Fot. PUNK ROCK Polska 77

Sekmadienį, spalio 13 d., supuvusioj skylėj mus aplankys dvi grupės iš Lenkijos – thrashpunkeriai Braineäter, išleidę demūškę 2014 m.  ir anarchopankai Baraka Face Junta, kurių chebros veikla prasidėjo išvis praeitam amžiuj – neatmenamais 90-aisiais. Nuoširdaus politiško diy pankroko grupės Lietuvoje gros pirmą kartą, tad drauge su Tragikom nusprendėme prieš koncertą virtualiai pašnekinti vieną jų – Baraka Face Junta. Kalbamės su vokaliste Kaśka, bosistu Szymon ir būgnininku Marek:

When and how did you form this band? Did all of you know each other before?

Marek: I think BFJ was founded when we became aware of creating music, inspired by bands such as Crass, The Ex, Dog Faced Hermans, Chumbawamba, Conflict and many, many others. Then we understood what PUNK is. It was the moment we realized that through sounds and words we can express ourselves. That through music we can stand against what we dislike and we do not accept.
In the early 1990s, our anarchy began. A group of friends decided to collect toys (guitars, drums) and the band STRACONY was formed, which quite strongly appeared on the PUNK scene, all over the world. STRACONY was released by such labels as Malarie Rec. Tribal War. NNNW. After a few years, VIA MEDIA was created.

Szymon: Indeed. Baraka Face Junta is just another name of an ongoing adventure. And that name was given sometime around 2008 or 2009. At that time it was Grzesiek who had been in STRACONY from the very beginning, back in 92 I think. Marek, our current drummer was the first drummer for STRACONY. Later on, he played bass in Via Media, and continued playing bass when BFJ was formed. On drums, for first 6 or 7 years of the band we had Sadi, who played back in 90’ in a metal band SCOLD, and later on, in some prog shit fuck knows what band PRONICOL B. I have joined BFJ actively in 2011 when I moved back from the UK and played the guitar. However, I did some guitar parts on the first album which I have actually recorded. Before BFJ, from 99 until 2010 I played guitar in Via Media and bass with STRACONY.
Kaska is actually the youngest and newest member in the whole constellation, but we knew each other from some previous Food Not Bombs, gigs or other events that punks usually do. And she joined BFJ at almost the very beginning.
I think it was about 3 years ago, when we had some shifts in the band. Sadi left, Marek swapped bass for drums, and I swapped guitar for bass, so we became a four-piece + 1 remote member, and that seems to work the best for us.
That remote member is Michal, who lives in New Zealand these days. He was on vocals in Via Media. He helps BFJ with lyrics, and sometimes joins us for longer tours and does all kinds of performances ;)
Kołobrzeg is a small town, so there is not much choice. You are stuck with the same faces forever. Over the years, through all these different projects it is almost all the time the same people. So BFJ is simply a continuation of what was started back in the early 90’. And the truth is, we are like a family.

M: Several people have gone through our projects. For me, BFJ is not only the four people who stand on stage. BFJ are all our friends who helped and help us be in it; the organizers of our concerts, our publishers (Filip and Magda from Trujaca Fala or Martin Malarie Rec, Piotr from D.I.Y Kolo, Marta from Active Distribution), people who make food for us, those who prepare space where we sleep, right now you are also part of BFJ. Too many names to mention them all. We are all BFJ. Together, we create all these music projects.

Baraka Face Junta – how did you come up with this name and what does it mean?

SZ: That was actually Sadi who came up with that name. When he tried to explain it, it was something about the collage of 3 words. Baraka which means blessing, face is face, and junta is military overthrow of a state. So we can say it is “a blessing face of a regime” which obviously is in a way a sarcastic but also impudent, as all politics are. However, from time to time we are considering changing that name. Time will show.

Are you all from Kolobrzeg? Is there a local scene? Do you ever think about moving to a bigger city (Poznan, Gdansk) where the local scene is more vibrant?

M: Yes, we are all from Kołobrzeg and most of us currently live here, but it was not always like that. Since our adventure with punk started, our paths have been a little divergent. I lived in Poznań for a few years, Grzesiek stayed a little in Germany, Kasia and Szymon lived in England and Szczecin for a long time, Michał currently lives in NZ. We have explored a very large piece of Polish, and a little bit foreign so-called scene. And to some extent, we were always a part of it, through individual or collective involvement in different aspects. Such as organizing concerts, producing t-shirts, patches, participating in demonstrations, direct actions, co-organising festivals, exhibitions, etc.

