New York songwriter converses with the one-time Crass vocalist...

The anarchic force that is Crass retain a presence other groups struggle to match.

Perhaps it was the band's sense of purpose, their unrelenting sonics, or the simple physical impact of their material... whatever, decades on from their final splintering Crass remain underground icons.

Much of the group's power rested on the relationship between Penny Rimbaud and Steve Ignorant, two contrary figures who fused differing aspects of anarchist thought with punk rock's rebellious holler.

A few years after, Jeffrey Lewis fell under their spell, with his indie rock attuned ears being opened to the unrelenting aural universe of Crass.

Releasing the album '12 Crass Songs' back in 2007, the New York songwriter re-worked some personal favourites as a tribute to a group whose enduring influence stretches far beyond punk.

Steve Ignorant is set to play a stand out show at this weekend's Rebellion festival in Blackpool, a weekend showcase of punk energy that crosses several different generations.

Ahead of this, we connected Jeffrey Lewis and Steve Ignorant for an extremely rare conversation between two inspired talents.

- - -

- - -

Jeffrey: What’s one of your proudest memories of music you’ve been involved with after Crass, perhaps while with Conflict or Stratford Mercenaries or Schwartzeneggar? A particular song you were excited to have written, or a particular memorable performance or other music-related personal highlight, perhaps?

Steve: Although I’m proud and honoured to have worked with those bands, I’ve got to say I’m most proud of what I do with Slice Of Life – it’s what I’ve wanted to do for years and I’m really pleased to be able to work with such great musicians. I’m particularly proud of a song called ‘SAD’, which is about suffering from depressions/despair.

A similar question: Considering that the legacy of Crass follows you despite all the other projects you’ve done since then, do you feel there’s a particular musical achievement or album of one of your post-Crass projects that you wish would be focused on more? For somebody who already owns all of the Crass albums, what’s the next couple of Steve Ignorant-associated albums or EPs or singles that you’d most want people to be aware of?

Probably ‘The Way things Are’ LP by Schwartzeneggar, although I’d love to hear it re-mixed. Harbinger Sound just released the new Slice Of Life EP called ‘Just Another’.

During the time when you were in the thick of the 70s/80s hardcore music era, what music were you personally listening to? Anything that might surprise us?

Believe it or not: Joni Mitchell, Miles Davis, Stevie Wonder, Weather Report, along with obviously the punk stuff of the time.

When Crass started you were quite a bit younger than Penny, and it seems like this combination of generational perspectives is part of the interesting foundation that Crass was formed on. Is there a particular book or record that Penny introduced you to that stands out as a watershed moment for you?

Penny was very gentle about this – he’d never insist that you should read a certain thing but would suggest you try something and see if you liked it, for example Last Exit To Brooklyn by Hubert Selby Junior, which I tried and loved. (And I’d recommend other people try it.)

And the reverse question; since you and Penny were of somewhat different generations, was there a book or record or other bit of culture that you introduced Penny to that you think may have been particularly eye-opening for him?

Not that I’m aware of, and if I did, he wouldn’t admit to it!

What’s one of your proudest memories of the music made during the Crass years (a particular song you were excited to have written, or memorable performance or other music-related personal highlight)?

Definitely ‘Owe Us A Living’ – it does what it says on the tin, and still does.

How did you come to be involved with David Tibet and Current 93? Considering that Current 93 often involves atmospheric acoustic soundscapes that are possibly the complete opposite end of the musical spectrum from hardcore punk, what did you think when you first heard Current 93?

Annie Anxiety was living in Vauxhall, London, and Tibet was in the flat above, so we naturally started hanging out and became close friends. When I first heard Current 93 I wasn’t sure about it, but I’ll give anything a go and I think the little I did with them worked really well.

Are you still doing Punch and Judy performances?

No, the characters I used were made of Papier Mache and are far too old and delicate. I’d have to completely remake the whole set up and that would take a lot of time.

When you last revisited Crass material in those live performances in 2011, were there certain songs that you stayed away from because they presented thoughts you no longer agree with?

Not at all – the only reason we didn’t use certain songs was because they didn’t work in the kind of set we wanted, or they just wouldn’t work for us – for example ‘Nagasaki Nightmare’ – we tried it but for some reason it wouldn’t work.

And of course the reverse question; when re-visiting Crass material decades later, is there a song or two that stands out to you as particularly powerful for the modern era?

It’s got to be ‘Owe Us A Living’. It’s timeless.

- - -

- - -

Rebellion festival runs between August 2rd - 6th. Stay in touch with Jeffrey Lewis HERE.

Buy Clash Magazine

-

Follow Clash: