An interview with Bafabegiya

COLLECTIVE: Greetings, Bafabegiya. Kindly let us know who you are, let us know what part you play in the band and anything else about yourselves that you think we may be interested to learn. How did the band start and how has it evolved over time?

B: Bafabegiya consists of Tim Osipenko on bass, Jawsh Hageman on drums, Justin Morales on guitar, and Joe Ferguson does the vocals. We are all very different and passionate individuals who have a lot of love for DIY culture. We have all been in and are a part of several other musical projects in the Reno DIY scene including Crucial Attack, Dog Assassin, Rad Times, Disconnect, This Computer Kills, Both Blind, No Gods No Girlfriends, and a handful of others. The band started about 3 or 4 years ago after This Computer Kills (Jawsh) broke up, and Crucial Attack (Joe) went on a long hiatus. I (Joe) asked Jawsh if he wanted to start a HC punk band and he was into it and he asked Justin if he wanted to play some tunes. We asked our friend James to play bass in the band, and he did so for the first few shows, and I think he may even be on the split demo tape with Dog Assassin that we did. James quit and we asked Tim (Dog Assassin) to join. That has been the lineup ever since. The sound I think has changed quite a bit since we began writing music. We started out playing some fairly straight forward HC punk tunes akin to Minor Threat or 7 Seconds, but we progressed quickly and started writing some more intricate and different stuff pretty soon thereafter.

COLLECTIVE: What the heck is a Bafabegiya? It sounds like something that might’ve crawled out of some Norse folktale or something…

B: Bafabegiya literally means “Those Who Die Dancing” in Xhosa, a language from South Africa. During the reign of white apartheid in South Africa, non-white folks and their supporters began to rebel in many significant ways. The main organization of resistance in South Africa during apartheid was the ANC (African National Congress), who continue to have significant political power there today. During the beginning of the resistance, there was a group of radicals who wanted to take a more direct-action style approach to dismantling the racist power structure that existed there at the time. They were called Bafabegiya, and they advocated for sabotage and bombings while the ANC staged boycotts and walk-outs. While both types of actions were important in taking out the racist regime (at least symbolically) in South Africa, it should be noted that the course of action that a person or group takes to rectify social injustice should be appropriate for the situation. Today I see a lot of people burning candles and singing songs in front of federal buildings to protest the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, or maybe once in a while they will march in the streets and make a symbolic gesture through art to “stop the war” or something of that nature. They take this course of action while literally thousands of innocent men and women and children are ravaged by the weapons of mass destruction that their tax dollars go to purchase. I unfortunately don’t see a lot of people taking real direct action to stop and injustices in the world. There are some, and they are those who die dancing.

COLLECTIVE: You guys have a somewhat odd sound (for this day and age, anyway…) that I always end up describing somewhat hamfistedly. There seems to be a crust influence at work but also something more akin to what a lot of early-to-mid 90s hardcore bands (like, say, Born Against or Iconoclast) were doing. Is there any particular “sound” you’re aiming for? How do you think the band fits in with the current hardcore topography?

B: As a band, I don’t think we have ever really tried to fit into any specific musical genre box or tried to categorize ourselves. We have never thought “hey lets try to sound like this or that.” We just write the music that we write, and it comes out however it does. We have a lot of very different musical interests and influences, and I think that our sound reflects a lot of that diversity. So, I would say that we are not trying to aim for any specific sound, per se, we are just a band playing heartfelt music with passion and drive. People have compared us to bands like Econochrist, Born Against, and even Tragedy, but I think we maintain a pretty unique sound. As for the current HC topography, I’m not really sure that we fit in at all. There aren’t many bands out there that sound like us, and we don’t really fit in, at least musically, to current HC trends, as far as I see it. We have played with a lot of different bands and in a lot of different scenes, and we get different reactions everywhere we go. It just depends. We like playing and touring with bands that we get along with, and we have toured with a lot of Spacement Records bands like Arabella, Disconnect, Greyskull, and Acts of Sedition. I think we get the best response in the more active and politically concerned scenes because we talk a lot about issues that our lyrics deal with. I like to talk in between songs about what the different songs are about and engage the crowd in discourse before and after we play. We always bring a zine distro and usually have books for sale in addition to the records and things that we sell. So, that is one thing about us that in a lot of ways, sets us apart from a lot of other bands touring in the DIY circuit, we always have info and are always willing to talk about things that are going on in our lives. It’s important to us to make sure that DIY HC punk is more than just music. It’s community building, communication, and friendship. Meeting kids, and making sure that we are supporting each other in our struggles.

COLLECTIVE: Like the music, Bafabegiya’s lyrics are smart and to the point. However, they tend to veer schizophrenically between notes on personal empowerment or making life better for oneself and more bitter tirades on politics or the various stupidities of humankind. How do you balance these two perspectives and not let one override the other? Does the type of song you write depend on what side of the bed you get out of in the morning?

