JSNTGM stands for Just Say No To Government Music. Like most important things in life, JSNTGM is very much a labour of love, often spiritually and financially draining, but still (for many reasons) worthwhile nonetheless. Justsaynotogovernmentmusic has been in existence since the early 90's when I began playing in and working with different bands, putting on gigs, writing and contributing to fanzines and putting out vinyl – hopefully it will continue and be of some value to some people for a few more years.
The term "government music" is from the Dead Kennedys' http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dead_Kennedys song "Triumph of The Swill" www.youtube.com/watch?v=68ekngSyuLM on their "Bedtime for Democracy" album (1986) – possibly based on Leni Riefenstahl’s Nazi propaganda film ‘Triumph of the Will’ and all its negative associations. "Triumph of The Swill" critiques the seemingly endless stream of formulaic garbage (what JB describes as ‘the mind-controlled beat’) served up to us by the Music Industry Machine. As a cultural form popular music always prowls the boundaries of acceptability and thinkers since Plato have been aware how it carries messages and prompts a reaction – it seems such a shame when it works in the interests of power. These messages are largely based on the context of understanding (rather than the music itself) and although on a personal level although I should be able to ‘rise above’ and accept music for what it is, I do continue to find much of it mind-numbingly infuriating and its whole celebrity-edifice profoundly nauseating ……. These personal failings, coupled with an interest in music, politics and the human condition probably provided the motivation to set up this small independent label. By being small and independent we are therefore in a good position to critique what is and imagine other possibilities.
I often get asked what I mean when I refer to ‘government music’ or in some cases to even provide a working definition of ‘government music’ actually means ? These are always interesting questions because the ideas and concepts that exist in the social world have an uncanny knack of finding ways to avoid definition. Try defining music for instance ‘sound organised in time’ is one of my favourites but I can think of instances when that just doesn’t apply. The values we assign to something such as a song / artist / genre / lyric is a matter of personal taste, prejudice and preference and indeed one person’s wine is nearly always another’s poison.
So instead of restricting the notion of ‘government music’ to our personal prejudices surrounding songs or artists, I prefer to leave it as an open concept of possibility, something to think with. For instance on one level ‘government music’ could be imagined as a force within the very political notion of ‘speaking truth to power’ and therefore questioning the complexities surrounding how this power comes to exist, work and perpetuate itself. ‘Government music’ in this sense is not necessarily therefore the hard politics of the dictator, the fascist or the tyrant and maybe something that works in softer and more subtle ways. Maybe like our tastes and preferences it varies over time and flows and operates in different ways depending on the local or global context. It could even be the backing sound that plays out within our advanced consumer societies which convince us to live in certain ways and to subscribe to the ‘tyranny of common-sense’.
From manifesto bands to popular icons with a ‘political bent’ such as Guthrie, Baez, Dylan, Bragg, Gillespie (Sarah) and Bono music continually refracts politics through our culture. Just as music is far more than what goes on in the charts and on MTV, politics it is far more than what goes on in the Whitehouse and Westminster – music and politics never sleep and through our consumption practices, ideas and dialogue they are constantly in motion. If you think about your world you can probably imagine if they are being nurtured or denied. One doesn’t have to be exactly whistling the tune of the establishment in order to be complicit with how power operates. From recent experience we can point to many instances whereby the lightning rod of music can formulate ideas and a potent response to its surroundings – be it by the Dixie Chicks, RATM, Pussy Riot or Dead Kennedys – the potential is always there for music to allow politics and ideas to break out in the most unlikely places, and this is what makes music such an interesting phenomenon. Bands / artists that cut against the currents of conformity tend to be the ones that interest us and might just find a welcoming and temporary resting place within our little label.
By continuing to promote great music and in some way hopefully engage with ‘the political’, we hopefully provide some small counterweight to the conventional ‘post-political’ world of government music. We try to get new stuff released as often and as quickly as we can, so please do send us your material, we do prefer CD’s and tapes rather than e-mails. We will normally review all the material we receive in (the now digital) Blackpool Rox III fanzine, and it will in turn be added to the on-line reviews section, so we can immortalise your music and partially help satisfy our existential desire for immortality.
For more information about where we came from have a look at our History page.