I recently had a pleasure to bring you guys the exclusive premiere of THE BRIDGE’s “No Spirits, No Hearts”! This Belgrade-based melodic hardcore band featured Rajko, who played the well-known Serbian punk band HITMAN! I was very lucky to have the opportunity to talk to him about his new band and the Balkan legend.
Thanks for taking this interview! How are you, Rajko? Has 2013 been pleasant for you so far? [smiles]
Hey there, thanks for the interview as well, I have to say that I admire all the effort and work you put in IDIOTEQ, and it’s a privilege to work on this interview. On personal level this year haven’t exactly started as I planned, but we won’t talk about that here [smiles]. On the other hand, music wise, this really looks like promising year. Our debut 7˝ just got our couple weeks ago on Farewell records, we played some amazing shows, and we are booked for some even better. Also we are entering studio to record four new songs, two of them will be released on a split 7˝with MY TURN from Greece on a Goodwill records, and other two we will put as separate EP for a free download. SO, as I already said, this year started really well for us.
Amazing. How did you guys team up with MY TURN for this release?
We actually never met or knew each other before the Xmass fest in Sofia (Bulgaria) last December, where we played among some other amazing bands. After that Apostolis and myself got in touch, talked about it … and thing just happened. We talked about this for one day only, and we kind a had same vibes about this split. You know that feeling when you know exactly same moment, that this is the right thing, and that you have to do it, something like a love on first sight [laughs]! We got in touch with guys and girls from Goodwill … and here it is, we are working on a split.
Nice. I was actually about to ask you about that party. How was the party anyway? How was NO TURNING BACK? [smiles]
Xmass fest is a festival with very long tradition, one of the biggest in our part of the world. This was first time for us to play there, THE BRIDGE were supposed to play in Sofia before festival as a support to INTEGRITY, but snowstorm stopped us that time. This time were unstoppable! [laughs] Honestly we didn’t expect too much from that show, as our debut 7˝ wasn’t still out, we never played there before, and kids there never had a chance to hear our songs, but … IT WAS AMAZING!!! Crowd really welcomed us warm, everyone were dancing and having fun. All the bands were amazing, just a shame the venue was more or less empty for the first couple of bands. Hmmm … are you serious about NO TURNING BACK? [laughs] Definitely the hardest working band in the world … like it or not, they deserve only respect, HUGE respect! Amazing guys, really honest about their work, and real friends! And of course they sound as thunder!
Glad we have a similar opinion about ‘em. I’m conducting an interview with them as we speak [smiles].
Anyway, is Goodwill the only way to get your split?
Seriously? Tell them whole BRIDGE says hi and we already miss them! [smiles] OK here’s the fact for you. NTB should’ve been couriers for THE BRIDGE, they were supposed to bring us the record to Xmass fest from Farewell HQ, but unfortunately records weren’t done by that time. I think it’s too early to talk about split, what I mean, the release date is late spring/early summer, we still haven’t recorded songs. We are entering studio first week of March. What I can tell you now, that we are going to record four songs, two of them will be on split with MY TURN, other two will be separate EP, that we will put on a free download. This is the information I can tell you right now, but of course, we will keep you updated! [smiles]
Alright. Got it [smiles]. So… apart from “Between” 7’’, do you have any more songs recorded by now?
No … actually we have two more demos, but they are recorded in practice room, so they are just for band … you know, to listen to songs, and discuss about them and to improve them. SO by far we only have ˝…between˝. Another fact, when we recorded EP, before we even knew that we gonna have 7˝on Farewell we have released a CD with all 6 songs, the CD is sold out and we don’t think we gonna repress it again. On a 7˝ there are 4 songs, and CD had 6 + little bonus, a cover … guys dig the IDIOTEQ and you just might get to hear that hidden song! [laughs]
Yeah, man, our recent exclusive feature turned out amazing. Thank you for that!
Tell me… how did you even come with the idea to form this band? Please share a little bit about THE BRIDGE’s early days.
