Write Yer Ane Zine

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

Category: Uncategorized

2008 Dissertation (Masters); Underground Network, Alternative Communication – A Study of the Underground Punk Fanzine

I was looking through some old documents recently and found my old hard drive in among a box of stuff. Said hard drive contained the full transcript of my dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of my Masters Degree in 2008. While some people opt to go down the professional publishing route for their academic papers, I figured I’d stick with cowpunk tradition and stick it up here.

The work presented here is unmodified from that submitted to the University of Stirling in May 2008. All notes have been added at the end.

FullSizeRender(7)

UNDERGROUND NETWORK, ALTERNATIVE COMMUNICATIONS; A Study of the Underground Punk Fanzine – Past, Present and Future.

I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Jim McCall and Andrew Wheatcroft for their support and encouragement both before and during the writing of this dissertation. Thank you also to Jane Hamilton and Pamela McLaughlin for their editorial guidance throughout this process. Any remaining mistakes or errors within the text are solely my own responsibility.

Thank you also to those who have assisted my in my investigations, specifically Todd Taylor of Razorcake fanzine, the gentlemen of Aberdeen’s Good For Nothing? Collective and http://www.undergroundscene.co.uk founder Kuljit Athwal. Thanks also to Barry Kidd for allowing me access to his unparalleled fanzine archive. Without their co-operation, this dissertation would have been a none-starter.

I have decided to use the Palatino typeface throughout this dissertation. I feel it is the most legible and easy on the eye. Chapter titles and sub-headings have been placed in bold.

I have elected to use the footnote referencing system, as I feel it is the most suitable for this particular endeavour.

Introduction

Punk means different things to different people. The scene has grown from humble beginnings in the back-alleys of London and New York into a worldwide community of bands, fanzines, activists, thinkers, freaks, misfits and outcasts. In this dissertation, I aim to focus on the worldwide network of fanzines and independent record labels that have helped shape the worldwide punk community throughout the past thirty years. I shall look at how fanzines came to play such a prominent role in the punk scene and see how they have evolved as technological advances have changed our everyday lives.

My intention in this dissertation is not to open Pandora’s Box by fruitlessly pursuing philosophical arguments about the nature and definition of punk rock. I do not wish to give a full historical account of what is and what is not punk rock by any means. Instead I shall be focussing on underground punk rock as a subculture and its relationships with independent publishing, most specifically the concept of the ‘fanzine’ and its relevance in the hi-speed media age of the 21st Century. For this purpose, I shall use the idea that punk rock is about putting your own ideas into action, about creating a culture for yourself beyond the control of corporate media and mainstream acceptability. Punk rock is about challenging the status quo, that punk rock is about autonomy, about taking control of your own life. Ultimately, I feel that punk rock is about getting up doing something to affect positive change.

Punk, like creating a zine, is about doing it yourself.

Chapter One – What are Zines?

In order to define zines, we would be well served to begin with thinking about the etymology of the word itself. In English, the word is obviously a derivative of ’magazine’. It comes from the Arabic word ’makhazin’ – the plural of ’makhzan’ – meaning ‘storehouses’. Magazines are ‘storehouses of information’ and, as we understand them, are periodical publications containing information and/or entertainment about any range of subjects. Magazines are big business worldwide with thousands of weekly and monthly titles competing for space on the shelves of your local newsagent or WH Smith. There are just as many advertisers fighting for coverage in these magazines in order to sell their various products, as can be seen by the massive amounts of space dedicated to advertising. Just pick up a copy of any monthly magazine and you will be bombarded with paid advertisement features from Orange Mobile, Ford, Virgin Media or any number of variants. As such, the magazine business is an overtly commercial venture. Publishers need to sell the advertising space in order to pay for the publication of the magazine, whatever the subject matter may be. Magazines are a business and have to make money in order to survive. If a magazine fails to make money, chances are it will just cease to be. Zines, however, are not magazines. Beyond different motivations, a distinction is seen in the word itself;

“There is not apostrophe in zine. Zine is not short for magazine.
A magazine is a product, a commercial commodity. A zine is a
labour of love, producing no profit.”1

‘Zine’ is diametrically opposed to ‘magazine’. Here the signifiers clearly indicate opposition, differing in motivation as well as content. By identifying positively with ‘zine’ and negatively with ‘magazine’, it is clear that zine publishers see their works as existing for a purpose higher than that of profit. Magazines occupy a significant portion of the marketplace and are motivated by financial gain, as opposed to the zine that exists altruistically for the express purpose of disseminating information. Zines therefore represent the antithesis of magazines, a moral crusade of purpose over capitalism. Zines are editorially uncorrupted, not motivated by money or the demands of advertisers. Money is not the motivating factor; the only demands placed on the zine are those of the creators’ imagination.

A zine is a self-published publication, often the work of one individual. Zines, in the loosest possible form, have existed since people began to write, copy and self-publish. Zines are part of a long tradition of self-publishing that began when Gutenberg invented the printing press. Self-publishing has often been seen as a political medium and is often used to express resistance, as was the case during the propaganda war of the French Revolution.

The earliest zines were what are known as ‘fanzines’, publications produced for personal, not financial reasons. They were ‘fan magazines’ produced by aficionados of a certain subject, mostly fantasy and science fiction literature. The first fanzine is generally credited with being The Comet which popped up among science fiction fans in 19302. The Comet was produced by the Science Correspondence Club, widely credited as being the first sci-fi fan organisation to be founded. Sci-Fi magazines such as Amazing Stories published in San Francisco were already popular within fans of the genre. The creation of a self-produced fanzine was a natural evolutionary step for sci-fi fans to indulge their passions, creating a country-wide network of fans sharing their thoughts, stories and writing. With fans writing letters to each other and exchanging stories and cartoons, it marked a significant change in the relationship between consumer and creator. By creating their own rudimentary publications, sci-fi fans became both creator and consumer, a massive shift in the traditional relationship of writer and reader.

Today’s zines take massive influence from the sci-fi fanzines of the mid-20th Century, insofar as the share many of the same characteristics;

  • Fanzines are non-commercial, non-professional and irregular small-run publications
  • Fanzines are published by and for special interest groups and provide a physical link between those communities
  • The distribution of fanzines takes place principally within the community that generated it.3

As Stephen Perkins (noted punk historian) states, today’s zines still share many of the same qualities as their philosophical ancestors. Following the explosion of sci-fi fanzines, people began producing fanzines across many different genres. Indeed, the only limits imposed on fanzines are those imposed by the limits of the creators’ imagination. This same spirit was shared with other independent publishing ventures such as the Amateur Press Association, mail art magazines and the underground press of the 1960s.

Spiritually, today’s fanzines are most closely connected with the San Francisco Poetry Renaissance of the 1940/50s where Beat writers such as Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg mimeographed their material into little chapbooks. These would be given away at performances and sold in legendary independent bookshop City Lights. As the initial audience for their material was small, they had to find their own way of connecting with their followers. As much out of financial necessity as art for art’s sake, created small yet perfectly crafted and bound publications. These individually-crafted collections took great care and attention to detail to construct, as opposed to the huge printing presses afforded to mainstream magazines and newspapers, but they were cheap and relatively quick to produce. Zines, particularly those dedicated to artistry and literacy, continue the Beat tradition of fine quality and innovative design.

The zine phenomenon is about doing it yourself. With the advent of punk rock, it was obvious that the two cultures were ideologically aligned. If punk rock was an expression of anger and frustration with mainstream culture and the boring commercial rock scene, then it logically follows that zines are an expression of dissatisfaction and frustration with commercial magazine and publishing culture. Zines, like punk, are about the rejection of prescribed mainstream culture and about breaking the barriers between producer and consumer, performer and audience. These acts of self-publishing are subversive and political in themselves, insofar as it represents a challenge to the accepted way of doing things. Zines, like punk, are about asking questions and demanding change. Zines, like punk, represent resistance to the mainstream.

DIY – The Hardcore Punk Zine

Over the past thirty years, underground hardcore punk and DIY zines have been inextricably linked. Both are DIY countercultural forms systematically opposed to conventional norms and values associated with the music and publishing industries. If the primary motivations of both the mainstream commercial music industry and the mainstream commercial magazine industry is to sell ‘products’ and make money, then it necessarily follows that the underground punk and zine scenes exist in order to satisfy a demand that is not catered for by the mainstream. Zines have played an important role in the punk rock scene since the very beginning. As there was no place for punk in the mainstream, they became the only way to find out what was going on in the nascent scene.

Punk zines since their inception have often been rudimentary publications far below the accepted standards of the publishing industry. The United Kingdom in the mid-1970s was a boiling pot of dissatisfaction and disillusion amongst the restless youth of the country. With massive levels of unemployment, the establishment of the three-day week, violence in the inner-cities, mounting racial tensions and the rise of the far-right National Front, Britain was a country in turmoil. The violence and intensity of punk rock was a direct result of boredom with the mainstream music industry characterised by the likes of Deep Purple, YES and Pink Floyd. The excesses of mainstream rock were subverted by the unabashed simplicity and nihilism inherent in punk rock. Street-level London was spewing out bands like The Clash, The Damned and The Sex Pistols while stadiums worldwide were being bored to tears by pompous, overblown posturing from men in and spandex singing about dungeons and dragons. The politics of punk rock was designed to shock, a direct reaction to the cultural boredom and apathy that had characterised youth culture since the collapse of the hippie dream some five years earlier. It dealt in reality, not fantasy.

The first British punk fanzine, ‘Sniffin’ Glue…and other rock’n’roll habits for pinheads and surfers’ was published by Mark Perry, later of the band Alternative TV, on July 13, 1976. It was a simple publication using only a typewriter, felt-tip pens and a Xerox photocopier, then simply stapled together. It was the ultimate act of do-it-yourself publishing. With nobody in the mainstream musical press interested in this ugly cultural phenomenon known as punk, there simply weren’t any music magazines covering punk rock bands. As such, Perry decided that he would write about his favourite bands. It was obvious that punk rock had an audience, as the shows and the fans proved; there was just no coverage in the press.

“The whole of that first issue was what I could do at that time with
what I had in my bedroom. I had a children’s typewriter plus a felt-tip
pen, so that’s why the first issue is how it is. I just thought it would be
a one-off. I knew when I took it to the shop there was a good chance
they’d laugh at me, but instead they said, how many have you got? My
girlfriend had done 20 on the photocopier at her work and they bought
the lot off me. Then they advanced me some money to get more printed.”4

Publishing a fanzine was an easy way of getting involved in the growing subculture, a way of distributing information about upcoming punk rock shows and showcasing upcoming punk rock bands. The fanzine painted Perry in the role of ‘Punk Everykid’, a punk writing about punk, and started as a joke. There was no unifying ideology at this stage and the scene received scant attention from the national music press, save for a few articles concerning the Sex Pistols and their vaudevillian manager Malcolm McLaren. After attending a Ramones concert, Perry became an active part of the scene and was inadvertently cast into the role of punk ‘spokesman’. Initially, he printed up fifty copies of the fanzine and took them to the independent record store Rock-On Records. They sold out immediately and the store requested, and paid for, two hundred more. This sort of economy and honesty was important to the DIY scene. The crude appearance and lack of professionalism certainly added to the appeal of the zine, whilst simultaneously inspiring punks in the regions of the United Kingdom to get involved in their own scenes and produce their own zines. If the New Music Express or Melody Maker, the biggest selling commercial music magazines of the time, were not going to take the rise of punk rock seriously and devote space to the growing phenomenon, then it intrinsically follows that the punks themselves would have to create their own networks and fanzines. The only way to get involved and make things happen was to do it themselves. This was an open act of defiance, again emphasising the ‘otherness’ of punk as a cultural entity outwith the understanding and, more importantly, the control of the mainstream rock scene.

This sort of DIY publishing inspired thousands of disillusioned teens to get actively involved in their own punk scenes, from starting fanzines to putting out their own records. Punk was about being personally active, not accepting what the mainstream, corporate-owned media pushed as ‘edgy’ or ‘alternative’.

10.9.77: Fanzines are the perfect expression – cheaper, more instant
than records. Maybe THE medium. A democratization too – if the most
committed ‘new wave’ is about social change then the best fanzines
reflect this. Perhaps most importantly outside saturated London, they
provide a vital function as a base/coordination point of the local scene.
and that means Ilford as much as Glasgow. Eventually new impetus,
reinterpretation will come from here.5

Although punk rock reinvigorated the bloated commercial rock scene, the scene itself was initially limited to London. Punk had been kick-started and brought to mainstream attention by the carefully orchestrated press manipulation of McLaren and the Pistols, with The Clash following closely behind. If the Pistols nihilistically articulated dissatisfaction with the accepted way of thinking, and The Clash provided a semi-intellectual dissection of inner-city frustration in their three-chord rabble, then it was the eruption of the punk scene around the country that expressed a deeper and growing cultural restlessness. The ‘Anarchy In The UK’ tour in 1977, which featured the Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Damned and Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers, was the catalyst that brought punk rock to the provinces of the United Kingdom, inspiring hundreds of disillusioned youngsters and older rockers alike to rethink their understandings of rock’n’roll. It inspired people to get involved and start bands. Punk’s subsequent diaspora was captured in fanzines produced all over the country in hurriedly compiled, badly scrawled photocopied pages. These fanzines tended to cover the happenings of the local punk community, as opposed to continually rehashing the tried and tested formulae of NME or Sounds magazines. By 1977, the mainstream press had already co-opted the ‘cut and paste’ visuals of Sniffin Glue, plagiarising the aesthetic but understanding nothing of the art or ideology. As punk and image were already irrevocably intertwined, whether it is orange spiky hair or the ‘ransom note’ aesthetic of the Sex Pistols records, the visual aspect of the zine became as intrinsic to ‘punker mentality’ as the music itself. As Al McDowell, later manager of Sex Pistols’ original bassist Glen Matlock’s new band The Rich Kids, states

“It was important to make an impression with what we were doing. There
was a lot to do with the poster mentality, grabbing you from a distance,
and screen prints – the simplicity that came from that medium.”6

Producing a fanzine was the ultimate DIY act and a way of getting involved with a booming cultural renaissance without the need for musical ability. All one needed was the inclination to get involved. As such, fanzines began to appear all over the country. Independent records stores all over the country were expressing their support for punk rock as they fought for survival against huge corporate record stores. The relationship was mutually beneficial. The more punk grew, the more punk bands began to form and, as such, the more independent record labels sprung up to put out the records. It logically follows, then, that more zines began to appear as more people fought to get their music and their messages heard. Independent record shops would stock records from independent labels, supporting their independent bands by selling merchandise – badges, patches, stickers – and zines. These independent record stores became clearing houses of information about the local punk scene. The only way to find out what was going on in your locality was to get down to the record store and speak to people. You literally had to do it yourself, as there was no support network for punk in the newspapers or music publications of the time. It is from this genesis that we reach today’s often wrongly-applied understanding of the term ‘indie’.

