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Interview: NiveHive


Interview with: Collin Ruffino

Collin, we recognise you from Home Video and now you’re back with another great project called NiveHive. Could you please tell us the story of this project? Why did you need to make such a conceptual album?

I first noticed Wikileaks when they released the video of the Apache helicopter attack in Iraq, the shooting of all those civilians and two reporters. The video really effected me, especially when we see the van (with children inside it) pulling up to help the wounded and the helicopter fires on it as well.

Then when the Afghanistan and Iraq War logs came out, I felt that this was an organization that was doing something profound. They seemed to be trying to poke us sleeping Americans in the eye and say, “this is what you are doing.”

Then, when the diplomatic cables were released, all hell broke loose. The U.S. government started issuing ridiculous threats, calling Wikileaks a “terrorist organization,” calling Assange a “hi-tech terrorist.” There were calls for his assassination. Senator Lieberman strong armed Amazon, Mastercard, Visa, and Paypal into dumping Wikileaks. It was like a scary fascist movie suddenly. Even the mainstream media started printing lies about the cables – that they were indiscriminately dumped, even though only a small portion of them had been published and those redacted.

This was about when I felt a need to say something in solidarity with Wikileaks. I was just disgusted by the mainstream conversation. Since my medium is mainly music, I decided to try to express this with an album. The first song came pretty easily to me, so I just kept going.

Why did you prefer to call the project as “NiveHive”? I guess it’s got an historical background, hasn’t it?

NiveHive is actually an old screen name I came up with when I was 12 years old. But the name evokes collective, agressive action to me.

I used this as the name, instead of doing it with Home Video, because I felt that the project was unique enough to be its own entity. It is overtly political, where HV is not, and musically it is different – mostly electronic and instrumental.

You have named the album “Collateral Sounds” . What sounds do you exactly mean by using the word “collateral”?

I wanted to reference the Apache helicopter video which had been titled “Collateral Murder.” But I also want the “collateral” to be taken in its literal definition of meaning accompanying, or confirming. So these are sounds that are meant to be heard in the context of the Wikileaks story,  as commentary alongside.

What do you think about the power limits of indiependent left media? Do you believe that it might be a real inspiration in the close future?

I think the independent media is marginalized by its very nature because it is outside of the corporate sphere. There is an established order of power, especially in the US, and it is very hard to break through that order.

This is why I think Wikileaks is so important, because they have managed to embarrass the establishment – not just the government, but also the mainstream media. The New York Times has done all it can to discredit and distance itself from Wikileaks, while at the same time benefiting from their work. Their chief editor has attempted to reassure their bourgeois readership that the New York Times has acted “responsibly,” by seeking the approval of the government before printing information. They are supposed to be a check on the government, not a propaganda arm to protect it.

In your opinion, what is the function of the internet in this modern era? I mean, is it possible to see it as the greatest weapon of those who want  to change something?

It does seem like a great weapon for the small people fighting the giants. It’s obvious that social networking has aided all of the revolutions in North Africa and Middle East. The internet will hopefully remain a free space for information where we have access to all  opinions and ideas equally. There are currently challenges to this in the US though, where there is a move to further privatize the internet so that only the content of the highest bidder gets through.

Look at the backlash against Wikileaks in the US. The government was able to make it a lot harder to access and donate to Wikileaks for a short time. I guess it is truly a testament to the nature of the internet that it was pretty much impossible to shut them down entirely.

Just like Julian Assange of Wikileaks… I know you are politically inspired by Julian Assange, Glenn Greenwald and Democracy Now. Could you have the chance to communicate with some of them in some ways?

I would love it if they heard this album. But I don’t claim to be on the their level politically. I prefer to hear what they have to say, rather than the other way around!

If they want to talk music though…

And Bradley Manning… He is still only 23, but has already become sort of a legend! Do you know anything about his health these days? And could you inform us about the process he has gone through?

That is a scary story. Manning has been held in solitary confinement for almost 9 months and he hasn’t been convicted of a crime yet. There is all this evidence that solitary confinement is a form of torture and that prolonged isolation drives people literally to insanity. The prison medical staff has had to administer anti-depressants to keep him from losing his mind completely. This is all for possibly having committed a crime of conscience, a non-violent crime.

It seems obvious to me that the US is subjecting Manning to this torture to try to break him, so that he will say what they want and they can use it to prosecute Assange.

Manning is basically a political prisoner. If he were being held in a third world, dictatorship country, the US media would be outraged. But as it is, he is called a traitor.

The outrageous thing is, Manning’s confinement is standard to, if not better than, all the prisoners’ in Guantanamo and Bagram, Afghanistan. It terrifies me to think about the US detention system.

Asking in a direct way: Are you expecting a Third World War?

