Interview: Rupe Rabble - The Rabble

THE RABBLE is a band from Orewa, New Zealand that has recently released its latest 8-track EP, 'This Is Our Lives'.  The band is one of New Zealand's finest exponents of Punk Rock, mixing a vintage UK Punk sound with a dynamic thrust of today creating an uplifting, angered and completely addictive slab of sound.  Add to that the band's releases are on their own label and recorded in their own studio and they work the live circuit like few others in NZ do, then you know this is a band to check out.  This is what drummer Rupe had to say in March 2007. 

..OK, as THE RABBLE will be a new name to most, can you just give us the basic background of the band – how you met, when the band got together, where you’re based and the main reason you got together to form THE RABBLE.
..Rupe) THE RABBLE started back in early 2001 with Chazz and myself just jamming and looking for members. Many line-up changes later, after attending Orewa College, we met Sam and Roi – both of whom later joined due to similar interests in playing in a Punk Rock band. So that line-up lasted about three years having formed around 2004. Jamie from 5th THREAT has recently joined on bass as Roi left not long ago – we’re excited about the future.
We consider 2004 the beginning of THE RABBLE as a working band. We are based on the Hibiscus Coast, which is just north of Auckland, all in different parts. Our main reasons for forming a band back in the day were to cure boredom and to have some fun. Now, however, we take things more seriously, while remaining true to the way we feel things should be done.

..Where did you want to take the band from its inception – did you have any goals or long-term aims for the band and, if so, have you achieved them?
..Rupe) Our goals of this day are to make a living out of doing what we are passionate about; to be able to look after our families in the future. Although, as I said in the first question, we never used to take things very seriously. We have grown and evolved since then I feel. We want to get our music out there and for people to know what we’re all about! So yeah, I think we’re achieving our goals the longer we survive and the harder we work at it!

..The band has just released its latest EP, ‘This Is Our Lives’. How much of a progression do you feel this is from your debut album, ‘No Clue, No Future’? It seems a bit more mature to me. Do you think it is a good representation of where THE RABBLE is at the start of 2007?
..Rupe) We feel that ‘This Is Our Lives’ is a progression in a lot of ways. Not only with Chazz’s recording quality but also with the artwork and the band as a whole, y’know? Even though 75% of the disc is made up of older songs, there’s also a good mix of where we are in 2007 with the newer tracks and the enhanced video footage. A bit more of a mature sound? Maybe, even when compared with old recordings of the same songs. I guess they’ve been done justice. We are learning more and more all the time. So yeah, a step up!!

..All the band’s output has been self-released yeah? Given Auckland has two well established Independent Punk labels – Puppy Killer and 1157 – why choose to go your own way? Did you approach those labels or any others?
..Rupe) We were approached by 1157 at one point. Although we respect what those guys are doing (Puppy Killer and 1157), we have a D.I.Y. ethic too, so we feel we can make it on our own – or at least give it a go until something we really want comes along!

..If we can just talk about a few of the songs on the disc, starting with 'The Coast Song'. It's a song that seems to relish in the fact that New Zealand is surrounded by a fantastic coast line and defines the band's love of New Zealand - that correct? The line, "I saw that they fly a loyal flag trying to build up walls of nationality. There's no stars or stripes but silver ferns," suggest you are proud of your New Zealand heritage also - that correct? Is the star and stripes line a dig at America?
..Rupe) ‘The Coast Song’ is a tribute to the Hibiscus Coast mainly. We wouldn’t be who we are today had Chazz and I not moved here and met our boys. It shaped us in ways… Yeah, we are proud to be New Zealanders – especially when you look at the state of some of the world we live in – but that’s not to say we don’t want to experience it all. We definitely want to get our music to the people and that includes abroad.
We’re not so much taking a dig at America in the line, "I saw that they fly…" I wrote those lyrics simply for unity beliefs, as in, we feel people should be proud of their heritage, but without being overly patriotic as some can tend to be. It’s all about acceptance of others’ cultures, y’know? To us, being proud of New Zealand. is being proud of our ‘ethnic diversity’ among other things.

..'Down On Your Luck' is a great reflective look at friends of old. How different are you guys in the band now, as to how you were 3-4 years ago? The line at the end of the first verse, coupled the with sentiments of 'The Coast Song', suggest you dislike the city - that correct? I kinda feel New Zealand's real strength of character is its smaller towns and coast. Its cities leave a bit to be desired - you agree?
..Rupe) Yeah, ‘Down On Your Luck’ is about friends who became haters. You’ll get that sometimes I guess!! We like the city, but some of the people/ shit we can’t stand reside in those areas. The city can tend to be a haven for bad things and it’s hard not to notice. When friends/ fans turn around and spit in your face, it can hurt. It’s a true story, if you like!

..Would you consider THE RABBLE a political band? A lot of the lyrics come over as kinda apolitical and tend to tell a story.
..Rupe) We don’t claim to be a political band. We touch on politics because it affects us – same as anyone else. Sometimes we just tell the stories of our lives as a way of being honest. Other times it’s simply just a poem put to music. I mean ‘Friday Night’ is a love song about a night of the week when people get out and do what they like. It’s for school kids and people stuck in jobs they hate alike.

