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The Restarts have been touring, staying true to their punk ideology and DIY ethics for over a decade now.  The current line up sees Kieran Plunkett on bass and lead vocals joined by Robin on guitar and vocals and Bram on drums. They may promote themselves as ‘punks first, musicians second’, but don’t let that leave you in any doubt as to their musical ability, The Restarts are a power statement of thrashing, honest punk rock, growling compelling lyrics inspired by everyday life that should make us all stand back and take a look at the small part we play in society.

LORRAINE:  Kieran, I understand that the three original members of The Restarts met through the punk scene of the late 80’s. Punk was pretty hidden from media attention at that time, what was the scene like, what was happening? Do you think it was in anyway a reaction to the rave scene that had numbed everybody into submission?

KIERAN:  Hi Lorraine, I think during that time the rave scene got so big and a lot of people migrated to that scene, but there was a crossover period where a lot of the illegal raves and squat parties would host a punk room in one of the massive parties they did.  We felt common ground with the practice of illegally squatting in empty buildings for your party!  For the most part, we would play squat parties and pubs, so shows would only really be local to the area, as you couldn’t list your gigs in the NME or Sounds unless it was in a proper venue.  Our types of gigs were done through handbills and word of mouth.  I don’t like to dis other forms of music culture, so yeah - the rave scene sucked a lot of the energy from the punk scene, but at the same time I admired the spontaneity and efficiency with which they took control of their music scene.  I just didn’t like the music! The rave scene inspired punk crews to do the same thing they did - crews like Reknaw Sound Systems who are still going today.  When the rave scene died out, they took over the mantle of doing gigs in squats.

LORRAINE:  With the nostalgic, rekindled interest in punk generated by its 30th anniversary, which saw so many bands reforming alongside new bands, plus those that had never left the scene, what changes have you seen, has it brought greater divide or a greater richness?

KIERAN:  Well, I do have to say it has revitalized the international scene, and certainly got a lot of new young people on board! Originally our scene was very independent, but the down side of the independence was that you wouldn't necessarily know what was going on unless you were “part of the scene.” So in a way, I like the internet in that it makes it much easier to find out about local punk gigs. The downside of it is that it’s a lot easier for the authorities to monitor what’s going on in the underground scene, too!

LORRAINE:  The Restarts are a band who describe themselves as ‘punks first, musicians second’. Before addressing your musical history, how does that affect you on a daily basis, how would you describe your own punk politics?

KIERAN:  Well, we have grown up within the punk community, and that has helped formulate how we think and view things! We came up with the "punks first..." to outline that we didn’t just form a band in a certain musical style, that the band was more of a reflection of the punk lifestyle we were living at the time.  Our politics were about independence, freedom to squat, and against any violation of personal freedoms such as the Criminal Justice Bill, racism, sexism, and homophobia. Some of us chose to be vegetarian or vegan, some would live out of the supermarket bins almost as a statement against their incredible waste of food – most supermarkets now lock their bins - but the main aim was to try and live on as little as possible.  We wanted to make a distinction between ourselves and all these bands that were cropping up claiming to be punk but who never had any foundation in the culture… those who were more likely to become industry-manufactured bands, motivated solely by the fact that punk was getting popular again.

LORRAINE:  The band did form in 1995, named after the government ‘Restart’ courses of the time, aimed at ‘getting you back to work’. Did you have to attend one of those courses? I remember my one vividly ha.

KIERAN:  Er, yes they kind of became the bane of our lives!  And yes, this is where the name came from, as all three of us were signing on at the time and juggling our Restart courses so we could gig around the country.  The fact is that we weren’t making ANY money on the gigs, and still were actually dependent on assistance.  Ultimately, the courses became more like a job and proved to be a deterrent for people to get off the dole!

LORRAINE:  The band has had a few line-up changes now, with you being the sole original member. Although describing yourselves as ‘punks first, musicians second’ there has been quite a diversity of musical input and experiences, including links with The Varukers, Short Bus Window Lickers, and The UK Subs. Can you give us a brief history of the bands life.

KIERAN: Okay, originally it was Me, Darragh, and Mik.  Mik had come from Coitus, who were a local band in the mid 90s. They had split up, so Mik then joined us full time. I then played bass in the Varukers for a year and recorded the album Murder with them, and I toured America with them and the Casualties in 1997. With Darragh, me, and Mik as our original line up, we recorded our first demo tape, Job Club, four songs of which we used on our first EP, “Frustration.” We then recorded the “Just Gets Worse” EP, and the remaining tracks we used for a split LP with Zero Tolerance.  The Slumworld album was the final recording with that line up.  Mik departed in 2002, and we drafted Alan Campbell from the UK Subs, and he recorded System Error with us. He couldn’t commit to being in both bands, so we began a guitarist search, and landed on our feet with Robin, a Dutch squatter punk. We recorded Outsider with this line up.  Finally, with Darragh departing to pursue his new band Trashcat, we’ve got Bram on drums, and with this final line up we’ve now recorded the Mobocracy split CD with MDC.  We’ve released it on our own label, No Label Records.

LORRAINE:  I was pretty impressed to see that you have had a 10 metre wide piece of art work auctioned off at Sotheby’s.  Was that in mind when you were painting the ‘Bunchofuckingoofs’ logo on the Berlin Wall?

