Antimob’s II (second) full-length was undoubtedly one of the best hardcore releases in recent years and we’re still listening to it on a constant loop ever since.
Comprised of long-time Greek DIY hardcore punk scene veterans, these Athenians play a ripping take on classic hardcore with a sprawling display of ferocity and raw power. With a very little social media presence but beautifully crafted records, Antimob’s music is fueled with a sheer intensity and determination like no other band in the world today. And because of all this, we’ve been always thrilled about interviewing Antimob for DIY Conspiracy.
Our friend Michael Thorn was a way ahead of us, however, as he did this brilliant interview with Panos of Antimob for Razorblades and Aspirin #10. Panos plays guitar in Antimob and is also one of the publishers of Mountza fanzine that we all love so much.
The interview was done over email in May 2020, and Mike was good enough to donate it for DIY Conspiracy as we are eagerly awaiting him to join our ranks with some exclusive articles for our zine in the upcoming year.
Now, enjoy this great interview!
Let’s talk basics—Antimob formed in 2007, yes? What was the initial reason for the band forming? Has the line up remained the same?
Actually, the band formed a couple of years earlier, in the Summer of 2005. At the time Stathis, myself (Panos), Vasilis, and Christos were in different bands that were both rehearsing at the studio of the Villa Amalias squat.
We were stuck in a bit of a rut and since we were friends we decided to join forces and start a new band, which morphed to Antimob. In 2007, our initial bassist left and was replaced by Stavros, and that was that. Since then the line up has remained the same.
We formed the band for the same reason all bands do: we were young and had the urge to express ourselves, play aggressive music and have some fun. Rather than a band, we’ve always seen ourselves as a bunch of close friends, otherwise we wouldn’t have managed to last for so long.
Looking at your records, the design feels very purposeful—is there a plan or design to the presentation of your band? If so, why is that important?
Starting with our second demo cassette in 2012, we decided to apply a specific artistic concept to our releases, one that would project more clearly the identity and character of the band. Ideologically, this centers on manifestations of political dissent in Greece; aesthetically, on the juxtaposition of forceful images and minimal, clean layouts.
Cover art is an integral part of any release, it’s stupid to work your ass off to get the best sound possible during recordings and then use generic images or shitty artwork for the cover. I’m also trying to stick to a similar concept for anything I release through my record label Εξωτικός Παροξυσμός (if you can call it a label, that is).
We are quite happy with the artwork of all our releases, so I can’t see us modifying our approach in the future, though we’ll make an extra effort not to get boring or repetitive. Having said that, nothing could have been possible without the valuable help of our good friend Kostas (and Mountza fanzine co-conspirator, too), who’s handled the layout and printing of our record covers, booklets, posters right from the start.
The time between your releases is quite long—is there a reason for this? Is the band just not that active, or is it something else?
The band’s always been active, at least in the studio (or in our minds), but it’s fair to say we took the occasional hiatus for a variety of reasons, both individual and collective. However, even during some longer than usual breaks, we never really considered packing it in. Annoying as they were, these periods of inactivity taught us to be more tolerant towards each other’s personal choices, working schedules and responsibilities. Our sole motivation has been our need to keep the band going, so we never put much pressure on ourselves to release new songs, play gigs or go on tour.
The most recent LP features images from the island of Gyaros—what is the significance of that island and why did you choose to include them? How does it relate to the lyrics?
Not just on the LP, but on our latest EP and promo cassette as well. Gyaros is an island that the Greek state used as a place of exile for political dissidents, in particular leftists, from 1947 until 1974. The building shown is the main prison complex that throughout the years housed more than 20,000 political prisoners. Today Gyaros remains a powerful symbol of the long history of political oppression in Greece as well as a powerful monument to our dissident tradition, which may explain our fascination with the place. On a more personal note, Christos’ grandfather had been jailed there, so that may have been an extra incentive.
