Interview: Cocaine Piss
You can yell at people and it's interesting and everything, but you can also try to include people that you want to include in something. You can yell at whatever is terrible in the world but it's better to do it together and dance in the process. It's a shitty world out there so we can just enjoy what we have in common.
Belgium’s Cocaine Piss are a punk band in the purest sense of the word. Heralding from Liège, Belgium – they are a radical counterpoint to macho posturing, elitist exclusion, and good taste. Fresh from recording their new album, due for around March, and with a brand new bassist, Cocaine Piss are glistening with a zeal for all things kind and queer. Before their show at London’s The Lexington, the band were kind enough to talk to us about collectivist ethos, positive punk, and cornering the poker market.
E&D: So Farida, how did you end up as the new bassist in Cocaine Piss?
Farida Amadou: Actually, I got a message on Facebook saying “Heya! Do you want to play with us?”. I said I’m not sure if I have time but lets meet up and talk about it.
Aurélie Poppins: We all come from the same city and saw her playing in different stuff before, so we knew what we were going for…and I guess it worked!
Mathias Estelles Y Carion: She said yes!
E&D: I’m glad you said that because it was really starting to sound like you just messaged someone completely random on Facebook to get them in the band.
Aurélie: We’re not really a band with a plan…but come on!
E&D: So Farida, were you in a touring band before or is this your first time?
Farida: It’s my first real band because I play jazz and free improvisation in different bands. So I meet people for the first time, I play, and say bye basically.
Yannick Tones: But she’s sleeping with us!
E&D: Have you been a big part of the writing process for the new album? Is the next Cocaine Piss album going to be a jazz epic?
Yannick: I think of course when you have a new line up with a new person paying with you and writing the songs with you brings another dynamic. It’s different from what we’ve done before, but it’s still Cocaine Piss.
Aurélie: It’s Cocaine Piss but evolving. We never want to get stuck in a loop where we do the same fucking album every time. And we are lucky to evolve and bring new members to move on and try new stuff. It’s life.
Mathias: And yes there is some free jazz!
Farida: I think the energy of free jazz is like punk. Its the same vibe.
E&D: This tour is your celebration of the re-release of The Pool, your first album – and you’ve just recorded your new album. Is it strange having to revisit your first album after just making your new album?
Yannick: We knew the plan. We knew that we were going to go record a new one and that it would take some time to do the promotion and press the vinyl. We had loads of people asking to put The Pool back in the stores, so this was a good opportunity to play it all in Europe because the first time we released it we only did one tour.
Aurélie: We did one tour with it, but it was a DIY tour through the squats of Europe and we only released like 300 copies. So a lot of people are now asking about it and insane arseholes are just sitting on them on Discogs – so we are pressing a bit more to allow people to have access to it.
Yannick: We’ve been evolving for sure but The Pool is still in our DNA.
Aurélie: It’s all of us. We haven’t played those songs in a while, and then we played them again in practice and were like “Hey! They’re not that bad! Still funny to play!”.
Mathias: And we can’t play the new album yet so…
Aurélie: It hasn’t been that long…like three years ago?
Yannick: So it’s not like Metallica playing back the first album like 25 years later.
Aurélie: It’s very not like Metallica! And The Pool is like nine minutes long anyway.
E&D: Like your last album, The Dancer, you’ve recorded the new album with Steve Albini – how was that going back to him?
Aurélie: It was fantastic! He is still a fantastic and very kind person – and the best sound engineer in the world. But we’ve changed; we were shitting our pants the first time because we knew who he was but didn’t know that he was that kind. You just know that he’s big. But we knew that this time it was going to be a super chill studio session, so that felt good.
Mathias: I think we were well prepared to do it because we were already there so we knew how it worked and whether it was going to be good. A bit less stress and sweating.
E&D: Steve Albini just won a World Series of Poker event with your t-shirt on, did that come up?
Aurélie: We were told about the t-shirt stuff. I don’t know how it came about.
Yannick: We were just like “Hey! Steve, thank you!” But you know at the end of the session, not at the beginning – because you focus on work and then you chat. After the recording we talked about that and bought him a new sweater – like this is four seasons Cocaine Piss.
Aurélie: He totally meant it. He wasn’t just randomly wearing that shirt because the year before he sent us an email saying “Hey I’m going to the World Series of Poker and I’m going to wear my Cocaine Piss t-shirt and maybe we’ll get some pictures.” He didn’t win shit so no pictures at all. But then he did it again this year and he fucking won! So there were pictures everywhere! And it’s very kind. Long story: We gave him a t-shirt the first time we went there. He lost it so we sent another one. Then he found it again. So he gave the other one to a big arse poker player.
Mathias: He won more than three million.
Aurélie: It’s insane. And now he has a Cocaine Piss t-shirt too.
E&D: Do you like the thought that you are cornering the poker market?
Aurélie: And we’re the only punk band in the poker market! One of these days we’ll have a pop up store in Vegas – and my god we are going to make crazy money…that’s the only way!
E&D: So about your music, I think it’s really evident that you have this really positive personality of feel good freedom.
Aurélie: I’m really happy you get that because some people think it is very aggressive…but it’s not really. It’s fun! I mean there’s yelling and it’s intense, but it’s supposed to be something fun, light, and positive. We’re taking all the anger and making it nice and positive for everyone. Dance and shit!