Thank you! For all the support and hard work you do! I believe that everyone who does a web zine, portal, site, book a show, or just come to a show and support a band, is as much as important as a band itself. If there wasn’t for you guys, most of the young bands would never stand a chance. When I was a kid, there wasn’t an internet, good old letter was the only way of information to me. Today there is so many bands, if there wasn’t for internet who would have a chance to hear everything he wants. I am old fashioned, and I still enjoy the thrill of waiting a letter or a package with new records inside, on the other hand, with internet is so much easier. We can all read about band, stream or download, and in the end if you like, you can get yourself a record. Now let’s get back to a subject … early days … Alex (singer) & me were in HITMAN, and we already talked about working on a project or a new band. Same time, Bogdan, Zeka & Marko just stopped with their old band JAIN, and they were looking for a singer and other guitarist, and we kind a ended up having rehearsals and working on songs. After we did couple of rehearsals, we all agreed that this line up, and songs we are putting together are just what we are, they are part of us, and we decided to go on. We did couple a shows, recorded ˝… between˝, and rest is, well it wil be history [smiles]. The name THE BRIDGE, came as a direct answer to who we are … we made a bridges between ourselves in a band, and we really think that connecting and making bridges is what everyone should do, not just in scene, but in a world on a global level. There’s a quote on our record by Nobel prize winner Ivo Andric that says a lot about us … and idea behind us!
You mention HITMAN. What other projects were/are members of THE BRIDGE involved in?
Ohhh the list would be to long, so I am going to mention just a few of them … Alex & me were in HITMAN, Alex also had a band before called DEFINITE CHOICE, I was in MOB LAW and MEMBER OF THE FAMILY, Marko & Zeka they played in DEADRISE, and along with Bogdan in JAIN … and the list would be too long if I would mention every single band. Nowadays, all members of THE BRIDGE focused all their energy and ideas just for THE BRIDGE, but that doesn’t mean we won’t have any other projects in future. Marko is also working with O-ruk collective, they are booking shows, running a distro, web site. Alex is also booking shows here in our home town … that’s about it. I used to run a distro and fanzine back in a days, but since I am full time father to two kids, it’s kind a hard to work everything out.
What does THE BRIDGE stand for? Do you have a manifesto or a certain message to spread out?
Hardcore/punk music without message is just another music trend in ocean of today’s music industry! I wouldn’t say we have any manifesto, or any certain message we stand for, but we pay a lot of attention on our lyrics. What I want to say we are not SxE, or political or anti this-that band, as every member has own views on subjects. What we have in common and what will never ever change is EQUALITY & RESPECT by any means!!! Between people, animals or nature in general.
Are SOME of you straight edge, vegetarian and/or vegan?
I was waiting for this question [laughs], no one in a band is SxE, but we are all very supportive as a matter of fact last year we played on Edge day here in Serbia. Also only one of us is vegetarian. But I can speak only for myself about this subjects, as I believe both SxE and vegetarianism/veganism is something really personal. Although it may sound ironic and hypocritically we stand strong against any kind of animal cruelty! On personal level, I think that being a SxE must come from inside, it’s an attitude, not a fashion trend. In my eyes lot of kids or even matures that call themselves SxE doesn’t even have a clue what does two simple words mean.
Interesting. I don’t think any non-straight edge band would be allowed to play a sXe fest in Poland [laughs]. Is it a strong movement in your area?
Well don’t you think that’s a little bit ignorant??? Aren’t we part of the same scene, SxE or not??? That’s what I was talking about earlier, EQUALITY & RESPECT! Back in ’90s SxE was really taking a full step over here, lot of bands, fanzines, distros and everything, but nowadays, everything is based on individuals. I am trying to think of one 100% SxE band/distro or anything, but nothing comes to my mind. As I said, there are individuals who belong to the scene, and they take equal part as everyone else, but SxE movement in general here is on hiatus. There was a projection of Edge the Movie recently with tribune on that subject, and there were more non-SxE kids than SxE. But for me that’s OK, let’s share and discuss things we don’t have in common, let’s learn from each other, isn’t that an essence of hardcore, punk or straight edge? That’s how i see things. For me it doesn’t matter if someone’s punk/skinhead (sharp of course) / thrasher / hardcore as long as we can’t talk, discuss and share our experiences. That’s how the scene develop and grow in right way. Don’t separate and divide, don’t put labels!
Yeah, man, I’m totally on your side on this. I’m laughing my ass off because of so many clans trying build hermetic walls around them. That’s bullshit.
So I guess this is one of the weakest things about current state of music scenes, right?