Ourselves and a photographer friend of ours took the photos during our trip to Gyaros in May 2017. We had long contemplated a trip there, but making it happen was tricky. It took us two years to finally make it, as the place is off limits to the public and we had to fight all sorts of red tape to finally be allowed to get there. Not mentioning the financial costs involved. However, this turned out to be a very powerful experience, I simply can’t describe the overwhelming feeling when approaching this prison complex. Gyaros is a place of calvary and desolation, and its oppressive nature still hits you in the face.
Our lyrics do not relate to the island or to what happened there directly. As I mentioned before, Gyaros is a powerful symbol of political oppression, of enforced conformity and widespread state repression, things that we deal with in our lyrics.
You sing in Greek—which to me, feels like the obvious thing to do since you are Greek, but for most of punk’s history bands have sung in English rather than their native language. Why is it important for you to sing in Greek?
Initially we sang in English, just check our debut demo cassette and EP that were recorded in 2007. Then we shifted to Greek and that was the best decision the band has ever made. Every band (be they punk or otherwise) should sing in their mother tongue. Leave English to those who are fluent in it. It’s not just the lyrics, language is also essential in building the sound of a band. It provides identity and originality. I really have no time for bands singing in English with impenetrable accents and thousands of mistakes.
Musically, how would you describe your band?
The late ‘80s / early ‘90s Greek hardcore scene is an obvious influence, as well as all the classic international hardcore acts (European, American and Japanese). There are strong metal elements too, since some of us have always been into metal, from proto-heavy metal and NWOBHM to early ‘90s black and death metal. Anyway, I can only describe us as a hardcore band.
The Greek has seemingly exploded as of late, at least from the outside—can you talk about some of your favorite recent bands? Is it actually exploding, or is it just that people are finally paying attention?
The late ‘80s/early ‘90s bands were undeniably the most authentic, creative and influential. This, I think, stands true not just for the Greek scene. Following a long period of stagnation and boredom, things started shaking again roughly from the late ‘00s onwards. These days, when it comes to fine, hard working bands we’re spoiled for choice: Χωρίς Οίκτο (Without Mercy), Παροξυσμός (Paroxysm) Obsessio (a Greek band with a Spanish singer and not a Spanish band), Αρχή του Τέλους (Beginning of the End), Cold I, Chain Cult, Ξέρα (Xera), Kolonaki SS, Era of Fear, Black Trinity, Dirty Wombs, lifewreck, Ruined Families, Gay Anniversary to name but a few.
Πανδημία (Pandemic), Gutter and Rajahtaa were slightly older but worth checking out. Rajahtaa, when not covering songs from classic Finnish bands, penned some absolute killers of their own! They only recorded a demo CD and some compilation tracks though. Plenty of other bands as well, but in all honesty I don’t follow the scene as much as used to, so I can’t really say.
A personal fave of mine is Οδός 55 (Odos 55), a dark but aggressive synth-punk act (ed. also featured in this article on DIY Conspiracy). I rate everything Ειρκτή records has released (new or reissue) as well as most of the stuff Scarecrow put out in the last ten years. Darek from Scarecrow Records has helped almost every Greek band, either by releasing or distributing their stuff. Big respect and love to our brother Darek! If ever in Athens, make sure to visit his new physical shop at Exarcheia.
Are there older Greek bands you feel people should check out?
There were, roughly, two waves of early Greek punk/hardcore bands: The first one (early to mid ‘80s) consisted of bands like Stress, Αδιέξοδο (Adiexodo/Dead End), Ex Humans, Γενιά του Χάρους (Chaos Generation), Panx Romana, Birthward 82 etc. These were the pioneers that most of us grew up listening to.
The second wave (late ‘80s to early ‘90s) was more organized, had a pronounced anarchist outlook and DIY ethic and left us the best records ever released in Greece. Bands like Αντίδραση (Antidrasi/Reaction), Αρνητική Στάση (Negative Stance), Ναυτία (Nausea), Γκούλαγκ (Gulag), Χαοτικό Τέλος (Chaotic End), Χαοτική Απειλή (Chaotic Threat), Πανικός (Panikos), Death Courier, Χαοτική Διάσταση (Chaotic Dimension), Ξεχασμένη Προφητεία (Forgotten Prophecy), Μάστιγα, Ανάσα Στάχτη (Breath Ash), Nuclear Winter, Hibernation just to name a few.
