Wrong On Every Count no.5 – Am I Punk Enough?

I’m sat at home at my Mac, the summer evening cool and windy outside.  I’m just back from my summer holidays and so it’s taken some time to get back into the writing spirit again.  I’ve been listening this afternoon to the excellent Weasel Radio Podcast – specifically the Romney Vacation episode, for those in the know. 

For those of you who don’t know or care, Weasel Radio is a kind of talk radio show hosted by Owen Murphy, who is straight man to Ben Weasel.  Owen, a Sports radio jock currently resident in Shoreline, WA, sets up mainstream subjects [such as politics, sport news, as well as some punk rock issues du jour]  for Ben to pick up and pronounce on, takes Ben’s torrents of vitriolic abuse, and generally tries to make sure that the show manages to run and conclude within the 50 odd minute timescale they allocate themselves.  But the great thing is that they don’t just talk about music – indeed they often don’t talk about music at all.

The latest episode of Weasel Radio which I mentioned above is a sprawling discussion based on an article written about US Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s proclivities for wholesome, regimented family vacations, with a swerve towards the subject of sport and doping thrown in for good measure.  It’s always entertaining, [except for when Weasel starts to talk about his new found love for opera], and has become required listening for me, although I have to concede that DeHud is one of the show’s longest serving listeners, having threatened to insert something unsuitable up Owen’s ass if her ever played a record by Keane on the show again.

Ok, so why the fork is this relevant? Well it’s made me think about the nature of our beloved genre, punk rock.  Both DeHud and I have been involved in this thing for nearly 30 years – that’s kind of a long time, and it’s slightly scary when you put it into such stark terms.  But that means that, like a rescue home dog, we come with a ton of baggage.  You wouldn’t believe the discussions we have, usually sat in some Liverpool beer garden with hot sunshine burning our heads, the foam slowly oozing down the outside of yet another pint of the finest German lager; such – and – such is ok, but they’re not punk!  So – when it all started out, things were simple.  You had a leather jacket, you had spiked hair, you had a Ramones t-shirt, you wore baseball boots or Docs.  You were punk.  Then things started to get complicated.

I’d nail it down to a period in 1982.  I have mentioned this before – my buddy Pete played me this record, and on the cover was a skinhead guy, pictured from behind his shaven head, his fist rammed into a now shattered mirror.  Yep, stand up Hank Rollins [or Henry Garfield as he was known in the DC scene back in the day].  ‘Damaged’ by Black Flag was the album – on SST Records, with the great Gregg Ginn on guitar [soon to appear on the Spears’ new album by the way].  This was it.  As the first crazy, disjointed guitar chords hit me, I knew that in my little world, hardcore had landed.  On Rollins’ coat tails came Circle Jerks, Channel 3, Fear, The Germs, Flipper, Misfits, Adolescents, SSD, hey….you know the story.

So, we’re mid-80s, and hardcore has touched down on planet UK.  And, whilst the whole Anarcho scene in the UK was full of polemic and ‘holier-than-thou-ness’, hardcore seemed to bring a whole shitload of new rules and regulations.  Before, we had the Anarcho scene, headed up by Crass [who were never – may I risk saying – in my opinion anything more than a bunch of middle class hippy intellectuals].  But now, Hardcore had come along and whilst the likes of Keith Morris or Darby Crash were never going to harrangue you if you failed to boil your lentils for the appointed time, there were plenty in the scene, especially on the pages of our beloved MRR, who wanted nothing more than to tell everybody else how to live their lives.

Yeah, the thin, floppy newsprint that made up an issue of MRR would positively crackle with the ideology of this movement.  There were rules! Look at photos of Gilman Street from the late 80s.  The word ‘No’ was used as a general prefix.  Bejeezus, at some of the UK shows we went to, it was a bit like that old sign you used to see at swimming pools – ‘No Bombing, No Swearing, No Petting……‘.  We used to wonder – what’s happened here? Words such as Freedom, Anarchy, Individualism were all supposedly the basic principles of Punk, and yet all we get is people telling us what we should think and what we should act like.

Things got worse.

By the late 80s, we were going to shows in Leeds, and a significant Straightedge scene had blossomed.  I’m thinking about 1988-ish here.  Like all imported cultures, it had obviously been subject to the ‘Chinese Whispers’ syndrome, and what we ended up with in West Yorkshire was a gang of young, shaven headed boys, most of whom were too young to drink in pubs anyway, had they been so inclined.  But they would routinely confront ordinary punters enjoying a beer or two at a show, simply because their version of Straightedge meant that anybody who drank alcohol was ‘the enemy’.  Inevitably, combined with a gang mentality and lots of teenage testosterone, sometimes this led to violence.  Like, who gave you the right to decide my choices?  So then you had at one end of the room, the ideological crowd, preaching and pissed, while at the other end of the room you had the new young puritans denouncing any vaguely libertarian choices.  And we were somewhere in the middle, thinking ‘Jeez, why can’t you have your principles, and also have a good time?

Some years later, along came the internet.  And of course interaction became easy no matter where in the world you were.  But at the same time, the element of self-regulation we all employ when communicating with real people [because if we just said whatever we thought to somebody’s face, we would probably get punched on a regular basis] was missing. Which meant that people could abuse, attack and insult their peers online with no immediate sense of consequence.  And so an increasingly bitchy, cliquey scene got bigger – global in fact – but much more bitchy and cliquey.  You know the rest.

Are you still with me?  Where am I going here?  Well, I guess my point is this.  Like Owen and Weasel, I’m 45 years old now.  I’ve got a house, a job, a mortgage, a child and a partner both of whom I love to bits….a life, you might say. And punk still runs through my veins.  Same with DeHud.  We catch up and drink beer now and then.  We still run this piece of crap fanzine which we started in 1986.  We still go to shows.  We still get stoked when we hear a great new band.  Yet we don’t feel the need to live in a commune, join good cause X,Y or Z, fashion a mohawk, slag off the band who nets a good record deal as a sell out, denounce somebody who chooses to exercise their right to do something that falls outside the narrow, ageing accepted ‘wisdoms’ of what it takes to be ‘punk’.  We wear normal clothes.  We do normal stuff.  We have a raft of interests outside of music.  We enjoy bringing up our kids.

