Alternative Tentacles, an independent record label founded in 1979 by Jello Biafra, former lead singer of the punk rock band Dead Kennedys, has recently expanded its roster once again with the addition of Kultur Shock, a multinational band known for its ‘Gypsy Punk’ style (though its mainman Gino hates the term!), and today it’s our pleasure to announce that the King Country Mohammed 7″ is out now! To celebrate, we are pleased to give you our recent interview with with the band’s founder and vocalist Gino Yevdjevich, who sat down with us to talk about his story, relationship with Alternative Tentacles, the new digital music era, racism, and more.
The 7” debut of the band on Alternative Tentacles contains King and Country Mohammed, which have been a part of band’s live set since their release on Kultur Shock’s Integration (2009) album.
“A year ago, after about 2 hours of discussing World politics and what do we do to save the planet, Biafra asked me, “Hey, by the way, remind me why did we never release any of Kultur Shock for Alternative Tentacles?” – explains Gino Yevdjevich, the founding member and the vocalist of Kutlur Shock: “Neither him or I had an answer, so that was the beginning of our collaboration!”.
Speaking about the current partnership, Gino, a natural-born rebel says that it clicked and the band instantly had the connection with Alternative Tentacles collective. “I remember, sitting on the plane, thinking and talking to myself; “Dude, you’re fucking crazy, people your age are retiring and you’re signing a record deal!”.
Led by the enthusiastic and cheerful Gino Yevdjevich, the band was formed after Gino escaped the war in Bosnia and moved to the US.
Kultur Shock began playing slightly electrified traditional folk music to a growing refugee audience, which later expanded to include Krist Novaselic, Vic Bondi, and Jello Biafra.
Since 1996, Kultur Shock has been mixing Balkan folk melodies with metal and punk rock, creating a unique sound that is both politically irreverent and theatrical. The band has released several studio albums and is now making its Alternative Tentacles 7″ debut with the songs “King” and “Country Mohammed”.
Yevdjevich describes the stylistic tradition of Kultur Shock as a cross-cultural plexus between different cultural traditions and styles united together. Artist says: “Metal is how we express our rage against the machine. Punk rock is how we express our political views. And when I am sad, emotional and exposed to all of those beautiful primitive feeling only live being can feel, that is what we call ‘Sevdah’. Providing the translation of the term, Gino explains that the closest meaning it has in English is the blues explanation – “when a good man feels bad”.
Kultur Shock will also be heading back to Europe for their main audience and festival dates, followed by performances in the US.
Hey there Gino! Thanks so much for taking some time with us. Let’s start of with your background and your roots in Bosnia, shall we? Take us back in time and tak about your early days in music and how you remember your early home.
Wow, are you sure you wanna know about that? That was a long time ago, only a couple of days after the birth of the great malamute and before the invention of the wooden spoon. Now, seriously I don’t really know but I remember when I was nine that I liked people looking at me and I wanted to play music. I think I was also privileged enough to sit on my first drum set at my elementary school. At the time it was a huge achievement. Now every school had a drum set then, only ours did. I had a great teacher that endorsed popular music. Since then that’s my life. I can actually say that I haven’t changed since I was nine at all :-) seriously.
How have your inspirations changed over time. How does the new digital era and all the tools we have affect your listening habits?
Yeah, of course I was at first fascinated with boys playing guitars on the beach, but that fairy swiftly changed into admiration for rock music. I guess that’s normal because when you start playing it, you start being more and more adventurous and out there. I remember Deep Purple from the rock album that I was listening to over and over again. Especially Child In Time. Even before that, I remember the Janis Joplin album given to me by my teacher. I went home and listened to it and came back saying “I don’t think I like this”. My teacher looked at me and said “You cannot not like this! Now go home and listen to it until you like it.” And I did! And I really liked it. To this day I love it.
Then life changed. I heard the Cockney Rebel, Psychomodo album. Wow! The world has changed! Maybe because of that album and my views that are broadening, the new wave, and especially punk rock did not come as a total surprise to me. I saw it changing before. That was me finally. Generation that was me, because I started really young, and really did not belong to that early 70s generation. I remember some older friends including my teacher really taking offense to me really liking punk rock. It was like betrayal for them when musicians started playing something else than hard rock. But me, I finally caught up with my generation. In my case I already knew how to play drums and some other instruments and maybe even sing. “We will see”, I was thinking to myself, maybe I will become a singer.