Not forgetting Vandaloup and Εκτός Ελέγχου (Out of order), solid Greek punk bands as well. Anyone interested in classic hardcore/punk flavours should give those bands a listen. It was a thriving scene with bands popping up almost everywhere, pity most of them never went beyond the stage of recording a demo. Obviously, releasing a record was much more complicated then than now.
Your existence as a band has almost paralleled the Greek debt crisis and the imposition of austerity by the EU—what effect has this had on you personally?
That is true. The band grew while the debt crisis was crippling the most productive elements of our generation. Austerity led to widespread pauperization, unemployment rose to 28% (youth unemployment reached 60% in January 2013), there were huge cuts in pensions and wages, poverty and social exclusion reached their highest levels since WWII, public healthcare and education systems were left to rot and social security benefits just vanished. All of us, including our families and friends, have been affected, either experiencing long streaks of unemployment (without any sort of unemployment benefit to fall to) or having to work in undeclared jobs. Even those of us who are employed in “regular” jobs are caught in a cycle of high precarity and low wages.
Depressingly enough, we’re discussing this while we’re in the grips of the Coronavirus epidemic. The debt crisis’ remedies dismantled public health care systems, then the pandemic ran riot and it may well trigger a new (bigger and better!!) financial crisis in a never ending vicious circle. The nightmare continues indeed!
There have been numerous articles about the Greek anarchist movement stepping into the breech and filling in the void left by the Greek state—I’m wondering if you have involvement or contact with these groups and what your experiences have been?
I think that the aim of any anarchist is not to fill the void left by the state but to create such a void. Ha ha! Both as individuals and as a band, we’ve been active within this specific political environment.
Antimob were created in the Villa Amalias squat, at a time when we were members of its concert collective. Some members of the band used to live in the squat and contributed to its manifold activities. When Villa Amalias was forcibly evicted in 2012, some Antimob were arrested and charged with various offences.
Our political involvement continues to the present day. Therefore, both in our beliefs and in our actions we’re anchored solidly in the wider anarchist and non-aligned radical left end of the spectrum. I’m saying this despite our deeply rooted aversion towards all political labels, which we consider mere restrictions of our individual freedom of thought and consciousness. And we’re fully aware that narrow mindedness, arrogance and even hypocrisy are not unknown in the so called libertarian circles.
Undoubtedly, issues like immigration, racism, state violence, prisoners’ rights, labour rights etc have always been the main fields of engagement and action for anarchists and radical leftists. These struggles have provided a much needed counterbalance to the ongoing barbarity of organized society and the State. But this is a totally one sided battle that we can’t win.
Furthermore, I believe the aim of anarchists is to abolish the State, not substitute it in some of its functions or replace it with some sort of benevolent workers state. SYRIZA (Coalition of Radical Left) attempted the latter when they came to power in 2015. Predictably, it ended in tears. Their four years in power were an abject failure, a strange mix of good intentions, self delusion and ineptitude. Their sole achievement was that they prevented the total meltdown of Greece’s social and financial order, not exactly something a leftist party (and a radical one at that) should brag about.
I ain’t gloating about it, nor am I mourning SYRIZA’s demise, although I have to grudgingly admit that punx, anarchists and other assorted dregs of society never had it so good. It just provided another proof (as if it was needed) of the irrelevance of the Left’s strategy.
(Ed. for more recent news from the anarchist movement in Greece, check out this new article on CrimethInc.)
Can you talk about Exarcheia? For those who don’t know what it is, can you describe it? I’ve heard that it is currently threatened by both the forces of the state and capitalism, can you talk a little bit about that?
