Melbourne hardcore punx Persecutor are heading to Queensland in June 2023 for a string of shows including an All Ages matinee at Nambour’s Black Box Theatre on Sunday 25 June. Known for exploring themes of race and the non-white experience, Persecutor have quickly drawn attention with their mission to uplift the voices of people of colour, by any means necessary. We spoke to Tyrone and Geoff about growing up in regional Australia and the cultural shift currently happening in punk and hardcore.
BAD HABIT: Persecutor have been highlighting "non-whites" in Australian punk. And there's some sort of moment in Australia going on right now with Speed conquering the world. Outside of the bigger cities (and in the bigger cities I’m sure), and in maybe slightly older audiences, there's some resistance, or perhaps not understanding the value of having diversity in punk. "If bands make good music, it doesn't matter what race they are, it’s fucking good music"… I wanted to ask what you would say to someone like that when they don't get it? Sub-question, what would you say to a punk or hardcore kid of colour, or just someone a bit different, that could be feeling isolated in these more regional areas?
TYRONNE: Great question! My aim for the band has always been to highlight non-white issues and experience. The reason for this is despite punk’s left-leaning general political values, it all too often becomes a microcosm of broader society. So often, it perpetuates Euro-centric values. Punk as a genre globally isn't just white but the stereotype of punk has been for a long time, and that cultural legacy has longevity. Punk and hardcore diversity generally is dictated by location and demographic, so some areas will be more diverse than others. I think also punk and hardcore for a long time has held itself as radical, but its rhetoric suffers from being dated. For example, the whole "I don't see race" or "I don't care who they are as long as they play good music" narrative has good intentions, but it is a very 20th century post-racial liberal view that more often than not dismisses the lived experience and identity of many people of colour. This also reinforces the notion that to be racist is to be the caricature of racism, so the absolute extreme end (Nazis, KKK, racist skinheads etc), which is counterproductive to the awareness that racism is structural and cultural. Being part of a racist society means WE ALL have been socialised to hold racist views in some shape or form. It is a lifelong journey to unlearn. Though I will say, I think people still need to be critical of bands and how they sound. There's nothing worse than people platforming bands that are shit just to play optic politics etc. That is insulting to all involved.
Within Australia, given its history, it is still very white from a cultural perspective, thanks to the White Australia and Assimilation policies. So this has cultural legacies that permeate into us all. It probably also explains why within our scenes, it still feels very white, with a lack of representation even when there are bands like Speed. This is why I think that myself, and other people of colour I have spoken to, still feel alienated within the punk scene. It stems from a lifetime of alienation, racism and prejudice, which can reinforce negative schemas (preconceived internal narratives and associations) so that even when there is a cultural shift or more representation of diverse peoples in the scene like there is now, you're still going to look at the negatives. This is why it is important to have bands that represent a non-white voice. The more we platform diverse scenes, the more the cultural shift will continue and the trauma can slowly heal.
If you are a person of colour or just someone feeling isolated, I would say that despite how you feel, you are not alone. It may take time to find your people but if you hold to yourself and be proud of who you are, you will gravitate towards the right people. Look out for people or voices who share similar lived experience as you while still giving space to meeting people different to you.
The cure to alienation is connection. I grew up in rural areas and it is a lot harder to find your people with a smaller population and limited resources that larger cities have. But we can all find a connection with one another in some shape or form.
GEOFF: To people like that I would say, sit down old timer, have some prune juice or something and chill out haha. In all seriousness though, I don’t really worry about those people, not in a way that negatively affects me anyway. In fact, it’s those dinosaurs that drive me creatively; they’re a good reason to keep going. It’s not as though I have something to prove to them, but to myself and to my wider community that there’s more to punk and hardcore than just making “good music”.
To the punk and hardcore kids of colour, lean in to your differences, find people who like similar things and share music and ideas with each other. Don’t let the pressures of societal norms push you to assimilate. Punk and hardcore is made better by a diverse community.
Start a band if you want, it doesn’t matter if you know how to play an instrument or not or whether or not you can scream. Just experiment, have fun with it.
BH: Just wanted to ask what's your background and how you found a path to punk? What did your parents and family think about being into it punk and hardcore? What’s in punk for brown people?
T: So my background is South African-Australian. I'm first generation as I was born in Australia. My father and his family left South Africa in 1979 due to the racist apartheid regime (which was a social system operating a strict racial segregation policy). My father is also a Coloured, that being a mixed raced person of Indigenous Southern African (Khoi-San), Black Bantu African (think Zulu, Xhosa etc), Indian, South East Asian and European heritage (thanks to slavery and colonialism). Due to the history of South Africa, it is actually very hard to figure out direct heritage and culture lines. My mother is Australian of Italian, Swedish & European descent (fifth generation in Australia). So, when I say I'm black, it's a way to reaffirm my cultural link back to my South African heritage and tbh, trying to educate people in what a coloured is, is exhausting haha.
In relation to punk, my dad was a Mod for a while back in the day, so he kinda understood punk, albeit very dated understanding haha. He loves it when I talk about stage diving and moshing. He tells me a funny story about his mosh pit days. Though I didn't grow up with my Dad, so he didn't influence my music taste. My Mum didn't mind me listening to punk but didn't really like the screaming. I found punk, metal and hardcore through friends showing me Sum 41, Children of Bodom, In Flames, Parkway Drive and going to local metalcore shows.
