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“Blooming into maturity” – an interview with RUN WITH THE HUNTED

It feels amazing to be able to connect to artists like Drew Wilkinson from emotional modern hardcore band RUN WITH THE HUNTED. It was a great pleasure to watch these guys performing live on September 19th, 2011 at the breathtaking gig of Seattle’s TRIAL, Sweden’s ANCHOR, and Poland’s REGRES in Warsaw, Poland, it was a fantastic experience to see them live at Fluff Fest 2012 and it’s a relief that after all these years being together as a band, and in the era of hundreds of generic productions, RUN WITH THE HUNTED seem to still have a lot of ideas, and are capable of being extremely engaging and enjoyable at the same time. Their newest work called “The Sieve and the Sand“ was released on June 3rd through Panic Records and it resurrects the original idea of lyrically passionate and musically powerful hardcore spirit. It resonates with me so strongly, because I truly believe that it is in essence of the genre and, most of all, attitude and way of life.

It’s my pleasure to present you my interview with Drew and his opinions on the new album, his inspirations, hardcore punk, and love.

Top photo by Iris Concepts.

Hi Drew! Thanks so much for taking some time with me and sharing your thoughts in the pages of IDIOTEQ. How are you? How does it feel to be on the verge of releasing the long awaited “The Sieve And The Sand”?

It’s really exciting but very stressful haha. The time right before an album comes out is always crazy; pretty much everything that can go wrong seems to and we’re always rushing to get things done super last minute. I guess that’s what happens when you let punks run bands and record labels haha.

Haha, that’s it! Before we proceed to the merit of the case of this new monumental record of yours, let’s raise some general questions.

How different is it doing it independently now than when you were doing it a couple of years back?

We’ve always been a DIY band so doing it independently is nothing new for us. We book our own tours, design and print most of our own merch, repair our own van and essentially handle everything about the band ourselves. Panic Records is releasing it, but really, that’s just our friend Timm doing all the work by himself too. Up the punx.

What are your hopes for this record and how will you know if it has been a success?

I just want people to listen to the record and think about what it says, that’s the most I can hope for. I don’t have any illusions about how small of a band we are or even how small hardcore is in the grand scheme of things. I know the vast majority of people, even within our own scene, will probably never give it a chance and that’s OK. Success for me doesn’t come from popularity – that’s superficial at best and ultimately fleeting. It comes from the people I meet and talk to who tell me how the band has forced them to examine their own beliefs, challenged the way they think or changed their lives in some way – that’s what we’re attempting to do. This isn’t hardcore for mass consumption, easy to mosh to, mindless generic hyper-masculine bullshit. This is hardcore for people who yearn for something more.

After listening to your new work, this new release has a decidedly more serious tone to it than your previous ones. I realize that if you look at it superficially, then it might be impalpable to a bunch of your listeners, but its significance if kind of felt here. Do you agree with that assessment?

I’ve always considered us a serious band but I guess there is something significant about this record. It’s simultaneously the most personal and most political record we’ve ever made. I’m talking about things that I didn’t have the courage or perspective to ever talk about before like suicide within my own family and my feelings on the current state of hardcore. These are topics I always wanted to address but never felt ready. I guess I would hesitate to call it more serious but I would say it’s more mature in every way. The rest of the band really let go and wrote an incredible record with intricate, dynamic and beautiful music. I think you could listen the record without my annoying screaming and still find something enjoyable about the whole thing haha.

That, Sir, may be true and very likely is true, but focusing on your writing, does your inspiration still come from artists like Bukowski? Or is it all about your personal experience and inner wisdom?

My inspiration for has never come from people like Bukowski. Though I admire and enjoy his writings greatly, the lyrics I write always come from a personal place devoid of direct outside influence.

Yeah, but… Is it even possible not to be influenced by the culture and environment in which you grew up, the art that you’ve experienced, etc.? How did you come to decide to make such personal works?

Yes, of course. We are all byproducts of our culture and environment, that is inescapable. But your original question was about Charles Bukowski’s influence on my work and there isn’t really one.

The songs are personal because that’s what I know best, myself. And I started the band to have an outlet to explore and share those feelings. Through the songwriting process, I really found myself in a way I don’t think I would have otherwise. I can’t imagine life without that.

Are you a man of science?

I suppose so, like most things I think science has its strengths and weaknesses but it’s a much better alternative than blind faith.

Do you find there’s a misconception about certain subjects in the general public or youth communities and that’s party why you pick up these topics? Also, how do you make your personal confessions “attractive” for a listener?

No, I don’t ever approach writing with those things in mind. I’m not consciously attempting to clear up any misconceptions or make things “attractive” for anybody. Writing these lyrics and these songs is a purely personal exercise; it’s an attempt for me to look inside myself and sort out what I am feeling and find a creative way to express that. Of course I hope there is some overlap and that people find a way to relate to what I am going through – some of the most profound connections I’ve ever had to music have come from a song or set of lyrics that described exactly how I felt at a given moment, the kind that find a way to say everything you want to say but somehow don’t know how to. But that type of response from people reading my work is an effect – not a cause – of what I do.

