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The Untold Story of Chumbawamba: Dunstan Bruce on ’90s Anthem Song “Tubthumping” & What Came After

Web ExclusiveOctober 19, 2017
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One of the most iconic songs of the 1990s—”Tubthumping”—was also a political anthem, but few know the story of the anarcho-punk band behind it: Chumbawamba. Now Chumbawumba’s former singer is working on a film that looks at that history and how artists can use their voices in times of crisis. Founding member and singer Dunstan Bruce joins us to discuss his new film in progress, “I Get Knocked Down: The Untold Story of Chumbawamba.”

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Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is _Democracy Now!_, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, as we turn now to the story of one of the most iconic songs of the 1990s, that was also a political anthem.

CHUMBAWAMBA: [performing “Tubthumping”]

We’ll be singing
When we’re winning
We’ll be singing

I get knocked down, but I get up again
You are never gonna keep me down
I get knocked down, but I get up again
You are never gonna keep me down
I get knocked down, but I get up again
You are never gonna keep me down
I get knocked down, but I get up again
You are never gonna keep me down

Pissing the night away
Pissing the night away

He drinks a whiskey drink, he drinks a vodka drink
He drinks a lager drink, he drinks a cider drink
He sings the songs that remind him of the good times
He sings the songs that remind him of the better times

Oh Danny Boy, Danny Boy, Danny Boy

I get knocked down, but I get up again
You are never gonna keep me down
I get knocked down, but I get up again
You are never gonna keep me down
I get knocked down, but I get up again
You are never gonna keep me down
I get knocked down, but I get up again
You are never gonna keep me down

Pissing the night away
Pissing the night away

AMY GOODMAN: That song, “Tubthumping,” came out in 1997 and is still well known to this day. But few know the story of the anarcho-pop band behind it, Chumbawamba. Now Chumbawamba’s former singer is working on a film that looks at that history and how artists can use their voices in times of crisis.

DUNSTAN BRUCE: I really thought I could change the world, help put a stop to all of this madness, make a difference in the midst of all this chaos. But that was way back when. Yes, this is someone who was someone once, someone who truly believed he was at the forefront of the revolutionary vanguard, that he was the voice of the people. But now, now this is someone who will only be remembered as a one-hit wonder in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a washed-up, rinsed-out retired radical. Yes, this is someone who was someone once.

CHUMBAWAMBA: [performing “Tubthumping”]

We’ll be singing
When we’re winning
We’ll be singing

I get knocked down, but I get up again
You are never gonna keep me down
I get knocked down, but I get up again
You are never gonna keep me down
I get knocked down, but I get up again

AMY GOODMAN: A clip from I Get Knocked Down: The Untold Story of Chumbawamba. And for more, we’re joined by its director, Dunstan Bruce. He’s also a founding member of Chumbawamba.

Welcome to Democracy Now!

DUNSTAN BRUCE: Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s great to have you with us.

DUNSTAN BRUCE: It’s great to be here.

AMY GOODMAN: I’m glad you made the leap across the pond for a few seconds. So, talk about this remarkable group that you were a lead singer in.

DUNSTAN BRUCE: We formed in 1982 on the back of the punk movement, and we were involved in the anarcho-punk movement in Britain that was largely connected with a band called Crass, who described themselves as anarchists. And that introduced us, as a band, to the concept of anarchism, and we sort of embraced it. We squatted a house together in Leeds. We lived communally. And we—

AMY GOODMAN: How many of you were there?

DUNSTAN BRUCE: There has always been about eight of us in the band. There was about 12 of us living in the house. And we lived our lives trying to follow anarchist principles. And we had a band, and we thought that the—it was incumbent of us to do something political in the music that we were creating. And so, we existed—that’s when we started, and then we kept going for 30 years.

AMY GOODMAN: So, talk about the progression of the band—and you are doing it in this piece, in this film—and why you chose to make a film.

DUNSTAN BRUCE: Partly because I think what happened is because the band ended in, I think—was it?—2012, I was sort of a little bit concerned that the history of the band was going to be written out of—written out of musical history. And I think what we’d done was—could be of some inspiration to a lot of other people, and I thought it was important to talk about the fact that you can combine politics and music and do something that has an impact on the world. And I had reached the age of 50, and I thought, “What am I doing with my life? Where am I going? Where do I fit in?” And I just thought it was—it was at that point that I thought, “Look, it’s—this is a really important story that should be told,” because you’ve got to—you’ve got to imagine that “Tubthumping” is the very small tip of a very, very large iceberg. A lot of people only know us for that one song.

AMY GOODMAN: So talk about that. Talk about your lead-up to “Tubthumping” and what it meant, how you broke through, to say the least, to the mainstream. And talk about the success of this one song.

DUNSTAN BRUCE: Yeah, having that song be a hit was a complete surprise. It wasn’t a plan. It wasn’t part of a—it wasn’t a part of a—we just signed to a major record label but had already written the song. And it was a combination of circumstance and look that meant that that song came along at a time when it caught people’s imaginations. And it just went absolutely—it went absolutely crazy.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to a clip of your group, of Chumbawamba, performing the hit song “Tubthumping,” which features the memorable lyrics, “I get knocked down, but I get up again. You are never gonna keep me down.” Now, what’s significant about this particular clip is that this moment of the song being played was on David Letterman’s show in 1997, and you sort of did a little improvisation for this global audience, when one of the choruses was turned into “Free Mumia Abu-Jamal.”