KIERAN:  Well, I have to say I was very surprised to hear of this, and I actually didn’t know Sotheby's had auctioned off segments of the Berlin Wall, particularly with my graffiti on it! Bunchofuckingoofs is a punk band in Toronto, Canada, that I used to hang out with when I lived there between my London excursions.   I did it as a surprise for them, not even knowing that the wall was to historically come down only months later.  I remember the Stasi soldiers filming me from their lookout towers in the no-man’s-land, while I painted the wall.  I often laugh at the thought of them trying to figure out what this English phrase means!

LORRAINE:  You are a freelance digital artist and do most of the bands logos and artwork, were you always an artist or did you discover that talent through the use of the PC as the band grew?

KIERAN: I started out in Art College in Vancouver, but always had more interest in going to punk gigs then studying art!  So ultimately, my main distraction ended up providing an outlet for all my creative endeavours, those being music and illustration.
LORRAINE:   Art can often say more and reach a larger audience than a song as it is instant, logos in particular, one look at your site and there is no doubt as to yours views,  i.e.  ‘Apolitical Fence Sitters Fuck Off’, ‘There’s Probably No God’, ‘Homophobia is Gay’, ‘Bollox to Nationalism’ and so on, what is the general reaction to that? Are you subject to stereotyping?

KIERAN:   Most people concur or will express total disdain, but for me it’s an immediate way to express the basis of what we are about.  I don’t believe you can totally explain yourself through slogans, you can just use them to try and make people think.  There is a section of the scene that just likes the aggressive energy and will show up to gigs and wreck the atmosphere for everybody.  We just want to let people know that all are welcome to come and to have fun and let off a little steam and get their frustrations out. Recognizing and respecting other people doesn’t have to be laden down with politically correct dogma, but rather with a simple open-minded ethos of “We all belong and have a voice.” People with bigoted views who don’t respect others are the worst aspect of humanity. 
The “fence sitters” comment you mention was used to ward off white power people who were strangely putting us on their Myspace pages’ top ten lists.  The statement prompted one kid to write to me who was struggling with his identity, having been enticed by white supremacist ideology thinly veiled as a freedom of speech campaign.  I think most people would tell this guy to fuck off, but I saw him as a vulnerable guy teetering on the edge of getting into some seriously dodgy politics. We ended up exchanging several emails and he agreed that he didn’t "hate anybody," and came to the conclusion on his own that he had just been looking for identity and a cause and purpose in life.  So it was one small victory there.

LORRAINE:  I was really moved by your song ‘Pied Piper of Punk’ dedicated to Warren ‘Spider’ Hastings who died earlier this year aged 72. I hadn’t known of him, so it is great that the word is still spreading through yourselves.  Can you tell us a bit about him and his life?

 Spider was a fixture on the Toronto punk scene.  He had lived in London during the initial punk explosion, and his claim to fame was that he DJ-ed for a Sex Pistols gig before they got big.  He used to rave on about those years – 1975 to 79 - in London.  He then moved back to Canada to take care of his mother, who was ill.  During his time in Canada he acquired some farm property north of Toronto where he would host an annual weekend party called Punk Fest.  His property was subsequently named Spider Land Acres.  Once his parties gained notoriety, his property became like a shelter to street punks and the like.  He provided a safe environment for runaways or kids who needed to get away or time to recuperate.  He would set them up working on the farm, where they could earn a place to stay.  His parties were great.   The UK Subs played one of his earlier ones back in 1992. The Restarts ended up playing a great one back in 1997 with Red Alert and Public Nuisance from NYC. He was always asking us to come back and play again, and it was going to happen, we just wanted to coordinate it with our next North American tour… so it was really terrible news to hear that he had a stroke and died back in February of this year.  Rest in peace, Spider.  It is his kind of generosity and goodwill that represents the true meaning of punk rock! It’s all about creating your own community.

LORRAINE:   I am sure that you'll agree that the lyrics to your songs are an accurate reflection of your views on society and humankind in general. Do you think there will ever be a time of peace and harmonious living, or do you believe that human nature is inherently greedy and self destructive?

It is questions like this that fuel a lot of our creativity. I think that the very essence of "LIFE"  is to try and figure out a better way to live our lives together. There are no simple answers, yet it is part of the human condition to question and search for solutions. Do I think there is an answer out there? No, but I do think there are some changes that will take us further towards our goal.  If you look back on the advances made since the 1950’s, with the civil rights movement, women’s rights and gay rights movements, you can start to see this happening – and the ridiculousness of the attitudes before that.  But there is always resistance to change from the stagnant traditionalists, so this is why life is always about fighting for something better.  Dealing with extremely complex social issues such as immigration, people tend to employ scapegoating to resolve their problems.   So I do think there is an element of human nature that chooses to be lazy and take the easy way out.  History has proven, though, that this never works and ultimately ends up being a nasty stain on humanity's track record.

LORRAINE: The Restarts are about to play Rebellion, what plans lay ahead for the band for the rest of the year?

KIERAN: Yes, we will do Rebellion and will be launching Mobocracy, a split CD with MDC.  We’ll then go about gigging the new CD around the UK.  We hope to get MDC over here to tour with us and also end up in the USA with them.

LORRAINE: Many thanks Kieran, lots of luck with that and have a great time at Rebellion.

: Cheers and thanks for the interview! xK

Interview by Lorraine 05/8/09

Photos used by permission of Gemma @ Librasnake Photography