Write Yer Ane Zine

Words about DIY punk; records, shows, interviews, whatever.

PMX – EU Tour Report (May 2017)

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Things have been pretty quiet on this here blog recently. This isn’t for lack of anything to say or thoughts to impart, quite the opposite in fact, but things have been somewhat the grind. This isn’t a complaint but in getting shit done there is little time leftover for personal reflection, let alone pissing in the ocean of spacejunk that is the internet. I fail, of course.

All that said, there’s been HUNNERS of shit going on, including the troops in PMX tearing it up across Europe for the second time already this year. As such, I asked Matt to throw together a little tour diary about their travels.

How do?

Derrick asked me to write a few things down about our recent tour of Europe so here goes!

Fifteen days on the road. Hitting up six countries for shows whilst passing through ten. A total of 4700 miles. It’s nice to be back in the land of three prong plugs, driving on the left hand side of the road and proper toilet seats but I’d jump in the van and head off again today in a heartbeat.

Anyone that has been on tour will know the excitement and trepidation that comes with setting foot in the van on day one. The knowledge that when you leave it again on the final day you will be broken, dirty and exhausted. If you make it to the final day and you are none of these things then you are not fucking doing it right!

We left on my 34th birthday which was a pretty cool way to both celebrate that milestone and kick off two weeks of gigging and debauchery! I was hungover from our show the night before in Edinburgh so the day seemed to pass reasonably quickly. 9 hours on the road later and we were boarding the Dover to Dunkirk ferry where several pints were welcomed with open arms.

Being on tour does seem like it’s a lot of fun and although it is, I don’t think it’s as romantic as it seems to anyone who has not done it before. The daily routine is as follows;

  • You wake up early (usually hungover) in a strange place trying to piece together the previous nights goings on.
  • You jump in the van and plan your route to the next town. Some days this can take as little as 3 hours, some days it can take 16.
  • You hunt out a service station or supermarket to stock up on supplies if need be. Now if, like me, you have special dietary requirements, this can be a challenge. Luckily enough I stocked up on noodles, soya milk and 9bars before we left so was able to suck it up when the closest thing to a vegan sandwich was a BLT!
  • You arrive at the venue, usually several hours before you have to play, in order to load in your gear and sound check.
  • You sit around in the venue drinking the free beer and eating the free food (which again due to my aforementioned dietary requirements can be hit or miss).
  • You play. Always the best bit of the day. If you don’t enjoy that part then what the fuck are you doing on tour!?!
  • You pack up all your gear into the van again with Tetris-like precision. Of course, by this point you are usually soaked through with sweat and somewhat inebriated.
  • You head off to your designated sleeping spot, whether it’s someone’s floor, a hostel, a practice room floor, a shipping container or just in the venue itself.
  • Repeat daily.
  • For 2 weeks.

There might be a chance to see some other cool shit whether it be touristy or not but in general that’s about it. So now you have a better understanding of ‘tour life’ or at least as how I see it, I am not gonna bore you with the finer details of every day, every drive and every venue. Instead I’m just gonna list a bunch of stuff that I thought was fucking cool.

  • Driving through the Alps is cool as fuck! Your not gonna see as beautiful scenery as that every day of the week. Just don’t stop for food or drink, you need a bank loan.
  • Slovenia is a rad country. Everyone there is super nice and it is real beautiful. We washed in a river one day and it was proper cold but unforgettably cool at the same time. When I say cold I mean painfully cold. I’m gonna fucking die cold. Colder than witches tit as they say.
  • Italy is a fuckover for tolls, kinda like France. Other than that, we played three shows that were all awesome. Every single person we met there was friendlier than the last and they couldn’t do enough for us. If I get the chance I will head back to both Livorno and Remini for a holiday again.
  • I’ve always liked Germany. I went there a few times in my youth and remember everyone being real nice and the place itself being pretty sweet. I can now report that nothing’s really changed. We went and saw a giant hole in the ground that was home to the world’s biggest moving machine. I have seen it before but it still managed to get my geekier side moist again!
  • The Netherlands and Belgium were once again great fun. Got compared to Belvedere who had played the venue we played in Naaldwijk, NL a good 15 years earlier. Nice to know we keep our music current and relevant haha!
  • Some cool bands to check out that we met along the way are Tear Them Down from Sweden, The Peterlees from The Netherlands, Bare Teeth from France, Start At Zero from Slovenia, Struggling For Reason from Belgium, United And Strong from Germany, Deadends from Austria and Danger Jerk from Germany.

There was probably a bunch of other stuff that I thought was cool but it’s either just stupid shit that no one else would ever find cool or I was too drunk/hungover to remember it. It could equally be a fine combination of both!

Anyways, I hope I didn’t bore the tits off you or you are sitting there thinking “what a wanker!”. Being on tour to me is just like a holiday. A free all-inclusive holiday with my best mates. And I hate hearing folk going on about their holiday when they get back!

We’ve got a few more shows lined up here and there in the coming months but we will be mainly concentrating on writing and recording a new record between now and my wedding in August. Aim is to have it out before the end of the year and get touring again as much as possible next year. I will endeavour to produce an equally shite blog post for you when that comes around if you so desire!

Peace and Fucking. Believe.

Matt xXx

PMX are back in Dundee on Friday 26th May with the troops in Get It Together plus MTAT first-timers Hopes Up High (new school pop-punk/hxc from Arbroath) and Us Versus Them (teeth-rattling old school hxc from Fife). Should be a suitably radge hardcore punk tear up of a Friday night.

If ye don’t have a copy of the “Dark Days” EP, remedy that in short order. It’s moich.

Be radical, spread joy.

 

2016; My Favourite Records of the Year

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2016 was an incredible year for music. Anyone who says otherwise is either ill-informed or just plain ignorant. The same could be said of those who constantly bemoan the “death of the album”. Yes, while the mainstream may be consuming music in an ever more disposable fashion, the case has always been thus and when have we cared about what’s happening there anyways?

Records and albums never died or went anywhere, for those who’ve always bought music and supported the artists they enjoy, there is no “vinyl revival”, just a lot of over-expensive major label re-releases and longer waiting times at pressing plants. I could bang on about this shit at length but shall refrain from doing so in an effort to maintain the positive nature of this piece, which is to talk about my favourite records of the year.

I should establish some ground rules here; I’m going to talk about my favourite records of the year that I own in its physical format, thus disqualifying digital exclusives/streams and the like. So yeah, we’re talking physical vinyl records of all kinds here, not exclusively albums. The list will be alphabetical as opposed to ranked by preference. I think it’d also be imprudent to include any of the MTAT releases this year, although it goes without saying that I love them all, as that is pretty much the entire condition of whether we put something out or not.

That said, “Held In Merciful Light” by Clearer The Sky is a stunning record and one I’ve spent a lot of time with. Also, “ScreamerSongwriter” by Stoj Snak is just next level incredible; a folk punk record that transcends the genre’s often limiting boundaries, creating a kind of “stadium folk punk” sound as I described it to someone at the indie label market in Aberdeen earlier this year. Ye can check out MTAT 2016; A Year in Review here.

AJJ – “The Bible 2” LP (Side One Dummy)

America’s greatest living rock band have produced what I believe to be their masterwork with “The Bible 2”. Everything about this record speaks to me of the contemporary frustrated American experience as we transition into times of heightened political violence and paranoia. I have long admired Sean Bonnette as a lyricist and songwriter and truly believe that, great as “Christmas Island” was, this is his greatest work yet. Everyone should listen to this record.

Anxiety – S/T LP (La Vida Es Un Mus)

I’d read about these Glasgow punks a fair bit before I finally got a chance to see them play at the last Clocked Out show at Nice N Sleazy earlier this year and I was blown away, their intensity matched only be the uncontrollable rage that is Crawford and the troops. This eight track mini-LP is absolutely incredible; a convulsing nightmare-ish soundscape like Joy Division/Dead Kennedys/Butthole Surfers self-abusing in an anarcho punk squat. A thrilling, unsettling and unnerving experience, tremendous.

Boak – II 7″ (SuperFi Records / GrindPromotion)

I fucking love Boak and their set in The Firefly at BYAF X just absolutely stripped the paint from my face. This second seven inch (I got a blue one) manages to take everything that was awesome about the first one; the precision, intensity, rage; and hone it to even sharper perfection with four nuclear blasts of intelligent and articulate grindcore/powerviolence. I must’ve played this record fifty times over before something knocked it off the turntable. Absolutely essential, truly one of Scotland’s greatest bands.

