Four Key Records That Influenced Bad Breeding’s ‘Divide’
Influence is fleeting and ever-changing. Sure, a band might be rooted in a particular style, but how they mold their music from that initial blueprint into something different is how they find their specific sound — a rapper may be influenced by Krautrock and seek out old loops, or a metal band might be inspired by Aretha Franklin and decide to move toward clean, epic vocals.
Bad Breeding's new LP is called Divide, and it's their second overall and first with Iron Lung Records. Divide is nihilistic punk rock of the highest order, utilizing noise-punk and power electronics passages to pad the moments between the mayhem. This is a sadistic and brutal, yet utterly unique journey, as the band isn't afraid to take chances and launch into new territory. Where did those ideas come from? What were they listening to in the moments leading up to recording the LP? We talked to frontman Christopher Dodd about just that. Stream the new LP and get yours via Iron Lung.
NO TREND, TOO MANY HUMANS (1984)
What attracted you to Too Many Humans?
Christopher Dodd: I stumbled across it after listening to stuff like Flipper, Saccharine Trust and Fang. I managed to get a copy of the French pressing on L'Invitation Au Suicide, and the fascination started there, really. I’d argue that it’s probably one of the truest things I know of. You’ve got to admire that much hatred for the human race, haven’t you? There’s almost something slightly thrilling knowing that No Trend set out to mock you years before you were even born, too.
What are your thoughts on like-minded bands such as Brainbombs or Flipper?
I’m a fan of both, though they’re kind of reserved for particular moments in life, like when you have awful people 'round and want them to leave. Or when you’re out riding your bike in the sun. Brainbombs scares the shit out of me sometimes. I think it’s because most of their records are rarely delivered with any sense of irony. With Flipper, how can you not love stuff as ludicrous as "Sex Bomb" or "Ha Ha Ha"? They have that tendency to make you feel like you’re trying way too hard at being a decent human. What makes it even more brilliant is you know they’re always going to be ridiculing you, however much you like them.
No Trend’s approach was as wholly nihilistic and alienating as possible. Aside from the record, do you think their philosophy as a band makes sense?
I think it’s wonderful. The dangerous sort of nihilism is the stuff without purpose or intention. What they did was progressional — it challenged a lot of that conformity that was seemingly so prevalent in some scenes back then. I wasn’t born when that went down, but from reading around, it’s made me appreciate that commitment to fucking with people. They’re one of those bands where you don’t know whether you’re meant to be laughing or crying, appreciating or hating … and that makes you think a lot deeper than your typical three-chord chugger. I think No Trend is an art form in its own right. It takes some vision to want to alienate, disaffect and embarrass people paying money to watch you.
How do you think this record directly applies to your new LP?
We’re likely at opposite ends of the spectrum — both politically and musically — but with a song like "Leaving," I think we wanted to borrow from that idea of irritation. That song is purposefully drawn out to bore the listener. It tried to mirror the monotony and bludgeoning nature of the arguments played out in the media over Brexit last year.
THIS HEAT, DECEIT (1981)
Why Deceit over the self-titled?
That record stands on its own, too, and I don’t necessarily think one is better than the other, but what draws me to Deceit more is the lyrics and that whole political narrative surrounding the Cold War. It’s also got "A New Kind of Water" on it, which is undoubtedly what I’ll stick on the iPod once the sky starts falling down sometime in the next decade.
What do you admire most about This Heat and their seemingly short, but world-changing run?
They essentially created a whole new language. Years ahead of everyone — especially when you look at the process of recording, the manipulation of tape reel, the collaging of field sampling and then the later use of Cold Storage. The list is endless, really. Whenever you go back to them, it’s like they sat there somewhere in the future. I saw them do [experimental lineup] This Is Not This Heat a couple of weeks back, and it was fascinating. They’re still finding ways of arriving at new perspectives so many years after making those records.
How do you think this record directly applies to your new LP?