What eventually occurred to me whilst devouring Weasel Radio was that this is a great, involving discussion by two middle aged guys, one of whom just happens to be in a punk band, about a completely mainstream subject that I could kind of relate to and laugh about, even though I live a long way away.  And it was done in a reasonably open minded way, without the immediate and unthinking adoption of the ‘received wisdoms’ that the Scene seems to come packaged with.

And to me, that’s punk as fuck.

Guest Column: The Day I Met Pig Champion

In 1987 I saw Poison Idea play with The Accused in Tacoma. Even at that time P.I. were sort of mythical, at least to me. I’d read an article about them in Thrasher about a year previous, and saw some pictures. The singer and one guitarist were like pro wrestler sized, closer to King Kong Bundy than Jimmy Snuka though. I heard their Kings of Punk album, to me as much of a definitive US hardcore slab as Black Flag’s Damaged-perhaps more so even as it had tastes of musical complexity in the song structure Ginn and company didn’t quite approach with Damaged. Also, the first time I hung out in Tacoma at the Subvert house and got to drool over their bass players record collection, I was introduced to the sounds of the Record Collectors Are Pretentious Assholes Ep by Poison Idea. Said album had, and has to this day, my favorite Poison Idea song, A.A. I remain firmly convinced that the opening /verse guitar part to that song is the greatest kickoff riff ever written in the history of  hardcore punk rock.

So I had heard P.I. was playing the Community World Theater with The Accused, another band I was crazy about. A bunch of my fiends were going. I remember it was like a “big show”, the Accused had recently released More Fun Than an Open Casket Funeral and Poison Idea had just put out their War All The Time lp. I mean, it cost a whole eight bucks to get in, so that alone qualified it as a big show. This was back when hardcore shows were generally under five bucks for local bands, and you could see touring bands from across the country for five to eight bucks. I remember seeing Thatcher on Acid, who were all the way from Britain, when they played with Resist and Subvert in Olympia in 91 for like six bucks even. It was just good cheap fun. Then again, back then a half rack of Animal beer was five bucks and you could get a pack of smokes for a buck fifty. Fuck I’m old.

Anyways, a bunch of us loaded up in this guy Dagley’s VW bus and went to the Community World. The venue was next to a tavern, like the “backstage” entrance was right by the bar’s back door. The parking lot was to the rear of this, sort of around the side of the building. So we parked and everybody unloaded. Somehow I got separated from my friends, I think I went to the back of the parking lot to take a piss and told them I’d meet up inside. At any rate, I’m walking around the building and I see this big shadow the backstage door. It appeared to be someone sitting on something. Someone really fucking huge. I get a little closer. It’s Pig Champion of Poison Idea sitting on a stack of beer cases drinking.

You have to understand. I’m like fifteen years old at the time, just this little punkling kid. I’m standing there looking at the legendary Pig Champion. It was like that old Coke commercial when the kid sees Mean Joe Green coming out of the locker room. Only it’s not Mean Joe Green. It’s fucking Tom “Pig Champion” Roberts. 450 pounds of punk rock guitar fury. He must have noticed my jaw hanging down around my combat boots. He looks at me, raises his beer, and says “Cheers!”

I may as well just have been offered a hot dog by a sasquatch. I was blown away. I think I just said, “Hey dude!” and then floated off into the venue.

The show was the best hardcore show I ever saw. Probably ever will see. Poison Idea opened with A.A., and the place erupted like a volcano spewing molten demon spit laced with methamphetamine and bargain lager. I don’t remember most of the set, I was in the pit flailing for all the world was worth. I remember they seemed so hulking up there, singer Jerry A. and Pig. At one point they finish a song, and Pig Champion walks over and says some something to Jerry who then tells the crowd “And now, for your entertainment…Pig Champion will vomit all over himself.” Everybody goes fucking nuts. There’s a drum roll. Pig Champion is standing there for a few seconds, and then commences to festoon. All over himself, all over his guitar, all over the stage.  Everybody goes well beyond fucking nuts. Jerry A, then says “Now. THATS PUNK ROCK.” And without missing a beat, they tear off into Lifestyles off their Kings of Punk lp.

Tom Roberts passed away on January 31st 2006. He was then, and for me always will be larger than life. If you listen to pretty much any Poison Idea song you’ll hear the guitar work of a true genius. Because above all else he wrote great fucking songs. I don’t care about your opinion about hardcore punk lacking musicianship because it wasn’t played with “oodly-oodly” guitar solos and suspended ninth chords or whatever. It is evocative music the likes of which few other styles of rock and roll, or any other genre, can match. And Pig Champion was a master at creating it. Not to mention, from everything I’ve heard from people he was a really decent person. Of all the “band dudes” I ever ran into, my run in with him tops the list for the coolest encounter.

Editor’s Note: Thanks to Dave for his second Punk as Fuck column for Rip It Up.  Check out his own blog at http://sunburnscold.com/

Wrong on Every Count no.4 – Welcome to 1984!

“Welcome to 1984! Has the year arrived figuratively as well as chronologically?…….”

So began Jeff Bale’s written sleeve notes to the Maximum Rock n Roll compliation album, ‘Welcome to 1984‘.  Billed at the time as one of the first international hardcore compilations, this record showcased a massive roster of 23 bands from 17 countries who had latched on to the forthcoming tidal wave of hardcore music that was soon to envelop the world.  For nostalgia fans, or those of you too young to have been there first time around, it was re-released for the 25th Anniversary of its release in 2009.  I decided to do a little feature on it as we approach the 28th year after release.

Here’s my story.  Let’s go all the way back [I seem to be writing that line more and more on Rip It Up, which just shows my advancing age] to summer, 1984.  I had traveled to London with my punk buddy Pete, who was guilty of introducing me to Black Flag’sDamaged‘ lp a couple of years previously.  That’s where the rot had set in, you see.  We had taken the underground up to Camden High Street, which in those days was less of a commercial playground for clueless foreign tourists, and more of a genuinely alternative enclave of London.  There was a great shop known as Rhythm Records at number 281 Camden High Street, and amongst their impressive selection of imports I found the ‘Welcome to 1984’ compilation.  I bought it there and then for about £4.99 as I recall, and headed home to Suffolk with my excitement building.  When we arrived back at Peter’s house, we fought to get our respective purchases onto the turntable first.  When I finally spun this disc, punk flowed from the speakers.