As punk moved into the regions of the country, so the support network for punk grew. The Buzzcocks, arguably the first punk band to form outside of London, started their record label New Hormones out of pure necessity. There were no record labels sending A&R7 scouts to poorly-attended punk shows in Manchester, so the only path was DIY. Completely divorced from the metropolitan music industry, they simply created their own scene. The local press was also more supportive of the scene, with gig listings appearing in the New Manchester Review and Granada’s What’s On, although it was the rudimentary DIY publishing of Paul Morley’s Girl Trouble and Pete Shelley’s Plaything that served as the true voice of the underground punk scene. This staunch regionalism was reflected all across the country, specifically here in Scotland. Both Edinburgh and Glasgow had strong scenes, supported by fanzines like Ripped and Torn and Chicken Shit. It was in the pages of these one-page, A4 format montage publications that the likes of Johnny and the Self Abusers, later to achieve fame and fortune as Simple Minds, first received any kind of attention. Glasgow itself had peculiar licensing laws at the time, meaning that punk shows could not be held in the city centre. As such, fans would simply take the train to outlying suburban areas like Paisley to attend concerts by the few nationally touring punk bands of the day.

With the growth of UK punk rock came the inevitable deluge of bands, labels and fanzines. While enthusiasm and a desire to get involved were central tenets of the punk scene, it is also equally apparent that for every socially aware and articulate punk band such as X-Ray Spex or The Addicts, there was an equal number of scatterbrained, anti-authoritarian, yet culturally impotent punk bands such as Sham 69 or Chelsea. As with every scene, punk threw up a veritable banquet of colours and characters. The same can be said of the fanzines that were spawned to provide coverage of this cultural phenomenon. Sniffin Glue was seen as the authoritative punk voice, something which can be seen as anathema within a scene so obsessed with being anti-authority and subversive.

Originally, the punk scene adopted its DIY nature out of pure necessity. However, as the scene grew, especially after the release of Never Mind the Bollocks…Here’s The Sex Pistols in 1977 and the subsequent tabloid furore, it was obvious that scene was moving overground and, arguably, into a position of mainstream acceptance. Major labels and mainstream commercial music magazines swarmed around barely-competent punk bands, attracted by the money-making possibilities of this bizarre youth trend, as is always and inevitably the case. Remaining DIY and independent, however, soon became an ideological choice. The record sleeve of Streets (the seminal punk compilation record put out by the independent label Beggar’s Banquet) states;

“1977 was the year that music came out of the concert halls and onto
the streets; when independent labels sprang out of the woodwork to
feed new tastes; when rock music once again became about energy
and fun; when the majors’ boardrooms lost control. Suddenly we
could do anything.”8

As a means of connecting people, the fanzines in the UK were essential. Punk received no mainstream press coverage until it was in full flight. At best, the biggest bands received a passing mention here and there. The fanzine writers essentially became the first punk journalists and, as such, the primary historians and custodians of the punk rock story. Without having the fanzines as a point of reference, the mainstream music press would not have been able to comprehend punk in any realistic fashion, having only tabloid rhetoric on which to base their opinions. That the fanzines were written for punks by punks themselves gave the scene a depth that was previously unseen by the mainstream press.

While punk rock had exploded in the United Kingdom, indeed, many of the original protagonists like Mark Perry had already declared that it was over as a cultural movement, it was just beginning to pick up a head of steam in the USA. It is somewhat fitting that the Sex Pistols rollercoaster ride finally came grinding to a halt in one of the cities that would become synonymous with a new radical and violently independent variation of punk rock that would become known as hardcore; San Francisco.


Chapter Two – American Hardcore

It is fitting that the final concert of the debacle that was the Sex Pistols’ US tour of 1978 was in San Francisco. The Bay Area has long been synonymous with the voice of dissent and protest in the United States, from the aforementioned Beat Poets of the Renaissance to the well-documented hippie ‘love-ins’ of the 1960s. San Francisco has always sympathetically harboured voices of political and social dissent, therefore it is no surprise that punk rock found a welcoming home in the Bay Area. Video footage from that evening at the Winterland Gardens shows a distinctly unimpressed (and amphetamine-fuelled) Johnny Rotten snarling contemptuously at the American audience, inspiring the infamous career-defining farewell of ‘Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?’9 after the plug was pulled on what was a disastrous and sonically awful gig. That the Pistols showed such disdain for their hosts is unsurprising, yet ironic, considering that the band were on the cusp of ‘breaking’ the tough American market. However, the gig itself is remarkable not only insofar as it marked the last concert of the inadvertent flag-bearers of punk rock (not including their numerous cynical ‘reunion’ tours), but also in that it effectively marked the birth of American hardcore punk. Many of the biggest players in US punk rock were present that night, including Jello Biafra, front man of wildly popular San Francisco insurrectionists The Dead Kennedys, and Darby Crash, the infamously deranged, and now deceased, front man for LA punks The Germs. Biafra would later claim that he formed the Dead Kennedys straight after the concert. Thus began the long and arduous road for independent underground punk rock in the USA.

While punk rock had spread throughout the United Kingdom like wildfire, thanks in no small part to the tabloid hysteria in the wake of the Pistols’ appearance on ‘The Bill Grundy Show’ and the subsequent furore over their album Never Mind The Bollocks and, more specifically, the God Save The Queen single reaching number one in the charts on the week of the Queen’s silver jubilee in May 1977, the seeds of punk took a little longer to germinate across the Atlantic. In terms of pure size and geography, the UK is a much easier market to break. Metropolitan London gave birth to the first wave of UK punk, which quickly spread to the provinces of the United Kingdom. With such a centralised scene, and subsequent press coverage, it is comparatively easy for a young band of upstarts to create a buzz within the music scene; such is its relatively small scale. While punk in the UK was still seen as a form of rebellion, it had largely faded from mainstream consciousness by 1979, by virtue of the Sex Pistols’ split and The Clash largely relocating to the USA. The major labels were quick to sign even the most rudimentary of bands in an effort to cash-in on the popularity of the scene. Inevitably, most subsequent releases, while providing the occasional sonic thrill, failed to re-ignite the original excitement. With the demise of the Pistols, the mainstream media became increasingly apathetic. With the leading lights of the scene having either broken up or virtually invisible within the UK, and with no focal point or farce to document, the press quickly moved onto ‘the next big thing’. With the tabloid excitement came great exposure, but with punk now back on the margins of the mainstream, there were many more punks to get actively involved in the punk scene.

The underground network of active punk scenes in the UK, with their own local zines, record stores and venues, meant that it was relatively easy to book a tour, get in the van and take the music to disparate parts of the UK. Tours were largely booked by telephone after gleaning contact information from a fanzine or record sleeve. Indeed, a full UK tour may consist of perhaps no more than 16 shows, covering all four countries in the union (although Northern Ireland was notoriously intolerant of punk shows)10. In terms of size, touring the UK is easier than touring the USA, and this is also true of the network of punks and record labels throughout the country, in that the UK had already (somewhat) established an underground network. Comparatively speaking, the UK punks had it a lot easier then their American counterparts, at least after the underground movement moved into the tabloid world. Punk bands were being played on Top of the Pops and what had begun as a revolutionary movement was beginning to be swallowed whole by the mainstream, eventually becoming adopted as little more than a fashion accessory. This alienated many of the original voices within the scene. In the United States, however, there was no support network for discordant, noisy, revolutionary punk rock bands, no national newspaper coverage and no centralised metropolitan music scene to inspire the youth to pick up guitars and scream their lungs out. With such a massive geographic scale, the first US punk bands had a massive struggle on their hands. However, the US punk bands took inspiration from their UK counterparts and began to forge a scene of their own, removed from the acceptability of the mainstream American music scene.

The Black Flag Effect

Initially, there were very few outlets for punk music in the USA. All the main characters in the scene had been brought up on the same dinosaur rock so loathed by the Sex Pistols and company. It is no surprise that the American indie movement was kick-started in California. Both San Francisco and Los Angeles became central hubs for US punk rock, with the clubs of Santa Monica Boulevard such as the Whisky-A-Go-Go and the Stardust Ballroom hosting punk rock shows, although these concerts often ended with an eruption of violence and the inevitable clashes between the Anglophile LA punks and the notoriously intolerant LAPD. The genesis of the US punk scene was directly influenced by UK punk, with The Clash becoming icons of the movement, although there was still a scarcity of punk publications in the US and outwith San Francisco and LA, it was virtually impossible to hear about punk, let alone hear punk rock records. However, some of the dominant music magazines of the day had begun to cover UK punk, including such titles as Creem and Crawdaddy. In the case Mike Watt of the Minutemen, a three-piece band from the poor Los Angeles suburb of Pedro, California, the coverage in these magazines of bands like The Clash and The Ramones (who had been spiritually adopted by the UK) was nothing short of a revelatory;

“The journalists had a big effect on us…it was a world of ideas…There
were pictures of these guys for a few months before we heard the records
and they had these modern haircuts and everything. And it blew our minds when we first heard the actual music. We thought it was going to be synthesizers and modern shit. But it wasn’t modern. It turned out to be guitar music like The Who! That’s what blew our minds. When we heard that, we said, ‘We can do this!’”11

It was this DIY approach that influenced them to start their band and get out on the road, despite being completely ignorant of the world outside the suburbs. By playing punk rock, completely out of step with the fashions of the day, the Minutemen and countless other bands began to carve a niche within the bloated American rock music market. This growth, however, would have been impossible without the pioneering vision of Greg Ginn, guitarist and head honcho of notorious LA hardcore punks Black Flag. Ginn, with his band and his record label, SST, would become the initial torchbearers of US punk, and any analysis of the movement would be impossible without making reference to the pioneering practices of Black Flag and SST.

Ginn had little interest in rock music as a child, but he already had an active interest in self-publishing and mail order business, having started The Novice, a fanzine concerned with the development and growth of local radio stations. He also founded Solid State Tuners (SST would be the name of his future record label), a mail order business concerning the sale and trade of modified World War Two army surplus radio equipment. This small but thriving business would be run by Ginn well into his twenties. While this would initially appear to have very little to do with the development of punk rock, indeed, Ginn himself had yet to hear of this exciting new phenomenon, it did ignite the DIY desire in the youngster, a sense of self-sufficiency that would serve him well in later years. He was turned onto punk rock after reading an issue of New York magazine The Village Voice, a left-wing avant-garde publication produced by a variety of hipsters and writers, profiling the rise of a new musical phenomenon coming out of clubs like CBGB’s and Max’s Kansas City. He ordered “Little Johnny Jewel” by Television from tiny independent label Ork Records and, like many first wave punks, it was seeing The Ramones perform that served as his revelation. The rush of speed experienced at the concert inspired Ginn to ditch his attempts at playing folk rock and hook up with some friends to make noisy, discordant punk music. This marked the birth of Black Flag, the expansion of SST into music and, by proxy, the birth of American Hardcore. SST became a record label out of necessity, as opposed to an ideological choice, and Black Flag became a hardcore punk band by virtue of their limited musicianship, not some stylistic decision.

While independent record labels in the USA are nothing new; legendary record labels such as Motown, Stax, Sun and Atlantic were all once independent before being swallowed up by corporate behemoths, the majority of US indie labels were concerned with one-off releases by obscure artists. However, it was SST that first pioneered the idea of an independent label as an end in itself, whose sole purpose was to release challenging music from a host of disassociated artists from across the country. Taking its cue from the pioneering English record labels like Stiff and Chiswick, Greg Ginn (and others) realised that producing a record was as easy as saving enough money to call the record pressing plant and getting the records manufactured. This broke barriers, meaning that people of independent spirit could avoid commercial compromise by putting out records themselves. Indeed, if it were not for SST and the other emergent independent record labels, there is every chance that this remarkable music would never have been heard except in the seedy clubs of LA and San Francisco, as no major record label would think of touching a record as visceral as Black Flag’s seminal Nervous Breakdown EP.

Around the same time that SST began to produce and promote records, the infrastructure of underground punk rock in the US began to germinate. Three of the most important fanzines, “house organs of the indie scene”12, Slash, Flipside and Maximumrocknroll, all appeared in California at around the same time. Radio DJ Rodney Bingenheimer of KROQ, the biggest rock music radio station in California, began to play records from California punk bands as soon as he could get the records, which were still in very short supply. This growing appetite for punk rock was satiated with the emergence of a sprawling collective of fanzines, underground and college radio stations, ‘mom-and-pop’ record stores and independent distributors and record labels. These networks, however, were not forged overnight and it took the entrepreneurial and Herculean effort of the likes of Greg Ginn to create a kind of underground cultural railroad;

“In an age of big entertainment conglomerates/big management/big media,touring the lowest-rent rock clubs of America in an Econoline is the equivalent of fighting a ground war strategy in an age of strategic nuclear forces.”13

Black Flag would tour relentlessly around the States in support of the Nervous Breakdown EP. Through coverage in the various fanzines and college radio’s syndication of the Rodney on the ROQ radio show, Black Flag had struck up relationships with the Dead Kennedys in San Francisco and D.O.A, a hardcore punk band from Vancouver, British Columbia. Together the three bands would tour the west coast. The influence of the radio show and the early LA fanzines cannot be understated. This kind of networking and exposure was crucial in developing a community and an audience for abrasive hardcore punk with progressive politics. This, combined with their relentless touring schedule, helped Black Flag develop a small following throughout the country. Those involved in the punk scene in the various regions of the west coast were eager to help, as it was mutually beneficial to do so. The bands would share contacts and what they learned out on the road, arranging gig swaps and sharing war stories (and inevitably consuming vast amounts of beer).

By finding new places to play and sharing the information, it opened up more avenues for punk shows. All the bands were interested in finding more places to play and, in return, they would help out the out-of-town bands when they rolled into their hometown. The bands would also inevitably sell each other’s records while out on the road. This practice would later become most common; indeed, it would be most unusual to attend a hardcore show without seeing a distribution table. Selling records, fanzines and T-Shirts was how bands made their money on the road. This was a safer option than relying on cowboy promoters or disgruntled bar owners to pay the bands (which was not uncommon – some bands booked their shows under false pretences while other times the venues were destroyed). The audience for hardcore punk was generally younger and, therefore, it wasn’t commercially enticing for bar owners to let punk bands use their venues as they wouldn’t make profits on selling alcohol. This would prompt bands to play all-ages shows at every available opportunity, even if this meant performing two sets; one for the youngsters and one for the drinkers. These younger fans, however, were generally more motivated than their elders, most of whom had grown up at the tail end of the hippie dream and were jaded by the excess of 70s stadium rock. These same young fans would form their own bands and create their own zines. Zines would spring up all over the country, covering not only Black Flag but the bands that they inspired, helping to create a network of punk bands and fans throughout the nation, meaning that other bands could follow the trail that Black Flag blazed.

