I DON’T WANNA GROW UP / JOHN MOORE

 

Steve Ignorant Interview (formerly with Crass)

 

By John B. Moore

 

Since this
interview was conducted, Steve Ignorant and his band mates have
had to reschedule their much-anticipated shows in the U.S.
and Canada
after failing to secure Visas to enter the countries. Originally slated for March, the tour now starts in April. According to a press
statement: “As of  (March 7th),
the band had not been issued US entry visas, despite months of preparation and
despite having delivered all of their documents to their visa agent well in
advance of usual guidelines. With only 3 days to go to the first show and no
hope left of getting the visas in time, the only decision that could be made
was to let the fans know and move the shows.”

 

***

 

British anarcho-punks Crass certainly never stressed out over skinny
jeans and asymmetrical haircuts, nor did they go around comparing ironic
tattoos like many of today’s punk rockers.

 

Instead they spent the late 70’s up to their inevitable implosion in
1984, creating in-your-face political rants set to abrasive sound collages and
pretty much taunting Thatcher and her conservative minions. The highly
influential, but often overlooked punk band set out a template for everyone
from The Dead Kennedys to Anti-Flag.

 

Having vowed to never again reunite, band co-founder and front man
Steve Ignorant has decided to give fans one last chance to hear the songs of
Crass before he officially nails the coffin shut and encases it in cement. Just
don’t call it a reunion.  

 

Let’s start off
with The Last Supper Tour. Can you tell me a little bit about the concept
behind it?

It all really started with the Feeding of 5000 shows in 2007. I got a
lot of phone calls from people wanting me to repeat that show across the world.
I had to explain to them that the whole idea of the Feeding 5000 was just a one-off
show, never to be repeated and I couldn’t go back on that. As time went on it
became apparent that a lot of people couldn’t get to those shows and were desperate
to see them live. It took me a long time, but spoke to some people and thought
long and hard about it and thought why not. Why shouldn’t I for one last time
perform Crass songs live and I won’t just do Feeding 5000, because to repeat
that would be just jumping on a bandwagon. 
I asked people on the Web site what they’d want to hear and they sent in
suggestions and that’s how it sort of comes about really. I called it the Last
Supper because I want to make it apparent because this will be the last time it
happens. When I do the last show in England, I will never every perform
these songs live again. That’s a promise I have made to not only people, but
myself.

 

And why is that?
Obviously having been a part of this movement you have a strong identity to
these songs. Do you just want to put them to rest?

Partly that. You see it so many times that someone will say “this is
the last tour,” and of course they come out again. The Sex Pistols have been
guilty of this and so has Jimmy Pursey from Sham 69.

 

They realize
there’s still money left on the table?

Absolutely and I don’t want to be seen like that. I’ve shot myself in
the foot because there’s no way I can do it now. I have to finish. I can’t go
back on my word and I won’t. If it is going to be your last tour, make it your
last tour. You know as well as I do that in three years time I could come out
with The Last Supper: Second Sitting. What a sellout that would be on my part.
My conscious just won’t let me. It’s a time for one last big celebration. It’s
also a chance for people who never got to hear those songs to hear them live.
And after the show in November I’ll take some time off and start work on the
next project I want to do.

 

You seem to make
a point on your web site and in all press materials of not calling this a
reunion. It’s you and other musicians playing Crass songs. At any point did you
consider bringing in other Crass band members to make it a reunion?

No and for no other reason that if only I do it, it’s Steve Ignorant
playing Crass songs and not a reunion. I know there’s been some stuff in the
states over there saying “Steve Ignorant/Crass”. If anyone is being duped by
this thinking it’s a Crass show, it’s just wrong. Crass are not reforming and
never will. This is just me. If anyone is out there buying tickets to see
Crass, you won’t. You’ll just see me, so if you don’t want that I suggest you
take your ticket and get your money back because I wouldn’t want anyone to come
under false pretenses.  That (reunion)
rumor is not being started by us. When I get to the states, I’m going to find
out who’s been starting this and there shall be a little discussion.