I hope not! No, actually, I don’t really expect a Third World War. It seem to me that war has changed so drastically, that there won’t ever again be something that resembles the first two world wars. “Wars” are now declared by super powers on the populations of weaker countries that resist domination. Anything as large as a World War would just be nuclear apocalypse.

What do you see when you think of the world in 2025? Do you expect any drastic changes?

Wikileaks gives me hope that there can be checks on the powers of governments and corporations. There seems to be a move toward whistleblowing now. Maybe a new age of information has been started.

The thing that worries me most for the future is climate change. I don’t see much hope for the humans in stopping disaster there. Wikileaks even had some cables go out about the Copenhagen Summit. They revealed the US bullying and bribing behind the scenes to weaken the agreements. That is scary stuff. I don’t know how those people can face their children.

You know that one of the most popular themes of the Wikileaks files is about Turkey. Thinking of the files, do you believe that Turkey is an indipendent country? Do you think US has a secret agenda on Turkey? Haha, I know it’s a bit difficult one to answer, but I just want to know what you honestly think about this…

I have to admit a certain amount of ignorance here. I know the cables show everyone in a bad light, Erdogan included. I would guess that generally, the US seeks hegemony in the Middle East in the interest of oil — a pretty conservative guess. When Turkey plays into their role as a US military base, the waters are calm. When Turkey asserts its independence as a democratic nation, feathers are ruffled.

I would like to hear what your thoughts are on this topic.

And how does Middle East and North Africa region seem to you? Is this a natural process or do someone playing games on that region again?

It looks to me like those are legitimate revolutions rising up. Look at Egypt. Mubarak was a beloved, brutal US puppet dictator. There was no interest in the US Government in having him disappear. That was real people power. Tunisia seems the same. It looks to me like all these oppressive leaders with US backing are being challenged by the suffering populations.

We in the US could take some lessons from that outrage. The poverty and unemployment rising here is appalling. Americans are too sedated and confused to demand any change.

The first track I have listened from the album, The Stuffed Men Bristle, is a great piece of work. And it refers to Eliot’s masterpiece poem “The Hollow Men”. Paralel to the poem, why do American politicians always act like God? How did it get started?!

Hearing all those politicians that I put in the song, it just struck me that these are The Hollow Men speaking. They are blathering on about patriotism and endangering lives, when they are the ones responsible for the hundreds of thousands of deaths in the wars they have perpetrated.

They speak in empty platitudes, ripe with contradiction. They can barely articulate their anger without revealing their own hatred for the freedom that the US is supposed to stand for. They love the first amendment, but only when it doesn’t offend anyone in power.

They are also “stuffed” in the sense that they are the bloated oligarchy of our country, rustling with the corporate money that fills their pockets.

I know you are also involved in making videos. Have you got any thoughts on making some videos for the album album? You know, the poem was read out by Marlon Brando years ago. A small part of it was also used in “Apocalypse Now”, it could be a starting point… Any chance or thoughts on using Brando’s voice for example?

I know the Apocalypse Now scene, where he is actually quoting from Heart of Darkness, which is quoted in the Eliot poem. But I haven’t seen Brando reading the poem.

I may have some video ideas for these. Or I might have a friend or two tackle them for me.

On the same song, you have got such names as Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Candice Miller and Mitch McConnell on vocals! Cool gang, how could you manage to pick them up all? Well, I’m kidding, for sure. It’s a brand new song, but have you got any negative feedbacks because of replacing these vocals into the song?

So far no one has been negative about the song. Part of my wanting to do this album was to get a feel for how the music world sits in relation to Wikileaks and all of the associated topics. I wonder how interested people are in political music at all. Most musicians I know are fairly left leaning. But musicians are also business minded and perhaps don’t want to expose their thoughts too much about serious issues.

I’ve made the actual music on this album compelling as well. I think you can enjoy the music itself before even engaging with the message. It’s emotional music that I think is made more so by having a message.

Could you tell us a bit about the other songs on the album please? What kind of surprises are on the way?

Each of the songs on the album presents a facet of the Wikileaks saga that I’ve found to be important. Some of them are like “The Stuffed Men Bristle” with actual voice samples manipulated to the beat, some aim to create a musical representation of an event, and some present information in a more obscure way (one has a morse code message in the melody).

Musically, I was inspired by older electronic bands like Kraftwerk, Section 25, and Pan Sonic. I wanted it to be simple, melodic and accessible.

Who are you collaborating with? Is David in it, by the way?

NiveHive, for now, is just me.

When will you complete the album?

I hope to have it done and out by the end of March. I have really driven myself to get this together and done because it is so urgent.

Last question is about Home Video. What are you into these days as Home Video?

We are playing shows, headed to the South By Southwest Festival, and releasing our album, The Automatic Process, in Europe and the UK this month. We are planning on releasing an EP (that I’m really into) in the coming months.


Interview with: Collin Ruffino

NiveHive: Website, SoundCloud, Myspace, Facebook


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