The Cut Ups – “The Nerves” LP (Banquet Records)

Jon Shoe is one of my favourite people in punk rock and I’ve been a huge fan of The Cut Ups for over a decade now, so it’s no great surprise that their fourth record makes my list. “The Nerves” is arguably their most politically focussed album yet, a rallying cry reflected in the loving gravelly embrace of their finest collection of songs to date. Driving and anthemic, featuring keys from Franz Nicolay, this is The Cut Ups at their determined best. “Stay Obscure” may be closing track of the year too, tugged away on the old heartstrings. This record is a beacon of hope in an ever-expanding shit-storm of misery, isolation and exasperation; a reassuring cuddle from an old friend.

Dead To Me – “I Wanna Die In Los Angeles” 7″ (Fat Wreck)

Besides simply being an awesome collection of three songs on a seven inch, I feel this is an important record in a few different ways. Purely musically, this is solid Dead To Me gold (there was a gold pressing, I have the black) and we’ve waited eight years for new songs featuring both Jack Dalrymple and Chicken, but more importantly, this is a record that may have just saved a life. Alcohol and drug addiction is something people in the punk scene seem reluctant to talk about at times, despite the fact that it’s killed so many of our friends, in both punk and wider society. This record is about hitting rock bottom and recovery, with “Comforting the Disturbed and Disturbing the Comfortable” being one of the most beautiful articulations of recovery I’ve ever identified with, in so many different ways. This 7″ also directly inspired me to start Sober Punks Supper Club. Thank you Dead To Me, stay strong troops.

Descendents – “Hypercaffium Spazzinate” (Epitaph)

Descendents are a band that I’ve loved for almost twenty years so there’s no way I wasn’t going to be stoked about their new record. Ever the pessimist, however, I didn’t have sky-high hopes but am thankful to be proven wrong as I think this is definitely up there amongst their strongest work, streets ahead of “Cool To Be You”, which itself contained some bangers. There ain’t a huge number of older punk bands who’ve released new records that rivals that of their back catalogue this year but this one is up there in my book. As for the controversy surrounding the title, I don’t think it’s a great title but listen to the fucking record and the picture will become a little clearer I’d hope.

Fall Of Messiah – “Empty Colors” 12″ EP (Holy Roar / I.Corrupt.Records)

Utterly stunning, expansive and harrowing yet serene post-rock/screamo from France. I was lucky enough that Shitgripper played with these troops in Edinburgh in April of this year and I was completely blown away by their dynamics, intensity and power. Largely instrumental but with infrequent intense outbursts of screaming, this EP is a deep weaved texture of math-rock meets brooding hardcore intensity. One of the records I found myself coming back to again and again over the year, finding more to love in it with every listen.

The Hotelier – “Goodness” LP (Tiny Engines)

This is probably overall my favourite record of the year and definitely the album I’ve listened to most in 2016, at least once a day since I put the download on my phone. I connect viscerally and emotionally with The Hotelier in a way that I don’t with the vast majority of modern emo/pop punk bands, in ways that I can’t fully explain, but this record is a testament to what I understand to be their experimental progressive worldview, like therapy expressed through poetry. The aforementioned who mourn the death of the album would do well to listen to the narrative of this record, each song a chapter. Their show in the church at Restless Natives Fest was as close I’ve come to religious observance this year, truly spellbinding stuff.

Hot Mass – “Nervous Tension” LP (Brassneck Records)

Glorious squally and noisy heads-down punk rock’n’roll goodness from these well-traveled punks from Swansea who blasted out their first full-length and reminded me of everything that is awesome about straight up UK DIY punk rock. These dudes have been in the game for a long time, in essential Welsh bands like Dividers and The Arteries, and this record exemplifies the lessons learned and lives shaped by those experiences. I grabbed this record from Jenks when they opened for The Menzingers earlier this year and I very much hope we’ll have them in the basement at some point in the new year. Great stuff, super smart coke-bottle clear vinyl too.

Medictation – “Warm Places” LP (Little Rocket)

With such pedigree, this record was always going to be something special but considering the fact that this is the final recorded work of the legendary Dickie Hammond, this album takes on an extra layer of emotional weight. Featuring members of Leatherface and The Sainte Catherines, “Warm Places” was always going to be a great punk album but knowing that Dickie is gone, his presence is felt with greater gravity, his loss with extra depth. When Dickie takes on the vocal for “Stalingrad”, it’s a difficult listen as he sings about having no hope left and drinking to oblivion, especially knowing the circumstances under which he died. It’s a testament to the greatness and fragility of the man himself and the friendship of his band mates and extended family that this record serves as fitting epitaph. The release was a labour of love from Little Rocket Records, a label formed specifically to release this LP. A beautiful, moving monument.

Muncie Girls – “From Caplan To Belsize” LP (Specialist Subject)

This Exeter three piece have absolutely knocked it out the park with their first full-length LP on Specialist Subject Records. With a title taken from Sylvia Plath, there are few ambiguities pertaining the feminist politics of this record, serving as an indictment of our current cultural situation. This is no mere soapbox politics, however; this record talks of basic human decency and action in times where many people lack these things. Indeed, it was in reference to this record, specifically the “Respect” video, that I had one of my more interesting interactions of the year with the “alt-right”. Without putting too fine a point on it, fuck that shit, this is an important and, sadly, required record, on top of being a mighty fine melodic rock/pop punk banger in and of itself.

The Murderburgers – “The 12 Habits of Highly Defective People” (Asian Man / Round Dog Records)

Once again raising the bar for Scottish punk rock, Fraser Murderburger has crafted his greatest piece of work to date and created what is undoubtedly one of the finest UK pop punk records ever released. Fraser and I have been friends for a long time now and I know exactly how much this record, and indeed the band, means to him. I couldn’t be more proud to see this record getting the love it so richly deserves. Progressing far beyond the bubblegum Ramonescore template of yore, this fourth LP sharpens the knives for a thrilling narrative ride of lacerating self-analysis with cinematic sound and minor chords tucked in amongst the hooks and sing-a-long choruses. While perhaps less immediate than previous work, the cuts are far deeper and this record fulfills the promises made on “These Are Only Problems”, is a more cohesive piece of work and their absolute best yet. Proud of you, pal.

Pears – “Green Star” (Fat Wreck)

This record is just a straight-up hardcore punk rock juggernaut from front to back, a relentless storm of energy and aggression laden with insidious hooks, a fuck-you-fight-me southern charm and a refreshing blast of punk rock noise that looks forward rather than wallowing I n nostalgia, as punk is often inclined to do. For me, Pears absolutely blew Bouncing Souls off the stage when they played at Stereo in Glasgow earlier this year, one of the most energetic and engaging shows I’ve seen on a bigger stage in some time. Super nice dudes too, although twenty quid for an LP is taking the piss a little I’d suggest (no slight on the band, I know how these things go). One of my favourite Fat Wreck releases in recent years.

Sheer Mag – III 7″ EP (Static Shock)

I confess I had never listened to Sheer Mag before this year but once I did so, I immediately ordered all three EPs from Static Shock Records. This band are fucking great, a classic soul-powered rock’n’roll band that transcends time and genre classification, political without being divisive and subversive without being alienating. Plus, most importantly, just plain fucking rocking, like The Bellrays/Thin Lizzy/Dirtbombs, these are some of the catchiest, most perfectly written rock songs you’re ever likely to hear. Few bands this year have got me as hyped up and hooked as Sheer Mag.

Wonk Unit – “Mr. Splashy” LP (TNS)

If the AJJ LP is the soundtrack of the death of the American Dream, then it logically follows to my mind that “Mr. Splashy” is the sound of dystopian London, and by extension the United Kingdom, in full collapse. Wonk Unit may be the premier clown princes of UK punk rock, but don’t let the black humour and abundant laughter fool you, there is deep intelligence and political anger contained within the poetry, art and channeled chaos that follows the Wonk family. “Mr. Splashy” is an engaging tale that follows a narrative story arc through the increasing bitterness of British life in which we are both increasingly lumped together (as “lefties”, as “punks”, as “radicals”, whatever the case may be) and further isolation from one another. When we look back in twenty years time, this will be one of the records we reflect upon when considering the state of UK punk in 2016. I was lucky enough to score one of the one hundred green copies too!

So there we go, there are my fifteen favourite records of the year. There have been loads of other great records released this year and I want to shout out Revenge of the Psychotronic Man, The Bennies, Kamikaze Girls, Womps, Departures, Pale Angels, G.L.O.S.S and Direct Hit! and Human Hands, all of whom released top quality records this year, plus the Asthenia/Akallabeth split 7″ that absolutely tore my face off (the Asthenia show was probably, at a push, my favourite MTAT show of the year too).

