For more than 20 years, Drew Daniel has been making playful and conceptual dance music as one half of the Baltimore-based duo Matmos. Ever since 2003, Daniel has also been making playful and conceptual dance music on his own under the name the Soft Pink Truth. Just a few weeks ago, Daniel released Shall We Go On Sinning So That Grace May Increase?, an angry, politically driven album that features collaborations with people like Colin Self, Angel Deradoorian, and Lower Dens’ Jana Hunter. Today, Daniel has followed it up with an album of nothing but crust-punk covers.
Drew Daniel has always been fascinated with extreme guitar music, and he’s gotten similarly conceptual on previous albums like 2004’s Do You Want New Wave Or Do You Want The Soft Pink Truth? (all punk covers) and 2014’s Why Do The Heathen Rage? (all black metal covers). Am I Free To Go?, his new one, digs deep into the punk subgenre of raw, politically enraged apocalyptic-hobo music known as crust. It is conspicuously well-timed.
On the album, Daniel offers up his own radically reworked versions of songs from crust legends like Discharge, Doom, Skitsystem, Nausea, and Aus-Rotten. He works in samples from Donald Trump speeches and news reports about Amazon warehouses, as if to drive home just how right-on all this shit is. Also there’s a one-minute song called “Space Formerly Occupied By An Amebix Cover But Fuck That Guy for Being A Holocaust Denier” — a reference to the recent Tau Cross situation. Stream the album and read what Daniel has to say about it below.
On his Bandcamp page, Daniel writes:
I have made this covers album of crust punk classics as a way of dealing with my own emotions about the ongoing political misery of our present capitalist life-world. Whether they are from Sweden or Japan or the UK or the USA, I find these songs and the artists that sang them inspiring: they are direct, angry and demanding. I don’t cover them out of mockery or satire. I love these songs and wanted to play them and play with them. It’s as simple as that.
I have made it a “name your price” album and all profits after paying out due/requested royalties from the original artists will go to the International Anti-Fascist Legal Defence Fund, which assists people all around the world with the legal repercussions of protesting fascism.
I have made three covers albums now. Each is different but they all come from a place where fandom and critique fight it out. I will admit to nostalgia, but I have tried to shift these songs from their original moment to the present circumstances: Trump and Amazon and murderous racist policing and imminent climate apocalypse and pandemic.
Thanks are due to Owen Gardner for transcribing the riffs, which let me preserve the structure. I have not altered any lyrics. Thanks to Ryu Takahashi for help translating the lyrics of “Hellish View.” Thanks above all to the original artists who wrote these songs, and thanks to my singers and vocalists: Hiko, NTsKi, Karl Ekdahl, Griffin Pyn, In the Sun, M.C. Schmidt and Angel Deradoorian. I am also deeply grateful to the people whose protests and public actions I have sampled on this record.
This record was originally going to be called “Do You Really Want Your Freedom?” and was going to have a cover of “No Gods, No Masters” by Amebix; I made that cover with a vocal by Vicki Bennett. While working on the album Rob “the Baron” Miller made statements that made his endorsement of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial unambiguous, so that track has been replaced with a new one. Fuck Nazis.
I created this album about a year ago. It was made at the same time as Shall We Go On Sinning So That Grace May Increase? and in my mind these crust covers are a “prequel” to that record. The end of “Protest and Survive” is meant to be an onramp to the other album which is its opposite and complement. Thank you for listening.