I think that punk for brown people has always been appealing (beside the whole Nazi and whitewashing shit) because the themes of bands are anti-authoritarian, class conscious and challenging oppression and social norms. When you live in a racist society and people sing about burning it to the ground for a better world, as if that's not appealing?
G: I’m an Australian-born Anglo-Indian, which is a term that’s had multiple meanings over the years. To put it simply, my parents were born in India but have European ancestors due to invasions and colonisation.
I came to hardcore through metal, with bands like Sepultura, Machine Head and such, bands I still love today. I can’t really pinpoint exactly what band started it all but I’m gonna say Hatebreed was where it started, ‘cause they were on a Headbangers Ball CD or something, and all I could think was, “this is so heavy and aggressive but so positive, where has this been all my life?” But then I found Madball and Biohazard, which were my first introduction into the more punk side of hardcore and from there things just snowballed! Also, no I don’t listen to Bad Brains, not a hater, just not my thing, not all brown people who like punk like Bad Brains, just sayin.
Honestly, my mum, who raised me, was probably too busy working and dealing with six other kids to pay too much attention to what I was listening to. Having said that, my mum is kind of an old school Catholic, so I’m sure we had a few discussions about Satan music haha. I think she was just glad I had something of my own, and I was enjoying myself and not getting into too much trouble, that she knows of anyway haha.
I think the attraction to punk and hardcore for brown people is the ability to express extreme emotions in a hopefully safe and toxic free environment. To me it’s like a protest, it’s activism, it’s taking to the stage as just a person like anyone else but giving a voice to my community.
BH: Tell us about Persecutor. A lot of people reading this probably have listened to the band before. What’s a little primer to get people’s ears and brains ready?
T: Think about Rebirth sermons being like a uni lecture and Persecutor being like a Malcolm X, Fred Hampton, radical Nelson Mandela speech with a touch of Farrakhan haha. Persecutor is a raw noise assault on white ears with stompy bits to dance to.
G: An unrelenting assault on the white hegemony.
BH: Really look forward to seeing you play in Namba. Thanks for making the commitment and coming to an out of the way place. What are you expecting?
T: We are so excited to be playing up in QLD! Can't wait to play alongside friends and killer bands. It's also so cool to be able to play a couple of all ages shows too! Punk is for the youth!
G: Lots of fucking stage dives please!
Thank you so much!
Persecutor perform live at Black Box Theatre on Sunday 25 June from 2pm – All Ages – Tickets $20 on the door.
New Bad Habit Records shirts have arrived, featuring artwork by Emmanuel Moore. The pre-order exclusive yellow shirts went out in Monday's post. New Bad Habit skate decks are out as well. Get on them. Thanks to Neilly Baby Bramley for spinning records and launching the new Adult Dreams zine in the shop on Saturday. They […]
The brutality continues. Sorting through records to go this Saturday. If you're new here, here's the deal. We put new stuff out on Saturday mornings at 9am. Locals get first go for all of Saturday, then Saturday late afternoon the leftovers go live on the webstore. Don't dm asking for holds or anything like that. Don't be an annoying nerd.
@blackdeity1r lp is now well and truly out. The Launch at Rottenfest was great. I'm still recovering.
We just put it up for free download on bandcamp. So go sus that. There's also copies of the purple version still left over. Hit the bandcamp or webstore.
Or get out to the following places to get a copy. @middle.5tore , @badlands.vinyl @blackened_records_brisbane @popeyesskateshop @sonic_sherpa @rockinghorserecords @hideousrecords @19th_nervous_breakdown . And @sorrystate for Americans. Big love to all the independent stores who take our releases. You guys are legends and centres of underground scenes.
There's a Brisbane launch on October 28th @thebeardedladywestend with Exit Ploom , @pisssshivers and @oratory666 . Presented by @r.i.ppeace
Brisbane punk had a real golden era in the early/mid 2010s. The explosion of the more commercial side of hardcore in the 2000s had made 100s of teenagers aware of hardcore and the accessibility of the internet and explosion of obscure punk blogs had drawn them past the bigger rock star type bands into the weird and wild world of underground punk. Brisbane was also lucky enough to have a loose all ages venue that showed kids what total madness was possible once all the grown ups/businessmen types left the room and let the real heads run wild.
Out of that era came some total world class hardcore. Shackles, Last Chaos and Sick People were all total powerhouses in this era. There was one more band. A total sore thumb in the hardcore scene, but just as important and vital. That band was Black Deity. Some drug damaged maniacs playing bluesy punk. They still had cats going crazy and, personally, I saw them a bunch of times high as shit, and they always blew me away.
Black Deity released a Demo and 7", recorded an album, played a bunch of shows, drunk a bunch of beers, pulled a bunch of cones, took a bunch of pills then broke up. With the LP never coming out.
Now 10 years later, finally, the album can see the light of day.
Nine songs of sleazy blues punk tunes about self destruction and love and love lost. Think Black Sabbath for an obvious comparison, or Sir Lord Baltimore, Pentagram or Mayblitz....