Answer by Pavel
First of all, tell us about the history of your band. As I know all of you live in different cities of the Czech. How did you find each other? Are there any problems with rehearsals and concerts?
Balaclava was formed during 1996, I don't remember when exactly because I joined
them a bit later... sorry. From the present line up there were just our guitarist
Jakub and his brother Honza on drums in the band. The other guys in the "old
Balaclava" were Honza - voice and Ales - bass. This "old Balaclava"
existed about a year and have played about ten shows. After that time Honza
and Ales quit the band for some reasons, so Milan (who used to sing in a band
called Young and restless) was called to become a singer and since I just started
to learn playing bass that time, somehow I became a bassplayer. After like a
month of practicing we played, as a "new Balaclava", with totally
different songs, our first show at Prague's squat called Ladronka. That was
in march of 1998 I guess.
To start a band together was quite a natural thing to us (even if we all live in different cities), because we already knew each other well for quite some time, through hardcorepunk scene, going to the shows, protests and so... next to that we also wanted to have a vegan straight edge band... (but nowadays Balaclava is not a straight edge band anymore)
However, Honza and Jakub live in Pribram (where we also practice), Milan in Plzen and I live in Praha. We also had a second female singer (who's no longer in the band), her name was Helena and she was living in Most, which is about 100 km far from Praha... And finally now, we started to practice with a new second guitarist, his name is Vojta and lives in Praha too... So the distances between us are not so big (about 70 or 80 kilometers, what I think is nothing to compare with distances in your country (Czech Republic is so small!), so there is no real problem with practicing. The only problem (but unfortunately a crucial one) is that we are not very active band... some of us (Milan, Vojta and me) are involved with other bands, next to that we have always had some kind of bad luck - a few periods of not practicing, well, not being officially broken-up, but in fact no existing... first it was when Helena left the band (we had some personal problems, so it took us a while - about 8 months - to solve them...), then when Jakub left to England for a few months... So, in general, Balaclava doesn't play many regular shows (mostly just benefits), make new songs and record new material... And I really hope this will turn out to the better with this new person in the band...
What releases have you got and on what labels? Is it difficult for the diy band to release its cd or 7" in your country? In Russia they do not vinyl at all, and concerning CDs - only rich bands can allow themselves to release it. For the common not rich bands it is very hard even to record in the studio.
We have a four songs seveninch on the local label called Hopewell records,
which came out at 1999 as a first record of this label. Then we have only a
split seveninch with a Czech metalcore band The Old Testament (R.I.P.) that
came out quite recently (a year ago???) as a cooperation between such Czech
d.i.y. labels as Vegan idea records, Svetlo a teplo records, Private view of
slavery and finally Impregnate records. That's all we have released, next to
a few compilation songs... But since our seveninch is sold out, there are some
ideas to put it out as a benefit cd for local animal rights group, like a 3way
split with bands Ambrosia and X-wing... But nothing is sure yet, it's just an
idea these days...
To answer your question if it's difficult to release a d.i.y. Cd's or vinyl records here... Everything depends, unfortunately, as always on the damned money and social conditions... personally, for me as a person from definitely not a rich background and unemployed at the same time, these days doing just some temporary jobs, it is really hard to collect money to cover my part of the studio expense, paying for the press and everything... in case we would put everything out just by ourselves as a band... as we do with my other band, X-wing... Balaclava was really lucky that the guys behind labels I mentioned above (especially Hopewell) were so much into releasing a seveninches for us... And there are some d.i.y. labels in Czech, so it's not that hard in general. The other point you depend on is which way you want to have it done... in case that just a burned cd with xerocopied cover is good enough for you, it's not such a problem at all I guess... Yeah, the studios are expensive, but if you're really dedicated, you can do it somehow... but to pay for everything, nice covers, vinyl records... I don't think everyone is able to do this without the help from the people running d.i.y. labels...
But personally I would be definitely OK with really cheap d.i.y. demotapes... I like them a lot...
You know, in Russia many bands has such position: "we sing about this or that problem and this is our decision of this problem", to participate in various actions they consider not useful for them. They declare themselves only like musicians and that's all. What do you think about this?
Well, personally I like it much better if people involved in hardcore punk bands really do and live for what they sing about. I mean like participating in any kind of activities, from being active in animal rights, anti-fascism, anarchism, to just helping the weak ones, whatever... But the reality here in Czech is that many bands calling themselves hardcore do not even sing about some problems in their songs. The bands with a message are unfortunately a minority in the Czech hardcore scene, but I have to say that most of the people involved in these bands I am talking about are trying to do something more too, at least just supporting some activities, protests, organizing and playing benefit shows, etc... There is always a lot of small things you can do to help a lot! But on the other hand, I'm not a kind of person who always needs to judge the others... I don't feel like that, at least I am not any kind of perfect person...
What do you think about the antiglobalist movement? Did you participate in Prague 2000? What do you think about the efficiency of these actions? Do they solve any problems?
I definitely support these actions and antiglobalist movements (as well as
the other bandmembers do). I hate the way United states and the other powerful
countries exploit the poor ones, but I took my part in anti IMF and WTO protests
only with being there in the streets, I was not involved with organizing them
and I was not smashing the windows in the city center...
Well, of course not even 50 thousands people in the streets would change anything in the minds of those participants of the summit discussing their business behind the police and military security, but I guess these actions definitely make sense, at least they show the people living in the city where the summit takes a place that there is something wrong with the politics of the powerful ones, the political and economical leaders and this system itself. But I don't think that destroying the city center, even if the McDonald's window is a target, is the best way to show the common people your opinion.
