Subhumans interview, Cafe Nine, New Haven, CT 6/7/16

The Subhumans are one of those bands from my early teens that epitomized classic British anarcho-punk. With songs such as “Mickey Mouse is Dead” and the punk classic “No” (“No I don’t believe in what you say, you’re just part of what I despise. Yes you’re part of the fucking system, I ain’t blind, I can see your lies”), the band sang about all of the classic punk themes: oppression, mental illness, class structure,apathy, and angst. Between the release of their first album in 1981 and their breakup in 1985, the band began to experiment more with their sound. They cited musical differences and disagreements in direction as the main reason for their split.

Singer Dick Lucas joined the band Culture Shock in 1986 and then formed the punk/ska band Citizen Fish in 1990. The Subhumans remained fan favorites and briefly reunited in 1991. They had a more extensive return in 1998, where they played shows in both the U.S. and the U.K. The band continued to tour together on and off for many years. In 2007, they released their last album, Internal Riot, and have remained a semi-regular touring band ever since.

I consider the band one of my favorite punk bands from the U.K., and was thrilled to learn they would be playing at Cafe Nine in New Haven. I was even more thrilled when Dick Lucas agreed to a sit down for an interview with me before the show. I met Dick and the rest of the band ( Bruce Treasure on guitar, Phil Bryant on bass, and Trotsky on drums) in a dimly lit band room. Dick was instantly recognizable to me, and as he had told me via email, he is generally the one band member that does the talking during interviews. I found him to be passionate about his beliefs, well-spoken, and well-informed about the issues going on in our world today. He is also still really enjoying the fact that he gets to continue doing this for a living.

J. What was it about the punk scene that first drew you in?

D.L. Well, when it all started I was about 16. I was hearing bands like The Clash and The Sex Pistols, and it was really just good music. They were singing about things like bored teenagers, anger at the system. It just seemed a lot more realistic than anything that had come before. And all of it packaged up nicely in little 2 and 1/2 minute blurts.

J. Were you more influenced by the British punk bands, or did you get any inspiration from the punk scene going on in the U.S. at the time?

D.L. I was definitely inspired by the British ones. The only time we had access to listening to anything else was on a radio show by John Peel. He was the only one that would play things we couldn’t hear anywhere else. So, I didn’t even really start hearing that stuff until later on.

J. You’ve always had a passion for writing songs about some of the evils of government and the people in charge. What are your feelings about politics in the world today?

D.L. How the people in charge interact with the people in their own countries, the other leaders of the world, economics, war … there just seems to be too much macho symbolism. I think that if there were more women leaders there would be less war and strife. However, when you take into consideration people like Margaret Thatcher, that hasn’t always been the case. We’ll see what happens when Clinton gets in, if she does. Lyrically speaking, the basic idea is to question attitudes that seem to dominate the status quo of how the majority of people behave in society and how that affects the positives towards working with each other, and the negatives, which seem to be the dominating force in keeping us apart. I write more about the negatives so that people are more aware. Knowledge is the first step in any kind of change and making things better.We are becoming a dumbed-down culture.

J. When I was first drawn into the punk scene, the lyrics were what drew me in. Do you think there are still bands out there today that speak to addressing the evils of society, or is it becoming less prevalent?

D.L. There are plenty of young bands that are emerging that sing about the evils of society and what’s right and wrong in the world. The days of singing just about beer and fighting are a thing of the past. I’d like to think that the kids are still hungry for messages in their music. Hopefully they always will be. It brings you together, makes you feel like a community.

J. I can only imagine, coming from the U.K., how the current political climate in the United States must appear to you. What is your take on U.S. politics at the moment?

D.L. It’s completely horrific. It’s the same way Hitler got into power, that Trump. By putting the blame for everything that’s wrong on minorities, using language that draws in the most gullible, the least educated, and extending it into racism and bigotry. Playing the racist card seems to work, because all racists like to think they aren’t alone in their thoughts. These are the same kinds of people that’ll believe anything if you feed it to them in a way that makes them feel superior. It’s shocking that a man like this has about a 50/50 chance of becoming president of the U.S. There are some really dangerous right wing groups coming into power, Golden Dawn in Greece, etc. It’s scary, actually. These right wing groups are getting support by promoting a patriotic backlash against refugees and people who aren’t white and have money. The fear factor, the scaring people into thinking these minority groups are harming the country as a whole. But that’s how people like this not only stay in power, but make all of their money, too.

J. Back to your music. You haven’t released an album since 2007. Any plans to release any new music, or do you plan to remain a touring band exclusively?

D.L. We are hindered by where we live.Our drummer lives in Germany, so we aren’t together in the same place very often. Makes it harder to make new music.We have about 2 completed tracks and 3-4 semi-completed ones, so it’s a work in progress. Slow progress, but we haven’t dried up creatively just yet.

J. Does touring get tiring?

D.L. It depends on whether or not we let it get tiring. How much whiskey we put down that stays down. You know, sometimes you still have a hangover from the day before and get up on that stage and sort of sweat it out. But over the years, you learn to be a bit more moderate. It’s so much more fun not being moderate!

J. Is there anything you’d like the readers of my blog to know about where the band is going or what your plans are for the future?

D.L. We don’t like to plan too far ahead into the future. We just keep on going and that’s what has appeared to work for us so far. The more plans you have the less they come into fruition. We are lucky enough to still get asked to play for people. I plan on doing this for as long as I can. There is no retirement age for us.We’re just going to keep on going.