Negative Space is a band that represents the feeling of the state of time we are living in. 2017’s Gestalt showed a band who seamlessly combined post punk rhythms with ferocious vocals. The anger seems to be fueled and displayed even more with the new release of Cruelty, adding more samples and noise to the tightly wound chaos. Anarchy and existentialism seem to be recurring themes, but the lyrics are deeper than just that.
Read for yourself and see.
Boston Hassle: First of all, just wanted to say congratulations on the new release (12” entitled Cruelty on Drunken Sailor Records), it has been my favorite release of the year. Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions. Luckily I found your band through the SORRY STATE distro after the release of Gestalt in 2017, and I’ve been anticipating your next record since.
RDP: Thank you!
BH: When/How did the band form? It seems that I missed your first 7” and also your demo.
RDP: We first got together at the end of 2014. Me and RMB have known each other since we were kids and met JF through punk. At the time we all lived in Canterbury and there was a small DIY punk community based around shows that happened in a practice space I used to run. Originally we had a different singer (who is on the Demo and 7”), but he wasn’t really up for touring/playing shows so left. We briefly had another singer for one EU tour before SPH joined the band in 2016. We knew SPH through various punk connections but just before they joined we played a show with their old band BORDER and thought they were fucking brilliant.
BH: Did you have a specific sound in mind? Or did you find what you wanted naturally from playing together?
RDP: Early on people kept saying we sounded like Gang of Four and now they keep saying we sound like Christian Death. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
When SPH joined, our shows suddenly took a turn into being more wild and that had a big impact, we’re much more like a hardcore band now. A lot of the new music we’re writing makes use of samples/drum machines.
BH: What influences the band? A certain genre of music, polictics, books, film?
RDP: I am influenced by an urge to make as little compositional effort possible to hold a song together. We wrote something recently and I said “I’m not sure about this part I’m playing, it sounds a bit too intricate” and SPH was like “Doesn’t matter, by the time we record it you’ll have gotten rid of half the notes in it anyway”. A v accurate read.
Did you know Steve Albini is a Doomsday prepper? It’s probably true.
Lately I’ve been inspired by the various activist organisations involved in the struggle for bodily autonomy and labour rights. Decriminalising sex work, proper healthcare equality for transgender and intersex people and the campaign for reproductive rights are all causes lead by amazing, determined and radical people. Existing in any kind of body in this world is hard enough, more so when the state asserts that your body isn’t valid or doesn’t deserve access to the same freedoms as others.
SPH: London moves extremely fast musically – I surround myself constantly with new punk, and I think regularly seeing how other people twist what is on paper a really rigid musical form is very influential in making me think about how to bend any form of music to my will. It would be ridiculous of me to imply Negative Space sits outside punk and hardcore musically, we don’t, but it’s really important to me to not directly take influence from punk and hardcore wholesale to make Negative Space songs interesting for me to play. I’d become 100% happy with the electronic setup between doing Gestalt and Cruelty so it was important that the record sounded like we did live, not just tacked on auxiliary overdubs we couldn’t recreate.
At the time of writing Cruelty I was listening to a lot of Alice Coltrane, Lungfish, Container, Broadcast, Laurel Halo’s Quarantine, Jenny Hval, Laurie Anderson. All of these things had me thinking about repetition, how to manipulate my voice and use sound, lyrical brevity, vocal phrasing. Broadcast and Lungfish I think especially are great examples of saying a huge amount with only one or two lines in an entire song. I’m consistently shooting for that and missing.
Around the time of recording when I wrote most the lyrics I was listening to Frank Ocean’s Blonde twice a day, and reading Melissa Gira Grant’s book ‘Playing The Whore’. It came out more recently, but I’d strongly recommend the book ‘Revolting Prostitutes’ on this topic. I was watching a lot of Derek Jarman movies, and saw ‘Blue’ for the first time in this period which left a very strong mark on me.
BH: London seems to have a very tight knit DIY scene, and is constantly producing many of my favorite new bands (Snob, Es, Scrap Brain, Shopping, Permission, Sarcasm). What are your favorite bands to play with? What other projects have you been involved in?
RDP: The best new London punk band right now are LIVID. We also recently played a show in Glasgow with COMFORT and OVERWHELMED who are both equally sick bands. Oh, and CURRENT AFFAIRS <3. GESTURE are from Berlin, but we recently toured in the UK with them and they’re the best band I’ve seen this year – In general, all the Allee Der Kosmonauten bands from that city (BENZIN, AUS, GILB, DELTOIDS) are brilliant.
SPH: JF was in Diet Pills and the iconic Garry And The Gary Numans. RMB plays in Man Hands and Cosmic Thoughts to this day. I used to do a band called BORDER.
Currently I host two radio shows with members of Scrap Brain – Repetitive Strain on Comet Radio and Maximum Rocknroll Radio every eight weeks. I operate a label called Austerity Realm and make music under the name Vanity Crystal.
I think London punk is the most inventive and interesting in the world (no shade, though). The past year brought a slew of new interesting projects and my favourites of these currently are Child’s Pose, Saliva, Maladia and Sniffany And The Nits. Other things UK-wide that have stood out for me recently are Overwhelmed, Public Service, Comfort, Shishū, Vile Spirit, Misery Guts, Glib, Acacia Spines, Middex and Oblate. For an overview of British DIY music, google Romeo Taylor’s ‘The Kingdom Of Scotland’.
BH: Are you planning on touring in the US? What is your perception of what’s going on in the US with an unqualified reality tv star as the president?
SPH: No plans to tour the US because of your border. Perception of what’s happening in the US is that it’s a mirror image of everywhere else’s blunt descent into a deeper rut of fascism and anyone shocked by it had their head in the sand.
RDP: If somebody would like to waste a lot of money paying for visas etc. to drive us around the US, feel free to get in touch.
BH: I really the lyrics for the track “Theft Utopia.” My interpretation is the way that I’ve never wanted to settle down, get married, or have kids……but at times, it’s felt like that’s what everyone should do.
Can you elaborate on themes of the album lyrically?
SPH: Thanks. Those lyrics are based in a period I worked for a city bar and served cokehead lawyer men every day. All of these guys were first-rung-of-the-ladder sales job types who had gotten one sniff of a 40k salary and thought they were suddenly above the people serving them. The song itself actually bears very little relation to settling down at all, it’s a fantasy in which I rob these people of their money and security because they don’t deserve to have it.
The band is almost universally about being a non-binary/trans person, as every experience RDP and I have is filtered through that lens. The writing of the record was during a true low point for me personally and mentally. At the time I was thinking about how much of this was controlled by my job(s), coping mechanisms I’d developed because of a gutted mental health support system, other people’s entitlement in social structures, poverty being political violence, the ways capitalist structures ruin your perception of yourself and your ownership of your body. The whole record is in multiple ways about power and hierarchy.
Thanks for asking us.
Photo’s by Joe Briggs