Jul 2018 16

Always a band to challenge the injustices of the status quo and remind audiences that art, music, and culture is meant to be shared and enjoyed by all, Jim Marcus of Chicago’s GoFight speaks with ReGen about the group’s upcoming fourth album and more!
 

 

An InterView with Jim Marcus of GoFight

By Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)

Heroes are rarely those remembered in the annals of history as law abiding citizens; on the contrary, they are usually the agitators who challenged the injustices and improprieties of the status quo, putting their dignity, reputations, and even their very lives at risk to make a stand for a greater good. In times of sociopolitical turmoil such as now, Chicago electroscuzz outfit GoFight continues its artistic campaign to remind audiences of the spirit of inclusion and support for “the other” that the industrial scene was founded on. Having just released the “Welcome to the Future” single and music video, the band offers the first taste of its fourth studio album, named for South African politician, activist, and former criminal Tokyo Sexwale, a prominent figure who dared to break bad laws; with this song and album, GoFight raises a flag of solidarity for those who said “no” to ignorance and bigotry. Front man and founder Jim Marcus took the time to speak with ReGen Magazine about the state of a racist nation, with Tokyo Sexwale drawing parallels to his past in Die Warzau and the very roots of industrial music; he speaks about the joy of performing onstage with his bandmates Daniel Evans, Vince McAley, and son Mission Marcus, as well as some insights into his recently released Wonderland solo album, his upcoming BRIK app, the future of Die Warzau, and the spirit of community and togetherness felt at the annual ColdWaves event to make sure everybody who suffers their inner demons will make it to 6:00am.

 

You released your solo album, Wonderland, and that’s been gestating for quite some time; I remember seeing tracks during the MySpace days.

Marcus: Yeah, that was hard. And I have more songs, but I think those were the ones that fit together for this. It’s just that it’s a lot of very personal stuff, and I wasn’t really sure who would care to hear it anyway, and I wasn’t sure how I felt about people hearing it. There are some things that it’s really easy to let people listen to and to let them have the experience. But people have been really kind about it.

One of the things I marveled at was that even though your particular songwriting and singing style is apparent, it had a very melodic and acoustic quality that felt very intimate and personal. Are there any plans to release that material that didn’t make Wonderland?

Marcus: I think so. I think that it would be nice to do a second one like a follow-up, because there is so much material written. A lot of comes down to the fact some of those songs are written… you know, as a musician, you fight for ways to write, and with this record, I pretty much sat down at the piano. When I released the record, I could tell that a lot of it was written totally on there, and it’s interesting how your writing style can change dramatically depending on the instruments that you write with.

And you’re no stranger to using different instrumentation in your music – GoFight is very electronic, but you incorporate all kinds of different percussion (handclaps, cowbell, etc.) and manipulating sounds, and it was the same with Die Warzau, which was more ‘industrial.’ In that regard, what was the biggest challenge for you with the solo material?

Marcus: Well, every song was supposed to have a different set of instrumentation to start with. ‘Wonderland’ was actually written on steel drum, so that’s where the whole song’s vibe comes from, whereas the song ‘Radio’ was just written on a piano in a bar somewhere when I went there in the middle of the day. There are certain songs on the album that were written when I was in Africa, and I was translating and changing around some native songs and that’s where ‘Carry Me Home’ came from, and then I would try to turn it into something that felt more personal for when my mom passed away. That was written around the same time that ‘Liberated’ was because those are all attempts to write songs for my mom; she was a big country/western fan, and I wrote a couple of country/western songs for her and I played them for her when she was in the hospital. That’s also part of what was going on with the last GoFight record, because I was trying to channel that a little bit; I was trying to do something with American Jihadi that was very American, so there were a lot of twangy guitars for an almost country/western feel on certain songs, and it was really fun to try to explore that state because I’d never really don that except when I played for my mom.

We’d spoken before about American Jihadi having a more American, almost bluesy aspect, which does connect with the country/western mentality as well. One thing I’ve noticed with a lot of ‘industrial’ artists today is a greater acceptance of country and more roots styles of music; what are your thoughts on this, why do you think this is?