The album, whose bands were often decidedly less intense and intellectual than the MRR writers themselves, were a diverse bunch.  Kicking off side one, for example, you got ‘Outo Mae‘ by Finland’s Terveet Kådet, which was a brief blast of Scandinavian punk – who would have thought that the region would end up as the breeding ground for so much dark, aggressive hardcore and D-Beat in later years?  Next up was ‘Nada‘ by Brazil’s Ohlo Seco.  This remains one of the most raw, aggressive slices of punk rock I have ever heard – boy were those guys pissed!  The whiny voice of Doc Dart of the Crucifucks was next, topping off a [by today’s standards] pretty weedy yet addictive hardcore rant – ‘See our leaders walk on all fours, lower than the puke on my bathroom floor’ – brilliant!

Then, Denmark’s Electric Deads offered a melodic start to their track ‘Fish in a Pool‘.  This soon erupted into fast, metallic thrash with girl vocals, a cracking song and one that my buddy in Huddersfield Rich would come to love a couple of years later.  Germany’s Inferno were next with their ‘Perfekter Mensch‘, whilst we then had a real treat from France.  Kidnap played a really great, singalong chanting track in ‘No SS‘ with the refrain ‘No SS…Fuckin’ Nazis, Fuckin’ Nazis!’

Other stand outs included a ripping track by Holland’s Balthasaar Gerard’s Kommando [BGK], and a real classic from Japan’s The Stalin, entitled ‘Chicken Farm‘, and, according the the lyric sheet, containing the line “Do you want so badly to be a chicken farm chicken….taking three steps and then doing it over again?  You can never fly….Nothing but sunnyside up by any means – well made, and yet an omlette after all.  Fed up with it, eating it?

Yep, this album was a classic in every sense.  The aforementioned buddy, Rich, generally dug 60s music and was for some reason really taken with this compilation, especially the Crucifucks and Electric Deads tracks.  And that’s a small explanation for its appeal over the years – it was such a collection of unknown teenage punk bands, all thrashing away in a rented garage or basement in some nondescript suburb whilst annoying their parents with their mohawks and painted, studded leather jackets that it stripped away all the bullshit and false glamour around punk and showed it as it was – basic, sloppily played and totally sincere.

I was always unsure of the reason why MRR attached their lofty, intellectual analysis of the whole 1984 scenario to the album, because although some of the bands sung about anti-authoritarian subjects, this is in no way a collection of songs stating that we are all prisoners in a surveillance society – although that argument would certainly be true today in the UK where we are the most watched population in the ‘free’ world. But it was an eye opener because up until this point we were mainly listening to, and going to watch bands who fell under the ‘UK82’ banner, with their aesthetic of spiked hair, studded leathers, big boots and violent, hooligan mentality.  Hardcore was suddenly about a more agile, intellectual approach to the situation which adopted the middle class American appearance and our uniform changed overnight from Docs and Leathers to checked shirts and baseball boots!

Some of these bands went on to become well known in the scene – Icons of Filth and the influential Rattus and Huvudtvätt, for example.  Others no doubt disappeared into obscurity or broke up and became other bands.  But as an example of Thomas Carlyle’s “Great Rude Sincerity”, this album really told how it was and changed a lot of kids’ attitudes [mine included, and i’m still at it 28 years later].

It’s a depressing thought that now, almost 30 years after this record was released, we face CCTV cameras on every street corner, in every public building, we are tracked in our cars every time we go on a motorway by cameras reading our registration numbers, our bank cards are located every time we draw money from an ATM, drones fly in the sky at 20,000 feet and can pinpoint a person in a group on the ground in order to hit them with a deadly missile, and detention without trial is an accepted practice in the most ‘civilised’ countries in the world.  This album was ahead of its time, but only just, sadly.  1984 for sure.

“Welcome to 1984! Has the year arrived figuratively as well as chronologically?…….”

It sure has now Jeff!

Wrong on Every Count no.3 – My Date with the Skinheads

The physical effects of half a bottle of Merrydown Cider were impossible to ignore any longer. There was no choice. I had to go. I had been putting it off for as long as I could but…… I crossed the still largely empty dancefloor of the Manor Ballroom, Ipswich’s (that is Ipswich, England for our international readers) prime punk rock venue du jour, and the intensity of the fumes increased from ‘unpleasant’ to ‘downright toxic’ as I entered the Gents toilets. But not for the reason you might expect.

I suppose I had better give you some background. Ok, come back with me to April 1983. Myself and three punk buddies, aged about 16 I guess, had gone to see a show starring Peter and the Test Tube Babies, with a few local bands as support. At the time, they had released one seminal album, the live set ‘Pissed and Proud‘, and were about to unleash their first studio album, ‘Mating Sounds of South American Frogs‘, as well as a crackingly commercial single, ‘The Jinx‘. But in those days, punk was very, very factional, and the Test Tube Babies had made the mistake of licensing two of their songs to a compilation LP released by British journalist Garry Bushell, the genre-defining ‘Oi! The Album‘. I say mistake – this was actually a pretty successful album in commercial terms. But the genre it defined created an albatross around the necks of many of the bands featured on it, which took the Test Tubes years to shake off.

Oi! you see, for those of you who were not around at the time, was an unpleasant cocktail of the seamier end of punk rock, a bit of heavy metal, and an unhealthy dose of the ‘new’ skinhead culture. It was a label subsequently attached to bands such as The 4-Skins, Cockney Rejects, The Last Resort, The Business and many others. Now whilst some of these bands were simply pub rock played a bit faster [Oi!’s principles, such as they were, seemed to be drinking lots of beer and fighting], others had, at least, associations to unsavoury causes, the far right movement being the main worry. You have to remember that in those days in the UK, things were very tough. Massive youth unemployment, the threat of nuclear war, crackdowns on civil liberties by the emboldened Tory government of Margaret Thatcher – these were all realities at the time. And so, against the backdrop of race riots in many major cities, the far right movement had attached itself to the skinhead culture and thus to Oi!, where it saw gigs and records as effective recruiting tools.

