Today, Fri 4th Nov 2022 sees the release of the first new material for 3 years from Yorkshire firebrand, Louise Distras, with her new single “Black Skies”, featuring a spoken word introduction by Steve Ignorant of Crass fame. You can watch the official video here.
The long awaited follow-up to critically acclaimed debut Dreams From The Factory Floor, released in 2013, is in the pipeline, but Louise is keeping the exact details close to her chest for the moment.
I was lucky enough to get Louise to do an interview for Backseat Mafia and she kindly recorded her own video response to my questions. You can read the transcription in full below, but if you want to experience her passion first hand, then I suggest you head over here to the video below.
Black Skies is a full on Punk Rock assault, probably the angriest song you’ve written to date. Is it going to be included on the forthcoming new album?
Black Skies isn’t angry, it’s a celebration of the human condition! I’m just a product of my own environment. That soul sucking emptiness, lawlessness, trauma, violence and dread. All of my life’s funny tragedies and inertia of hopelessness. Not trading in my reality for a role, not giving up on my ability to feel, the freedom to be what I really am. It’s the centuries old traditions and rituals of vandalism and arson that’s in my DNA, call it artistic terrorism if you like. Or if you wanna get all Jungian about it, only that which can destroy itself is truly alive. But yeah, Black Skies is on the new album!
Can we expect more electric and less acoustic guitar with the new songs?
The new album is unlike anything I’ve ever done before, so expected the unexpected. But to my ears, all my stuff just sounds like The Bee Gees anyway!
The 2nd album has been a long time in the making, beginning with your Kickstarter campaign in 2017…
Yeah it’s been an absolute clusterf*ck! I know how Francis Ford Coppola felt during the making of Apocalypse Now. I should’ve just called the new album “Apocalypse Now 2!” It’s the kinda story I couldn’t even make up and nobody would believe me anyway. The festering swamp of insanity I’d been lumbered with made me sick, unable to tour, release new music…or do much of anything at all. So like I sing in Black Skies “hey hey what ya gonna do?” Life fucks us all. Yeah I missed my own deadline, but nobody died did they? Except me, I nearly did. So grab your LSD and smoke grenades and dive into the new album when it comes out! It’ll all make sense when you listen to it.
Would you go down the Kickstarter route again in the future?
The label I was “working with” at the time never paid me for my first album, and they still haven’t paid me for it. Like the rest of the punk establishment, they were waving the flag with one hand and jacking each other off under the table with the other…to this day they’re still ripping off me and my fans, acting like I need their approval and permission to have a point of view. My requests for them to stop were ignored, and since my views or legal rights about my own work no longer seem to count, I’ve had no choice but to distance myself from them and go down the crowdfunding route. It’s only through my own sheer bloody minded determination that the fcking thing got finished in the first place. And would I do it all again? Absolutely! My fans are cool as fck and they know that when I walk out onstage, I deliver the god-damn goods. I love them!
You touch on the issues of nationalism (red, white and blue) on Black Skies ruining the country. Wakefield had a strong Leave vote for Brexit with 66%. Are you sensing any change in people’s convictions 6 years down the line?
Like everyone else I was locked down for two years and dealing with my own set of problems. I also came off social media, and since I’ve pretty much tuned out of all that shit it’s done me the world of good. I’m finding it hard to hang out with anyone who takes themselves too seriously, or tells me who I should vote for. I can’t be arsed, I can’t even pay my electricity bill.
I’ve got my own problems coz I spent years trying to cleanse myself of childhood trauma by neglecting my own needs as an adult, doing charity work for everyone elses benefit. I even went to the houses of parliament to speak to cross party politicians about my experience of being an abused, homeless child. Instead I found a room full of gluttonous pigs in tweed, jacking each other off and stuffing their fat fcking cnting faces. At the end of the day, who has been there for me when I needed somebody? Nobody.
So if there’s one thing I’ve taken from being in lockdown, it’s that I come first and life’s too short. When you’re young and growing up all you care about is being right, but as you get older and start growing down all you care about is being healthy and happy. So all I have to say now is find your joy and fight for it, because given half the chance some people will suck your soul out from right under your nose and piss all over it at every opportunity.
I went to a Billy Bragg gig in Manchester just before the last election, and he was heckled by a punter along the lines of “I didn’t come here to listen to your views on politics, get on with the singing”. Does it surprise you when punk audiences these days don’t want to hear the politics (which are so prominent in the lyrics)?
I love the old school stuff like Sex Pistols, Crass, Public Image, coz they all have proper decent tunes. But mostly, punk is full of big dogmatic ideas that can’t be conveyed properly coz the music is pure garbage. So I’d be surprised if anyone could tell what most of these punk bands were singing about in the first place. I know I can’t.
Can Louise the “activist” be separated from Louise the “musician” or do both feed off each other?
