Saturday, 4 November 2017

ULTRAS INTERVIEW


D&O- tell us about the origins of Ultras?

JACK- The origins of Ultras begins back in late 2014 when me and Dustin met at a show in San Antonio where his band Daz and the Dogs was playing. I was in the Army and stationed at Fort Hood at the time, and I heard that there was a skin there who was also a soldier stationed on Fort Hood. Well we hit it off, and ended up hangin with each other in the barracks back on base. We would usually get drunk, play records and chain smoke. We both appreciated the fact that we had similar tastes, wanted to blast loud Oi, and get off base as much as possible to go wild on the weekends. He was one of the few skins I met in the Army. The topic of us starting a band came up a few times but didn’t become a reality until early 2015 when I had finished my time in the service and I was living in Austin, which was about an hour away. It was good timing, because Oi and skinhead was going through a golden age that year. There were a lot of bands kicking off, a lot of great shows and parties, and lots of people meeting each other and having fun. It was definitely a strange moment in time because people didn’t hate us for being skinheads then, or hate us for being in the military, or various other things that would be considered grave indiscretions in the punk scene in Austin now. I think the slightly younger crowd just latched on to the edginess of rollin with skinheads, being booted up, occasionally listening to off-limits things like RAC, and just the general aesthetic. Ultras started with me Dustin and Ethan, and two other guys who ended up not staying on board. It worked out well though because that’s how we got Bobby (drums) in the band somewhere around fall 2015 and really started writing the songs that are on our demo. We started the band to just play some loud fucking Oi and to live up to what we were and have fun doing it. Then eventually we realized we weren't like everyone else, our music was different, and our general stances on things weren't politically correct. I am only pointing that out to explain how we went from loved to hated in a year.

D&O-Do you find that you now get automatically lumped in with a particular group of people by default when you hold certain beliefs about America and its people? Has this had any ill effect on Ultras for booking shows or releasing music? How do you deal with this?

DUSTIN- Yes, it does lump us in with a group of people. Because of us being Proud Americans, nationalists, etc, we get labeled as Nazis, white nationalists, racists, fascists, and other names. We're not ethnic nationalists, not for a white-only America, but for a proud and strong America, and take it back to the original American values. Because of our beliefs we have been blacklisted to shows and kicked off bills because "we strike fear into marginalized peoples hearts" apparently, and are too problematic for all of the liberals’ little hearts. We just laugh about it now, and don't really mind because we do what we want, and write the music we want. We don't care what these other people think, they don't matter.

ETHAN- Yeah, absolutely. The last time we tried to play a show the venue was pressured by certain groups to drop us from the bill and the whole show ended up not happening. We certainly have enemies.


D&O-Underground music thrives on scenes, Ultras feel slightly unique to me in the fact that I can’t see you fitting in nicely with anyone. Is there a scene in Austin that you can exist in? What kind of shows are you playing? Are you constantly the odd one out?

ETHAN- Yeah, there isn't really an oi scene in Austin, just a handful of bands that sort of have oi elements or have skinheads as members I guess. We haven't been able to play any Austin shows in about a year but before that we had done a couple small local gigs at pubs that went well, and when Jack, myself and some of our friends lived together in a house we would sometimes have parties and play impromptu, very drunken sets for our friends and some of the local skins. Our best shows have been in Houston and San Antonio, we got to play last year with Oxblood in San Antonio so that was cool.

D&O-Patriotism is a long-standing theme in the style of music that Ultras play. You don’t shy away from this either, you have a song called “Patriot” on your first tape. In Australia we were bought up with a confused sense of identity, and it wasn’t acceptable to be a proud Aussie for a multitude of reasons, this has stuck with me to a degree. It feels as if the US right now is torn on this topic, you have one side calling the other racist and the other side calling them snowflakes. Firstly, how hard is it personally to come to the realization that you are a proud American who is confident about voicing this to the public? Were you born proud or is this something that dawned on you as time progressed?

ETHAN- For me, this subject could fill an entire interview... I don't think that with our generation the situation here is too different from what you described in Australia, at least in the music scene.