“The love I’ve lost will never find me “, “Love is a sickness”, “Your love was a cancer”, etc. … Some might say that love is not a sickness by any means. The positives outweigh the negatives. Don’t you think?

Love is a complicated emotion. Overall yes, the positives do outweigh the negatives and I think it is important to remain as open to love as possible, to try give and receive it in as many aspects of our lives as we can. If we want to change the world for the better and overcome all of the suffering, oppression and destruction this culture has created, then love has an important role to play. Not all love is created equally though, some love is toxic and can destroy you. I guess I tend to capture the more painful moments of love when I write.

I’m in the middle of a lengthy interview with Greg Bennick, discussing all kind of stuff, including the Ukrainian crisis, his involvement in educating young people, bringing back many historical facts in order to better understand who we are and how we can change the suffering and injustice around us, and much much more. Considering your lyrics, they seem to focus on an individual, personal observations, isolation, etc. Do you believe that you actually come to know and truly recognize yourself only through others, bumping into major mankind’s problems and trying to understand them?

Personally, I have come to know myself both through my interactions with others and through the introspective process of self-reflection that writing deeply personal lyrics encourages and facilitates. If you want to write about how you feel, you must first know how you feel which is often easier said than done. I also strive to understand why I feel the way I do, and that takes an enormous amount of energy, self- realization and patience. Trying to get at the root of what makes you who you are is a very painful difficult process, at least it has been for me. But surely nothing could be more worthwhile than coming to truly know and understand oneself. That process is of course helped by having people around you who are willing to be honest with you and gently point out your faults while encouraging you to improve them. We all see ourselves in a particular way; we tell ourselves stories about who we think we are every single day. But it’s only from the input we get from those around us, especially loved ones, that we come to see that the way we see ourselves and the way others see us are often entirely different things. I strive to align those two images of myself as closely as possible. That, to me, is what authenticity is all about. I want to be an authentic version of myself in every single situation in my life. All of this has been greatly helped along and supported by my involvement in punk and hardcore; I feel so grateful, I don’t know where I would be without it. Or who…

Might it as well be a different genre than hardcore? What’s so special in punk than can be so helpful in cases such as yourself? Would it be possible to find a similar outlet for personal development in different musical fields?

I think punk is a totally unique and special subculture. The traditions, history and attitudes of punk make it an incredible environment where people are encouraged to think for themselves and question what they believe and how their actions reflect those beliefs. I’m sure it’s possible to find an outlet for personal development in other genres or communities of music as well, but I never did and I can’t stress enough how much value I place in punk. A worldwide community of youth who function completely outside of the models of music for profit who are dedicated to positive social change, a strong DIY ethic and who have over the last 30 years, built an informal personal network of record labels, venues, squats and zines etc… it’s just a really incredible thing and I feel so fortunate to have been a part of it all these years.
I love it and even though my relationship to punk has grown and changed over the years, it’s a fundamental part of who I am – it’s how I identify myself and I will carry that with me for the rest of my life.

Well said Drew. And what’s your perspective on divisions between certain groups within punk community? It seems that different backgrounds, nationalities and personal beliefs can cause a lot of fuss. I believe that the definition of who one may be can place them in a certain classification of different subdivisions of the subculture you described so accurately (here are a couple of examples: 1, 2, 3). Do you see a lot of controversial battles between certain points of views and subdivisions in hardcore in the US?

I really hesitate to delve too far into something like this. While I have to acknowledge that there are distinct cliques and groups within the punk community, I wish there weren’t and I feel that propagating these divisions by commenting on it or further classifying them only makes things worse. For me, we all have a lot more in common than we have in difference and we should be working together as much as possible. There are bigger enemies we should be fighting and every time we divide ourselves along arbitrary lines we weaken our ability to collectively change the world. I’m not some romantic idealist either – I fully understand and appreciate that not everybody is going to get along or agree, I’m not trying to argue for some utopian hardcore scene. But, you don’t have to agree with someone to respect them and that is an important distinction; there is room for all kinds of beliefs and ideas within our little community and people should choose their battles and their enemies more carefully. What happened to dialogue? What happened to having a meaningful conversation with someone you disagree with? If we become so sure of what we believe that we lack the ability to consider other points of view, then aren’t we just as close-minded and narrow as the culture we are supposed to be resisting? Hardcore has an awfully bad habit of witch hunts and I’ve seen far too many self-righteous pious people handing down sentences as if they are the ultimate authority on morality. I expect more from us, we can do better.

What positive changes have you experienced in hardcore punk “scene” since you first became involved?