..The cover of ‘Police And Thieves’ is an interesting choice, given how famous THE CLASH made the track. It’s an interesting version, mixing a SOCIAL DISTORTION kinda vibe with THE CLASH’s dynamics. Why choose this song to cover? You do any others?
..Rupe) We chose to cover ‘Police and Thieves’ as a tribute to Joe Strummer. We tried to stay true to THE CLASH’s version but kinda ‘Rabble-tised’ it I guess? Haha!! It was also chosen because of that song’s reggae history; we’re not afraid to mess around with other styles of music! We have always done covers – it’s partly how we learnt to play. There are too many covers to name them all, but things like ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’ – RAMONES, ‘500 Miles’ – The Proclaimers, ‘If The Kids Are United’ – SHAM 69, ‘Red Hot Moon’ – RANCID. They’re all a bit of fun, y’know.

..On this EP, you have introduced bagpipes on one song, an accordian and a track on the album features a mandolin. Is the Celtic-Punk sound something you want to experiment with more? You ever see yourselves doing a full-on acoustic disc a’la THE POGUES? Your Christmas Show saw you team up with some of Auckland’s Pipe Band – how did you hook up with those guys and what did they think of the Punk crowd and surroundings?
..Rupe) Like I said above, we’re not afraid to experiment. We are influenced by the Irish too. I think Punk Rock and Irish music sometimes go hand in hand. It’s a good combination and we give our interpretation a go. Also, bands like DROPKICK MURPHYS and FLOGGING MOLLY have influenced us. I saw the DROPKICKs a few years back and they were amazing…
We hooked up with the pipe band through our gig man, Andrew Treeby. I think they really enjoy themselves at the shows – we like having them there, they’re great people!
Dunno about an acoustic album a’la THE POGUES. Ya never know, but I doubt it. Haha… Although, Chazz and I are thinking of getting together and doing a little something on acoustic guitars in the future. We’re close like that!

..The band has seemingly taken a fair bit of criticism for, essentially, wearing your influences on your sleeves. Do you feel that too often ‘punks’ just see the tattoos and Mohawks and dismiss you as RANCID copyists while missing the fact that tracks like ‘Take A Walk’, ‘Bad Reputation’ and ‘Sing With Me’ are fantastic Punk Rock songs that, frankly, shit all over shite like REAL McKENZIES?
..Rupe) We don’t care what people think of us. We do what we like and that’s that! If ya wanna dress like a Punk or not isn’t what bothers us. It’s about what’s on the inside. If you like our music – cool! We can’t be put into a box, or have a label shoved on us! We think outside the square! The song ‘My Way’ on the new E.P. was our response to people’s banter bullshit. Most of the things they say simply aren’t true! Sid Vicious did it his way and we’re gonna do it ours….

..The fact you have a manager also seems to have caused a bit of a stir – I don’t see that as a problem, particularly given his close ties to the band. What do you have to say about that?
..Rupe) We are good at writing/ playing music, not organizing gigs etc. Our manager plays the roles we can’t! Simon is also a bit of a roadie – so the helping hand is great! I think, if a band is serious then management can help. I’m not saying it’s impossible without one, but it helps. There is enough work on our plates without us having to worry about the business side of things all the time. We jam three times a week for good, solid hours and there’s always something to do almost everyday. Whether it be gigs, interviews, video clips, lessons, etc…Like I said, enough work.
There is a lot to be done behind the scenes before you even step foot on the stage on a Friday/ Saturday night, ya know? I don’t think people realize that.

Expanding on that, you guys read the ‘Burning Britain’ book? Every band in that had a manager – often several – and these are the bands so often cited as ‘the real deal’. Like the final BLITZ album compared with the ‘All Out Attack' EP!
..Rupe) Nope, I haven’t read the ‘Burning Britain’ book; sounds cool though! BLITZ is a good band; I love the ‘All Out Attack’ EP. Can’t say I know the story behind their manager etc. Something to look into I guess. I was watching ‘G.B.H. – Brit Boys Attacked By Brats’ the other day and I noticed their manager organized massive tour dates for them all over America. I don’t think they could’ve been as huge without that? So, thanks managers for bringing us G.B.H. and BLITZ!