SZ: Yes, but that was over a decade ago. We were all much younger, so that was happy times.

M: We used to be quite dynamic in Kołobrzeg, concerts were regular, there was a nice club that was located in the lighthouse in the port. Of interest, even UNDER THE GUN played there, but also bands such as FROM ASHES RISE, LAST MILE, I ADAPT, JUNGLING JAGULLARS, BATTLE OF DISARM and obviously a lot of Polish bands, Ewa Braun, Biała Gorączka, Apatia, and many, many more. We organized food not bombs and anti-fascist campaigns. Despite the fact that we lived in different regions, we have always been able to continue our Kolobrzeg scene.

SZ: These days, occasionally we do shows in one venue, fortunately run by the same owner as of the lighthouse, or some other random places we can find. But I do not think we can say that there is currently a scene in our hometown.
Sure, bigger cities are tempting, and some of us migrated and moved around Europe, some are still far away abroad, like Michal. Me and Kaska are often in Szczecin, and we try to participate as much as possible or at least support Szczecin scene.
I think mainly because of our migrations in the past, we have slightly detached from the younger generation in Kolobrzeg. Therefore, there was no continuity of the scene. For the past decade, it was rather more spontaneous.
But this small town somehow draws as back.
Recently Kaska formed a local art collective WIR with our close friends, and we as a band are helping them with gigs and some other initiatives. We are hoping to find and activate young people, before they move away, or before they get sucked by some nationalist movements. So, fingers crossed.

M: I think it doesn’t matter where you live, we know teams from larger cities and you can always go to cool events and support. Now we have a little less time for it, half of us have children, families but somehow it works. Currently, when we’ve all settled in Kołobrzeg, (Szymon is still a little bit between Kolobrzeg and Szczecin, but he is slowly settling back down) maybe this scene can be rebuilt to some extent. Kasia and a bunch of friends founded the WIR collective. Probably this “scene” will not look like in Szczecin, Poznan or Gdańsk. I think that it will take an artistic form but very close to Punk values.

Where do you like to play more – in Poland or abroad, in cosy diy venues or commercial better sound-wise equipped clubs? How often do you tour?

M: I am happy with every opportunity to play, whether in Poland or abroad. Rather, we use every invitation, despite the work we do every day, we want to share our music and we do everything to appear in the place where the organizers want to show our work. Of course, the quality of the sound system is very important and it’s great when you hear everything well. We are also recipients of other bands and it’s great when everything sounds as it should. Personally, I like small clubs where there is direct contact with the audience. It has a unique charm. Also these days, equipment in small clubs it is getting better. We do everything we can to tour once a year. We try to choose places (and these are usually trips abroad) where we have a chance to explore the city, landscapes, local scene, and experience contrasts between them. We treat it as holidays with the opportunity to show what is inside us using our music and spoken words.

SZ: And literally, we need to take days off from work so it is our holidays. Generally, we tend to sound and we feel better in small cosy venues, but it all really depends. I think human factor is the most important. People who organise gigs, who make food for bands, share or give away their bedrooms, very often are busy with other, more important in my opinion matters, protests, direct actions, eviction threats, everyday struggles.  And still, they somehow put a lot of effort to create that cosy space for bands and for whoever comes to support them and to enjoy shows. And perhaps they cannot compete with big venues and big shows in terms of stage sound and so-called logistics, but I personally appreciate these little places most, and these people inspire me for what they do, and I always want to give as much energy back to them as possible. And I think the rest of the band would agree.
Sure, playing on a big stage is exciting, challenging, different experience, and in a way I love it too. But let’s be honest, that does not happen too often.
We try to tour at least once a year. We love to go abroad as it gives a different perspective. Also logistically thinking, west of Europe is closer and easier to reach for us than some places in Poland. For example, we can get to Berlin within 4 hours, where Poznan is about 5 hours away. So that direction seems obvious for us. But as our lyrics are in polish, I think we are better received on a local scene. Nonetheless, recently we had a chance to visit Bialorus and east part of Poland. It was super good. So many young faces. We met a lot of very nice and enthusiastic people there. It was refreshing.

Could you tell us more about the current tour? How many concerts are you planning, what cities are you visiting?

Kaśka: We are playing 10 gigs in 10 days across 5 countries; Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Finland.

