euphoria.
“We didn’t have to call the ancestors out to create our version of the anthem, it’s in our blood, all the symbols of our country. Living a life in province is a great thing. The time has stopped here. Look at the window you can see an endless winter, a church and some industrial landscape behind. To sum up, we wanted to create a sound collage about living life in Russia. We decided to take Russian opera (did you know that Diaghilev, who organised Ballets Russes in Paris, was born in Perm, our native city?), church bells, polyphony, thereminvox, the drone of factories, the power of imagination and blend these ingredients into the national cocktail that we want you to taste!” – Gnoomes
KATE CARR (AUSTRALIA)
Australia’s Kate Carr makes sparse, monochromatic ambient music for cold, cold times. Her mega third album, August’s I Had Myself A Nuclear Spring, was recorded in a small French swampland cast into shadow by the spires of a nuclear power plant.
“It is hard to include all my many thoughts about the state of Australia in one short piece of sound, but this piece aims to convey a few of them. In part, it is a reflection on the country’s singular soundscape, which in inner-city Sydney – where I lived for many years – was full of the chatter of flying foxes, the screech of cockatoos and the cries of currawongs. It is only living now in the UK that I’ve come to realise both how unique, and how loud Australia’s urban wildlife is. There is indeed no place that sounds quite like home. But this piece is also a comment on Australia's political situation, and the complacency the country's extreme privilege and isolation engenders. For all of my adult life Australian governments of both the left and the right have together treated refugees in the most appalling and illegal manner, refused to endorse gay marriage, and failed to honour our obligations as one of the world's major producers of greenhouse gases to combat climate change. In leaving Australia, I’ve come to see the country much more starkly in terms of its singularity, its incredible wealth and privilege, and its staggering complacency and arrogance.” – Kate Carr
Vaghe Stelle – aka Mana, real name Daniele Mana – is a noise artist from Turin, signed to Nicolas Jaar’s Other People label. His first release on the imprint, Abstract Speed + Sound EP, explored the Italian Futurist movement via washes of industrial synth.
“Nature is uncontainable, yet the river meets the dam. Human diversity pushes against a nation’s borders. They gaze at each other in a fictional relation, like the friction between nature and humanity. The untameable intention is common. The captivity is the reason and the flood the reaction.” – Mana
LYDIA AINSWORTH (CANADA)
“Canada is in need of meaningful action towards reconciling its long-suppressed mistreatment of Indigenous children and families by the residential school system. Today, our government has recognized the appalling history and continuing conditions, now let’s see if Trudeau’s silky words can be put into action.”
HANIN ELIAS FEAT. ELECTROSEXUAL (SYRIA)
A founding member of MTV gen digi-punk agitators Atari Teenage Riot, Hanin Elias now releases music under the moniker Fantome and last year collaborated with French producer Electrosexual on the massive sex and death banger, “Hold Me”. She was born in Syria before moving to Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany.
“I made an anthem of nostalgia, hope and resistance to apocalypse, concerning my home country Syria. The anthem has no words. There are no more words left. Just the spirit. Syria – a country that had been on a list for geopolitical gain and destabilization. A country that feels left alone and betrayed by the media lies and one-sided narrative of western governments. All my life was dedicated to sing, write and scream about politics. Change and riot was my purpose but these things have been highjacked and used lately. 1984 is getting awfully real. No matter who is in power in the US, they just seem to continue the path, the puppet before them has been told to take. They are all in the same club... It all leads to control and globalization.” – Hanin Elias
LEILA BELA (WORLD)
Born in Iran and based in Texas, Leila Bela makes dense avant-garde noise music – check out her debut release, the 65-track concept LP Angra Manyu. She runs experimental French-America music imprint, Ellahy Amen Records.
“I chose to record this track raw with just the computers mic, in order to pick up all the noise and frequencies around me to show the state of chaos and confusion we are in. The track reflects both personal issues I've had with men in my life and my issue with all men in power today. I don't believe in countries or borders or male rulers! I believe we need one female to rule them all like the ancient days in Persia when my female ancestors ruled. I think all men regardless of race were genetically engineered by a more advanced species, the Annunaki, to be workhorses and never meant to be in power. There is a reason bees and ants have queens, not kings.” – Leila Bela
LASSE MARHAUG (NORWAY)
Metal and dark ambient musician Lasse Marhaug has collaborated with the likes of Sunn O))), Jenny Hval and Merzbow. He wrote this epic, incredible 37 min+ drone opus for his native Norway.
“Nations are defined borders set up to protect privileged people from less privileged people. National anthems are the collective dreams of those nations expressed by music. But, dreams can easily turn into nightmares. We don’t always appear as we wish. Good intentions can lead to disaster. This is my reworking of Norway’s national anthem ‘Ja vi elsker dette landet’ (which translates to: ‘Yes We Love This Country’). The original anthem was written long before Norway became one of the richest countries in the world because of its extraction of fossil fuel, so I feel it’s time for an update. This is a dystopian version of Norway drowning in an avalanche of natural disasters brought on by the amount of oil we’ve pumped into the world. Not something to be proud of – and I hope that in a generation’s time this version will feel outdated and considered a relic from a time when we just didn’t know what we were doing.” – Lasse Marhaug
Follow Jack Mills on Twitter here @jackstuartmills