Catch 22

Interview with Ryan Eldred of Catch22

On their 10th anniversary of playing, recording and touring, Catch 22 unleash a concept album called Permanent Revolution, using their horn-driven, uber-catchy ska to explore the life of Leon Trotsky, the father of Marxist theory and leader of the Bolshevik revolution in Russia. Ousted by Stalin and exiled to Mexico, Trotsky was assassinated by a RussianPermanent Revolution Cover Art agent, but his fierce convictions and sound political theories changed the face of society in Europe and continue to resonate today. In a song cycle that traces his life, the band sought to provide a musical interpretation to the groundbreaking events of his early years and the eventual tragedy of his death. When asked the source of the album concept, bassist Pat Kays explained, "Trotsky is an intriguing character who we felt we could relate to in a lot of ways. And he has a very powerful story that is important and very relevant to our current world situation. That"s why this record came about. We really wanted to make something meaningful, not just a slightly better alternative to pop-punk." (From

Q: What inspired you to record Permanent Revolution?

A: Our trombone player, Ian, was reading this massive Russian history book and we were talking about how rapidly the events in Trotsky’s life happened. The revolution happens and he dies in a comparatively short period of time. We wanted to do an album as opposed to a collection of songs, just a mood album, an emotional rollercoaster. We just started reading some books. The one that most inspired us was The Assassination of Trotsky.  The other book was by  Dmitri Volkogonov, 'Trotsky: The Eternal Revolutionary'. We got very into it, and we decided that we should take the time from his exile in Siberia, when Lenin was writing Iskra, as the starting point for the album. “Party Song”{1917} is purposefully poppy to go with the quickness of the uprising. “Decembrists”{1921} is meant as a kind of “remember the Alamo” kind of song, a made-up speech he might have given to the Red Army. “A Minor Point”{1922} is like a justification song. “On the Black Sea”{1924} is about Lenin’s death song. Trotsky leaves for a health spa on the Black Sea and gets word from Stalin about Lenin’s death. Stalin misleads him and prevents Trotsky from attending the funeral. It’s a very reflective song. Trotsky is on the Black Sea, thinking about Lenin’s death and the consequences it may have, and also about their relationship and the past.  

Q: Of all of the possible titles for the album, why did you choose Permanent Revolution?

A: Well, not only was it badass, but it kind of became the thesis of his life’s work. What he took away from everything was that this [the Russian Revolution] couldn’t just be in Russia, it had to go worldwide.  

Q: What’s your opinion of Trotsky’s life and ideas?

A: We found him to be an exemplary character. We talked about the man that Trotsky was. I believe that no matter where or when, his time and place, he would have been a revolutionary that never gave up the opposition. He always fought for what he believed in. He was always open to new ideas, whereas Stalin, for example, was orthodox and could only think very formally.  

Q: Is there anything that you’d like to say to your listeners and to young people in general?

A: I just think that learning about history is the best thing that you can do. Learn from history and people’s mistakes. And learn about exemplary characters like Trotsky.


The views of Ryan Eldred do not neccessarily reflect the views of the Workers International League and Socialist Appeal.

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