Anyway, back to the toilets in the Manor Ballroom. The reason I mentioned the ‘fumes’ issuing from therein was because another essential punk and skinhead accessory of the day was glue sniffing. Evo-Stik was the most popular, because it was sold in big aluminum cans with a screw top lid. Not that I ever participated willingly, but this night saw me ingest quite a lot in a passive way. So, the toilets were full of skins, lounging around, plastic bags full of glue pressed to their faces as they inhaled the deadly, toxic fumes in search of a high. Polished Doc Martens, bleached jeans and M-15 flight jackets were the order of the day dress wise, and one or two of these charmers casually traced a finger along the blade of a flick knife. Now, even during the day, in the town centre, you would normally avoid a group of skinheads. They were often vicious, violent individuals, and in my local town, some of the older ones would proudly sport swastika tattoos and sell the National Front magazine, ‘Bulldog’. But here, drunk and high on glue, these guys were even more unpredictable – and in an enclosed space! Alright!

You know that feeling, when you’re in the toilets trying to take a leak and you’re so uneasy that everything just kind of locks up? Well that’s what happened here. And of course, the longer I stayed, the more inevitable it became that I would be engaged in conversation. Which is what happened. I put on my best front and acted as tough as I could, because punks and skinheads, although loosely associated by the bands they followed in some cases, were not at all averse to a good old tear up at any opportunity. The skinhead questioning me was, I think, being friendly, although it didn’t feel like it at the time. I just got my ass out of there as quickly as I could, and he was distracted by being passed a bag of a rather fine single estate Copydex.

Returning to the relative safety of my buddies outside the venue, we continued our slightly aloof, dismissive attitude. We weren’t going to let a load of skinheads ruin our evening. The usual array of punks were beginning to arrive and we felt more at ease amongst this scene. Some of the punks knew some of the skinheads, and so a sense of calm was restored. The first support band had kicked off by now, a regrettable Oi! band from our local town as I recall, and a small group of skins were doing their violent pogoing, arms around shoulders dance, laying into anybody foolish enough to try and join in. We decided to go down the road and get some food from the chip shop.

Youth was pretty tribal in those days. We were dressed in our standard uniform of the time – some band t-shirt or other, jeans and nondescript trainers. We got our food, and just as we walked out of the chip shop, a group of Mods happened to walk past [Mod of course being the other 1960s youth cult undergoing something of a renaissance in the early 80s after the release of the film Quadrophenia]. Without a word, they laid into two of us. I remember that the guy who kicked me was wearing those boxing boots which were popular with scooter riders back then. Scalding hot chips flew up and rained in a graceful arc through the air and onto the pavement. We didn’t really get much of a beating – we didn’t hang around long enough.

Outnumbered, we ran back in the direction of the Manor Ballroom, where we encountered the full pack of skins, obviously getting a breath of fresh air after their glue sniffing session. Seeing us clearly ruffled, they adopted us under their wing immediately. “Tell us who done it” they urged us. We explained. Eyes darted and conspiratorial nods shot around the group. Suddenly blades glinted in the sodium glare of the street lights. “Come on, let’s get ’em!” they called, and our problem then was trying to get out of going with them on a long and unpleasant trek around town looking for some victim to beat and stab.

Eventually, we were dismissed as unworthy and off the skins went, bouncing into the night with their shaven heads and their boots. After that, we went back inside, caught the Test Tube Babies, danced, had a ball, and as I remember there was little if any trouble. A few skinheads remained, but even then they were friendly as the ‘pit’ [although we didn’t call it that, because that was an American term which would arrive in a year or so] was good natured and people would pull each other up when they slipped on beer and everybody fell in a stinking, sweaty heap.

But there were other shows where folks weren’t so lucky – wherever a band associated with Oi! played, you would normally find trouble and many venues simply ended up banning any band who seemed to be associated with this scene. Oi! as mainstream entity fizzled out soon afterwards, going underground and catering only for those dedicated to their fighting. We felt a sense of relief that it passed.

Wrong on Every Count! No.2 – Grow Up Already!

It was about 9 o’clock.  Ears still ringing from the array of support bands, DeHud and I had been waiting for this for a while with excitement.  The inevitable tedious milling around on stage had finally ceased, and the band was in position, poised, ready to go.  Shiny nylon hockey shirts reflected the harsh stage lights.  I stood on a velvet bench seat stage right, my phone camera at the ready, swaying slightly, on account of yet another afternoon of Olympian beer consumption.  Then, you know how at a show, just before the main band starts playing, there is a sudden, short silence – rather like in the classroom when the teacher looks up purposefully and everybody just stops…….’1,2,3,4′ went the cry……

The Hanson Brothers launched into another fast, slick, loud set and we smiled expansively.  At least three of the guys on stage were in their mid/late 50s.  That’s a full decade older than us, I remember thinking.  But, with grey hair appearing almost everywhere on my increasingly exposed head, that thought meant something.  You see, there’s a strange thing going on with ageing, and while my personal view is ‘bring it on’  [you can’t really do much about it after all…], I do sometimes feel a nagging residue of conflict in my head regarding the fact that I am a] proudly into punk rock and b] 45 years old with an 11 year old child who often appears to be more mature than me.

So, why do I feel this occasional insecurity? Well I think the answer is two fold.  One, Punk Rock was about sweeping away the old guys; these being of course the self indulgent, flabby and ageing 1970s rock musician elite that blocked the pipes of vitality and creativity for so many years, with the results being all to clear for folk to see – for example, Your Honour, Rick Wakeman’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth.  Nuff said.  But the other strand of thought is that, just like in wildlife programmes and indeed The Simpsons, young lions want to get old lions out of the way.  It’s natural selection I guess.  And I admit these days to seeing groups of young shavers at gigs and, while part of me thinks ‘I could tell you lot a thing or two’, another part of me thinks ‘they wouldn’t know what I was talking about, and they’d want me out of the way anyway….’.

I mean, it’s like when you get on a bus and the driver is an ageing Teddy Boy, with a sparse, greying quiff and fading swallows tattooed on his hands.  You think ‘Sad old git’ as you pass over your change, because it’s one of the most ungraceful things you can be seen to do – to get old but still cling to symbols of your youth like a slowly drowning man clinging to lifeboat wreckage.

