Punk rock outfit The Refusers need an attitude adjustment, according to some people, because they take Timothy Leary’s mantra, “Question Authority,” literally. For example, their latest single/music video, “Eat the Bugs,” whose title was inspired by the World Economic Forum’s Klaus Schwab, who believes the hoi polloi should be chowing down on creepy-crawlies and be thankful they have something to eat.
The Refusers’ 2020 album, Freedom Fighter, collected vast acclaim from music outlets around the world. To which The Refusers flipped their middle fingers because they simply DGAF what the media has to say. Their goal is to expose the establishment for what it is – power-hungry money grubbers suffering from a God complex.
V13 spoke with guitarist/vocalist Michael Belkin to discover more about their new animated video, the band’s distaste for digital emulations, and not giving a fuck!
What inspired your new single/music video, “Eat the Bugs?”
“Our last three albums were titled ‘Wake Up America,’ ‘Disobey,’ and ‘Freedom Fighter.’ The themes of those albums presaged some of the societal issues that subsequently developed: Wokeness, popular resistance to injustice (BLM, Extinction Rebellion), political upheaval, etc. I have a background in forecasting and am a keen student of history and political/social trends. I carry that approach through to songwriting, with titles and lyrics that are about third rail controversial subjects, atypical to most modern commercial music.
“When the COVID crisis hit and led to totalitarian lockdowns and medical mandates, I dug into where the heavy-handed global policy response was coming from. There’s a cabal of globalist puppet masters intent on changing society with dictatorship policies. One of the foremost of these entities is the World Economic Forum (WEF) which holds the Davos conferences for political leaders, billionaires, and celebrities in Switzerland every year.
“Klaus Schwab is the power behind the WEF throne, and he isn’t shy about his intentions: The Great Reset, where he wants to change what people eat, think, and do according to his crackpot James Bond villain policies. By the way, Schwab’s roots of power go back to Henry Kissinger, Harvard, and the CIA, which helped set up Schwab and the WEF as a US-allied European front group back in the 1970s. He’s been around a long time. One of the weirdest policies Klaus Schwab advocates is eating insects.
“Viewed in the context of his Great Reset program, which claims ‘you will own nothing and be happy,’ advocating eating insects is reminiscent of Marie Antoinette’s famous quote about poor and oppressed people ‘let them eat cake.’ This crazy Schwab policy recommendation was begging for a Refusers song to be written about it. I just paraphrased a bunch of his insect-eating comments for lyrics and came up with a hard-hitting punk rock anthem: ‘Eat The Bugs!’”
Walk us through your mindset as you entered the studio to record the song.
“We recorded this song and four others in a jiffy in early summer. Our bass player Steve Newton was a guiding force, he pushed hard for a new Refusers EP because the time was right, with everyone sick of lockdowns and ineffective mandates. I had the song concepts and structures, we laid the tracks down rapidly with our great drummer Ehssan Karimi, killer keyboardist Eric Robert, and esteemed bass player Steve Newton. Our recording engineer John Wilson is a genius who shepherded the tracks to fruition. Musically, I sought a classic hard rock, tube amp, crunchy, distorted sound, which we managed to capture using classic Marshall, Soldano, and Vox tube amps with modern recording techniques. I’m really stoked with the guitar tones we captured, which are real-world, genuine, aggressive tube distortion as opposed to the digitally sampled amp emulations heard on so much modern rock music.”
Who directed the video, and where was it shot?
“I conceived and directed the video, and a talented video maker in Colombia did the animation. The topic of ‘Eat The Bugs’ was tailor-made for satire cover art and a video. I found an amazing Photoshop artist in Hong Kong (William Banzai) and a talented animated video maker in Colombia who brought to life the ridiculous concept of eating insects. It’s certainly not mainstream art! The video is getting attention in alternative circles for its mockery of Schwab and his bug-eating agenda. We’ve got provocative cover art and videos in the same vein coming for the next four song releases.”
When and where did The Refusers get together?
“We’ve been writing, recording, and performing in-your-face rock music for about ten years now. Our first big gig was sharing the stage at the Bottlerock Festival in Napa, California, with The Black Keys, Kings of Leon, Alabama Shakes, Joan Jett, etc. That was a blast. The crowd loved us, the press was scratching their heads: ‘Who are these anti-establishment rockers?’ The stage we played on was called the Citibank stage. We subsequently wrote and recorded one song called ‘Hang The Bankers’ and another called ‘Too Big To Fail.’ That kind of sums up The Refusers’ attitude.”
Who is in the band, and which instrument do they play?
“Drummer Ehssan Karimi, keyboardist Eric Robert, bass player Steve Newton, and me writing songs and playing lead and slide guitars.”
How did you get started in music?
“I got started as a studio musician in LA, playing as a sideman for lots of recording artists and for artists touring the west coast. Played in punk rock bands in the San Francisco Bay area in crazy underground lofts, opening concerts, etc. Moved to New York City and did likewise, playing downtown club gigs. Ended up in Seattle. Seattle is famous for grunge, a lot of great bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains, and Foo Fighters. We hope to carry on the tradition.”
The Refusers have a definite DGAF attitude. Why?
“The public needs an antidote to all the deceptive bullshit mainstream media keeps pushing on them, which is, of course, being orchestrated by globalist puppet masters like Schwab’s WEF and Bill Gates. I got my DGAF attitude from UC Berkeley, where my college’s official # 1 founding principle is ‘Question The Status Quo.’ They probably never imagined I would take that literally and head in this direction! People need to wake up and see how they are being manipulated by political and economic puppet masters. They call it behavioral science. It amounts to mind control by elitist dictators who use subtle methods to ‘nudge’ people into obedience. Screw that.”
If you had to explain your sound to the uninitiated, what would you say?
“Wow, that is authentic in-your-face punk rock with an anti-establishment message!”
Did your sound evolve naturally, or did you deliberately push it in a certain direction?
“Our basic sound is rebellion against digital music. We use tube amps that are loud enough to break the windows instead of digitally sampled amps, drums, and hard-tuned vocals. Punk was originally a rebellion against formula rock music and delighted in poor musicianship. The Refusers have a punk rock attitude but do it with kick-ass players.”
What inspires your writing? Do you draw inspiration from poems, music, or other media?
“Constantly writing down themes and memes as they cross my path. Got the title for our song and album ‘Disobey’ from the button on a health food store checkout person in Hawaii. Always looking for themes and titles for songs that represent resistance to tyranny. We’re The Refusers! That’s our beat. ‘Eat the Bugs’ was too good to pass up as a song title. Our songwriting takes the bullshit society tries to cram down our throats and throws it back in their face.”
What can you share about your writing process?
“I hear songs in dreams. I wake up and record the concept and fill in the blanks with lyrics. It’s like there’s a radio playing in my head while I’m asleep, playing familiar hit songs. When I wake up, I realize the song I’m hearing in my dream is new. The radio in my dreams keeps coming up with songs, riffs, and lyrics.”
Which artists, in your opinion, are killing it right now?
“Most artists seem to be pursuing commercial success and corporate sponsorship. That’s obviously not our path. Greta Van Fleet sounds great. I also like skateboarding and downhill biking rock music, which has a similar attitude to The Refusers.”
How do you define success?
“Change people’s brainwashed minds.”
What can your fans look forward to over the next six months? Music videos? Live gigs?
“Four more songs are recorded and scheduled for release over the next few months. The songs are about dementia (guess who), propaganda (mainstream media, WEF, etc.), social media (FB, Twitter, Google censorship), and our favorite topic, freedom (a rocker titled ‘Live Free’). All have edgy, in-your-face videos in production.”