11.10 Festival in Morąg

12.10 Festival in Suwałki

13.10 Wilno at XI20

14.10 Ryga

15.10 Tallin

16.10 Turku at Turun Pyöräpaja

17.10 Oulu at Tukikohta

18.10 Rovaniemi at Grande 96200

19.10 Tampere at Vastavirta-klubi

20.10 Helsinki at Oranssi

How many tours you had before? Could you tell us a funny story from past tours?

K: We played our first tour as BFJ together with STRACONY in November 2009, we travelled to the UK for a couple of gigs then. That was a big thing for me as I joined the band only four months before. In 2010 we’ve been touring in France, it was my first time on french land and I totally loved it! Then we came back there in 2017 with our second album. In the meantime, we have been doing several smaller tours in countries like the Czech Republic, Germany and all over Poland. We also visited Switzerland, Belgium, and recently Belarus. It’s our 7th tour so far as BFJ, but first up north. We are really looking forward to visiting all those places a specially that we have never been to any of them before…

SZ: Funny stories? Lots of them, but one particular I will remember forever. It was when Michal on some random car park, on the German motorway decided to pose naked in front of some convertible Porsche or some other fancy car, and while we were taking pictures, the owner of the car came back from the toilet. That was hilarious. But the guy was not upset with him. He laughed, and at the end they have a full body shot together, arm to arm, smiling. Obviously, Michal was only wearing shoes. (Sorry Michal. Lucky you, I cannot find that picture)

Have you played in Lithuania before? What do you know about the local scene?

SZ: We never played in Lithuania before, and we are very pleased to have that opportunity. It is a shame but we know very little about your local scene. We only heard some very good words from our good friends from SIKSA who had a chance to visit your place in 2017 I think. And only just recently I explored a bit portal.

K: I’m extremely curious about the scene in Vilnius and visiting XI20 as I heard some legends about this place!

What pushed you to play anarcho-punk? Was it because you like the genre, or did you feel the need to involve more politics to the scene? Were there any other anarcho-punk bands around? Are there any now?

M: It started with Polish bands recorded on cassettes, etc. It was difficult to get recordings from abroad at that time. One day Grzesiek got a copy of a copy of Crass, Conflict, Psychic Tv from his cousin, and it totally blew our minds. That was what we wanted to do. Grzesiek’s parents built a house at that time, so we squatted a room. Grzesiek and Rafał arranged old radios to connect to guitars, we got the drums from the local band “Co Wy Na To” and that’s how we started STRACONY. It was a desire to shout about what hurts us, what is inside us. It was our anarchy that we wanted to share with the whole world. We couldn’t play but that didn’t bother us. And so it took off. Then the first concert in the lighthouse. Over time we met a team from Słupsk (Guernica, Ewa Braun), a large team from Bełchatów and our punk horizons expanded, the first recordings, first releases.

SZ: Worth mentioning, there was no internet or mobile phones back then. All communication with punks from other cities was done by post mail or from a phone booth. To arrange a gig it was enough to make a couple of phone calls months before and then arrive at the venue at the scheduled time. That’s it. And it worked.

M: After a while, the line-up changed a little bit new people appeared. At the end of STRACONY, Via Media was founded. The line-up was mixed with STRACONY. We toured and made a split together released by Trująca Fala. Szymon was also involved in WASTE OF RATIONS in Leeds (UK). After a while, the formula of these bands was exhausted and BARAKA FACE JUNTA was created. And now we answer your questions.

SZ: It is not us who claimed anarcho-punk style. And I definitely cannot say I am an anarchist. But perhaps some anarchist can relate to our music and lyrics. I think art should always criticise politics, focus on human behaviour and how we affect the environment and each other. Otherwise, it is not art, it is only entertainment.

K: I personally fall in love with anarcho-punk when I understood the music is only a background for the value of thoughts. In our protest songs, we often touch topics that are important to us, things or behaviours that are related to the situation in the country we are living in: a continuous romance of government with the church, radicalization of the right-wing politicians, resurrecting of nazism, and of course our personal life dilemmas. We need to talk about it, sing about it, scream about it loud. To change the pattern and never let history go full circle again.

SZ: And If you are asking about Kołobrzeg and other anarcho bands from that time, there was none nearby, as far as I know.

As a female-fronted band, do you sometimes feel described firstly through this? Are gender-mixed bands are common in Poland, or is it an exclusive dicks-only club?

SZ: I do not mind if we are described that way. And I am proud we are a gender-mixed band. Who if not punk scene should encourage women to speak?