But it’s also an interesting discussion from a more general point of view.  Society in the West is increasingly ageing.  People are living longer, people are not dying of TB in their 40s like they may have used to do in less sanitary times.  Older folk are living longer but also being active longer, and it’s no longer – thank goodness – a given that just because you’re a pensioner you are destined to wear Clarks shoes, brown slacks, a beige Marks & Spencer blouson and a tweed trilby whilst shambling about being henpecked by your blue rinsed wife.

In other words, there are two opposing forces massing.  One is the natural – call it arrogance – of the young.  I recall the feeling of being indestructible as a teenager.  Nothing could possibly unseat me.  Everybody else was in the way.  Old folk knew nothing – hell, I was out to discover it all for myself – although of course I knew it all already!  The other is the older folks who have suddenly opened their eyes after adopting the brace position, expecting the impact of age to hit them, but instead they look around and see…possibility.  Plenty of cash, kids left home, knowledge of what is a dumb thing to do and what’s possibly not….hey! This is alright!  But instead of getting out of the way as their predecessors did, these cats are saying ‘No, we’re fine, thanks, youngin’! We’ll do what we want thanks!’.

So let’s get back to the personal.  I said earlier that I feel the occasional flicker of doubt about my position as a middle aged guy who still digs punk rock.  Why so, you goon?

Well, it’s like this, see.  Long ago the realisation hit me that you need a job to get by.  Living in a punk house might be great when you’re 23 and able to get drunk every night, but when you’re approaching 30 it begins to suck.  Wearing studs and spiked hair might look the part for a GBH show, but on a Monday morning it won’t pay the rent.  So you have to play the game.  I wear a suit certain days during the week, I travel the country and sit in occasional meetings.  I know it’s work, and I treat it as such.  But I also know that none of the people I’m dealing with have a clue about my real view and attitude – which is still rebellious, although tempered by experience.  And that keeps me going.

So if you met me on a weekday you’d take me for a straight, middle class working kind of guy.  But when you’re living that lifestyle, and I’m away in hotels a lot because of my job, I’m with other people my own age generally speaking.  And while I get along fine with most of them on a day to day level, I keep my punk rock credentials as a badge of honour.  I rarely if ever discuss the subject of music and culture with them, but I see these people, who are the mainstream pretty much, talking about playing golf, watching football, aspiring to have affairs, moaning about their wives, what kind of car they’re going to get next…..and I smile.  Because I have a Zen-like calm within me that removes me from all this humdrum. These people are generally unhappy, stressed, two or three stone heavier than me, and on their way to the humiliation of middle age and disappointment.

Then periodically, as is our custom, in some random northern city usually, DeHud [the same age] and I will hook up for a punk rock show.  The format is that I book a hotel [you can get points for staying during the week which enable this to be cheap], we meet, slump into  aged leather chairs in a slightly down at heel pub with glasses of foaming German pilsner, and we talk punk.  This goes on for a pleasurably long time until, compelled by the need to see the band, we saunter slightly drunkenly to the venue and stand and soak up the bands.  These days it’s rare that either of us indulges in the pit, not because of any worries, but because there comes a time when you don’t need to be slamming in order to enjoy a show.

I watch the crowd with interest.  Whereas once it was a seething mass of spiked hair, studded leathers and Doc Martens flailing, now I see floppy fringes, v-neck t-shirts, skinny jeans and tattoos.  Quite why the tattoo has become such a  mainstream fashion accessory I don’t know, but suffice to say I have never, and will never, be getting one of those ‘modern day’ tatts on my body [although I understand and respect the old time concept of tattoos].  But it all makes me crack a wry smile.  These youngsters have the same cocksureness we once had; seeing Trash Talk last week [the support band at the OFF! show] made me realise that this younger generation have their own bands and that whilst they sit, technically at least, in the same genre as the music I love, they are a world apart.

I reviewed Deviated Instinct’s new EP [their first in 25 years] last week, and there we have four blokes of my age or thereabouts, having done their time, played raging hardcore in every flea pit going, learnt their chops through the school of hard knocks, split up and come back ten times stronger than before.  Age has nothing to do with it.

But I also hope that those younger folk I mentioned would take the time to read a publication like Rip It Up because at the end of the day we’re all into the same thing – great music.  Hell, we might even teach them a thing or two about their heritage – here’s hoping.

So, I still wear Doc Martens and I also have a leather jacket, although a less in your face one these days.  I have consciously toned down my look, although that’s not just because I fear piss-taking, it’s also because I don’t want to wear ripped jeans and such like any more.  But you can still make a small, personal statement.  And the abiding thing I’ve learnt over all these years is that it’s all about attitude, not appearance.  It’s about what’s going on up here, not out there.  You just have to take a look at people like John and Rob Wright, Larry Livermore, Keith Morris, Mykel Board, the late great Tim Yohannan….and realise that us old guys may have been round the block, but hey! We know a few things and [most of the time], we can still cut it!

Guest Column: Too Old to Stagedive, Too Young to Die

This piece is reprinted from The Sun Burns Cold, and is the first guest contribution from Rip It Up’s Stateside buddy Dave, author of said website.  You should check out his blog because it’s a truly immersing read – not always easy reading but pretty incredible in terms of the author’s ability to tell a story.  As you’ll see from the article, Dave knows his punk rock stuff.

I remember my first pit, it was a L.D.S. w/ Sustained Agony show in an apartment above a pottery shop in Spokane Wa. back in the mid eighties. I posted footage of Sustained Agony playing that night a few months ago, some old VHS action that was on You Tube I found when perusing the Spokanarchy! doc site. Anyhow, it wasn’t like a “big show”. This guy, Harry, just let bands play in his living room. It was a much D.I.Y. punk by definition venue. Everything got cleared out, and the bands showed up, there was flagrant and unbridled teenage drinking…and of course, dancing.

Thats what it was called. Metalheads, and later, frat boy types, used the term “moshing”. You don’t mosh. You dance, or slam, but not “slamdance” unless your idea of punk rock came from the televised warnings about the latest miscreant delinquent trend of violence taking the nation called “slamdancing”. And anyways, that’s what it was called in the 70′s I guess, and nobody readily acknowledged that punk really existed before Black Flag’s Nervous Breakdown ep. Cause, after all, we were 80′s kids and were more into skateboarding and the Short, Fast, Loud rules of hardcore than safety-pin accoutrements and dress up punk.

