It is our pleasure to chat with Patrick ‘Rat’ Poole, known primarily for STATEMENT and UNBORN, two underground vegan thrash/punk acts that would chime with the US straight edge movement and go on to provide inspiration for bands such as EARTH CRISIS, the ‘hardline’ philosophy, and in some small way contribute to the worldwide movement that means there is now a vegan restaurant in most major towns of the Anglosphere. Now, those of you familiar will know that in the 1990s the progressive hardline movement took things a bit farther that most. And it’s been a fair while since he’s done an interview, so, in 2021, has Rat got a bit softer, with age? Jesse Traynor of Sunshine Ward Recordings, in this, his first interview on oldmansmettle, braves our shit weather, crumbling infrastructure and ingrained delusion of empire, to find out….
Cassette release coming soon on Sunshine Ward. PREORDER HERE
Interview by JESSE TRAYNOR
Hi Rat! Thanks so much for taking the time out of your day to chat with me. How have you been doing this past year dealing with Covid?
Well, Covid surely has fucked shit up! Initially there were some good things, people not being able to go out meant pollution dropped, nature had a little reprieve, but when some of the lockdowns lifted, shit went back to normal, unfortunately. I initially thought “this is it, we’re getting what we deserved, we’re going to be responsible for our own demise” but pretty soon you could see that wasn’t going to be the case, it wasn’t gonna wipe out the vast majority of humanity.
I’d hoped that it would be a big realisation that we cannot go on as we are, but people never seem to want to take responsibility, and the “I’m ok, fuck you” attitude soon raised its head.
When the first lockdown hit, I was put on furlough (7 months in total) which was great! I lived about a 5 minute walk from woods and the hills, so every other day I’d do a good hike of between 6 to 12 miles with Rosie, the Staffordshire bull terrier we took on just before lockdown. it was actually great timing or she’d have been stuck in the kennels for months.
So that initial lockdown was bliss for me, loads of great walks, exploring places I’d never been to before, and hardly any humans around, perfect!
Then, of course, you had the Covid deniers raising their heads, and, mostly, seeming oblivious to the fact they were being led by some right wing nut jobs. I found it ironic, how many of these people, somehow, thought they were being some kind of revolutionaries, and trying to tell people who had been questioning all their adult lives, that they should stop believing all they’re told!
After 7 months I went back to work, which was proper shit, but hey, money talks! if I didn’t have to work, no brainier, I’d not be working! I still was hiking on weekends but obviously not doing the amount of miles I had been during first lockdown, and consequently, after losing some weight, I put it back on.
Now, nearly 18 months later, I’m now living in Scotland. we (my wife and myself) just got so fed up with the tories, Brexit and the general British Empire bullshit that is so prominent in England and had talked for a year or so about moving to Scotland, but it never was that serious a discussion until about 6 months ago. That was it, we were going, nothing was going to stop us.
We looked at a few areas in the central belt in Scotland, then my wife found and area known as the Hillfoots just east of Stirling, in the foot of the magnificent Ochils and that was it, thats where we needed to be.
We’ve now been living up here for just over 2 months and love it here. The Orchils are my playground, so much hiking to be done on them, and they’re right on our doorstep, sat on my sofa looking out the front window, there they are, rising up to meet the sky. With the forests, reservoirs, waterfalls, glens, burns, what else could i want?
We have so much to explore in the whole of Scotland. luckily, I’d built a camper van a few years back, so we’ll be able to hit the open road pretty much whenever we please.
I’ve followed a bunch of your projects and bands over the years, but I was surprised when I found out how much you do on your own. Was ‘going it alone’ the result of a pretty lackluster scene or was it a way to maintain more control over your projects? Do you prefer playing with other people or working on your own?
I’m really not sure what happened, but [ in the late 80s ] I must’ve been looking for something better to record the bands I was in. I found a 4 track (cassette) porta studio close by, and bought it. I messed about recording a few things and had a few songs and decided to release it as a “demo” with printed cover etc. It was a pretty big thing back then in the punk DIY scene, to release your own music, and the most simple, cheapest way to do it was on cassettes.