B: The lyrics that I write usually deal with something that I have been thinking about recently or that I have been learning about or reading about or talking about in my daily life. I don’t come to practice with lyrics or anything like that or even decide what a song is going to be about ahead of time. I’ll usually listen to a song that the rest of the band is writing and practicing and then start thinking about what I want to write about based on how the music is making me feel and what I’ve been thinking about recently or what has been going on in my life. I have never really given much thought to balancing personal lyrics with more political lyrics or anything like that as the lyrics have always just sorta come based on the circumstances at the time. They’re all personal for me as they’re all topics that I feel are important and have direct relevance to my life. They are also political because those are usually just the things that I am thinking about and discussing with friends and family and colleagues. I think that in a lot of ways people here have really lost the ability to engage in civil discourse and communicate with one another. Our society is almost completely obsessed with the spectacle that the media has become and we’ve lost a lot of what makes us human. This goes across the board, from the corporate media convincing us that we should purchase unnecessary things through to kids spending all their time on Myspace worrying about how many virtual friends they have, rather than thinking about building real relationships with real people, be it within the scene, their communities or elsewhere. I think that if more of that discourse or those ideas come across through music in a DIY type environment, that we can begin to transform society into something that is a bit more conducive to a real community.

COLLECTIVE: The split with Acts of Sedition seems to be heavier than your previous releases – is this the kind of avenue you’ll be pursuing in the future or just the result of a weightier production? Also, what’s the deal with that Spanish-sounding arpeggio that ends one side of the 7” and kicks off your side of the LP?

B: The songs that we have written since the split with Acts of Sedition have been a bit heavier than our other releases, but the songs are also becoming longer, more complex, and stemming from even more diverse influences. We don’t have many solid future plans right now, but I would imagine that we will be looking for a better production with some of our new songs. We have never really focused on being a “heavy” band, but some of our newer songs definitely have heavier parts as well as more dynamic structures. As for that “Spanish-sounding arpeggio,” I think that we just really liked the outro from our “Those Who Die Dancing” EP and it fit well with the first song on our split with AOS, so we just put it there as well. We often play “Better Dead than Domestic” and “Molded” together live, so it makes for a pretty epic bridge between the two songs.

COLLECTIVE: All the releases I’ve seen from you folks thus far have this rather distinctive artwork going on that’s heavily stylized and also rather creepy (particularly, it has to be said, the split LP, what with its skull-faced-monk-thing billowing smoke and shot full of arrows…). How does it tie in with what you’re all about and why have you plumped for the imagery you have?

B: Our good friend Jeremy Forson (www.jeremyforson.com) has done all of our artwork. He grew up in the Reno scene and moved away to Oakland to go to art school at CCA (California College of Arts) to hone his skills, though he’s kept really involved in the Reno scene. Jeremy has done all of our record covers, inserts, t-shirts, stickers, buttons, etc. For the artwork, we send Jeremy the lyrics and music and he puts together the art based on how he feels the music should be depicted – we don’t give him any direction or tell him what we want, we pretty much just leave it up to him. Then we usually have the covers screened locally and put together the inserts and stuff ourselves. It’s a DIY fair all around with many members of the Reno scene contributing.

COLLECTIVE: Additionally, all the releases are super DIY and a whole lot of love seems to have gone into them. How important to is the concept of “DIY” to you as a band? What’s your take on the direction a lot of supposed hardcore bands/labels seem to be taking, almost tripping over themselves to affect a gloss of corporate schtick or at least employing similar tactics to the majors?

B: The DIY ethic is everything to this band. We started Spacement Records as a collectively run, band-centered label to put out ours and our friends records. We do as much as we can ourselves and have tried to make sure that our releases are more than just the music; we want them to be solid with artwork, lyrics, explanations, production, and plenty of contact info if kids want to get in touch and talk or ask questions. What we can’t do ourselves, we ask for help from friends and local businesses to give us a hand. We are very fortunate to live in an amazing community full of caring individuals who are willing to help each other out when the time comes. We want kids to grow and learn from the DIY experience that they have through attending our shows or picking up our records or whatever. We want to make sure that kids know that we are not any different than them and that they can start bands, write zines, start a record label, distro books that they like, put on shows, make a stencil, or do whatever their hearts desire. To us, DIY is what we do, there is no other way.

As for the direction that other HC bands / labels have been taking, in the way of creating a more mainstream audience, or going for a more glossy production, that’s fine for them. If their goal is to sell a bunch of records and have a booking agent and have six t-shirt designs and three hoodie designs, then that is fine with me. If they want to make their version of HC watered-down, unthreatening, and more “entertaining” in order to appeal to a wider audience, then that is great for them. It’s just not HC anymore though – it might be some good tunes, but that’s about all. They can sell their CDs at Best Buy or whatever other corporate chain that they want. It’s not for us. We want HC to be first and foremost, sincere, heartfelt, passionate, and a direct threat to the status quo. We will never compromise our ideals or our passion for the record industry or for capitalism. We make the music and art that we love, and if other people want to check it out, then that’s great. We never got into the DIY HC scene to become popular or to make money – we just want to stay true to what we believe and make music, art, friends, and have a good time doing it.

