Infamous Brighton rabble-rousers the Levellers have long since secured their place in the canon of British protest music, thanks in large part to their most highly regarded album, 1991’s Levelling The Land. Its 30th birthday tour includes a date in Cardiff’s Motorpoint Arena; James Reynolds spoke about it to Levellers singer Mark Chadwick.
How’s the Levelling the Land tour going so far?
It’s been good to get back on stage. We just need to hope no one gets COVID before the end of the tour!
It’s been a while since you last did a show in Cardiff. What are you most looking forward to most about revisiting?
Cardiff is a great city with fantastic people. We just like going out and being around everyone.
The Motorpoint is also your largest venue on this tour. Be honest, do you prefer large gigs or smaller, more intimate ones?
Honestly, it’s really down to the crowd. Big venue, small venue, it doesn’t matter so long as the people are enjoying themselves.
You’ve been in the UK music scene for a long time now. How has it changed since you first began touring?
There is a lot more emphasis on touring as a way to make money and it’s become much more serious. By that, I mean bands are very serious and a lot less rock’n’roll. That’s good for us because we’re old now, but I feel for young bands who don’t seem to have as much fun as we all used to.
From your perspective, how has the UK changed in that same time?
It’s become more homogenized. You used to know you were in a different area when you looked outside. Now it’s cafés and charity shops everywhere you look. Beer and ales used to be much more local but now it’s all American, hoppy beer. A lot of local flavour has disappeared.
How have you changed – personally, and as a band?
We’re not sure we have. Our politics are the same, the way we make music is the same. What we do on the road and how we relate to our fans hasn’t changed. If anything, it seems the rest of the music industry has changed to be more like us. We’ve always run things for ourselves, the merch, the festivals, the gigs. It used to be that record companies would do all of that for bands, but now they have to do it themselves, just like we always have.
Why do you feel Levelling The Land has had such lasting resonance?
I think because it’s a really great record! It’s optimistic, it’s truth-telling. Inspiring. Nostalgic…
How do you feel doing these sorts of nostalgic tours?
Well, we only do it with this record and we love it because we love the record so much.
Where do you feel politics fits into modern music? Or where does modern music fit into our current politics?
There’s plenty of room for it. I hear of bands, and you’re told they’re political, but they’re not really. Like Slaves. I mean, they’re political – but very kitchen-sink politics.
Do you think that it’s because modern politics is so difficult?
Modern politics has become more difficult. There are so many opinions on everything and people are more divided than ever. I just want to tell people, “don’t be binary”. Not everything fits into neat little boxes of I’m right and you’re wrong. All of it is so dividing. There is a consensus, but we’re all fighting over things that don’t matter. When I was young the whole world agreed: everything was good but the Tories were bad. They’re the real problem.
Do you have any messages for the newer generations?
Don’t be afraid to stand on the outside. Charge from the outside. Rise up against the established order, the established way of thinking. It’s what the Levellers were all about when they first started, all the way in the 17th century.
Levellers, Motorpoint Arena Cardiff, Thurs 16 Dec. Tickets: £39. Info: here
words JAMES REYNOLDS
Events are Back!
If you’re running or promoting events in Wales, list them here for FREE.