Resetting the scene with Random Hand

Resetting the scene with Random Hand

By Samarth Kanal

Dec 7, 2015 12:20

Random Hand are formative and prolific, and you might well be familiar with their style of heavy ska-punk. There's also a sizeable chance you've seen them support other bands like Propagandhi and The Skints. They started out in 2002 and are now on hiatus, so this was as good a time as any to tie up some loose ends and chat to Joe Tilston (Bass/Vocals) about Random Hand's existence, and why they decided to press the pause button.

“It’s a peculiar thing and lots of people keep asking me what the hell we were thinking. I’ve had many conversations with people that definitely know better telling me we’re crazy,” says Joe, as I ask him why Random Hand’s most recent album – ‘Hit Reset’ – has been released during their hiatus.

He continues, saying, “We’ve had this album ready for a bit, and when we realised we had to stop, we didn’t want to just leave without this mark made on record. So it was a big decision to make to have a hiatus, but it was part of the same decision that we were going to draw a line under it.”

Joe and the rest of Random Hand are clearly aware that providing a conclusion is important, just like The Swellers and Fireworks did with their huge runs of final tours. Releasing an album draws an ever thicker line under a band’s discography, showing how they’ve evolved and matured over the years.

‘Hit Reset’ provides that conclusion – it’s as punchy and unflinching as ever – and it’s as much for the fans as it is for the band themselves. Joe concurs, saying, “In order to make us happy to take a break, we had to make this album. It’s strange, but we’re very happy we did it”. On top of that, they’ve played nearly 100 gigs this year, which feels like as satisfying a conclusion as ever.

“When we said we were going to go on hiatus I didn’t think we were going to be leaving much behind, but the last tour really showed me what we were leaving behind. A couple of key gigs showed me how vibrant, and how strong [the scene] was, as ever,” says Joe.

Perhaps a main motivation for calling a hiatus was a general feeling of jadedness within the band, which can easily happen when touring consumes you and pushes away other responsibilities: “The thing about the scene as it is, for the last few years it’s felt quite disjointed,” says Joe.

“Over the years quite a few bands have disappeared, bands have gone off in their own way – bands we’ve supported like Sonic Boom Six, The Skints and JB Conspiracy – bands you’d see together all the time are all just doing their own thing. It felt like the focus had just gone.”

There’s no false nostalgia here then, but it’s not arrogant to admit that the community that there once was has dissipated a tiny bit. Joe maintains that the punk scene is certainly not “dead”, as many have said, and there’s plenty to to prove it. “I’ve argued about that for years. We might not see the limelight like we used to but we did a gig at the Fleece in Bristol and there were around fourteen bands on,” says Joe.

“450 people came to that gig, travelling from places like Belgium and Ukraine. To me, that doesn’t sound like a scene that’s ‘dead’! (laughs). It might not be in the pages of Kerrang but it’s still good and it brings a lot of fun to peoples lives.”

“You kind of find the people who say that [punk is ‘dead’] are the people who don’t go to gigs,” continues Joe. “People stopped going to gigs when Capdown and King Prawn stopped doing stuff and they said ‘hell it’s not the same as it was, it’s not as good as it was.”

Joe’s view that there’s a painful apathy within the punk scene is echoed by many. Of course, dwindling crowds are part of the life cycle of a band, but Random Hand aren’t faced by smaller crowds. There’s a feeling that the love that people once had for the punk scene has diminished.

There are more reasons for the hiatus, as Joe describes: “The last 3 years have been peculiar and that’s why we got to the point of a hiatus, because we weren’t able to focus on other things. the attention needed. All of us have gone on to do different things.”

“Music is very close to all of our hearts so it will be there in some way. Friends are trying to jam together and and I’m also producing solo stuff which I’ve put on the back-burner a little bit, because it’s quite an emotional thing to get involved with,” continues Joe. “I’ve had quite a tricky year with the death of my mother so it’s just made me really want to form solo stuff. It’s always there and I’ll get back into it.”

Random Hand’s energy and ferocity perhaps cushioned what has been a difficult year. Joe says, “Random Hand is a lot better at letting out the stress of dealing with that kinda stuff. Doing Random Hand is much more letting out anger than analysing is. It was definitely cathartic to ‘let rip’”

The hiatus will definitely give Joe and the rest of Random Hand some time to process what has been a long and thundering run of shows and releases. Joe concludes with the enthusiasm that he and his band-mates clearly share for a scene that they have supported – and has supported them – for thirteen years.

“My all time favourite band I’ve played with has been the JB Conspiracy. I just adore them. They’re just, as ska punk goes, the defining British ska punk band y’know. They completely sum up the sound of ska punk,” says Joe.

Joe sums up the bands that have influenced him, saying, “Other bands like Capdown, King Prawn and Sonic Boom Six have defined what we did as a band and that’s why they played our last show.
There’s always new bands who are doing great things like Petrol Girls – absolutely incredible, and an utterly brilliant force to be reckoned with. There’s so many exciting things out there.”