Dag Nasty

So, you know, you go to a show and see some bands and you dance in the pit and that kid who knocks you over gives you a hand back up and everybody has a bitch-en time. That’s pretty much how it went. Unless there were a lot of heshers or skinheads at the shows cause they were all about throwing elbows and being dicks. But the pit was generally a recipe for fun for all. That and stage diving. The end all be all of homemade punk t-shirts was made by Subvert’s original singer-white t-shirt, magic markered with ” Q: What Do You Want To With Your Life? A: Get Drunk And Stage Dive”. To this day I still remember my first stage dive. It was when I saw Dag Nasty, Subvert and Coffin Break at the Community World Theater in Tacoma. That was like 86 or maybe 7. It’s hard to remember exact years back then-the mid and late eighties are just a big blur of acid damage, liver abuse and all that shit about marijuana affecting your…what the fuck was I going to say? Memory. Yeah, thats it, memory. Yeah anyways, I was at the show and I saw people just getting up on the stage and bailing into the crowd and I was all “ohfuckyah. I’m there”. I did it and my friends were all stoked for me and they did it and I was all stoked for them and it was like when you pop your first really big Ollie on a skateboard or something. It’s like a fucking sense of accomplishment and shit. Shit was fun. I came home, a little worse for the wear after the nights expenditure of energy and consumption of Schmidt we got a drummer in one of the bands to buy since he was of age. My mom asks, “Where were you?” cause it’s like one in the morning. “Oh, nowhere. Just went and saw some bands”.

I recall one show at the Community World, I don’t remember who was playing, it might have been the Dayglo Abortions show when they got denied entry at the border and only the opening bands on the bill played. Oh, wait, one of the Dayglo’s made it and was trying to sell tour t-shirts but nobody would buy them because it would be lame to own a tour shirt from a band you never saw play on tour. Fuck, today people wear band shirts of bands they’ve never even fucking listened to. But the show was during the time when all these skinheads from Gig Harbor would come to the Community World just to start shit. Well there’s this one skinhead girl, I remember her because she didn’t sport the skin chick “fringe” haircut but instead was bic bald and rocking a pink ballerina tutu. Nazis in tutus, I’m surprised no one has used that for the name of their ‘zine, or blog. At any rate she tried to dive and no one caught her and she landed right on that bald fucking head. Ambulance came and everything. She was all fucked up. There were unsubstantiated broken neck rumors. I suddenly found myself feeling really bad for her, Nazi or not. I mean that just kind of sucks, fuck all the ideological interpretations. Kid goes to a show, leaves on a stretcher. Never a good thing.

Dayglo Abortions Live

The whole Skins vs. Punks thing started broiling over when Youth Brigade (then touring as Brigade) played and stopped their set because the skins were being fucktards. Some, er, “peer pressure” via the application a body check or two and various pairs of ten hole DM’s  and the skinheads left en masse. The band came back on and finished their set, with a rousing 15 minute jammed out version of “What We Gonna Do About The Man in Blue?” ending the night.

The next show was Christ on Parade and Neurosis. To this day I think that is the number one “FUCK I WISH I WOULD HAVE FUCKING GONE TO THAT ONE!!!” on my list of shows I missed. At the time I was in custody of the authorities though, living in a “placement” in Seattle’s Seward Park district-after I got in enough trouble with the cops in Auburn that I was pretty much labeled an incorrigible juvenile drug fiend or what ever they refer to major fuck ups as in polite circles. But apparently, from everything I’ve heard the C.O.P./ Neurosis show at the Community World was the big square off between the Nazi skins and the anarchist punks. Showdown in Dodge city or whatever. The Skinheads never really came back after that. My one buddy had a swastika ring that was quite unwillingly, and as the story goes, painfully taxed from its previous owner that night. He never wore it or anything, he just kept it as a trophy. So much for all that hippie pacifism people like to equate anarcho-punk with.

Of course, I went to lots more shows through the years. By the mid ninetys I was living here in NEPA when things started getting stupid though. Guys would come to shows and do like these silly martial arts Kata routines in the pit. But that was when the “tough guy” capital-H Hardcore thing was going on big time. The last band I was in, we had to go up to play in Binghamton to get away from the behoodied/wallet chain/backwards baseball cap crowd. Up there it was a good old time though, surrounded mostly by “ancient ones” like ourselves-the over 25 crowd.

Then everything fucked up and I spent eight years in the stone hotel on a robbery beef. I got out and I was living in Erie. It is of my opinion that Erie is one of the finest places I have ever lived. Given the choice of going back out to the Seattle area or going back out to Erie, I would pick Erie hands down. It’s just rad for so many reasons, the least of which not being it’s punk scene-which is fucking great. Even the capital-H “814″ Hardcore bands from Erie are formidable as fuck. And even more important, I never went to a show there where people were anything less than friendly. And yes, they knew how to dance.

So it all came full circle, as in circle pit. And then I moved back here. I am generally unaware of any shred of evidence pointing to the existence of a zone, temporary or not, wherein punk/hardcore bands might play thus leading to the spontaneous eruption of a pit and/or stage diving activities. Of course, I’m way too old for the latter. But, y’know, just saying. Generally speaking, if a type of music that inspires violent bodily frenetics and the leaping off of indoor structures is played…well, I’d just like to be there to hear it.

Not that it really matters. Blasted and The Wallrides could be touring this summer and making their only stateside appearance in Scranton and unless it was on a Monday I wouldn’t be able to go because I work six nights a week.

But, y’know, I’m just saying and all. There’s a time when a motherfucker just gets the itchin’ to put on his dancing boots.

Wrong on Every Count! No. 1 – Individuals or Cattle?

The clock finally reached 13:00pm.  I palpably relaxed. Maybe it’s my Anglo-Saxon work ethic kicking in, but I am uneasy about the idea of drinking either inappropriately early, or indeed during the day on weekdays.  This was a Monday, and so it took some adjustment for me to get used to it [we were in Manchester to see OFF! playing, and unusually it was not a weekend show].  Nearby – the first pint, a more-ishly bitter pale ale.  To my left – DeHud and his chosen beer.  Outside the large windows, Manchester street life passed pleasantly by in the sunny, but nowhere near warm weather; students, workers on lunch break, and who knows what else.  Behind me, the bar displayed impressive rows of bottles from all over the world – Belgian beers, American Beers, whiskies.  The mid-day aroma of sweet, slightly stale beer hung in the air.  As I took a thirsty sip, the ley lines that supposedly converge on north western England suddenly focused their energies, and all was well with the world.

