Write Yer Ane Zine

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

Month: August, 2016

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.

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LUCK AND COURAGE; An Essay by Jonny Domino

jonny

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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