Amplifying Dissent with UTTERBLAX
Listen to UTTERBLAX.
This interview is part of a series discussing mandates, restrictions and censorship with musicians and music fans—read more of these interviews here.
UTTERBLAX are the U.K. based balaclava-clad band, bringing burglary and Britpop back. The self proclaimed worst band you've never heard of — also a cult and terrorist cell.
Music For All: What was your experience with lockdowns and restrictions on live music in England?
UTTERBLAX Spokesperson: For the first few months of the U.K’s Lockdown all of us at UTTERBLAX were appalled by the lack of looting. By the time summer rolled around we were sick of hearing about looting, however, we were thrilled by the of mask-wearing – us of course being a balaclava-clad band (in the traditional highwayman sense). BBC Sounds played our single “Lockdown”, designed as an anti-lockdown anthem. They seemingly didn’t notice this.
UTTERBLAX adapt, and COVID was no exception. First we tried to sell the virus, promising guaranteed delivery. Second, we started releasing in EP form. The first was a loveletter to the artist we want to work with the most, Kim Jong Un. We released 3 EPs in 2020, and later unreleased them.
As to gigging. We’ve never been a very prolific live band, so grifting continued largely as normal. Ahead of our most prolific live performance, we wrote a lengthy letter, inviting heir apparent Prince William. We never actually held the gig, though he did reply at some length, declining.
Y'all seem to be extraordinarily good at SEO. Do you have any advice for artists trying to reach an audience in a time where anti-establishment views tend to be aggressively censored?
SEO is a difficult beast. It’s a bad time to be making the kind of terror-related jokes that have been our brand for some time. We’ve accepted mass-surveillance, now we have to deal with its consequences. Namely that couching things in dry, British humour is the safest option.
The current music landscape is hostile, but rewards innovative guerrilla marketing, something we take seriously. As to advice, we’ve benefited from making up our own words. The UTTERBLAX dialect. We recommend this thoroughly, especially with naming your band. This is no guarantee however, we’ve spent years in direct conflict with a very similarly named, reputable producer of phone cases (I refuse to name them here).
We are also a little upset that our 2016 track, “Dianification”, has taken a backseat after Google’s decision that Dian’A’fication is the proper spelling of this nigh-unused term to describe the period of hysteria after the death of Princess Diana Spencer (this is also why we invited her son, Will, to that gig).
You've been spamming peoples Spotify playlists with your song called "Listen to Utterblax". Is that right? I didn't know you could do that actually, that's amazing. Also that song and video is sick.
This isn’t even our most deplorable guerrilla marketing (or as we call it, a grifting). However, we shan’t divulge all our operations.
“Listen To Utterblax” is our most potent statement of case. We had a plan to trick Spotify’s Algo specifically into thinking it was doing its job, when it was really doing ours. Rather like that publicly accessible Microsoft A.I (Tay), which people trained to be racist.
The plan involved gently dusting our music throughout the party and road trip playlists of the world. The hope was that the Algo would come to see us as middle of the road, in demand, and thus to be recommended to people.
We gave the Algo a particularly big helping of the track “Listen To Utterblax” on New Year’s Eve. You won’t believe how many people leave their playlists unlocked that night. I like to imagine them scrambling to turn it off, or perhaps ruining a perfectly timed lead-up to the countdown.
Anyway, this did not go as intended. But UTTERBLAX do not relent so easily.
To be honest anyone using streaming services deserves to have their playlists fucked with. What do you think about how streaming has influenced the way people engage with music? While I appreciate the ease at which we can share music, I'm incredibly suspicious of the algorithms...
Algorithms (The “Algos”) are hard to pin down. Sizeable players in the tech scene refuse to elaborate on their functionality.
One thing we do know is they punish small followings.
Another thing we know is that the people who manage them, appear at least, to punish dissident-types. And we look and sound like dissident-types, (it’s our look!).
A third thing we know is that the Spotify’s Algo wants me to listen to Dua Lipa. I don’t want to listen to Dua. I haven’t even listened to music in years.
We therefore reach the conclusion that UTTERBLAX and the Algos must do battle.
It's an interesting coincidence that I stumbled upon y'alls "Britpop's Back" single — just last week, I was first made aware of Kevin Shields' fascinating claim that Britpop was pushed by the government. What are your thoughts on government influence over Britpop?
Britpop was the handmaiden of Tony Blair’s New Labour government, but here’s Shields’ fault. Under Blair, in 1999, the UK signed the Treaty of Amsterdam with the European Union. The UK was required to pass a statutory instrument preventing country of origin marking. Music labelled as "Britpop" could no longer be marketed in the United Kingdom or EEC. That legislation was repealed the day we released “Britpop’s Back”.
I read Shields’ MI5 comments. Now of course we have unfathomable manmade horrors beyond our comprehension available to intelligence agencies. If they are currently orchestrating a revival of counter-cultural bands, we would say this: the return on investment is pitiful - we need to have a serious public conversation about whether the Anglosphere’s intelligence agencies are fit for this purpose.
On the issue of whether we, are in fact, feds – we couldn’t possibly comment.
Y'alls music and videos are fantastic. Do y'all have any new music or performances coming up this year?
The vapourwave videos of 2012-14 and the nonsequiteur ‘shitpost’ videos of today have a hand in the videos looking as they do. We think we’ve found a middle way with the brainwashing video.
All that we do is loosely guided by two principles:
1) would it make make someone say “what?”
2) would it make actress Daisy Ridley say “that’s horrible!”
We’re planning a soft-reboot of UTTERBLAX in 2023. All going to plan, it’ll be horrible.
Thank you for reading!