Can’t wait to see what’s coming in 2017, plus we’ll finally get the long-awaited Tragical History Tour LP. Bring it on!

 

 

 

REFLECTIONS; Time, Growth, Evolution and Redefinition.

As alluded to in the zine, it’s impossible for me to discuss Book Yer Ane Fest from any real perspective other than my own. I’m far too closely involved to be truly objective, try as I might, and in the ten years we’ve been doing this label, I’ve learned to accept and understand that there are things over which I have no control. Book Yer Ane Fest seems to mean many different things to many different people, all with their own unique experiences, worlds within worlds. This is a truly beautiful thing.

Book Yer Ane Fest X last weekend was remarkable in many, many ways and even a week later I’m still struggling to fully digest it all. Thoughts and memories come back at me in waves, out of nowhere, and I remember fragments of conversations that I had with people who I see all too seldom. I’ll admit to being pretty nervous about the whole thing, especially in lieu of the the takeover of Buskers and all the fallout from that, and the weight of my own anxiety about hitting the ten year milestone. It’s no trade secret that I was considering that perhaps this year may be the last Book Yer Ane Fest.

Nostalgia unnerves me and life has changed so much since 2006, not just for me but for everyone I know, our entire culture and society. This is the only way it can possibly be, everything is impermanent. However, the older and more experienced I become, the more I value reflection and taking stock as important, not to wallow in perceived past glories and accomplishments but to remember exactly why it is you do what you do in the first place, to give thanks for the path that you’ve traveled and those who’ve supported you along the way. Does the flame of mid-thirties burn as bright as the flame of youth?

Ten years of supporting Safe-Tay, ten years of cowpunk and ten Book Yer Ane Fests seems like the perfect narrative ending; to round things out at a tidy decade and call it job done. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t appeal to part of me, mostly my nihilistic streak, and it is something that I wrestle with. No doubt there’s plenty of ego bullshit in there too. Going into this year, I didn’t know where my own head was at in this regard and didn’t have any answers, in the greatest MTAT tradition of the best plan being no plan at all, which you can never plan for. Sometimes it takes someone to ask the question before you know the answer.

It has been an honour to support Safe-Tay and the causes they support over these last ten years and we thank them for their vital work as they wind up operations, leaving behind an important and impressive legacy of safety education and awareness-raising. I had a conversation ten minutes before my Tragical History Tour set on Sunday evening that floored me and in that moment I knew that what we do is greater than me or any one individual, that we are all part of something so much bigger than ourselves. This was reaffirmed in the conversations I had with friends, some of whom I hadn’t seen in years and some whom I was meeting for the very first time. I felt it when I played, punk rock my meditative space.

It’s a long weekend for everyone involved and I did all eleven shows across the five days including playing three times, getting home at 3am on Tuesday after dropping Josh at the airport, then going straight back to work until yesterday. I’m still exhausted and only now is the comedown fully kicking in. Having the opportunity to play with Uniforms one last time before the birth of Matthew Fraser McGinty was a privilege and playing with Joey T again was just indescribable. Ben is my oldest friend, Gain and I have been in this since day one and being in that band was an education like no other. It was like slipping back into the mask and pulling a Springboard Frankendeeker; a total Wrestlemania moment for me.

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Photo by Bev at Hold My Pint Photography. http://www.facebook.com/holdmypintphotography/

I would like to personally thank each and every person that participated in making Book Yer Ane Fest X a success. It was undoubtedly our most ambitious attempt yet and it would not have been possible without the herculean efforts of so many people. Thank you so much to all of the amazing acts who performed over the weekend and every single person who came from all over the world to enjoy them and participate in the festival; to all the BYAF Crew and extended MTAT family and volunteers who opened up their homes and hearts for the weekend, helped with sound, manned the merch booths, ran errands, loaded/loaned gear, cooked food, provided physical and emotional support, we can’t thank you enough. You are all amazing humans.

Much love and thanks to Roseanne, Dave and all the staff at The Firefly Dundee, including Mark for his tireless work with sound and chefs Alex and Sean for going above and beyond the call of duty; Lee and Simon of the excellent sound crew at Buskers for their indefatigable graft over the weekend to support us and Buskers and for allowing us use of the space; all at Bloc+, Conroy’s Basement, Groucho’s and The Banshee Labyrinth; Dundee Music Studios for providing us with backline for the weekend; Rainbow Music for their continued support and endless patience; Mitch and all the crew at Audiowave, all at Sanctuary Tattoo Dundee for Book Yer Ane Flash and all the punks who got BYAF tattoos (pics plz!); Catholic Guilt, No One Knows Records, Black Lake Records, Umlaut Records, TNSrecords, Round Dog Records, Anti-Manifesto and everyone who donated prizes to the tombola; Hold My Pint Photography; GGM Photography; Adam Morrow for all the help with the A Fat Wreck screening; Urban Print; IDIOTEQ.com, Punktastic, TheCourier.co.uk and everyone who covered BYAF in the press and to anyone we may have forgotten; thank you!

We haven’t yet got our final total as we’re having a merch sale and will donate 100% of proceeds from the leftover “Still Joey Terrifying” shirts and the “Complete Collection” CD sales for December to the BYAF total to be donated to Insight Counselling, Tayside Mountain Rescue and The Royal Life Saving Society. Here’s hoping we can beat last year’s total. Check out my friend Graham’s awesome playlist of live videos too, think he’s got most bands from across the weekend. While there may be a few (mostly personal) dissatisfactions from the weekend, there’s no point in belabouring issues, perpetuating beef or throwing people under a bus, and all parties already know the score anyways, so that’s all the vague details I’ll go into. In the finest Paul Heyman tradition, if booked right nobody’d ever know, right? If we don’t learn, we don’t evolve and if we don’t evolve, we stagnate and die.

As with everything, Book Yer Ane Fest must evolve and MTAT along with it. As we embark upon our second decade as a collective and in the current cultural climate, I believe that the DIY punk rock community is of greater importance than ever before. I believe we are at a pivotal point in our evolution, Brexit and Trump the latest twisted manifestations of globalised nuclear capitalism and the echo chamber. We now live in a world where simply being “anti” is not nearly enough, where words and information are weapons. It is what we DO that it is important, beyond rhetoric.

It’s good to engage in discourse, to be challenged, and accept valid constructive criticism and advice; to develop reflective practice, if you will. We will always be an anti-sexist, anti-fascist, anti-racist, anti-homophobic, anti-transphobic collective, but how can we grow beyond defining ourselves by what we are not in a world of perpetual change and unprecedented evolution? If we define ourselves in negative terms, it logically follows that generating positivity becomes a greater struggle. The world will beat you down and “other” you, we need not unnecessarily “other” ourselves.

As such, for the first time, I have redefined our “mission statement”;

We are a progressive secular DIY punk collective and independent record label based on the east coast of Scotland. We aim to contribute positively to our community and believe in the equality of and equity for all humans regardless of gender, race, religion, nationality, class, status or any other perceived identifier.

Our collective/label formed at a house party show in 2006 and has evolved over the last decade into something we never anticipated. We are very grateful for the increased level of interest we’ve been receiving recently and are very excited about the possibilities that the future may hold.

We have a fairly wide understanding of what constitutes “punk”.

For all MTAT enquiries, please email info@makethatatakerecords.com

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The answer to the question is yes, there will be a Book Yer Ane Fest XI. Where it will be and what form it will take remains to be seen but things will continue to evolve as they’ve always done. Thank you to all involved, for everything.

The job ain’t fucking done yet.

 

BOOK YER ANE FEST X; THE ZINE

This is the upload of the zine I put together for Book Yer Ane Fest X.

There were 150 of them made, printed by the workhorse that is Big Mick’s old HP printer that lives in our living room and collated by my own sossij-fingered hands. I felt it was an important thing to do and I’d like to thank everyone who contributed to it.

I am humbled by the response to Book Yer Ane Fest X and have not yet had the mental space to process everything, memories and moments coming back to me in flashes. The story is also truly not exclusively my own; none of this could be done without the contribution of the many wonderful humans I have the privilege to call friends and the participation of the wider DIY punk rock family. That story will be told in time.

Everyone has their own Book Yer Ane Fest experience. That is a beautiful thing.

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“What’s the craic with Conroy’s Basement?”

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So what’s the craic with Conroy’s Basement? Good question, for which I shall endeavour to provide the answer right now!