Also people who showed up in Praha two years ago only in order to fight the cops and so.... Of course it's good to be ready for everything, but to be there only for this reason is stupid I think.
Russian punk/hc scene is divided directly in two parts. The first consists of the ultra right bands and bands some kind of Russian punk and Russian rock. It is interesting that Russian nazi bands make releases and cooperate with west punk scene. For example, Purgen made releases in Germany, gave interviews to such magazines as Ox and MaximumRock'n'Roll. The band "Ezshi" in Russia translate their name as "Fucking Jews", but in Germany they said they are "Fucking Life". They travel all over Europe and hide their real political views! The other part of the bands, we can call them some kind of prowest bands, they want to be like many west bands, even try to copy their style and music (hc, Krishna core, SxE, emo, ska, oi and street punk). they do not care about the real situation in their own country. All their interest is focused on making the view of "real scene". Do you have such problems in your country?
What the fuck? Is it really like that??? I just can't imagine this would happen
here or anywhere else... I always thought that nazis & punks hate each other
for having totally different views, so I am really shocked nazi bands in your
country do cooperate with punk scenes they - as I know from here - deeply despise.
Are they doing this just because they want to tour around Europe? Are they so
stupid? I just can't imagine we would go on tour and played shows for fucked
nazi pigs only... even if that would be the only chance for us to tour
As for the second part of the question... of course we have this kind of bands here too, but it's sort of understandable that bands play the same (or similar) music they like from their favorite bands... Everyone is influenced with something/someone, but it's important to stay yourself in what you say, not just spread something you've heard from some American band... I think this is just a question of priorities, to be concentrated on what's going on in your country that probably has a lot of problems (as well as common non rich working people have everywhere in the world) or being just into playing good music... as I said before, we have a lot of bands of this kind in hardcorepunk scene, some of them even do their lyrics "with a message" just because they think hadcor"unk should be "about something"...
What are the contacts between Czech and Slovakian scenes? Do you have any kind of local nationalism?
If you ask for the cooperation between Czech and Slovakian hc/punk scenes, my personal experiences are more than good. Slovakia has some really good d.i.y. bands with really nice people involved, also I have some very good friends in Bratislava and the other places as well... But outside of this underground punk scenes, there are some signs to show that quite a lot of common slovakians (especially outside of bigger towns) are kind of nationalist, at least a lot more than common people here in Czech. But I don't think there're some real problems between Czech and Slovakian people in general... I guess it's a bit worse between slovakians and hungarians... in this part that is close to Hungarian borders
On your 7" I liked the song about Chernobyl. What is your position towards atomic energy? In our country the deputats made the law that allows to get all radioactive trash in Russia. We (Real Art) want to release a cd compilation against this point. Can we use your song and include it in it? if you're interested in this idea, you can tell this information to the other bands.
The history has showed us that the atomic energy (used as energy or as weapon)
is one of the most dangerous and terrible things ever. Even these days there
are people dying because of this Chernobyl's accident, the land is still filled
with radioactivity... And I just can't understand why all these people promoting
using atomic energy still haven't learned from what happened over there... And
even if they will always try to make us sure it's absolutely safe, there is
always this possibility that something/someone fail...
And as for using this energy for killing innocent people at several war conflicts... There's nothing that would justify this dirty mass murder crime...
Can you tell our readers about the way of getting money for yourselves? Do you work or do it in the other way? How expensive is life in your country?
Well, to live in the Czech Republic seems to be really cheap for people coming
from the western countries, but it's different for the common people living
here, the salaries are much lower to compare with the prices, of course, everything
depends on what you work with etc... and there are big differences even just
here in Czech...
However, as I said before, for me it's quite expensive since I still don't have any regular job, I'm getting money from various temporary jobs like putting up posters in the streets or working as a dishwasher in a local vegetarian restaurant. But I really have just a little money from this, so I seriously search for something more serious, better paid to make me more able to live and pay for everything, the band's expenses, helping my mum I live with to keep the flat on, etc...
Honza, our drummer is working in the healthfood store, Milan, the singer works at the shop with tourist's and sport's equipment, to spend all his money on hardcore records, Vojta, the new guitarist works in the office, just making phone calls and sitting in the front of computer and to be honest, I don't know what Jakub is doing since he returned from England...
What would you like to advise to all Russians who want to visit Czech?
I am sorry, but nothing smart comes to my mind at the moment... Maybe just one thing, some older people (including my parents generation etc.) who very well remember times when Czech people were one of those forced by the system to live under the hands of the Soviet union's totality, do not really like Russians... But I don't think it has much to do with nationalism, I guess it could be more compared to common people after 2nd world war who didn't like Germans even many years after... they don't have a logical reason to feel this way, but since the leaders, politicians or soldiers of these countries made something really bad with their lives, it's really hard to get some kind of these prejudices out of their minds... But the reality is not so scary, it's not like common Czech people hate every Russian person or something like that... I just think it might be useful to know about this, and try to understand them...
Here you can say all you want to the readers...
I would just like to say that it was quite difficult for me to answer the interview
in English, my English is far not perfect, but hope it's good enough for you
(and the readers of your zine) to know something about us and the way we feel
about this hardcorepunk movement. Thank you very much for your interest in Balaclava,
we all really appreciate it. And I'm just sorry it was just me answering your
questions, so some thoughts I've said may belong just to one person instead
of whole band...
Thanx again for your support for thousand times.
All the best
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