Conflict have been described as the world’s foremost activist punk rock band. In the USA, the Seattle riots and the ‘straight-edge’ punk movement have accredited Conflict as inspiration, giving an incentive to resume activities and leading to huge interest in their Mortarhate label catalogue. Last year Conflict headlined a sold out Astoria theatre in London (in memory of Barry Horne, the animal rights activist who died in prison on hunger Strike) and subsequently began writing new material.
Conflict hold a unique and fascinating position as a punk band, being hugely influential in the anarchist movement and inspiring many to direct action in numerous alternative life-style causes, such as Anti-Globalisation and the Animal Liberation Front. In the 80’s their records went straight to the top of the indie charts. One even made the national chart at no. 33, causing chart commentator Alan Jones to note this was one band that would never ever be stocked next to the pick’n’mix in Woolies!
Starting out twenty years ago on their mentor’s Crass’ label Corpus Christi, with a nod to the militant side of The Clash, Conflict inhabit an idealistic punk world, where records had to say ‘Pay No More Than…’ and all gigs were benefits for either causes or bust-funds. Campaigning groups contacts were often advertised on sleeves - or otherwise the home addresses of vivisectionists and turkey-farmers like Bernard Matthews!
Preaching intense insurrectionary anarchist politics at their gigs, they whipped up audiences into a riotous frenzy. Arrests after gigs were in the dozens: 23 in Kingston, 24 at Surbiton, 32 at Leeds University (when Chumbawamba supported), culminating in the Brixton Academy riot that hit the front pages of the national newspapers: "52 punks held in Brixton – Six Police Hurt".
Booked on a stolen Rough Trade letterhead, the Academy gig attracted 4,000 punks to hear Conflict perform together with Crass’ front-man Steve Ignorant. Leaflets with maps of Brixton showing ‘targets’ such as McDonalds and Barclays Bank were handed out to the crowd…
Following that major incident, Conflict were effectively banned in the UK. Any promoter booking them had a police visit and a huge ‘security’ bill imposed on them, and their insurance companies would withdraw cover. Conflict continued with overseas tours and a few rave-style events where the secret venue was found after charades to confuse the police, but became dormant in the early 90’s - until now.
In the melee that they create, Conflict’s music has often been overlooked. Fierce, tense, cajoling and militant, the reverberation alone is enough to provoke an emotional response. They can be looked on as an amalgam of what The Clash and Crass could have been – rallying protest, exhorting uprising, uniting crowds against common foes – all over a ferocious punk backing.
The history of rock music has always been intertwined with that of rebellion and protest, from Bob Marley to Public Enemy, the Stones to the Pistols, etc. Conflict are the sound of the real underground rebels, who are not in any mood for compromise!