There seems to be widespread hype regarding Exarcheia abroad, some sort of idealization of the place which, as far as I’m concerned, has little bearing on reality. Exarcheia is a neighborhood in the Athens city center, which up until the ‘70s was solidly middle class. As the main Athens Universities were situated in or around it, it has always had this rebel character, which from the ‘70s onwards became more pronounced due to a combination of various factors, such as the growth of the student population, the radicalization of the youth in the ‘60s and ‘70s, or the exodus of the middle class towards the suburbs.
During the years of the fascist military dictatorship (1967-1974), resistance was centered in the universities, culminating in the Polytechnic School Uprising of 1973. Not surprisingly, Exarcheia started attracting the restless, radical and the creative, not to mention the odd nutcase, who began to supplement the departing middle classes.
This was a process that lasted for more than two decades, with Exarcheia becoming the de facto capital of Greek counter-culture, attracting artists, musicians, cinematographers, independent publishing houses, bookstores, clubs, bars etc. Following the fall of the military dictatorship, Exarcheia also became the cradle of the emerging Greek anarchist movement as well as that of various youth trends, like punk in the ‘80s.
Moreover, for decades the cops were prohibited by law from entering campuses, which of course made universities the obvious base for any radical demonstration or meeting. With Exarcheia being surrounded by universities it was only natural that most violent confrontations with the riot police would take place within that neighborhood. Thus, it’s not surprising that in the mind of many, Exarcheia came to be identified with anarchism and political or artistic radicalization and alternative lifestyles.
However, for a variety of reasons too numerous to analyse (increasing consumerism of the Greek society, dilapidation of the Athens city center, relocation of the Athens University Schools in the suburbs, the effect of regular rioting, the credit boom of the ‘00s and the financial crisis of the 2010s etc), Exarcheia gradually became some sort of libertarian ghetto in a limbo.
Some chose to interpret the retreat of the State (and in particular of the police) from the area as an anarchist victory, others as a temporary respite prior to the next plan for the integration of the wider city center in the financial system that would emerge post-crisis. During the years that the State chose to ignore Exarcheia, yeah, dozens of squats sprung up in the area, but also the life of the locals became increasingly difficult, and worst of all, organized crime stepped in. I’m persuaded this was a move orchestrated by the Greek security agencies, which turned out to be so successful that within a few years, Exarcheia had turned from a hub of libertarian ideas to a metropolis of drug dealing, smuggled cig trafficking, petty rackets and street crime.
And of course, now that the powers that be feel confident the worst of the crisis is behind them (thanks SYRIZA for that), they’ve kickstarted their new plan to shut the whole show down: New harsh laws, heavy handed evictions, constant police presence and a new property boom fueled by foreign investment (mainly Chinese). And you know what? Exarcheia was exposed for the paper tiger it had become, with only a handful of activists bothering to show some spirit of resistance. Yeah, gentrification is the name of the game these days. Glory days belong to the past, namely the ‘80s and the ‘90s.
On the flip side, the same time period has seen the rise of the Golden Dawn—a fascist party which has seen great gains in elections. What effect has this had on Greece in general, and specifically on your lives? Is the threat overblown? Why do you think they were able to rise in power? I know they’ve been knocked back a bit thanks to court cases around assaults members committed but do they remain a threat?
Golden Dawn was founded in the mid ‘80s. Its leader, Michaloliakos, was a well-known face of the Greek fascist microcosm, his main claim to infamy being his trial for bombing a cinema that was showing a Soviet film, and his beating up of journalists in a far right rally. His name had appeared in a list of secret services informants that a paper had published in the day. He was handpicked by Papadopoulos, the jailed leader of the military dictatorship, to head the youth organization of the fascist party he (Papadopoulos) founded in 1983 but was expelled for being too much of a Nazi! (Interestingly Michaloliakos successor following his expulsion was a certain Voridis, who is currently Minister of Agriculture in the respected so called center-right ND government).
Right up until the end of the last decade, Golden Dawn remained a marginal groupuscule of street thugs, police informants and wannabe white-power skinheads. Its electoral results remained pathetic throughout, and when not used by the cops as auxiliaries in their clashes with anarchists, Golden Dawn hit the front pages only on the rare occasion of a trademark cowardly attack on anarchists or other similar “targets.”
