Interviews

Remission’s Philippe Arama Discusses South American Hardcore, Touring the States

Photo: Todd Pollock

In his first piece for the site, DroidXRage's Ed Crooks chats with Philippe Arama, vocalist of Chilean melodic hardcore band Remission. —Carlos Ramirez

Hi, how’s it going? 

Hey man, all good here in Chile, thanks. It’s summer down in the southern hemisphere so we have great weather if heat is your thing. Not much work and soon I’ll go on vacation to the US. Remission’s last show was last December and we’re taking a short break until late March or early April. We plan on doing a proper record release show for our Enemy of Silence LP.

First up, who’s in Remission and what do they play?

Daniel plays the guitar since the beginning. Now Cristian plays the other guitar but when the band first started 10 years ago, he used to drum. Sebastian has played bass with us since early 2011 and German joined on drums in 2014. I (Philippe) sing and write all the lyrics and none of the music.

Where abouts in South America are you guys from? 

We come from a long and narrow country in the southern cone called Chile. It’s very geographically diverse (deserts in the north, valleys in the center, icey lakes in the south) and it’s below Peru and west of Argentina and Brazil. We’ve had the chance to play in those 3 countries and it’s been great. We all live in the capital called Santiago, except for Cristian who moved to Viña del Mar, a nice coastal city just an hour and a half away. It slowed us down a little but we still manage to hang out, jam and play. 

Photo: Gary Go

I’ve always been interested in the South American scene, there seems to be a lot of love for the early bands there and even '90s bands like Strife, etc. Why do you think there is still heavy interest?

There’s a lot of love for all eras of hardcore really. One of the biggest sub-scenes here has a heavy '90s NYHC tough guy influence. On the other hand, there are bands that look up to the early Boston sound, others identify with late '80s Youth Crew and 10 years ago there was a well known local band that worshipped Unbroken and Refused. The mid-'90s sound died out a little and I feel like there’s a missing generation of new bands. They don’t pop up like they used to. With the internet and the older guys doing bands, it has been easy to learn and know about most of the hardcore in the world. 

Who would you say is the most influential band to come out of South America? 

A lot of people know that Sepultura comes from Brazil or that Slayer’s Tom Araya is Chilean. From the hardcore perspective, some of the biggest bands in terms of popularity and growth were Point of No Return from Brazil (inspired by Path of Resistance but more political), Nueva Ética and Fun People from Argentina (both toured many countries), Futuro Incierto from Peru and Entrefuego from Chile. Although some of these bands might be unheard for the readers, they all left a strong mark on their local scenes and inspired many to start bands or learn about straight edge, animal rights or politics. 

Photo: Gary Go

Where would you say are the most lit areas for shows in South America?

From experience, all the countries I previously mentioned plus Colombia have the strongest scenes in South America. Unlike Europe, hardcore is very centralized here so the most lit areas happen to be the capital cities but there are a few exceptions. In Chile for example, stuff is happening in places like Valparaiso (nearest region to Santiago) or in the south (Talca, Chillán, Concepción and Temuco). The north is kind of dead. There’s a cool city northwest of Buenos Aires, Argentina called Rosario, which has some cool bands and the biggest scene and population is Brazil’s. We’ve toured there before and there are many places worth visiting besides Sao Paulo, for example Curitiba and Blumenau in the south or Rio de Janeiro in the center. It’s hard to discuss venues since they tend to come and go and it’s hard to find places (that aren’t bars) which allow all ages hardcore shows.  

Straight edge also has a place there which surprises me, where is it most prominent and where is it not so?

It’s hard to answer that question but I know that the southern cone has plenty of straight edge bands or at least members in bands. I’d like to mention that Remission is 60% sXe in case someone saw my X’s in photos and thought maybe the entire band was. Nowadays, I think nothing should be surprising, and this whole drug free lifestyle can be found in all places of the world. Currently the local band I like the most are straight edge and are called Desencadenar. It features our Cristian on drums and Sebastian on guitar and it has that heavier Youth Crew sound of bands such as Onward, Mainstrike, or Mouthpiece. They just toured Europe and put out a 7” worth checking out called Gris (gray).

Is the fact that drugs are easy to get a hold of a driving force behind the interest in straight edge in South America?

Drugs are easy to get here but I don’t think it’s that much easier than in different parts of the world. The media might give that impression based on coverage of the Colombian cartels but I think it’s a world problem. What’s interesting is how bands in South America like Nueva Etica, Point of No Return, or Asunto (from Chile) have addressed the drug problem and stated that embracing straight edge is much more than just having a healthy lifestyle. It’s also about not being part of the numb masses, so easily manipulated by the powers of capitalism. It is said that during Chile’s dictatorship era (1973-1989), Pinochet and his officials were the ones that expanded the hard drug business like cocaine and pasta base (crack) into the ghettos so they couldn’t think or revolt. Instead, they’d kill each other.

When we toured the US last year, the Colombian band Raw Brigade put up a flag on one of their amps with the face of drug kingpin Pablo Escobar, which read “Fuck Narcos." That was a nice touch because it’s easy to be stereotyped, depending where you’re from.   

Remission striking a pose in Hershey, PA, 2018.

You just did a tour of the States, how was that and what major differences did you find playing shows there?

The tour was great! We did 10 shows along the East Coast in a rented SUV and the timing was perfect since React! Records had just received the copies of our new LP, Enemy of Silence. It was our 2nd time in the U.S so things went more smoothly, and our experiences from other places put us a in a better mindset. I think scenes around the globe are starting to become more similar and normally bands have all their gear (including drums) but we flew into NY with nothing (to avoid getting hassled by customs). The guys bought all their stuff in the big apple and the amps and kits were lent to us by the friendly people who booked us or we played with. We played in some places that were new to us, like Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and got to revisit spots from our 2011 tour.