While the Dead Kennedys and D.O.A were cut from the same sonic and philosophical cloth (fast, loud, aggressive punk with progressive left-wing political views – “Holidays In Cambodia“, “California Uber Alles“), Black Flag were by far the most adventurous and aggressive when it came to touring. They were the first to tour all the way out to the east coast and in December 1980, they arrived in Washington D.C. At the time, Ian MacKaye (front man of DC straight-edge punk heroes Minor Threat and owner of Dischord Records), having read an review of Nervous Breakdown in Slash, acquired himself a copy from the SST mail order catalogue and went to see the band at the legendary 9.30 Club. Mail order was a particularly effective means of distributing records, as it required no payments for space in a record store, cut out the ’middle man’ in terms of paying a third-party company to distribute the records, and they could also heavily promote new and up-coming SST releases by including new and updated catalogues for the readers’ delectation. Their in-house fanzine was also distributed this way, including news on all upcoming releases and scheduled tour dates. The mail order method also allowed people from all over the world to access the records and contributed significantly to the network of contacts throughout the country. Indeed, it was after selling records through mail order that Black Flag were invited to England for their first tour in January 1981, which turned into an utter disaster. Back in Washington D.C, after meeting the band and watching their performance at the 9.30 Club, Ian MacKaye formed Minor Threat and started Dischord Records, a label that has been putting out records of an exceptionally high standard for over 20 years.

In January 1982, Black Flag would issue what would later be seen as the seminal hardcore punk record, Damaged. Merging the sonic blitzkrieg of their earlier material and the animalistic horror-filled vocal styling of front man Henry Rollins, Black Flag created one of the most violent and exhilarating records ever released, hardcore or otherwise. The subject area was familiar; police harassment (which was common at punk shows), materialism, alcohol abuse, the stultifying effects of consumer culture and, on just about every track, a particularly violent strain of lacerating self-hatred. It was at this point that the band began to make further inroads into the world of relative acceptability. The record was picked up by Rolling Stone magazine, a publication more au fait with the likes of Deep Purple and their stadium rock ilk. The L.A Times also picked up on the disturbing violence of the record, which was explained in the characteristic matter-of-fact tones of Greg Ginn: “People work all day and they want a release. They want a way to deal with all the frustrations that build up. We try to provide that in our music.”14

Black Flag and SST were the pioneers of underground hardcore punk in the USA. Their influence is visible throughout the worldwide punk scene today and they have sold more records since their dissolution in 1986. They inspired people across the country to start their own bands, fanzines and record labels. Jello Biafra was moved to start Alternative Tentacles, his own fanzine and record label used as a vehicle to promote his band The Dead Kennedys. The band and the label would later gain a degree of mainstream notoriety after the release of the Dead Kennedys’ Frankenchrist album in 1985, which included a gatefold poster of the Penis Landscape, a controversial painting by progressive visual artist H.R Geiger. The controversy and subsequent court cases, brought on by the PMRC (Parents Music Resource Centre), the right-wing conservative think-tank headed by Tipper Gore, almost crippled the label and led to the break-up of the band, who were one of the most powerful and influential voices within the punk scene. However, the irony of an anti-capitalist band breaking up over financial irregularities cannot be ignored. Alternative Tentacles, while no longer existent in traditional fanzine form, is still releasing challenging records by challenging bands, most notably 2004’s release of Fuck World Trade by New York’s Leftover Crack. By engineering relationships with fanzine writers and DIY promoters throughout the country, Black Flag created a support network for underground punk bands that is still in evidence today.

California’s Burning – Key Zines

As we have seen, California was a key territory in the evolution of underground hardcore punk. With its history of activism and huge population, California would seem to be a natural home for the malcontents and agitators so active within the scene. As such, it logically follows that some of the most popular and influential of all US fanzines were started in California.

The influence of the early UK fanzines such as Sniffin Glue was massive. Producing a zine was so simple, all one needed was an idea and a photocopier, that people began publishing zines all over the country. The cut and paste technique gave people all over the country the opportunity to have their voices and play an active role within the punk scene. With a population as large as the United States, zines became an essential means of communication between the various pockets of punks and groups throughout the provinces of the US.

Flipside

Flipside fanzine played an integral part in the evolution of LA hardcore punk and alternative music. It was one of the biggest zines and also one of the first zines to gain nationwide distribution. Bands from California would take copies of the zine to sell on the road. It was also one of the first to feature bands from across the States, especially those that were affiliated with SST, particularly New York’s Sonic Youth, as opposed to concentrating solely on the happenings in its own locality. It was published in LA from 1977-2001 and featured all of the important and influential punk bands to come out of LA and the surrounding areas. They were one of the main supporters of Black Flag in the early days and provided them with all-important press coverage, as they were virtually ignored by the mainstream music press. Indeed, as one of the longest running and most influential of all US punk fanzines, Flipside would extensively chronicle the world of independent and underground music throughout its lifespan. The inspiration for the zine came, like many others, as direct result of dissatisfaction with the commercial rock world.

“We were bored with corporate rock and looking for something new, so
when Lester Bangs started ranting and raving about The Ramones, we sat
up and took notice. At the same time, Rodney On The ROQ offered us a
glimpse of an exciting alternative music springing up outside of our safe
little suburban existence.”15

As is the case of most fanzines, the writers of Flipside were often as passionate and opinionated as the bands and the punks that they catered for, and were not afraid of causing controversy with their coverage of the issues that affected the punk scene, be it the continually violent clashes with the LAPD, the rise of the Neo-Nazi or ‘White Power’ skinhead punk scene or the castigation of bands that strayed from the independent music scene into the murky world of the major labels (although this really wasn’t an issue until the early 1990s). The fanzine not only gave coverage to obscure and small bands, but acted as a forum for discussion for participants in the scene, dedicating vast sections of the publication to readers’ letters and the inevitable replies that would follow in subsequent issues. The issues covered were not limited to punk rock, extending to a wide and diverse subject matter such as the UFO phenomenon, the prevalence of drug use/abuse within the scene, literature and independent film.

During its lifespan, Flipside would frequently produce their own records and issued releases from a number of bands including Doggy Style, Sluts For Hire and Popdefect. While these bands are undoubtedly obscure to even those deeply involved with the scene, their existence would have slipped by unnoticed save for those who saw them perform live had Flipside not immortalised them in print and on vinyl. Both the fanzine and the records are a fascinating snapshot of the time. Such is the immediacy of response of the zine, and its quick publication turn-around, the commentary contained within was relevant immediately to what was happening in the scene at the time. This process of documentation not only captures some fantastic music, but also shows the changing values and ideas. As the scene grew, with more bands forming and more people getting involved, the zine not only played a crucial role by distributing important information about the scene; from record reviews, interviews with the bands and gig dates, but also provided a forum for the discussion of punk ideology. While to state that there is one unifying punk ideology would be folly, the pages of the zine were filled with theoretical and philosophical debates, often inflammatory, about what does or does not constitute ‘punk’. These arguments were often without foundation and more resembled transcripts of a naïve hypothetical argument, but that was beside the point. The point was that the dialogue was there and the zine provided the forum for these discussions long before the dawn of the internet chat room. Crucially, Flipside also contained reviews and contact information of other fanzines from around the country, encouraging its readers to seek out these zines in order to generate a greater understanding of the intricacies and nuances of the nationwide scene. These connections would prove invaluable when it came to organising tours and promoting records, as most zines would happily offer cheap advertising space to independent labels. Coverage for bands in these zines was also essential, as a good review in Flipside would virtually guarantee a receptive audience in whichever town they happened to roll into.

Flipside was not only active in providing a forum, promoting new music and releasing records. They also organised shows and were active in supporting, and encouraging others to participate in, such charitable causes as Food Not Bombs.16 During the mid 1990s, they also organised and hosted a series of festivals in the depths of the Mojave Desert, featuring bands that they themselves released as well as a number of leading lights from the burgeoning underground scene.

Perhaps most famously (and most sought after by collectors and aficionados), they also release the Flipside Video Fanzine series which featured rare and unseen live footage of such hardcore luminaries as Black Flag, X, Social Distortion, TSOL (True Sounds of Liberty) and Agent Orange. The label would later fund and release Stereopathetic Soulmanure, the first full-length album from Beck, who would later go on and sell millions of records for major label Geffen Records. Interestingly, Flipside were never paid for their efforts in producing the album and resulted in a big loss for the label, putting further strain on the already over-worked and understaffed fanzine. The rights to the back catalogue recordings were eventually bought by Geffen.

The zine itself ceased publishing in 2001 due to financial problems and a protracted legal battle with their distributor, Rotz Records. It had grown from a small DIY photocopied fanzine into something more resembling the commercial music magazines they so decried in the first instance. This is unsurprising, as changes in the cultural climate and the expectant standards of the consumer are inevitable. It also reflected the changing state of the punk scene. In the late 1970s and 1980s, making a career out of something as anti-establishment and commercially unviable as punk rock was nothing more unimaginable. In 2008, punk bands are used to sell video games and participate in tours sponsored by beer companies and car manufacturers. In the end, the zine struggled to cope with the financial pressures of being a widely-read DIY publication in an evolving cultural landscape. However, what started as a photocopied zine and evolved into a half-glossy, semi-professional publication had faithfully served the punk and alternative music scene in LA for 24 years. For its rabid and faithful readership, it was a disappointment, the end of an era and a footnote in punk rock history.

Following the demise of Flipside, staff writer Todd Taylor went onto start Razorcake zine, first published in 2001. At this point, with the growth of the internet and the increasing availability of digital media, the DIY scene was increasingly being viewed as too ideological and too much hard work. With this notion in mind, Taylor went about creating an ideologically and economically sound publication covering the DIY punk scene throughout the world. Razorcake, along with its parent company Gorsky Press, pride themselves on their hard work and high quality products. Gorsky Press has published twenty books since 2001, covering a wide genre range from short stories and novels to science fiction and poetry, and the fanzine has published forty-two issues since it first went to press. To quote Todd Taylor;

“It’s all about self-sustainability. Being DIY is a political act in itself.
Independent distributors are being swallowed up by the corporations,
Like how (Razorcake distributor) Lumberjack was swallowed up by Warners. Publishing the zine is an end in itself; it’s about reactingto the wider cultural blindness and creating a positive perception.We have become a nationwide punk rock family. We are real people involved in a real culture.”17

Maximumrocknroll

Maximunrocknroll started life as a punk rock radio show hosted by Tim Yohannon in the politically active college town of Berkeley, California and has now grown into the biggest punk rock fanzine in the world. Indeed, if such an idea wasn’t considered anathema in the punk scene, it could be interpreted as being the voice of punk authority (this view is not without controversy, as I shall explore further). The show was one of the first punk radio shows to be broadcast, along with Rodney on the ROQ, is a widely considered to be the best of all time. “Tim (Yo!) and the Gang” played all the latest punk and hardcore records they could get their hands on from all across the world and the United States, as well as records from the plethora of new punk bands from the bustling East Bay scene. Tim would be regularly joined in the studio by a variety of colourful East Bay punk personalities such as Jello Biafra and would feature whatever touring bands happened to be passing through the area, the list of whom reads like a ‘who’s who’ of US punk bands. The show was most notable for its coverage of the international scene, which was rare at a time when most zines and radio shows were concerned with what was happening locally. The show became hugely successful in California and was eventually syndicated across the vast American college radio network, which was essential in order to break new territories across the country. Pioneering Radio One DJ John Peel would introduce many of the bands featured on the show such as The Circle Jerks, Millions of Dead Cops and The Dead Kennedys to a UK audience that would never had heard them otherwise, except for reading about them in the zines.

Maximumrocknroll is best known in its fanzine form, first published by Tim Yohannon. It first appeared in print as the newsprint booklet contained in Not So Quiet on the Western Front, a 47-song compilation album of Nevada and California punk bands released by Alternative Tentacles in 1982. While this album is long out of print, it created a massive buzz within the US punk scene and turned thousands of youths onto the virtues of hardcore punk. These same listeners became the first readers of the zine, opening up a dialogue that continues apace today. The zine is distributed monthly and is operated on a non-for-profit basis and all money goes straight back into the production of the zine or to charitable causes that the zine supports. Maximumrocknroll has a large and dedicated staff of writers, reviewers and editors that work on a volunteer basis, and this reinforces the values of the punk underground by remaining staunchly independent in a time where many underground music magazines are being swallowed up by major media conglomerates. Many of the articles are submitted by readers themselves, such as interviews with touring bands from around the world and their acclaimed series of ‘Scene Reports’. These are features written by readers from around the world detailing the happenings in their local punk scene, regardless of geography. The submissions are accepted from all over the world, bringing together news from scenes as distant as Malaysia, Eastern Europe, Japan, South Africa and, indeed, anywhere where there is an active punk scene. In this sense, Maximumrocknroll is truly revolutionary and a worldwide phenomenon, opening doors for bands and fans from all over the globe to make connections and share discussions. These scene reports keep the worldwide punk scene connected. Crucially for many smaller zines, Maximumrocknroll also carries reviews of zines from around the world. While the reviews are far from universally complimentary, the mere fact that the zine is mentioned is guaranteed to attract interest from other readers. This would become a trend; a good review of a band was guaranteed to prompt more people to check the band out, thus generating interest and helping the cause of the band. As such, the cycle continued and the scene would continue to grow.

The zine is notoriously independent-minded and operates a policy of not giving coverage to, nor accepting submissions or advertising, from any bands associated with or recording for major record labels. This policy was soon extended to bands that were signed to an independent label that had any kind of distribution deal with a major label, or bands that were signed to an independent subsidiary of a major label. This has caused much controversy throughout the years, most notably in the case of Green Day, who went from independent punk heroes to social pariahs after signing to major label imprint Reprise Records to release their third (and hugely successful) album Dookie in 1994. Green Day’s meteoric rise to mainstream chart success brought the inevitable independent backlash, but it also attracted thousands of youngsters to the day-glo delights of the buzzing Bay Area punk scene. This was of little consequence to Maximumrocknroll, however, as while Green Day had strayed little from the sonic blueprints of buzz saw guitars and poppy melodies, they had forsaken their independent roots and were now considered the enemy. This had led to accusations of elitism in the punk scene, a charge that Maximumrocknroll accepts and appears to wear as a badge of pride.