Basically, it’s been almost a year since MTAT hosted our first show there (okay, eight months) and since then it’s been both an entertaining challenge and learning experience for us all. With every new idea comes new challenges and, as we’ve never been ones to shy away from such things, we have poured our blood, sweat and tears into trying to make things work. Personally, all I’ve ever wanted is a basement space to put on shows so, in effect, that dream has come true (pity I don’t have a functional punk rock band, right?!?).

Firstly, we’d very much like to thank everyone who has supported us thus far with this endeavour; it takes a crew of people to make ideas work and put concepts into action. We are very grateful for all of the hard work and graft the extended crew has put into making things work and it must be known that we wouldn’t be in the position that we are without the support of our friends and colleagues. Y’all know who ye are.

We must also thank our landlords at Conroy’s for their welcome, understanding and patience with us as we worked through the teething problems. We are under no illusions that we are very lucky to be in the position that we are and cannot overstate how grateful we are. While things may not have been perfect since the get-go, I strongly believe that what we are doing is important and that it directly relates to many of the discussions that have been had throughout Dundee’s musical community of late. Hell, The Skinny just published a piece I wrote the other day (check out “Venues, Scenes and Spaces“) that addresses this exact issue.

Conjecture and debate is one thing, action is another. Without resorting to Minor Threat quotes, if ye want to get something done the best thing to do is to it yourself (DIY, ken?). As such, the craic with Conroy’s Basement is thus; we are now open for third party bookings.

Basically, Kenny G and I have formed a new company called Burst Cow. We have invested in a new PA for the basement and will be running the bookings independently of MTAT, for both logistical reasons and so as to avoid any potential conflicts of interest. We have begun taking limited third party gig and private function bookings, with a bunch of shows happening in November, and will be looking to gradually expand things once Book Yer Ane Fest X is in the bag.

Terms and conditions for all bookings apply, of course, but ultimately we aim to help nourish the scene that has helped nourish us so greatly for so many years. To us, DIY need not be a byword for “slack” or “shitty”.

Kenny G will be the go-to dude for all third party bookings and should be contacted at conroysbasement@gmail.com

I (Derrick) shall remain the “face” of MTAT and, as such, any and all MTAT related emails/enquiries/vegan recipies should be sent to info@makethatatakerecords.com

So yeah, it seems Conroy’s Basement is open for business!

On Dialogue; Bloc and Trans Punks

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I don’t really want to be writing this post but feel I have to. Without retreading well-worn ground, MTAT and myself as an individual are very concerned about the incident, statements and subsequent fall-out pertaining the misgendering of a trans person in relation to bathroom usage at Bloc a couple of weeks ago.

I’ve been reluctant to post anything online in an “official” capacity, although must admit that I did share Chris’s (Bloc venue manager) statement on my FB page. The discussions which followed were illuminating and reinforced my feeling that there must be an open and honest dialogue about things, to use this as an opportunity for learning, less we descend into binary tribalism.

I have been in discussion with friends from the trans community, the PR staff and in-house promoters at Bloc, fellow promoters in the DIY punk scene and many others with a vested emotional interest. I believe that the only way we can move forward in a positive fashion is through dialogue, discourse and showing respect. I have spoken with Bloc and have been assured that there will be a staff training day run by the Scottish Transgender Alliance on September 29th. They are also keen to organise a meeting with the trans punks, promoters and those affected by the situation. I am grateful to all involved for their willingness to discuss the situation.

On a personal level, I’d suggest that we could all benefit from being a little more reflective and mindful of how our behaviour, acts and words can impact others.

In the interest of transparency, this is the email I sent to Bloc (with names removed);

  • I just wanted to get in touch to discuss the issues that have been raised since the unfortunate bathroom incident at Bloc last weekend. I have spoken at length with *in-house promoter* and various friends and allies within the trans community and feel that it would be inappropriate of me not to voice the concerns I’ve been feeling. MTAT have always been allies of the trans community and of Bloc. Not for one second do I believe that Bloc harbours a transphobic ideology, however, I do feel that the statement issued by *Bloc* was somewhat ill-judged, especially given the current social climate. Now, while I absolutely do feel there is merit in some of the ideas expressed within said statement (the idea of the “regressive left”, “the mob”, etc), I don’t believe that this was the time or place to express these ideas. Had the statement ended after the apology and details pertaining how Bloc was going to use the experience to further develop learning, then I don’t think there would have been nearly the fallout there has been. However, the emotive rant which constituted the lion’s share of the statement was unnecessarily divisive and really didn’t contribute positively to an already messy situation. My concerns are not merely passive; MTAT is involved in two upcoming shows at Bloc, the Scottish Indie Sampler launch night next month and the pre-Book Yer Ane Fest show on Thursday 1st December. I feel that we have a responsibility to both the trans community and Bloc to engage with this issue, rather than adopt the ostrich approach. I feel it is always better to engage in discourse so as to create greater understanding and dialogue than it is to fall into the binaries of “us vs them” or “good guys and bad guys”. MTAT has no intention of boycotting Bloc or withdrawing, but I do feel that it would be an abdication of responsibility if we were to leave these issues completely unaddressed. *In-house promoter* assured me that Bloc will be meeting with representatives from the Scottish Transgender Alliance later this month and I’d be very keen to know how that meeting pans out. Being a “big picture thinker”, I think there is a middle way here. I don’t think anyone has come out of this situation well, from “the mob” to Bloc, but we must be mindful of the fact that violence against transgender people, especially in regards to bathroom usage, is a very real life issue and should not be dismissed as simply an error. I just wanted to clue you in to my thinking as it is inevitable that questions will be asked when MTAT appears on the posters for the launch show and I have to act to protect the best interests of MTAT, just as Bloc do. As such, I shall be writing a statement outlining our position that echoes what I’ve said here.I believe that with open minds and hearts we can all engage in progressive discourse and use this as a learning experience for the betterment of all. Apologies for the long, somewhat rambling email, but I thought it prudent to clue you in on my thought process, so not to come flying out of left-field and add fuel to an already burning inferno of online noise.

    Thanks a lot, Derrick Johnston (MTAT)

As it stands, this is all a fluid situation, for which providing a running commentary has little benefit. However, I feel as though my hand has been forced as the launch night for the Scottish Indie Sampler has been announced and that is something that we are part of. I have been in contact with those involved and the announcement was made without my prior knowledge, despite my reservations. As such, I feel it important that I post something pro-actively, as opposed to adding to the dissonance of emotionally reactive “management”. Once a final decision has been made, we shall update our position.

Hopefully, through reasoned discourse, we can create a little more unity.

 

A Love Letter To Bangers (2008-2016)

 

Ahead of their final show at the Specialist Subject Records all-dayer in London tomorrow, I felt it prudent to write a few words about how wonderful I believe the three humans that comprise Bangers to be, how great I thought their band was and how bummed I am that they are calling it a day. I just wanted to write a little something to express how bummed I am but also to express my gratitude for their existence and for all the inspiration they’ve unwittingly gifted to me across the years.

I’m fairly certain that the first time I saw Bangers live was when they supported Iron Chic alongside Shields Up and Citizens at a This Is Our Battlefield show at the 13th Note in Glasgow in June 2011. That was the same night that we decided that we were going to form Uniforms, so pumped were we after the show driving back to Dundee in big G’s motor. They always exuded a weirdness unlike many of their UK punk contemporaries and I know that Jonny was always a big fan of Hit The Beach from back in the day. That show was the first time I felt that they had a profound impact on me; there was something about the live show that transmitted their oddness more directly than their recordings allowed. From that moment on, they had me!

 

In the five years since then I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Bangers play countless times. They’ve released three quality LPs (all of which come highly recommended) and a slew of 7″s and interesting releases, including the massively inspiring “Mysterious Ways” album that was conceived, written and recorded in 48 hours, with tremendous results. That creative spirit, that playfulness and willingness to actively engage in silliness, was a massive part of their appeal, yet they rarely strayed too far from the underlying existential questioning and cynicism that pervaded their narrative; a juxtaposition of light and shade. By allowing themselves that creative freedom to experiment, to conform to no standards but their own, excited and engaged me. By bowing out on their own terms, they continue this tradition. I think over the years I’ve managed to track down all of the vinyl releases they’ve done, although I suspect I may still be missing something.

They always had their own way of doing things, marched to the beat of their own drum, and that was hugely inspiring, especially to us in Uniforms. I think we felt a kinship; here was another bunch of weirdos from outwith the metropolitan centre weaving their own eccentricities and, crucially, humour, into the fabric of punk rock. I’ve always thought there was something of an idealistic, somewhat whimsical yet cosmically contemplative folk influence within Bangers, a unique storytelling narrative that could only be forged in isolation. Most importantly, however, they rocked and certainly *ahem* knew their way around a banger.