What were your favorite places to play and what bands did you enjoy playing with and seeing the most?

I think I speak on behalf of the five of us by saying that our favorites places were Baltimore, New Brunswick (first time playing in New Jersey), Cambridge, and Providence. One of the great things about touring is sharing the bill with friends or contemporaries that you like and reach out to. In Scranton, PA, we really enjoyed One Step Closer’s set. Baltimore was a great local gig with React! and Youngblood homies like Give and Line of Sight. The New Brunswick basement show (like the Lifetime song) was a hot and sweaty experience with the likes of Search (hardcore veterans we look up to), Sunstroke from Philly/NJ (Revolution Summer brothers) and our Colombian friends Raw Brigade. The Brooklyn show wasn’t the best but we played with Rule Them All and they rocked and were super cool to us. Then in New England, Pat from Free/Fiddlehead and Brian from Atomic Action! set up two great last shows. Of course Free killed it and we all dug Holy Hands from Rhode Island.   

Photo: Spencer Chamberlain

Do you have any funny tour stories?

Off the top of my head, nothing funny really, just weird or exciting moments. We have a friend who lives in Silver Spring who let us crash for a couple of nights and finding parking is really complicated in the US, especially the DC area. We needed a parking permit outside his building, but it was 4am after a long and rainy drive so we figured it’d be ok to leave it there until someone woke up and moved it in the morning. Our SUV with all our records got towed around 7am even with an old permit hanging from the rearview mirror with a tiny sized font. Those fuckers checked the date with a flashlight and we were all shocked when we woke up and didn’t see the car.

To make up for the drama, we had a lovely day-off sightseeing in DC and then drove out to the Dischord House and Ian gave us an awesome tour. I knew the place from an earlier trip but this time we were taken down to the basement where Minor Threat rehearsed without a microphone at times. The ceiling was so low you had to stick your head between the wooden foundations and it echoed. 

Remission in front of the Dischord House with Mr. MacKaye.

What South American bands should we be listening to present day?

Desencadenar (Chile), ¡Tomar Control!, and Circulo Eterno (Peru), Raw Brigade (Colombia), Reconcile and El Eterno Enemigo (Argentina, both broken up), Time & Distance and Under Bad Eyes (Brazil).   

What was it like getting into hardcore in South America, was it difficult to find music? Did you have a local record store?

Luckily, it wasn’t difficult. Back in the early '00s there were a couple of record stores in Santiago that specialized in hardcore/punk and now there’s only 1. There are always people that import music from labels or Revelation Records’ mailorder so everyone can get their fix. I like it when I go to a local hardcore show and someone is selling stuff from their collection (shirts and records), which happens a lot. My experience of getting into hardcore I think is similar to most people’s. Skateboard video soundtracks providing the foundations (7 Seconds, Minor Threat, Dag Nasty, Rites of Spring), older scene guys showing you bands, getting records or CDs and reading the "Thank You" lists to discover groups, etc.

Photo: Gary Go

Who are Remission's prime musical influences?

Music and words have been inspired by Minor Threat, 7 Seconds, Verbal Assault, Rites of Spring, Embrace, Dag Nasty, Unity, Headfirst, One Step Ahead, Quicksand, Outspoken, and 411. 

How did you end up working with React! Records?

Our first LP, Accept, was put out by Amendment Records, a Chilean friend running a label in Montana. The distribution was good and the short run of LPs landed in good hands or was well shared through blogs and forums. The second pressing came out on a German label called Assault and that same year (2010), Aram from React! gave us good feedback and expressed his interest in releasing the band’s newer songs. The Winds of Promise 3-song 7" came out early 2011 and that lead to even better worldwide recognition. I like the diversity of music on that EP and feel that’s when we came together as a tighter unit in search of a more polished sound. Between WOP and EOS, we did two more 7”s with Amendment (a split with DC's Police & Thieves and a single), but we never lost touch with React! (now my friend Evan from Mindset). During my visits to the US, we always discussed Remission’s 2nd LP as a React! project and we’re all glad it finally happened that way after four years of not putting out new music, just playing shows and very slowly writing the newest songs.  

What other bands do you guys do and have done before?

Besides Desencadenar, four of us play in a Texas is the Reason influenced-emo band called Invierno (winter in Spanish). The words are in Spanish and hopefully we will be recording a new album this year, but it’s tough to say since we’re so slow at putting things together. It’s harder now to do anything collectively as adults in our early 30s. Sebastian also plays guitar in a band called En Mi Defensa, worth checking out if you like Have Heart or Verse. Over 10 years ago, Daniel and I played in two bands, Remains to Be Seen (heavy Insted, NFAA influences) and Approach. Both bands had 7”s on Amendment Records and can be heard and downloaded from the label’s Bandcamp page.  

What bands should we be listening to right now?

From the past, all the listed influences are always going to remain relevant. From right now, pretty much all the ones that were mentioned in the US tour question. Labels like React! (Insist, Praise), Youngblood (Line of Sight), New Morality Zine (Sunstroke, Rule Them All), Triple-B (One Step Closer, Magnitude, Free) and Revelation (Search and Shook Ones plus all their back catalog) are keeping hardcore interesting for us. Thanks for the questions Ed, peace and break the silence.

Photo: Gary Go

Enemy of Silence is out now via React! Records and available here. Remission can be found on both Facebook and Instagram.

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