The Nation of Ulysses

by Zach Dundas (originally appeared in Mumblage #1, January 1993)

The Nation of Ulysses spits in the eye of rock and roll. That old ruse is a dead letter - it's ripe for the shredder, the dustbin, and the scrapheap of history. The Nation of Ulysses has got the Sound of Young America. In Ninety Six you'll twist to this as you raise your fist to the music, and it's manic rhythm and swirl of noise point toward irrepressible mania that is the heart of fun.

The second "album" --- Ulysses would doubtless demand another term be applied - is Plays Pretty for Baby (Dischord). The first, The Thirteen-Point Plan to Destroy America was evidently merely the first taste of the Ulyssean nectar. The torn guitars, percolating bass and slammed-down drums that first surfaced in The Thirteen Points open fire at full strength on the latest release. The Nation of Ulysses has built the better mousetrap, in which to ensnare sniveling Babylon, and all that remains is for a frenzied stampede of kickmad kids to beat a path to the Nation's door.

The songs are built around the "growling" basslines of Steven Gamboa and the fanatical pounding of James Canty. The guitars of Steve Kroner and Tim Green scrape, scream and whistle around that rugged skeleton. The voices come through the raw throat of Ian Svenonius, a highschool helleat who, like the other Nationalists, is frozen at age eighteen and a sworn citizen of another time zone. His words (and herald's trumpet) incite to riot, seek to destroy, and point the way to Youth Ferment, calling for the destruction of the Vampiric Parent Culture. In "N-Sub Ulysses" and "Shakedown", the Nation declares independence from the horrors of Nostalgia; in "Hickey Underworld" the marks and signs of the Ulysses culture are explained; "SS Exploder" proclaims a new calendar; the album ends with the simple, glowing axiom, "The Kingdom of Heaven Must be Taken by Storm".

But, none can illuminate the Ulysses aesthetic like the Minister of Information himself. The transcript that follows documents an interview with Svenionus after a ferocious live show in September. The interview was conducted under weird circumstances in eerie halflight, in the heart of the witching hour, with uniformed agents of the State expected to arrive at any moment. Still, its veracity is beyond dispute.

MUMBLAGE: There are so many uninitiated. Can you explain the Ulyssean Nation State?

IAN SVENONIUS: Okay, it's basically a new nation underground for the disposed youth colony. It's all about smashing the old edifice, the monolith of rock and roll.

MUMBLAGE: What do you find most despicable about that old edifice, rock and roll?

IAN SVENONIUS: It's been infiltrated by the components of Pig Parent culture and the PTA. These are the three P's that stand against P-Power.

MUMBLAGE: Tipper Gore says she likes Rock and Roll-that's good enough reason to annihilate it right there.

SVENONIUS: Exactly.

MUMBLAGE: What role does music play in your Jihad?

SVENONIUS: Well, it's a camouflage, to allow for movement, revolutionary liberation from the constants of everyday composure, basically allowing anybody to move in anyway that they want and to lift spirit to a plateau to destroy parent culture.

MUMBLAGE: Is this the most crucial part of a Nation of Ulysses performance or record?

SVENONIUS: It's an equal part along with every other sensory component; smell, sight, everything.

MUMBLAGE: Previously you have objected to the use of the word "record" to describe your audio recordings. Why is that?

SVENONIUS: Because, it's like a blueprint for the destruction of the parent Culture. It's like a zip-gun. It's an instruction pamphlet for kids on how to destroy their home life, you know, their domestic state.

MUMBLAGE: You play a song called "PPower". Could you elaborate on what that phrase means?

SVENONIUS: We don't usually address normal political dictums. We aim to toward the everyday fixtures of life, like aesthetics, sound, non-spoken things that are inherently political in nature instead of, like bogus politicians who focus on glossy surface issues which avoid any kind of revolutionary change. But in "P-Power" it's just basically anti-colonialism. Like the NPA in the Philippines, which is a guerrilla force that we support. There's also the youth colony of America, the young colony, that doesn't have control over it's own thing, you know, this thing of ours,

MUMBLAGE: What are your impressions of the places that you've been so far on this tour?

SVENONIUS: A lot of them are totally inspiring. We've met a lot of really cool kids. Incidentally, we only play all ages shows. This [trouble with the owners of the club prior to the show] was a total fuck-up. Fortunately, through finagling with the enemy within–in this case the management of this fuckin' shitty club, Trendz– we were able to bring the Little Lambs in. It's a total fluke, we only play all ages shows because we're only 18 ourselves.

MUMBLAGE: Let's end with some word association. Tell me the first thing that comes into your mind when I say .... bomb.

SVENONTUS: Bomb shows-Nation of Ulysses, explosions.

MUMBLAGE: Freedom.

SVENONIUS: The NOU sound, the hard-bach underground.

MUMBLAGE: Car.

SVENONIUS: Car? Cupid Car Club, our car club.

MUMBLAGE: Girl.

SVENONIUS: Girl? Um Uh

MUMBLAGE: No response?

SVENONIUS: Well, no. I mean we're really into, like, girl revolution, like Riot GRRRL. But we're also into boy revolution. We're into armed kids, basically.

MUMBLAGE: Flag.

SVENONIUS: Flag .... Well, most flags define false borders, manmade borders or whatever. The Nation of Ulysses flag denotes a nation within. A false nation that has no defined borders.

MUMBLAGE: Fun.

SVENONIUS: Kicks .... Kicks, liberation, revolutionary persuit.

MUMBLAGE: Sad.

SVENONIUS: The state of rock and roll.

MUMBLAGE: Any last words?

SVENONIUS: Nation of Ulysses must prevail!