The Roughneck Riot band
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“Folk is the original punk!” – THE ROUGHNECK RIOT on politics and traditions in Celtic Folk Punk

3 mins read

Warrington, UK. Since their first release in 2010, a group of musicians* have become a folk-punk legend. Armed with banjos, mandolins, accordion and of course giarre, bass and drums, they are often mentioned in the same breath as greats like Flogging Molly or Dropkick Murphys. With ROUGHNECK RIOT, a political and socially critical message and the passion for punk rock are clearly in the first place. Anti-fascist and anti-“dickhead” and for Roughneck Riot international solidarity is more important than ever.

“Burn It To The Ground” marks the band’s new hot offering on SBÄM Records, born out of what the band calls a “post-Brexit apocalypse” that takes their folk-punk to a new level. Since the last release “Out Of Anger” (TNS Records), then almost 8 years will have passed – it’s high time for fresh wind on the almost empty-fished ocean of folk-punk! We’re stoked to give you the full album below and the band’s special write-up on Folk Punk!

There is one genre of punk that has always been know for it’s broad variety of instruments, combination of traditional and modern sounds and for it’s complete partyablity. No, not talking about Ska. Folk Punk especially Celtic Folk Punk has a variety of angles to look at.

Here at IDIOTEQ had Matty Humphries of the British band THE ROUGHNECK RIOT give us a brief insight on their stance to the genre, asking the question is folk punk political and how do you combine something so very traditional such as folk music to something so deconstructive as punk?

Most traditional folk music from anywhere has an element of punk. A lot of it is rebel music, a lot of it is anti-fascist, so it’s always been punk! In terms of modern folk punk I feel The Pogues are one of the pioneers in the celtic punk sound, then later Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphys have been on of the most noticeable influences on Celtic Punk.

In England, The Men They Couldn’t Hang and then later The Levellers were one of the bigger influences on folk punk. In England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland you can hear a lot of differences in the traditional musics of these places but so many crossovers too. You can also hear differences within these countries if you dig deep enough. The most common acknowledgement being Scottish bagpipes or Irish tin whistles for example.

Roughneck Riot
Roughneck Riot

Some places have their own unique sound and style that’ll have differences to the other side of the country even and if you go far back enough, the instruments used have all come from different countries and are used in traditional folk music here!

The kind of philosophical question why it’s probably a bit schizophrenic to mix something very traditional such as folk with something like punk that is born to deconstruct, destroy and build up again, is of course tricky. Why do you mix Celtic folk with punk? I already elaborated how punk celtic folk actually is. And the question is very appropriate to these dystopian times, too. Everything is indeed temporary and treating tradtionen with the brashness of punk is perhaps the best way to deal with it. God is dead. The Prince is a nonce. Tradition is there to be interrogated and insulted.

That may be connect to us in the band because we did not learn the folk instruments we play as children or anything. I think most of us decided to learn to play instruments without a parental influence after all, and we didn’t try learning folk instruments until we were in our teens. If you put us up against most traditional folk musicians we wouldn’t really know what we were doing! We were already a punk band when learning the folk instruments and when we got to the point of being able to play together we went through the stage of trying to be The Pogues or the Dropkick Murphys and then carried on just writing our own music and didn’t spend mhc time learning or studying traditional music.

We were already into some folk music but we were at that age where we just wanted everything to be fast and loud and a lot of traditional folk doesn’t quite cut it. So when we discovered bands like DKM and Flogging Molly it became obvious it can be a beautiful combo. Listening back to some old folk songs now, I feel like they’re missing drums and loud guitars!

Folk is the original punk!

The Roughneck Riot band (2)-min
Photo by Jim Taylor, @jimtaylorphoto

Is folk punk political though? The Roughneck Riot is a political band, but music certainly does not have to. A lot of folk songs are political, especially the old rebel songs and a lot more than you think if you listen closely. As to today, you can’t ignore politics these days but music should just be what you want it to be. Just ignoring the political side of things and being a party band often leads to stale, offensive stereotypes. If you are doing any political stuff, it’s important to know what you’re talking about too and personally I think you should stay clear of writing about things that doesn’t relate to you at all, but that’s just my opinion. Saying that, it doesn’t all have to be serious and political. Everybody needs to party now and again!

In the end Matty puts down his favorite celtic folk punk bands for you to check out: The Levellers, Flogging Molly, The Pogues, Crazy Arm!

Karol Kamiński

DIY rock music enthusiast and web-zine publisher from Warsaw, Poland. Supporting DIY ethics, local artists and promoting hardcore punk, rock, post rock and alternative music of all kinds via IDIOTEQ online channels.
Contact via [email protected]

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