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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Roddy Moreno, The Oppressed - Interview

A man that should need no introduction, Roddy Moreno... lead singer for The Oppressed and The Rude Boys, head honcho of Oi! Records, and an early and enthusiastic supporter of Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice when it seemed like the Skinhead cult was going to be left solely to boneheaded racist morons. Roddy's an outspoken man who walks the walk and doesn't just talk the talk, even his detractors have to cop to that. Look up "tenacity" and "single-mindedness" in the dictionary and you'll see his mug.

One shouldn't forget, either, that The Oppressed were simply a great band. Stick me on a desert island with only one Oi platter to choose from and it would be their debut "Oi Oi Music", hands down. To be fair, the cover heavy material of the reformation years wasn't as good as their 80's output. But they did find time to record arguably their best track, "The AFA Song", a blistering statement of purpose that outstrips even the legendary first LP.

Originally meant to run in a US fanzine that went belly up, this interview is a few years old. While it is a bit dated, I felt it deserved to see the light of day. Roddy is the real deal and has arguably done more for promoting the positive aspects of the Skinhead than any other person alive. For that alone I'm glad John L. is letting me run this.


What was Cardiff like in the 80's during the first wave of Oi!, was there any right-wing presence there at the early gigs?

In the eighties we never really had a problem with the Scum. Cardiff was built on shipping (mostly coal and steel) and has always had a large black communty. So most people here were brought up in a multicultural city where the Scum never got a hold. We did once get a twat give us a Nazi salute when we played in Swansea (arch rivals at football). He didn't get to do it a second time, and after he was dealt with people knew where we stood. It was this incident which brought about 'Work Together', a song to let everyone know where we stood.

All the trouble in the eighties was down to inter city rivalry. Every gig we played outside Cardiff ended in a massive ruck between our crew and the lads from whatever town we played in. It usually went off after one or two of our songs and we'd end up with the police sending us back to Wales. They'd even give us a police escort over the border to make sure we didn't stop in England. In the end it became pointless playing. The boneheads didn't come to our gigs, they knew the reception they'd get.

In the early nineties I was pissed off with the way non political Skins were avoiding the issue of Scum on the scene. When Combat 18 stickers started to appear in my area I knew it was time to reform the band. So using The Oppressed and some anti-fascist songs, I set out to stir some shit. We never wanted to be "political" but had to make a stand against the fascist politics brought in by boneheads

You signed a few bands to Oi! Records that ended up making some dubious calls, at best, politically speaking. What is your take on that now?

When I started Oi! Records my advert in Sounds read "Oi! bands wanted, neither Red nor Racist". If a band told me they were not racist and their music was non racist then I would work with them. I couldn't expect other bands to fight fascism, but I was a bit pissed off when a few bands seemed to approve of boneheads at their gigs. Maybe they feared recriminations, maybe they were just pussies, but they all made a statement just by coming to my label. Of all the bands I put out The Blaggers were the best by far. Closely followed by Oi Polloi. Both bands staunchly anti-fascist.

I've always wondered what you did made of the later sounds of The Blaggers and Oi Polloi. The former did this amazing rock/punk/aggro-rap material and the latter went into warp speed thrash with a whole Gaelic/Pagan twist. Great stuff both but quite far in sound from the whole Oi! Oi! Skinhead of the Oi! Records era. Is any of this to your taste or not really?

Lets face it the world and his wife are shit scared of the fascists, so any bands who make a stand deserve credit. The more people stand up to the Scum, the less Scum there are. Most fascists are cowards so If enough people say fuck off, they'll disappear up their own arse 'oles. When The Blaggers added I.T.A. and signed to a major label they could've been stars and made a fortune. Instead they stood by their anti-fascist roots, lost the contract and ended up skint. What they did end up with was more respect than a thousand fascists could ever dream of.

The Blaggers stuff was great and took the Antifa message to a whole new audience.The Oi Poiloi stuff was a bit to fast and furious for my taste. To be honest though all I've ever listened to is Ska & Soul from the 60's / early 70's.

Okay, main influences for The Oppressed themselves. And who are some of your personal heroes?

The main influences for The Oppressed were Sham 69, Angelic Upstarts, Blitz, Last Resort and The 4-Skins. When you talk about heroes then for me it's got to be all the old Jamaican stars circa 1960/74. Price Buster, The Skatalites, Desmond Dekker, Laurel Aitken... I could go on forever because without Reggae I would never have gotten into music in the first place. My record collection starts off with 40s/50s RnB, stuff like Rocket 88 by Jackie Brenson and Fats Dominoes Be My Guest. Then comes the Ska/Rock Steady/Reggae tunes alongside all the Soul/Motown stuff,again circa 1960/74. My favourite song in the last 20yrs is 'Gangster Paradise' by Coolio. It has the same message as my "When I Was Young", words of wisdom from an old head who had been there and done it.

Did you follow the 1970's Soul scene at all after the initial skinhead phase of the late 60's, early 70's? Did you hit the Cardiff football pitch in stack heels?

There wasn't really a Soul scene in Cardiff back then but yes we all wore stack heels with big huge baggy trousers, and yes it was ridiculous trying to fight with stupid shoes.

A lot of the people who are into the WP garbage seem to be pretty young. Do you think a leopard can change their spots and move on?

The younger kids don't really know what it's all about anyway and you can show them how to be a man and fight against the Scum. Most boneheads grow up by their early 20's and leave their hate behind them. A lot even feel shame about their past, but the Scum who become men and still believe in racial hate can only be dealt with one way.

You've broken up and reformed and broken up again. What's the tea leaf reading for The Oppressed? And what about the Rude Boys?

I think we can safely say that we're well and truly, 100%, definately dead and buried. But you never know, we could always record again! Remember I'm less than 3 yrs away from my 50th, so I leave the live scene to the younger crews. I'd love to reform The Rude Boys but finding a brass section has always been the killer.

So I have to ask, do you go to work in the old boots and braces or is it a more informal look for you these days, e.g. how does an old skinhead settle into middle age?

I always wear either Levis 501s or Sta Prest with A Fred Perry or Ben Sherman and a V Neck sweater. If I'm going to a show/disco I'll wear DMs or brogues. If I'm doing nothing or working I'll wear trainers. Depending on the weather it's an Harrington, Flight jacket or a Crombie. Basically I still wear what wore when I was a teenager.

Closing thoughts? And by the way, what happened to the Ford Sierra you were flogging on the CD release of "Oi Oi Music!". (The Sierra also appears on the cover of "We Can Do Anything").

Don't let Bonehead Scum near your scene. Stand up, be a man,and take no shit.

As for the Ford Sierra went to the great scrapyard in the sky. I didn't get a single offer for it! A big STAY SHARP to all the righteous Skinheads, and a swift kick up the backside to all the fencewalkers. Remember-Evil grows when good men do nothing!



Blogger Pogel said...

Great anti-fascist skinhead band.

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