By Alison Philcock
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This is for the Poor

This article is over 19 years, 9 months old
An Interview with Dominic Masters
Issue 287

In the last few months The Others have played a Love Music Hate Racism gig at the London Astoria, been declared ‘the most worshipped new band in Britain’ by NME, released their first single, ‘This is For the Poor’, and played a gig in a tube carriage. Alison Philcock talked to singer Dominic Masters.

The single makes a very clear statement. Where do the lyrics come from?

‘This is For the Poor’ was our first single, and we could have chosen from about 15 or 20 tracks. Some people didn’t want us to choose that because they thought it was too naïve – they thought it was shock tactics. I knew it would divide our audience. I thought middle class and rich kids who would buy it would be rebelling against their own privileged class culture, so that would be good. At the same time I wanted to write ‘This is For the Poor’ for my own class. I don’t see why I should write mass appeal lyrics. I think kids prefer to hear of experiences and troubles that you have gone through and be able to relate to those experiences.

For a lot of kids their first move away from home isn’t to university. When they leave home at 16 or 18 their first move is just escaping their parents, escaping out of town. Some of our fans have jobs in factories or stacking shelves.

I’m not trying to glorify that life, but that is where I’m from and I hope that they can relate to me.

The issue of class is obviously important to you.

‘This is For the Poor’ is about teenagers who are poor. And that’s the naivety of it. People say, ‘How can you not be friends with a rich kid? How can you say that kid hasn’t felt the same pain as you?’ But it’s the class divide. My dad was a union representative. Why should I take in people who haven’t seen the same shit as I have? And those experiences can make you stronger.

So what do you think about Blair’s Britain?

After 17 years of mismanagement it was going to take a minor miracle for Blair to come in and for the first administration to clear up all the problems. All I could see them doing was harmonising taxes but not really putting much meat on the bone. When the second administration came through I thought everything was going to be provided, but they’ve just done U-turns on policies and there hasn’t been redistribution of wealth. I thought there would be a higher tax bracket for the rich – it was about time.

I feel totally disillusioned with Labour. And I am sorry about that because this is meant to be our government.

The current British rock scene seems to be flourishing with the return of the DIY ethic last seen in the days of punk. Why?

I know the answer I should give is that it’s because of frustration with Blair’s Britain, and against the poverty and the disillusionment of working class kids, and I could give that answer. But really it’s been Peter Doherty – he’s a one-man catalyst. In the space of two years he’s put on about 150 bands with The Libertines, revolving the support. For example, most bands that play Brixton Academy charge the support bands £7,000 to play. The Libertines don’t do that – they put on bands and pay them to play. A band like ours couldn’t even have imagined playing Brixton Academy at this stage in our career.

The thing with [the rock scene in] New Cross is people not wanting to play in Camden any more, the rents being very cheap, and Goldsmiths College. The East End scene is at its peak. But it wouldn’t have been possible for so many bands to have belief in themselves without what Peter has done, putting them on and helping to get them signed. And now those bands are doing the same, and it’s the trickledown effect, so that now it feels like every third kid in the street is in a band. It is working class kids’ frustration, rebelling against rave culture, and wanting to get back to basics and speaking about things that really matter. That’s why it’s being compared to punk.

You only have to go to one of your gigs to see that you have a very loyal and large group of fans.

Without our fans we probably wouldn’t have got signed. They worked their arses off and turned up on cold, wet Tuesday nights going to venues that nobody had ever heard of and went mad for us. So we owe them so much. There are about 400 or 500 kids, and I probably know about 90 percent of them. They have helped shape us in so many ways. We try and get as many as we can in for free or at a reduced price, and if we can’t do that we try and contribute to their fees. We get the unemployed kids in first then the students, then the people with a half decent job. It’s means tested. Everybody understands that. Then we have a party for them all afterwards.

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