PATTA Q&A: RAY FUEGO

Having released one of our favourite albums ever with Zwart, Ray Fuego is at SXSW this week, performing. We figured we'd sit him down for a quick chat, and have him introduce himself to you all.

Ray, introduce yourself to our international readers please..

I’m Ray Fuego, 21 yrs old, frontman of SMIB, an art collective and activist movement. People that put themselves into seeing change. We recently released a book, we put on festivals and we give young people a platform to be creative, because there's no one else that’s really open to do it without wanting something in return. Usually it’s all about money, but for us it’s more about the culture. Yeah, and I’m a fucking great artist.

You say that SMIB is an activist movement, out to create change in the world. If you could change one thing about the world right now, what would it be?

I just wanna see that people understand that everyone is different and they accept everybody for being different. I dont want people to be like “I don't see color, I didn't even know that he was gay, I didn't even know that she was gay..” I just want everybody to acknowledge whatever the other person is. And live with it, accept it and understand it. That’s the biggest thing I want to change in the world. And it’s not even only about black & white. Of course, that’s an issue but there are other people that are being oppressed too. That's queer people, people that look funny, little people, very big people.

How about women, are you a feminist?

Definitely women too. I don’t know if I can call myself that yet but I’m still learning a lot about the female aliens on earth. I see it as white people trying to explain to a black person why this and that is accepted. Like.. a man can’t put himself in the shoes of a women and understand everything. You can never understand a 100%, 'cause you are not a woman. So I try to learn a lot and have a lot of conversations with women who are activists too and try to make a change and try to make the masses understand why they feel certain ways. I think it’s very interesting to learn everyday about stuff you’re really invested in. 'Cause you can never learn enough.

Who do you look to to learn?

The youth, older people that are not ignorant. My friends, books, movies, documentaries. Everything except ignorant people that piss me off.

We’re in the SMIB store right now, I see the youth all over buying SMIB merchandise, t-shirts, books etc, adopting the image of SMIB. Do you think the message is reaching them? Do they actually adopt the mentality as well?

It’s hard to see 'cause you can’t judge a book by its cover. I mean, I see kids walk in and I’ll think “hmm.. do they actually know any songs?” I think some people take longer to walk to the train station. Some walk in 10 mins and others take half an hour because they take loads of breaks in between. People buying clothes and stuff, at some point they are going to be confronted by the culture, they are gonna be confronted by someone their own age and as soon as their paths cross they can exchange knowledge. And because you like the clothes and everything that happens around it, maybe it’s gonna be intimidating and self-confronting but I think fear only lives in the tomorrow anyway. I watched a movie yesterday and they said it in that movie. I don’t think it was that good of a movie but the mind behind it was sick. People have loads of fear these days. Fear never lives in the now. I concern myself with the now and what I can do in the now. And that’s just making people more conscious about what we stand for. At some point people are just scared to lose their support. 'Cause people will be like “oh thats too strong for me, that’s too honest” but uhmm.. fuck that shit man. I’m just trying to make a change, if you don't like it you don't.

That’s very punk. You mention on the album that you would love to make punk music..

I make punk music

That’s what I wanted to ask you: is the music you put out not already punk music though?

It is, but back to the ignorant people. Ignorant people think that just because it’s on a hiphop beat it’s not punk. They don’t get the concept of punk, they don’t know that it’s a attitude and something you have in your heart. I’m actually a skinhead but I’m punk by heart. If people think ‘punk’ they think of people wearing leather jackets, leather pants, crazy hair, crazy glasses, safety pins, writings on their shirt, writings on their jackets. And then you talk to them and they’re fucking fascist.. that means you don't get the concept of being punk. It’s not only the outside, it’s your mindset. I just want to punk make so that people would understand my music better. If I could choose I would rather make punk than hiphop. My music with my band is not a crossover, it's hardcore fucking punk. It's hardcore punk with a bit of OI. I don't like the crossover shit. Bodycount and that kinda stuff, I really respect it.. but I don't think you can make rock & roll if you don't understand it.

My band is called Ploegendienst, it means Working Shifts but in Dutch street slang it means ‘gangbang’. It’s with Bram and Sebas and my second guitarist.. I don't know his name but his last name is ‘Beffen’, which means eating pussy in Dutch. His last name is Beffen, so fucking sick. I see Bram and Sebas constantly but I don't see him out in nightlife and stuff. I think I’m gonna remember his name in two months but I know his last name is Beffen and that’s enough. I’m probably just gonna call him Beffen.

When can we expect some music from Ploegendienst?

The 30th of March, I’ll perform at the 50 year anniversary of Paradiso and after we will play at Skatecafe for the very first time.

When I see you perform live, it’s like a proper punk show, the energy is crazy. Can you explain to our readers what to expect at SXSW?

Expect to go fucking nuts, expect to get your beer knocked out of your hand, expect to start a fight in a mosh pit, just go nuts man.. You’re probably not gonna understand the words I’m saying, maybe parts of it, but you’re gonna understand the energy. I think we’re all at a point in our lives, spiritually and with our mindsets, it’s not about understanding each other, it’s about a feeling. Feelings say more than emotions. Emotions can lie, feelings can’t.