 

Does that seem to
be an American phenomenon – show promoters trying to play this up as Crass,
instead of you playing Crass songs?

There was one attempt somewhere in Germany where someone tried this
and we had to put an end to it. I don’t think it’s just an American thing, I
just think it’s someone trying to make more money.

 

As an American
punk fan, I was cognizant of the fact that you never got to play many shows
ever here. Do you see this tour as a way to make up for it? You’re playing more
than just NY and LA.

Absolutely. Crass didn’t really play in many countries and I think
it’s only right on this tour that I go where I can. Go wherever people are
willing to come. It gives me an opportunity to meet people and gives them an
opportunity to meet me…  The tour so far
has been quite emotional, because they are getting to see me play these songs
and are just happy that we’re hitting so many different places. It’s just
really, really emotional. It’s wonderful.

 

You’re hitting
some mid-size markets that a lot of bands from overseas tend to ignore like Atlanta and Baltimore.

Yeah, someone had to explain to me that America is a really big place. I
thought fuck it. This is the last time it’s going to happen, why not? If people
are prepared to come out, we might add in another date here and there.

 

 A lot has been written over the years about
the band being very thought out from the beginning, with a clear path of when
the band would break up. Did you ever anticipate that three decades later
people would still be talking about Crass and still be talking about punk in general?

No, not at all. I have to say I know that Penny has said that it was
planned when we would break up, but I don’t remember that being the case at
all. I remember having the conversation about the (catalogue) numbers on the
records and I remember saying “what happens when we get to 1984? And they said
never mind, We’ll sort that out.” (Editor’s note:  Many have speculated
that the releases were numbered in such a way as to represent a countdown to
the year 1984, when the band would split up. For the record, they did call it
quits that year). So, no, I certainly didn’t think we had plans to break up
ahead of time.

 

The thing that really separated the Crass from others is that it always
seemed like more than just a band. You certainly weren’t shy about your
politics and there was a lot of performance art as well, from the spray
painting around London,
to the faked taped conversations supposedly between Thatcher and Reagan. Did
that stuff just happen or did you set out to more than just a punk band?

No, it was really just us wanting to
start a band. We thought we’d just be playing pubs. We had no idea we would be
doing so much. That just sort of came along. But we very quickly went from
seeing ourselves as a band to seeing ourselves more as an information Center.
We started handing out leaflets telling people what to do if you are arrested
by the police; what you’re rights are. A lot of other bands then started doing
that as well. No, we didn’t start out doing that, but change just came along
and once she (Thatcher) came into
power, we started thinking of way to get up her nose.

 

You may have had Thatcher, but we had Reagan at the same time…

You know I felt so sorry for you
guys.     

 

The thing that surprises me is how he has become a hero to so many. It’s as
if everyone collectively agreed to forget about anything bad he ever did for
this county.

I am shocked at younger kids who
think the same thing about Thatcher. I’m completely beside myself… I’ve always told
people that once she dies, the drinks are on me. If that woman achieved anything
it’s that she taught me how to hate.

 

Do you still
listen to punk music? Do you listen to some of the newer punk bands?

No, I’m afraid I don’t. Once I hit middle age I mellowed out. I
listened to some Reggae, but now I listen to a lot of the classic Soul and
Motown. And I’ve been getting into a lot of John Coltrane and Miles Davis. I’m
cool man; I’m getting hip.

 

I know you’ve started re-releasing some of the Crass albums. Were the rest
of the band members involved in that as well? Does everyone have to sign off on
it?

No, no. Some of the ex-members of
Crass didn’t agree to it, so we did it the way we always agreed to do things:
let’s put it to a vote and it was 4-to3, so we released them. I won’t mention
names, but someone threatened us with court proceedings, so we sort of stuck
our two fingers up and went ahead. So, who knows, maybe I’ll see you in the Klink.

 

 

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