Lot of other things influenced scene. Back in a days before youtube, bandcamp and sites like that, you had to go to a show and check a band, or you had to write a letter to ask for and old fashioned demo tape. Nowadays kids have everything on a one click, everything served for consumption, they don’t have to move a thing, and that sucks! They will never experience joy of waiting to see a band live, or a postman with envelopes full of demos. We were talking about NTB earlier, I still remember when postmen brought me their first demo + couple more tapes from that period. I was listening those tapes for days, I didn’t had internet to download and listen something else. But for me that was amazing, I knew that next month postman will come again [smiles]. Another thing that bothers me the most, is that today’s kids forgot where everything started, they never heard of MINOR THREAT, BLACK FLAG or BAD BRAINS, I can understand they don’t like that old school sound, but at least you can read their lyrics, read an interviews, and learn about the roots of hardcore/punk. But no, they are so stubborn, they don’t care. So today there are lot of things that separate ONE scene in to many fractions. That’s what a THE BRIDGE is all about, let’s make bridges between ourselves, don’t divide!
That’s why I’m into my “Recall” series of posts that remind the good old times. [smiles.
Ok, Sir. What are your touring plans for the coming weeks and months? [smiles]
We have couple shows booked for February, and we are really proud of two of them. One is in Macedonia, we’ll be playing on the Diehard Winter Fest, this one is organized by the guys you recently interviewed and you will premier their video, HARDFACED [smiles]. Another one is also a festival here in Serbia, and it’s called This Station Is Non-operational, and it’s about raising awareness about kids with cystic fibrosis. We are also talking with guys from MY TURN to make a little Balkan tour (Serbia, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Greece and maybe Turkey), and we are working on our first Euro tour, that will probably happen in May. So, that would be about all … of course, if there’s anyone who’s willing to book us, please feel free, we will be more then willing to play [smiles].
What about touring overseas? Do you have such a goal with this band?
Hmmmm … well of course [smiles]. But at this moment I think that is like mission impossible. But who knows, might happen one day. Asia is really at the top right now, guys there do an amazing job with booking bands from Europe and States. For now we will stay focused on Europe, we are still youngsters in a scene and we need to work our ass off before we can think of overseas [laughs].
[smiles] Alright. Let’s go back to HITMAN for a while. The final show took place in Belgrade on May 19th, 2012, right? How was it?
It’s like … hmmm, 8-9 months since that show, and I still feel like it happened yesterday! Go figure! [smiles]. If you ask me that’s the best show I’ve ever been to, and I am trying to look from the eye of a someone who witnessed that, not from the point that I was playing! We are very proud of that last show. You know that guys & girls from Germany, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Bosnia, every part of Serbia came to see and witness last HITMAN’s job! The venue we picked for that last show turned out to be small … we needed a place for at least 100-150 people more. That show reunited people from different generations, different fractures od scene, and everyone just had fun, that was what HITMAN was about. Some of the kids that were there were younger of the band, dad’s brought their kids, and for me that’s the core of music we play and message we try to express. I am repeating myself constantly, but EQUALITY & RESPECT before anything. I really hope and wish that THE BRIDGE can walk in same shoes HITMAN did, but on the other hand I know that’s a long walk, and we have to work hard!
HITMAN was formed back in 1994! Why did you guys decided to split up? How tough was that decision?
Although it was a tough and hardest decision to make, it was inevitable. Drummer who was in a band, as a matter of fact, everyone else was there except me since the first day, had, and still has some major health issues. So it was either to play with another member, which was unacceptable, or to play a farewell show. Easy decision [laughs]. Just kidding, it wasn’t easy at all! Yeah band started in 1994, and played non-stop all those years. Three of the four original members played since first till last day … which is, you have to admit, amazing! You can count on one hand bands that had just one line up change in so many years. I think that was a main reason, HITMAN played for so long, and if this didn’t happen to or drummer we would be still playing. Even now i don’t feel sad HITMAN don’t play anymore, as a matter of fact I feel really happy and fulfilled I’ve been part of it. HITMAN gave me opportunity to express myself, to meet people all around the world, and become a brother with 3 other amazing guys!
What were some of the most amazing things you’ve done and achieved together? Did you get much attention from the overseas scenes?
