May 23, 2015
The Observatory, Santa Ana
Interview With Colin Jerwood Of Conflict
Colin Jerwood Gets Real About His Influences, Politics, and the State of Punk Rock Today
Conflict is a pioneering hard-core punk band. Founded in 1981 in the U.K. in the midst of the punk rock explosion, Conflict took the sound and message of punk to a faster, more radical, and purely Anarchical height. Their sound is timeless and their message, thirty-four year later, is still teaming with the cry of frustration toward the establishment.
After a stellar performance, vocalist, Colin Jerwood was kind enough to sit with me to answer questions about the band, past and present. I found him to be smart, open, and, in a wonderfully gentle way, concerned about the state of politics, and the world of punk.
 What motivated you in ’81? The punk scene, if you look at it in ’81, was mellow compared to today’s standards. You were way ahead of your time. How’d you do that?
[CJ] I don’t know, I can’t answer that. I suppose where I’d seen the Sex Pistols and seen the Clash live, I just wanted to do something. I thought, “I can do this”. I don’t know… to me its just normal.
 Would you say the Sex Pistols were your biggest motivation?
[CJ] In the early days, of course, they changed me. Before that I was a kid at school getting beat up every day for pocket money… But, that’s just personal, I suppose. It’s not political, it just happened.
 I know your band sings a lot about [anarchy], how much do you really believe that? Has it changed since the ’80’s? Did you believe it then, but its different now?
[CJ] I mean, personally, in England, we’ve just had an election. Personally, I want the wrong people [the Right wing] to get in, because I want it to get so bad that people will just go, I’m not having this no more. The left wing is just comfortable. Do you know what I mean?  Yes, I do. We have the left wing in office right now [in America]. What do you think about what we’ve got going on in America? [CJ] Right, it’s just the same shit, different color, isn’t it?”
 Your last album was in 2003. Are you going to come out with something new and how politically driven is your new material?
[CJ] I’ve got loads of new stuff. It’s anti-political. It doesn’t box on the turf. The left wing people are sitting there with safe little pockets and they’re going, “We’re Marxists, we’re Socialists and we’re doing this”. They’re missing the picture. There is a big Fascist movement on the other side, growing up, and they’re missing it. You can walk around in a Marxist [suit] all your life, but they’ll roll over you in 10 years.  I see the danger as well. [CJ] Well, some don’t. All over Europe, some don’t. We get these anti-Fascist action people and they go, “We’re doing this…” actually, they’re doing nothing. If you want to stamp them out, stamp them out. Go ring their ass at four o’clock in the morning. Stamp them out. I know I’m probably extremely violent. But if someone’s a threat to me… if someone’s a Fascist and they’re going to come after [my ass], I’m going to go to them first.
 So, are you going to go to them first through your music or go to them first personally?
[CJ] They don’t threaten me… They don’t threaten us, they wouldn’t dare. Once the anti-Fascists come around and say, “Would you do a benefit for us?” They wanted to print leaflets… I don’t want to print leaflets and march up and down about something they think is scary. If people really are afraid, I want to go ring their ass at four o’clock in the morning. I don’t want to give them a leaflet and say, “You’re scaring me”. I want to get them out of bed. Do you get where I’m coming from? That’s me. And everyone hates me for that, but I’m not left wing, I’m not right wing; I’m right, I’m wrong. There is no right and wrong… [Leaflet] “Stop being a fascist”, you cannot negotiate with a Fascist. I know national Socialists and they’ve got a deep agenda, a very deep agenda.
 What do we do about punk rock today? What new bands are you interested in? What do you think the state of it is?
[CJ] Do I have to say this?  No, you don’t have to say anything you don’t want to say. But it’s what I want to hear about… [CJ] I’ll be honest with you, I don’t like bands. I don’t want to say this because it sounds really conceited… Sometimes when I’m up there I go, I don’t know what I’m doing up here. I don’t get it anymore. I don’t know what the answers are, but I think that we do more good than harm.
 There’s nobody new that strikes you as being brilliant?
We bantered back and forth about the good bands all being from the 80’s and 90’s. Colin asked my picks and I suggested the Street Dogs and Anti-Flag, but quickly added that they’re too old to rely on as the new generation of punk as well. Then Jerwood suggested Propagandhi, to which I promptly agreed. Good pick, Colin. Propagandhi, the future of punk rests on your shoulders (no pressure!).
 What advice would you give to new kids coming up?
[CJ] How do I know? I came up in the backstreet. I mean, I didn’t go to school, I don’t know. I mean, I was writing things down on the toilet rolls at school and all of sudden everyone began to agree with it. I was shocked. I was absolutely stunned. I thought I was going mad, you know. All of a sudden people was like, I agree with that. I didn’t understand. I haven’t got qualifications. I can’t spell. I can’t write. But I don’t think that’s a problem. It isn’t a problem to me.