I didn’t sell masses, but 100 or more and then just kept writing and recording music and releasing demos, i think I did 9 or 10 in total, with the two split vinyls with the Apostles in amongst those.
I think what I liked was being able to do whatever style I wanted and sing about whatever I liked. There were a few locals around that played in punk bands over the years, but they weren’t always vegetarian or vegan, and that was really important to me back then, as it is now, so being able to do it solo was great! It’s also made it a little more difficult when I’ve played in proper bands as it’s meant I’ve had to compromise which I’d not been used to, haha.
I prefer doing it solo, no arguing, can do what i want, and the recording process is much quicker. I generally don’t write songs then record them, I record as I write them – for a start I have a real shit memory, so it’s better this way. And as I’ve previously said, I can do whatever style I want. A year or so back I recorded some 80s sounding goth songs, which I love! But as with most of my stuff nowadays, they’re lyric/vocal-less as I hate doing both those things. So, if there are any vegans out there that fancy doing some vocals, let me know 🙂 I even wrote 4 rockabilly songs a while back too, but, obviously missing vocals, haha.
What was it like going to hardcore and punk shows in the 80’s in the UK? There were so many huge bands that emerged from that scene with widely varying sounds. Were there any specific bands you went to see the most?
Violent at times. There was the threat of nazi skins causing trouble, which they often did. The anarchy punk scene heavily inspired by crass meant people didn’t want to fight back as they considered themselves pacifists, which meant the nazi skins could just get away with it.
I lived a bit out in the sticks, so initially in the very early 80s I didn’t get to see many bands unless we were lucky enough that they played our town, of which Crass did, TWICE and I was lucky enough to have gone to both gigs. the first one was in June 1980, Crass and Poison girls and maybe Annie Anxiety, I don’t remember, and the second was Crass and Dirt (just before their their debut 7” was released) in September 1981. Apart from those two gigs, the only other local gig i got to go to was Demob, in, I’m guessing 82ish in a local pub’s skittles alley.
Killing Joke played in our town too, but my parents were going out and I had to look after my brother! That still pisses me off to this day! In 1984 I passed my driving test, so got to drive different places for gigs which was mainly Birmingham, Digbeth Civic Hall where I got to see Crass again, but this time with so many others, Flux, D and V, and I think Conflict were on the same bill, or I saw them separately there at some other time. I remember a nazi skin got on stage and did his quick nazi salute, which, half way through the song, Paco left his kit to come out and lay in to the skin! i think the skin probably regretted that!
If I had been a little older I probably would have got to see way more bands at that time, being able to drive down to Bristol to see some of the “81” bristol bands would have been great!
I believe Sean Muttaqi of Vegan Reich credited you directly as the inspiration for what became the Hardline vegan straight edge movement. How did you come to understand veganism and straight edge as being an ideological fit for you personally and within the framework of hardcore punk?
Did he? Sean has said that I coined the term “vegan straight edge”, but, as I’ve said, my memory is so bad I’ve had to ask him several times to confirm that.
I first went vegetarian when I was 16. It was flux of pink indians 7” on crass records called “neu smell” that got me to see that eating animals was wrong, due to the b side of that 7” with the songs “sick butchers” and “background of malfunction”. Animal rights was growing, mainly due to the anarcho punk bands of the time singing about it – Conflict, Rudimentary Peni, Riot/Clone, Flux and many others spreading the message.
Then, on my first day out sabbing (stopping fox hunts) i was talking to two people who drove us to the hunt, they said they were both vegan and I said i really admired them for that, and one of them said, quite abruptly “don’t admire us, do it yourself!”. I went away thinking about those words and realised it was obvious, and hypocritical of me to admire them but not be doing it myself. so, at 17 i became vegan and have been vegan ever since, which was nearly 38 years ago, and hey, I’m still alive haha.