Their work ethic was also an inspiration; in the eight years they were together, they toured all over the UK, Europe and the USA (I think I saw them play at Fest 10 in Gainesville, although I cannot be absolutely sure) and played over 450+ shows. These dudes know and there’s no enlightenment can be attained like that from meditative time spent in stinking transit. Uniforms had the pleasure of playing loads of shows with them, including a DIY Rock Shop matinee show in Perth where Roo imparted the sagacious words of “take all the free drugs you can” to an audience of entranced teenagers. We were lucky enough to have them come and play Book Yer Ane Fest on two occasions, first at BYAF V with Leatherface in 2011 and again two years later at BYAF VII, which remains in my mind one of the craziest and most memorable sets in BYAF history.

Photo by GGM Photography.

Photo by GGM Photography.

Specialist Subject Records is the best punk label in the UK and have been an inspiration to us at MTAT. It can’t be overstated how much of a help Andrew was to me when MTAT transitioned from being an informal collective to a “business” and I’m not sure that I’ve ever adequately thanked him for his assistance and patience. So Andrew, thank you so much for all your help; you guys are an paragon of virtue and self-determination. To me, Specialist Subject is the prime of example of how to run a record label; it’s a family that nurtures a community and unifies people whilst prodigiously releasing records from some of the UK’s finest bands. Just check out their catalogue and you’ll see what I’m talking about; Great Cynics, The Arteries, Muncie Girls, The Fairweather Band, Sam Russo, Above Them; gem after gem. I’ve spent a lot of money on the Specialist Subject webstore and I’d recommend that you do the same.

I got my copy of the “Last Songs” 7″ in the mail this week, threw it on the turntable and felt a sadness unlike any other I’ve felt in some time when it comes to listening to a band’s final recordings. One of the best British punk bands ever, they will be a loss to our community. Three of the nicest, most intelligent and engaging punks I know (and impeccable house guests) I’m very grateful that I have had the chance to get to know them through punk rock and for the memories that they’ve created for me over the years; whether it’s Abbie and Hamish sharing the last of the pop tarts, screaming along in the front row while trying to ensure crowd surfers don’t hurt themselves and/or kick the mic into Roo’s teeth or just listening to their records at home, I’m thankful for everything they’ve created and the times we’ve had together.

I unreservedly feel that Bangers have been one of the most important bands in UK punk over the last eight years, certainly for me personally, and I’m real sad that I won’t be able to see them one last time. Everyone who can make it to The Lexington in London tomorrow should certainly do so.

RIP Bangers, it’s been rare.

 

Thank you Andrew, Hamish and Roo. See you in hell.

LUCK AND COURAGE; An Essay by Jonny Domino

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The following is the latest in the current series of guest essays, this time written by Jonny Domino, latterly of Uniforms and long-time member of the MTAT collective. Jonny is one of my best friends and am grateful to have had him by my side during some of the most difficult periods of my life, even when he’s been on the receiving end he remains (mostly) a paragon of zen-like calm. One of the true believers, I’m very pleased to share Jonny’s essay concerning punk rock and mental health through WYAZ.

As ever, all comments/shares/discussion welcome.

 

LUCK AND COURAGE

For a long time I’ve been fascinated by the piece that mental health plays in the creative process. As much as it’s more prevalent in punk rock, and in my time in the punk scene I’ve noticed that issues of mental health can be as much an inspiration for musicians as punk rock can be a tool for confronting a variety of mental health issues, there is a long-standing relationship between the arts and mental health. I should preface this by saying that I count myself lucky to have had a very plain sailing life mental health-wise, but I have watched some of my closest friends and family try to cope with various problems in their own ways and I’d like to think that my position, outside looking in, has provided me a chance to look at things in a more unique way.

At this point it’s hard to avoid being derailed because I could vent all day about how I feel that frontline healthcare professionals are almost universally not doing their part. At the time of writing, the NHS remains one of the finest healthcare systems in the world but it definitely has its failings, and one of the main problems I have with it is this – in the winter of 2010 I broke my collarbone in a snowboarding accident (the “accident” in question being that I said ‘yes’ when the guy in the hire shop asked me if I knew what I was doing when what I actually meant was ‘I’ve never done this before and I hardly even know which way up this goes’, if you’re curious). I got treated by some very nice people in Accident and Emergency very quickly, I grudgingly went along to Fracture Clinic appointments fortnightly for the first 6 weeks and I grumbled my way through follow-ups at my GP for 3 months after that. The point of this story is not to sound ungrateful for the help I got but this – up until very recently there was no maximum waiting time limit for mental health referrals within the NHS. I have seen friends wait months, bordering into years, to see a psychologist. I knew what I was doing was dangerous and I did it anyway. I got all the help I asked for and more straight away while people who were desperate to see someone for something that they have no control over were left hanging on for months. To this day, if an NHS administrator had stopped me in the A&E department and asked if I could never darken their doorstep again so they could use the time and resources they devoted to me to try and clear some of the backlog, my answer would’ve been an unequivocal yes. It still would.

The lack of time to devote to dealing with referrals is something there’s no control over, I get that, but I also think that in the first instance people who raise concerns about their mental health are poorly treated by the healthcare system. The prevailing method seems to be for a GP to write a script for the hottest anti-depressant and get people out with the quickest turnaround, which I have always thought does more harm than good. It’s a short-term fix which, like all drugs, all too often becomes a long term problem. Increasingly people who have never wanted to rely on anti-depressants long term find themselves doing exactly that, purely because they know they can go back to it and it’ll work, plus it’s much easier than getting any other help. Even once you’ve been through the wait for a referral, getting any kind of treatment or therapy from the NHS can be an uphill struggle, and quite often the people who need it most are not equipped for the fight. Again, if I need medical assistance and I think the person delivering it isn’t up to the task, I would have no problem saying “take this doctor away and get me a real one”, but someone who has mustered all their courage to overcome the anxiety they feel about just going to their appointment in the first place is much more likely to just accept whatever calibre of help that they’re offered, and more often than not they’re drastically undersold.

The difficulty in obtaining professional help for these issues, I guess brings us to the idea of how the creative process is so appealing. From Van Gogh to Cobain, there’s nothing more exciting than the idea of the tortured artist, and for some reason the punk scene has always seemed to have that in spades. Maybe it’s the idea that you’re encouraged to speak your mind and share your feelings, the fact that no-one has any hangups about just being themselves, or the raw energy associated with the scene, but punk has always grabbed the attention of people struggling to get comfortable in their own minds, their own bodies or society at large. It’s one of the things I love about the punk scene, but I’ve come to realise that it can sometimes be dangerous. There’s a feeling building recently that it’s almost like a great last hope, that there’s some kind of all-or-nothing approach to punk rock and that it had better work. This has never sat well with me and I’m glad that anyone who I hold dear has so far managed to avoid this kind of attitude, but it’s punctuated with sadness as more and more frequently we see people who subscribe to that idea and come back to earth with the hardest of bangs when they don’t find the salvation they expected.

This isn’t to say that music, art, film or any other outlet that anyone has isn’t an overwhelmingly healthy idea – sometimes screaming down the walls and a punk rock show can be exactly what you need. Sometimes a quite night of doodling can have the same effect. A much wiser man than me (my dad actually, so maybe not that much wiser…) likes to say “extremism in any form is not a good way to live” and it’s something that I have always thought is a very reasonable worldview. When you let something take over your life, you are often setting yourself up for a fall, and that’s something that’s always dangerous. Ever since my early teens I’ve always been a part of the punk scene, but I’ve always been able to remove myself and I never expected it to be able to solve every single problem I encounter. Maybe some day I’ll find something that can, but I doubt it.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that there’s no “magic bullet” that can solve all your problems, be they anxiety, depression or something else entirely, but that doesn’t mean stop trying. You might (you probably will) have to fight tooth and nail to get the help you deserve from the professionals. When you get it, it might not even help. Don’t be disheartened by that, don’t stop trying. Shouting until your hoarse at a punk rock show or in a punk rock band might help you for a night, or a year, or longer. It might not though, and that’s okay. Filling in a whole adult colouring book (or a children’s colouring book, I bet you love the Turtles) might relax you for long enough that you can think clearly about something that you couldn’t focus on all day and that’s great, if it doesn’t though then something else will. Find what works for you and do it, if everything works then do them all. I hope that punk rock helps for everyone though, we’ll see you all down the front.