 People hear what you say and follow you.
[CJ] Why? They must agree.  Because you have a message. [CJ] Is it right? Or is it wrong?  I don’t know that it needs to be right, it’s just standing up for something, you know. And, there’s not a lot of that. [CJ] Yeah, I hope its right.  I think a lot of its right. [CJ] Um… Don’t get me wrong. You got to remember, all of a sudden I was in this band in 1981 and it was nothing. Then all of sudden, it was ridiculous. It was topping the charts, above the Smiths. I never understood that anything ever existed like that.  Just that fast. [CJ] Really fast. And there was responsibility.
 Did that change the way you wrote your music?
[CJ] No, it didn’t change me. I just thought it was funny. You know, people I admired, like Morrissey and stuff like that, was below us in the charts and I was like, “this is weird”. Do you know what I mean?  I do. Well, no I DON’T because that’s never happened to me. But, I know what you mean. [CJ] I couldn’t understand it. I still don’t get it. I’ve got an 18 year old daughter and she’s into Radiohead and stuff like that. And, I know them guys well. She’s now beginning to get it. She used to say, “You’re in a bad band dad” and stuff like that. Now she’s begun to realize that we said it years ago, before all of these bands and, I don’t know, it’s weird… How can my daughter rebel? What’s she gonna do? Are you gonna be a Fascist fuck? I don’t know how to explain it. This whole rock and roll game, it pisses me off.  Why? [CJ] Because I know it’s a game and I don’t want to do it. I just think it’s crap. I’ll use it as a way to express myself, but… I was out there for a half an hour tonight and people are trying to take pictures. I’m okay with that, but why? Who the fuck am I? Do you get what I mean? Who the fuck am I?  You’re a punk rock legend. [CJ] Why do you want to take a picture of me?  Because you are a punk rock legend. [CJ] I don’t get it.
 Does it bother you to know that people see you that way?
[CJ] Does it bother me? It doesn’t bother me. The meaning of it, behind what they’re doing is what bothers me. When I met Joe Strummer at a Clash [musical], I was on tour with them and I said, “Will you sign this?” And he said, “No, I wont”. And I was really offended. And he said, “That album cover is a really good cover and I’m not going to fucking spoil that. If you want I’ll give you this cuddle [a hug] and it’ll stay with you for life”. And it did. And I’m trying to push that on. But, when you try to push it on sometimes, people have said to me, “Oh, you’re too good then are you?”. Took it the other way. For instance, GBH signed our autograph, why wont you? They think I’m being a bit more special. It’s not that at all. It’s just rubbish. I don’t know if you know where I’m coming from. This is probably coming off bad.  No, I do. I actually do, because punk isn’t supposed to be commercial. And if someone is big enough to sign someone’s t-shirt, then they’ve become commercial. That’s how I’m hearing you. [CJ] It’s like when I met Joe, I’d been following him around for years and I walked up to him. And I was really, really humiliated. I went, “Joe, will you sign this?” He went “No” I went, “Why?” He went, “One, because its a good album cover and two, because this hug will last forever” and he gave me a big hug. And then after he died I thought, yeah, it stayed (motioning a hug). I want to pass that on.  It meant more. I can see that. [CJ] Not many people do.  I can absolutely see it. [CJ] Good.  Which album cover was it? Do you remember? [CJ] The Clash, The Clash. He was always good; he was always good anyway. He was a top man. A lot of people put him down, you know what I mean? Everyone puts everyone down, don’t they?  They do. They can find something wrong with anybody. [CJ] Of course.
 So, what you gonna do next?
[CJ] Stitch this arm up (after taking a fall on stage, Jerwood was bleeding pretty badly through his white long sleeve shirt).  Do you think you need stitches? [CJ] No, its fine.  It’s bleeding pretty good. [CJ] No, its good.  It was beautiful. You were all bloody on stage. Actually, it was quite brilliant. [CJ] It must have looked pretty good didn’t it? Punk rock, blood, violence.  Very GG Allin. Band mate calls out, “Hey, Sid Vicious!”
 What is next? Anything you want to share? Can you give any hints away?
[CJ] I’m writing lots of stuff.  What’s your motivation? [CJ] What’s my motivation at the moment? Really?  Yeah, tell me the truth. [CJ] Um, (pause to think) staying alive.
(Please note: Colin Jerwood’s accent, coupled with the friends in the Green Room and GBH on stage, made it difficult to ensure absolute accuracy in interpreting the contents in parts of this interview. The full audio is available for your listening pleasure and interpretive prowess. Enjoy! Thank you Colin, for your candor, time, and trust.)
Interview by, Sarah Tonin
13 Stitches Magazine Reviewer