Music as a force for change: an interview with Redskins’ Martin Hewes

Redskins were to some the true inheritors of the Clash’s crown as the radical rockers. During their three-year existence they were a regular feature of the music press, where journalists argued politics with them, and they were violently attacked at gigs by fascists – to the extent that they had to play with baseball bats hidden behind their amps. Proud anti-racists, they adopted the name Redskins in tribute to the left-wing skinheads of the day (despite the term being a racial epithet in the US).

During the year-long miners’ strike of 1984-5 they created a live reputation that inspired loyalty for life in many of their followers. Redskins’ music has been re-discovered as a radical touchstone in the decades since, inspiring bands around the world to follow in their footsteps.

The band was fronted by motor-mouth Chris Dean, who also wrote in the best-selling music paper New Musical Express. He was a sharp, opinionated polemicist who took many bands to task for their flabby politics and spineless music. Paul Weller, Joe Strummer, Billy Bragg – none escaped the fiery wrath of the Redskins’ lead singer. Experienced live, the band were a fireball of passionate energy, a perfect storm of razor-sharp politics and steel-hard Northern soul brass, cutting through the crap of blandness and big business.

But their commercial success was in some ways their downfall. The contradictions of mixing anti-capitalist politics in an industry where corporations were taking over proved too much. Once Thatcher’s government crushed the miners and weakened the working class’ ability to fight, the band were left high and dry without a battle.

Thirty years ago Martin Hewes left the Redskins just months after they had released their one and only, unique, much loved rock’n’soul album Neither Washington Nor Moscow. When Martin took his bass and baseball bat and walked out the band folded. This surprised the many people who saw Chris Dean as the leader of the group. Martin hasn’t spoken out about the band since.

What really happened in those years? And what can those who wish to reflect and affect the world through culture learn from the burning beacon of the Redskins?

With these questions in mind Colin Revolting and OpenEye Film went looking for Martin.

The full interview:

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