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THE STRENGTH IS ALWAYS THERE; An Essay by Barry Kydd

I went to see The Smith Street Band last night (last week), for maybe the 5th or 6th time. I will always make the effort to go and see those guys as they are wonderful humans and an awesome band but mostly because so many of their songs have connected with me on levels reserved for only a select few. And it struck me, with something Wil said last night as to possibly why : so many of us punks are damaged and need release. His exact speech was about his anxiety and depression and how the last time he was in the very same room (Audio in Glasgow) he suffered the only onstage panic attack he’s ever experienced. For reasons unconnected to the environment or the people there, these things just happen sometimes regardless of where you are. He went on to say how good it felt to now be back in the same room and feeling well again, and how his primary source of release is in his writing and performing of songs. He encouraged everyone in the room to reach out for that same release and to use creativity as a positive vehicle for change in our lives. Something I have strived to do since starting my first band 15 or so years ago. It has never felt as though it was the right time to write about this, but as I sat today thinking of my own journey and how it could have ended it very differently, I felt I now needed to. I am nervous about people reading this, but with hopes this may help some others, here goes.

I’ve never really ever considered “whats wrong with me” to be a mental health issue, but of course it is. I suppose as with many other issues I have, I just never wanted to admit what it was and put a label on it, let alone seek any help. All stemming back to the loss of my mother as a 9 year old child, I have been racked with a crippling grief since then. Deepening and evolving with every passing year, and with every further passing family member or friend. I could carry on with day to day life easy enough, but at night trying to sleep, my mind would fill with thoughts of what happens once you die. I would panic about being in a box, underground, never breathing air or seeing light again forever. Not just for a few years, until the end of time itself. I would think back the way to my earliest memory and realise that it gets to a point where there is nothing, no recollection of anything beginning or being born. So that must be what happens at the end, it all just stops, and thats it. So whats the fucking point? I thought of my mother, and every subsequent person I lost, having those fears invade them at the very end. I had to just force myself to think of anything else at all for as long as I could and eventually I would fall asleep. Most nights I would manage to fall asleep, other times I would have (and continue to have) night terrors, waking up suddenly convinced someone was in my room. I would swing wildly in the dark until I could reach a light and turn it on. I still cannot control them to this day, and although they are rare they do happen and it wrecks me to know I have scared my wife many times during them.

The biggest factor of all, and one I never ever envisioned, has been reaching milestones in my life without these people by my side. It absolutely wretched me and has played havoc with my brain. Various methods of self medicating have been explored over the years, some work sometimes, some make it worse, some have never worked. The one thing that has always helped, has done more than anything else to help, and that continues to help, is music. Beginning with listening and developing into writing and performing, I had never experienced anything like it. At first it began as a teenager with bands like Green Day, Pearl Jam and Nirvana, something connected me to the combination of the words and the noise I was hearing. It soon became apparent what the difference was between those bands and what I heard on the radio and around the home. Two things ; the subject matter and the delivery. Suddenly I could hear all these words put together that were making me feel things I had never experienced before, and this harsh delivery, so full of emotion, so desperate, longing to be heard. It burst open the walls I had put up around me and absolutely flooded into every fibre of my body. Hairs stood on end, heart began racing and pounding and my eyes welled up with water, for the first time moved by joy. I knew nothing would be the same again. In my naivety I thought that no one had ever felt as bad as I did about these things. To find I was so far from being alone was a huge milestone in my life.

I became obsessed over the next few years, from around 15-18. I just wanted to hear it all, and all at once. I bought, copied and stole anything that looked remotely similar to what I had been listening to, back when everything came as a hard copy I would trawl through liner notes and lyrics, devouring it all. I used to go through the thanks list that bands would include and write down every band I hadn’t heard of before, making them next on my list to discover. It took me in so many different directions and so many variants of “punk” that I never knew existed.

Seeing these bands playing, and the release it offered me to scream along in the crowd was so intense, I had finally found a way to get so much of this out of me.

As my collection grew, it still never completely satisfied me. I wasn’t getting EVERY answer I needed. I got plenty, sure, and discovering all of this new and exciting world had been enough to tide me over and help me suppress a lot of my mental aches and pains, but still not enough.

I had always kept diaries and journals as a young teen. I thought it would be funny to look back on as an adult and remember each day, and so that has proved! Cringingly embarrassing for the most part, there are glimmers in there of why I was really writing down my innermost thoughts and musings. I found these things very tough to talk about, so in a sense, I would talk to myself about them. Writing down the feelings that were tearing me apart internally was allowing me to make a lot of sense of them. I was realising that I could answer a lot of my own questions if I wrote about them enough. It would take me another 15 years before I would realise it was ok to talk to people about these things, but for so long it was just me and my pencil thrashing out the details and setting myself straight. I don’t like to dwell too long on thoughts of what could have happened if I had never figured this out for myself. Fuck, I came closer than I’d ever imagined to breaking point as it was, with using all my coping mechanisms, so with no outlet at all I doubt very much I would still be here today. And that will surprise a lot of folk probably, who know me and know my persona and outlook on life. That’s the ticker with a mental health issue, people can go about everyday life and function as human beings without anyone ever being aware of what is raging inside of them, threatening to implode at any time.

The more and more I was actively going to see live bands, the more I was meeting and making friends with people who were actually in bands. This was a new and exciting prospect for me. Imagine that, being IN a band, how cool would that be. But I had never picked up an instrument in my life, and I was already into my late teens, so many people in my peer group had a huge amount of experience already. Once again I felt left out and just couldn’t see a way in which I could participate. Maybe I could sing? Could I even sing? I didn’t even know. Would it even matter if I could? I had seen bands who had lone singers, some of them were pretty bad but they had fun anyway running about the stage and jumping into the crowd. I could probably do that part ok. I had seen AFI, H20, Lagwagon and The Bouncing Souls, they all had lone singers and it looked pretty cool. Fuck it, it was the only way I could participate and I wanted in so badly so I started casually mentioning to people that we should start a band. Late summer 2001, some friends and I formed Tearjerk, my first ever band. As first bands go, we did a lot of the cliched mistakes : terrible name (my fault), terrible first show, terrible first recordings and some terrible songs. But after the first year or so we started to find our feet and I started feeling more comfortable with performing. I had up until that point written pretty throw away material about girls, being a loner, hometown blues, being an awkward teen basically. The live shows were fun, but I was terribly nervous before gigs, getting blind drunk or hiding somewhere in the venue right up until it was time to play was not uncommon. I never knew what to do with my body while I was onstage so I just threw myself around the stage area, ran into the crowd, jumped on tables, bars, drumkits, speaker stacks. If there was balcony in the venue I’d try to climb it and jump off, I was pretty reckless. It became my thing and I felt accepted so I kept on doing it. I broke ribs during a gig once, fell off so many stages and hit my head off so many lighting rigs and beams. This was starting to fill in the gaps of satisfying my thirst for an outlet for all my rage, hurt and anger. This was what I had been missing.

Tearjerk developed from a snotty sneering teen punk band into a bruising hardcore punk sound pretty quickly. I discovered fast how much anger I had and what I was going to have to do to expel it from me. I was developing as a writer, I was understanding so much more about why I was so hurt and lost all of the time. We had moved home to the town in which my mother was buried, her wish was to be buried there and not in the town we lived in at the time as she feared we would spent too much time visiting her and not focus on moving on with our lives. Cruel twist of fate perhaps that we followed her down the road in the end anyway, but it happened. I spent hours on end there, sitting by her graveside chatting. Again, answering my own questions and figuring things out for myself. I would get off the bus home from work and sit with her for hours before going home, claiming to my Dad that I had stayed on late at work. I don’t know why I felt the need to lie, perhaps I knew deep down I had these issues that would maybe trouble my family if they knew, so I kept doing things privately. I wrote and wrote and wrote and built up books of my innermost, intensely personal feelings about death, despair, grief and sometimes life. None of that made it into songs however.

I had the perfect social and political distraction to focus my writings on for the band, Tony Blair and George Bush Jnr were about to take us into an illegal and immoral war in Iraq. I had become actively political for the first time in my life due to my outrage at this situation, I was reading Chomsky and attending protests. Our songs reflected this and I loved how I could now justify my fury at live shows by giving little speeches before songs explaining what they were about. Yet I still lay alone each night and obsessed over death and dying and what was the point in dragging on the inevitable?

I let the odd glimpse of personal subject material drip out with Tearjerk, but not much. Once the band ended around 2005/6 I was pretty distraught. I had done so much, and grown so much in that band, what was I gonna do now? I had lost my outlet and already felt uneasy at that prospect.

