North Carolina’s Patriot has been a fixture of the American oi! scene for 25 years. In addition to putting together a 25th anniversary show this week, frontman Eddie Oakes took the time to sit down for an interview. It hasn’t all been easy, but long distances and lineup changes aside, the band is still going strong. Check out the full interview below, and find out about Patriot’s history and where they’ll go from here.
Dying Scene (Gina Skidz): First off, congrats on celebrating 25 years as a band! How did you guys get started, way back when?
Eddie Oakes (Patriot): We put a band together to be a better representation of what we loved in the scene.
You’ve had some lineup changes over the years, but the band as an entity is still kickin’. What has kept you together?
I’m actually the only original member left who has been there from the beginning. Our current bass player Brian was also our former bass player, until about 1999, and he recently came back. He and I had a few personal differences and parted ways for a while, but he was interested in being a part of the band again. We smoothed over a few differences of opinion and have been going at it ever since.
What does 25 years together mean to you?
It’s a sense of accomplishment. I’m proud of what I’ve done and I’ve enjoyed all 25 years of it. I play music because I felt like I wanted to give back to a way of life that’s given me everything. I just want to do my part. I’m just glad I have enough wind under my wings to be able to do it.
Let’s get to the music. What made you want to start an oi! band?
The biggest reason is that the skinhead scene has given me everything. I’ve been actively involved in scene for 30 years, and it’s my way of life. The scene has been really good to me and I really wanted to make my contribution as well. The original goal was to give something back to the scene, rather than expecting the scene to give to me. We wanted to have our voice and celebrate our beliefs and our values as well.
What were your early influences?
Back then, late 80s early 90s, it was difficult to get your hands on the English oi! music. We had the American bands like Antiheroes, Agnostic Front, more American bands like that. Aside from that, The Business, The Fourskins, other English bands like that were a big influence on me, but it was harder to find records from them.
How would you describe Patriot’s style, specifically?
I’d just straight up call us 100% American oi. To be more specific, Patriot is melodic street punk for lack of better term. I don’t put a whole lot of emphasis on one style over another, it’s all punk rock one way or another.
How do you set about writing songs?
It varies. Sometimes someone brings a melody in, or has something written and arranged already. No method to the madness.
Lyrically, what are the main points that you’re trying to get across?
First and foremost, the only politics of this band has been championing working class causes, speaking up and speaking out for working class people. Being a voice, so to speak, and sort of targeting and going after any issues or situations where we personally feel working class people are being victimized or you know, undermined. The band embraces, champions, and glorifies working class people and draws inspiration from issues affecting working class people, including the military.
What’ve you got planned for the big anniversary?
We’ve got a big show here in Wilmington, North Carolina, on October 16th. There’s a pretty large lineup, including the Antagonizers from Atlanta, No Labels Fit, M-60, another local band called Rocket 77, and my other project, Bastard Brigade. Besides the show, we’re actively working on a new record, all new material.
Can you tell us about your process for working on the new album?
Right now we’re breaking ground on writing new material—we have about 4 new songs towards a new album. Before that, we were just navigating through some lineup changes. Our former bass player is out in Phoenix, he just had a kid, and he’s focused on family life. Our former drummer is in Virginia Beach. There was no way to rehearse. Brian expressed interest in coming back to the band. Dave, who has also played drums with the Lower Class Brats, hopped in. Now at least we’re all in the same state, making progress on writing material, it’s been a lot better.
Do you have a timeframe for the release of the new album?
Unfortunately, we have no idea on timeframe. It’s hard to maintain a rigid rehearsal schedule when two of us live two hours away from the others. Right now we’re only rehearsing every two weeks or so, but we plan to step it up.
Are you planning to tour out-of-state any time soon?
We’ll be back up the East Coast. I’ve got family in western Massachusetts, and Patriot has been so well-received and cared for in the Northeast, it’s always been our home away from home. We’ll definitely be back. We are shooting for another show in December if we play out cards right. Something around Christmastime.
I saw you play recently with Yellow Stitches in Manchester, New Hampshire. I have to say, I was blown away by how cool and kind and totally gracious you guys were. Has that always been your “thing”?
Absolutely, I’ve always had a mindset that I don’t have much use in the oi! scene for over-inflated egos and certain postures, just because someone happens to be a member of a band who accomplished a few things. That doesn’t impress me. The real stars are the people who come out and pay their hard earned money to watch us. I’m working for the people kind enough to support me when I’m on stage. This is my opportunity to give back to the lifestyle that gave me so much.
Oi! can be perceived as kind of a tough-guy scene. Are you ok with that? Do you think you fit in with that stereotype, or are you trying to change it?
I don’t get into a lot of tough guy posturing. I think it’s counter-productive. That whole “I’m in hardcore, arms crossed, I-don’t-smile” mindset is kind of dumb, and kind of sad. I can see standing up for what you believe in, we’re all kids on the street, we’ve got to come together in solidarity and unity. But being eager to fight and to find problems where there aren’t any, unfortunately that can destroy everything for everybody. I say smile, you’re allowed to have fun, and the tough guy mentality is counterproductive.
Speaking of the oi! scene, you mentioned at that show a few times about trying to keep unity in the scene, and keeping politics out of it. How hard is it to do that?
It’s important to understand that there’s a difference between irrelevant and relevant politics. We’re not an anti-political or a non-politcal band. I feel like a lot of people use being non-political as a catchphrase to avoid taking responsibility for racist stuff that drifts around our scene. I have no tolerance or use for that. [Racism] is a moral issue, not a political one, when it comes to turning a blind eye to racist elements in our scene. As much as I might have concerns about genocide in another countries, I also can’t carry the weight of the world on my shoulders, so I focus lyrics on relevant issues to our scene, working class causes.
Have you seen the scene evolve over the years, for better or worse?
The internet is a double edged sword—there are so many people that have a “scene life,” if you will, based on Facebook profiles and YouTube videos and such. We didn’t have that when I was getting into the scene in the 80s. You called people on the phone to find out what was going on, everybody got the word out, there was no “check your inbox.” We had to go to certain lengths, you had to go out and make a scene. Nowadays it’s easier, the skinhead experience can be simply an online experience. I’ve seen a lot change over the years. The internet does make the world smaller, where you can push and promote bands from other parts of the world–look at the skinhead scene in Malaysia, it’s exploded. In my personal opinion, nothing will ever beat the real thing, going out actually to shows, seeing the bands, and hanging out.
Do you have any words of wisdom for kids just coming into the scene now?
I would encourage people to realize it’s not a phase, it’s a way of life. For me personally, I’ve been a traditionalist on our way of life. I just can’t help but feel frustrated when kids get into it for a while, next thing you know they’re whatever, you know, not even a part of it anymore. I would encourage people to get out there. To paraphrase a famous quote, “don’t ask what the scene can do for you”–make a scene, get out there and be involved, turn your computer off and go out and see shows, have a good time.
How much do you guys play out now, and where can people find you?
We’re absolutely shooting to play more shows. The difficulty is the lineup changes. Patriot is everything to me, it’s been so much of my life. All I want out of life is family, friends, and playing music. I don’t do it for money; it’s everything I love. Our goal is to be making the rounds and playing shows as much as humanly possible until we just can’t do it anymore.
Is there anything else you want fans to know?
Just that we love what we do and we’re so glad to do it. We’re so thankful to have people who want to get behind us. Our goal is to do as long as we can. Thanks to everyone who’s gonna stick with us.
To find more information on Patriot’s 25th anniversary show, check out their Facebook page here.
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