As for straight edge, I remember two old friends from back in the mid to late 80s debating straight edge and I asked what it was. When they told me, I thought to myself “oh, thats me, I don’t drink, do drugs etc”. Because of that I’ve not really called myself straight edge as I was that way before I even knew what it was, maybe even before the term was first used?
Straight edge I do kind of see as a personal decision, as with most things, if you’re not harming anybody else (non human animals included) then no big deal. The reason i stopped drinking ( I never did drugs or smoked) was because I got drunk a few times and made a real fool of myself and I vowed to never get like that again, so I decided to no longer drink alcohol, not a drop. I think I’m the kind of person that can take things to the extreme, for myself, so guess, at the time, I thought that was the safest course of action, to abstain. I have had people (who didn’t even know what straight edge was) say to me that they admire my strength for not drinking, which is kind of funny, because I think if i did drink alcohol, I’d be a mess, pissed a lot, because, let’s face it, we live in really fucked up times, escapism would be so appealing, in fact is still is, i just get it from hiking, mountain biking or making music. So me being tee total, is what I need to do as I think I’d be weak otherwise.
Did you ever envision that this would become a much wider and often an infamous movement within the hardcore punk music scene, with bands like Earth Crisis going on to spread the message to a much wider audience?
Yes, because people dont like being shown that what they’re doing is ethically wrong, of course I’m talking about veganism here. There were many who rejected the vegan sxe thing, because it made them question themselves. I remember people, who are now friends, being totally opposed to it all, yet, eventually became vegan and still are to this day. and I understand that, it’s difficult being told what you’re doing is wrong, kind of like when the dab told me, about veganism, to just do it myself. It did hit a nerve, as it was said quite abruptly, but I thought about it and admitted to myself I was wrong, and needed to change that. We all act different to criticism tho, some go away think about it, others go the opposite way, a kind of denial.
Early anarcho-punk of the 80s inspired Sean and myself and through that, through the Hardline Records releases, we inspired others, like Earth Crisis, who have no doubt done a far better job than us at getting veganism and animal rights out there, there is no question of that, but, if the bands before them hadn’t done what they’d done, we’d probably not be talking now.
I’d also go out on a limb and say veganism and animal rights would not be as big as it is today if it were not for anarchopunk, and arguably, punk before that.
Looking back, do you think taking such a hard stance affected your social life or friendships at all? Do you think you would have done anything differently if you had the chance to do it all over again?
I don’t think so, I’ve always had friends all over, from different walks of life, and i dont know of any that have distanced me because of my views, in fact, most are aligned to my way of thinking, and those that aren’t, dont seem to look down on me.
As for doing anything different, I’ll answer that as a general question! Yes, at school I’d have questioned more and I’d also have learnt more! I wish I’d taken certain subjects, got to university or something and studied geology, ecology, whatever I would have needed to be able to work in national parks in the U.S, or even somewhere over here, it’d be my dream job, but its way too late now. That’s one of many problems with the education systems, you’re not shown true possibilities, you’re given the mundane options, brick layer, cop, medical profession, not anything outside of the “norm”. I bet so many people could have done something for more interesting, rewarding and even beneficial on the whole, but we’re not pushed to think of different possibilities. Maybe education is different now, I certainly hope it is, but I doubt it, we’re just supposed to conform and fit in.
The first project of yours I listened to was Statement. I’ve always been fascinated by the major shift in Statement’s sound from the punk (and post-punk) style on the split(s) with The Apostles, to the undeniably Slayer-influenced metal attack of “Prepare For Battle.” Were you just listening to Slayer one day and decided, “Holy shit, this is the sound I want!”, or was it more of a conscious decision to pair a more aggressive sound with a more aggressive message?
The very first statement demo, I guess you could say is the real Statement, it’s what naturally came out, but I was only really starting out with instruments, so I was a bit limited i guess, but it was punk, and punk was who I was. I was very inspired by the Apostles once I’d got to know them, I hadn’t heard much about them until their 5th single “mob violence” on Mortarhate, Conflict’s label. That record blew me away, it was so different to the other anarchy punk bands of the day, certainly saying different things to Crass, who were considered THE anarcho punk band by many. The Apostles showed me you could play different styles, it didn’t have to be the stereotypical punk sounds.