K: Is tagging bands with female members more harmful or helpful? Should female bands somehow be sorted into a separate category? Personally, I prefer to not stick labels to anything – people especially. If we start seeing everyone as equal the labels will not be needed :) Answering your question, yes we’ve been described this way in so-called “good intention”. For me, the more colourful and varied the scene is the better for its progress. Although, I would like punk rock scene in Poland to be less masculinized and more open to its unconventional revelations. There are some amazing personas involved in the punk scene right now who spread the view of ​​gender equality. Lots of kisses, warm cuddles and huge respect for all members from POCHWALONE, SIKSA, MIRAŻ, PAST, EL BANDA, DYYM <3

We clearly hear influences of Crass in your sound, but what inspired your lyrics besides other bands – maybe it was literature, movies or events? Who writes them? Do you write it together or there’s one person behind it?

K: It’s mostly me, Grzesiek or Michał who writes the lyrics, but almost every one of us wrote at least one text, maybe it’s why our lyrics are touching so many different topics. Sometimes a conversation with a close friend can inspire. Sometimes it comes to me unexpectedly. The inscription could be a graffiti sprayed on the dirty wall, overheard conversations on the train, news on the radio, it all may bring an idea for the song

M: We draw inspiration from what surrounds us, from everyday life, from trips, travels, concerts, from organizers of smaller or larger events. On trips, we meet a lot of wonderful people, bands that play all kinds of music. It shapes us, educates us. The contrasts we see or hear, give us a lot of inspiration to act, e.g. the French scene – whaaaat aaaare theeeey dooooing there with muuuusic ??? it is indescribable. The French can play everything, entwining electronic music elements into punk. That is why we like to go to those areas very much. Every day, each of us listens to different music, watch different films, read books, go to the theatre more often or less often, to exhibitions etc. It has a huge impact on our work. Each of our release and each of our project is different and you can hear different inspirations. Undoubtedly, CRASS has a great impact on all this. Their music, activities, art they created. I didn’t listen to my mother, I listened to CRASS. I remember when in elementary school during the break between lessons we ran with Grzesiek to his home (he lived nearby the school) and listened to CRASS. “Yes Sir, I Will”, what is going on there? I think we hear all the possible sounds you can get from instruments. You can definitely hear it in our work, in our sounds. But such bands like Dog Faced Hermans or The Ex. Personally, I am very happy that it is so. Now I rarely reach for CRASS discs but it will always be deep, very deep inside me.

SZ: Music-wise, I am inspired by so many bands that it would be hard to list them all. But what comes to my mind right now and to add to already mentioned list of bands, these are: DAWSAN, ARAB ON RADAR, ERASE ERRATA, AUSSITôT MORT, DECIBELLES, BEARDS (UK), POWERPLANT (UK), LVMEN, NEUROSIS, MESHUGGAH, CHROME HOOF, SINISTER, CARBONIZED, Orchestre Tout Puissant Marcel Duchamp, the list goes on forever.
To be fair, I only wrote one lyric so far, and that was “Oferta Specjalna” (eng. Special Offer). Actually, we wrote it with Kaska in the car on the way back home after a week of work. And I was pissed off with recurring phone calls coming from banks or some other twats like insurance companies, trying to sell their shit to me. I was amused, how certain they are, that they know what I need. It was sick. So as you can see, inspiration can come from everywhere.
But I think we inspire our self the most. During rehearsals, by listening to each other. You hear one sound, a pattern, drum bit, and sometimes you just know what to add to it. And then when it peaks, Kaska or Grzesiek will shout out something spontaneously. That is how most of our songs are made.

What biggest threats do you see in Poland today? We heard about the stabbed mayor of Gdansk, the homophobe attacks in Bialystok, also it appears from your song Marsz, which was released last year, that Poland isn’t falling behind from the rest of Europe, growing far-right movements everywhere…

SZ: There is evil in all of us. And with particular circumstances, it will show its face. Unfortunately, we have now a perfect political condition for it to show off. Fascist scum is coming out from the sewer and flooding streets of the entire world. In Poland, it is the romance of politics and religion, far-right and catholic church, that has slowly but surely allowed this shit to come out. Ignorance and impudence, conservative views and acquiescence for spoken violence against women, against foreigners, minorities, anything that is different that simple fanatic mind cannot comprehend, these are now forging into actions. Very dangerous times.
We have governmental election coming, and as much as I hate politics and I know they are all the same greedy fuckers in the end, this time I am voting. And I am hoping this time, currently ruling party PIS will not have the majority, so their fascist ideas can be stopped.