..The band has done a number of videos also – is the video making process something you enjoy? You feel particularly self-conscious when filming? Given the resources/ funds, what would you like to do with a video shoot that is currently our of the band’s reach?
..Rupe) The video making process can be a party at times! It’s a lot of fun – although you have to be serious as well. It can be stressful screaming at a camera guy, up in their face without playing your instrument and being in a room full of people with gadgets all at the same time! Or when you have to act – I mean – we ARE musicians after all.
I’d say if we had the funds or resources we’d probably try to do a clip overseas and get that international quality we aim for. I’d love to do a clip with Ian McFarland from BLOOD FOR BLOOD. He did the UNSEEN’s and I think they’re really cool…

..New Zealand itself has a long history of continually inspiring Punk Rock bands, be it THE SCAVENGERS and PROUD SCUM, HENCHMEN and TOY LOVE, FLESH D-VICE and STICKY FILTH or the latter day SOMMERSET and BRUBECK. Has New Zealand Punk itself been an influence on the band? Do you feel the influence of these bands is still felt in the broader spectrum of Kiwi Punk today?
..Rupe) Chazz and I spent a lot of years at gigs when we were first getting into Punk, so yeah, we were encouraged to start a band and contribute.
We knew who all those bands were as well. I like the AK79 bands, can’t say I’ve been a huge fan of the more recent groups you mentioned – but perhaps there is still an influence felt in the broader spectrum to a certain extent? We feel we are in a position to influence people too. It’s kind of a cycle. Hopefully kids will learn from us too.

..Given New Zealand’s isolation, do you feel this has hindered the progress of Kiwi bands when compared with their European and American counterparts? Could this ostracism be seen as a positive - in the sense that Kiwi bands are maybe that much less influenced by the outside world and form a tighter unit within New Zealand itself?
..Rupe) I think our isolation has its ways of hindering talent. I still think the bands here are heavily influenced by the outside world though. I can’t say there’s a tight unit however; there’s so much bickering in the music scene. I’m not saying there aren’t positives though. There ARE bands out there that are helping each other out. I’m proud to say we are of them; Chazz records bands for good rates at his studio, Number 8 Wire, and I do artwork – I have a design biz called Idle-Eyes where all our own merchandise and layouts have been done, as well as my own t-shirts etc. Additional to this, THE RABBLE try to encourage kids to start groups of their own etc.

..What are your thoughts on major labels and, more specifically, fellow Kiwis THE BLEEDERS signing to Universal?
..Rupe) Major labels can get on my nerves when they dictate a band’s image and/or sound. As for the BLEEDERS, we like them! They’re nice guys so all power to them. At least they’re doing what they’re good at! To a certain extent I can understand why people disagree with majors, but who is anyone else to judge when they aren’t doing anything better?

..How do you guys feel about being part of the Commonwealth? Are you happy having Queen Liz as your Head of State, or would you prefer an elected President? You ever see a day New Zealand will ditch the Commonwealth entirely, or are the ties of old to tight to break?
..Rupe) It doesn’t bother us much. I think New Zealand generally sets a standard regardless. I don’t see us ditching the ‘ties of old’ anytime soon, no.

..What about the rights of Maori? Do you think their rights to New Zealand land and river beds is justified, or is this being exclusive? Why do you think Maori and Pacific Islander representation in Punk Rock is virtually zero?
..Rupe) The right of Maori is a touchy subject. I don’t think people want to step on each others’ toes too much. Still, I don’t think it’s fair to give different rights to a certain race. It almost sets a frame of mind for people to separate themselves and that only leads to racism as far as I am concerned. Some people think Maori etc need a helping hand, but I don’t think that’s true. They just need to be treated as equals. Still, maybe they would look after our land better than the Pakehas, seeing as their culture is all about the sea, mountains etc etc.
I believe there isn’t any of their representation in Punk Rock because people can tend to mistake it for white supremacy, or if they actually KNOW what it is then they think it’s only FOR white people!
If more bands were doing what Joe Strummer did with THE CLASH and THE MESCALEROS or what Tim Armstrong did with TRANSPLANTS, maybe this could change. Too many ‘Punks’ are close-minded and slagging it off for any drastic change though. We’re thinking about doing a song with a New Zealand Hip-Hop artist for that exact reason. Let the abuse begin!!! Hahaha!

..What do you think is the best and worst aspects of life in New Zealand? If you could change one thing about New Zealand and its culture, what would it be?
..Rupe) To me the best aspect of New Zealand would be our ‘anything you can do – I can do’ attitude towards things. The worst aspect could possibly be the constant roadworks fucking up our beautiful country… or the tall poppy syndrome; there are some awesome groups out there who get nothing but shit for what they do… Sucks…
Now, if I were to change anything? I would try to find a way to make the little guy as successful as anyone else. Unlikely?!

..What are the long term plans for THE RABBLE? I recall you were/ are planning a move to either the UK or America – has that come any closer to fruition? I heard about a proposed tour of Germany also - that gonna happen?
..Rupe) The long-term plans for THE RABBLE are definitely to hit the international scene. To break even on our records would be good, too! Haha!! We are always striving for that little bit more ya know? We feel there’s a market out there for us and besides, "This Is Our Lives!"

..Have you started work on the next record yet? If so, does it follow a similar line of sound as your previous discs?
..Rupe) Yep, work has begun on the new album. We are currently in the studio doing demos. Again, there will be a mix of old and new songs, so yes, a similar sound to previous discs. But hey – don’t be surprised if there’s more to it though!! We want to try out some reggae and we’ve written a couple of tracks a while back that have almost a psycho Johnny Cash feel. It’s gonna be good!!

..Anything you want to add and tell us about?
..Rupe) The only future is the one you make!

Simon Hill-Hayr
PO Box 666
New Zealand