Touring and meeting new people, getting to know new cultures, aren’t those the biggest achievements one band can get? If you ask me, that’s it! You know we come from a small country on Balkan peninsula, and basically all someone know about Serbia, is war and other BS. So it is always interesting to speak with people, and get them to know you better, better then media is showing. As sad as it is, even today hardcore/punk scene is full of prejudice about place we come from. On personal level I am honored and happy I had a chance to share stage with bands that made a big influence on me, and impact my life a lot … SUICIDAL TENDENCIES, NAPALM DEATH, YOUTH OF TODAY, to name few. I wouldn’t say we had some big coverage overseas. It’s hard for European bands, especially for bands that comes from this part of the world, to make their way overseas, at least that’s how i feel about it. XStuck In A PastX had a article about us, and did an interview … that’s the last thing I can remember … but it wasn’t too much anyway.
Yeah, I know the interview very well [smiles].
How has your local punk scene changed throughout the years?
Of course it did. It would be a sad if it didn’t. On the other hand, I am sad it didn’t changed the way I was looking for. But that’s only me, probably today’s kids see my generation, and generations before me, as stubborn old grumblers [laughs]. We talked about internet revolution before, and somehow I feel kids have lost in cyber space, and forgot about some of the most valuable things about punk/hardcore, like friendship, unity, respect, DIY philosophy. You don’t have to go out with your ˝crew˝ sit in a park or in front of the club and chat, because you have a chat rooms now. You are in your own safe little kingdom, and nothing and no one can touch you there. Get the fuck out, where everything started, on a streets! If we talk music wise … oh, it changed a lot, just like everywhere in the world, following the trends [smiles]. Just kidding of course. Well, it’s natural it evolved, I mean it would be boring if everything is like 20+ years ago, 3 chord riffs and chugga-chugga. And I love that evolution, more different styles, something more interesting, something less, but at least you have a diversity, and that’s beautiful as long as the idea behind it is the same!
And the idea is…? [smiles]
FUN, lot’s of it! [laughs] Ideas … well, I think that’s the personal issue of every individual, it’s not something we share in common. We can like the same music, but it doesn’t necessary means we share same ideas. And that’s the beauty of hardcore/punk, let’s get together, share opinions, discuss, learn from each other and evolve! After all we all came from different backgrounds, social, culture, racial roots. So if you ask me, as long as the idea is positive, we respect each other and our differences, as long as we see each other equal, the idea is PERFECT!
Do many people engage in your local scene? Are there many zines, labels, bookings, etc?
There’s lot of kids, giving all the effort to do something, but honestly almost every effort ends up as a failure. People here usually don’t care about someone’s work to book a band, make a ‘zine or do something productive. It’s so sad, but it’s also a fact! Last night we had a band from Germany, very active, playing lot of shows everywhere + a local support that plays for 10+ years and 30 kids showed up, and at least third of those kids travel couple hours to see a show! So clear mathematic, there was 30 kids, third of that were from out of town. C’mon, Belgrade has population almost 2 mil and 20 kids showed up! So disappointing! You know it’s so sad when you see a band playing in front of 30 kids in a venue for 300. But I think the situation is more or less the same everywhere in the world. This music is not for majorities, and will never be, but at least the minority could involve a little bit more and support those few individuals that try to make a change!
Yeah, but I guess it’s not always like that, right? What amazing local gigs do you remember?
Of course it wasn’t. Best period here was late ’90s and early ’00, at least that’s my opinion. If you ask me about most amazing show I would say without doubt last HITMAN [laughs]. And I am saying this with the eyes of spectator, not as someone who took part of it. Every ˝big˝ act (AGNOSTIC FRONT, SICK OF IT ALL, MADBALL, H2O) that plays here, has amazing show, but those kind of shows aren’t really regular. Another amazing show in recent history was TAKE OFFENSE, DEATH BEFORE DISHONOR & TERROR on their last Euro tour, wow, that was amazing. Lot of kids showed up (of course it could’ve been even more), everyone dancing, singing along and having fun. Bulgaria’s LAST HOPE‘s every show here is a fun one to watch, but they are kind a locals [smiles].
Ok, man. So what’s next for THE BRIDGE? Are there any chances for the HITMAN reunion? [smiles] Do you even consider it?
Right now, we are working on new songs, for an upcoming split 7˝ and we have couple shows booked for February/March. After that we’ll probably take a short brake, and work on new songs for full length LP. Those are plans, we’ll see what will happen. We are also working on Euro tour, and one smaller tour with MY TURN. You’ll be informed one way or another [smiles].