What's the difference between feelings and emotions?

Emotions can be two things: you can be mad when you are actually jealous and sad. But you don’t know how to channel your emotions so you think it’s something else. Deep inside you feel what you’re really feeling, even if you show it in a different way.

What does performing mean to you? I’ve seen you go so deep in your energy that you almost collapsed.

I feel like I have the function of like a dad or a big brother for the younger generation. I can help them to get real with shit and not sit back and expect shit to be done for you. I just want to show them that you gotta do it yourself and you gotta work hard for it. So when I’m on stage, all the stuff that I push down, like uhmm stuff I get angry about and I don't show because I think "I can't be mad all the time, I gotta set an example.." that’s all the stuff that I release when I’m on stage. When I’m on stage I’m like “i got a fine for this and that.. or yoo this person was testing my gangsta in the street and I didn't do anything” and all that kinda shit. So I release all that shit on stage and it’s kind of like meditating but really extreme. Cause I can’t sit on my bed and meditate, 'cause I have ADHD so I can't sit still for too long, I have to do stuff and I get distracted really quick so I need another solution for it. I see performing as getting rid of all the bad energy and recording the song is getting rid of the bad stuff in my mind. I’m cleaning my brain of all the words that I see in my head when I record it, but then I'll still have the feeling that I'm angry about something and on stage that disappears.

I feel like I can actually hear that in your music, cause you go from here to there real quick.. the song will be about one thing but then you’ll mention other stuff, it’s kind of like a stream of consciousness. It feels like it’s super honest.. So what's on your mind right now?

I’m thinking about money right now, I wanna buy some new shoes and clothes and stuff because I feel like I’m writing a new chapter in my book of life but I’m writing with a pen that’s almost out of ink. I need to buy a new pen. The pen that I want to buy is like 50 euros but I have like 20 euros now and I’m plotting on how to get 30 euros plus tip.

What’s the chapter?

This chapter is … I don't even know what this chapter is about yet.. I know that the chapter before was about self-reflecting and sacrifices.. And this chapter is about my second puberty man.. and after this chapter it’s maturity. Yeah man, and I’m really excited about this chapter because I think the heaviest shit mentally and spiritually was last year.

It was a Bad September..

It was a bad september. It was loads of self reflecting, "what am I doing wrong?" And admitting that you’re doing stuff wrong, you know? Usually people know that they’re doing stuff wrong but they don’t want to accept it cause it’s them doing stuff wrong so they wanna place it on other people but actually everything starts with yourself. If shit goes wrong around you, it’s because you’re not changing something that needs to be changed and this was really hard for me. I was really depressed, I was just thinking about being the best person I could be but therefore I had to sacrifice loads of people to see if they could fit in my life. Like "what do they bring to the table for me and vice versa? Are they with me cause they know that I’m gonna blow up one day or are they with me because they truly love me with a clean heart?" The people that came back without me wanting them to come back are the people that I expected to come back and I know that they are my real friends, the people that I still have the same energy with since the beginning. Those are the people I still surround myself with cause I really don't trust anyone. That’s got to do with anxiety and paranoia about life. My life is a movie. And in movies you always have the beginning, uhmm.. then you have the middle part where something good happens, then something bad happens and then something good happens again and then you have a good or a bad ending.

What’s it gonna be?

I think I’m gonna have a good ending. definitely. GETTING RICH! Fuck all that other shit. It’s not only about getting rich. That would be nice, I would like to spend my money doing good stuff for the community and the culture but.. I just want to see my impact on the music industry and all the people around me.. cause I’ve always talked about what I’m doing right now.. and I’m not even at a 100%! I’m not at my max, it’s not even my final form yet youknowhatimean? If I have my final form people are gonna think that this is nuts! But I know that I’m gonna change shit. And people are gonna be really shocked. Cause I’ve been talking about this shit since I was in fucking elementary. And now I see people that I went elementary with, I see em in the street now, some of em cant even look me in my eyes, and some of em walk up to me in the street like “yo, mad respect” other people just hold grudges cause I do something that they cant. Just giddy up giddy up man!

What can you say about your relationship with Patta

Patta is like family, they were the first people that really gave me a hand and helped me with stuff when no one else wanted to. We were just young in the city trying to swag on the older generation, but the older generation had much more money and much more people around 'em and shit. We were just doing it with whatever we had and Patta and Bonne and Patta family helped me and my best friend Tirino -who is now a model for Patta- with our first shoot.. and after that shoot people saw “yo, these young guys have potential in like who they are.. they can be a really big change for the city, the inner city.” Yo, I never thought about it this way but it’s actually really really crazy, 'cause when we were young we would always go to Patta and we could never afford anything because it was too expensive.. because all the sneakers were exclusive, the hoodies were.. I don't even know.. like 60-70 euros, just too expensive.. and now I have a t-shirt coming out, it’s a collaboration and I’m getting it for free, hahaha!

Ray's Grijs tour starts March 24th at Paradiso Amsterdam.

Photography: Violette Esmeralda