WORDS: JO COSGROVE | PHOTO: MARTYNA WISNIEWSKA

Times are tough and everyone is struggling to make ends meet. The COVID-19 pandemic has left many at a standstill – including the music industry. Everyone’s struggling right now and there’s very little to be excited about. However, there is a voice of positivity within Derek Zanetti.

Zanetti is the driving force behind punk protest project The Homeless Gospel Choir, and has never bowed down to the industry. One he admits he’s “never been influenced by”. He reassures that even though everything is slowing down, “punk rock is gonna be around”.

“These bands are gonna come back. They’re gonna play your favourite song. Everybody’s gonna have a chance to dance and jump around and buy a T-shirt.” Live music isn’t the be-all, end-all of the industry.

Zanetti has always been a creative and socially aware individual. He finds himself inspired by punk rock every day, calling his job “a great treasure” because he gets to make music that counts. It’s from this experience within the punk rock community that he concluded: “I don’t think punk rock owes you anything.”

“THERE’S NO MAGIC WAND OR MAGIC PILL YOU CAN TAKE…TRY AND BE HONEST ABOUT THE THING YOU’RE TRYING TO MAKE.”

“I don’t think punk rock owes you fucking shit,” he colourfully elaborates. “We’re all lucky to be here…to be journalists, people who scream for a T-shirt, A&R people, people in a band, tour managers.” It’s no exaggeration that Zanetti feels blessed in his position. He’s grown throughout the 2010s and rightfully gained recognition. He’s a humble man who’s built himself up by setting “very small goals”, instead of aiming straight for the stars from the very beginning. “My very first goal was just to have one of my songs on a vinyl record,” he reminisces. “Every year, from the very beginning, it’s just grown a little bit.”

He says it’s “very wonderful” to watch himself progress over the years. But we wonder, what’s the secret to success? “I like to treat people the way I like to be treated” – simple! “There’s no magic wand or magic pill you can take,” he explains. “[Just] try and be honest about the thing you’re trying to make.” He finishes the speech with this statement: “If you’re honest, and you have integrity, and you work hard, people see that and they’ll wanna help you out.”

“[THE ALBUM] REALLY DRAWS A NARRATIVE OF ‘DEREK’S NOT ALONE ANYMORE.’”

Speaking of people helping people out, it’s time to discuss The Homeless Gospel Choir’s new record! ‘This Land Is Your Landfill‘ is being released at a very appropriate time, as it covers many relevant topics and starts conversations – and Zanetti is bringing it in a way he never has before. This record is all about having “this big loud ruckus full band experience”, and he first gave a taste of this with the single, ‘Don’t Compare’.

Zanetti has always run the project on his own; him with a trusty acoustic guitar. But now he’s moved on to bringing a whole new experience to the fans, and he wanted to introduce it by creating a “communal sense” with this first single. The meaning is layered and presented in a “loud…huge…chaotic” manner. “It really draws a narrative of ‘Derek’s not alone anymore. [He] found some friends and made this new band’.”

With the new members of the Homeless Gospel Choir camp, Zanetti found passion in his music again. He admits that he was “really struggling” with getting music out acoustically and needed something “loud”.

“I DON’T THINK PUNK ROCK OWES YOU SHIT. WE’RE ALL LUCKY TO BE HERE.”

“All the noises that I was hearing inside my mind were really loud. Loud pounding drums…really loud electric guitars…noise pedals and chaos.” Chaos is what ‘This Land Is Your Landfill‘ lives on; so much so that the only way of being honest about the themes of each song would be to play them with the band: “If I was gonna be honest about the songs, I have to play them as a full band.”

With misfortune surrounding the world, the band have not been able to play their new material. Recently, Zanetti himself has been performing online through his social media live streams for everyone missing the experience (or possibly hasn’t had that experience yet). But as much as he loves writing and playing music, Zanetti knows what he wants to see after the world is back to normal. He wants to see “what type of engagement and atmosphere” everyone can create, and to not take that for granted.

His personal hope is everyone learning “what it means to be together”. Maybe we should all be more like Derek Zanetti: focus on peace and togetherness. Togetherness is punk rock.

The new album ‘This Land Is Your Landfill’ is out April 24th through Hassle Records.

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