Experimental punks WACO release their long-awaited second album Hope Rituals through Venn Records on 28th August. The album has been preceeded by two singles, ‘Dark Before The Dawn’ and ‘Good Days’, with the proceeds from each going to The Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust and NHS Charities Together respectively. Frontman and ‘high priest’ Jak Hutchraft also hosts the Human Magic podcast, a “series of conversations with creatives, thinkers, believers and dreamers, centered around ideas and experiences, helping to navigate this weird and wonderful life.”
We spoke with Jak about his thoughts on the current political climate in the UK and asked him to select ten songs that sum up the state of the nation in 2020.
It’s hard to know where to begin with everything that’s going on in the world right now, so I suppose we’ll begin with COVID-19 and the national and global response to it. How has the pandemic affected you personally and what’s your take on the official response to the virus?
I’ve had to learn to live more slowly and quietly than I have in the past. By the official response, do you mean from the Conservative government? They’ve been terrible and have blood on their hands.
Of course, whilst no one saw this specific disaster coming before the first reports started coming out of Wuhan, it’s brought the country’s preparedness for a crisis and also government policy over the past decade in a number of other areas into sharp focus. How do you feel our society looks in the strange light of this pandemic and what might have been done differently to leave us in a different position now?
Many people, myself included, need to reevaluate the (lack of) value we assign to our fellow humans, the prejudices we all hold, our relationship with the earth and biosphere, and our addiction to greed and consumerism. What might have been done differently to leave us in a different position now? Locking down as soon as the threat was made clear, and staying in lockdown until it was safe to come out. Or properly funding and supporting the NHS and the workers therein to avoid such a catastrophic overwhelming of the services there. Or not voting the Conservatives in in the first place.
It’s also been a baptism of fire for the new Labour leadership – what’s your opinion of their response so far, and of the state of left wing politics in the UK more generally following last year’s general election?
The Labour Party seems pretty dead to me at the moment. Left wing politics is in a state of disrepair as there is too much disharmony. Anarchy, spirituality or socialism might be able to save us.
There’s been talk of a ‘reset’ of society as we return to a ‘new normal’. What are you hoping to see as we emerge from lockdown?
The end of capitalism. A matriarchal society. Introduction of a collectivist or anarchist society. Liberation for all animals. Deconstruction of the racist, classist, sexist, homophobic, islamophobic, transphobic, ageist, fatphobic society we live in. Decriminalisation and safe regulation of all drugs. Decriminalisation and safe regulation of all sex work.
The music industry, and live music in particular, has been hit hard by the lockdown. What can be done to support it and how might our experience of music look different as things begin to open up again?
People can support the musicians and bands that they love in many ways. If you’ve got some spare dosh then you can buy merch or physical music, usually for the price of, or less than, a round of beers at the pub. It actually goes a long way for indie/DIY bands, because we all spend so much of our personal wages on it. If you’re a bit broke then share the bands that you like on your social media, retweet, comment online on the songs you dig, or text your mates telling them to check out and buy their albums.
How might our experience of music look different as things begin to open up again… Virtual reality gigs in our own homes? Venues open but with a smaller capacity? Holograms and digital ghosts performing onstage? A memory of a concert implanted into our brains like in Total Recall? G-d knows.
The Black Lives Matter protests that have been reignited by the murder of George Floyd have seen people take to the streets in cities across the globe. How hopeful are you that we will see genuine change?
I am certain that we will see genuine change.
June also marked Pride month, which has perhaps received less coverage than it might have done under different circumstances, and there has been anger at proposed changes to the measure originally planned for the new Gender Recognition Act. Are you concerned that LGBTQ+ issues could be sidelined while media attention is focussed elsewhere?
I’m not concerned about that. I feel that the human brain naturally is open to caring about more than one thing at once. In that way, almost all people are what you’d call intersectional. I, for example, simultaneously care about the plight of the indigenous population of Australia while also caring about the sexism my sisters face in their workplaces. Some things take priority over others, for some people, but I also think that’s natural. I haven’t forgotten about LGBTQ+ issues or people, neither have most people, I would say.
You’ve chosen to donate funds from your recent singles to NHS Charities Together and The Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust. What moved you to support these causes specifically?
We chose NHS Charities Together to support the frontline NHS workers during the pandemic. We shouldn’t have to do that. The charity shouldn’t even have to exist, because we are meant to have a publicly funded health care system, paid for by the taxpayer. But, instead, the greedy Conservative government would prefer the NHS didn’t exist and are underfunding it for their own gain elsewhere. They are the rich elite looking after the rich elite, nothing more.
The Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust do amazing work in tackling inequality. They work with young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, creating opportunities for them and helping them prepare for a world that is disproportionately difficult for them.
Was there a particular moment or issue that led you to become politically engaged, either as a musician or more generally?
My years working with young people, working at inclusion charities and organisations that help disadvantaged young people has shaped my views. Also, as a liberal, optimistic and compassionate person I feel it would be impossible for me not to be politically engaged.
Do you think that there are enough bands and artists speaking out about the current state of society and our politics? Can music really make a difference?
Yes, I think there are loads. Music can make a difference in spreading awareness. I love to see mega-famous pop stars using their platform to inspire their fans to be more tolerant, to fight oppression and to recognise their worth and power. I don’t believe every band or artist has to speak up on every issue. I’m happy for music to just be music sometimes. Not everyone has to ‘use their platform’, some people just aren’t politically engaged and that’s fine. Everybody is different, after all.
Ok, we’re going to wave our magic wand now – you’ve been installed as Prime Minister for the day with a thumping majority. You can introduce one new proposal on any topic and it will be guaranteed Royal Assent – what’s it going to be?
House every homeless person in the UK.
Finally, which bands and tracks sum up the current state of the UK, or indeed the world right now for you?
This is an empowering song that I’ve heard sums up the Black British experience pretty well. Relatable to those that live that experience, educational to those that don’t.
Citizen Fish – City on a River
A song about destruction, the dangers of endless growth and those that get left behind in the process.
Dawn Ray’d – Like Smoke Into Fog
Dawn Ray’d’s outspoken antifascism is welcome in the black metal scene. In their lyrics, we’re living through an apocalypse, but not without the hope of rebirth and revolution.
H2O – Everready
“Try, but you can’t bring me down.” A song to celebrate our resilience and the power of optimism.
The Chambers Brothers – Time Has Come Today
A motivating and empowering rock tune. The time is now, let’s seize this moment.
Gorilla Biscuits – Start Today
Another big motivator. Whatever it is you need to do, start today. Whether that’s educating yourself, changing your negative behaviour, getting rid of self-doubt, joining a union, changing career, joining a band…
Arrested Development – United Minds
A call for unity between all peoples and nations, freedom from oppression and the protection of indigenous people and culture.
Leftover Crack – Nazi White Trash
A fierce diatribe against corruption, division and institutional oppression.
G.L.O.S.S. – We’re From The Future
This whole EP is sensational. They are a really urgent and important queer voice in the punk scene.
Propagandhi – Fuck The Border
The lyrics “I stand not by my country but by the people of the fucking world” are ones that ring true to what we believe.
Interview by Paul Maps
Photograph by Greg Holland