COLLECTIVE: Could you tell us a bit about the scene you move within? For some reason I get the impression that the Spacement bands and their associates must be part of some neat close-knit little family – is this the case or am I way off with my idealistic assumptions? Who do you recommend we keep our eyes peeled for in the future?

B: The Reno scene is a pretty unique place to have grown up in and to be in right now. There is a rich history of DIY HC punk starting back with bands from the early 80’s like Jack Shit and 7 Seconds. Bands that influenced us more directly were from the more recent line of local HC bands such like Gob, Fall Silent, and Iron Lung. So, as you can tell, the Reno scene has never really had a distinct sound or genre that it’s famous for or anything like that, but there has been a long tradition of really good bands that have come from this small town. Most recently, Reno has seen a lot of really good bands get together, write some great tunes and record a bit, maybe tour a bit, and then call it quits. There have just been so many bands start out strong and break up. I think that there are a lot of kids in this scene that aren’t really willing to work really hard to keep a band going for an extended period of time. It’s really unfortunate too, because there is really a lot of talent here. Most of the Spacement bands and people associated with the record label and venue make up a pretty close-knit family. Many of us work on the same projects in the community, attend shows together, host vegan potlucks, volunteer at Sound and Fury Records, go on tour together, help out with Food Not Bombs, and just try to keep the scene a positive place for all kinds of kids to become a part of. Really awesome stuff is happening in Reno right now, and a lot of kids in the scene have really stepped up and become involved in their community. Right now kids here are working on a lot of projects such as Holland Reno (www.hollandreno.blogspot.com), The Reno Bike Project (www.renobikeproject.blogspot.com/), Reno Food Not Bombs (www.fnb.spacementreno.com/), The Great Basin Community Food Co-Op (www.greatbasinfood.coop/), The Bridge Center (www.thebridgecenter.net), Rainshadow Community Charter High School (www.rainshadowcchs.org), Spacement Records (www.spacementreno.com), and Sound and Fury Records (www.soundandfuryreno.com). Some kids help out the scene in other ways by helping book shows, recording bands, hosting info nights or skillshares, silkscreening shirts and patches, writing zines, opening their homes for use as venues, etc. Of course, there are a lot of kids in the scene who don’t do much in the way of community activism or really become involved in the scene much at all aside from attending shows and the like. I think you’ll find that kind of thing in pretty much every scene that you come into contact with. As for who to watch for in the future, in the extended network of the Spacement family, I would say keep an eye on Acts of Sedition (Oakland, CA – www.actsofsedition.com), Greykull (Tacoma, WA – www.crimethinc.net/urbanpirates/bands/greyskull), and any bands that form from the breakup of Parallax (Provo, UT – www.goldenspikemusic.com). In Reno, it looks like Fatality (www.spacementreno.com/artists/index.php?ID=13) is really trying to get out there and tour a lot, X-Wing (www.spacementreno.com/artists/index.php?ID=17) is still hanging on even though members have relocated to Southern California, and various Bafabegiya member projects are forming. Members of Bafabegiya, Acts of Sedition, Greyskull, Burial Year (www.alonerecords.com), Bullets*In (www.bullets-in.tk), and The Coma Recovery (www.failedexperimentrecords.com) are currently starting a regional band that has a lot of potential. Who knows what the future holds?

COLLECTIVE: What plans does Bafabegiya have for the future? Do you have any specific goals or objectives for the band and, if so, how are you going to go about accomplishing them?

B: We have no concrete plans for the future. Things are pretty much up in the air right now. We have been on somewhat of a hiatus since we got back from our summer tour and haven’t done much in the way of future planning. In the past we have talked about touring in Europe and doing a lot more in the way of touring the world, but things have yet to unfold.

COLLECTIVE: Ok. I guess that’s it – thanks a heap for your time and patience! Please feel free to add any final words of wisdom in the blank space below…

B: I think I’d just like to end by encouraging anyone reading this interview to really think about making punk a threat to society by becoming involved in things that are going on in your local community. Instead of keeping our passion and our ideas locked up in basements and garage venues, let’s bring what we have taken from the HC punk scene and integrate it into our daily existence in the community. Talk to your friends and families who might not be associated with the punk scene about things that are important to you. Become informed, read books, zines, check out the news, see what’s going on in the world. Knowledge is power. Go!

Thanks for the interview. Feel free to get in touch with any further inquiries… bafabegiya
269 Wonder St.
Reno, NV 89502
bafabegiya@riseup.net

INterview by Alex Deller.

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