Obviously, we’re not in the same kind of bracket, but This Heat has always made us have conversations as a band about progression and trying to develop some new conversations in what we make. Working with Ben Greenberg was pretty special in that regard. We work in construction outside of doing the band, and wanted to bring some of that industrial dialogue into the record. With something like "Endless Impossibility," that song was written partly about automation in the workplace and the looming demise of the need for that human element on the factory floor. We had lots of conversations about threading in machine noise, and spent a lot of time piecing together field recordings and working with instruments that we otherwise wouldn’t have considered — from drum machines to metal pipework and off-cuts of scrap. Records like This Heat and Deceit prove that there’s so much to work with when you look at the practicalities of sound — you can almost record anything, and that opened up a lot of options when it came to putting Divide together. We tried our hand at collaging, too, during "Leaving." We wanted to find a way of mimicking the sort of political distortion that has been so prevalent in news media over the last decade. Being able to cut and mix phrases and speed up and slow down tape recordings was really helpful in trying to achieve our own rendering of those perversions in the press.
AMEBIX, NO SANCTUARY (1983)
Again, this seems a little different choice than most might make, with Arise! being their most oft-cited classic. How does Arise! compare to No Sanctuary in your head?
It sounds like sacrilege, but I just prefer the songs on No Sanctuary. Like you allude to, though, Arise! has a pretty special place in the formation of what you might call crust. Maybe it’s got something to do with No Sanctuary arguably being a little more informed by anarcho — it has some amazing drum rolls and those distorted progressions. Probably helps that it came out on Spiderleg, too.
Of the sort of U.K. forefathers of Amebix or Discharge, which do you think was more important to your overall sound and why?
With "Whip Hand," there’s that obvious nod to Discharge, but I don’t think we go beyond that, to be honest. The guitar has always had a different role in the band; the bass takes care of those heavier progressions and the guitar skits over the top. It’s never really had that authoritative role. We kind of use it as more of an accent. Amebix was probably a more obvious thing on this record, mainly because we wanted to play about with some of that noise sitting beneath the songs. I think the greatest thing about both of those bands was that ability to move the conversation forward, to carve out something new.
How does No Sanctuary rear its head on the new LP?
It’s arguably most prevalent in terms of variation. We get a bit flaky when it comes to finding one thing that works and then nailing it over 10 songs or whatever. There’s quite a few change-ups on No Sanctuary, especially when you look at going from "Sanctuary" to "Sunshine Ward," and I think the record is something that documents the necessity of having a crack at different things. Doing this band isn’t really about achieving high art or playing up to posturing; it’s more just about fronting up to yourself and trying your hand at things; seeing what works and what doesn’t; making things you feel represent you regardless of previous constructs or perceived expectations.
FAD GADGET, FIRESIDE FAVOURITES (1980)
This is another very interesting choice. How did you fall into Fad Gadget initially?
I was rifling through records that I got down from the loft, and found a copy of that collaboration between Frank Tovey and Boyd Rice, Easy Listening for the Hard of Hearing. Mental record. I just worked back from there, and have loved Fireside Favourites ever since. When I was younger, I’d naively always thought social and political commentary in music had to be overtly aggressive, and then I really dug into Fireside Favourites and this whole new dialogue appeared. I think Tovey’s lyrics always get overlooked; the absurdist themes are hilarious, but there are some really pertinent points being made on the record, especially on songs like "Salt Lake City Sunday" and "Newsreel." I think it’s a massively underrated record.
What about this LP do you admire that you tried to emulate or reinvent for your own release?
Divide sounds nothing like Fad Gadget in any way, shape or form, but I think it goes back to that desire of wanting to bring another language into the frame. Much of my musical taste has always been in anarcho, but appreciating records like Fireside Favourites and Deceit kind of made us want to carve out a way of working other textures into the style. Ben was amazing for that — we wanted to steer clear of being too much of a retro interpretation of the British anarcho bands, and bringing in those industrial and machine sounds helped, I think. Hopefully, it’s set the record in a slightly different contemporary context. I think that’s what Fad Gadget always did really well: It mirrored much of those potentially bewildering concerns of the time.