Who doesn’t love a bit of d-beat? Boom cha, …ba cha! boom cha,….ba cha! German / Czech Republic act ANTIGEN have been going for nearly two decades, with varying members and musical approaches – but the current line up is knocking out well-written, catchy crust-punk songs that are powerful and focussed, with great vocals, surprising melodies, and a solid yet textured backline. Of course, D-beat doesn’t need to be particularly progressive, so it is meant as a compliment when I say that the structure of the opening track of ANTIGEN’s latest reminds me of BASTARD’s 1990 classic Wind of Pain‘ LP, but yet this new album unfolds with additional layers and affectations that puts it firmly in 2020. Of course, underground scenes like these are self supporting, and the bands don’t necessarily seek out recognition beyond that, but let’s just say that ANTIGEN in 2020 have a spark about them which makes them stand out as one of the bands to watch. We grab a short talk with Steffi ( band founder, bass and vocals ), Roman ( guitar and backing vocals ) and drummer Svata ( bringer of the D-beat magic! ) about creating the band, the troubles along the way, the scene in the Czech Republic, the latest recording DUST AND ASHES, and their plans for the future…
How does it work with you all living so far apart? How do you go about writing the basic riffs / songs?
Steffi: At the moment I spend most of my time in Prague and due to the Corona pandemic I am able to work from home office all of the time. I was always very flexible when it comes to traveling and I spend a lot of time in Prague also before. I wrote most of the songs for the new album at home, I record the basic ideas. Later then we met together in our rehearsal room and worked on it together. It works pretty well that way usually.
Svata: From my point of view it’s not that bad, I and the rest of the band lives permanently in Prague/Central Bohemia. But in general, the band is used to travelling a lot. We just don’t see each other so often.
Steffi, who / what encouraged you to play bass? How old were you when you learned?
Steffi: Well, I started listening to punk rock when I was about 13 years old. When I met the punks in our city for the first time I was simply impressed with their colourful appearance, the loud music, and the rebellious attitude. Due to my early rebellion against the church (I grew up Catholic) and against the oppressive conditions in society Punk was something where I felt right. I started to dress punky, went to concerts regularly and I was really impressed by the women I saw on stage. I came into contact with various instruments at an early age, because my father is a hobby musician. Back than friends needed a bassist for their HC-punk band, so I started playing bass when I was 14. ANTIGEN was my second band and founded in 2002. In 2018 the band moved to Prague. Currently, I am the only remaining founding member, but I do appreciate the new line up a lot. 🙂
Looking back in time to when you started out, what would you say to your younger self(ves)?
Svata: I have been doing Punk Music for a little over twenty years. Different bands and projects, a lot of good and a lot of less good things. But I’ve been really enjoying and having fun for the last few years in ANTIGEN. Everything I think was as it should be so no messages to the younger self. It wouldn’t listen anyway! 🙂
Steffi: I would say: „Don’t give a shit about other people opinions. Be confident with doing things the way you like.“ In terms of my own compositions, I would say: „You don’t have to please everyone, just find those people who enjoy that music.“
Are any of you equipment nerds? Are you fussy about your sound? Do you have lots of pedals etc?
Steffi: It’s maybe a question for our guitar players, haha. I do not care that much. But of course, my bass sound is important to me, I use only a distortion pedal. I like my bass sound with ‚attack‘.
Roman: I totally do not. First of all, I’m not a fan of million pedals, etc. It is maybe a mistake that I never met someone who explained to me the benefit of using it. The second point is: I am a busy person, due to that, I prefer „plug-and-play“.
Svata: Personally, I am not. A good snare drum and good cymbals are important, but personally, when we are talking about gigs, I believe more in energy, drive, and atmosphere, and that doesn’t depend on the equipment.
I checked your earlier work which is pretty good – but in my opinion, what you are doing now with Dust and Ashes EP is very focussed, I’m really impressed. Are you happy with it? Do you feel like you have finally ‘nailed it’?
Steffi: Oh, it’s actually a LP! 🙂 But at the moment we only have 4 songs available to listen to on Bandcamp, but we will upload the rest of the songs soon. I wouldn’t say that we „nailed“ it, but I am of course happy with the result. We just did easy and powerful songs. Our older Lp’s are from 2006 and 2011… and it happened a lot in that time. I’m glad, ANTIGEN doesn’t sound the same way as 10 years ago. Actually, I think our sound changed a lot, because of the current members of ANTIGEN. Which have their musical roots in crust and d-beat. The album would never sound like that without these Czech d-beat professionals, haha. I am lucky for that line-up and I’m looking forward to making new songs. We work on an EP at the moment. Anders, our new guitar player, brings fresh ideas and we do enjoy his creativity in songwriting.
Svata: I think the LP is good, but I also think it could be better in some ways and I’m not 100% happy with it.
Steffi, you use some cool vocal techniques on the new EP, and between you and Roman (?) even some harmonies – have you had good feedback from the scene? Songs like ‘Not Your War’ are very strong. It seems like you have something special going on. Have people been supportive?
Steffi: Well, yes, and no. In the past I was confronted by „criticism“ because of my singing style, for some people, it’s too melodic and harmonic to fit into punk, HC, or crust, meanwhile, there are many people who enjoy that I don‘t scream 30 minutes in the same tone and that our songs are more distinctive in comparison to other crust/punk bands. And yeah, in my opinion, we do make a great mix of fast crust and HC with melodic punk vocals. Our LP is reviewed very well and we got a lot of positive feedback and support from all around the world.
Punk in the Czech Republic has had a difficult past with pre ’89 state censorship, and then the right-wing reaction after the fall of the regime. Europe is once again going through a difficult period – how are things for punk bands these days in Prague?