There was a style of music I wanted to do, but I couldn’t really describe it, it was fast and intense. Master of Puppets was the first metal LP I’d bought, and I loved the melodic guitar harmonies but wanted something more aggressive sounding.
One day in was in my local record shop checking out records and I picked up slayers Reign in Blood LP, I asked if i could see any inserts, that was always a big thing to me, i wanted value for money and to see that bands had something to say. So I read the first few words of Angel of Death, “auschwitz, the meaning of pain” great, they know what happened there and then was bad. So I bought the record, came home, put it on the turntable, needle on and BOOM!! what power. i started to read the lyrics “Auschwitz, the meaning of pain, the way I want you to die!” uh “what??” i was pissed off, I’d spenT nearly £5 on a record that seems to promote hate. I carried on listening and couldn’t believe what i was hearing with the music. I read more of the lyrics, and altho I didn’t really like what was being said (I’d not read enough of them or the other lyrics on the album), I couldn’t believe how fuckin intense the music was. THIS WAS IT! This is the style I’d wanted to do, altho didn’t even know how it would sound, i couldn’t believe it!
When we first started Unborn, Nick and myself were at loggerheads as to what style we should play, I wanted to do Slayer style, Nick wanted more chug Raid style. Our very first song we recorded (at db studios) was the style Nick wanted to do. I’m not sure how/why, but Nick then said he was happy to do Slayer style, and that was it! I think we may have been the first vegan sxe band doing that style. I loved it, it was fast and raw, especially the first 7”, I still love that record to this day!
By the way, neither Nick or myself have a copy of that first ever Unborn song, so if anybody reading this does, please get in touch!!
In some ways you continued and honed the Slayer-sound in Unborn, but with a full band. What was your experience like playing with them and what led to Unborn sort of disappearing after the “Truth Against The World” EP? I always felt Unborn could have been huge without the interruption in activity.
I remember playing at the 1 in 12 (we played there way too much!) and someone in the crowd shouted “you’ll be doing a covers LP next” in reference to Slayers recent cover LP. That was the perfect comment for me haha.
Me, I was the reason for our demise. Firstly, everybody else lived up north and at that time, Sheffield and Liverpool. I had to drive 3 hours on a Sunday morning, practice, then drive 3 hours home. I was also taking way too long coming up with new songs, basically because of like I’d said earlier, I had to record songs, if I wrote them and didn’t record them, I’d forget them! so I was the reason for Unborn’s demise after truth.
Truth against the world has been “remastered” with guitar overdubs, and sounds way better, sounds like it should have! My guttering was terrible on the original recording, it’s now been hidden haha the new improved songs are being released by Sunshine Ward recordings, hopefully out by time these words appear on line for all to see.
Edward of Goodlife wanted us to record for his label, but we had to record in Belgium and put the money up for the recording as well as travel. We didn’t have the money to do that and didn’t really trust that set up, so declined. If we’d taken him up on his offer, I think we maybe could have been “bigger”, but that was never something that really appealed to Nick and myself anyway, we were still too punk rock!
Do you still consider yourself part of the same movement or have your ideals shifted over time? Hardline’s initial stance on homosexuality and abortion seem to be relics of a different era, unpalatable through today’s lens. Did you ascribe to those aspects of the movement, or did they seem to exist outside your own personal politics?
Well, firstly I never called myself hardline, I didn’t feel the need to label myself that way. I had many discussions with Sean before I did the hardline record, as I didn’t agree with the homosexuality stance, even tho it was a very minor point in hardline, and as many wrongly thought, it had nothing to do with homophobia, it was to do with how some thought humanity should go forward, the family unit, something far from my way of thinking.