The case of Green Day acted as a catalyst for the massive explosion of interest in the punk scene. Like the phenomenal success of Nirvana’s major label debut Nevermind, the quality of the music came secondary to the arguments and accusations of ’selling out’. This explosion in punk’s popularity in the early 1990s is a direct echo of what happened in the late 1970s in the UK, with major labels descending upon Berkeley in search of the ‘new Green Day’. While there were some fine punk bands signed to major labels as a direct consequence of this new interest, such as The Mr. T Experience (who would play arenas supporting Green Day in 1995) and Jawbreaker, very few found themselves experiencing the same kind of commercial success as Green Day and were hurriedly dropped by their record labels once the executives realised they couldn’t make millions out of DIY punk bands.

Regardless of the ideological debate, the fact remains that Green Day’s success led to the punk scene exploding and becoming a mainstream concern. The underground zines, Maximumrocknroll and Flipside included, set about turning this now-found interest into something positive for the scene. For many years, Maximumrocknroll turned a healthy profit, although most of this money was invested in community projects, most famously the ‘Gilman Street Project’, which founded 924 Gilman Street, one of the most important and longest-running punk rock clubs in the world.. The club operates a strict all-ages policy and serves only soft drinks, not allowing for the sale or consumption of alcohol. The Gilman Street staff are all volunteers and are paid with a percentage of door takings. Also, tickets for the shows are never more than $5, regardless of whether there are touring bands or a host of local bands on the bill. The zine also poured thousands of dollars into ‘The Epicenter Zone’, an independent record stores and gig space for punk bands in San Francisco, and hundreds of other community projects and activist groups around the world. Following the death of Tim Yohannon in 1998, the zine has continued to operate with essentially the same manifesto and economic principles. While there have been umpteen different content coordinators and editors, Maximumrocknroll continues to provide in-depth and up-to-date analysis of the worldwide punk scene in its 164 page monthly publications.

While being a bastion of the DIY punk ethic, Maximumrocknroll has not escaped without criticism for those involved in the scene. The zine distributes more than 60,000 copies every month and the growth in size and readership has often caused controversy. The zine has been accused to narrow-mindedness and elitism in respect to its editorial policy, causing some record labels to boycott taking out advertising with the publication and refusing to send new releases for review. These criticisms, however, would seem to be somewhat inefficient, as for every label that feels at odds with MMR ideologically, there are a number of other tiny record labels vying for the advertising space and exposure that this affords their bands.

Also, the spectre of ‘punk authority’ hangs over Maximumrocknroll. In a scene that is supposedly so anti-authoritarian and anti-institutional, it has been criticised for being the authoritarian voice of punk rock. However, this proved to be another evolution in the dialogue of punk ideology, for the criticism of Maximumrocknroll spawned the creation of Punk Planet and HeartattaCk fanzines. Both of these publications stand in direct contrast to the idea of authority within the punk scene and have provided useful and candid commentary on the evolution of the scene and the ideas contained within it. They argue that the narrow definition of what constitutes punk and DIY by Maximumrocknroll is tantamount to a new form of political correctness. Musicians have also found themselves fighting back against the moral proclamations of the fanzine. Jello Biafra, previously a darling of the zine, was attacked at 924 Gilman Street during a performance in 1994 and claims that those involved were influenced by the defamatory comments made about him in a previous issue. Green Day maintained a dignified silence after the toilets were spray-painted with the words “Billie Joe Must Die”. However, they have since reconciled with the venue and the Gilman Street Project and recently bought them a new PA system before a gig by frontman Billie Joe Armstrong’s side project, Pinhead Gunpowder.18

Sub Pop and the Seattle Grunge Explosion

Subterranean Pop was the fanzine started by a student named Bruce Pavitt from Park Forest, Illinois. In 1980, after moving to the college town of Olympia, Washington, and working as intern at college radio station KAOS and it’s sister newsletter publication OP, Pavitt decided to launch his own fanzine in collaboration with new friend Calvin Johnson. The fanzine was originally designed to fulfill an outstanding college credit, but would go on to have a massive cultural impact worldwide. Like many fanzines, the life of Sub Pop was short. While there were only ever nine issues, three of these came in the form of compilation cassette tapes, featuring bands from the local scene with the printed zine folded up as the cassette inlay card. This was a practice pioneered by Alternative Tentacles and would remain popular throughout the 1980-90s. Sub Pop (the title was shortened after the first issue) would play a pivotal role in bringing underground punk into the consciousness of the mainstream by being the first fanzine and record label to bring attention to a band from the Pacific Northwest called Nirvana. In 1983, Pavitt moved to Seattle, Washington and Sub Pop continued as a column in city newspaper The Rocket and branched out as a speciality music show on the KCMU college radio network in Seattle.

Sub Pop would focus exclusively on independent underground rock from throughout the USA and was one of the first to view the growing underground network of bands, fanzines, college radio stations and clubs as a burgeoning underground phenomenon. While the scenes in LA, New York and San Francisco, all sprawling urban landscapes and hives of cultural activity, were well-documented by innumerable fanzine and writers, Pavitt was determined to create a “decentralised cultural network” of like-minded people in the provinces of the States outside of what he called “the corporate manipulation of our culture”.19 The Pacific Northwest has always held a strong tradition of independent rock, from 1960s garage rockers like The Sonics and The Kingsmen, but also had a strong relationship with hardcore punk. Perhaps due to geographic and cultural isolation, Seattle harboured a sense of artistic freedom, with the local press and radio stations happy to get involved and support the local scene. Local radio station KJET-AM would regularly play demos from local bands alongside the usual raft of mainstream commercial rock music. Several key punk record stores were happy to take 7-inch singles and demo tapes from bands on consignment. Pavitt himself would play a key role as a clerk at Bomb Shelter Records as well as overseeing the release of an EP from local visionaries The U-Men. The record swiftly sold out of its 1000-copy press run, setting the tone for Pavitt and his hyperbolic involvement in raising awareness of the scene. Local fanzine Backlash, printed in newsprint style by Dawn Anderson, provided comprehensive coverage of the area’s live scene and upcoming record releases. Outside of the metropolitan urban centres, Seattle boasted one of the closest-knit and productive underground scenes in the country. With this in mind, the next obvious step in the evolution of Pavitt’s Sub Pop was to release records from local bands.

Pavitt was keenly aware of the importance of regional identity. LA was synonymous with the hardcore blitzkrieg of Black Flag, the East Bay with buzz saw pop-punk and thrash metal, New York with art-rock and hipster bands, and Texas with the acid-fried desert rock from the likes of the Butthole Surfers. These scenes were represented by their own localised network of fanzines, venues and labels, creating a sense of identity and unity. As such, Pavitt was determined to carve a local identity for the Seattle scene. This definition of the ’Seattle sound’ or ’mountain-man rock’ would eventually explode into mainstream consciousness as the world’s music media descended upon Seattle in the early 1990s as part of the ’grunge explosion’, following Nirvana’s major label sales success. Pavitt was methodical when considering the aesthetics of the zine and the label. Everything from cover artwork to promotional materials and band photography was manipulated in the same monochrome cut and paste visual style, with the label’s logo featuring prominently. This gave the zine and the label its unique identity. In much the same way as a good review from Maximumrocknroll will guarantee interest or a record released on the universally-respected Dischord label (home of Minor Threat, Fugazi and more) will find an audience, this identity served as indicator of independent authenticity and quality. This was branding; Pavitt was effectively using major label marketing skills and applying them to the world of underground punk.

Sub Pop’s first release was a compilation 12-ich LP called Sub Pop 100 and featured local luminaries such as Green River (members of whom would later form the multi-million selling behemoth Pearl Jam). It was released in 1986 and is now considered an essential document in underground history. The fanzine then turned into a fully-fledged record label with the release of Soundgarden’s Screaming Life EP in 1987. However, what marked Sub Pop out as being unique in the independent landscape was not only their adherence to a strict aesthetic identity, but their pioneering Sub Pop Singles Club mail order service. Fans could subscribe to the club and receive monthly 7-inch singles from the newest Sub Pop bands. This would prove remarkably efficient as subscription fees were paid upfront on an annual basis, giving the label the capital necessary to record and press the singles before sending them out. This also guaranteed a captive audience for new bands and developed a market for Sub Pop products, as well as going further in establishing the ‘Seattle sound’. Seattle would go on to become synonymous with Sub Pop, much as the sound of Motown Records had come to define the sound of Detroit in the 1960s. The first single to be released by the Singles Club was “Love Buzz/Big Cheese”, the debut single from Nirvana20. The series continued in its original incarnation until 1993, when financial pressures on the label necessitated its demise. The club was reintroduced as Singles Club V.2 in 1998, but was discontinued in 2002.

Nirvana was the most successful of the Sub Pop bands. After releasing their debut album Bleach, which cost only $600 to record, they were signed to a major label record deal by Geffen Records. Bruce Pavitt was largely responsible for the subsequent boom of interest in the Seattle music scene as he had spent a considerable amount of time, resources and money in romancing the British music press, which he saw as infinitely more influential than the underground network in the US. As such, Sub Pop flew Melody Maker journalist Everret True to Seattle so he could see the burgeoning Seattle scene for himself. Consequently, the ‘Seattle sound’ found fame worldwide with the birth of ‘grunge’, a term employed to describe not only the dirty, fuzz box-driven noise of the music but also the attendant lifestyle. By courting the major labels and corporate music press, Pavitt was not only raising awareness of the underground scene in Seattle, but bringing attention to the underground network nationwide. This would cause a great deal of controversy, especially within the more militant publications such as Maximumrocknroll.

Nirvana’s second album, Nevermind, was released by Geffen on September 24, 1991. This day can be seen as the beginning of the end of the underground scene as it existed throughout the 1970s, 80s and early 1990s. Nirvana’s sound, a blend of raging hardcore punk and Beatles-esque pop sensibilities, was the perfect antidote to the bland commercial hair metal so popular in the early 1990s. The album topped the Billboard 100 music charts within weeks of its release, spurned by the continual airplay of lead single ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ on both commercial and college radio stations and the continuous rotation of the music video on MTV. Nevermind knocked Michael Jackson off the top of the charts, a sea-change for the underground scene. Echoing the major label scrambling of late-1970s London, the major labels descended upon Seattle like cultural vultures searching for the ‘next Nirvana’. Suddenly, after years of struggling to develop an underground network underneath the mainstream radar, ‘alternative’ rock was everywhere. Rolling Stone magazine was paying attention, thus bringing the underground to mainstream attention all over the country. Independent rock suddenly became a profitable proposition, in direct juxtaposition to the previously held ideals of independent rock; that it was economically and commercially hopeless, but was a necessity fuelled by passion and an impeccable DIY ethic, that it was about art for art’s sake. To quote Steve Albini, sought-after producer of Nirvana’s last album In Utero, as well as countless others, from an interview in Punk Planet zine;

“I saw a lot of friends and acquaintances turn their bands which were
previously something that they did out of passion into a shot at small
business…In the course of doing it, they ended up hating their bands
in the way hate I used to hate my job, because it became something
that they had to do: it was an obligation.”21

Since the explosion of grunge and Nirvana becoming household names, there underground rock scene has changed considerably. Sub Pop signed a distribution agreement with the Warner Music Group Corporation in 1993 and has made millions of dollars from their agreement with Geffen Records for the rights to Nirvana’s debut album. Warner also owns a 49% share in Sub Pop, so it is a matter of some debate whether it can be strictly considered an independent label or not. The label continues to put out records to this day, having success with indie bands such as The Postal Service and The Shins in the new millennium. None of these bands, however, have scaled the dizzy commercial heights attained by Nirvana throughout the 1990s.

The Aftermath

After Nirvana burst the indie glass ceiling and became the poster boys for the newly-christened genre of ‘alternative rock’, the world of underground punk was forever changed. Previously, nobody in the scene had considered underground punk as a viable career path. Instead it was a labour of love, a necessity to fulfill a deep personal desire for self-expression. Indeed, sometimes it was just for the love of chaos and the lack of anything better to do. Fanzines supported local independent bands and national touring bands. Bands like Black Flag were idolised within the scene, not because of status but because of desire and sheer determination. What bonded the scene together was its sense of community. Within a particular locality, everybody knew who published the fanzines, who put on the shows, who ran the local DIY label, who the bands were. Once the mainstream began to take notice, however, this sense of community began to fade. The desire to affect personal change and create a sense of unity was replaced by the desire to make money and gratify egos. Glossy music magazines, such as Rolling Stone and the New York hipster publication Spin in the US and NME, Sounds and Melody Maker in the UK, all corporate-owned publications, began to feature ‘underground’ rock. The bands that singed to major labels quickly became over-exposed, thanks to blanket coverage on MTV, previously unimaginable marketing budgets and slick radio-friendly production. This led to cries of ‘sell-out’ from the fanzines and fans that had been part of the underground infrastructure. The ‘major versus indie’ debate is one that has raged for years, ever since the first wave of UK punk rock exploded in the late 1970s. Many fanzines, Maximumrocknroll in particular, would dedicate much of their editorial space to reader’s letters concerning authenticity and credibility. These two qualities would become the yardstick by which all bands and records would be judged in the post-explosion cultural climate; whatever the consequences of the explosion, underground punk would never be quite the same again.

Chapter Three – Evolution: From Zine To E-Zine

By the mid-1990s, underground ‘alternative’ rock was everywhere, from heavy rotation on MTV to the airwaves of commercial radio in both the US and the UK. Punk had officially come over ground and was enjoying commercial success. While punk had experienced a degree of commercial success in the UK during its first wave in the late 1970s, this was the first time that punk had pierced mainstream consciousness in the US (perhaps due to their lack of red-topped sensationalist tabloid newspapers) and was enjoying a cultural renaissance in the UK. The suicide of Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain on April 5th, 1994, undoubtedly cast a long in the scene. Underground rock had been ignored by the mainstream for over a decade before Nirvana broke the metaphorical glass ceiling, but by 1994 it was inescapable. Green Day’s Dookie went onto sell millions of records and Los Angeles-based independent punk label Epitaph went on to platinum success with a number of bands, including such indie punk stalwarts as Rancid, NOFX and Bad Religion. Smash, the third album from Orange County punks The Offspring went onto sell in excess of 14 million copies (and is still selling to this day) and is still recognised as the biggest-selling independent album of all time.