Me? I’m a nobody. I think that to tell my friends and fans to think the way I think would be such an abuse of perceived power. Like who the f*ck do I think I am? At that point I wouldn’t even be an artist, I’d be a bureaucrat. It’s such a napalming-narcissistic role that I’m not gonna trade my reality in for. Maybe I’m old fashioned but my songs are just a reflection of my life experience, and my ability to express myself relies on my freedom to feel my own emotions.
Billy Bragg has been a big supporter of yours during your career. Was he ever an influence?
Yeah Billy’s been a big supporter, but I can’t pick and choose my fans can I? Plus he’s a southerner! Chumbawamba are a big inspiration to me and I got to support Dunstan’s new group, Interrobang. If there’s any song that sums up what it’s like to be northern and working class, it’s Tubthumping. It’s the national anthem of Yorkshire!
The return to live shows has been interesting, with many sold out shows not being fully attended by ticket holders as punters found their way back gradually, to the situation now where we have major artists selling out tours in minutes, but grass roots venues struggling and gigs being cancelled due to low ticket sales. How do you position yourself as a “returning artist” to live shows?
…yeah but the comedy scene is booming and it’s no coincidence! People are fed up and they want some fucking joy in their lives. When you see people go off at a comedy gig it’s like a primal scream, and hey it’s cheaper than therapy!
I’m hearing a lot of different things about the music scene, so I don’t know how to feel. Before the pandemic I was running round like a blue assed fly and lived my entire life on the road or in the studio. It was super one dimensional and isolating. Then along with lockdown everything came to a grinding halt and I crashed into a brick wall. Now the music scene is totally trashed and people can’t afford to goto gigs. I’m in the same boat as everyone else right now – just trying to figure out how I’m gonna pay my bills! So I’ve got no idea how it’s all gonna work out, but it’s gonna be fun finding out. Art always finds a way!
In 2017 Kerrang named you as one of the stars of the year, saying “Louise Distras is the most exciting voice in UK punk right now!” and John Robb said you were the “most important protest singer we have”. How hard has it been to live with these plaudits when the trolls are out to shoot you down?
To get recognised by the magazine you used to spend your paper round money on is every musicians dream. It’s well cool! Trolls are just proper squares man, who gives a f*ck what they think? If someone’s music isn’t your bag then fair enough but if you can’t be happy for anyone who comes from shit and is trying to better themselves, then you need your head checking.
You were banned from appearing at Rebellion Festival, to which you posted “it seems I’m too angry for punk”…
That happened after I played in Vegas, when I did the Nu-Punk thing and played them gigs with those rappers! I was like “Hey!!! Hip hop and grime – it’s the new punk!” and I wasn’t wrong was I? But it didn’t tow the party line, so next thing ya know I’m shadow-banned and that label publishes my obituary on their website. “Too angry for punk!” – it’s kind of a running joke! Punk is so dead! Steve Ignorant and Crass called it back in 1978. You wanna listen to modern day punk? Listen to Kendrick Lamar. He’s machiavellian as f*ck.
Do you think you’ll ever be invited to Rebellion and would you play if asked?
What’s the point? There’s no new blood coming through coz there’s no pulse for anyone to put their finger on. Mark my words, that festival will be dead before Keith Richards! 99% of the lineup has a free bus pass. But don’t get me wrong, if it’s still going in ten years I’ll headline the Dignitas Stage, coz I’ll be old and obsolete enough by then! I’m “too angry for punk” anyway – it’s my thing!
Can you expand on your belief that “Cancel Culture is just mind games for the middle classes”?
Coz “they” only ever seem to go after working class artists. It’s like the middle classes have taken up hunting us plebs instead of White Rhino. Living the kinda life I live, it’s given me an education that school could have never taught me, and I’ve never watered down my accent. So they shoot me down to try and stop me climbing out that bucket I was born in. They’ve got far too much time on their hands and it shows. Jealousy is another big branch on the cancellation tree. Last year my ex boyfriend (and his new partner) did a smear campaign and reported me to the police, but it backfired massively and they ended up getting done and all that. People who say cancel culture isn’t real need their f*cking heads checking. As far as I’m concerned in this current climate, the only thing that’s being cancelled is my direct debits!
What have you missed the most about performing live?
I miss my fans, I miss my friends and I really really miss all the travelling and meeting new people coz that’s what it’s all about init? But I’ve gotta be honest and say I don’t really miss like the “industry” aspect of it. Being a female musician is like being a catholic nowadays, especially if you’ve passed through the punk scene in anyway. The whole thing is built on sin, guilt and shame. You’re born, you suffer, you die. Then every Saturday night you get cancelled and on Sunday you repent your sins on Twitter. Then Monday you go back out on the road and pray to god that you don’t get fingered by some old man with a god complex. There’s also a downside to it!
So there you have it! One of Louise’s first interviews in 3 years and a blinding new track to whet your appetites for the forthcoming album.
Go and get your copy of Black Skies here you won’t regret it!!!! Thanks to Louise for taking the time and effort to record the interview for BSM. We really appreciate it and wish her well for the future.
Noli illegitimi carborundum!!!