Tell us a bit more about your relationship with Alternative Tentacles.
We are friends. We met in 1998 I think, but I am not 100% sure. Kultur Shock just plugged in after being an acoustic band for a couple of years and we that night played at Magnolia Village pub. My friend Krist Novoselic brought a friend that I did not recognize at first until he introduced him to me. It was Jello Biafra. You know, when you agree with someone on everything and have a sense of humor it’s like you were friends for a long time. That was the case. Very soon after that, I received a letter in the mail from Jello Biafra . I am not getting an email not a text not a phone call, but a fucking a letter in the mail written by his hand. I think that Biafra might be the only person who hates technology more than me, and if he has any opportunity, he is going to fall to writing a letter with his hand rather than typing it. The letter was very personable, and really friendly offering all the help that he can give us in order to promote our band. Soon after our first album, he called me saying that his friend Billy has a record label and would like to talk to us about it. That was Billy of Faith No More. Yeah Biafra actually introduced us to Billy which sprung us out to the world in 2001 after FUCC the INS. Billy was telling me later that Jello never let him forget how he gave us to him rather than signing us on his own label :)
Speaking about that love and hate relationship with technology these days, can you expound a bit more on how you navigate through today’s digital solutions and tools for both listeners and artists? How do you feel about current social media based music promotion methods, the evolution of music formats (singles and playlists over albums, short songs over long compositions, unconventional song structures over the usual intro-verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus format)?
I don’t know what to tell you and honestly my position on this issue is is changing day from day. What I do know is that I I have a love for a traditional album format. I like albums especially like vinyls because you listen to it from the beginning to the end while you are having an artwork in your hand reading throat and having complete experience full stop that complete experience can only be with All of that components. None of this component is digitally available . that really bothers me. I’m looking at albums and even a single as one whole Art piece.
I don’t know where is everything going but I do know that I am happy that vinyls are back because of this. Collectors and people that are really interested in preserving arts are winning at this time. Digital transformation happened too fast and and now we are backpedalling. Good. Hohoho Concept of making videos For every song changes too.
But yeah, when it comes to spreading the word about artists and their work I do like internet because it gives an equal opportunity to the projects that normally would be shut down by record labels and major radio stations as well as major publishers and media. We are not all equal yet but we are closer to it now.
How about the old school music press and zines versus the modern way of spreading the word about independent music? What are your sources of music news and more in-depth publications?
Many years later after hanging out in meetings in Seattle, San Francisco, New York, and everywhere wherever we crossed paths, we right now as all really good friends, are talking about politics and discussing how to change the world almost monthly. So a year ago he told me “remind me why didn’t ever release anything together.? I know you guys have your own record label, but, you know if you wanna print vinyl we would be happy to do it.” And that was it! Now we are on the Alternative Tentacles :-). That’s a weird way of working right now, but this is more friendship than anything else. Like most of the relationships in my life.
Can you talk about the lyrical content embedded into these new songs ? Is there a common thread to these tracks?
I don’t know about the common thread. People say that we often predict the future. I don’t know about that either. I write about what bothers me. I would love to write about flowers and birds love, but the world’s more fucked up than that. Flowers and birds are beautiful, but they don’t influence my Life every single fucking day. The bad things do. World going back to fascism does. When we play music, we also synchronize our music with our feelings. It’s all about feelings. I don’t think much. I let the feelings go.
Musically: When we are mad, we express our rage against the machine with metal when we are expressing our political beliefs, Punk Rock comes first, when we want to say something in the sophisticated way we have our musicianship to talk for us and when I’m sad, when life hurts. That is what we in Bosnia call Sevdah. Sevdah is like a blues description: When a good man feels bad. We don’t use folk music because we want to, but because I need to express my feelings and it comes naturally. That is why we don’t belong to the mainstream. That was not a conscientious decision. It is what it is. That’s why we are just finally getting accepted by both sides, punk rock, and world music. Earlier we were not accepted by either. We were too loud for world music. We were too obnoxious, too much in your face, too much saying what is on our mind and not being a real “good immigrants” that are going to entertain you on Friday and Saturday night and then go back and clean toilets for leaving Monday through Friday.