CHUMBAWAMBA: [performing “Tubthumping”]

I get knocked down, but I get up again
You are never gonna keep me down
I get knocked down, but I get up again
You are never gonna keep me down
I get knocked down, but I get up again
You are never gonna keep me down
I get knocked down, but I get up again
You are never gonna keep me down

Free Mumia Abu-Jamal
Free Mumia Abu-Jamal

I get knocked down, but I get up again
You are never gonna keep me down
I get knocked down, but I get up again
You are never gonna keep me down
I get knocked down, but I get up again

AMY GOODMAN: That’s “Tubthumping” on the David Letterman show in 1997 with new lyrics made for that moment, talking about “Free Mumia Abu-Jamal,” who had been imprisoned a few years before that for a crime he says he was unfairly convicted of, killing a police officer. He remains in jail. He was on death row for more than two decades. Our guest is Dunstan Bruce of Chumbawamba, making a film about it, also one of the lead singers in it for many years. Talk about your experience on the David Letterman show, how you got there, how you sang the song. It wasn’t live, so they could decide whether or not to play it.

DUNSTAN BRUCE: I think what happened was, when we had that, when the song went global and when it was a huge hit over in the States, we had to—we made a decision about what we would do, having that platform. We were suddenly—we had existed on an underground scene for years, on the periphery of the mainstream, and then suddenly we found ourselves right in the belly of the beast. And we made a decision that, look, we’ve got to have fun with this, and we’ve got to do something with it. We’ve got to use that platform, because it’s not—how often does anybody get that sort of global audience and be able to use it for something? And we just decided that—we were involved in the Mumia campaign, and we thought, “This is an opportunity to do something.” And we just thought, “OK, we’ll change the—we’ll change the lyrics.” And we did this a few times. We did it on Jay Leno, as well, and then we famously changed the lyrics at the Brits, as well.
So it was something that we did as a matter of course.

With the Letterman show, we didn’t tell them we were going to do it, obviously, and then we recorded it. I think we went off to do a show at Irving Plaza straight afterwards or something like that. But what happened was that they then—the record label then got into a big discussion with Letterman’s people about whether they were going to actually—whether they could still broadcast it. And they did. And so, what was significant for us was that it felt as though—because we got a lot of—we got a lot of criticism for signing to a major label, for having a hit single, for entering the mainstream, and it just felt at that point that that made it feel worthwhile to us, that we were trying to do something with the position we were in. And we were using—that was just one example of us trying to use that platform to talk about other things that were far more important and far more interesting than just being a pop band.

AMY GOODMAN: So, talk about the Mumia Abu-Jamal moment after it did broadcast. What kind of response did you get to it?

DUNSTAN BRUCE: We were so happily oblivious to a lot of it, because then we went on to do something—you know, then we’d go and do it on Jay Leno, and then we’d go on Barbara Walters and talk about anarchism with Barbara Walters, which was all—you know, it was like a whirlwind. It was a roller coaster we were on. We were just aware of the fact that we were leaving this trail of chaos behind us that the record company had to deal with, all the—it was—

AMY GOODMAN: Who was the record company?

DUNSTAN BRUCE: It was Republic Records, based in New York. It was the Lipman brothers who had to deal with it all. So we had a great—you know, we had a great time. It was always far more interesting causing trouble than toeing the line. And so that’s—we weren’t there—we weren’t career musicians. We were passionate about our politics and what we wanted to do while we were in a band and what we wanted to do with that position. And so that seemed like the perfect opportunity to mess things up or have fun with it.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, David Letterman, the show, did put out a caption at the end of the show that said, “Views of performers does not represent David Letterman,” or something along those lines. Is that right?

DUNSTAN BRUCE: That’s brilliant. I didn’t know that. That’s really good.

AMY GOODMAN: You mean you’re learning for the first time that you did not represent David Letterman’s views?

DUNSTAN BRUCE: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: He was not singing the same tune?

DUNSTAN BRUCE: I suspected that we had it, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: OK, but now let’s move one year later, within a year. You’re back in Britain, and you’re about to win a major award, right? The Brits.

DUNSTAN BRUCE: Yeah, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: The Brit Awards. Now, for an American audience, if you can explain what that is, and if you can talk about this moment?

DUNSTAN BRUCE: I don’t know what the equivalent would be over here. Would it be the Grammys or something like that? I don’t know. It was on that sort of scale. It was the biggest music awards ceremony in—maybe in—definitely in Britain, maybe in Europe. We were up for best single of 1997. We had been asked whether we’d do the—whether we would play at the awards ceremony. We were like, “No, we’re not going to play at that. It’s not our sort of thing.”

And then we eventually got cajoled into doing it, because we were allowed to show a film. We made our own film that was the backdrop, that was all about various protests around the world that were going on at the time. And we changed the words again to the chorus, because it was—the previous May, the New Labour had just been elected as the British government. And—

AMY GOODMAN: John Prescott was the prime minister?

