Currently reading : SB5 Archive (2010): Hard Times – Struggle and Pride
Words by Adeena Mey based on an interview between Maxime Buchi & Philippe Wagner
No discrimination, we hate everybody. If oï-hardcore band Hard Times’ motto can sound sarcastic, it is nonetheless revealing of its ability to achieve subtle balance within extremes. Indeed, if the Parisian skinheads can perform equality within misanthropy, their talent in juggling with apparent contradictions and mastering syncretisms also crosses the realms of life and music and transcends them. Faithful to their oï-skinhead roots, Hard Times’ music recasts the violence and aggressiveness of NY hardcore and punk—notably through the realism of their lyrics relating the vicissitudes of suburban life—within the jerky and unifying rhythms of oï. Moreover, their style is probably also fostered by the lives of its members, who, as in the persona of its lead singer, Philippe Wagner, exemplifies a trajectory that has crossed continents, surmounted social norms and barriers, challenged political positions and managed to overcome and integrate the anxieties of a Jewish background. “Normality always irritated” the charismatic singer, what interested and pushed him into London’s new wave and punk scene. But this was only the start into a journey characterized by the refusal of diktats of all sorts—as, for instance, the rigidity of dress codes prevailing in skin subcultures—be they aesthetic, political or religious, alternative or mainstream. Indeed, now a Buddhist also standing out for his inherited Jewish identity, adhering to straight edge philosophy and fighting for animal rights, refusal, for Wagner, seems to be driven by a permanent concern and true passion for righteousness. Yet, do not see in this ever unsatisfied blending the quest of a peacemaker. The bits and pieces that compose the environment and references of Wagner and his band are rather like an artillery in a game of provocation. Indeed, aggressiveness serves positive confrontations. If Hard Times has sometimes been misunderstood for playing in front of “ambiguous audiences,” such situations have actually given the band the opportunity to express their ideas and positions even clearer, with all the possible “incidents” implied. No Nazi, no Red. In both music and life, Wagner and Hard Times make use of the right and power of speech and suggest, to all of us, that the nature of a breathable and inhabitable space in life is irremediably contradictory and fragmented. Yet, united we shall stay!