This moment, rather like the one when a millionaire extracts a fine Cohiba from his humidor and lights it for the first time on his yacht, was a great pleasure.  It was also the scene of an inpromptu Rip It Up board meeting, wherein the two of us gangly, ageing punks had stumbled upon the subject of Rip It Up’s first three months as an online publication.  What was good? How did it compare with the old, photocopied fanzine style of yore? What would we do next?  How we pondered.  We ended up with a few ideas, before the inevitable milestones of the day occurred: more beer, wobbly, lie down at hotel, punk rock, kebab, spill chilli sauce over new Vans, stumble drunkenly to bed.

The fanzine issues of Rip It Up back in the day were chaotic affairs, basically collecting our random, half baked thoughts, unconvincing views and poorly thought out arguments and presenting them in a dumb, fuck-you kind of style which interested few and impressed nobody.  Especially not girls.  Nothing we did seemed to impress girls.  But hey! We grew up on Maximum Rock ‘n ‘ Roll as our Punk Rock oracle.  Because founder Tim Yohannon and his merry band of eccentrics, Bay-Area ex-hippies and glue headed punks were never short of an opinion, they had LOTS OF COLUMNS.  And so THE COLUMN became a necessary, nay, mandatory part of any self respecting 1980s fanzine.  Most of these mini Daily Mail rants were bollocks.

That is to say most columnists in fanzines were indicative of the worst kind of people that were involved in ‘the scene’.  Self-righteous to the point of physical pain, their Taliban-like adherence to the basic principles of Veganism, Political Correctness, Anti War [not in any coherent sense, just a simple and endlessly repeated mantra that ‘War Is Bad], and of course anti any band or record label that dared to harbour any form of commercial ambition would inevitably be given an airing at any possible opportunity.

Yeah, by about 1993 I was so bored with reading the same old predictable crap that I drifted off from the punk scene for a while.  The same people were content to expound the same comfortable platitudes time and time again, all the time safe in the knowledge that:

a) they were preaching to, if not the converted, then at least an audience so scared of disagreeing and admitting that they held their OWN opinions, that they would never be challenged.

b) realising, a bit like the British Liberal Democrat party before they entered government, that whatever they said would never happen and thus their half baked ideology would never be subject to any truly rigorous scrutiny.

And all the time, they spewed forth the same platitudes in their columns:

INDIVIDUALITY [as long as you dress the same as me and like the same bands]

EQUALITY [but I’m mates with all the players in the scene so I get into shows ahead of you, sorry]

LIBERTY [except the freedom to hold an opinion that is not the same as mine]

…..aaaaay! Drooling mules! Gimme a frickin’ break already!

So, anyway, back to the story.  DeHud and I agreed that Rip It Up is threatening to become an online record review/news site, which is not really what we wanted.  Yes, we need to bring exciting new bands to the world’s attention, but we also need to bring back that challenging attitude that made the original publication such fun.  Irreverence, you could call it.  Hence the idea to include regular columns and even resurrect some of DeHud’s excellent cartoonage as well.  To make this thing complete, we’ll have to work a bit harder.  We celebrated this fact by finding another comfortably shabby bar, ordering up draughts of foaming ale, and adopting the haughty manner of a man whose greyhound has come in.

And that really is what leads me to the subject matter; the marrow, if you will of this column.  Diversity.  But not diversity in the sloganeering, know-nothing sense – diversity in the truly musical sense, which is something I hope that Rip It Up will come to stand for, a beacon of righteousness in the swamp of mediocrity.  You may already realise that we cover a range of musical styles – from the darkest doom metal, through crust punk, barking, circle-pit based straightedge, slow stoner rock and bouncy pop punk.  This is because we both love these kinds of music – nothing is off limits.  Yet I read so many webzines which define themselves purely by one little genre.  I mean, I actually read a statement on one of them recently that said ‘only thrash punk bands need contact us – no [repeat list above] accepted.  Fair enough, if that’s your thing, but we’re flying the flag for everything good.  For example, how can ALL thrash punk be good, and EVERYTHING else be bad, already? Do the math, dufus!

I really value various people who have made my musical education complete, and influenced me in positive ways.  Back in 1982, when I was still a goofy school kid, my pal Peter forced me [such was his, and soon my, excitement] to listen to this new American band on his stereo.  The band was Black Flag, and the album was Damaged.  Nothing, it is fair to say, was ever the same again.  The same thing happened again when DeHud, at about the same time, played me GBH.

Later, whilst living an idyllic life of beer and laziness as a student in Huddersfield, I became friends with an unlikely looking character who wore, initially at least, a pair of winklepickers and a paisley shirt, his hair a mass of curls.  Rich was a cat whose music collection was as absorbing to me as a sweet shop is to a small child.

As we became friends, Rich played me the Stooges, the MC5, the Moody Blues, The Fall, the Nuggets compilations, the Stones from their few respectable periods; he filled in all the gaps in my musical knowledge, in terms of where my favourite music had come from.  This enriched my soul, and opened my eyes to the path of Righteousness in rock’n’roll, a fact that I only became aware of when I later read Lester Bangs’ authoritative book ‘Psychotic Reactions and Carburettor Dung’.

What was so cool, however, was that Rich also dug punk rock and would often comment in his Sheffield accent about obscure bands on various compilations – such as Denmark’s Electric Deads.  Over the years he ditched the paisley and pointy boots, and adopted a uniform of white t-shirt, blue blouson, bleached jeans and plain black Dr Martens shoes – a kind of utilitarian anti fashion statement that would have made Mark E Smith proud.  Sadly I lost touch with Rich over the years, and have no idea what he is digging these days!

Then fast forward to the present day.  You only have to check out the fascinating ‘Now Playing’ thread on the forum of Sydney’s mighty Hard Ons to see what those guys are all about.  The Hard Ons are able to move in a single middle eight from bubblegum girly pop to all out death metal, and then back to a gorgeous harmonised chorus that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.  They listen to bands as diverse as Sun Ra, Cannibal Corpse, The Guess Who, Iron Maiden and, to quote lead singer/guitarist Blackie’s current rave,

“I’m obsessed with Os Mutantes at the moment!

