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Peter118 and the compatibility of punk and Christianity

Punk has never been short of strong convictions, from the Sex Pistols’ slightly incoherent class rage to The Clash’s more considered socialism to the anarchism of Crass, early punk was awash with strong beliefs, fortunately, most of them progressive. Fast forward to Anti Flag and then again to Adequate Seven. In the contemporary era Lost Cherrees and Truth Equals Treason stand out for me but there are plenty of other punk bands who wear their political convictions on their sleeves. Punk has had a slightly more ambivalent relationship with musicians and bands whose convictions have been more spiritual than political. They have always been there, of course, Bad Brains’ Rastafarian beliefs and post X-Ray Spex both Poly Styrene and Lora Logic were part of the Hare Krishna movement. There is also an intriguing film The Taqwacores, based on a novel of the same name by Michael Muhammad Knight, about a group of Muslim punks in New York, which is well worth a watch and played a part in the rise of real-life Taqwacore bands (1)!

The problem for punk, I guess, isn’t spirituality per se but the social conservatism of many religions and in USA and Europe, this has been particularly obvious in the Christian Church which has a bad track record of social oppression and colluding with the state. However, sometimes spirituality can be a resource drawn on by the oppressed in their struggle for freedom and dignity against their oppressors, Liberation Theology being one example.  Christian punk bands are pretty easy to count on the fingers on one hand for most of us, (early) MxPx and (the excellent) Crashdog, (hmm still leaves three fingers), but there have been/are plenty more as a quick Google search reveals. One of them is Peter118. Originally a side project of Peter Field, the Stoke-based band started in 2012 and is currently comprised of Peter (guitar /vocals), Janine (bass) and Sam (drums), their first release Make It or Break It came out in 2015 followed by Need You More (2016), a split EP In Stereo (2017) and an album Anthology and Live in L.A. (2018).  Following a heads up from The Punk Lounge, I contacted Peter for an interview to find out more about Peter118 and the compatibility of punk and Christianity.        

Could you tell us a little bit about Peter118, how did you get together? Had any of you been in other bands beforehand?

Peter118 started in 2012 as an acoustic project going into bars in clubs and singing punk songs. I met the drummer Sam at an acoustic night at a local museum in 2014 in Stoke on Trent – my hometown. That night Sam jumped onto the Cajun drums and joined Peter118 instantly. At the time my bass player was Andrew Derbidge however he moved to London in 2015. Janine joined on bass filling in for Andrew, Janine then took her place in the band following her first gig – she had two weeks to learn all the songs before she played her first gig at a church youth group evening in Bloxwich, Walsall. I previously played in Christian bands such as the Ambassadors of Shalom and Risen from Ruins. Prior to that, I was in a secular punk band called Senseless for 10 years where we did an EP and supported punk legends such as Stiff Little Fingers, Bouncing Souls and TSOL. Peter118 was always a side project, however, in 2014 the song ‘Radio’ was played in Japan by a DJ called Mike Rogers which then led to having airplay and exposure all around the world.

You identify as ‘pop-punk’-who do we put your album alongside in the CD/Record rack?

Green Day, Rancid and the 90s punk rock sound.

Have there been any bands that have been major influences on you?

Peter118 brings a fresh sound of pop-punk. We are influenced by the 90s punk rock sound and bands of the 70’s like The Sex Pistols and The Clash. Peter118’s sound is a mixture of Green Day, Blink 182, Sham 69 and The Sex Pistols.

How does a song come together in Peter118, is it a very collaborative process or one main songwriter?

I usually come up with a guitar riff or tune, then write lyrics with Janine’s input and we then take it to band practice and the song develops.  

The band seems to have taken a massive leap forward musically between ‘Break ’em out’ and a more recent song ‘Wasting’! What happened!?

We continue to write and play lots of gigs. The more we practice and play more ideas come into the band. ‘Wasting’ is taking our sound back to the original punk rock roots. ‘Wasting’ was our first track to get played on Kerrang! Radio.

You are very happy to identify as a ‘Christian’ punk band. What does that mean? How does a ‘Christian’ punk band differ from other bands? Motivation? Lyrics?    

Peter118 plays to God and does not look to man’s approval. We believe we have something to offer to people – a hope in Jesus Christ, our lyrics talk about life and can offer hope and truth and can show people that there is a God that loves them.
In an interview earlier this year Janine commented that ‘Jesus was a punk’, citing his (direct) action of overturning the tables of the money changers in the temple (in part a simultaneous attack on the state, religion and treasury) and radical teachings (2). Would that be part of your understanding of punk that it should disrupt the status quo and contribute to moving society forward to something better, that it should at least ‘speaks truth to power’?

Jesus challenged the religious teachers of his time offering a hope to people- he healed the sick, he showed us to help the poor. Jesus hung out with prostitutes, tax collectors and the homeless. Punk challenges unfair systems in society and defends the working classes and the oppressed people in society. Jesus loves the punks and I think he would be on the streets with the punks and homeless showing them love and compassion.

What sort of subject matter do your songs engage with? 

We sing about life and peoples struggles offering them hope and truth. The new song ‘For Your Glory’ is an example of this. What do you think punk can learn from Christianity?

Forgiveness and Love.

What do you think Christianity can learn from punk?

I think Christian Churches and Christian radio can learn to embrace punk culture and music. I know some churches that put on regular Punk shows and Christian radio is now embracing more punk music and bands.

I completely get that there could be an overlap between progressive punk and the person of Jesus-challenging the powers that be, identifying with the poor and marginalised, egalitarian attitudes, desire for social justice-but generally punk is antagonistic towards the church due to its track record of patriarchy, oppression and collusion with the state-where would Jesus be happiest..mosh pit or choir stalls?

Jesus would be in the mosh pit.

What has your experience been of playing live-have you generally had a positive response?

I would say that we have had a positive experience of playing live- people enjoy the live show and message.  We do get a lot of negativity on social media but in person, I never see this.

When are you going to repent of wearing that American flag jacket (surely a symbol of hegemonic oppression to many) and burn it? And will you promise to live stream the burning?! 

Never, the American jacket is awesome, however, I do get strange looks when I go to my local pub wearing it.

You’ve had an album out this year and have been playing live regularly. What are your plans for the rest of 2018 and going into 2019?

We have a new EP at the end of November to finish off this awesome year, 3 brand new songs and it’s a split EP with an American band. Can’t say much more than this at this stage. 2019- more shows and new songwriting, maybe also another USA tour.

What writers and albums have you been enjoying lately?

Roam- Great Heights and Nosedives. I love that band, awesome songs and riffs. We met Roam at Slam Dunk and would love to do some shows with them.
Photos courtesy of Peter118.

(1)Wheeler, S. (2018) Jesus was a Punk Upon this Rock

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