My Band The Four Fathers Release New Single, ‘She’s Back’, About Pussy Riot, As Maria Alyokhina Releases Memoir, ‘Riot Days’

5.9.17

The cover of 'She's Back' by The Four Fathers, released on September 5, 2017.Today, my band The Four Fathers are releasing ‘She’s Back’, our new online single from our forthcoming album, ‘How Much Is A Life Worth?’, which we’ll be releasing on CD soon, hopefully within the next month.

She’s Back’ was written by guitarist Richard Clare, first aired in 2015, and recorded in a session last year for the new album. It’s about Pussy Riot, politicized performance artists from Russia, who use punk music to get across their messages, which have involved feminism, LGBT rights and the corruption of Vladimir Putin. We recorded it in July 2016, with Richard on lead vocals and 12-string guitar, me on rhythm guitar and backing vocals, Brendan Horstead on drums, Andrew Fifield on flute and Louis Sills-Clare on bass.

The song is below, on Bandcamp, where you can listen to it, and, if you wish, download it for just £1 ($1.30). We hope you like it!

Formed in 2011, Pussy Riot gained international notoriety in 2012 after five members of the group staged a punk rock performance — a ‘Punk Prayer’ — inside Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior, which was aimed at the church’s support for Putin during his election campaign.

Three of the five were subsequently arrested, in March 2012 —  Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich — and were put on trial in July. In August, they were convicted of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred”, and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment. Samutsevich’s sentence was suspended on appeal in October, but Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina had their sentences upheld, and were imprisoned for 21 months, only finally being released on December 23, 2013.

Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina subsequently appeared as Pussy Riot members during the Winter Olympics in Sochi, where, as Tolokonnikova reported, Cossacks employed as security guards “attacked us, beat us with whips and abundantly sprayed us with pepper gas”. In March 2014, Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina were “seriously assaulted at a fast food outlet by local youths in Nizhny Novgorod.” Last month, Alyokhina was briefly detained, in Yakutsk in eastern Siberia, with another Pussy Riot member, Olga Borisova, after a protest against the imprisonment of film-maker Oleg Sentsov. As the Guardian described it, “the pair unfurled a ‘Free Sentsov’ banner on a road bridge, along with plumes of coloured smoke.”

Richard states that the song was “inspired by an interview with Nadezhda Tolokonnikova about her time in a gulag and her aims and feelings after release.” Her first major interview after her release seems to have been with Der Spiegel, the week after her release, in which, under the heading, ‘I Want Justice’, she spoke of her imprisonment as follows:

I spent most of the time at a penal colony in Mordovia. This is what my day was like there: Wake up at 5:45 a.m., 12 minutes of early-morning exercise, followed by breakfast and forced labor as a seamstress. Being allowed to go to the bathroom or smoke a cigarette depended on the guards’ mood. Lunch was greasy and of poor quality. The workday ended at 7 p.m., when there was roll call in the prison yard. After that, we were sometimes required to shovel snow or do other cleanup work. Then we waited in line to wash up a little, and finally we went to bed.

Asked if she was treated decently, she said:

No. It was terrible. They tried everything to break me and silence me. The collective punishments were the worst, almost unbearable. Because of a small gesture, or when I asked the camp management to observe the law, 100 people were assigned to a punishment unit, where beatings were customary. I was treated better than others, simply because there was so much public attention. In my case, they did adhere to the eight-hour workday required by law. The other women were often forced to slave away for up to 16 hours a day.

In September 2014, Tolokonnikova spoke to Amelia Gentleman of the Guardian, when she had “set up a prison-reform project and launched a news agency website, Mediazona.” The prison reform project, set up with Alyokhina, is Zona Prava (Justice Zone), described as “a campaigning charity aimed at improving conditions in Russia’s jails.”

In October 2016, as the Guardian described it, Pussy Riot “released a song celebrating the vagina, in an unashamed feminist riposte to Donald Trump and his boast that when he meets beautiful women he ‘grabs them by the pussy.’” The song, ‘Straight Outta Vagina’, was written by Tolokonnikova, and recorded in the US, and that same month they also released another anti-Trump song, ‘Make America Great Again.’

Bringing the story up to date, Maria Alyokhina has a memoir out next week, ‘Riot Days’, reviewed by the Guardian last week, and described as “a punk version of history and a work of art in itself, a statement against corruption and patriarchy.” In an interview at the weekend, asked about Donald Trump, she said, “Political art is simply essential for life in the United States right now. It’s not just about Trump. It’s about Nazi groups that are calling for people to be judged according to racial characteristics and so on. If you call someone dangerous then it means you are scared of them. You shouldn’t be scared, you need to act.” She added, as the Guardian described it, that “[p]eople everywhere should be wary of putting too much faith in politicians,” who, as Alyokhina said, need to be “poked in the backside.” She also said, “Politics is not something that exists in one or another White House. It is our lives. The political process is happening all the time.”

She also made a few other good comments about activism, both of which reflect my own experiences: firstly, “Every day a person makes choices. It doesn’t happen that you suddenly understand something and become a different person just like that. It’s daily toil,” and, secondly, “I am not the sort of person who sits around waiting for some sort of end. You have to keep acting whatever the conditions. I fight against indifference and apathy … and for freedom and choice.”

Please also feel free to follow The Four Fathers on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, and email us if you want to be on our mailing list, or if you can offer us any gigs!

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose music is available via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and the Countdown to Close Guantánamo initiative, launched in January 2016), the co-director of We Stand With Shaker, which called for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison (finally freed on October 30, 2015), and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by the University of Chicago Press in the US, and available from Amazon, including a Kindle edition — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US).

To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, and The Complete Guantánamo Files, an ongoing, 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011. Also see the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

Please also consider joining the Close Guantánamo campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.

3 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my latest article, promoting my band The Four Fathers’ new online single, ‘She’s Back’, by guitarist Richard Clare. The song’s about Pussy Riot, and was written after two members of Pussy Riot served 21 months in prison following a protest against Vladimir Putin and the Russian Orthodox Church’s support for him. Richard was specifically inspired by an interview with Nadezhda Tolokonnikova who continues to make music, including, most recently, songs aimed at Donald Trump. Coincidentally, the other imprisoned member, Maria Alyokhina, has a memoir, ‘Riot Days’, published next week, and is speaking at Goldsmith’s College in south east London next Wednesday, September 13: https://www.gold.ac.uk/calendar/?id=10939

  2. Andy Worthington says...

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Just a reminder that Pussy Riot’s Maria Alyokhina is at Goldsmith’s next Wednesday, Sept. 13, at 1pm, discussing her book ‘Riot Days’! https://www.gold.ac.uk/calendar/?id=10939

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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