Skip to main content

Steve Zeltser interviews Chumbawamba vocalist Alice Nutter

Labor on the Job, Transcribed By Lauri Truitt, Bay Area Guinness Fleadh - June 1998

Steve Zeltzer: Why are you supporting the struggle of the Neptune Jade Defense Committee?

Alice Nutter: Because everything that's happening at the moment is completely global. It's not just individuals being attacked. The reason they're attacking unions and trying to outlaw them and outlaw picketing is because they want to reduce everybody to the same low e conomic level. They want everybody to accept slave wages and they can't do it until they knock the unions out. So you have to support every worker's struggle, because they're all linked. You know capitalism's global; workers struggles are global.

Steve Zeltzer: Who is benefiting from the destruction or unions?

Alice Nutter: Well it's capitalism. I was going to say state capitalism, but it's not that simple anymore. I don't think in terms of countries anymore. It's a few individuals. It's the few mega corporations that own everything. You know, 35 people have got all the money.

Steve Zeltzer: Do you try to talk to people about these issues in your music?

Alice Nutter: Yes, well what we try and do is we try and make the best music we can. We don't write thesis', but you stick a microphone near us and we try to bring up other things. We try and point people in directions in the same way that other people are pointing.

You know, the Liverpool Dockers gave us an enormous surge in terms of how much effort they put in and how much work they put in. You thought, "Well I should be doing something as well."

You know that we got stuff out of the dockers' struggle as well. It's not just people in bands lending a helping hand. You do it because you get something out of it. You get something out of meeting people in other countries and feeling that international solidarity.

Steve Zeltzer: When you travel around the world and do your music and sing, what kind of feeling do you have for people around the world about these issues of slave labor and other conditions?

Alice Nutter: Anger, Absolute anger that people are having to struggle for basic human rights. Rights that in some countries people won forty years ago are all being taken back. Everything that people fought for is being pulled out from under their feet, and what other way do you feel but anger.

You know, you can't let them do it, because you take one person's rights away and 500 people in different cities will lose their jobs as well.

Steve Zeltzer: What do you think people should do to stop this attack on their basic democratic rights and their economic rights?

Alice Nutter: Well, the first thing they should do is try and get informed about it. Which is quite difficult really because the media put a blackout on all information that's not really right wing and it's not in the boss' interest. You know, I think people would get involved but quite often they don't know. They don't know that the struggle's going on, on their doorstep, because they have no way of finding out. So, if you know anything about it in some ways it's your duty to pass it on.

Steve Zeltzer: What about the internet? Do you use that to get your word out?

Alice Nutter: Yeah. The internet's absolutely great. If you look at what's happening with Zapatistas, they've managed to wage a really successful propaganda war.

Steve Zeltzer: The capitalists are very worried about this.

Alice Nutter: Yeah. Well they should be very worried about it, because knowledge is a dangerous thing. Knowledge and information is what helps us understand the world and what's going on; then you have to get involved.

Steve Zeltzer: What do you think of the effect of media monopolies Time Warner and Turner and Murdock and Fox. How do you think that's going to effect democracy and communication and the right of groups such as yours, to do your music?

Alice Nutter: Well, I'm not really concerned about us as a group, because I think it's bigger than us. I think it's bigger than Chumbawamba. But in terms of Murdock you don't know where it's going to end. He's got so much control over what people think and what people do and what people are led to believe, that it's really dangerous. It's enormously dangerous and you've got to fight back any way you can. At the moment we've got a small amount of power in that we've got major attention, so we have to try and use it wis ely. But I do, I think it's going to have the effect...it's going to make people's lives worse. I mean that's the simple answer.

Steve Zeltzer: Do you think the tide is turning against Thatcherism - the ideology of Thatchersim in England?

Alice Nutter: Yeah, I think people have got a feeling in their stomachs,...that the me, me, me generation;...it's something wrong with it,...that it don't make you happy just thinking about yourself and being a selfish git;...it don't improve society.

You know, you feel it in your stomach, but it's quite hard for people to articulate it because they're not seeing it anywhere else. They're thinking well, "This doesn't work." But they've got no back up. They're not seeing it in the newspapers. They're no t opening the newspapers and saying, "This is fundamentally wrong: people have no rights, single mothers are being attacked, people are living below the poverty line everywhere."

People feel isolated, but they think that it's just them that doesn't like it, and it's not true.

You know, everybody you talk to says this is shit.

Steve Zeltzer: Do you think things are happening in the United States to get people moving, to get activated about what effects them? Do you think Neptune Jade is part of it?

Alice Nutter: Yeah, Neptune Jade is definitely part of it. The way they supported the Liverpool Dockers and thought internationally is a really strong indication that people are opening their eyes and seeing the world as it really is, rather than seeing their individual pocket of it and that is happening everywhere, but I think that we need more media control. We need somehow to take more control of the media. We need to use it in any way possible.

Steve Zeltzer: The [Britain's] Labour Party has come in to power in England. Do you think anything's changed? And, what does it represent?

Alice Nutter: Well. It's become more right wing. Tony Blair's government are more Tory than the Tory Party. They got elected by convincing business that they'd act in their interest, and they made people's lives worse,...and they're getting away with it, because people are thinking that there's some vestige of socialism in there, somewhere. There's no vestige of socialism.

Tony Blair's a wanker. He doesn't care about people. He's entirely mercenary. He's cutting all the welfare rights. The national health service is being dragged away. I mean the Labour Party owned 14% of the Mersey Dock and Harbour Company which the docker s were striking against. They could have solved that dispute the minute they came into power. They weren't interested. They were interested in breaking the unions; not supporting them. So I mean, Tony Blair's an evil man. I really believe that he's completely evil.

Steve Zeltzer: Didn't a minister get a dump of water, because he was involved with selling out of the dockers?

Alice Nutter: Yeah, we poured icy water over John Prescott's head. But we did it to show that they can't get away with it. There is some comeback. They ruin people's lives; they think they're untouchables. They sit in Whitehall and they think that they make decisions a nd there's never anybody around to actually say, "Look, there's comeback on this. You do this and we're going to fight back." So he just happened to be sat ten yards away from us. So we thought it was just too good an opportunity to miss.

Steve Zeltzer: Was he surprised?

Alice Nutter: Angry. He was too concerned with media image to fight back. He had a look on his face that said, "If I weren't a media politician, I'd thump you. But I am, so I'm going to grit my teeth."