Other independent labels have continued to thrive throughout the last decade, including Household Name Records in the UK and No Idea Records in the USA, a label based in Gainsville, Florida. The label, like many, started as a zine in 1986 and started as a label by putting out a complication cassette of local bands. No Idea has been home to some of the most successful punk bands of the last ten years, including Hot Water Music and Against Me!, and hosts The Fest, an annual three-day festival in celebration of all aspects of underground punk rock culture. As well as a multitude of concerts, there are also numerous workshops with activities such as screen-printing, ‘How To..’ seminars, zine symposiums, question-and-answer sessions, tenpin bowling and more, as well as much partying. These activities encourage active participation in the scene and serves to bring the community closer together.

As the 1990s wore on, punk became so ingrained within the mainstream that it became easy to see it as just another sub-genre of commercial rock. However, with the dawn of the internet came a renaissance in underground music. As a means of expression and a communications tool, the zine scene can be seen a precursor to internet, insofar as it concerns the communication and transmission of information. Before there was a network of computers, there was a network of individuals communicating their voices, ideas and opinions through their publications. In essence, the internet is merely an extension of this network. In this respect, it has been said that “zine communities were in some respects mini-webs without an internet; a preview of the web’s informal do-it-yourself paradigm”.22 As the technology for the transmission of information has progressed and become more widely (and cheaply) available, it has made it easier for people to express their own views and opinions. With more people having access to computers and desktop publishing technology, it has never been easier to communicate. Whereas people had previously produced their zines with whatever tools came to hand, namely typewriters, felt-tip pens, glue and photocopiers, individuals can now communicate their ideas immediately by any number of means. It is simple enough if one has the means; all that is needed is a computer and an internet connection. What distinguished zine publishers, however, was the extent of their endeavour in producing, promoting and selling their fanzines; it was a labour of love. The immediacy of the internet is undoubted, in that the information can be edited, uploaded and available for public consumption in a matter of seconds, although one cannot help but feel it lacks a human touch.

As with all other areas of publishing, the internet has revolutionised the ways in which zines operate. Previously, the audience for paper zines was limited by availability. While there was a fervent zine scene, it was a somewhat insular community, meaning that only those with prior knowledge and/or an active interest in self-publishing or the underground punk scene had access to the material. Indeed, of the thousands of zines produced, it would be considered a great success if a zine had a readership in the hundreds. Besides the massively popular international fanzines such as Maximumrocknroll, Flipside and Profane Existence (an anarchist punk zine based in Minneapolis), there were many more specialist and local zines, covering any number of topics, that would only be read by a small interactive audience. The internet, however, contains such a massive expanse of information and ideas that the audience in limitless. Personal websites are essentially an extension of the DIY zine ideal and are, in effect, the 21st Century equivalent of personal zines. Personal zines would contain much the same information that can be found on the typical personal web page; hobbies, interests, favourite bands/authors, and general information about the happenings in one’s life. Just as fanzines and websites are produced individually, they can be recognised as a network by virtue of their connections with each other. Where fanzines would trade reviews and contact information, websites exchange hyperlinks, meaning that they are instantly connected, not only with each other but with all the information contained within. This sort of interactivity is impossible with printed publications; insofar that it may involve considerable effort to trace a copy of an obscure or out-of-print fanzine. On the internet, this information is available at the click of a mouse.

The internet and zines are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they have much for in common than one would originally think. While websites would seem to lack a sense of personal connection and tangibility (in that you can’t hold it in your hands), many cover the same subject areas as physical zines. Indeed, the establishment of the webzine, or e-zine, can be seen as the natural evolutionary step for zines. Both share the same do-it-yourself ideal, and punks have been quick to establish their presence on the internet. The immediacy of the internet is the most prominent benefit. It is easy to simple put a band name into a search engine. Moments later you will undoubtedly receive so many links that it would be impossible to look at them all. This would have been unimaginable in the 1980s, where zines were traded by post and bands booked tours by searching for numbers and using the telephone. The internet has helped the world, the underground punk scene in particular, to overcome the traditional geographic boundaries experienced in the pre-internet days. With instant communications, it is relatively easy for a band from anywhere in the world to arrange gigs and tours anywhere else in the world. Whereas communities were once defined by geographic location (the LA scene, Berkeley, etc), they are now defined by areas of interest. This is true of any niche-market community. The potential for a worldwide punk community united through the internet is limitless, ultimately bringing the punk scene closer and making it easier for bands, fans and labels to stay connected and exchange ideas and information. Indeed, zines which were once limited in terms of availability can now be read by massive numbers of people from all across the world, not merely by a handful of people in a particular locality.

Styles Clash?

It is fairly safe to say that while fanzines still exist in their traditional form, the internet has had a massive impact on the number and frequency of zines produced. However, zines still do exist and many have taken to using the internet to their advantage. A quick visit to http://www.maxumimrocknroll.com will take you to the homepage of the biggest zine in the world. The website acts as a promotional tool for the physical zine and contains supplementary information that would be impossible to replicate in print. As well as forums for discussion about any variety of subjects, the webpage also contains important up-to-date information concerning upcoming events, video footage from concerts, details about commercial advertising rates, as well as links to all financial statements from the company. The webpage also contains important information for potential advertisers, leaving no room for ambiguity as the advertising policy is stated explicitly. There is also a portal for subscription to the zine. This makes distribution of the zine so much easier, as all a reader needs to do is fill out a basic subscription form with their bank account details and the zine will be delivered monthly to their door. This would have been impossible in the early days of the zine, as the only way to get a subscription was to write to the zine itself. While Maximumrocknroll was available in some mainstream book stores, such as Barnes and Noble in the US and WH Smith in the UK (WH Smith no longer carries the title), subscriptions were its main form of distribution. Still though, it was somewhat a closed niche market.

With its online presence, anybody the world over can order a subscription to the zine, opening it up to a limitless market. Maximumrocknroll is also somewhat unique in that it contains nothing from the printed publication on its website, instead providing previews and ancillary information such as links to MP3 music files and live performances. In this sense, the emphasis is placed on the printed zine as opposed to the webpage; the webpage exists to support the physical zine and is no way a replacement for it. The webpage becomes a ‘shop window’ for the zine. While the online presence can be seen as merely cursory, a token online presence presents an awareness of the importance of the internet in terms of potential growth in readership. Indeed, there seems to be little to lose and much to gain by exerting this small effort.

There are, however, differences in the scene. Much like the ideological differences discussed earlier in terms of Maximumrocknroll and the major record labels, there are those that refuse to make their presence known on the internet. While resisting the natural evolutionary growth of the internet would seem somewhat foolhardy, those who maintain no web presence can be seen as defending their territory and sense of authenticity. To this end, it is no surprise that Maximumrocknroll places emphasis on the importance of the printed zine. It would seem contradictory and hypocritical if it were to move its entire operations into an online forum. This use of the web as a promotional tool allows the traditional format of the zine to continue whilst opening it up to a massive potential market without compromising editorial or ideological integrity.

Maximumrocknroll have not completely dismissed the internet, however. While their own website may merely act as an advertising feature and one-stop shop designed to promote the printed zine, they have spawned Book Your Own Fucking Life23, an all-encompassing resource for touring bands. BYOFL started life as a printed pamphlet from Maximumrocknroll and has now evolved into a massive online resource that is used by bands all over the world. Punks from all over the world have contributed to the online database that features everything from the most obscure venues to the best places to eat in any particular town. This resource is massively helpful for bands when planning and booking tours, and features invaluable need-to-know information for touring bands. It has contact information for friendly punk collectives all over the world as well as crucial information concerning the cheapest places to sleep, the best venues and bands to play with, as well as more specialist information relevant to the scene, such as where to find vegan food shops and cheap travel. The site is maintained on a monthly basis by the San Francisco-based Amoeba Collective and has developed into a massively important online resource with an exhaustive database of bands, labels, venues, zines, crash pads, printers, publishers and punk-friendly hangouts all over the world. The database has become hugely important and is a proud reflection of the sense of community in the punk scene, consulted by bands and artists the world over before embarking on a DIY tour.

As a tool for organising tours, BYOFL is essential, and would not exist without the internet. A resource of this magnitude in printed form would more resemble an encyclopedia or a dictionary, and would need to be re-issued on a monthly basis, thus rendering it antiquated and uneconomically viable. However, by making all of this information available and accessible to anyone free of charge, it serves as an extension of the DIY ideals of underground punk and a credit to the mutual benefits of shared information within the community.

As mentioned previously, however, zines and e-zines need not be mutually exclusive. The internet is available for the process of archiving, meaning that previous issues of a zine can be uploaded to the internet and preserved in digital form indefinitely. While physical archives of zines exist (indeed, I have examined many), they are subject to the same kind of physical decay and depreciation as any printed text. Therefore, by the process of scanning physical zines, archiving back issues digitally and making them available online, the vaults of punk history can be opened for all to see. There are sites on the internet dedicated solely to the digitisation and archiving of old zines24, opening them up to a brand new audience and serving as historical documents for newcomers to the scene, specifically those that were either too young or geographically removed to have experienced and consumed the zines firsthand. Where a zine may have had an audience of only 100 readers previously, the process of archiving the material on the internet means that the content is available to readers all over the world at any time, increasing knowledge and information about the scene to those seeking it. As such, this raises awareness about zines within the wider scene and this exchange of information can only be beneficial.

Digital archiving need not be restricted to the zines of the past. Many zine publishers offer their zine in both formats, such Aberdeen’s Good For Nothing? Collective. As a not-for-profit DIY organisation, they put on shows in and around the Aberdeen area, promote touring and local bands, put out their own records and publish their zine quarterly. While the physical printed zine is sold at gigs and on tour, they also publish an online version on the zine that is available free of charge. Also, the zine can be bought via their website, along with other merchandise such as shirts, stickers and records from their back catalogue. By making the zine available in both formats, they are opening the zine up to the widest possible audience. The punk scene in Aberdeen is one of the most organised and active in the UK, with a number of initiatives operating under the banner of GFN?, including Ethical Aberdeen, an organisation concerned with Fair Trade and environmental issues. As such, the zine already has a captive audience for its physical publication, while the e-zine version makes the information available to the worldwide community out with the city and the scene itself. This appears to be the best of both worlds and the different forms of the zine compliment each other, as opposed to being in competition with each other.

While some zines use their websites as a ‘shop window’, there are other zines that exist in purely online form. This may bring into question the definition of ‘zine’, but these are generally regarded as ‘e-zines’, zines that are available exclusively online. E-zines can accommodate information and features that would be impossible in printed format, from the aforementioned MP3s and video clips to fully interactive online discussion forums. These forums act in much the same way as the reader’s letters pages of traditional zines, although now the interaction is instantaneous, as opposed to correspondence coming in monthly intervals. These e-zines themselves, however, are as different and wide-ranging as their philosophical ancestors.

Punknews25 is a US-based online punk resource for bands, fans, labels and anybody with a passing interest in the world of underground music. It allows users to register and upload their own news and content, although it is first verified by a team of all-volunteer moderators. Along with an encyclopedic database of bands and labels all across the world, both independent and corporate, it features a wide range of streamed music (music that can be listened to online), record and live concert reviews, featured bands and online discussion forums. Readers can also make comments about any of the content, be it reviews, news or the music they’ve just listened to. The site has over ten thousand registered users and is updated at least twice a day. The site is so popular with people within the underground punk scene that it has jokingly inspired its own sub-genre, ‘orgcore’, in reference to its love of all things gruff and melodic (specifically the bands on No Idea Records). Such is the respect afforded Punknews, that bands often offer the website exclusive streams of their new albums and labels are always quick and forthcoming when it comes to providing news and information. The site is also free from corporate advertisers, with all advertising revenue being generated from banners paid for by independent record labels and other associated companies (alternative clothing companies, for example).

There are a number of online resources dedicated to the underground music scene in the UK. Finding out about the happenings in the scene in the UK couldn’t be simpler; it’s just a matter of ‘googling’ a particular city and you will be bombarded with online links to whatever websites feature information relating to the topic. One of the most popular UK-based sites is http://www.undergroundscene.co.uk (UGS), an online resource for fans and bands around the UK, based in Dundee, Scotland. UGS is unique insofar as it provides news and listings, but all of its content is user-generated. Since its beginnings as a university project to promote underground urban music in 2002, it has signed up over 9000 registered members and has internet traffic in excess of one hundred thousand hits per month.26 The site contains not only news, reviews, online listening posts (for streaming new music from featured bands) but also a massive range of discussion forums, covering everything from local, national and international band news, gig announcements, feedback forums, contacts and goods trading, as well as a plethora of other topics. Uniquely, UGS also hosts forums for individual bands, allowing fans of the bands to discuss not only what is happening with their favourite local bands, but also allows for dialogue between fans and bands of widely disparate genres. It also allows bands and artists to communicate directly with their fans on the board, as well as making any announcements regarding upcoming gigs, new releases, etc. This helps to break down the traditional relationships between fans and bands, completely in line with DIY ideology. In the words of founder Kuljit Athwal;

“I wanted the site to be a focal point for local music and to provide a
place where people could come and arrange gigs, meet other people and
even form new bands and initiatives through; a sort of portal so to speak.
The main goal was to make it easier to promote local music in the city and
a way for those in the community to network and communicate with each
other.”27

Undergroundscene.co.uk has undoubtedly achieved its aims. As a networking tool, it has not only brought the local scene together, but serves as a focal point for the Dundee scene within the wider British music scene. It is a forum where touring bands can find essential information about shows and venues, bands to play with and how best to raise awareness of upcoming shows in the area. The site has outgrown its initial scope, now being concerned with music from across the UK. The site has been active for almost 6 years and shows no signs of slowing down. New members are registering every week and are getting involved, whether it is promoting their own bands or reviewing music from the local scene. UGS has also successfully promoted a number of fundraising charity gigs and compilation records. As such, it serves as a kind of hybrid-zine, being an interactive online user-generated forum concerned with networking and the promotion of underground music. The website and its forums encourage active participation in scene from its users, who in turn support the website by means of voluntary subscriptions, advertising fees (if the user is a band, label or artist) and fundraising concerts (I myself have played at a number of these gigs). It is difficult to imagine how UGS would function and what use it would be if published in traditional zine form.