Oh man, too many to list really; I think I could expand on this forever. I think punk is an overwhelmingly positive thing despite its shortcomings. Most of the relationships I currently have in my life I owe to my involvement in punk and they have changed my life in immeasurably positive ways. Being surrounded by passionate, intelligent, creative people brings out the best in all of us and it isn’t something I ever take for granted. I find that these are the types of people who regularly get involved in punk rock. It pushed me outside of my comfort zone; I was confronted with so many ideas and points of view I’d never considered before, it really expanded my horizons and forced me to think about what I believe and why. Sadly I think that’s something most people fail to ever do; it’s easier to just believe what you’re told instead of deciding for yourself. Touring alone exposes you to so many new people and places, it’s hard to ever be the same person again after those experiences. It taught me that the best way to get something done is to just do it yourself; our culture makes us dependents and encourages us to just pay someone else to do things we are easily capable of learning to do ourselves. Punk is just about choice; its about showing people they have a lot more choices than the ones that are presented to them and it gives people the empowerment and agency to try for those choices. It’s hard to quantify what my involvement has done for me, but suffice to say it’s made me the person I am today and I’m really happy with that. I wouldn’t have it any other way really.

Sounds very inspiring and encouraging to experience this world. On the other hand, you recently stated that “by all accounts it’s a pretty fucked up place that seems to be getting worse all the time”. Bleding it with other bands’ lyrics like “this world is a place I won’t miss”, you can get a really depressive view.

So how bad is it really? Where do you draw the line between being mindful of the global problems and simply enjoying thousands of amazing aspect of life?

That’s a difficult line to draw. I think even the most disciplined committed activist in the world would acknowledge the need for personal happiness,or as you said enjoying the thousands of amazing aspects of life. After all, what is the point of fighting for something if you can’t enjoy having it? I’ve seen a lot of brilliant activists get so crushed and disappointed with the lack of progress for their cause that they just give up completely; finding a balance between your happiness and your cause is crucial if you want to have a sustained campaign of resistance. Being mindful of global problems, and more importantly of our individual role within those problems, is the first step towards doing something about it. At the end of the day, we all have to decide how far we are willing to go and how much we are willing to sacrifice for our ideas, our beliefs, and our desire to reshape the world around us in a way we see fit. I can’t decide that for you and you can’t decide that for me. But choosing to live in ignorance of the suffering of others to maintain your own personal happiness is not a solution at all. It’s weak. It’s cowardly. And it’s selfish.

The web makes so many contacts and possibilities available that were not possible not such a long time ago, providing great number of opportunities for exchange. What role does the online world play in your day job and running this band? Do you thik it’s possible that the Internet somehow changed your music?

Like most people, my day to day life is pretty dependent on the Internet. Although I am old enough to remember life before cell phones and the Internet, it would be hard to imagine living without them now, at least, as long as I live in this culture. Actually, I don’t use it much for my day job which kind of rules. No doubt the Internet made touring and networking a lot easier for us even though we did most of it when Myspace was the most used social media site haha. I don’t know how much the Internet directly influenced our music but it probably exposed us to people and places that eventually did.

What was the reasoning behind releasing your new album on cassette? Why do you think MCs are becoming more popular as a music format again?

The album itself was not released on cassette; we did a limited run of cassette singles to demo new songs a few months before it came out for a short tour we did. The main reason is because tape is cheapest and most DIY method of putting your own music out there possible. I’m sure that has a lot to do with their resurgence in popularity but I also think that as people’s music habits shift evermore towards Internet streaming services like Spotify, the desire for a tangible piece of music is growing. I think there will always be a desire to have a physical copy of something that means a lot to you. For me, there is a huge difference between listening to my iPod in the car and sitting down to listen to a record and looking over the cover, insert etc. That’s a musical experience like no other and I’m really stoked that even as things change so rapidly, it seems like there will always be a demand for that.

Ok, Drew. “Maybe Europe” – that’s what you said in one of your recent interviews :) Can you please expound on that? What are you future touring plans?

We’ll be doing some touring to support “The Sieve and the Sand” later in the year in the US but as much as I want to come back to Europe, it doesn’t seem likely at this point. The truth is we’ve been a band for a while now and most of us have more serious life responsibilities than we used to, that makes DIY touring harder and more costly. Rest assured, if we can find a way to get out there we will.

Fair enough :)

Coming to the close of our interview, I’d like to ask you about the idea of the band “as a living organism” that you brought up some time ago. How has RUN WITH THE HUNTED’s dynamics changed over the years? How would you describe your evolution from when you started compared to where you are now?

One of the things that makes this band unique is that it’s been the same 5 people from the very beginning. That means everything we’ve ever done, all the change, growth and evolution has been as a single unit. It’s something that’s really special to me actually, my bandmates are my brothers, my family, I love them so much. Starting a band, playing shows, writing music, touring, seeing the world, meeting new people, being exposed to new ideas and cultures… these are transformative experiences and we have gone through them all together. RWTH really is the direct result of these 5 personalities more than anything else, for better or for worse. It’s hard to describe your own evolution but I think we started out as a fairly generic hardcore band seeking to do something original and authentic and eventually figured out how to do it. “The Sieve in the Sand” is without a doubt our best attempt at that.

No doubt!

Thanks a lot for your time Drew! Take care and have a great summer! :)

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