At the end of the ‘00s, however, there occurred two events that would propel the scum to the forefront: The youth uprising of December 2008, following the murder of 15-year old Grigoropoulos by a cop, and the onset of the financial crisis in 2010. To cut a long story short, Golden Dawn provided the State with a handy tool to reclaim the streets and channel public rage in a direction it could control.
From its part, Golden Dawn was looking at benefiting from a level of financing, backing and media exposure it could not have dared to even dream of. Sadly, the plan worked to perfection. Although there’s a long tradition of cooperation between State security mechanisms and far right groups in Greece, this was a level of collusion not seen since the dark days of the anti communist parastate of the Cold War.
Backed by sections of the police, supported by established media and financed by top businessmen, Golden Dawn posed as a radical anti-system alternative promoting aggressive nationalism, racism and violent xenophobia. And they got away with it. Actually, judging by their electoral results, they were very successful: by 2015, they had established themselves as the third biggest political party in Greece, surpassing the once mighty Social Democrats. Think of Aryan Nations scoring higher than the Democrats nationwide!
Anyway, for a group so deeply compromised by the secret state apparatus, it was always touch and go if they’d manage to grow really strong before the powers to be decided to draw the carpet from under their feet. So, when the State decided to clamp down on them, following one murder too many (that of antifascist musician Pavlos Fyssas) Golden Dawn all but disintegrated. The stormtroopers ran for cover, while the leadership was charged with a multitude of crimes in a trial that’s been dragging for the last five years, believe it or not. Whatever though, I’m glad things turned out that way and I hope Michaloliakos and his henchmen end up behind bars, though I know that secret service informants of that caliber rarely get locked away. Not surprisingly, what’s left today of the once fearsome Golden Dawn are petty squabbles between former members.
During Golden Dawn’s quite recent heyday, though, the local antifa didn’t back away from the fight. I remember that during the two years prior to the Villa Amalia eviction, the streets around the squat had become a battle zone with clashes occurring almost daily. It was eye for an eye antifa style, gone as far as the drive by shooting of two nazi stewards shortly after Fyssas’ murder. Something that laid to rest nazi ambitions of street domination.
Golden Dawn may never become a threat again. However, a sizeable section of Greek society has been contaminated by their primitivistic points of view and I’m pretty certain some new fascist group or organization, probably one more modern and sophisticated, is planning on tapping the Golden Dawn legacy. The story ain’t over yet.
Some of you are involved with Mountza zine? Can you describe the zine? It’s been awhile since an issue came out—is it dead?
Mountza was myself, George and Kostas, who are not members of the band but good friends of all at Antimob. From 2004 to 2006, we were involved in another fanzine called Immigrant that produced three issues. Mountza started in 2007 and managed six issues, missing #7 by an inch. Anyway, we put Mountza on ice in 2014, for the usual reasons, lack of time, marriage, kids etc.
Mountza was written in English and it covered the international hardcore punk scene, bands and individuals we happened to be fond of, as well as other forms of music and art. We haven’t given up on a new issue but if it eventually materializes it won’t focus on punk like in the previous six issues. These days we’ve expanded our musical horizons and/or are exploring other forms of art as well, not mentioning a certain disillusionment with the current hardcore/punk scene.
I used to conduct most of the interviews and write a large chunk of the reviews that featured in Mountza, and frankly I don’t feel like taking that all up again. I definitely miss doing a fanzine, though, since I’d been interviewing bands, doing scene reports and exploring underground music scenes from a very young age, long before I started playing in an active band.
Anything else you would like to add?
I think we covered it all! Thanks a lot for interviewing Antimob and for producing such a brilliant fanzine. It was really fun to bump into you again almost 20 years after your Maximum Rock’n’Roll coordinating days! Let’s hope we will still be around in 20 years’ time for another chat! I hope you and your family and friends remain safe from the COVID epidemic and let’s worry about the future abominations that are in store for us at a later stage!