Interview: Swine Tax
Swine Tax have had a very significant 2018, they released 5 singles and have played a host of riveting shows, as well as being featured on a number of blogs, playlists, radio stations and interviews.
I got the chance to chat with them, and catch up on how things went for them in 2018 and their plans for the new year...
When asked what their best received track of 2018 was, the band replied with "Probably Tory Water", humorously labelled by Charlie as “an anthem for the proletariat”.
"It was the first proper thing we've recorded and put out.
We'd had a long gap for us too between that release and the last so we were able to put a lot into it. It was also the first time we'd ever actually recorded anything in a studio. Because in the past we'd recorded everything in my bedroom, so it is good in that sense".
I asked the band about their influences and the drive behind their music.
"We really like abrasive music and music that is punchy and, not necessarily aggressive, but definitely abrasive. Definitely rock music. But we like all kinds of rock music, in terms of style- that varies a bit. And in terms of subject matter, it's always going to have that abrasive undercoat, but it varies quite a lot really".
"As far as our own music goes, obviously you put yourself into it and you put whatever you were interested in at that moment into it, so I don't feel like any of the tracks have gone down the same route creatively.
But it's always got this... like quite sarcastic tone, there's always bits of that in".
"I just like when bits of everyday references creep in. The things you wouldn't expect to hear in a song. We really like that, its good to stick things in, sometimes things that we've just been having crack about find their way in there".
“I guess I listen to a lot of early 90s hip hop and that has an influence, like when you're listening to A Tribe Called Quest you hear references to pagers and Nike sneakers and stuff that you don't even understand but it's very of that moment or of that place. And even though you don't know what they're on about, it intrigues you and I find that interesting.
If you had none of that it could have been written anywhere by anyone, you find that with some songs".
I asked the band what they thought about their musical development over 2018 and how significant it was for their sound overall.
"I guess playing an extra year with the same people really helped. A lot of it is production as well though, with the stuff that has been released this year everything has had live drums and has been a professional set-up, which has allowed us to become more comfortable."
"I think our musical interests have changed too.
We've got better at playing with each other. At the start Vince would bring a whole song and we'd figure bits out and learn the song; whereas now you can bring a riff and end up making a song between the three of us" said bassist, Tom.
"We know how to make a song now: we've found the formula. We just got more practice at doing it".
"Also a lot of jamming. A lot of jamming. We've seen what we could do, and played with it."
Most of Swine Tax's 2018 releases featured retro movie audio tracks with dialect segments mixed in. I was curious where this technique came from and what originally made the band come up with the idea.
"We were just interested in the idea, I'm not sure how we came up with it, but we were really interested with including samples".
Tom said: "I remember being around Vince's and his phone rang when it was on his bed while his guitar was on top of it, and it came through the pickup. So it started off with Vince just playing something off of his phone on stage into the pickup, and we did that for a while".
"That was really interesting because when you're on stage and you get your phone out, people are like: 'Oh God what are you doing?', and then when you stick it to your pickup and they understand... it's a nice touch".
"I was influenced by 90s hip hop and a lot of other things with samples in, I really liked that and thought that I'd try to include it. Sometimes it works sometimes it doesn't, it's an interesting element".
"In terms of what it was, Tom scoured some 1950s sci-fi radio dramas from America.
They're good fun to listen to and you can get some good stuff out of it”.
“Planet X - can't beat it".
What do the band have planned for 2019?
"We are going on tour, and we're going abroad, but we're in the process of planning it. We've got one really good tour date in the Netherlands at Motel Mozambique Festival".
"We're trying to do a week and half and just fill it with as many shows as we can. In the Netherlands and hopefully Germany.. and if that doesn't work out, it's just a nice holiday".
"We've also got four songs which we're going to release this year, we want to try to release more than we did last year. That's what we wanna do”.
Finally, I asked the band what they thought about the ongoing issue emerging in the Ouseburn. With a new aparthotel being built very close to the Tyne Bar, and Little Buildings being evicted. The heart of our music scene is under threat and I wanted to get their take.
“We feel pretty bad about it, I think its coming a lot quicker than it feels like at the moment. The Hotel up there is going to be pretty bad, Spiller's Wharf is going to be that giant wheel - a massive attraction. The 'Whey-Aye Wheel'”.
"Tom winces at the thought of the Whey-Eye Wheel" Vince added.
"It's the home of Spiller's Wharf and it's going to just be a huge attraction, and its making use of waste land, but it's definitely going to impact this area, massively".
"The aparthotel will push people out in terms of prices of living, and it's going ahead regardless of our objections. Over 11,000 people signed the petition against it, but it wasn't even mentioned in the council meeting where you could go and ask questions about their. They didn't even bring up the fact that thousands of people had signed a petition for the hotel not to be built".
“It feels like there will be a lot of angry voices, but they'll all be ignored".
“We put on a gig at the Tyne Bar, if there's going to be a massive aparthotel otel right next door it's going to effect everyone here. The venues round here are great for bands but great pubs as well, it's them that will get hit and it will impact everybody who enjoys them".
Regarding the closure of Little Buildings, they said: "it takes the ladder away from younger bands, if you're just starting then there's less places for you to play your first gigs".
"You need more independent venues, it's really narrow-minded for them to constantly underestimate the amount of culture that it brings to the area and the sense of identity as a place, and that can easily be eroded".
"It's constantly undervalued in terms of how much tourism it brings in too and what musicians contribute to the city's identity, rather than it looking like any other high street”.
“Hopefully the Ouseburn doesn't disappear totally and hopefully other places open, it's hard to envision an equivalent, it doesn't happen that quickly.”
It's clear for all to see that Swine Tax are a really important band in the North East music scene, and they continue to build up their reputation show after show.
A prosperous 2019 is definitely in store.
Cover Photo: Chris Crowder