White Town, Always

(On seeing this post on diversity in alternative music)

You know, it’s made me ridiculously happy to see my band in this list, thank you!

White Town has *always* been on the outside of the immensely white, middle class indie(pop) scene since I first formed the band in 1989.

The third gig we did (I say we as it was still a guitar band back then), we supported Primal Scream. It was a great gig but my strongest memory is a sneering racist white indie kid asking me if I was there to do the accounts. (This is *after* we’d played.)

Another time, a big act on the Sarah Records label and his cohort of minions spent five minutes laughing at my band name and basically saying that racism was “all in my head” and that I was yet another darkie with a chip on my shoulder.

That’s just a couple of times out of… well, too many to list, really. I’ve left out the actual physical fights with racist Morrissey fans, playing at venues that turned out to be full of Nazi skins… the fact that I recorded a lot of indiepop bands but you never see that in the reverential tomes on Sarah or white histories of indiepop. It goes on and on.

But if you try and talk about this with white indie kids, you get labelled as ‘touchy’ or ‘crazy’ or ‘paranoid.’ All the labels that white people apply to non-whites who won’t stay in their place, who refuse to remain silent. 

Today, indie and indiepop remain overwhelmingly white scenes. The supposed left-wingness of the scene is a superficial lip-service; most of the people I meet are liberals or outright Home Counties Tories. There is the exact same sneering attitude to racism as there was decades ago. If you haven’t got white skin, the same doors remain closed, the gig offers don’t come in and you basically have to put up with shit white artists don’t even know exists, safe in their privilege.

In my frustration at decades of discrimination, I’ve given up on trying to explain all this to white people, even if they’re well-meaning. I haven’t got the time or energy to be a walking google on the history of erasure of non-white people in alternative music. (But start with The Monochrome Set if you want.) Nowadays, I do my best to help young non-white artists in alt bands whether it’s with advice, free recording, production lessons or whatever.

If you’re reading this and you’re a South Asian kid in a shoegaze band or a black kid in a goth band or whatever and you’re feeling isolated and excluded, please drop me a line,  bzangy@gmail.com.

I’ll help if I can! 🙂