Marcus: I do think that when you see artists like Southern Culture on the Skids, who mix elements of punk and R&B with country and rock, and they do such a great job. I do feel that America is so meek when it comes to our own native culture and our historic culture. I feel like I’ve written so many songs about what I think is happening. We have a song called ‘Light It Up’ on the earlier GoFight record, and it was written almost from the perspective of a Trump voter. The idea was that you go for such a long time disrespecting minorities, and then there’s the sudden realization that you will someday be a minority – that your own particular demographic will become a minority – and it feels like somebody’s doing it to you. It’s very easy to feel like you’re being persecuted when your voice was the only voice in the entire system – when the white male voice was 100% of the communication coming from this country, and then suddenly… it looks like oppression to them, when it’s really just an equaling out of voices. It’s really unfortunate that that’s become the perception. I think the perception too with a lot of poorer white people in this country was that they were poor for a very different reason than black people were, and the reasons that people on the left were attempting to address, like the systemic qualities and things like that, wouldn’t have done them any good. It’s very easy for them to look at people ostensibly below them and consider them to be the problem, so rather than looking up and seeing this huge, massive inequality between the very rich and very poor, looking at the billionaire class and seeing the disparity between CEO wages versus worker wages; instead of looking at things like that as the actual problem, it’s really easy for them to look at the people below them and freak out about what’s happening there. ‘They’re taking up resources because they’re failing.’ I know there are communications that can work, that can be very inclusive, and that can reminds all people of poverty that it isn’t about distinguishing between black poverty and white poverty, but that it is all the same thing.

You do address that in social media and in your music and lyrics, and the new album is named after Tokyo Sexwale.

Marcus: I was attempting to name the new album, and it’s very much about the idea of civil disobedience; what do we do when following the law is not really an option? It’s a reminder to people that Harriet Tubman broke the law and Adolph Eichmann didn’t, which I think at the end of the twentieth century is one of the most jarring and important statements you can make about mortality in the context of law.

That’s certainly with the immigration issue, when even people who consider themselves moral and not necessarily in favor of the right wing or the so-called ‘alt-right,’ but still raise the argument of ‘legal’ immigration vs. ‘illegal’ immigration and turn a deaf ear to any argument about law without morals or ethics.

Marcus: And law without morality or ethics perverts the morality of the people around us. We’re no longer able to act as traditionally moral people in the context of the bad actor that law has become. We all experienced this years ago when we realized that the police force had become toxic and allowed them to treat people in a way that was irresponsible. We lost the ability to be honest with the police about illegal activities, especially committed by people of color, because we lost the ability to consider the police to be good actors or responsible actors. Now we’ve lost the ability entirely to tell the truth to immigration authorities because they’ve adopted a clearly irresponsible and toxic attitude toward immigrants of all kinds, especially children. We don’t have the freedom anymore to tell the truth to people who carry the flag of law in this country, and that is really unfortunate, because now we have to explain to our children why they shouldn’t tell the truth to police.

Being Turkish and born and raised in the States, I’ve dealt with that my whole life because my parents have always said, ‘Don’t make yourself a target’ or ‘Keep your head down,’ which on the one hand is absolutely true. Even though I’m white, my name is clearly not ‘American,’ and it contributes to my depression when I feel that I should say something or take action.

Marcus: That does create a moral immediacy, because you are a person who has a certain amount of privilege, like I do – a certain amount of white male privilege. I have to do the things that I can’t expect other people to do. I have no choice when I see someone being subverted by the police to not simply stand by but to do what I can to intercede. My privilege has to create a responsibility, and it’s really unfortunate because I would love to be able to say that certain things aren’t my business. I don’t have that choice anymore. I was considering a while ago from when I was a kid, I’d seen the statistics of rape in prison, and I thought… this immediately creates a new model for me in which the prison system is a bad actor and you could no longer under any circumstances have to think of anybody as being thrown in jail, no matter how bad they were. I want a government that we can tell the truth to. If you’re a juror for a nonviolent drug offense, you have a responsibility to basically lie. Your moral responsibility is to nullify, to stand up and say, ‘I don’t believe this person is guilty of a crime,’ no matter how guilty they are, because the punishment for that particular crime is inhumane. I think that there is a lack of knowledge for a lot of people, and a lack of understanding of all of the people throughout history who have made their name by basically breaking bad laws, and doing it dutifully and intentionally. This record is to really point out all of the people who essentially said ‘no’ and broke the law – whether it’s the Chelsea Mannings of the world, or the Oskar Schindlers, or the Adolfo Kaminskys, or all the people who stood up and said, ‘We can’t follow this law!’

Musically speaking, GoFight has been fairly consistent – while each album has its own particular atmosphere, there is a distinct electronic dance quality that defines the band’s sound. In what ways would you say Tokyo Sexwale progresses the sound of GoFight as well as takes on its own character?

