As an avowed apocaloptimist, it just never seemed plausible to me that “Brexit”, backed by the 3 self-aggrandising hoarse-men, Bor(e)is, Far(right)a(d)ge and blow your own Trump(et), could possibly carry the day.
Mind you, I thought the same about the Scottish Independence Referendum in 2014, and Scottish Devolution in 1979…
When my wife Sarah, broke the news as I was readying the kids for school, I was overcome with that same, nauseous unease in the pit of my stomach, as I had in 2014 and 1979. I took some small solace, from the knowledge that perhaps now, some of my English and Welsh friends knew how it felt to be Scottish too…
Flippancy aside, make no mistake, the events of the past few days should be seen as a clarion call, for everyone, worldwide, to depose the professional politicking, self-serving, “effete arseholes”…
A dark cloud soon engulfed my mood, building to a storm at the realisation, that despite being a Scot in Northern Ireland, both countries having categorically voted to remain within the EU, little england (sic) had decisively thrown it’s toys out of the pram. The unthinkable had come to pass, I was by association, now branded a leper by 27 countries, free movement and association rendered impotent, at the stroke of an ill-advised X in a box.
I had been looking forward to spending Friday morning in convivial banter, with Brett Savage of Dead Sea Apes, for an interview to be aired on my, ‘chromaticism’s revolutions on the radio’ podcast, but I reluctantly called for a rain-cheque, to avoid tainting our chat with this pervasive murk.
Despondency became the order of the day, a refugee in an all consuming fugue state.
Then Nicola Orlandino, Editor-in-chief at ‘sonofmarketing’ messaged me, asking if I could suggest someone to comment on the effects of brexit on the music industry? Suddenly I had a purpose, there were many musicians, labels and event organisers I know first hand – I would ask them myself, and be more than happy to write something, was my immediate reply.
Just the other week, in relation to a review I wrote for the band Slow Faction, and their all too prophetic track, ‘Little England’, I wrote – “I’m not kidding myself that EU “politics” are much, if any, better than what passes for democracy on the shores of this sick man of Europe. My faith however does lie in a wider populace, unfettered by backwoods regionalism, and emboldened by the tantalising glimpse, of true liberté, égalité and fraternité…”, and further that, “I don’t see a country, mired in a monarchistic, Tory smash-and-grab mentality, having the balls to effect necessary, radical change”, and, “Our European cousins, proven in the crucible of meaningful revolution, have a pedigree which Jaz Coleman described, in reference to the Killing Joke track, ‘European Super State’, as follows, “The origins of the European Union are Jan Huss from Prague in the 1600s. His original idea is worth studying because it’s based on the arts, it’s based on spirituality. At that time Prague was a bastion of hermeticism and Rosicrucianism and alchemy against the Roman Catholic church, so it’s worth looking at our roots there”. The essence is there, all we have to do is save it, and ourselves, from the cancer of corruption.”
In an attempt to make some wider sense of the situation, I asked my musical brethren – given the universally embracive, pan-European / Global nature of underground / psychedelic music culture, as evidenced in the camaraderie of recent festivals, can you give me a sentence or two on your reaction, and how this will effect you?
Here are the replies I received…
As the owner of an online radio station, England leaving the European Union is bad news for me. Recent online radio streaming restrictions in the US, plus the devastatingly intrusive Visa problems for touring artists into the aforementioned country, are now a reality on this side of the pond. This is a game changer for us and could drastically hinder our ability to promote & share the underground, unsigned music scene as we know it. – Derek Mac Sheáinaí
Winston Churchill said, “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm” – to which I’d add, we’re now into the failure part, let’s work on the success part. UK leaving the EU shows me how thin the ice is, we’re walking on everyday, let’s be realistic and take nothing for granted. – François de Benedetti
For me, I worry about whether bands will need visas, will equipment be difficult to bring into Europe, how customs will see it, will a work permit be required or extra charges apply? Will the exchange rate be prohibitive? As you know, bands particularly small bands that do music out of love – generally tour on a shoe string budget. Will they just not tour? This could strangle the underground music scene. Stifle creativity. – Jason Fletcher
The EU and Europe are two totally different beasts. One is incredibly beautiful, the other one is still something of an ugly baby fighting all the wrong battles, without any central and communial sense of organisation. I expect there’s some changes coming in the near future that will bring us together in ways we don’t expect right now, and will hugely change the way of thinking and eventually politics. Politics always adapts last because it is run by ignorant rich white folks, who are scared of losing their material wealth and rusty culture. Brexit is just another example… – Hermann Blaupunkt
I think it is really hard to predict how it will effect us. It probably won’t effect us much in terms of travelling and playing gigs in the EU, but obviously no one can tell for sure yet. The biggest disappointment is on a social political and human level. Stupidity, ignorance and a dirty campaign was won today and it’s another piece in a frightening development of right wing populist parties in the UK and Europe. In these problematic times we should unify rather than split up and hide from the global issues that are threatening European society. Today we are taking a step in the wrong direction. Isolation won’t solve anything. – Philipp Jahn (Desert Mountain Tribe)
