Black Country alternative rock band Dead Agents remind you to stand up and fight for what you believe in in this pounding revolutionary anthem from the West Midlands of England. With the pop sensibilities of Kasabian and the gruff gravitas of Killing Joke’s Jaz Coleman, Haters urges you not to tolerate the intolerable one moment longer. “Give it up, give it up keep waging war,” sings frontman David James Foster insistently. “Suck it up and make the haters hate you more”.
Haters starts with an effect that sounds like Dr Who being trapped in a time vortex before launching into a dirty heavy metal guitar riff, then breaking down into a tribal drum beat as Dave begins three minutes of whipping up teenage rebellion, punctuated with an ear-blistering chorus. This is the sound of alternative rock underdogs fighting back, shaking a fist at the establishment, both musical and political.
“Stand up and be counted with your boots on the ground,” Dave spits over Geoff’s relentless drums. “March for the cause / With banners be loud / Lost generations will never be found / ‘Til the numbers rise up do your martyrs proud”.
This is strong stuff and you have to wonder what provoked it, but lead guitarist Adam Beddow admits it wasn’t any one particular incident that caused his patience to snap.
“We didn’t write with a specific idea in place at the time,” says Adam. “Lyrically it began with a reworking of a piece of spoken word I’d been noting down on my phone – we’d been working for a week in the studio and nothing was flowing, lyrically, so I jumped on the mic and made what I’d written fit the track. That’s where it started. Over time it developed into a song that spoke about the idea that sometimes you should be standing up for what you believe to be right, despite what others might want you to think, because you can’t always trust that they have your best interests in mind.”
Dead Agents come from Walsall and neighbouring Cannock, north of Birmingham, an area that has given rock music such luminaries as Noddy Holder of Slade and Rob Halford of Judas Priest. But the town of Walsall, like so many in Britain, is divided. Literally, in fact, in the sense that its two electoral constituencies are in the control of opposing political parties, Labour and Conservative. Like many British towns in the Midlands and North, the industries it was built on – coal mining and the leather trade – have closed down or moved away. It’s not exactly a boomtown, so you can see why its inhabitants are demanding change.
“I’ve seen a massive shift in the atmosphere of Walsall,” says Adam, “and although there has been some major commercial development around the centre, it’s done nothing to bring the town up with it. Many of the high street units sit unoccupied, and those that do end up being betting shops or franchise eateries – two Burger Kings, four Greggs, two Subways… So it feels like a lot of the spirit has gone… Like many towns in the UK its political stance seems as divided as it ever has been.”
As is often the case when a community loses its economic potency, it loses its cultural identity along with it.
“The music scene in the town when we were coming up was really active,” says Adam, “with some really supportive venues that built a community out of them. Over time that went away, and the people moved on too. The great pubs that supported the music scene found it harder to cope, and with un-sympathetic owners breathing down their necks many landlords have moved on. Everything seems stretched and much of it breaks.”
The superb video for Haters was animated by Dan Boot, a relative of David’s. His ambitious remit from the band was “creating a whole other world and putting the song in it,” says Adam. “Dan nailed the concept and really got the vibe”.
The dogmatic lyrics of Haters are unambiguously rabble-rousing, but it’s hard to know where to start the fight-back. The rot creeps in, with cut-price high street stores sapping away a town’s identity and centralised budget cuts undermining local services. What can you really do to make a difference? How do you wage war when the enemy is in every direction?
“I think no matter what you decide to do to get involved and try to make a difference, it’s good to consider the scale” concludes Adam. “Haters does conjure up the imagery of fighting a war on all fronts, and in some respects that’s accurate – there are many things calling out for change, some are small, some are bigger than one person could deal with, some things are yet to be corrupt or broken but hold potent potential to fall apart. So what do you choose? Indeed, that is the problem. Maybe start with something you know you have the skills to improve, and start by knowing what you want to achieve, then always check back to see that you’re on the right track. The danger is that you become so focused on a single point you lose sense of place and context.”
The Dead Agents EP is available now and a second EP is already in the pipeline with a debut Dead Agents album to follow.