At that time I was opposed to abortion, I did see it as the taking of a life but my views on that have changed drastically over the years. I’m a misanthropist and think the best thing for this world is the end of humanity, so I don’t want more humans, so every abortion is a better thing for the planet and all life up on it, so, abortions and homosexuality and definitely a step in the right direction for the end of humanity!
Do you view vegetarianism as a viable stepping stone or is that just a copout for people trying to feel better about not eating meat?
No, not anymore, it just gives people this excuse to go no further, they feel being vegetarian is good enough, when, you could argue dairy is far worse than flesh eating due to the mental torture. For flesh, the animal is bred, fed then shot, for dairy the animal is bred, raped (sometimes “artificial insemination”), its young taken away, forced to give milk, raped, its young taken away, and on and on, then finally shot. and the result of these pregnancies are the calves which go for veal. Being vegetarian means very little.
How do you feel about edible insect protein being touted as a solution to feeding an increasing population on a finite planet?
Bullshit! it amazes me that these scientists, dieticians, whatever they are, seem to ignore that plant eating is perfectly good enough for human health, and of course the earths “health”. The vast majority of arable growth goes to feed cattle, so if we take animal feed out of the equation, there will be plenty of food for all. But, if we keep reproducing more humans, its inevitable that at some point, food, or more so, land, will be limited. The human population is a huge problem we face, even as vegans we are responsible for this destruction, but far less that animal eaters.
….My hatred of hunting has always been due to them killing animals, but, the “class” or status thing plays a part too as these people really think they own everything and can do whatever the fuck they like. They really are disgusting people, yet some see them as upstanding members of society, far from it.
In the US where I live, hunting is often thought of as a “redneck” activity. My understanding is that in the UK, hunting has a much greater reputation as an upper class activity by those with money and power. Do you think this played a part in your early stance against hunting and hunters? Did you ever get into any trouble or scuffles?
Yes, in the U.S it just seems to be the done thing, anybody can buy a gun and go out and shoot animals. That can happen in the uk tho it’s more difficult to get a gun licence, and harder to find somewhere to go and shoot, you’d need permission from the “land owner”.
As for fox hunting, yes, thats more a wealthy type of hunting, with many judges, magistrates, to cops, lawyers etc parking, it has a social status to it. Most people that go fox hunting do it to ride their horse and socialise, they very rarely even see a kill, it’s just a ride around the countryside of their horses, but if it wasn’t for them, paying their “caps”, the hunts couldn’t afford to function.
My hatred of hunting has always been due to them killing animals, but, the “class” or status thing plays a part too as these people really think they own everything and can do whatever the fuck they like. They really are disgusting people, yet some see them as upstanding members of society, far from it.
….every abortion is a better thing for the planet and all life up on it, so, abortions and homosexuality are definitely a step in the right direction for the end of humanity!RAT 2021
Yes, there are always fights as the hunts see sabs as such a threat. Despite what they say that sabs don’t prevent them hunting, sabs obviously do or they wouldn’t feel the need to use violence against sabs, damage sab vehicles, etc.
Overall, the hunts win the violence battle, but there have been and are times when they make the wrong decision and come out the losers. the problem is sabs try to stay clear of violence, but all this has done is give the hunts power, thinking they can use violence as sabs dont fight back. Sabs need to change that. I’m not saying just get violent back straight away, but defend themselves, make the hunts realise they WON’T be pushed around. I understand it’s really not easy due to cameras on mobile phones, but backing off gives them the upper hand, and overall, that’s not changed in years.
Do you remember why you ended up leaving Anorexia? Do you still keep in touch with anyone from those days?
I really don’t remember why I left, I’m guessing the travelling thing again, as Anorexia were based in Birmingham and i was in Gloucestershire. Yes, I’m still in contact with Scott Davies, the drummer, as for Dave and Jim, no.
I got to meet Dave Anorexia vocalist through sabbing as our group often teamed up with the West Mids group. They were a great group to sab with as they took no shit! I’m actually still really good friends with Jack, an old west mids sab. we used to have some great times sabbing with West Mids and Leamington, usually chaos style sabbing where the riders were too scared to hang around!