DUNSTAN BRUCE: John Prescott was the deputy prime minister, yeah. But what was interesting, that we had been involved in a dockers’ strike that was taking place in Liverpool. And we’d just done a—we’d just done a huge benefit for them down in London. And then, because we had this awards ceremony, we invited a couple of them along to the ceremony with us. So, if we did win the award, they were going to go up, because at that time it was live. They were going to go up, collect the award and say something about their situation with their strike.

And they spotted—somebody spotted John Prescott had turned up at this award, because at that point New Labour were trying to cozy up with people, musicians and artists. You know, they wanted to have like Oasis turning up at Downing Street for, you know—and it was all like just for—just for press, publicity sort of stuff. But the dockers we were with said that the—that Prescott had deliberately shunned them. He’d been a member of the union that they were involved in, and he hadn’t—he refused to help them resolve this dispute.

And so, it was one of those occasions where, you know, there was—we had all been drinking. We can’t—I can’t deny that we’d all—you know, we’d all had a bit to drink, and we’d all cajoled Danbert and Alice into doing something about the fact that Prescott had turned up. And so they went and threw some iced water over John Prescott and said, “This is for the Liverpool dockers.” And that caused a lot of trouble for—

AMY GOODMAN: Wait, wait. Who exactly poured the ice bucket over his head?

DUNSTAN BRUCE: Danbert did, and Alice. Both did, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: Alice Nutter?

DUNSTAN BRUCE: Yes, yeah. But it was Danbert who got caught, basically.

AMY GOODMAN: And what happened to him?

DUNSTAN BRUCE: They sort of arrested him for about half an hour, and then Prescott said he wasn’t going to press charges, so then they released him. But then it was like—then we just were all over all the tabloids for like the next week or so.

AMY GOODMAN: You didn’t win?

DUNSTAN BRUCE: We didn’t win?

AMY GOODMAN: That night.

DUNSTAN BRUCE: Oh, no, no, no. Well—

AMY GOODMAN: Though you might—

DUNSTAN BRUCE: We kind of won.

AMY GOODMAN: You certainly won a lot of attention.

DUNSTAN BRUCE: Yeah. I think people remember more that, more than whoever won best single in 1997.

AMY GOODMAN: So, where did you go from there?

DUNSTAN BRUCE: There was a massive backlash. There was a huge, huge backlash in Britain, in particular, because of that, because a lot of people were quite keen on the fact that New Labour had just come into power.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking about Tony Blair as prime minister.

DUNSTAN BRUCE: Tony Blair, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: Prescott was his deputy.

DUNSTAN BRUCE: Yeah, yeah. So, we were—we were vilified. But at the same time, we enjoyed the fact that we could again get into this position and say something about why we had soaked—you know, why we had soaked Prescott, and bring the issue of—

AMY GOODMAN: Why you soaked him?

DUNSTAN BRUCE: Yeah, so bringing up the issue of why we’d done it was important to us. And—

AMY GOODMAN: What did Prescott say about it?

DUNSTAN BRUCE: He was—I’m trying to think. When we split up, he tweeted about the fact that we’d split up, and made a joke about him buying—that he was going to buy our greatest hit album. So, it was funny, really, because he sort of like still had a sense of humor about it. But he got a lot of—he got a lot of flak. Somebody else, at some other point, years later, hit him, threw an egg at him, as well, and something. I don’t know. He seemed to be like—he was sort of a bit of a buffoon. I think he was like a Boris Johnson type before Boris Johnson came along. And so it felt like he was—he became a target, really.

But a lot of people were upset, because they regarded him as the only working-class member of that cabinet, which was—which seemed ridiculous to us, because he had completely been subsumed in this world where he had—to us, it felt like he’d completely betrayed his roots and forgotten where he’d come from.

AMY GOODMAN: What does anarcho-pop mean to you, Dunstan? What is that phrase, that kind of music?

DUNSTAN BRUCE: I suppose we came out of this anarcho-punk thing. You know, when we first started, I think we thought that how you expressed your anger about the world was by shouting about the world. I think we pretty soon realized that that wasn’t necessarily the best way to do it, and that you’re not going to reach a particularly wide audience by doing that. I think we were—we were all from small northern towns. All our roots were in, you know, small working-class communities, rather than any sort of middle-class, bourgeois existence. We hadn’t come from that. We’d come from working-class towns.

And it felt like how we’d learned about punk, for instance, was through mainstream media, and it was through seeing people on television singing about stuff that I thought, “Wow! That’s amazing,” when I first saw the Sex Pistols, when I first saw The Clash. And it was because not only were they saying something, they were writing music that had a tune. And I think we allowed our love of pop music to come through our own music. And so it was all about combining our politics with a good tune, really.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to jump forward to now, when we just played one of your songs during a break, during the Charlottesville protests of the proud self-proclaimed neo-Nazis, fascists, Klansmen, hundreds of them carrying torches through the University of Virginia, and ultimately one of them rammed a car into a crowd of anti-fascist protesters and killed a young woman named Heather Heyer. We played “On the Day the Nazi Died.” This is your song from 1994.

DUNSTAN BRUCE: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about this? Because while they talk about you as a one-hit wonder, Chumbawamba—

DUNSTAN BRUCE: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: —you’ve had some amazing songs leading up to that.