While traditional zines would feature ongoing debates through reader’s letters, the immediacy of the online forums allows for instant communication and more thorough debate (although this doesn’t necessarily mean more calculated debate!). As well as promoting bands and providing a forum for discussion, the site has also helped influence opinion in relation to such issues as venue closure, business advice and various council initiatives. The Dundee scene has seen a rise in profile over recent years, specifically with the success of local band The View and their rise to national attention, and the arrival of GoNorth, a major national showcase of new and unsigned talent from across the country.28 With this rise in national exposure comes greater scrutiny of the local scene and UGS has provided the perfect forum for up-to-date information, news and debate both about and within the city. This instantaneousness would be impossible in traditional zine form, and serves as a prime example of how the internet can be used effectively to increase the visibility of the local scene without compromising artistically or editorially. The user-based forum technology also allows for immediate intertextuality, as links to specific articles of interest can be exchanged instantly. This, along with new video, music and file-sharing technologies, allow bands and fans to remain in a constant dialogue.

Undergroundscene.co.uk is just one of many online forums available for unsigned and underground bands and their followers. Others, such as Alternative Nation, take a more detached approach, operating their forums on a commercial basis by charging bands and fans to use their web space. This would appear to go against traditional DIY ideology and can be seen as exploitative of young and independent bands with few financial resources. Bands can, however, always opt not to use these services and instead use any of the multitudinous free services available on the internet, such as UGS, The ‘C Board’ (a forum provided by The Collective Zine – a nationwide underground network of punk bands, promoters, writers and reviewers) or the message boards of Plan-It-X Records (a DIY collective based in Minnesota). Ultimately, it is down to the bands and the individuals involved in the scene to make decisions, both practical and ideological, about how they wish to operate within the scene. In the 21st Century cultural environment, where we are constantly bombarded with advertising, marketing and more entertainment choices than ever before, it is important for the underground scene to remain united and to share its vast wealth of information by any means necessary.

The internet has helped revolutionise the punk scene in much the same ways that it has influenced all the creative and media industries. Social networking websites such as MySpace (recently bought by Rupert Murdoch’s global media empire) and Bebo have given bands a new means by which to connect with their audience. Whereas before, bands would have to spend much time and financial resources by sending demo recordings to promoters throughout the country, the process has now been utterly simplified, in that songs can now be uploaded onto the website in a matter of minutes. By having a presence on the internet, even on a site operated and funded by a worldwide media conglomerate, bands are putting themselves into the global marketplace where they can be heard by anybody with an internet connection and the desire to listen to them. New bands are springing up every day and a quick search through MySpace will yield innumerable results for bands within a certain genre or geographical location. This process can be used as a marketing tool, insofar as touring bands can locate fans of their particular genre within an area and add them as ‘friends’ through their MySpace homepage. This allows the bands and fans to create a network based on mutual appreciation and individual musical taste, creating great connections that can be used for promotional purposes. This process serves to overcome traditional geographic and logistic boundaries and also serves to blur the line between the amateur and the professional. By the means available on the internet, a young, unsigned band from the northeast of Scotland is just as capable of building an attractive and interesting website as an internationally-known act funded by a major record label. This applies not only to bands, but to the zines and e-zines that support the underground scene. Like bands, zines are now available to audience far beyond what would have been thought throughout the 1980s, when bands like Black Flag and zines like Maximumrocknroll were pioneering the DIY ideology.

Conclusion

Technological advances have changed the way that we perceive the world. This is as true in our everyday lives as it is within the circles of underground punk rock. All areas of publishing have been affected by the rise to prominence of the internet and the new methods of transmitting information and communication available to us in the 21st Century. The way that we glean information has changed so dramatically that the old methods of communication seem quaint and antiquated when compared to what we now find at our disposal; the internet, mobile phones, satellite technology, email. This evolution in communications and publishing technology would seem to necessitate a redefinition of what we traditionally understand as communications and publishing. To resist these advances in technology would be folly; it would simply see the rest of the world progressing onwards while we remained static. The internet and instant communication tools are a new feature of reality. To deny their existence would be an exercise in self-deception.

The internet has undeniably brought the world into our living rooms. The underground punk scene now exists in a world where it is accessible to anybody who cares enough to search hard enough for it can find it. This, to my mind, is undoubtedly a positive step; the more people taking an active interest in the scene and its ethics can only be a good thing. No longer are hard copy fanzines the only source of information about punk rock, there is a galaxy of information available at our fingertips. However, the rise of the e-zine does not necessarily necessitate the death of the paper zine. There are activists producing zines all over the world. The Good For Nothing? Collective from Aberdeen continue to publish their zine as a means of bringing all the information concerning their various activities together in one place where it can be consumed by a captive audience (at their shows). The zine is also available on the internet, allowing wider audience consumption and acting as an online digital archive. Maximumrocknroll sells more copies every month than it has at any point in its history, with a large proportion of these sales coming from subscriptions paid through their website. That Maximumrocknroll has continued to be published every month for the past twenty-five years whilst still maintaining its lofty (some may argue elitist) ideals is testament to the strength of belief in the underground scene. If the zine had no role to play in the digital age, it would simply cease to exist.

There are undeniable comparisons between the publishing industry and the music industry, in terms of output and consumption. It has been said that the internet would be the death of the physically published book. This, thus far, has failed to come to fruition. While there have been undoubted business successes in the publishing world when it comes to the internet (Amazon, the online bookseller, for example), computer technology has not killed the book. The means of consumption may have evolved, but the end result remains the same; people want access to information regardless of the medium. Books have yet to become a quaint relic of the past; they remain an important staple of our cultural diet. Many of the same arguments in the publishing industry also ring true in the music industry. Many predicted that MP3 technology would signal the death of the CD and vinyl. While it is true that music is being consumed in greater amount via the MP3 medium, thanks to iTunes and other online MP3 providers, people still buy physical albums on their favourite format. Just like there is a feeling of satisfaction and reward that one experiences when picking up a copy of a new book by a favourite author (or indeed when one picks up one’s own publication for the first time), such is the case when it comes to holding the physical object of a CD or record. With the record, you get the full artwork, lyric sheet, ’thank you’ lists and the like. These are things that a downloaded MP3 of an album cannot provide, instead being a digitised representation of the physical artwork, the tangible product. While the market for records may be considered niche, it is still a sizeable and lucrative one. No Idea Records, which began life as a zine in 1986, continues to issue limited edition coloured vinyl to this day. Many of the bands previously associated with the label have gone on to sign with major record labels, like Against Me!, who signed to Warner’s imprint Sire Records. However, No Idea Records retain the rights to issue the vinyl copies of the album, thus satisfying consumer demand and continuing to nourish the underground scene. By making money from the niche market, they are able to support the scene and advance its growth.

Punk rock at its core is an ideology, not a style of music. Zines were the organs through which the blood of the underground was pumped for decades before the emergence of the internet. The core ideas of zine culture remain, albeit in varying formats. Now we have e-zines and printed zines. This equates to a greater number of zines and a greater volume of information being transmitted. The internet has brought the worldwide underground scene together, but this doesn’t necessarily herald the death of the zine. Zines may be a niche market, but niche markets must be catered for. While they may indeed appear as a quaint relic for a bygone age, zines, like vinyl, will always have an audience.

Notes

  1. Fred Wright, The History and Characteristics of Zines. <www.zinebook.com/resource/wright1.html> [accessed 18.12.07]
  2. Ibid.
  3. Stephen Perkins, Approaching the 80s Zine Scene. <www.zinebook.com/resource/perkins.html> [accessed 12.12.07]
  4. John Robb, Punk Rock: An Oral History (Ebury Press, 2006), p.204
  5. Jon Savage, England’s Dreaming, (Faber and Faber, 1991). p.401
  6. Ibid.
  7. ‘Artist and Repertoire’; essentially talent scouts employed by record labels to look for new bands to sign
  8. John Savage, England’s Dreaming, (Faber and Faber, 1991). p.594
  9. Taken from The Sex Pistols, Live at The Winterland VHS video, Fremantle Home Entertainment, 1996
  10. John Robb, Punk Rock: An Oral History (Ebury Press, 2006). p.305
  11. Michael Azzerad, This Band Could Be Your Life (Little, Brown and Company, 2001), p.65
  12. Ibid.
  13. Joe Carducci, Rock and the Pop Narcotic (2.13.61, 1999), p.12
  14. Michael Azzerad, This Band Could Be Your Life (Little, Brown and Company, 2001), p.33
  15. Mr. Bali Hai, “Caught on the Flipside”. <www.mrbalihai.com/goof/Flipside/Flipside_story.html> [accessed 01.03.08]
  16. See <www.foodnotbombs.net> for further information about the charity
  17. Quote from telephone interview with Todd Taylor, editor of Razorcake fanzine. [04.02.08]
  18. Punknews article “Green Day buys a new PA” <www.punknews.org/article/28003/>
    [accessed 04.03.08]
  19. Michael Azzerad, This Band Could Be Your Life (Little, Brown and Company, 2001), p.412
  20. These singles are like gold-dust. Only 1000 copies were ever pressed.
  21. Michael Azzerad, This Band Could Be Your Life (Little, Brown and Company, 2001), p. 494
  22. M.P. McHugh, From E-zines to Mega-zines, <http://www.usc.edu/isd/publications/networker/96-97/Nov_Dec_96/zines.html&gt; [accessed 12.02.2008]
  23. <www.byofl.org>
  24. Visit http://www.operationphoenixrecords.com for one of the biggest online zine archives
  25. http://www.punknews.org
  26. Statistics from UGS founder, KJ, in response to email questionnaire [22.03.08] See appendix two.
  27. Ibid.
  28. The View’s debut album, Hats Off To The Buskers, went straight to number one in the UK charts

Appendix One

Questionnaire posted online at http://www.undergroundscene.co.uk

1. What role did fanzines play in the early days of punk? Do they still play a role today?

2. When punk went ‘mainstream’, how did the fanzine evolve?

3. Do you think fanzines remain an important part of the underground scene today?

4. Does the fanzine have a future?

5. Are fanzines still relevant?

6. Is the internet the ultimate DIY forum?

Appendix Two

Questionnaire sent by email to Kuljit Athwal, founder of Underground Scene website (www.undergroundscene.co.uk)

1. When did UGS come online?

2. What were your goals when setting up the site?

3. Do you feel these goals have been achieved?

4. How many people are registered with the site?

5. Do you think the site maintains its popularity?

6. Do you think UGS has played a role in bringing the scene together?

7. Do you think the internet is now the ultimate DIY forum?

Bibliography

Books

Azzerad, Michael. This Band Could Be Your Life (Little, Brown and Company, 2001)

Carducci, Joe. Rock and the Pop Narcotic (2.13.61, 1999)

Colgrave, Steve. Punk: The Definitive Record of a Revolution (Thunder’s Mouth, 2001)

Gilbert, Pat. Passion is a Fashion: The Story of The Clash (Da Capo Press, 2005)

O’Hara, Craig, The Philosophy of Punk: More Than Noise (AK Press, 1999)

Robb, John. Punk Rock: An Oral History (Ebury Press, 2006)

Rollins, Henry. Get In The Van: On The Road with Black Flag (2.13.61, 1999)

Savage, John. England’s Dreaming (Faber and Faber, 1991)

Online Resources

Hai, Mr. Bali. Caught on the Flipside. <www.mrbalihai.com/goof/flipside/flipside_story.html> [accessed 01.03.08]

McHugh, M.P. From E-zines to Mega-Zines. <www.usc.edu.ids/publications/netwoker/96-97/Nov_Dec_96/zines.html>
[accessed 12.02.08]

Perkins, Stephen. Approaching the 80s Zine Scene. <www.zinebook.com/resource/perkins.html> [accessed 12.12.07]

Punknews article, Green Days buys a new PA. <www.punknews.org/article/28003> [accessed 04.03.08]

Stoneman, Phil. Fanzines: Their Production, Culture and Future. <www.lundwood.u-net.com/fandissy/fdtitle.hmtl>

Wright, Fred. The History and Characteristics of Zines. <www.zinebook.com/resource/wright1.html> [accessed 18.12.07]

Fanzines

Bondage!

Chicken Shit

Holytitclamps!!!

Flipside

Fracture

Girl Trouble

Good For Nothing? Zine

Maximumrockroll

Plaything

Ploppy Pants

Profane Existence

Razorcake

Ripped and Torn

Runnin’ Feart

Sniffin Glue

Films

Sex Pistols Live At The Winterland. VHS Video (Fremantle Home Enterainment, 1996)

Another State of Mind. DVD (Timebomb Recordings, 1995)

Websites

<www.alternativenation.com> Fee-based online forums for unsigned bands

<www.byofl.org> Essential online database for touring punk bands

<www.foodnotbombs.net> Homepage of Food Not Bombs charity

<www.maximumrocknroll.com> Website of the world’s biggest fanzine

<www.myspace.com/gfnrecords> Homepage of Aberdeen’s Good For Nothing? Records collective

<www.operationphoenixrecords.com> Massive fanzine archive

<www.punkandoiuk.co.uk> UK-based old school punk resource

<www.punkinscotland.co.uk> Scottish punk collective based in Fife

<www.punknews.org> Online database of punk bands, labels, venues, etc.

<www.punktastic.com> UK-based punk news site

<www.undergroundscene.co.uk> Online forums serving the underground music scene across the UK.

Miscellaneous

Telephone interview with Todd Taylor, editor of Razorcake fanzine – 04.02.08

Telephone interview with http://www.undergroundscene.co.uk founder Kuljit Athwal – 07.03.08

Sit-down interview with the Good For Nothing? Collective – 28.02.08

Advertisements

BOOK YER ANE FEST IX; FIRST TIMERS

byaf2

Book Yer Ane Fest IX is only a couple weeks away and we are beginning to get mad stoked (and freaking out!) about spending a weekend in the company of some of the finest DIY punk bands and best people we know. BYAF has grown into something we’d never envisaged when we started in the back room of Mucky Mulligans in Perth way back in 2008 and for that we are truly grateful. This year marks another step in the BYAF evolution and we’ll be hosting it in Buskers and The Vestry for the very first time. Dougie and the troops have been very understanding and accommodating of us, so hopefully everyone has an awesome time. This will also be the first BYAF with a proper stage (no barrier!) so please behave accordingly and look out for one another!

Thank you also to everyone who has picked Weekend E-Tickets thus far, it’s always a massive stress reliever when you know that people are stoked on what you’re doing. If you haven’t got one yet, you can grab one RIGHT HERE (cheap pop, right?). Ye can check out the day splits on the MTAT website. Also, both Pre-BYAF and Post-BYAF in Glasgow and Edinburgh on Thursday 26th and Monday 30th November respectively are pay-on-the-door and all early shows at Cerberus Bar are free on a first come, first served basis as it’s tiny.

For updates as they occur, keep your eyes on the event page and our twitter.