E&D: A lot of punk is characterized by its anger, and from coming from an angry place. Is your punk angrily railing against exclusivity, or more raising the banner for inclusiveness?
Aurélie: You can yell at people and it’s interesting and everything, but you can also try to include people that you want to include in something. We’re probably doing a bit of both. You can yell at whatever is terrible in the world but it’s better to do it together and dance in the process. It’s a shitty world out there so we can just enjoy what we have in common. Altogether! COLLECTIVENESS!
Mathias: Try and forget for 25 minutes all the shit you know and just enjoy.
E&D: How would you prefer to see your music? People who are like you listening to it and coming together, or do you like the idea of people who are not part of your world view being converted?
Aurélie: Both I guess, we don’t exclude anyone except if you are an arsehole and you behave like an arsehole. We don’t exclude anyone except when we have to. Everyone is very welcome to be a part of this, but if they behave like arseholes they’re out. But that’s what’s very nice about our shows because we have a very diverse audience. It’s not just like, I don’t know, people our age – it’s way wider then that and that’s important to us. We are doing something between us, but it’s wider than that, and if you just stay with the punks its very stupid because you don’t evolve at all you just get stuck in your own mind set and political ideas. You are just talking into a mirror.
Yannick: It’s cool with Cocaine Piss because we’ve got to play in front of all sorts of audiences. It’s cool because you get to see people enjoying themselves even if they’re 40 or nine years old.
Aurélie: Or listen to R’n’B because we have been very lucky to play very weird shows. We are not stuck in one scene anymore.
Mathias: We have played in a lot of eclectic programmes and world showcases. Sometimes it works, and sometimes people are scared but it’s fun too…
Aurélie: But it always worked, in the end it always worked. We always find someone – I guess we are lucky because people seem to get it even though you wouldn’t necessarily think they would. Last Friday we played in a fancy Casino in Belgium, in a fancy red velvet jazz club. The audience was basically guys over 45 and they liked it, and it worked. It wasn’t confrontational were you don’t actually meet the audience.
Yannick: Even if they don’t pit…
Aurélie: Yeah, they don’t! I don’t think we have ever had a bad experience where it felt impossible to make a connection with the audience – we always find one you know?
E&D: Do you find that’s universal everywhere you go?
Aurélie: So far yeah, you always find someone. I mean sometimes its not easy…
Mathias: …but it’s never been total awkwardness with people leaving. If they don’t get it, they still 100% have fun and they are smiling.
Aurélie: They still smile, and they still dance a bit. We are never 100% failures. It’s never happened…yep yep…touching wood. We do touch a lot of wood.
E&D: I mean even if you are playing your hearts out and 99 people don’t get it you still get that one person. Like that one I saw dressed as a vagina in one of your show photographs.
Aurélie: But honestly it’s not even one person. Most of the time it works. And that’s impressive to us because they often love it and it’s fun.
Mathias: And they’ll come in costume or covered in glitter to enjoy it more. And we are like “Oh fuck! That’s so cool!”
Aurélie: We were once in Poland and we had no idea what to expect and we made the best friends there – and we’ve come back and met the same people. It was like a punk show but it was actually a fantastic queer punk show where everyone was covered in glitter and everyone was so kind. We just thought we were playing a punk show in Poland! We tend to get more good surprises than bad ones.
E&D: You’ve said before of the Belgium, Liège scene that you are all friends and that you only got a break because you were lucky. It seems like you’ve brought this supportive mantra out with you to spread into the world.
Aurélie: We are very lucky with the scene we’ve come from. All of Belgium is cool but the city we come from is very special. It’s open minded and there is a solidarity there. Everyone is just giving tips to everyone. Even last Sunday we were told by someone to get in touch with someone to put songs in a movie to make good money! It’s very kind because we are all in the same place, all the bands we know are like us. We don’t make a lot of money but we do this 100%, we don’t really have jobs anymore. Most of the people in Liège are doing the same thing, and I’m going to say about 75% of our friends are musicians without money. Because it’s an industrial city rents are very low; we have unemployment money and everyone is surviving on that. But then everyone is exchanging tips to get all the good shows, and no one is competitive about that. It’s more like: “we are playing this cool show, you can probably play too!” It’s very good.
E&D: Your music video for ‘Happiness’ gives the impression that you knew everyone on the shoot?
Aurélie: Half of them, and now we are all very good friends! Everyone became instant friends who met there. We knew half of the cast, and the other half was brought by Peggy Lee Cooper – the drag artist who directed the video. It was fantastic, and they are all still friends from that video a year and a half later.
Mathias: And sometimes we’ve met people who have said they’ve seen the ‘Happiness’ movie clip and want to be in the next one! Even people who have like the long hair, the long beard, and look pretty metal tell us “that looks so fun!”
Aurélie: It was like 40 people in that video and that song Happiness is their song now. Every time we play that song and someone from the video is there, they are there shouting “This is my song!” and singing “Masturbation!”.
E&D: Do you know the director John Walters? When I watched the ‘Happiness’ video he immediately came to mind. Would you say that you are the John Waters of punk?
Aurélie: Oh my god Peggy is going to be so fucking happy! The artist who did the video with us will love that comment! We would totally say we were the John Waters of punk. We are very good friends with Peggy, and you should all check him out. Peggy Lee Cooper, and he just released an album! We know each other very well and were friends for years, and then he did that video for us and he did whatever he wanted to do because he knew what we wanted. He really took direction with that, but it was perfect. When friends work with friends!