DUNSTAN BRUCE: It’s weird, really, because “Tubthumping” is not Chumbawamba’s best song. It’s not the most political song we’ve ever written. And it’s like I would like to think of it as sort of a gateway song to the rest of the iceberg of everything that Chumbawamba did. I mean, we put out about 15 albums in total. “The Day the Nazi Died,” along with another song called “Enough is Enough” that we recorded in the early to mid-’90s—

AMY GOODMAN: “Enough is Enough.”

DUNSTAN BRUCE: Yeah—was based on the idea that there was—then, there was a rise of the right in Europe. Particularly, I remember Jörg Haider in Austria, who was a right-wing politician who inspired us to start writing songs about—of us taking care to not let the right rise again. And that, sadly, is—it still feels as though it’s as relevant now as it was 20 years ago, if not more so. So, it was at that point—at that point in time, we just thought this is just an isolated incident of the right getting a toehold in the larger political system. But it seems as though they’ve—that’s become larger and larger.

AMY GOODMAN: So let’s go to “On the Day the Nazi Died.”

CHUMBAWAMBA: [performing “On the Day the Nazi Died”]

We’re told that after the war
The Nazis vanished without a trace
But battalions of fascists
Still dream of a master race

The history books they tell
Of their defeat in ’45
But they all came out of the woodwork
On the day the Nazi died

They say the prisoner at Spandau
Was a symbol of defeat
Whilst Hess remained imprisoned
And the fascists; they were beat

So the promise of an Aryan world
Would never materialize
So why did they all come out of the woodwork
On the day the Nazi died

The world is riddled with maggots
The maggots are getting fat
They’re making a tasty meal of all
The bosses and bureaucrats

They’re taking over the boardrooms
And they’re fat and full of pride
And they all came out of the woodwork
On the day the Nazi died

So if you meet with these historians
I’ll tell you what to say
Tell them that the Nazis
Never really went away

They’re out there burning houses down
And peddling racist lies
And we’ll never rest again
Until every Nazi dies.

AMY GOODMAN: “Until every Nazi dies.” Did you ever think that about it being relevant almost a quarter of a century later, where we are now, in 2017?

DUNSTAN BRUCE: Not really, no. We thought that would have been—it would have been an isolated incident, that it would be crushed by now. And that obviously is not the case. And it seems as though the right wing are getting bolder with their—expressing their politics. And it’s—that right-wing movement seems to be getting larger and larger.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to another song on Anarchy, the album, called “Homophobia.” The lyrics are “Homophobia-the worst disease/You can’t love who you want to love in times like these.” Again, this is a song that you performed in 1994.

CHUMBAWAMBA: [performing “Homophobia”]

You can’t love who you want to love in times like these

In the pubs, clubs and burger bars, breeding pens for pigs,
Alcohol, testosterone and ignorance and fists
Packs of hunting animals roam across the town
They find an easy victim and they punch him to the ground.

Homophobia-the worst disease
You can’t love who you want to love in times like these
Homophobia-the worst disease
You can’t love who you want to love in times like these

The siren of the ambulance, the deadpan of the cops,
Chalk to mark the outline where the boy first dropped
Beware the holy trinity: church and state and law
For every death the virus gets more deadly than before.

Homophobia-the worst disease
You can’t love who you want to love in times like these
Homophobia-the worst disease
You can’t love who you want to love in times like these

AMY GOODMAN: That was “Homophobia” on the Anarchy album. Dunstan Bruce, talk about the origins of this, who wrote it, what you felt like singing it, the response you got to it.

DUNSTAN BRUCE: That song came out of an attack, a homophobic attack, that took place in Bradford, which was the town next door to Leeds, where we lived, where a young boy was killed purely because of his sexuality. And it was something—at the time, there was some—like a burgeoning gay scene in Leeds that we were a part of, which seemed really exciting. And we couldn’t believe that at the same time it was still dangerous. If there was like—the ’90s were a very celebratory time. The ’80s, it seemed a bit black-and-white in comparison, and then the ’90s seemed a lot more colorful. And part of that was because of—was because of rave culture and drug culture and the idea that we were—that we all seemed to be having a much better time and, you know, having fun. And it just seemed like a massive shock to the system that this sort of hateful crime could still be—you know, these sort of hateful crimes were still going on at that time. So we were inspired to write “Homophobia” on the back of that.

AMY GOODMAN: This is a clip from the Chumbawamba mail-order EP. Explain what an EP is.

DUNSTAN BRUCE: Oh, it’s just like longer than a single, so it’s eight minutes long, I think. “Extended play,” I think it means.

AMY GOODMAN: “Extended play.”

DUNSTAN BRUCE: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: In Memorium: Margaret Thatcher, “So Long, So Long,” live in Bristol, recorded actually a year after you left, right? You left the band in 2004. This is 2004. It was available for pre-order, the band promising to send it out on the day of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s death, so that fans could, quote, “rest easy in the knowledge that you’ve put a down-payment on a small and perfectly-formed segment of the celebrations,” you all wrote.

CHUMBAWAMBA: [performing “So Long, So Long”]

So long, so long,
You kept me waiting so long, so long,
Let me serenade you with one last song
You’re back where you belong
So long, so long, so long.