Svata: I think the biggest problem of the current punk scene is indifference, passivity, and consumerism. People don’t go to gigs and why would you when you can find hundreds of bands on the internet. But the magic that was here years ago has been lost. I don’t think the punk scene has a problem with the right-wing or the state. Punk has largely become an article for sale, so why should the state limit it? As for the right-wing? I don’t think extremists are a real problem, the real problem is latent racism and xenophobia in mainstream society, but I think that’s something the whole Western world is going through. The scene in the Czech Republic is certainly specific, but thirty years after the revolution, I don’t think it is that fundamentally different from Western Europe.
Steffi: I am from Germany, so I cant say anything about that, but I’d like to visit shows and play gigs in Czech Republic. And I can’t say any negative about the punk scene in here, but I sure, don’t know how it was 30 years ago. Regardless, it’s in some ways better than in some German cities because the audience (especially outside from Prague) make often a really good party at gigs.
I guess the band has played a lot of live gigs. Where in the world have you played? Best gig? Worst gig?
Steffi: I cannot say which were the worst or the best gig… even if I could remember all of them, I don’t think it’s very nice to make a comparison like that. And we do know how hard can it be to organize shows and try to satisfy everyone… You know, you can have a great time at gigs with 10 party people or you can have gigs in front of 300 bored people, who only waiting for the „main act“. These are extreme examples, by which I mean, that for me the atmosphere on a show is more important than the size or professionalism of an event. A very nice show of last year was our gig at the Fear Fest in Prague and at the 1 in 12 Club (Bradford UK): great people and it’s a lovely venue which has seen a bunch of anarcho and crust bands over decades.
Roman: This is not a nice question to me too. Because some gigs are well organized but missing the audience or somewhere where we didn’t expect a party, we saw unchained fans and party as hell. I rather prefer DIY shows, small, local gigs, organized by people without any state funds, or commercial sponsors, and so on.
Svata: I hope that the most interesting destinations are still waiting for us. The farthest so far was the UK and our tour of Sweden was canceled due to Corona as well as this year’s invitation to Puntala. So we’ll see.
Best and worst things about being in a band?
Steffi: Haha, well… I start with the worst thing: It sucks to be in a band when you need to deal with personal conflicts instead of music, which can happen from time to time. Luckily we are all mostly kind persons, so not much trouble, haha. And the best thing is all the rest, create new songs, play shows, share time together, travel around, and just make people happy with that. I think that every musicians love the feeling of being on stage, performing their own songs and looking into happy faces; to have people dancing and having fun in front of you. I am so grateful for knowing this feeling.
Svata: Sometimes you have to go somewhere very far even if you really don’t want to go anywhere and spend a lot of time on the road.
Roman: Best – make new friends (haha, this is funny because I’m an extremely introverted person). Worst – time organization, I play in another band as well and it is sometimes hard to manage time for both bands and private life and so on.
Do you press CDs or vinyls, or do you consider recorded music to be promotion to be given away free?
Steffi: We prefer to make only vinyl and later publish it also for online streaming/download. The promotion things for the record is up to the labels…
I guess you have lives outside the band – do you have any hobbies, jobs, etc… or is it all rock’n’roll?
Roman: I work at university and my work is my hobby at the moment. 😃
Svata: I have been working for almost 25 years in an aircraft maintenance environment, where there is a lot of stress and hobbies besides music, so I really have a lot. I like to go to nature, I am interested in history and fine arts, I watch movies and I like to play sports occasionally. But it’s important for me to spend as much time as possible with my little daughter.
Steffi: Since I’ve finished my study of Sociology, I have worked as a scientist. At the moment I do research and it’s 100 % what I want and loves to do. Besides the music I do love activities in nature, meeting friends… and I like to take photographs.
Top 5 punk albums? Top 5 non-punk albums?
1. Conflict – The Ungovernable Force
2. Driller Killer – Brutalize
3. Guided Cradle –
4. Guns N’ Roses – Appetite For Destruction
5. Motörhead – Kiss Of Death
Steffi: I think, I can’t make any top lists, sorry! 🙂 Some of my favourite older LPs are from Bands as La Fraction, Dead Kennedys, Disfear and Tragedy. I do listen to a variety of music and bands beside Punk, but I don’t can make a top five either.
Svata: I don’t have a personal top ten 🙂
Do you drive?
Steffi: Yes, sometimes, but not on tour, haha.
Svata: Every day. 😦
Wine, lager, or cider?
Steffi: Never drink and drive, haha! And to your question: wine, cider, and beer, I’m fine with all of that, but it must be cold and tasty.
Roman: Beer, Pilsner.
Svata: I haven’t drunk alcohol for many years … But in the summer I like non-alcoholic beer (which are btw really good in the Czech Republic).
Do any of you have families, children, etc? How do you manage, if so?
Steffi: Children: not yet, so nothing to manage for now. But I like to spend time with my parents and siblings. I have a big family.
Svata: As I mentioned, I have a five-year-old daughter whom my ex-wife and I take care of together. I enjoy the time we spend together and I think that soon there will be a time when I will fulfill her wishes and take her to see one of our gigs. I think small summer open-air festivals are perfect for that. 🙂
Have any of you had ‘antigen’ tests for corona yet? 🙂
Svata: Not yet…
Steffi: Hope we will not need that…
Steffi, thanks for the interview. We’ll close now and I’ll just ask – what does the future hold for ANTIGEN?
Steffi: Oh no, thank you! You are welcome! As I already mentioned, we‘re planning an EP for autumn/winter 2020 and the next album hopefully in 2021. Furthermore, we would like to tour around Europe if the corona pandemic gets under control. Otherwise just getting fat and old, I guess! 🙂