April 2003
volume 1, issue 2


Music for an Angry Mob


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 uprisings...
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

Lex: 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.

Lex: You were planning the INB as a long-term project even then?

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.

Lex: Different colors?

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.

Lex: Cool. At the WTO, were you the only folks not working directly with DAN?

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.

Lex: And 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 Bloc.

Lex: What do you think of that?

Grey: It can work. Sure.

Lex: Even 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.

Lex: 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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