Music for an Angry Mob
Grey Filastine Interviewed by Lex
Editor's note: See Stevphen Shukaitis' Affective Composition and Aesthetics: On Dissolving the Audience and Facilitating the Mob in Issue 5 for more on marching bands.
Seattle Washington, late night 6/25/02 after
an Infernal Noise Brigade rehearsal.
The Infernal Noise Brigade is a marching drum battery and street
performance group activated by massive political and cultural uprisings.
Tactics. Tactics are the polemical stage of the game...
We are a tactical mobile rhythmic unit consisting of a majorette,
medic, tactical advisers, rifle twirlilng contingent, flag corps,
sound generating kart, vocalists, horns, and between 8 and 12 percussionists.
An efficiently hierarchised army can win a war, but not a
revolution; an undisciplined mob can win neither.
It is our intention to be a soundtrack for insurrection.
We know how cruelly absent tactics have been from most popular
Rendering ideology obsolete, we practice the politics of pleasure
and subversion on the streets. We are not interested in chanting dogmatic
slogans, nor is there a banner behind which we all wish to march.
-From the INB Manifesto, availably at infernalnoise.org
-From Raoul Vaneigem Revolution of Every Day Life
Could you begin by telling
me a bit about your relationship to the Infernal Noise Brigade?
Grey: My personal
relationship? I started the group by calling together some people
about two months in advance of the WTO meeting that was here in Seattle.
I just had a feeling that something big was going to happen. I knew
that it would need a strong soundtrack, and the ability to move people
around in the streets without barking through bullhorns; to do it
in a more fluid manner, to be able to just GO and bring a few hundred
people from here to there, just because musical energy is powerful.
I consulted with a few other people from the Direct Action Network
(DAN) - one person in particular - about the possibility of doing
something autonomously but still working with them a bit. We had one
person who observed all DAN’s spokescouncils to gather information
so we could be in tandem with them, but we wanted to maintain some
autonomy, partly because we didn't agree with the action guidelines
that they were proposing. We didn't want to be controversial and argue
about them. We thought, “let's just let them make their infrastructure,
and we'll help out and be appreciated for what we can offer.”
And, also because we were making a lasting organization.
You were planning the INB as a long-term project
Grey: Even at that
time, we knew that there were a lot of applications for a radical
street performance group, whether it is for debaucherist purposes,
like Burning Man or warehouse parties, or our annual New Year's Procession.
We knew it would be useful to create this group for the future, for
political events and for our own pleasure.
Now we've separated a bit and have two uniforms- one for political
events, one for cultural or social events.
Grey: Yeah, different
color clothes and flags. The green and black is for political actions;
for the non-political events it’s orange, black, and silver.
We keep the fur hats for both.
The two uniform system developed because our initial uniform, the
green and black, is very militant and seems inappropriate at parties
or festivals. After much debate, we settled on emergency orange, mostly
because we found interesting ways of using flexible road signs as
integral parts of our clothing. The City of Seattle donates many of
these signs to us late at night.
Cool. At the WTO, were you the only folks not working directly with
Grey: Definitely not.
You probably know DAN's plan. There was the Convention Center in the
middle, and they divided the surrounding city into a pie. People were
responsible for blocking the different sections. Groups were agreeing
to be a part of the DAN and to take a slice of the pie to block. We
were NOT agreeing to either, but were agreeing to help out in any
way we could. So, we were kind of an autonomous unit to help out and
move people to those different slices. There was a bit of contention.
There was a group calling for a Reclaim the Streets that was basically
a black bloc. This was one of the first black blocs of the recent
era, as no one had really pulled one off in the United States in a
while. It kicked off at 11:11 from Westlake Center, and we were going
to hook up with that. We had every intention of doing that, but we
decided that the convention center blockades were more important.
It's only that we wanted to support the barricades that we didn't
join the Black Bloc. DAN was not down with that Black Bloc forming.
what were Black Blocs?
Grey: Have you read
George Katsiaficas? His book, Subversion of Politics, is a history
of some European direct action movements. The Autonomen, Red Brigades,
that whole radical European history, from Germany especially. Black
Blocs were a European tactic, especially in Berlin, of having large
groups of people, all wearing black, all concealed. It's the Zebra
theory. If you have 100 people, all wearing black, all wearing hoods
and bandanas, one person or a group of people can engage in property
destruction, or engage the police, and then melt back into the group
and become effectively invisible. That's the THEORY behind the Black
What do you think of that?
Grey: It can work.
when the police outnumber the protesters? That's the thing, for me.
In New York, the police often outnumber the protesters.
Grey: Yeah, and it
gets stopped. Then all you are is the most conspicuous person. You
can be six or twenty of just the most conspicuous people.
You can be the 500 most conspicuous people! In New York, if there's
a protest of 10,000 people, there can be 10,000 police. If you've
got 500 Black Bloc, the police will just go and arrest 20 or 30 of
them at the beginning, and then everyone else distances themselves
from them. It's very effective.
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