Shocked, bewildered, angry, upset. The list of adjectives is endless but it was distraught silence in our house on Friday morning. So much is still uncertain but on a practical level, as a musician it will affect how we tour in Europe with the potential of visas and borders. For my label, God Unknown, the records get pressed in the Czech Republic so this may push the costs up significantly. Then again, the falling value of the pound may mean more customers from outside the UK. But from a wider cultural and social perspective, voting Leave seems to signal a desire for a nostalgic return to some sort of lost Little England. Our creativity is strengthened by diversity, sharing and hearing music made on the back of different experiences. We must do everything we can not to narrow this. – Jason Stoll
I fear that it will make it harder for UK bands to tour in Europe and visa versa. – Casper Dee
We felt ashamed, as we guess all people aged 20-40 do this morning, when we heard the news. Frankly speaking we don’t know what it is going to happen but for sure music does not have borders, it never had. On a smaller scale touring in the UK might be a bit more complicated and buying cool gear made in UK will probably be a pain in the ass… We are big fans of British producers like Hudson and D*A*M. – Marco Campana
It’s obviously impossible to know what effect this will have generally across Europe. Personally I feel very sad that this has happened and it may have some effect on my financial position of course, as it will on many Brits living abroad. However the effect on our festival it’s hard to know. I guess it could go back to the old days of bands needing a carnet to get into Europe, but most countries have a dual tax agreement with the UK which for sure will not be effected, so as long as paperwork is in place, Certificate of Fiscal Residence etc, which you need for Portugal anyway, I don’t see it being much more complicated. Value of GBP against EUR could have some effect as European festivals are really great value for Brits, but prices down here will still remain attractive compared to Northern Europe, food, beer, accommodation etc. Having said all that, I just hope that sanity prevails and this never actually becomes a reality! – Nick Allport
I think, as someone who has a degree in History and maybe can be called a historian, we have to look at this projecting future with two eyes on the past. England has been for some centuries a cookery book for other countries to make recipes from, (even though english cuisine is rubbish, maybe it is not a good analogy). But basically England created modern capitalism with the Industrial Revolution, and gave Communism it’s basic ground and book (lets not forget that Marx and Engels wrote The Communist Manifesto in Manchester, where Engels owned a factory) . So, I think this is the begining of the end for the idea of a united Europe. The history of Europe is very rich but very bloody. So any idea of uniting Europe in political and economic ways, would last like half a century or maybe almost a century. Looking at the past it is not viable for all the countries involved. Some benefit with their central geographical situation and the strenght of their economy, while others struggle to breathe (like the countries in southern Europe). But lets not forget that the area that is now struggling was leading all the way some 5 centuries ago, not just European speaking but globally. So the history of Europe like the story of the whole planet its all about cicles. This cicle is ending, another will start. Maybe there is gonna be a war in the middle, in Europe, there is always wars in the middle. Ask Germany for example. This was a historical day and will be studied during the next, maybe, century. I will tend not to take part of any opinion as I want to look at this event from the outside. Very curious to whats gonna happen next in European Union. How many years until the total collapse? – João Pimenta
This result is a bad news. Being able to export our productions is crucial for us and our artists. Specifically, starting today, there might be some issues regarding some import-export taxes. This could increase the buying cost of an album and, therefore, lower its selling rate. Moreover, “brexit” might hamper the planning of EU-UK band tours, making it more difficult to get a visa, increasing transportation and border crossing costs, and so on. In sum, this decision will lower the optimal development of emerging artists. – Greg Noël
As always, I dream about a world without borders or where borders are a sign of respect for difference and not exclusion. One of the biggest fails of the EU is it’s persistency in failing to acknowledge regional production capabilities and necessities. It’s easy to project mathematical models at a macro economical scale, behind a desk, but anyone with a two inch forehead would agree that restricting fishing in a fishing country, will most likely destroy the local economy and throw that region in a downward spiral. If you look at the most recent paths of the EU, it is trying to work as a federal state. To do so in other places such as Brazil and the USA, our ancestors made tabula rasa on those continents. In Europe you travel 100kms and you’re already listening to another language. Respect and awareness are of the essence here. The EU hasn’t excelled in the business proposals it has made to it’s members. When a business is bad for you, you say no. Jumping ship seems too hasty, I thought we were in this together. Britain has a strong currency, and with the Commonwealth there is still a lot of room to maneuvre imports/exports wise. I’m a bit aprehensive with all this, in my life time, most politicians and political decisions have consistently disappointed me. Same with most of people’s decisions in referendums. As an end note and as far as I know, one of the biggest beneficiaries of EU’s agricultural subsidy policy is the royal family. Subsidies are given regarding the amount of land you own and not what you produce. So I’m pretty curious, how will they make their income now? – Pedro Pestana