You played with Nick Royles in Cracked Cop Skulls and Unborn. Did you know each other before playing together in bands? The UK punk/metal scenes seem to be incredibly incestuous. Jim Whitely, also of Cracked Cop Skulls, played in Napalm Death, Doom, and more. Did it seem like a lot of the same guys were in a ton of different bands together?
We used to write to each other back in the 80s, Nick did a tape label called Healms deep, I didn’t actually realise the first time we met, it was a year or so later that Nick must’ve mentioned it. unborn was the first band we played in together. Cracked cop skulls came along later ,and kind of by accident. nick and myself were friendly with jim and went into the studio together, along with johnny who did vocals. we recorded some sore throat songs for some comps. we had time left in the studio, so i think we wrote some songs either on the spot, or the night before the second day, and recorded them, and someone suggested cracked cop skulls. it was just for fun but word got out somehow and bri style of days of fury records said he’d put out a 7” by us, so back in to the studio to record “no fuckin tears for the pieces of shit”. We then recorded again for a 7” on SOA records from Italy “why pussyfoot when you can kill?” Jim then left the band and we didn’t do anything for a few years, then Nick, Nicks partner and myself got together to record the 3rd ep “Every Stone I Throw”. That’s the last recording we’ve done.
I think Jim was the exception, as he was the one that’s played in so many bands over the years, I can’t keep track haha.
What do you think makes D-Beat so fucking good? Why is it that we never get sick of this style?
Well, it’s just the best haha. Not long back, I set out to do some “why” style D-beat, Disliked, of which I released on cassette, and even if i say so myself, its possibly some of the best stuff I’ve ever written, albeit with “Why?” as inspiration haha.
For me, D-beat doesn’t have to be really fast, in fact I think it loses its power when it’s played really fast. Maybe, it’s because when you know something is D-beat, you just know what you’re gonna get, and you’re obviously in the mood for it!
Also, D-beat, well, Discharge, helped inspire so many bands, and I don’t mean D-beat bands, all sorts of metal bands, just raw power, what music should be.
You have played in black metal, crust, hardcore punk, and thrash projects. What do you see yourself doing next? Do you have any upcoming projects or releases planned?
I am currently a part of a vegan black metal band called Guthmensch, we’ve just released our second cd called “Beneath the Light”. As for future stuff, who knows, tho I’ve been listening to early GBH a lot these past few days, I’d forgotten how good “City Baby attacked by Rats” actually was, even with the terrible drum sound! So I could be writing/recording some songs based on that style. Actually, I did already record some songs inspired by GBH, Abrasive Wheels and One Way System, I’m just waiting for a friend in Canada to record vocals.
There’s also brand new Riot/Clone coming of which I’m a part of, a 12 song full album to be released on Urinal Vinyl and a new 4 song 7” to be released on Global Resistance as one of the 7”s of the Sea Shepherd benefit series. I’d like to do some gabba style stuff, or along those lines. I did some crass remixes with the Feeding of the 5000 Stems that were released, they were fun, and who knows, maybe one of my attempts will get put on the LP release of remixes.
As for my projects, I very much doubt I’ll do vinyl releases again, way too much plastic in the world as it is, so maybe just Bandcamp downloads, altho, I forgot, I wrote 4 songs that could have appeared as a Crass records 7” back in the days, I may put that out as a lathe cut, like 25 copies maybe. I’m really pleased with how the music turned out, I even tried to get that Southern Studios sound, I’ve designed a crass style cover too. I’ve done it as Statement, but I may change the band name to sound more 80s anarcho.
Finally, thanks again for taking the time out for Old Man’s Mettle and giving us some insight into your musical career and ideological impact. Is there anything else you’d like to add or talk about that we haven’t mentioned?
Thanks for taking an interest in myself and music I do/have done. Thanks to everybody out there that gives a shit and tries to do something constructive to help others.