I don’t think HITMAN will play any shows. We had our farewell show, for us that means that that was the end. HITMAN left a mark on local scene, and perhaps Euro scene, and we all feel very proud of it, 18 years is a long time period, we worked hard, played everywhere possible and no it’s time for some other bands to continue … THE BRIDGE is one of those bands.
What’s your opinion on reunions in general? There’s so much hatred around tchem [laughs]. I mean, soooo many people gave up on VERSE, for instance, because of their coming back. What’s lame and what’s cool about bands’ resurrections?
I am not sure about this. As much as I would love o see some bands playing a show, because I never had a chance before, either I was too young or they never played here, that much I feel that some bands make reunions from completely wrong reasons. I am not really sure about VERSE, I haven’t followed their work that much, but seeing what is happening with BLACK (FLAG) leaves a bitter taste. And I really hope, none of those versions of one of the most iconic bands will play. I am really not sure about this. Sometimes it’s just better to leave everything where it stopped, and let the future do it’s part … for better or worst.
Damn right, bro. The BLACK FLAG double reunion is kinda silly.
Alright, Rajko. Tell me, how has punk rock and hardcore punk changed your life?
Amazing thing about HC/punk is that unlike any other music style/gender, lyrics and message means even more than music itself. So I would say that it influenced and changed my life a lot. It helped me to grow up in a person I am, it helped me run out of shadows of society values and dogmas, it helped me to use my head, instead of what I am served. What I just said might sound as a worn out phrase/cliche but that’s the fact, and I am really proud of it.
Will you ever stop participating? What’s the minimum of your engagement in the punk scene you will reach in the future?
I can’t say that, time will tell. But even when I quit playing, if that happens [laughs], I’ll be doing something else, that’s for sure. In my eyes it doesn’t make you a ˝bigger/better˝ person if you do this or that, what counts is if you do it for your own believes and from your heart. So I don’t know what is the minimum as I never though that way. Sometimes those ˝minimum˝ things are those that matters the most. I consider myself to be a hardcore for life, as for me that’s the philosophy, that’s my religion, my nationality, my everything. SO there’s no minimum and maximum, just plain and simple that’s my life, and I don’t know for any other, and I would never change it!
Yeah, but you know.. a life situation can force you to shrink your activities within hardcore and focus more on family and stuff like that, don’t you think?
Of course, I have a family, wife, two kids, bills to pay and all that stuff … in my case, I have supportive family, full of understanding. If you want and feel doing something, you can always find time for everything. You know between answering your questions, I gave my kids dinner, I bath the little one, dress them for a sleep, and I was talking to you. So everything is possible if you really are into it. I had a situations in my life when I had to give 100% of myself to family, but when situations are solved, I am back in a game. You just need to make compromises and everything can work out. Also, I can not say that my whole life will work that way, I might end up in situation, I will have to dedicate all my time to some other things other then hardcore, but I will always carry it with me, and I will always come back. If I have been working whole day, and I haven’t spent enough time with my son for example, I will take him to a band rehearsal or to a show, to make up for him. And both of us enjoy.
Here’s a photo of my son & me selling a tickets for the last HITMAN show.
Wow. I’m touched. Really, that’s awesome you get so much support from your family. That’s what it really is, huh?
Rajko! What else? Would you like to add something more before we end?
Whatever you do in your life, not just music wise, most important thing is that you have support of your family, without that support everything is worthless and Thank you! For all the support and hard work you do! I believe that everyone who does a web zine, portal, site, book a show, or just come to a show and support a band, is as much as important as a band itself. If there wasn’t for you guys, most of the young bands would never stand a chance. When I was a kid, there wasn’t an internet, good old letter was the only way of information to me. Today there is so many bands, if there wasn’t for internet who would have a chance to hear everything he wants. I am old fashioned, and I still enjoy the thrill of waiting a letter or a package with new records inside, on the other hand, with internet is so much easier. We can all read about band, stream or download, and in the end if you like, you can get yourself a record. Now let’s get back to a subject … early days … Alex (singer) pointless. What else to add … this was a long chat, and I am not really sure anyone will have enough patience to read everything I babbled [laughs]. Anyway, thanks so much for this interview, it was amazing. Once again I’ll repeat myself RESPECT & EQUALITY above all! Peace out!
I can’t even remember everything we were talking about, but I really hope this was good interview [smiles].
Thank YOU so much! Because of people like you, there’s hope. I really wish we met up. Thank you so much for your time and send my love to your family.