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 our interpretation of ‘government music’ actually is ? This is an interesting question and something that requires a little consideration and reflection. For instance it is more than simply a dislike for a particular style, genre or form of music - so although I do harbour a powerful (and largely irrational) dislike artists such as the Spice Girls, Jamiroquai or Bing Crosby (described in the song as ‘too idiotic to be real’) it would be unfair and inexact to conveniently label these as purveyors and representatives of my understanding of government music. One reason for this is that I recognise that the value we assign to a song / artist / genre / lyric is a matter of personal taste, prejudice and preference (unfortunately I do not have the space or the time to get embroiled in an ontological structure v agency debate as to how these do or do not come to be and change over time) .... and indeed one person’s wine is always another’s poison. For instance I love the subtle nature of the politics that deftly skips and weaves through all 4 albums by The Weakerthans – some do not !
So instead of restricting the notion of ‘government music’ to personal prejudices surrounding a song or an artist, I prefer a far broader interpretation which allows ‘government music’ to be imagined as a component within the very political notion of ‘speaking truth to power’. In this sense ‘government music’ is the sound of power and the complexities surrounding how this power comes to exist, work and perpetuate itself. ‘Government music’ is therefore not always as obvious as the dictator, tyrant or as represented by the blunt baton of law and order, but something that works in softer and more subtle ways to convince and cajole us to believe in 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 politics is being continually refracted through our culture – it is far more than what goes on in the Whitehouse and Westminster - it never sleeps – through our consumption practices, ideas and dialogue it is constantly being either nurtured or denied. So too when you consider a-political bands such as like Westlife, Banarama and Blink 182 – are they denying the political through their music – are they inadvertently whistling the tune of the establishment or aiding it by deflecting attention?
To deny the ‘political’ is to be complicit with power so ‘government music’ can be understood as the sounds (musical or otherwise) made by the shifting sands of power which seek to justify and maintain itself. From experience we can point to many instances whereby the lightning rod of music can however formulate a space for a potential response – be it by the Dixie Chicks, RATM or Dead Kennedys – the potential is always there for politics to break out in the most unlikely of places, and this is what makes popular music such an interesting phenomenon. Bands / artists that cut against the currents of conformity tend to be the ones that might find a welcoming and temporary resting place within our little label.
By continuing to promote great music and in some way hopefully engaging 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 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 you and your band and partially help satisfy your existential desire for immortality.
For more information about where we came from have a look at our History page.