Marcus: In a lot of ways, so much of this new record came from drumming that Vince and I had done, whether together or separately. So much of it is based around big drums or unusual drums, and this entire new record began with drums and percussion, and I’m really excited by that. I feel like it’s coming full circle because I started as a percussionist, and drums are so important to me; so much of the drums begin with me sitting in my living room or sitting on the floor and building these things. So, the drums I’m really proud of on this record because I feel we built up some really big and interesting percussive elements. But that’s not to say there aren’t other elements too, because this record comes 30 years after Disco Rigido, and I think about what we did with that record and there are some parallels that I wanted to draw. The first single directly off of Disco Rigido was ‘Welcome to America,’ and the first single from Tokyo Sexwale is ‘Welcome to the Future,’ and both songs begin with the same opening line, ‘This is a racist nation.’ I think we wanted to point to the fact that in the intervening 30 years, the same thing keeps happening, and that was really important to me that we draw that parallel, even to the point that we moved the release date of this record so that it would come out exactly 30 years after Disco Rigido, and what Disco Rigido meant to me, Tokyo Sexwale means to me now.

 

 

It’s fascinating because not only has your music done this, but many in the industrial scene over the years have incorporated these elements of percussion and especially ethnic percussive styles, as well as elements of funk, reggae and dub, African chanting – all of these different forms of ‘black protest music.’ So, it is strange to see a contingent in the scene now that champions white nationalism, sexism, etc., and like to say, ‘The left has hijacked industrial music.’

Marcus: They just miss the point entirely. You could sit in a room with Sascha Konietzko or En Esch or, obviously, me or anyone in Skinny Puppy or Al Jourgensen or Chris Connelly or Thrill Kill Kult… any of these people, and you will hear the same thing, the same story, and that what is going on right now on the right now is an atrocity… it’s horrific! The same sort of call for action that come from all of these people is to call for understanding that people of color have a place in this scene that can’t be taken away! It was there from the beginning! Look at the fact that LGBTQ people have a place in this scene that can’t be taken away. It’s inalienable; it belongs to them. You’re going to hear the same story from all these people. If you walk up to Al Jourgensen and try to swing some of your right wing bullshit, then…

(Laughter) Good luck!

Marcus: Right? I think that these people trying to do that are missing that; they missed where this music came from, what the core of it was. This kind of music was really about making sure that ‘the other,’ no matter what the other was, had a place where they felt safe and that the people persecuting them felt unsafe.

Hopefully, people will read this and feel compelled to look deeper into the history of industrial art and music in those terms. Speaking of history, one of the earliest and best conversations I had with you was years ago when the whole family was at lunch, and you were talking to your kids about your time spent in Rwanda. What are your thoughts on the historical perspectives as they are being thought about and applied by newer generations in their music and their ways of thinking?

Marcus: Well, the time that I spent in Africa was very much what kickstarted a lot of love for me for various things – percussion, languages, things like that. Africa is the beginning of everything, and the older I get, the more that I realize that’s the truth. It’s very much the heartland from where the human DNA came from – it’s the beginning of everything musically, it’s the beginning of how we understand what families are built of, it’s the beginning of how we understand human interaction. So, for me to watch people rediscover that and go back to that is really interesting, and to watch people discover African percussion, what the tribal mentality means and how it functions, and I’ve seen that as something that happens here in the U.S., especially at something like ColdWaves. I remember seeing CHANT at ColdWaves, and I thought, ‘This couldn’t have happened without an understanding of how African musicianship had impacted the world.’ I love that part of industrial. For me, that part is fully from this wonderful group culture, and celebrating that. The difference between appropriation and celebration, to me, has to do with our understanding of where it comes from. When industrial culture what large percentage of it came from Africa, what large percentage of it came from that sense of tribalism, that’s when it becomes appropriation – unsourced and irresponsible.

I had once asked on my Facebook what inspired the music people listen to, the idea being not what inspired them, but what inspired the artists that they listen to? So many people seemed to miss the point that I was trying to get to the roots; it was Chris Connelly who gave the kind of answer I was looking for when he said, ‘Any Lee Perry or Adrian Sherwood produced dub record.’

Marcus: Exactly! And who inspired CHANT? Who inspired NEU!? Who inspired Adrian Sherwood? Who built dub and reggae? It all goes back to African tribalism. And you listen to people like Brian Eno, he knows! Brian Eno knows where his inspirations came from.

With Tokyo Sexwale being the fourth GoFight album, what are your perceptions of the way the band has evolved? Where do you see GoFight going that you haven’t yet explored?