FullSizeRender(2)

One of the best things for us about BYAF is the opportunity to bring new and interesting bands to Dundee and to catch up with friends that we may otherwise seldom see. As such, we’d like to extend a very warm welcome to the following bands to shall be playing BYAF for the first time over the weekend;

Make War (USA)

Formerly known as Sad and French, Make War are a three piece melodic punk rock band from New York who will play their first and only Scottish show of their debut European tour on the Friday night at Buskers. They’re touring in support of their new self-titled LP that is out now on Black Numbers / Gunner Records. The band shall also be playing an exclusive acoustic show on Friday evening at the pre-show/weekend ticket collection gathering at Cerberus Bar from 4-6pm.

FFO; Lucero, The Bouncing Souls, Gaslight Anthem

When; Friday 27th November at Buskers.

Above Them (ENG)

After many years of trying, we are absolutely thrilled to finally be able to welcome one of the greatest UK punk rock bands of recent times to Dundee for the very first time. Veterans of the UK DIY scene and venerated throughout the worldwide punk scene, these Yorkshire punks released their new “Water Lane” LP through the wonderful Specialist Subject Records earlier this year and will join us for an exclusive Scottish show.

FFO; The Weakerthans, Hot Water Music, Jawbreaker

When; Sunday 29th November at Buskers.

The Spook School

Currently setting the world on fire with their infectious and vital “Try To Be Hopeful” LP, these Edinburgh queercore indie pop punks join us at BYAF for the first time and play their first Dundee show since playing a packed Cerberus show with ONSIND and Spoonboy way back in February. The Spook School have had an incredible year, playing all over the world and we’re very excited to be hosting them in Dundee.

FFO; The Buzzcocks, The Slits, The Vaselines

When; Saturday 28th November at Buskers.

Good Grief (ENG)

Upbeat bittersweet fizzy bangers from these witty and intelligent Liverpool fuzzy melodic indie punks who will be bringing their lo-fi pop jams to Dundee for the very first time. Well traveled and with releases out on the esteemed Boss Tunage and Drunken Sailor Records and splits with BUZZorHOWL and Eureka California to their name, we’re very excited for a late afternoon sugar rush.

FFO; Superchunk, Dinosaur Jr, J Church

When; Saturday 28th November at Buskers.

Forever Unclean (DK)

Full blast bouncy gobby melodic Europunk from these three piece punkers from Copenhagen, Denmark who visit Dundee for the first time as part of their UK tour around BYAF. Bringing together slacker indie and tight 90s skate punk, their new EP “Shreds” does exactly that and was mastered by Jason Livermore at The Blasting Rooms in Colorado. They’ll be reunited with their old touring buddies Terrafraid, who will themselves be returning from their own three month European odyssey!

FFO; Kid Dynamite, Smoke Or Fire, Broadway Calls

When; Sunday 29th November at Buskers

Will Wood (NZ)

Kick-ass boot-stompin’ countrified punk blues murder balladeer from New Zealand joins us in Dundee for the first time on his UK tour with fellow one-man-band compatriot and partner in crime Freddy Fudd Pucker. Will Wood brings a wild-hearted whisky-soaked punk rock fire in his belly and a glint of wickedness in his eye.

FFO; Steve Earle, Murder By Death, Nick Cave

When; Saturday 28th November at The Vestry.

Great Cynics (ENG)

Another band that we’ve long hoped to play, we are delighted to welcome Great Cynics and their wonderful heart-warming melodic folk/punk bangers to BYAF for the first time. The band released their inspiring “I Feel Weird” LP on Specialist Subject earlier this year and have just returned from having everyone in Gainesville at Fest fall in love with them all over again. Excited to have them in Dundee again after last being seen with The Smith Street Band at Mini-Fest in 2013.

FFO; The Lemonheads, Billy Bragg, The Get Up Kids

When; Saturday 28th November at Buskers.

Chrissy Barnacle

From the “grimy side of the Clyde” comes nylon-stringed acoustic-wielding Glasgow singer/songwriter Chrissy Barnacle who brings her sharp-witted and heart-warming feminist political folk-pop to BYAF for the first time. We’ve been fans of Chrissy and her songwriting for a long time and we’re very pleased to finally be able to play host.

FFO; Kate Bush, Joni Mitchell, Ghost Mice

When; Saturday 28th November at The Vestry.

Rational Anthem (USA)

Life-affirming fist-in-the-air old school gobby melodic pop punk three piece straight outta Sarasota, Florida and out on the road on a European tour with kindred spirits The Murderburgers, Rational Anthem are an explosive fireball of punk rock power and will joining us in Dundee for the very first time. Their “Emotionally Unavailable” LP came out on Bloated Kate Records last year and is rammed full of bittersweet pop punk zingers. Guaranteed to be a fun time!

FFO; Lipstick Homicide, Dear Landlord, Screeching Weasel

When; Saturday 28th November

Lenin Death Mask

Aberdeen indie noise-poppers wrap up their ten day UK tour in celebration and support of their debut “Three Hits” 7″ that is released on November 16th through Fitlike Records, Allende Records and Dingleberry Records in Europe. As part of an active Aberdeen DIY scene, we are very pleased to welcome our east coast comrades to BYAF for the first time.

FFO; Husker Du, Titus Andronicus, The Cribs

When; Sunday 29th November at Buskers.

Veto

Glasgow Young Team emo/pop punkers shall be opening BYAF IX with their youthfully energetic take on classic emocore and modern pop punk. These troops have been super active in their local Glasgow scene and have organised a heap of benefit shows as well as touring the UK for the first time this year in support of their split EP with Brightr. One of the best young bands to emerge in Scottish punk in recent times.

FFO; Modern Baseball, Gnarwolves, Spraynard

When; Friday 27th November at Buskers.

Stonethrower (EP Release Show)

 Dundee’s latest Ecossemo punks of weel’ kent faces play their first BYAF and celebrate the release of their new “Swells/Repels” CDEP on MTAT by bringing us their angular and agitated take on alt/punk rock, combining math-y time signatures with an undeniable taste for the ferocious punk banger. Stonethrower are one of the spiciest Dundee bands to emerge over the last year and we’re very proud to be working with them to release the EP.

FFO; Faraquet, Kaddish, Future Of The Left

When; Sunday 29th November at Buskers.

PMX

It’s crazy to think that this is the first time that PMX have played BYAF but the band were already on hiatus when we started this shindig back in 2008. Reunited and refreshed, PMX have blazed back into action in 2015 with the release of the incredible “Dark Days” EP that we’re super proud to have been involved in and they’ve been absolutely shredding it since their return to action. BYAF will be their first Dundee show in over seven years. PMX also play Pre-BYAF at Nice N Sleazy, Glasgow on Thursday 26th November with Murderburgers, Rational Anthem and Dead Neck.

FFO; Propagandhi, Lagwagon, A Wilhem Scream

When; Friday 27th November at Buskers.

Edgarville (ENG)

Tour mates of Terrafraid throughout their three month European tour and veterans of the DIY punk underground, Lancashire two-piece Edgarville bring their folk-ish acoustic indie/pop punk to Dundee for the very first time to conclude their tour. These guys have faced almost every challenge imaginable throughout their time as a band and have lived to tell the tale. Hopefully we’ll be able to provide a happy ending for them at BYAF.

FFO; The Front Bottoms, Apologies I Have None, The Smith Street Band

When; Sunday 29th November at The Vestry.

Bettie Akkemaai (NL)

Bettie Akkemaai is a feminist folk punk singer/songwriter from Den Bosch, Netherlands who joins us in Dundee for the first time as part of a series of shows with her kindred spirit and Different Circle Records comrade Dave Hughes. Inspired by the global DIY anarcho-folk scene, Bettie plays acid tongued witty acoustic folk with bite and intelligence.

FFO; Even Greer, Mischief Brew, Kimya Dawson

When; Sunday 29th November at The Vestry.

The Exhausts (ENG)

These London born, Glasgow based super spiky gobby melodic punks started their European tour in October before playing as Misfits at our Halloween Party and have been on the road ever since with tour concluding at BYAF. The band has just released the awesome “Leave The Suburbs!” album through the excellent Everything Sucks Music and will bring a hefty dose of tongue-in-cheek garage rock’n’roll madness to night one of BYAF.

FFO; Misfits, The Shitty Limits, Bikini Kill

When; Friday 27th November at Buskers.

Paper Rifles

Skyscrapingly melodic beautiful acoustic folk/punk rock from the former Curators man now ploughing the field solo and knocking it completely out of the park. With a busy year behind him, we’re involved in a special little project to be announced soon that will precede the forthcoming 7″ coming soon on Struck Dum Records. One of the strongest voices in Scottish music, we’d highly recommend not missing this.

FFO; Manic Street Preachers, Chuck Ragan, Deacon Blue

When; Saturday 28th November at The Vestry.

Elk Gang

Hard hitting passionate punk rock/post-hardcore from the capital from the troops behind the Anti-Manifesto collective featuring the engine room of Shields Up, these fiery Edinburgh punks will play BYAF for the first time and will bring their lung-bustin’ melodic hardcore and scissor kicks to light a fire under your Sunday afternoon. One of the dark horse bands to watch out for over the weekend for sure.

FFO; Small Brown Bike, Iron Chic, Lifetime

When; Sunday 29th November at The Vestry.

Tim Loud (ENG)

Foot-stompin’ hard-rocking virtuoso country/punk/folk/pop masterclass from Leeds based one man band/singer/songwriter who plays BYAF for the very first time and joins us in the midst of his UK tour with the equally eccentric Tim Holehouse. Last year’s “Born To Lose” album is an under-rated pop masterpiece and was released on MTAT in conjunction with TNS and Gin House Records. Very pleased to finally get Tim up to BYAF.

FFO; The Levellers, Gram Parsons, The Beatles

When; Saturday 28th November at The Vestry.

Salem Street

Dundee Youth Crew wrap up an exceptional 2015 that’s taken them across the UK for the first time and seen them play some massive festivals including Nice N Sleazy. They’ll be bringing their first generation 77 inspired punk with deep reggae/ska grooves to the Sunday afternoon and will be the perfect band to ease your hangovers as ye get started for the last day of festing.

FFO; Stiff Little Fingers, Operation Ivy, One Man Army

When; Sunday 29th November at The Vestry.

Benny Monteux

Edinburgh based acoustic folk/pop punk singer/songwriter joins us at BYAF for the first time as part of his Scottish tour in support of his new single. Benny joined us in Dundee at Cerberus Bar earlier in the year and we are delighted to welcoming this charming, forthright and honest young man back.

FFO; Kris Roe, The Gaslight Anthem, The Wonder Years

When; Saturday 28th November at The Vestry

Brendan Dalton

Bruised and introspective lo-fi acoustic singer/songwriter from rural Perthshire playing solo at BYAF for the first time having played BYAF III with his former pop punk band Versailles many moons ago. Brendan in a talented and intelligent writer who’s had a great year including putting out his first single “Medium” through the emergent indie label Meraki Records. No stranger to Dundee, we’re delighted to welcome Brendan to BYAF.

FFO; Bon Iver, Belle and Sebastian, Ryan Adams

When; Sunday 29th November at The Vestry.

Please, Believe!

From the ashes of Ecossemo stalwarts Bonehouse comes Please, Believe! Ploughing a similar field as their predecessors in terms of emotive DIY post-hardcore/punk rock, PB bring an added sense of urgency and chaos to proceedings, creating a cathartic and noisy expulsion of emotion. No recordings yet but with such pedigree, we can guarantee some prime cuts of east coast Ecossemo goodness.

FFO; At The Drive In, Sinaloa, Life At These Speeds

When; Sunday 29th November at Buskers.

Phew!

Can’t wait, bring it on yo!

Review; Bangers – “Bird” LP (Specialist Subject)

Artwork

“Bird” is the third “proper” LP from Cornwall punks Bangers and is quite possibly their finest piece of work to date. Bangers have long been one of the most interesting bands in the country, eschewing trends and “coolness” in favour of being true to themselves and their inherent oddities as a punk rock band from one of the rural outbacks of the UK. In coming from the north-east of Scotland, I feel kinship there and it’s this refusal to engage with current trends and notions of “cool” that makes Bangers one of the most irresistible and joyous bands in UK punk.

The first thing that is clear as soon as opener “No!” blasts through the headphones is that the band’s first time in a “proper” recording studio has done nothing to temper their boisterousness and sense of fun. Instead, where some bands feel panicked in a “professional” environment, Bangers have turned this new-found luxury to their advantage and have created a record that is equal parts “pro” and unequivocally “punk”. While not recorded in a shed, the studio environment serves to enhance everything that we already love about the band; the hooks, the stories, the sing-a-longs; amplifying the size and further developing their sonic subtleties, of which there are many on this record.  Thankfully, the studio doesn’t wash Bangers clean of their grime.

“I Don’t Feel Like I’ll Ever Be Clean Again” is the first “single” taken from the record and it’s an impeccable slice of pop-punk that’s easy to picture on heavy rotation on MTV2 back in the day, like Sum 41 playing a Weezer cover. There’s a knowing sense of fun in the stomp and the chorus is glorious, made even better by the fact the song is literally about getting covered in shit. It’s classic songwriting married to irresistible hooks that will stick for days. I dare you not to sing along. The ever-present mischievousness remains, especially in the playfulness and lyricism of Roo’s surrealist storytelling, as evidenced in the likes of “Mannequin” and  “The Trousers of Time”. Even when exploring themes of worthlessness and emotional detachment, the sound is one of joyfully defiant.

“Oh, I feel like someone else’s satellite”.

There’s always been a part of Bangers that reminds me of the genius of Thin Lizzy; the subtle intricacies of Roo’s guitar lines, the knack for knocking out poetic sing-a-long classics with seeming ease, that driving bass sound, the sense of serious play; that classic rock influence shines through even more throughout this record. Hamish and Andrew are one of the tightest rhythm sections in UK punk, you don’t get to be eight years in and not be, but they bringing an elasticity that allows space for Roo’s creative guitar work to add depth and texture throughout the record. There’s a lot going on in the songs beyond simple melodic three-chord punk jams.

That’s not to say that the boys can’t get down and dirty (literally), they’ll never escape their grubby skate punk and hardcore roots, but there’s a sense of assured confidence in the band’s abilities. Bangers have never been a band afraid to take risks, as evidenced by the brilliant yet audacious “Mysterious Ways” project that was written, recorded and available to buy for only 48 hours. That’s not to say that this record is a radical sonic shift but takes all the best parts of Bangers, amplifies and refines then blends them together to create a delicious wholly satisfying whole; there is cohesion in sound and narrative; “everything will fall into place”.