So angry and sad at the moment. We have lost so much. People need to open their eyes and see the real problems. There are no immigrants stealing our jobs and destorying our country. The real problem is this Tory government . The homeless the are piling up on the streets. The lack of funding in mental health, which has caused so much pain and anger on our doorsteps, and in other people’s lives. Goodbye NHS goodbye workers rights, goodbye England. – Peter J Smyth
Still very much in a state of shock, feel quite numb! There are many, many reasons why the result of the vote is so bad for the people in this country and the people of Europe. But how does it effect Rocket? Well we don’t fully know yet, but we know it will put the price of pressing vinyl up. We manufacture on the mainland so there will be more customs expenses/paperwork, we will need to get our records back into the country. Also, the weak pound will obviously put all the prices up which means we will have to charge more for our albums, and unlike many labels, we try and keep our prices reasonable as we don’t want to rip-off our customers. Then there are touring bands, it could mean UK bands will need to pay for work visas, a carnet and have many hoops to jump through to tour Europe. We also work with a lot of European bands so they will need to pay for visas/carnet etc to play UK too. There is also the copyright rules, they at present are all run by the EU, so will they need to be rewritten? What will happen? Like I said, it is still to early to say what is going to happen and the repercussions could be far greater than just the impact on the music industry… so time will tell, it is just hard to find anything positive about what has happened!! – Chris Reeder
I’m just speechless. What is happening everywhere in the world? I think it’s making some things more complicated for me: Buying records in the UK (I think, at least some custom duties?), playing gigs (maybe, don’t know). In this time we are living, leaving the european community is just a bad and stupid sign. Bad for people from Britain also, not only for foreigners! – Dave Schmidt
Personally, I feel the main problem is that most countries have not had a referendum concerning the integration in the EU to begin with. This debate had little or no importance in my country for example, and it should have happened. Anyway, independent underground music will continue to prosper with or without the UK in the EU. I mean, the UK psych music community has gone through worse events, and there are bigger threats to their sustainability, such as streaming music channels and the tax free digital economy. In the end, I just hope that Brexit may foster reforms within the EU governance and make us all better off. Meanwhile, I honestly do not foresee any great threats to UK bands mobility, professional mobility is highly valued and crucial for businesses to succeed, and all policy makers know that. But this is all speculation, the thruth is that it all comes down to the next 2 years of intense negotiations. Only then will we know what Brexit really entails. – Luis Santos
The results of the British referendum brought the unbearable feeling of ‘falling apart’ upon me yesterday morning. To my surprise, I started sobbing, inconsolable and could not stop crying. I wondered if it was normal to have such an emotional reaction. I could not believe the results were real. I felt exactly like back then in the early nineties, before the war in my country, that haunting feeling of danger approaching. Your loved ones are there and you are here and there is nothing you could do. The rise of right wing nationalist populism is never a good sign. The idea of ‘Great’ whichever state is never a good idea and the combination of both already proved deadly in my life. I remember those nationalist voices screaming around me, back then in the early nineties, when my native country Yugoslavia fell apart. I remember how uneducated and ignorant masses believed the promises of a better future if the nation goes it’s own way. And it brought only war, terror and horrible atrocities. 50,000 people died. And EU for me means no such war is ever again possible. It means for me working together, across the borders, in a way that attacking your neighbor would be like attacking yourself. There is this Turk loanword in Croatian and in Serbian, that the Ottomans gave to Europe through the Balkans and that means neighbourliness, the spirit of living next door convivially, sharing joys and sorrows however the tides of history and politics turn. ‘Komshiluk’ is the highest and humblest form of civility. And when ‘Komshiluk’ breaks down, everything breaks down. – Kristina Mavar
It’s difficult to say exactly how the UK’s EU departure will affect us until the new agreements have been made but it certainly won’t be making life any easier. In the past we’ve been able to bring UK based bands over for one-off gigs, but with extra money now needed for visas and associated taxes this will become less viable. It’s also important to remember that this will not just apply to English bands visiting Ireland but also for artists based in Northern Ireland that are looking to play gigs across the border. We’re situated about a 20 minute drive from the border and Derry, a border that has transformed from an intimidating army and customs check point to nothing more than an imaginary line existing only on maps over the last decade thanks to the Peace Process and the EU, reinstating that border and will certainly stop audiences moving from Derry to Letterkenny, and visa versa, with the ease we’ve enjoyed and built on in recent times. – Jeremy Fitz Howard