I kept writing and my influences kept changing. Mike (guitarist in TJ) and I knew we wanted to keep playing somehow so we started writing some songs just the 2 of us and his acoustic guitar. We eventually decided that we didn’t actually need anyone else to be able to perform these songs so we set out writing a set that worked with me on vocals and Mike playing his acoustic. Pretty unusual set up, but it worked for us and folk seemed to like it. We called the project 15 Minutes, in reference to a Broadways song of the same name. The whole idea being you can sit and let your life dwindle away 15 minutes at a time or you can pick up what you have and do something with it. We did what we could with what we had.

I definitely let a lot more personal material through the net this time. It felt right. We had recently lost another friend, Graham Motion from the band Allergo, in tragic circumstances. Graham loved Tearjerk and it absolutely delighted me to see him down the front singing along when we played. It was going to feel surreal to never experience that again. Something clicked and I needed to start singing about some of these personal experiences or it was going to consume me. I wrote songs about losing my mother, one about all the things I wished I’d been able to tell my Dad, we also made a song out of the first words I wrote down after hearing Graham had passed. I burst into tears onstage a few time playing some of these songs, but fuck it, I wasn’t hiding anymore. This was me, and these songs meant a lot to me and I was gonna get them out of me with all the fire that put them there in the first place. I figured people would appreciate not being bullshitted by another band so we gave it as it came, raw and unfiltered. I have always insisted, in all of my bands, that I need to write all the words. It needs to come from me because I am the one delivering it and I need to believe in what I’m singing. The most important part of playing live, for me, has always been to do it was the utmost sincerity. When I’m up there I need to be bleeding out those words and I couldn’t give a fuck what it sounds like, so long as we mean every word and feel every note. This is my therapy and it means too much to me to fake it or go through the motions. It wont happen.

Lachance are my current active band. In many ways its the band I always wanted to be in, sound wise. Its the perfect mix of all the things I love about punk rock and in terms of writing words for Lachance, I’ve come full circle almost and am the closest I ever have been to filling that void I’ve always had. I have learned the most important lesson yet about my writing, I can take a bad situation or memory and make it better. I have been able to tap into the very essence of why I began writing in the first place, to give myself some answers and some direction in my life. All these years of hurt and confusion have dug some deep wounds into me and in turn, I am now comfortable including songs that open up these scars and let them breathe. I don’t feel suffocated anymore, I don’t feel as though I need to hide anything about what Im scared of, what I worry about and what I lie awake and cry about sometimes. I have learned that writing about these things naturally leads me to a far more positive mindset, it confirms to me that the issue is present but it can be addressed. It should be talked about openly and if it is, its generally far easier to come to a positive conclusion. A much preferred outcome over letting it fester for years and play havoc with your mental state. A lot of the Lachance subject material is openly about my struggles over the years but each song generally concludes with an overall feeling of hope rather than despair. And thats the piece I have always been missing. I still feel hopeless from time to time but with my writing, I have managed to address so many of the questions I didn’t have answers for at the start of my musical journey. I am far more able to deal with bouts of anxiety, and far more equipped to keep my mind from wandering down the dark paths it used to. Even though our band is not terribly active, I still have it as my outlet, I know it is still there and that is a massive comfort. I am very like that as a person and friend, I don’t need to see you everyday, so long as I know you are still there if I need you, I’m good with that. Our latest release “Sunrise” is a culmination of some of the songs I had always wanted to get out there from my notebooks. It feels wonderful to know it is out there in the world now and that people seem to be enjoying it. To finally have pretty much fully opened the door and let the world in feels like a huge turning point for me. To feel comfortable enough to even write this piece, and let go of all these secrets is testament again to the ground that has been covered since this process began. Im at the point now where I realise I have come through this experience and that speaking about it now, may actually do some good and possibly even help someone else. I would wish for nothing more. Without a shadow of any doubt, the catharsis I gained through music, gigs, writing, recording and performing where it is socially accepted to be able to scream my lungs out and beat my heart with my first, has literally changed and saved my life. It has taken me from a scared and nervous boy, constantly worried about how my time on earth would end to being able to stand in a room full of people and sing songs about how music has made me better.

This is what I need to do to keep balance. This is what helps me and allows me to make sense of intense issues. Aside from one 6 month spell with a therapist, I have managed to contain this, almost, myself, through the inspiration and exhilaration of listening to, writing, recording and performing music. I have faltered and failed along the way, many times, and I know what its like to want to die. I made a pact with myself to never ever entertain those thoughts again and not seek help immediately. The Lachance song “Spirals” is directly about this incident. It was my lowest ebb, and I got out of that hole somehow thanks to hearing a record that made me want to be alive again. I cannot begin to describe how powerful that feels. I have phenomenal support in the form of my wife. She has suffered so much of my bullshit over the years but has always encouraged me to look at things from different angles, to see another perspective and to try things I haven’t done yet. In so many aspects, I am lucky. But for every story like mine there is one that goes the other way. Just this weekend we learn again of a talented and respected punk musician who has taken their own life, tragically feeling there was no where left to turn. It made me stop and think about Wil’s words again, and how even though this young person was a writer and a performer it was not enough to stop the tide from overpowering them. Sometimes it isn’t. We need to create and nurture methods within our community where there can always be a path to reach out to if we feel hopeless. I urge you, to reach out to all your friends and family to let them know they can reach out to you if they need to. It could be the words that save a life.

Punk rock, for many, is a phase of rebellion. I knew the second I heard that explosion of noise that I would need this in my life for as long as possible. My musical tastes have grown and developed over the years but the essence of everything I latch onto remains the same. Heart, soul, passion and meaning. I met some of my best friends via the music scene. I first met my wife Gemma after a Tearjerk show when she asked me for one of our Cds. How different my life would be without it all. I urge each and every one of you, if you discover something in this life that awakens you and stirs your soul, pursue it. Make it part of your life, however you need to do it, just make it happen. If you are thinking of starting a band, do it. If you don’t think you can, you can. If you are worried how bad you will sound, don’t be. I’ll send you the first Tearjerk CD, trust me it wont be worse than that. Do it with heart, soul and passion and no one can ever hold anything against you. You do it for you, not for anyone else. If like me, you find it hard right now to speak up about what is bothering you, write it down and see if that helps. You always, ALWAYS have options, even when you think you don’t. Someone will care enough to be there for you, please know that it is absolutely fine to ask for help.

At the end of the record I played that made me want to stay alive, even if only just to hear it again at that point, there is a line that is repeated over and over again. Its impact has never left me and it is now tattooed onto my leg. Human bodies are tough and we can punish them often enough and they will quickly recover. A humans spirit can spend decades broken and not realise what it needs to heal, if you can find what you need to get better, go to it and let it in, and never be ashamed of who you are or how you got here. Because you DID get here.

We cant always make our lives seem happy all the time, just remember….

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“The strength is always there”

AGAINST IMMISERATION; An Essay by Dom Kaddish

WYAZ presents the second post-EU referendum essay by Dom Kaddish. Please read, consider, respond and circulate as you deem necessary. Discussion and discourse is actively encouraged.

End, As In Aim.

So picture the gravest fear and dread.
Here hope is the lie that keeps its head.

Say you’ve got a hope.
Say you want an end to fear.

An end to fear.

Say you’ve got a hope.
Say you want an end to fear.

Photo by J. Cumiskey

AGAINST IMMISERATION

What’s the fucking point of playing in a band when your body is ageing and your hearing damaged? What’s the fucking point of going to gigs and chatting, on the level, to people of different ages, genders, colours, cultures, and backgrounds when the media constantly chastens us with images of violence, and enjoins us to hate others and be suspicious of them? What’s the fucking point of voting in a referendum where the crunch matter appears to have come down to an entitled Tory elite masturbating over how to convince one of their female members to reheat the tired ghost of Margaret fucking Thatcher?

Here’s a suggestion: couldn’t it be that the deluded little spaces in which we play, chat, act, think and commit ourselves are more political by a long shot than the black hole at Westminster that awaits the next bunch of careerists perverse enough to get sucked into it? The fucking point, then, would be that our whole conception of politics has to change. For example, what created the current constitutional crisis in the UK was misplaced faith in an out-of-date form of representative government centred on individuals as well-informed agents, capable of making rational choices in their own best interests, and of acting in the best interests of others when presented with a crude either/or choice on an issue of massive complexity. This model was co-opted by greed, self-interest, stupidity, lack of information, and a giant dose of the negative affects of shame, fear and hate. Given the fallout, perhaps it is now time to try to do something paradoxical, different, and more excitingly difficult: to try, at one and the same time, to think and act both above and below the out-of-date model of politics.

