At the crossroads where man meets machine stands Volition Immanent, a two-man band intent on delivering highly personal live performances that shock, inspire and amaze in equal measure. Since first joining forces in 2014, hardware freak Parrish Smith and former punk activist Mark van de Maat (founder of Amsterdam’s admirable Knekelhuis label) have earned a reputation for delivering the kind of incendiary live shows that were once the preserve of British multi-media mavericks such as Cabaret Voltaire and Throbbing Gristle. Their latest release on Mind Records is out now. Catch them live at the upcoming Rokolectiv Festival in Bucharest.
How did you two get together? Can you talk about your background? Mark: the bio mentions you are a former punk activist – can you elaborate?)
One day a mutual friend put us together in a room to make music. He knew Mark was singing in a hardcore punk band and Parrish was getting more active with his electronic music activities. We started jamming and a great connection arose. The first track we released on Contort Yourself, called “Swarm Behaviour”, was recorded during one of those takes. As for the former punk activism, at the end the 90’s, beginning of the 00’s, I was indeed involved in political punk activities and participated in political action, like Antifa, Anarchist Black Cross, and Animal Liberation Front. But I liberated myself, leaving the fights for what they were, and turning the awareness closer to my own life. Still, I feel choosing the path of art, the DIY approach, is strongly connected to the punk aesthetic from those days. At the same time, we see punk as staying progressive, finding how to challenge our world and asking critical questions about the system we live in at the moment.
Your live shows have been compared to having the energy of Throbbing Gristle or Cabaret Voltaire, renowned for their intense, uncompromising ethos (esp Throbbing Gristle, and their predecessor like COUM Transmissions). Can you talk about your performances and how important are the said bands and the era they created in and what they represented?
People seem to compare our show to these amazing acts. And that’s a compliment. COUM Transmissions, seen from the perspective of the 60-70s were mind- and groundbreaking experiments that shocked the world of art and its boundaries with full force. But the times are changing, freedom and cultural and economic structures shift and reshape as well. This shocking personal aspect that people seem to feel at our shows is still important today. Our live shows are about catalyzing energies together: us and the audience. To touch them, to look them in the eye and open up bursting out energies that are in every one of us. It’s a cathartic feeling that seems deafened a bit in our over-awareness. It’s an experience of us together instead of we (the artists) against you (the public). In that sense, it’s definitely an interactive performance.
Mark, you also run the amazing Knekelhuis label. How important is the whole DIY aspect of running an underground label, and existing in this community?
In everything that you do or create, it’s very important to know how stuff works from top to bottom. Whether you work at the grocery shop, the office or in music, it doesn’t make a difference. So when you start a label you have no clue where it’s going or where to start. And with the right DIY mindset, you’re going to learn about every tiny detail that needs to be dealt with to eventually arrive at the end product of a physical record. When stuff is growing and getting more popular after a while, you’ll end up making choices to work with different disciplines in your process of creation. And the more the money gets involved, the more you start to become aware about other structures. All choices are okay, as long as you understand the industry and know where you’re coming from. And to stay true to yourself. So yeah, this DIY attitude is a pillar to me.
Can you talk about your recent release on MIND Records?
This is the third time we work with Abraham Toledano of MIND Records. We love to work with people we know personally. He’s put trust in us from the beginning. Artistically, his way of running a label fits very well with our DIY ethos. The A1 track “Whiteboy” was created as a kind of tongue-in-cheek “Fuck you” to some deeply rooted racist prejudices that are part of our society and its white supremacy powers. After releasing the Black Genesis record by Parrish Smith at Knekelhuis, there were some interesting reactions to that news. Parrish was interviewed about that record and mentioned in the middle that it doesn’t take a lot of effort to get to know each other. Two persons from different cultures can give 10 minutes of their lives to get to know each other’s culture. We can value each other. There are some people who’d rather avoid the whole discussion instead of openly talking with each other as two different persons. The B track is live recorded at the De School club in Amsterdam. We have a great connection with them and loved to release this. It captures the live essence of our live shows well.
By Lucia Udvardyova