D&O- Punk at its core is nihilistic and rebellious; Patriotism seems to be the opposite of that. You have a line where you say, “I stood up proud, stood out from the rest of the crowd” which shows that feeling of being different; I would have thought America was more accepting of Patriotism right now after the election of Trump and what his slogan was? Have you seen a shift in American pride recently?

DUSTIN- There has been an influx of post-election nationalists arise from the ashes but there has also been the complete opposite. The punk scene is mostly Anti-American commies and social justice warriors. That's why those words I wrote are very relevant right now. On the other hand, there is the opposite side, which all of us are blacklisted from these shows and we receive threats from the reds; that they never seem to go through with, when the time comes. The media mainly covers only the negative attention that President Trump gets because they want to cater to the SJW's.

D&O-Violence is a central part of the Oi/Street punk sound; Ultras display this in a simple and brutal way, many of your songs deal with beatings and fighting. Is violence the only solution for such situations? Are your songs biographical or are you singing about what you have seen and working through the best way to deal with it upon reflection?

DUSTIN- It's a mixture of both. It's about some fights that we have been in, in specific situations. It's also about some of the combat I've seen in Afghanistan. 3 of the 4 members of Ultras are Army Veterans. Violence is not the only solution to certain situations, but in our experiences, that's what it usually ends up leading to.

ETHAN- I think it's a little bit of both...the point of the music is certainly not to incite violence but I really hate poser neo oi bands that sing about fighting and have violence as an aesthetic but are actual fucking cowards in their real lives.

D&O-I am no expert on the vast background that the Ultras pull from musically, can you talk a bit about how you discovered street punk/Oi and what were the most influential aspects you came across that left the largest mark on you?

ETHAN- I've been listening to punk in a general sense for about 10 years now. Oi was always something I liked but it wasn't until the past 4 years or so that I started digging more deeply into the genre.

D&O-The camaraderie found in the Ultras is in stark contrast to what you tend to see in punk with its loner, us against the world mentality. How would you describe the friendship amongst the Ultras crew? How long have you guys known each other for?

ETHAN- Yeah, we are about brotherhood and sticking together, I think we are all sick of the fleeting friendships and social climbers in the punk and hardcore scene at large... I’ve actually known Bobby the longest, when I was 14 and starting to go to punk shows I would go see his band Blunt Force Trauma a lot.


D&O-Tell us about Austin, Texas? How has the recent political climate affected the city do you think? The idea that the working class of America needs to be looked after more, is that something you saw personally in your own area? Is that what making America great again means? How do you see such a statement and how does it resonate with the general population of Austin do you think?

ETHAN- Austin, Texas is a cool city and a nice place to live but the people in the music community and social scene are incredibly close minded which has only been exacerbated by the nationwide political climate and increasing polarization over the past several months.

D&O-Knife Vision released your tape in the US, a label known for an eclectic line up of bands. The perhaps more aptly titled Street Rock Music did a different edition of the tape for the Russian elite. Why did you choose this approach for releasing the tape? Both are quite different artistically, is there a version of the tape which reflects the band more accurately?

JACK- Originally, we went with Knife Vision out of perfect coincidence. John who runs Knife Vision is a friend of mine in my hometown of Columbus, OH. I was back in town visiting last summer and going out drinking to meet up with old friends. Well I ran into John and ended up telling him about Ultras, and I gave him a listen of our recently self-recorded demo that we hadn't done anything with yet except put up online. He thought it was badass and wanted to put it out for us and we were more than happy to do that because we like what Knife Vision has been doing and the bands he's been putting out. The reason we did the Russian release on Street Rock Music is because a Russian guy from Moscow really liked our demo and asked to put it out as well. He said he would do original art and translations for it. No offense to John but I think we were all even more stoked for this release because it meant Russian skins were gonna be getting our tapes and we were going to have a unique audience over there. The artwork was fucking sick too. I don't think either version reflects us more strongly than the other; they both are great in our book.

D&O-Do Ultras subscribe to the “Don’t tread on me” motto?

ETHAN- Sure, the Gadsden flag to me is a symbol of what America once was and what it could be.

D&O-Final words?

ULTRAS- We’d like to close by saying we are working on a record which should hopefully be out by early 2018