Goodbye, goodbye,
Goodbye
It’s so familiar seeing you lie
You lie

AMY GOODMAN: So that’s Chumbawamba’s In Memorium: Margaret Thatcher, “So Long, So Long,” live in Bristol. The band also issuing a statement upon her death in 2013 that ended, quote, “Our deepest sympathies go out to the families of all Margaret Thatcher’s victims.” Now, Dunstan, you were a member of the band for a long time—

DUNSTAN BRUCE: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: —but you had just left. Talk about this EP, this extended-play record.

DUNSTAN BRUCE: I think, you know, Thatcher is our Reagan, I suppose. They were the—she came into power in 1979 in the U.K. She was responsible for the complete destruction of the mining industry in the U.K. We were heavily involved in the miners’ strike in 1984, '85. We did a lot of benefit shows for them. We went out picketing with them. We collected for them. Her heartless treatment and just her attempts to destroy the working classes in Britain stayed with a lot of people. She was so, so hated and vilified as a politician. And so, it was something—it's still a point of unity for a lot of people. It brings a lot of people together, their sort of collective hatred of Margaret Thatcher and everything that she stood for and what she did to the working classes in Britain, how she sort of systematically destroyed communities and people’s livelihoods.

AMY GOODMAN: Did the group actually send out the records after she died?

DUNSTAN BRUCE: Yes, they did. Yes, yeah, yeah. It was—yeah, it was available.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you get it anymore?

DUNSTAN BRUCE: No, you can’t. You can probably—it’s probably—you can probably download it from somewhere, I’m sure. I’m sure it’s still available somewhere, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: How many people pre-ordered the album?

DUNSTAN BRUCE: I’m not altogether sure. I don’t know.

AMY GOODMAN: You better find out, because you’re making a documentary about your group, Chumbawamba.

DUNSTAN BRUCE: Yeah, that’s not really—that song is not really part of my history, because it happened after I’d left. So, the story is more—the film is as much about my journey as it is about the story of the band. And it originally—the film originally started as the idea that it was about what you do when you get into that position, you know, and you have that platform. What can you actually do with it? And then—and I suppose my story is that I left—I left Chumbawamba, along with Danbert and Alice and Harry, all at the same time. And then we—you know, we all went out and found other things to do, whether—you know, we all got involved in different sort of political activities.

AMY GOODMAN: What about the money that you made? Talk about—you know, what? Prize money? Record money? Where did you put it?

DUNSTAN BRUCE: What we found was really liberating for us was that we suddenly did find that we had a lot more money because of the money we made from the record. And so we were in a position where we could help a lot of organizations and a lot of community action groups and a lot of people who previously we would have only been able to give a couple of hundred pounds to. We could now give a couple of thousand pounds to instead. One of the points at which I thought this is really good, the position we’re in, is we once agreed for General Motors to use a song for an advert to advertise a Pontiac car. And what we did with the money was, prior to agreeing to doing it, we talked to Indymedia, and we talked to another group called CorpWatch, and said, “Look, we’re going to give—we’re going to give them this song to use for this advert”—

AMY GOODMAN: This is for General Motors.

DUNSTAN BRUCE: For General Motors—”but we want”—

AMY GOODMAN: And they’re going to give you how much?

DUNSTAN BRUCE: “We want you to have the money.” So they gave us—I think they gave us—I don’t know, say it was 100,000 pounds. So we ended up sharing that money to—gave half to CorpWatch, who actually monitored the bad working practices of General Motors, and gave the other half to Indymedia. So, at that point—at that point, we thought—

AMY GOODMAN: What was the song they wanted?

DUNSTAN BRUCE: It was a song called “Pass It Along.” It was—really, it didn’t really matter what. It was just the fact that they wanted something from us, we could provide it, and then we thought, “Well, let’s turn this on its head and use our position to do something worthwhile with the money.” So that was—you know, so that was—that was one of those points where we thought, “This is really good. This is—what we’re doing is—you know, we’re making a difference.” And that felt really important.

AMY GOODMAN: So, talk about, well, Alice Nutter, one of the main mainstays of Chumbawamba, in 1998, right around the time of the ice bucket dowsing of the deputy prime minister, going on the U.S. talk show Politically Incorrect and saying, “If you can’t afford our music, steal it from the stores,” like HMV and other places.

DUNSTAN BRUCE: Virgin, in particular, were really, really upset about it. And, basically, they withdrew all their copies of the album from all their stores. And all they did was create more interest in the record and in the band, so it sort of backfired in a way for them. We weren’t particularly bothered if people stole the record or not. It didn’t make much of a difference to us whether they were stealing it or not. We wanted to talk more about poverty and why people have to steal, you know, why people shoplift and why people—why people have to find ways of operating in, you know, alternative economies to make a living or to make ends meet. And so, that was just an opportunity to say, you know, like this is—you know, “There’s an inequality in society. We have to do something about it. We don’t care if people steal our records. We’re not in it to try and make as much money as possible. We’re in it to say something of—you know, we’re in it to talk about the injustices in the world.”

AMY GOODMAN: So, as you go back in time now, Dunstan, and you start to make this film—I mean, you left in 2004. It’s more than a decade later. What does this mean for you personally?