In the punk rock and metal scene we were not accepted as equal because simply there’s a racist moment off that scene communicating for years exclusively in English or maybe sometimes German. We don’t have restrictions on our languages. When I write lyrics every song is supposed to determine the language. That’s why we do it in so many languages. Because Song wants it, because the art itself has its own meaning and who am I to change it for the promotional/commercial gain.
Ok, so how about the upcoming tour? What can we expectwhich places will be new to the band?
Dude, part of me can’t wait to start and part of me is so anxious about going back on the road after all of these years of Covid. We played most of these places before, but I think that we are most proud of is that our audience is growing and changing in a way that I didn’t see coming. In demographics. Young people are coming and replacing my own generation with their ideas and power. They’re singing my songs that I wrote when they were like five years old or maybe some of them were not even born. Our new violinist Eleni is as old as the band is, 26 a.d a half. Her generation is taking over. Her generation is mainly our audience right now.
It started before she joined the band. I am so proud of what we accomplished in reaching out to young people. Young people in Europe are much smarter than the old people. I can’t say that that’s the case in the United States. I really believe that they are inspiring us more than we are. We are so privileged and I Can’t believe how lucky we are to play for so long to such a beautiful crowd. We also know that we will exist as long as we produce new material in a new art. Only the production of the new art is a purpose of existence, valid enough for one project like ours to exist for 27 years. We are playing some new songs from our new album in the store too. I want everybody to know that. We are pursued by the ones we love the most. Long time ago they gave us their love, and we gave them everything we have.
Why are there no gigs in Poland? Have you been to Poland before?
You have to ask somebody smarter than me about booking the shows. We played some shows in Poland. and it was beautiful. I honestly don’t know. Why are we not playing more there. Bookings is a strange thing. Bookers are strange people. I’m just a musician.
Can you give us other Balkan or gypsy punk bands worth a check? Give us some recommendations before you go.
I love all my friends that are playing similar genres of music. When I say genre, I really dislike them Gypsy. It sounds racist to me. I accept it because I know it is done in a good faith, but still something turns into my stomach when I hear it every time. Depends on what people usually compare us with, and my great friends are Dubioza Kolektiv, Gogol Bordello, System Of A Down. They’re all as you can see very different bands with very different music. The only thing that connects them/us all is that we are not necessarily from the Anglo-Saxon world, we don’t have an Anglo-Saxon background. That’s where racism comes back. I guess in the eyes of some ignorant people that consider themselves taste creators and journalists, there might be only one place for each one of us in every genre of music.
Like at that time, when Tyra Banks and Naomi Campbell were fighting over who is the black supermodel. Ha, ha, ha ha there is only one place for one :-). Rest of them need to be white. I’m sorry I making such a stupid comparison, but the thing is, we love each other and we are not going to be fighting, but hopefully conquering the worlds in the artistic view that rock/punk/pop art can only be done in English exclusively and by people who are from Anglo-Saxon dissent. World is better than that. We, the humans, are better than that. Let’s grow!
Awesome, well said, thank you! I will have to remove the word ‘gypsy’ from my marketing journalism wording then, haha.
Catch KULTUR SHOCK live at the following stops in Europe:
03.04.23 Thessaloniki, Greece, Rover
04.04.23 Skopje, North Macedonia, MKC
05.04.23 Sofia, Bulgaria, Pirotska 5
06.04.23 Sarajevo, BiH, Dom Mladih Skenderija
07.04.23 Nis, Serbia, Feedback
08.04.23 Belgrade, Serbia, Zappa Baza
11.04.23 Zagreb, Croatia, Mocvara
12.04.23 Tuzla, BiH, Club Palma
13.04.23 Mostar, BiH, Abrasevic
14.04.23 Split, Croatia, Kocka
15.04.23 Nova Gorica, Slovenia, Mostovna
16.04.23 Maribor, Slovenia, MC Pekarna
19.04.23 Munich, Germany, Rote Sonne
20.04.23 Landshut, Germany, Die Zentrale zum Rieblwirt
21.04.23 Frankfurt, Germany, Elfer
22.07.23 Berlin, Germany, SO36
23.04.23 Cologne, Germany, MTC
25.04.23 Manchester, UK, Rebellion Club
26.04.23 Nottingham, UK, The Bodega
28.04.23 London, UK, 100 Club
30.04.23 Seissan, France, Welcome to Tziganie Festival
01.05.23 Rome, Italy, CSOA Forte Prenestino, Primo Maggio