Punk Singer Steve Ignorant (Finally) Brings Crass to America: Interview
photo by Damon Allen Davison Steve Ignorant and band
Crass, the commune-living, hippie anarchist punks whose DIY way of recording and promoting had as much an impact on the genre as their brand of boot-in-your face hardcore, disbanded more than 25 years ago, having never toured the U.S. beyond New York.
Without his mostly-retired band mates -- including drummer/founder Penny Rimbaud and singer Eve Libertine -- frontman Steve Ignorant has put together a new group for his Last Supper tour, performing Crass songs from 1977-1982 (including the entirety of the band's classic 1978 debut, The Feeding of the 5000) for the past year.
Prior to having postponed his L.A. gig in March (now rescheduled to April 29 at the Fox Theater in Pomona and April 30 at the Glass House) due to Visa problems, we spoke with the singer over the phone in England about Crass' legacy, Lady Gaga and David Beckham:
Youtube credit doobyscoo2
How did the idea for the tour come about?
I did two nights at Shepherd's Bush [in 2007], and that was meant to be a one-off. Then, a week after I got back, I started getting calls from various people asking me to do that particular show in different countries. I had to refuse because I couldn't go back on my word. The Feeding of the 5000 was a unique thing, never to be repeated. But I thought about it and realized that there was a lot of interest globally in people wanting to hear Crass songs performed. So I started setting up a tour. I called it the Last Supper because I wanted everybody to know that this is the last time.
And what was the reason for performing the entirety of the first album?
I had just moved to another area of England and the phone rang, and it was a guy who said there was a punk festival at Brixton Academy. I wasn't really interested. I didn't want to do the same old thing that I'd always been doing. I thought the only way I'd do this is if it's exciting for me. Something that I've not done before. I thought that the record lasts 35 minutes. So I'll just go on stage unannounced and I'll do The Feeding... as it is on the record. That had never been done even by Crass. So I phoned the guy and said, 'I wanna do The Feeding... in its entirety,' and the phone went dead. He called me back and said the Brixton Academy gig is off, but you are now headlining two nights at Shepherd's Bush and everybody is really into it.' That is how it literally came around.
Are you including other material apart from Crass' debut record?
I've put in "How Does It Feel to Be The Mother of A Thousand Dead?" because its a great anti-war song, and I think it's still relevant. And yes, were doing material from Penis Envy. That was the first time a punk band like Crass had tried to do something like that. The Feeding... was all men shouting and being tough. And the next record is just women singing about women's issues.
You've chosen to tour without Crass' original members. What's been their reaction?
The only reaction I've had is from Penny Rimbaud, [the band's visual artist] Gee Voucher and Eve Libertine, and they've all said 'You have our blessing, have fun. '
Did you approach them about joining?
I couldn't do that. If I had asked Eve or someone else to come along, then everyone would assume that we are reforming. And I'm afraid that will never, ever happen.