Interview: The Rebellion Tapes – John E Vistic

John E Vistic is a singer, songwriter, musician (with his band the Rock N Roll Soundsystem) and also stage manager of the Rebellion Introducing Stage (RIS) . Here he gives us a unique look at Rebellion Festival from both sides of the coin. Aggy Gillon sat down for a chat about how different genres can be best to interpret your emotions through your music. They also discuss gig calamities, new releases and how bands coming out of Brazil are ones to keep an eye out for and what the future of the festival may look like with up and coming and international bands. 

So not only are you playing in a band you’re working backstage too?

“Yeah. We are playing Saturday night at The Rose and Crown and first on Sunday on the RIS stage. I am also stage managing the RIS .”

So you’re very very busy! How many Rebellions have you done so far then?

“For working probably the last seven years maybe. I haven’t ever played with this band here. I did it with another band one year and that was weird because the lead singer didn’t turn up and the bass player didn’t turn up. So I had to play guitar and sing and then we got the crew guy to play bass. Our drummer turned up. I didn’t know the lyrics for the songs as I wasn’t the singer of the band so I had to make up all the words on the spot while playing guitar *laughs*”

Oh my god! That sounds crazy but amazing! 

“Weirdly we sold quite a few CDs afterwards *laughs*” 

So when was that?

“Oh that was a few years ago I can’t remember.”

That sounds like an amazing show *laughs* 

“It was pretty funny. With neither the singer or bass player turning up I was like we’re still doing it!”

I have got to commend you for that!

“That was The Nurses that band.”

I’ll have a look on youtube be good to see if there is any footage of that *laughs* So of course with playing here in a band and working behind the scenes, what does Rebellion mean to you?

“For us I mean it’s obviously a chance to see all your mates. It’s also a chance to see loads of great bands. My favourite part of Rebellion really is the RIS introduction stage. You just get so many amazing bands from all around the world. My current favourite bands are pretty much all Brazilian. I think there is something coming out of Brazil that is just amazing. We had a Portuguese band this morning that I thought were really good. There’s an old school punk thing they are doing in some of the overseas countries.They have sort of learnt it precariously through other stuff and then they have reconfigured it. They just smash it out and it’s really authentic. In a bizarre way as obviously they are not singing in English and all the early punk is in English. Then we get this kind of new wave punk that is, I dunno it’s just brilliant. We got so many amazing international bands last year from Japan, Polynesia, you know what I mean. They were all amazing. There’s like a whole international thing. The thing about Rebellion which I do like is you obviously get the old headliners you know the main bands and then you also get a whole bunch of new generation bands. I think that is really important. It keeps it fresh.”

That’s the thing, a lot of the bands are getting older now and a lot of them won’t be playing anymore. 

“That’s exactly it.”

So you got to open the doors for the new bands

“Exactly and for people around the world who like it in different ways. For them it means so much. If you come from Brazil and you come to Rebellion that is the place to play basically.” 


How long have you been going with your current band then?

“Eh, well on and off for quite a while *laughs*. We have changed genres quite a few times. I describe myself as a songwriter, I guess. So for somebody who writes tunes and words you can do that in different ways. I have done acoustic gigs, I’ve done folk gigs, I’ve done punk gigs and I’ve done rock n roll gigs. We used to have a three piece version of our band that was kind of more like garage rock and then the current version is a five piece with saxophone. It’s a bit more punk than garage with a tiny bit of goth in there. So we have changed incarnations quite a few times. Literally at the moment we have two different sets of entirely different songs. So at a lot of festivals we play two different sets. We play an outlaw country set so that’s kind of like a rock n roll The Pogues meets Johnny Cash kind of country rock n roll. Then we do the punk rock set which is our latest stuff which is all a bit edgy *laughs*”

So you have your finger in a whole bunch of pies musically. 

“To me it’s all rock n roll do you know what I mean? The thing is basically what I find is that genres allow you to say different kinds of things. If you’re feeling pissed off then obviously punk rock is a good forum *laughs* Then if you’re feeling more relaxed you can do some different stuff. If you’re feeling darker or melancholy it doesn’t work so well with punk. So if you’re feeling sad *laughs* you would probably write a different kind of genre song. Introspective you know what I mean. Different moods take a different kind of performance. So at the moment i’m enjoying the more lairy side of it *laughs*” 

Absolutely I love that take on it! Have you guys got many releases out at the minute?

“Yeah we have a new single out on I think the 28th of July called ‘Spiders’. It’s a song about gangsters *laughs* We had a picture of Putin on the front cover and got told we couldn’t use it because it was copyrighted. So it’s a blurred out picture of Putin *laughs* We have a whole album. I have three albums I have recorded but they haven’t come out yet. So we’re just working through the singles. We just need the budget to actually release the damn thing.” 

That’s the thing eh?

“Yeah as you know if you release something it costs money. Even if you eventually make it back by selling a few records at gigs. To put it out you have to print it, release it onto the internet. It all costs money and then it comes with the recording. Even though I have loads of stuff recorded as a backlog its getting it finished and getting it out takes a while so were just working through it slowly at the moment *laughs*”

Is it nice to at least know you have these things lined up?

“Yeah I mean, it’s nice but its frustrating *laughs* Some of our best songs we haven’t recorded. The songs we like playing live and people are like oh have you got that one on disk? And were like no. Is it coming out on disk? Maybe…*laughs* Hopefully at some point.”

Watch this space! So have you got many more shows coming up after this?

“We have a few festivals coming up. We have a really great place we always play in Leicester called Duffys. It’s a really fun punk rock venue. We have played a few gigs recently with The Acid Tongue.”

Oh yeah they are great, we interviewed them last year

“They are really great and they are friends of ours. We are doing another show with them at Duffys. Playing Bristol, we are from Bristol. Would like to put on some more shows at the end of the year. Its getting the band into a van and driving somewhere *laughs* We are meant to be doing a bit of a tour, maybe next year. For when the album finally comes out.” 

What would you say would be your main inspirations whether it be music or something in life or…What inspires you?

“Eh, well em…”

It’s a bit of a broad question but you know what I mean *laughs* Wanted to keep it open so whatever comes to mind.

“The last three records we have done with the punk rock bands are themed. I kind of did it over quite existentialist stuff. I guess again when we were talking about the genre. It’s about what you are trying to reflect whether it’s anger, frustrations or is it annoyance. I write songs kind of…this might sound pretentious *laughs*………

No – no it doesn’t

…… I don’t pick up a guitar and go i’m going to write a song. I have an idea and then I have to write a song. That is kind of what happens. I just like to express this particular thought so for example ‘Spiders’ was our last single. It’s not a particularly intellectual song. I just had this idea that it was really weird to think about gangsters and how so many things that happen in the world are kind of a corruption of the soul. Gangsterdom not as a good thing like gangsters is fun but gangsters as in you can do whatever you like without consequences. Even though those consequences could be bad for other people you’re still getting away with it through some kind of mercantile deal with the devil. I just find that frustrating and interesting. You can’t say something about that kind of anger and frustration with the stupidity of machiavellianism or whatever without shouting *laughing* And you get a good riff as well *laughs*” 

So because you are managing the RIS stage what are some of the bands people need to be watching out for?

“Well, again if they are Brazilian come and see them *laughs*.I really like a lot of the American hard core sounding bands. They are just usually really great people and really great players. I really respect that. I also like the new bands where you get the different kinds of line ups and formats. I should have brought the flyer with me with the names on!”

John E Vistic Rock N Roll Soundsystem – Facebook

Interview and photos by Aggy Gillon