DUNSTAN BRUCE: It’s a personal—it’s sort of a personal journey, as well as discovering what the band was about. I think the story of the band is a really important—can be a blueprint for other bands to follow maybe. It can be inspiring for people to think, look, people are—people have always tried to do something, and especially today, when it just feels really important and almost a responsibility for creative people to say something in the position they’re in. I think it was something that we always tried to do, and it was something that we hope that other people will follow, you know, as an example, and see—and, you know, it’s not that we ever wanted to be—we didn’t set out to be famous. You know, we set out to try and change the world or leave our—you know, like help to change the world. And so, I think that’s an important part. At this juncture, I think that’s an important and relevant message for a lot of people.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go back to Brexit.

DUNSTAN BRUCE: Oh, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: The day of the Brexit vote—the next morning, Donald Trump was in Scotland dedicating his golf course. The world’s media was there—he hadn’t been elected yet—because here was this candidate who was flying into Scotland, you know, to—and Brexit had just happened. They wanted to hear a presidential candidate, what he had to say. And he proceeded to show people his golf course, talk about, you know, that you could rent the rooms behind him, how historic it was, the kind of views you had. But right before he did this, right as he was taking the microphone, a young man, who was dressed up with a Trump Turnbury or Turnbury Trump sweater, said, “Everyone, just one minute, please. One minute, please. Mr. Trump is about to speak, but I just want to let you know that his balls are available in the golf shop, in the pro shop.” And he was holding up golf ball that had Nazi swastikas on them. We didn’t know who the audience was on this wind-swept area, but they soon jumped on him. It was clear it was mainly Secret Service. And we didn’t know—hear much about him after that. But it was this remarkable moment where Brexit had taken place, and Trump was there to talk about renting rooms in his golf resort. What about Brexit, and what about Donald Trump, what they mean to you?

DUNSTAN BRUCE: They both became a sort of an inspiration for the—to make this film as much about what’s going on today than what happens to Chumbawamba 20 years ago, because, I mean, both things—both things I regard as a complete and utter disaster. Even though I can see, you know, what might be wrong with the machinations of the EU, I think what it stood for and what we learned from it was how we were lied to, how the whole country was lied to. And I think all this stuff. And I think the same thing happened in the States, that it’s the power of the elite finding a way of convincing the less informed about what is supposed to be the truth. And I think that was—I think it was a—it felt like a—for me, it felt like a watershed moment. This has gone on. This has always happened. This has always gone on. And it suddenly felt like it was blatant. It was blatant, that there had been a period of time where it was just blatant lying.

And yet, the Brexit thing, they won. I didn’t expect them to win. And it felt as though those in power are so obsessed with the idea of holding onto the actual idea of—you can’t question—you can’t question the fact that even though the vote was so close and everybody was lied to, that that idea, you know, of the democratic process, which is—was important for them to keep their power, that they could—that this sort of thing had to happen. And I think it’s an absolute mess. I think we’re in an absolute mess at the time.

AMY GOODMAN: What are your thoughts on Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader today?

DUNSTAN BRUCE: Weirdly, that’s an interesting point, because I found myself, last year, campaigning for our Labour candidate in Brighton, because I just thought what the—Corbyn was so vilified by all the press in the U.K. prior to the election. He had no friends in any of the newspapers. And I think what his relative success in that election was an indication, to me, was that that media was losing its grip on what the—on what society was thinking.

And I think it was fascinating to see, for instance, the number of young people who came out to vote for Corbyn. I think it was fascinating to see the shift in people’s desire for change—and for radical change. And I think what Corbyn stood for was far more noble than what anybody else had ever included in their—what do you call it?—manifestos before then. So I thought it was quite an important—I thought it was a very important moment for people to start to engage in that political process.

And it’s not that I think that voting will change the—is necessarily the way to change the world. But I think it’s one thing that we’ve got to do, and it’ll move us in the right direction. And it means that we’ve got to try and hold onto the things that we’ve got. And in the U.K., that’s stuff like, you know, the NHS, for instance, which obviously the Tories are completely trying to destroy. And I think it’s important that we try and win those sort of victories. And so, I thought it was—despite what I would regard as my anarchist, far-left politics, I thought this is a moment where we’ve got to, you know, work together.

AMY GOODMAN: Wasn’t your second album, in 1987, titled Never Mind the Ballots… Here’s the Rest of Your Life?

DUNSTAN BRUCE: That was an anti—that was an anti-voting album. It was the—but I think what people misinterpreted is the idea that it’s not—what we were trying to say was it’s not that moment that you go into a ballot box and put an X on a piece of paper. It’s what you do with the rest of the time. And it’s how you organize, and it’s how you agitate, and it’s how you try and change the world in all the other times. It’s not just about going to that point in time and doing that and then thinking that’s it and leaving it to other people. It’s about not—it’s about taking responsibility for things yourself, as well.

AMY GOODMAN: Dunstan, I wanted to go back to you making this documentary and this moment in the film of you gathering all the band members over the years and reuniting.

DUNSTAN BRUCE: I’m sorry we haven’t seen very many slides before we have another conversation, but we have to have a conversation about what happened at the Brits.

BOFF WHALLEY: Do we need to tell the story?

DANBERT NOBACON: The setup is this enormous arena, tables. You know, they serve dinner and serve Champagne, and by every table is a big bucket which had the Champagne and chilled wine in it—background. Paul, the bass player, I believe, said, “Ooh, John Prescott sat over there. Ooh, what can we do?” And we’re all drunk by this point. “Ooh, we should go throw water on him.”

