"The Nightmare Continues!" - Getting desensitized with Rat of d-Beat legends Discharge

Few bands have left a bigger mark on extreme music than Discharge. Rat talks to MaF about the past, but, more importantly - the future of this most august of Punk institutions.

To anyone of a certain age with a yen for ‘extreme music’ of any of the hues that term encompasses, the name Discharge is one to be treated with a mixture of reverence and downright adoration. Starting from humble working class origins in recession-ravaged England during the reign of the Iron Maiden herself, Margaret Thatcher, Discharge came in time to embody everything that was magnificent about music on the outside of societal normality in the eighties. Christ on a bike, they even spawned an entire musical subgenre – d-Beat and, for a while in the early eighties their furious brand of metallically inclined agit-punk inspired and excited in equal measure.

I should know – my uncle John slipped me a copy of the debut EP, Realities of War, shortly after it came out, and hearing that small roundel of fury changed the way I thought about music and its possibilities from that moment onwards. They couldn’t keep it up, of course, and, after an ill advised attempt to get into the mainstream in the late eighties the band staggered on, becoming ever more acquainted with the law of diminishing returns (including a nightmarishly surreal stint with Wrathchild vocalist Rocky Shades at the mic) before seemingly giving up the ghost for good.

But this is the twenty first century, and everyone’s getting another chance, so why should Discharge be any different? Despite the fact that original vocalist Cal is out of the picture (for legal reasons, apparently) the band reformed and, thanks to the good offices of Candlelight Records we can now hear the results of this partial reunion, in the form of two albums ( Disensitize(sic) and War is Hell) right now. Needless to say when the chance for a chinwag with vocalist Rat came up MaF jumped at the chance…

It could be seen as ironically amusing if it wasn’t so depressing, but Britain today seems to be in as big a mess as it’s ever been in. With the band historically having a well known anarchist/pacifist standpoint, do you think that makes Discharge perhaps even more relevant now than they were thirty years ago?

"Yep you are right. Britain seems to be gripped in a lot of recession and mass unemployment at the moment ,brought on by big business and the banking system making an arse of finances, but as usual it is the average working class people that must suffer, so I suppose things haven’t  changed that much for the better when Discharge first hit the streets- so yes we are just as relevant today as then.” 

You yourself have been at this a fair while now – both with Discharge and The Varukers (Rat also sings with The Varukers, another magnificent UK punk band); What drives you on to keep creating new music? Is it an anger that the fact that, linked to my first question, nothing seems to have changed in the last twenty-odd years?

"What drives us on is that we still have a passion for doing it and the thought that we still have an impact to make, And yes, the anger of what we see happening around us must have something to do with it, it’s not for our health that we carry on the fight!”

Disensitise sees the band in coruscating form, with a move back to the old d-beat style. Discharge has flirted with metal for a great period of its existence, but this release seems to be an altogether more authentic sound for the band. What were the main reasons for the decisions to go back to the original sound?

"Because to us that was always the real Discharge sound especially with Rainy and Bones driving out the riffs; and when I joined on vocals it helped to cement that sound."

 I remember when I got the Realities of War EP. At the time all I listened to was Dio and Judas Priest, and I’d never heard anything like it. What are your memories of the scene at that time, from a fans perspective? What were you listening to before Discharge appeared? And did you think at the time that both they and The Varukers would have such a far reaching influence on music, even into the next century?

"Funny you should mention Judas Priest - I’m listening to them as I’m doing this interview! That’s spooky…  um well, there was a great excitement going around the UK at the time, Lots of bands were putting on lots of gigs and releasing their own records; before I listened to Discharge I was really into bands like The Sex Pistols, The Clash (and still am by the way) , Discharge came along and as far as I am concerned gave it that hard aggressive sound (the music) needed. No one really knows how long you are going to be doing the bands that you either start or join ,but I’m very grateful that both bands are still around and firing on all fronts, playing live and working on new material for new releases hopefully next year. I have just started a new band (I must be mad) called The Vile; we do our first recording at end of July so over the next year watch out for the band!”

We certainly will. Having noted how influential Discharge has been, many of the bands you’ve influenced the most have gone on to be far more successful in commercial terms than Discharge or the Varukers. Does that ever rankle?

"Hey, we consider it an honour to have influenced so many bands , and we always just go on in our own way doing what Discharge or The Varukers do best - full attack,  in ya face punk!”

Although Candlelight are reactivating Disensitise now, it was recorded three years ago. Are there any plans for any new material to be recorded and released in the near future?

"Like I said earlier both bands are keeping really busy gigging and writing new ideas for possible releases , so who knows? You might get spoilt for choice next year- brand  new albums by Discharge and The Varukers!”

As usual in 2011, my review copies of the two albums were digital and came with no information at all on who did what on the two albums – can you help out?

"Okay,  yes well the line up on the War Is Hell release is me vocals, Bones guitar, Rainy on bass and Tez ((Bones’ brother) on the drums. On the Disensitze album the line up is me, Bones, Rainy and Dave on drums (Dave has featured on drums with Bones’ other outfit, the monumental Broken Bones).

Anything else the readers of Metal as Fuck should know about Discharge in 2011?

"Well, we are going out to Japan to tour at the end of September, we  have a few UK shows booked for the end of the year- that’s it as regards gigs- but after we get back from Japan till the end of the year  we’re going to knuckle down and get those new ideas done and dusted!”

 Anything else you’d like to get off your chest? A last request before you get back to some Priest?
"Yeah! buy the two Discharge  releases on Candlelight and let’s get ready for a full attack next year -  The Nightmare Continues 2012!”

Count me in, Rat!