Marcus: What’s weird is that if you were to talk to Dan or Vince or Mission, my son who is now playing in the band with us, they would all probably tell you, ‘Oh, my contribution is nil,’ but really, you can’t go 20 seconds without hearing any of their contributions. Dan is such a musical kind of guitar player; he doesn’t go into the sort of ‘Smoke on the Water’ riff kind of stuff, but he creates interesting noise and effects. Some of it is very weird, and some it is very melodic, and there can be numerous tracks of guitar and you’ll still wonder where the guitar is. I love what Vince does, and we’re at the point where playing live is a different thing entirely. It can seem like everything is a mess and all over the place, but I have to say that being able to go out and play with these people has been the most fun I’ve ever had in my life. Even if it’s just the simplest little show like this Sanctuary show, which was a one-shot show, I don’t know how prepared anyone was… we just went out there and had a really, really, really good time! We have so much fun, and you get off and you really wish that life could be like that. Here I am doing my favorite thing with my favorite people in the world, and all of life should be like that!
I think the thing about this particular audience, about industrial type audiences is that they’re looking for the high notes; they’re looking for the interesting moments. They’re looking or things that they haven’t heard before that are kind of interesting, but they’re also looking for things that they really liked last week. They’re really not looking to complain. They’re not looking to tear something apart and say, ‘Oh, he played it wrong,’ or ‘he’s going to suck’ or something. A lot of audiences seem to be intent on doing that. I remember looking at this message board where people were talking about going to see Taylor Swift, and half of them were like, ‘Well, that wasn’t anywhere near as good as her last show!’ And it just seemed like they were going simply to tear the show apart; like, ‘Well, I need to go to make sure my favorite song is played the right way.’ And that’s not what industrial fans are going to shows looking for. They’re not looking to make sure that song is played the right way or that the person who played it plays the right instrument. They’re looking for something different. They’re looking for the high notes and for the things that happen that they can remember later. It’s a better kind of audience than I think you’re going to get for other kinds of music, and I don’t know why.

… Hmm. Maybe I have a different experience because of the people I hang out with. (Laughter)

Marcus: For instance, last year at ColdWaves, there was so much silliness going on onstage, and I think that the whole job of ColdWaves is to remind people that they belong to something, and that’s really powerful. But I got onstage, and I always appreciate that people seem to be happy when I get up and talk, and I brought up Chris Hall from Stabbing Westward, who is also one of my oldest friends and who played with us many years ago. But I brought him onstage and he sang a song to one of the raffle winners, and it was my favorite point of the whole night because here’s this audience all dressed in black, and they were just having fun. Nobody was taking apart what was going on or saying it wasn’t professional or some shit; they were just having fun listening to the guy from Stabbing Westward singing a love song to some guy onstage.

That was a special moment, and you’ve been fairly involved in ColdWaves every year, even when you’re not performing.

Marcus: ColdWaves is very close to my heart. My father committed suicide when I was younger, and I think that we as artists are born with this ‘artist package’ of brain issues where we find it hard to deal with the world sometimes. You look at the people around you and you realize how precarious some of it is, and ColdWaves is super important and it’s very deeply important to me. I love that it’s there to remind people that they have this community and to remind those people in this community that it’s not their job to sit there and wait for someone to reach out; it’s to actively reach out to people. That’s what we have to do. You can’t expect someone who’s deeply depressed to say, ‘I’m going to reach out.’ No, they’re not going to do that. ‘I’m going to sit in bed all day. I’m going to do nothing until it becomes overwhelming,’ because that’s what happens when you’re depressed.

 

 

I get the anger that some people feel because it took me a long time to get over the anger that I had at my dad. But the thing is that people who aren’t experiencing that sort of depression and aren’t experiencing that battle need to get over themselves a little. They need to recognize the fact that people don’t owe them anything. Anthony Bourdain didn’t owe anyone anything. But the thing that scares me about Anthony Bourdain, or Chester Bennington, or Chris Cornell… you know that these are some of the most vital and beloved people in the world. The truth is their contributions are so incredibly massive; what they do is so incredibly vital. Obama sat there next to Bourdain talking about what a great guy he was, and to know that the monsters in their head stood there and told them that they don’t belong… that’s how powerful that language is. How does the average person fight that sort of monster that convinced someone like Anthony Bourdain that he doesn’t matter? That’s the scary part, and the realization that it’s that serious and has that much power is truly scary, so I have to look at the people around me and I worry about who might not be there tomorrow. I know that in the art community, fighting against this monster and to try to maintain the artist and the creativity and be here for the people in front of us… (sigh) I mean… the people that we’ve lost are irreplaceable. Jamie was irreplaceable, and for him to not know that on that one day that it mattered is terrifying.
I know that a lot of bands wanted to be involved with this in particular because the issue is really important to them. A lot of bands that weren’t even playing together came because it was important to them. I think a lot of it comes down to the fact that they recognize that their fans are not necessarily always the mainstream people who have resources in front of them, not people who are surrounded by people just like them. I’m not saying that in a yuppie or law firm everybody dressed the same kind of way, but people who are into the same things, who are the kind of fans this community is made of.
I really do love ColdWaves. I love the idea behind it and I love the people who are involved in it; when I see some of the fans show up, I love seeing a lot of faces that I know. The fun thing about ColdWaves for me is that the whole audience is full of people from bands, which is kind of fun. I remember calling them out onstage.