ALICE NUTTER: No, rewind it a bit, that we were with dockers.

DANBERT NOBACON: Yeah, yeah, I’m going to get to that. But you go—you tell that.

ALICE NUTTER: And where they were going to go on stage if we won a Brit. And then we didn’t win.

DANBERT NOBACON: And All Saints won it.

ALICE NUTTER: So, the dockers, Mickey Tighe and his wife Sylvia, were really down. And so, realizing Prescott were at the next table, it wasn’t just all like, “What shall we do to him?” It were a bit like, “Well, they sold the dockers out.” And so Paul went 'round us saying, “Prescott's over there. Who’s up for it?”

DUNSTAN BRUCE: My memory of it is that me and Boff were going to Danbert, “What are you going to do? Prescott is there.”

DANBERT NOBACON: It may—maybe it was, but—

DUNSTAN BRUCE: Well, maybe—so I think my memory is of everything that we ever did was me and Boff going—

JUDE ABBOTT: I—I was saying, “There’s Prescott. Go on, Danbert. Anybody else?”

DANBERT NOBACON: No, no, no, but—

BOFF WHALLEY: I would have been saying, “Brilliant! Come on! Let’s do something,” but hanging back just a little bit.

HARRY HAMER: I was just thinking, “What the [bleep] is Prescott doing here? Cheeky [bleep].”

DUNSTAN BRUCE: Yeah.

DANBERT NOBACON: It’s just like right—it’s just all coming into drunken focus. I’m over at his table. Alice and Paul are over there. There’s ice buckets everywhere. There’s a photographer on the balcony. I said to the photographer, “Get ready.” And I nudged him. And then I just jumped on the table with the ice bucket, and I said, “This is for the Liverpool dock workers,” and drenched him. And then he got up and pushed me off the table.

ALICE NUTTER: Right. As you drenched him from front—

DANBERT NOBACON: Yes.

ALICE NUTTER: —me and Paul tipped another 10 pats of water on his head from behind.

DANBERT NOBACON: And he probably got wetter from them than me, because he could see me.

ALICE NUTTER: But then they arrested Danbert.

BOFF WHALLEY: And then he came back—word came back, “Mr. Prescott has decided he’s not going to press charges.” I was like, “Ooooh, see you, Danbert.”

DANBERT NOBACON: Yeah, exactly.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s a clip from I Get Knocked Down: The Untold Story of Chumbawamba. Talk about this moment when you all came together, and describe where you came together.

DUNSTAN BRUCE: OK. So we all came together in this mill near Leeds, where we found this room where we could all get together, and we were all going to have a discussion about what we did as a group, because one of the successes of the band is just the fact that we’ve remained friends for all that time, and we’re still all involved in various political activities, all involved in various creative activities, and all still collaborate with each other, still work together and still have this desire to do something.

AMY GOODMAN: How many of you are there now?

DUNSTAN BRUCE: There’s eight of us. So we were always—we operated as a collective. You know, we shared everything. We all got an equal say in everything that the band did. And we all got paid exactly the same. And we’re all credited as songwriters, no matter what your contribution was to a particular song. It was the idea that we operated as a group of people. So, it feels like that group of people are my—you know, that’s my family, in a way.

And so, it was a really—it was quite a moving moment getting everybody together to discuss what we did, because everybody had a different version of what had happened, as well. You know, you talk about the Brits thing, for instance. Somebody tells one story. One person would say, “That was my idea to do that.” And then somebody else would say, “Actually, no, I’m sure it was my idea.” So there was a lot of that. You know, so it was a great—it was great that we sort of dissected.

And we don’t all have the same sort of—you know, we’re not all the same. You know, we don’t have the same politics. You know, we all are slightly—you know, are all slightly differently to the left and all get involved in stuff to different degrees. But the fact of the matter is that we went through this whole thing together and can still, you know—and it’s informed everything else that we’ve ever done. You know, it’s given us the confidence to go on and do all these other things. And part of the film is also about trying to find that next generation of people who are doing those things, as well.

AMY GOODMAN: What about that? You have influenced a generation of musicians. What do you have to say to them about music and activism? And who do you see as those who are inheriting your legacy and carrying it on?

DUNSTAN BRUCE: Well, it’s weird. Actually being in—actually being in New York, we talked to the Downtown Boys just the other day. And that was—I found that—I found doing that interview, you know, as inspiring as, hopefully, somebody would have found watching Chumbawamba 20 years ago, you know, because it makes you aware of the fact that there are people who are still—who are still out there who have that passion and that drive, you know, and that sense of wanting to change how things are. And then you find out that, you know, the first record they ever bought was “Tubthumping” or something like that, you know, and you think that is brilliant that we’re passing on—you know, we’re passing something on. I mean, I still want to be involved in art, you know, in that sort of—that sort of agitational propaganda pop world. I still feel as though I’ve got a role in that. But I love the fact that there’s all these younger people who are doing the same thing.

AMY GOODMAN: And you’ve got a band, a new band.

DUNSTAN BRUCE: I have, yes, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: What’s it called?

DUNSTAN BRUCE: It’s called Interrobang?!