By ‘above’, I mean this: we have to aspire to have the courage and the temerity to look the complexity of our world straight in the face. That is, we have to aspire to a culture, not where no-one is an expert (à la Gove), but where everyone is. This would be a culture in which everyone aspires to learn something about such heady things as economics, statistics, as well as big data patterns in demographics and human geography, and where an understanding of the role of nonhuman actors in politics would be encouraged (e.g. the role of such actors in the current UK crisis as mobile computing, agricultural and fishing yields, the English Channel, globalisation, the ecological crisis, etc. etc.). This would not be a culture where knowledge of such things was used to baffle and belittle; rather, since no one single actor could feasibly claim a knowledge of the whole, it would be a culture where everyone takes some responsibility for educating themselves and others, and where each is empowered and encouraged to do.

By ‘below’, I mean this: the UK referendum of 23 June 2016 was a coup for a reactive form of politics that traded on affects and gut reactions, instead of on concepts tied to the out-of-date model of politics mentioned above (e.g. the concept of the transparently well-informed and rational voter; or that of a ‘minister’ who is ‘prime’ in the sense of being the first and most powerful person to look after the needs of all the people in his or her polity, when the then incumbent was exposed by events for an incompetent beholding to the interests of Tory bigots of depressing resilience and longevity). What was far more effective than concepts and reason in swaying the campaigning in this instance was the propagation of the aforesaid negative affects of shame, fear and hate. Faced with these affects, the fatal mistake of left/liberal sections of the media/social media/the Twitterati was a retreat into the echo chamber of fatalistic intellectualism (consider the typical Brexit crisis moves made by these sections of the media: black humour, condescension, introspection and soul searching, cod philosophy, historical musings, irony, droll memes, the attempt at agonised liberal ‘understanding’ of what could have driven the dispossessed and disenfranchised to it, etc., etc.). The result was two modes of political address that comprehensively talked past one another: one employing the ‘post-fact’ logic of icons, hates, and anxieties; the other employing a form of reason that had become too clever and self-reflexive by half.

One solution to this impasse, I am suggesting (the one that goes ‘above’), is to aspire to better education, in terms of better concepts that have a better purchase on the complexities of our interconnected and interdependent world. Here’s another solution for how we might simultaneously get ‘below’ the impasse: first, let’s give up old concepts tied to the values of liberal/humanistic education and grand parliamentary politics; second, let’s avoid propagating negative affects in their place; third, let’s focus instead on the creation and nurturing of positive affects, such as joy, love, and openness. If such an agenda seems liberal, Christian, ‘new agey’ or out of step with what I said above about the necessity of arriving at better concepts, then you have simply missed the point. This is because what is at stake here is not how ‘good’ or ‘wise’ you or I might be, nor how much right we might have to the moral high ground, nor how much we might like the recourse to safe, comfortable, and ultimately hopelessly out of touch old political categories. Rather, what is at stake is what should be termed the ‘ecology’ of our mental health, well-being and fellow feeling, and by ‘our’ here, I mean the mental health of everyone with a stake in the issues of which the current UK constitutional crisis is symptomatic, including everyone else in the world right now, and all future generations.

The ecology of mental health concerns how one’s mindset, mood, and general sense of affect relates to the world in which it finds itself. This ecology has not, we should admit, been in a good way, globally, for some time now, and its problems predate the 2008 financial crisis by some way (in fact, they feed into it as conditions of its possibility). Here’s a suggestion as to what has eroded it: spaces of immiseration. Under this concept, we could group any number of environments that go into shaping the character of the contemporary globalised world, including, but far from limited to: factories in China; Coltan mines in the Congo; sweatshops in Turkey and Bangladesh; battlefields in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria; Social Security offices and dole queues in any ‘developed’ country; all that urban sprawl that was so ripe for sub-priming in the US pre-2008; open-plan offices; bookies; grey and ill-equipped classrooms; call centres; slaughterhouses; Amazon depots; police cells; and the countless situations in which way too much solitude is frittered away in front of a TV or a computer. Here’s a suggestion as to what might act as the antidote: spaces of possibility. Such spaces, to start from the highly dubious base of idealising what I personally know and esteem, might include: live music spaces; classrooms where participants are encouraged and equipped to learn from all others present and not simply shut their mouths and act as consumers of information spoon fed by the guy mansplaining at the front; parks; wilderness; sports pitches where moments of team creativity emerge; seashores; long walks through places either familiar or unfamiliar, with or without guiding thread; art galleries, studios, and workshops where you might actually stand the chance of speaking and interacting with artists and craftspeople; book shops, record shops and libraries; day centres, drop-in centres, and clinics where you can bump into people all too burned out by the state of it all not to speak themselves honestly, with heart.

I said that it was dubious to start from what I personally know and esteem. You are therefore entirely free to take issue with the list I have just contrived, as too ‘male’, ‘romantic’, ‘liberal’, ‘hipster’ (God forbid), or whatever. This apart, however, let me extend two invitations to you that are centred on the concepts mentioned above, and not on what I have grouped under them. First, to reflect on the spaces of possibility that matter most to you. Second, and far more importantly, to reflect and act on how we might convert spaces of immiseration into spaces of possibility. The first of these tasks, undertaken collectively, would amount to an inventory of our weapons: a stocktake of the spaces that matter to us, and that renew our sense of health and possibility for the living of meaningful lives. The second task would involve using these weapons on the battlefields where the real politics of our lives get fought out (and not in exclusive, outmoded, rarefied political vacuums such as Westminster, where fractions of the battles of our lives get misrepresented and used as pawns in games played by self-serving political cadres).

Fear of the other. Fear of the self. Fear of death. Fear of the unknown. Fear of technology and the pace of change. Fear of not ‘being a man’, whatever that means. Fear of irrelevance and poverty in an age of celebrity and the ‘super rich’. Fear of being fat, stupid, old, or useless. Fear of gun and knife crimes, rape, and hate. ETC. FUCKING ETC. These are the negative affects that spaces of immiseration nurture like cancer. How do we take the love, hope, joy, respect, and sense of other possible worlds and horizons that spaces of possibility involve and use them to bring out the possibilities that spaces of immiseration keep repressed under the increasingly shabby and disingenuous veneer of consensus and polite society? And what makes this struggle both worthwhile and eminently doable, on an everyday basis, and from this very instant?

Consider whether something like the following might work for you (if not, invent your own tactic, as is your right and your want): the next time you realise you are in a space of immiseration (and the gut sinking feeling will be sufficient to establish it), think about how you typically act in a space of possibility, and insinuate one such way of acting into the space of immiseration. The next time after this, insinuate two acts. After that, insinuate three. After that, four. And so on, and so on, until new possibilities have reached such a pitch that they have somehow cracked open the space of immiseration in favour of something better and more liveable. The acts I have in mind here can be crude or sophisticated, and might include: making passionate music, for purposes other than consumption; being playful; thinking tangentially; daydreaming; humour; kindness; openness; interest in others and their stories and fates; acts that are revelatory of self and history without tipping into narcissism; expressions of wonder, weakness, and astonishment; recognitions of limitations and ignorance; the construction of a shared focus or creative goal between you and others that adds some measure of dignity to the space, however small; the vigilant attempt to keep the spectre of the profit motive to a minimum. And so on, and so on, etc., etc.

What’s especially funny about such acts is when they work subliminally – that is, when others within the space recognise that a new possibility has been introduced, but resist it, preferring instead the tendencies of immiseration as a kind of short-term comfy/long-term deadly safety net. Because the roboticisms of immiseration cannot recognise new possibilities, you can rest assured that there will be no immediate explicit reproach for the possibility you have introduced (that is, no shared recognition that the recognition has taken place individually within the separate actors in the space). What there might be, however, is a more or less collective implicit recognition – a seed planted that will grow with time. In this case, the words, actions and affects you use to make spaces of immiseration become spaces of possibility will take on the character of a sort of gentle and subtle guerrilla warfare: a thousand little harrying tactics intended to perplex and provoke others into giving up the dubious safety net of immiseration.

To sum up:
Stop thinking in terms of redundant concepts representative of a bygone age of politics.

Start aspiring to think in terms of the complex concepts that we all know are required to think the world in which we live.

Stop tolerating the poisonous effects of negative affects through inaction and resignation.

Start spreading positive affects in any practicable way you can, because they are sufficient to convert spaces of immiseration, however overwhelming, ubiquitous and monolithic these spaces may seem in the contemporary world, into spaces rich in open and positive possibilities for new forms of life.

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ASTHENIA PDF-page-001

Kaddish play Conroy’s Basement in Dundee with Asthenia (Japan), Human Hands (eng) and Arkless (eng) on Wednesday 17th August.