by Chris Jarvis
Describing themselves as “more than simply a group of musicians” and as “part of an ever growing, international, revolutionary movement continuously moving towards freedom, justice and peace, Dead City Riot are one of Bristol based Riot Ska Records’ greatest imports. Blending hardcore, ska and reggae, DCR’s imagery, sound and lyrics ooze their political values and beliefs. A brief look at their Facebook page is illustrative of this, with its “Refugees Welcome” images, calls to celebrate International Workers Day and the description of their genre as “revolutionary music”.
Bassist Matt explains the basis of their political alignment – “We each subscribe to varying degrees of leftist theory, from somewhat moderate socialism to anarchism [or] communism. The variety of thought leads to a lot of discussions within the band, and healthy debate is great for growth of mind.”
Such political leanings are palpable in DCR’s music, and outside of their distinctive sound, it is in many ways their central feature. All things considered, it is the politics which is what helps to define them as a band. “Politics [is] very important to our music. In a way, it’s why we do it. Music gives us a platform to express ourselves and a message we think is important. We hope to harness our music as a tool to further the goal of peace, equality and justice. Even if we reach just one person, change one person’s mind, open them up to the possibility of a better world, we’d be happy.”
This perspective – that music has a role to play, no matter how small in effecting political change is apparent throughout Matt’s responses. He describes DCR as “a form of political activism” through their role in “taking a firm stand, spreading a message and distributing educational material.” Their music therefore appears to have a direct purpose. It doesn’t exist solely as an escape, or as entertainment, but instead as an active agitator.
“We believe music can play a major role in bringing forth political change. Like we’ve said before, music can be a tool to carry ideas further than many other mediums and reach people that may not be exposed to radical thought any other way.
“It all ties back in with each other really; the music breeds ideas and culture and culture breeds music and those provide places for ideas to grow, people to learn and from there take positive action in their lives, whether that’s organising labour, marching at demonstrations or just being a kinder and more caring person in their everyday life.”
One band can’t change the world alone though, and there are plenty of others on the modern music scene who are striving for the same goals as Matt and the rest of DCR. I ask Matt about the other musicians and artists working the scene right now that are effective in fusing music and politics – “Locally, internationally, there really are just so many bands out there merging music and politics so well, it makes us proud and feel like we’re part of a much bigger movement, that if we keep pushing hard enough tomorrow might just be better than today. Just about anybody on Riot Ska Records, Pumpkin Records, Rebel Time Records, Rodent Popsicle, the list goes on and on!”