AMY GOODMAN: Where did you get Interrobang?!

DUNSTAN BRUCE: It’s a symbol that’s like a combination of a question mark and an exclamation mark. And it’s like—it’s gone out of fashion. And I just loved the idea that this thing was like—it was like sort of something questioning, but at the same time it’s something like it’s shouting out, as well.

AMY GOODMAN: Choose a piece that we should play from Interrobang?!, one of your songs.

DUNSTAN BRUCE: There is a video for a song called “Are You Ready People?” which is sort of a call to arms.

AMY GOODMAN: “Are You Ready People?”

INTERROBANG?!: [performing “Are You Ready People?”]

Are you ready, people?
You’ve got to be ready
Because I’m old-fashioned
And yes I still believe
I am somebody
We all are, we all are
Don’t care about my figure
But I love to sing about something

I never wanted compromises
I don’t care about rebel stances
I don’t talk about bland stanzas
I don’t think about lack of substance
I don’t need that ersatz rebellion
I still dream of revolution

What I want is
What I need is
I wanna hear those
I wanna sing those
Hard-hitting songs
For hard-hitting people
Hard-hitting songs
For hard-hitting people
Hard-hitting songs
For hard-hitting people

I’m no preacher
Performing miracles
But I’d like a laxative
For the limousine liberals
I don’t want to be absorbed
By everything I loathe
The meek will just inherit [bleep]
[bleep] [bleep] [bleep]
And that’s it

I never wanted compromises
I don’t care about rebel stances
I don’t talk about bland stanzas
I don’t think about lack of substance
I don’t need that ersatz rebellion
I still dream of revolution

What I want is
What I need is
I wanna hear those
I wanna sing those
Hard-hitting songs
For hard-hitting people
Hard-hitting songs
For hard-hitting people
Hard-hitting songs
For hard-hitting people

AMY GOODMAN: “Are You Ready People?” by Interrobang?! And Dunstan Bruce is the lead singer in this, in his new band. We’re also going to play—you talk about Downtown Boys, so Joey happens to be here, of Downtown Boys. What are you going to play for us right now?

DUNSTAN BRUCE: We’re going to do a spoken-word, improvisational piece, because I just met Joey the other day, and we connected on so many things. And Victoria from Downtown Boys assured me that he was an absolutely brilliant musician and he’d be able to do this, and he’s really into doing it. So we decided that we would do a combination of some Interrobang?! stuff that I do as a spoken-word piece, and he’s going to accompany me on guitar.

AMY GOODMAN: Joey of Downtown Boys and Dunstan Bruce.

DUNSTAN BRUCE: [performing with Joey DeFrancesco] Do you remember when we tried to turn the world upside down? But then we got ironic and sardonic, messed around. The world keeps on revolving, but nothing’s ever changed. But here I am still passionate with a bottle full of rage. Sometimes you don’t realize what you’re doing 'til it's done. And sometimes, like a great idea, it’s time has come. And that time is now. I’m back in the fray. I’ve still got something to say, and I don’t want to fade away. And I’m here, now, right here, now! So, are you ready, people? You’ve got to be ready, because I’m old-fashioned, and, yes, I still believe I am somebody. We all are. I don’t care about my figure, but I’d love to sing about something. I’m no preacher performing miracles. But I’d like a laxative for the limousine liberals. I don’t want to be absorbed by everything I loathe. The meek will just inherit nowt. Nothing, nothing, nowt!

I don’t care about compromises. I don’t talk about rebel stances. I don’t think about bland stanzas. I don’t need that ersatz rebellion. I still dream of revolution. When I was younger, so much younger than today, I thought we’d change the world in oh so many ways. I thought we’d rip it up and start all over again, destroy the old regime and change the conversation. I skimmed through volumes of Situationist texts, occasionally managed some satisfactory sex. I told an anecdote about looking for the antidote. I rewrote a Chomsky quote, and I learned it by rote. I was cooking on gas, but then it went out. I was cooking on gas, but then it went out. I was cooking on gas, but then it went out.

Then I embraced it all at 51. I can see clearly now, the clouds have gone. So beat it, self-indulgent, repugnant crap, all that verbose, bellicose, trite BS. Here’s another status update: Nothing is ever so black and white. There’s 50 shades of gray, and it’s not all that. And now I just accept all the good and the bad. All the good and the bad. And I’m good, and I’m bad. And I’m sick to death of being told to keep calm. There’s no danger of that happening anytime soon. I’m angry, still angry after all these years. I’ll never calm down. Never, ever. I really don’t care if sincerity is uncool, because now is the time to stop playing the fool. I’m sick of being pushed and hushed and crushed. I’ve had enough of standing in the middle of the road.

Have you seen that film Network from '76, when Howard Beale delivers that passionate speech? He says, “I don't need to tell you things are bad.” He says, “I don’t need to tell you. It’s time to get mad.” He says, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” He says, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” He says, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” He says, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Joey DeFrancesco of Downtown Boys and Dunstan Bruce of Interrobang?! and, before that, Chumbawamba. That’s right, a founding member of the anarcho-punk-pop band Chumbawamba, who’s now directing the forthcoming documentary I Get Knocked Down: The Untold Story of Chumbawamba. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. Thanks so much for joining us.

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