 

 

Partially related to ColdWaves, you’re also working on an app called BRIK.

Marcus: We kind of sped up the release so that it would coincide with ColdWaves. Some friends of mine who are also creators, musicians, things like that… we were trying to solve some of the problems that are experienced through social media; social media doesn’t really do a good job of bringing people places and letting them explore places in the real world, so we came up with the concept of BRIK. It’s an app that we’re going to release during ColdWaves, in support of ColdWaves. It’s an app that allows people to find and place content in locations that can only be available in those particular locations. So, we’re going to use that to take some of the great content from the bands that are playing – music videos, downloadable songs, but also songs and content (like interviews) from bands that may not have a chance to be there but are there in spirit – and place it in those locations, so that by going to a show, people will be able to experience and have access to more. At the same time, everything is based on layers, so each band will have its own layer. ‘I love this band that’s playing right now, so I’d like to leave a voicemail to say how great they are.’ You can do that, and you can take pictures that will be part of the layer that other people can see and experience. It’s about the things that people love, to tap into what’s going on and use this unique way of connection to make sure that people don’t feel alone. What we were talking about was helping people to survive 5:00am; 5:00am can be a really hard time sometimes. A lot of people we know and really care about didn’t make it to 6:00am. And it’s important for us to make sure everyone there makes it. I’m hoping that this app and all of its resources will help people find ways to make it to 6:00am.

So, you released the Play/Dry single in 2016. When is Die Warzau’s SuperGangBang coming out?

Marcus: I just talked to Van about when we’re going to put it, and it’s actually not the only piece of music that we have to put out. Van has another band right now that he’s working on, and that’s really interesting. But we had a chance to talk about this, and I don’t think it’s impossible to imagine that it might come out soon because we’re not that far away. I know it’s ridiculous, and it’s one of those things that you just have so many things to work on, and Die Warzau will always be very close to my heart and there’s material that we’re still trying to figure out where it all fits.

Well, that’s the case with a lot of bands now, like how Cubanate and C-Tec have reformed for ColdWaves, and people are going to be wondering if there will be new or unheard material.

Marcus: I designed new logos for both of those bands, and it’s really fun as a visual designer to be able to work for two bands that I really like a lot is great. I look back at a lot of things that I’ve been a part of, like the feeling of doing logos and designing some of the visual look for bands that I love; going to England to work on Cure records, and to put all of these visual things together has been some of the most fun in my music career.

Has it ever been a thought to put out an art book of some sort?

Marcus: I’ve come pretty close a couple of times to put out something like that, and it’s definitely something that when I find myself having some time to do I want to do. This BRIK app has been my baby for a while, so having this come out and having the next GoFight record come out, those have been very vital to me. I feel like I’ll be able to take a deep breath once that happens.

 

 

Any thoughts you’d like to close us out with?

Marcus: I did want to say for the record, that we’ve put out the ‘Welcome to the Future’ single and the music video, and it features some excellent remixes that I’m really excited about. The thing that really gets me about this particular album is that I reached out to a lot of people in the scene to deliver some remixes for the next few singles, and I wanted to box them up… so many cool remixes. But I’m happy with the kind of scene mates that we have, because the people that we have who are working in this environment makes me feel very much similar to how I felt during the WaxTrax! time, asking and passing around remixes and stuff like that. Knowing now that I’m able to reach out to Caustic and Cyanotic and Stoneburner and people like this, and when they deliver a remix, every single time, it’s great – it just makes me feel like that time is not over; this is that time all over again, when all these bands feel comfortable working together and they like each other. So, I feel like one of the things that I want to do on the next record is to take a second to call out all of the scene mates that we have in this environment. There are some amazing people and they all seem so open to throwing stuff together. I feel like every one of these people are watching out for each other, and trying to help each other promote, and they’re listening to each other… it’s just really nice!

 

GoFight
Website, Facebook, Twitter, ReverbNation, SoundCloud, Bandcamp, YouTube
Pulseblack
Website
BRIK
Website
ColdWaves
Website, Facebook, Twitter
Darkest Before Dawn
Website, Facebook

 

Photos courtesy of GoFight

 

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