So I hope you can see a little bit of the thinking behind Rip It Up.  Limiting yourself to one set of views, one type of music, well it’s up to you but that’s exactly the kind of behaviour that killed off the whole punk scene the last time around!

I don’t move too fast…

Ok, here goes for the first time in many, many years.  It’s like this, see…

I first dabbled in ‘zineage way back in the early 1980s; there are no doubt those amongst you who did not experience this time.  It feels like explaining ancient history – there was no internet, no mobile phones, no facebooking; publishing your twisted views required either a black pen and some A4 white paper, or, if you were very tech-savvy,a typewriter.  Desk Top Publishing [which, although at the time was a hyper-modern computerised art form, is now something else that makes kids turn up their noses and go ‘Whaaat?’, rather like showing them vinyl records…] was something I would progress on to but not for a long time.  No, in those early days it was cut and paste using scissors and Pritt stick, then haul the whole flapping, inky lot off to the local Prontaprint [or, if you were very lucky, the local anarchist printing syndicate, but only if you lived in the big city, and were prepared to have every precious word examined under the Political Correctness microscope…].

Yes, photocopying was the order of the day until your circulation got big enough to justify printing [horrendously expensive initially, because a ‘plate’ had to be made up for each A4 side, although big print runs would then start to justify the initial outlay].  The day the copiers rang and told you it was all ready was a heady thrill.  Lugging a used A4 paper box back home filled with printed pages, me and my fellow shitworkers would sit in the front room of a scruffy house in Huddersfield, cassette tapes of poorly compiled hardcore tracks blasting in the background while rapidly warming cans of Skol 1080 sat  on the mouldy carpet.  The ‘economy’ tariff at the print shop would rarely encompass the collation and stapling of pages, so each fanzine would have to be assembled lovingly by hand.  Staplers, almost invariably liberated from the office stationery cupboard by the one buddy who had a job, were suddenly objects of the greatest importance and could make or break you the evening before a gig.  Inevitably, surveying our work the following morning, we would wonder at how the alignment of the sheets and the quality of the stapling could go so wrong in such a short time, after only a few beers.

And then, the big day in fanzine editor land.  Lugging ripped carrier bags [let us be clear – thin, cheapo blue and white striped ones] from the local Asian shop, filled to bursting with fresh fanzines, we would head off the the local venue [which was often the Top Spot Snooker Club],  where we would then attempt to play the queue outside, if there was such a thing.  Of course, should you choose a U2 gig to go and sell your wares, then a queue would be an inevitability – however with our choice of band, the appeal would generally be more selective.  Thus, the imperative was to get inside before everybody had spent that week’s Giro on beer or cider, and try and ply 25 pence from them for a copy of our finest.

I think the biggest print run that we ever did was about 500 – by the later end of the 1980s, I had moved to ‘Uddersfield and become a student at the local poly.  My two co-workers were also resident locally [and eventually in the same disappointing house], so we had by this time befriended [or ‘got something on’…..blackmail is always a better business tool…] the ‘Comms Officer’ at the Student Union.  This scruffy character, inevitably bearded, lavish of ego and surrounded by adoring ladies, was the individual who bore the responsibility of printing the flyers for all the concerts promoted by the Student Union, as well as various revolutionary pamphlets denouncing Thatcher and her minions as required – these were political times.  This non-committal, lazy character would then require various drinks bought and other ego-stroking in order to get your publication printed on the Student Union printing press….yes, a proper printing press, as opposed to those low budget high street print shops.  It was, as I remember, never a good idea to ask too frequently after the progress of your printing – he would inevitably get arsey and say something like ‘I’ve got 2,000 Socialist Worker Party placards to print for the anti nuclear demo on Saturday, ok?’.  But eventually, and quite without any kind of notification, I would find a pile of finished fanzines stacked inside the Student Union reception desk and carry them away excitedly.

There was, however, a little bit of glamour involved in being a fanzine writer.  Only a little, I would add; but there were occasions when we managed to get into gigs on the cheap, and we eventually managed to get on the mailing list for a few decent record labels, in return for a sycophantic review of their substandard products.  My favourite of these was an imprint of one of the big labels – I forget which one – called ‘In Effect Records’ – who claimed to hail from New Yoik.  I received a letter [and that was the other thing – waiting for the post was an endlessly exciting activity, in case you got a demo tape or a letter from a reader!] one day from the label’s publicity officer – which began, and I kid you not – “YO! Zine Dude!”.  Considering for a moment that the writer of this anonymously typed missive was almost certainly a coke-snorting, shiny suited, red-framed glasses wearing music industry yuppie from America, this frank approach left us all stunned, and though we would not admit it, maybe a little impressed.  There followed for about 12 months a series of thick cardboard parcels of new releases by said label, mostly early New York Hardcore stuff such as Madball and Agnostic Front, which I appropriated quietly from my friends until the label clearly had an internal audit and it was realised that young Patrick Bateman had been sending out free records to a bunch of drunken wasters from freezing Yorkshire, at which point their largesse ceased abruptly.

Our burgeoning success at tapping into free music meant that the ‘Reviews’ section of Rip it Up blossomed like some ugly, mutated fungus.  A typical session would go something like this: four guys sat in Peter’s bedroom, with a small, cheap tape deck.  Cans of cheap, strong lager of the type beloved by tramps would circulate.  On a good day, a small vial of amyl nitrate would also be passing slowly around the room.  Things that should never have been put between Rizlas were put between Rizlas and inhaled deeply.  And the opinions would flow as the music began and the hopeful contenders strutted their stuff.  Put downs, in the manner of the traditional ‘Hit or Miss’ format, would issue forth, bolstered by the certainty of fools.  “Sounds like a grown man crying” was hurled casually at a Heresy 7 incher.  “This makes me want to shit myself” would be reserved for a track which particularly impressed.  And somehow, we remembered it all [sometimes we taped our sessions – I wish we still had them], and transcribed it lovingly the next day.

Yes, my fanzine days were fun times, and I look forward to seeing how it translates to the modern world, although of course the amyl nitrate doesn’t come out any more, and the lager is of a slightly better quality.