We’re living in strange days. I mean worldwide. More and more people, lead by uncouth politicians of all sorts, think it’s good to build new walls and boundaries to protect their own home, job or family from someone, or something, a ‘stranger’ in some way. That’s insane, of course. Basically I consider what occurred last 24th June in the U.K. as something like a big step backwards in the global historical progress. Today’s world needs blending, not islands. – Nicola Giunta/LAY LLAMAS
With no pressing plants in the UK I am worried for all small/independant run labels and how this will affect us all with import duty. For bands that operate at this level – the cost of touring Europe is already high with many able to do this through sleeping on friends floors – The costs of getting and total hassle of getting a visa for every country you want to visit on tour… Will smaller bands from the UK be able to afford to tour mainland Europe anymore? At a time when we need to bring down barriers I am truly saddened by Brexit and what it could mean… – Dave Cambridge
Nationalism, xenophobia, racism, Ignorance, stupidity WON! I’m scared! It’s unacceptable in 2016! I moved to London to build and run my business, I’m working in the creative industries, mainly with artists/bands/labels. London/UK gave me the opportunity to do it, and start to achieve my goals. And Now? Brexit will affect the British and EU economy, immigration policy, and lots more, it will totally change the music and creative industries as well. And that will create serious problems for everyone working in these disciplines. I guess I won’t be able to run my business in/from London anymore… But at the moment, who knows? Our life is a big question mark! That’s the real problem! – Roberto Pinky Pasolli
Recent events have left me confused and with an overall feeling of dread. Practically speaking, it has been handled abysmally. There seems to be absolutely no contingency for what would happen if Britain did leave the EU, most bizarrely even from the side who had pushed for that outcome. What this will mean for musicians throughout the EU is anybody’s guess, precisely because there seems to be no coherent plan for what to do next. It seems that we will be at the mercy of the negotiating table, playing an exceptionally weak hand. Will there be any contingency for free movement of musicians throughout Europe? The experience of European musicians touring the US seem to point to it being so impractical, it’s barely worth it. Will that be the case in Europe, if there is endless bureaucracy to deal with (visas etc)? With vinyl being so much in demand, how will this effect record companies? The only pressing plants are in the Czech Republic and France. Will import duty make it prohibitively expensive and throttle the burgeoning small label scene? Will the cost of postage rise to facilitate import checks? This will also have a disastrous effect on record labels, record shops and bands who market their own products directly. The cost of mail from the EU to the US is prohibitively expensive, being in the ludicrous position of being pretty much as expensive as the record itself. These are just a few practical considerations that there seems to be no answer to. In a wider sense, the whole sorry EU saga has done damage which will reverberate for years to come. As with virtually anything now, rational conversation was given no look in at all, so the terms of the debate were exclusively venal and unpleasant, stirring forces that are clearly beyond any kind of political control. Our window on the world, Facebook has been a very grim place to be recently, full of unpleasant and reactionary opinion. The little Englanders have been empowered, gloating as they use this barely related topic as a vehicle to fire off their moronic Islamophobic delusions. Conversely, the posturing of liberals has shown some ugly classist behaviour and shrill histrionics about people who they feel shouldn’t be allowed to express their views. It has really brought out the worst in us. – Brett Savage
this is what happens when your grandparents hate foreigners more than they love their grandchildren – John McKendrick
My inherent principle has always been Anarchist, the core belief that self-governing, non-hierarchical, free association is intrinsically fair and just, without flags, borders, gods or masters – a collective society based on creativity, cooperation, and mutual respect.
The seeds of such a post-structuralist society appear to be germinating in Iceland, where the real criminals at work here, behind the scenes banksters and corporate cronyism – openly financing career politicians, have been exposed for the misfeasance they truly are.
The Killing Joke track mentioned above, ‘European Super State’ contains the line, “I’m in a European super state, Every citizen required to debate”. This for me is the crux of the matter – everyone must have an obligation to debate, to be included in and be aware of all material facts. You cannot acquiesce from this responsibility, any more than you can from breathing.
John Pilger, as eloquently as ever, among others have applauded the result as a damning indictment, saying that, “millions of ordinary people refused to be bullied, intimidated and dismissed with open contempt”. This is a rhetoric I long to see applied to the bureaucrats in Brussels, but I fear not one, that a thumbs up for the likes of Johnson, Farage, Gove, Duncan-Smith et al, will have any material effect on.
A referendum or any election, like the farce unfolding in the US, founded on half-truths and downright lies, devoid of universal participation, is but a poor substitute for democracy. As long as we the people, allow this system which rewards greed and deceit, to prevail, we have no one to blame but ourselves, or as the arch-neoliberalist Joseph de Maistre put it, “every nation gets the government it deserves”…