Thematically, Bangers seem to be dealing with some shit, both literally and figuratively, with the the refrain of “I’m so tired of being someone else” from “Stressful Festival” speaking volumes; showing a band that are comfortable with their own identity as a unit but still wrestling individually and collectively with a sense of “self” and “place”. There is desperation, acceptance and hope amongst the metaphysical grappling and self-loathing.  There aren’t many bands that could write a song about a Russian American biochemist/author and turn it into a demented almost Devo-esque robotic punk stomper, as evidenced on “Asimov”. There is also a healthy slice of piss-taking, as “Vibrate” indicates with it’s cry of “I’mma break like a atom”. Science rarely possesses such swag.

Overall, this is Bangers’ most complete and assured body of work to date. “Bird” marries classic Bangers punk (scuzzy, gobby, brilliant) with the ever-present classic rock influence; the sound of a band unburdened by expectations allowing themselves to be themselves. Ironically, amidst identity struggles and trying to find their place in the world, Bangers seem to have found what it is they’ve been looking for and used it to create a record that is everything a fan could want from the band; thoughtful, driving, powerful, thought-provoking intelligent punk rock across the board. It’s also undoubtedly one of the best punk rock records of the year.

“It’s getting better, so much better than it was”.

Stream the record at Punknews.org here.

Buy the record from Specialist Subject Records here.

Bangers kick off their UK tour on Friday 8th August and play Glasgow on Wednesday 12th August with The Kimberly Steaks and Lost Limbs at Nice’n’Sleazy.

 

Terrafraid; European Tour Diary (April 2015)

Terrafraid are one of Dundee’s finest musical exports comprised of some thoroughly good dudes who I’m glad to call my friends. When I saw that singer/songwriter/mastermind Gavin Luke Ross was looking for a task with which to occupy his time on the treacherous bus journey from London to Dundee, I noised him up about writing a tour diary for WYAZ. Thanks a lot to Gav for taking the time to do so.

I’d strongly recommend downloading the “Despondent” album. Not only is it a Scottish DIY dream-pop masterpiece, all proceeds go directly to the Scottish Association Of Mental Health. Terrafraid were my personal highlight of Rock The Tay this past weekend and kudos must go to Not Another Wild Goat Promotions for organising a weekend of shows to benefit SAMH also.

Terrafraid EU Tour Diary (April 2015) by Gavin Luke Ross.

When most people hear that you are going on tour and that you frequently do so, the sort of image that they seem to conjure up is “wow, you must have a fair bit of money to go to all them places” or “you must be so organised!”. Nothing could be further from the truth. Just ask any touring musician.

tour poster

Setting off for London:

It wouldn’t be a proper “first day of tour” without some sort of moment of panic. No matter how prepared you are, even sitting around that morning bored at the thought of “I’ve done everything there is to be done, now I’m just waiting around until I have to leave”, it always ends up in running/dashing in some form with a close call of “that could fucked up the whole tour…”. In my case, it was my doctor forgetting to put my prescription ready to collect & take away with me before leaving, even though I spoke to him a couple of hours beforehand to be safe. So it resulted in turning up there 30 minutes before me and Sean’s 11:00am bus to London to see why they hadn’t called me back yet, as a couple of hours had passed and it was drawing nearer to our bus leaving. It was then that they were dashing around the place in panic at realising they’d forgotten. As I eagerly awaited in the hope of “I can still make it”, I eventually got the prescription and took it over to the collection point. They informed me “it will probably be about 15 minutes if that’s okay?” I looked at my watch, seeing it was 10:42am, & in a moment of panic I texted Sean “I may not make it back home, may have to run to the station! Take my things! I’ll meet you there!”. It was worrying the lack of reply, but luckily it only took them a few minutes before calling my name. Luckily, I live close to the doctors, but sprinted back home with 10 minutes left. As I got in the door, I seen a note in my kitchen; “gone into town for travel snacks, I’ll meet you at the bus station. Sean”. It was then that I remembered Sean’s phone was broken, so he wouldn’t have seen my text. After that brief moment of “close call…” I grabbed all my things & ran to bus station with the passport (double then triple) check with the running thought of, if there was anything I’d forgotten, “fuck it!”. Luckily, I made it just in time with Sean waiting at the station. All I thought of the close call was “typical”.

The journey consisted mostly of sleeping on the bus o the way down. A long bus journey is always a breeze when the bus is fairly empty, because you can lay down across your 2 seats with your legs up in the opposite sides seats. We had our bags containing clothing to last a couple weeks, so it was t-shirt pillows as an added bonus. Plus, earphones are always the top saviour of any journey for any length of time. Sean, sadly, discovered his were broken after the bus had already began its journey.

We met Jason at Victoria station as he had went ahead to London the day before. We all shared a dread at the thought of what the night had ahead of us. The sleeping conditions of the floors of Stansted airport. We were right to dread it. It was the middle of the night and there were close to a hundred passengers sprawled across the floors of the airport. We would wander around trying to find a spot for ourselves, which wasn’t easy. Purely for I was more fixed on needing caffeine, for the less than usual amount I would normally have due to the day long journey, and our hunt for food. It was easier for Jason and Sean to be able to find snacks available for vegetarians, but for me, trying to find something suitable for a vegan was like trying to find a new rare species. Clearly to Stansted, I was that new rare species.

We would find a spot to sleep on, where Jason had his sleeping mat (as his hand luggage was the size of King Kong’s fist, so had such luxuries in there. He had forgotten that we had all this stuff arranged and waiting for us in Sweden) and Sean settled for emptying his bag of clothes to form some sort of laundry mattress. I stayed awake to drink my coffee and continue the hunt for something edible. We had to move when we realised we were resting/sleeping in the front of line to check in for a flight to Spain. So we walked like zombies to the next available spot. I managed to get some rest for a minute, until an airport women walked around yelling out to everyone to get up. She did so in such a rude manner. “The airport is officially open now. Come on! This isn’t a hotel! Get up!”. Fair to say, she made a hundred sleepy enemies very quickly. We just walked from one side of the room until she fucked off then we walked back to where we were then went back to sleep. Other people in the airport choose to do the same thing. Viva la revolution. ✌🏻

airport

After getting through security ( giggling immaturely at Jason being frisked; uou have to when it happens to someone else), we saw there was a lot more offer food wise. Well, not for me. All I could purchase was a souvenir box of Oreos. We had a look in an electrical goods store. All, of course, over priced and we have no intention of purchasing anything, but then it’s just the sort of bored shite you do when waiting around in an airport all night (that and tanning all the free aftershave on display). We made our own amusement and Sean set every tablet, iPad and such wallpaper background screens to images of his face. The staff may or may not have noticed or cared. If you worked in an airport electrical store at 4:30 am and still had to wear a purple shirt/tie, you probably wouldn’t care either.

Sweden/Denmark:

The flight was easy enough as I slept through it. I sat near the front of the plane while Jason and Sean were sat next to each other near the back. Unfortunately, Sean didn’t have such luck with getting a sleep on the flight, thanks to ‘Little Billy’. ‘Little Billy’ was a long blonde haired little Irish boy sitting behind Sean who spent the flight keeping himself entertained by kicking Sean’s chair profusely and being loud. Asking his dad;

*insert Irish accents
Little Billy – “Daddy, how high are we going!?”
Daddy – “Alllllll the way up to the stars Little Billy!”

This became a running joke throughout tour. More funny for those who weren’t Sean, who would look back with dagger eyes at every seat kick Little Billy delivered. The dad could possibly sense Sean’s impending explosion. But eventually Sean did get to sleep though, wearing my eye mask I lent him to sleep better without the light. But when the plane hit the ground, Sean leaped with the fright of his life ripping off the eye mask wondering where he was, then trying to calm his nerves. I’d of given anything to have that moment filmed.

We were collected by our friend Olle from Gothenburg, who was filling in on bass for us for this tour. We quickly went straight to the practice room in our van which was the van being used for the tour. As soon as we had arrived, Sean’s bag straps snapped and it fell to the floor. We laughed.

We were so exhausted from the long day/night/morning of travelling that we gave the songs a once over, as it was the first time we had ever played them with Olle who learned the songs before we arrived, and after going over each song we immediately suggested we go find food. The only thing nearby the practice space was a subway so we swung around there for some verge pate subs and coffee, as I was just dying to eat something that wasn’t an Oreo biscuit. Sean had reservations about ordering anything at all due to his limited money he had in his account. Although seeing us all order, he couldn’t resist the urge so did the same. We just got our sandwiches and coffee, he made the instant regrettable decision to also purchase a cookie. If someone at a food counter offers him such an item to go with his food, he will cave. Even if he can’t afford it. As soon as he joined us at our table he was trying to grasp with why he bought the cookie and that he really couldn’t afford it. Swedish prices, it was the most expensive cookie he had bought in a long time. It may have cleared him out. Especially as he purchased (only the day before) a £30 vapour stick package for smoking. It was a very spur of the moment purchase which he instantly regretted, asking me how long I reckon it will be before he either loses it or breaks it. I gave it a week (more on that to follow). He tried looking to the positive side though in that it will be a nice sugary treat for when he is to drive to Copenhagen in an hours time (which he knows, the rest of us will be using that time to sleep). He didn’t see the funny side however when Jason would hide his cookie when he went to the bathroom.

We returned to the practice room and just quickly went over everything once more for Olle’s sake, as we were just in a rush to get going for how tired we were, so then loaded up the van with what we were bringing from our end then set off for Denmark. It was after we left Gothenburg that I was woken up by an angry driving Sean, punching the inside van roof screaming “I FORGOT MY FUCKIN COOKIE!!!”.

We got to Copenhagen and met up with Forever Unclean (Lasse – Vocals/Guitar, Troels – Bass & Leo – drums) at their practice space (which is an underground bunker by the way! Truly awesome) and loaded the full back line in before heading off to the venue. It was great to catch up with them and look forward to the next couple of weeks ahead with them. We got to the venue, it was our first time seeing this one, as we had always played other venues before in Copenhagen, and it was fantastic; set up like a log cabin. Like a vegan hunters log cabin theme. He people were lovely and the food was magnificent. Sean spent a lot of the evening asleep in the back room where there was a bed. The dreadlocked girl who owned the venue woke up Sean who was asleep in the floor in the middle of the room and asked “would you like to sleep in my bed?”. He woke up dazed and confused and said “fucking….yes”.
The show kicked off a great first night and we spent the night at F.U bassist Troel’s flat. There was little sleep on my side that night, as it was that night we discovered Jason’s anti-snoring nose straps were useless.

Forever Unclean

Forever Unclean

Germany:

A gig for the following day had fallen through, which we were aware of in enough advance before tour, but we had a place to crash that night in Hannover. It was a shame to have a day off only on day 2 of tour, but the past 48 hours had been hectic for us Scottish bunch so it was quite nice to have a day to relax and take it easy. More so, for me to make the most of the fact we were in Germany, which is just generally awesome for vegan food. Our host for the evening took us to an amazing pizza place that served incredible vegan cheese & polony pizza, so we sat in the outside of this restaurant eating like kings. What followed was a pub crawl of all the nice places surrounding the area that our host liked to attend.

I was the only person on this tour who no longer drinks alcohol. The first show the night before marked exactly 10 months of being sober for me, so this tour was my first one abroad without alcohol. I would make up for it with chain smoking and caffeine drinking as everyone else would get drunk. As everyone would toast to shots or get in the next round I would distract my attention to elsewhere, like my phone, going outside for a cigarette or thinking random thoughts of where we would be going the next day and such. It’s easier to just zone out than be too focused on the surroundings of alcohol in all its forms, prices and mostly the enjoyment others seem to be getting out of it. It would be a challenge over the course of the next couple of weeks, as there isn’t any getting away from it, so it is all down to how you handle it. The next couple of weeks would test that.

Lennestadt was the next town to play in. We set off with a number being hungover. I myself was exhausted, from the lack of sleep. The snoring party was in growing numbers and when everyone is drunk, it is much easier for them to pass out cold. Being sober, and a seriously light sleeper, it was near impossible to rest with such earth-rumbling, ground-shaking explosive sinuses belting out like drums amongst a tribe through the night. I’m not one to talk, any little sleep I did get, I would snore too. Endless smoking will do that. But it was rare that I did, as it was rare that I slept. Lennestadt was a beautiful town, with a twin peaks vibe to it. We could see it was clearly a very religious town, and that sparked off the running jokes throughout tour how much Troel is the spitting image of Jesus Christ. The venue we were playing in was also a Christian centre I believe, but you would never think it at night when the local gig goers would come by to get wasted and watch the bands. Local band Living & Fading opened the show brilliantly, they were super nice guys and great live, I recommend checking them out! A personal highlight for me was seeing an older gentleman there who was the spitting image of a German Ed Begley Jr. Nobody else got the reference for not knowing who Ed Begley Jr was. It was beyond infuriating, because it was insane how much he really did resemble him.

We were lucky enough to stay in a glorious house with a beautiful balcony that has a gorgeous view of the surrounding snowy mountains of this town. We were off to a perfect start for sleeping conditions. Jason slept in the attic whilst I slept in a bedroom. We made a pact so I would have a Jason snore free night to try sleep. Unfortunately, Jason wasn’t the only snorer, so the room that a few of us shared was pretty noisy regardless. Still though, the time spent in this lovely home with lovely people and their hospitality made it a nice night over all.

The next day we played in Saarbrucken. It was a lovely place that hadn’t put on much gigs before, but were so welcoming and had a great atmosphere. It was just us & F.U playing. The majority of the gigs were, which was a first for me in doing a tour where the shows weren’t with a line up of local support to bring in audiences. It showed that these towns had plenty of people who came out to shows (even weekday ones!) to see music coming to town, which was a very enlightening sight. That night, after we played, everyone was hanging around the venue to drink up the free alcohol on offer and just have fun hanging around the venue. I would take the opportunity to rest with some alone time by going for a walk and chilling out in the van until we left. I would be social too, but after a few nights of being surrounded by a group of guys having fun drinking, some time to relax was needed away from it. I generally find myself drained & mentally exhausted without it. Being around groups of people in general tends to have that effect. Not in any way to be anti social or not enjoy the company I am with, but more so that I can enjoy it much more by having my own space to regain energy to then participate in the fun we have together. Otherwise, it can be quite emotionally hard too. Waiting outside in that van, I had a little cry. Not at anything in particular or any reason/person, but just because I felt I needed to. In a week of being on the move endlessly and with new people and environment every day, it felt like I just needed to get it out of my system so I could move on. This would come up some nights, purely for relief to just let it out there so that I can start afresh afterwards. Otherwise, it would all suppress. The place we were staying at that night had 2 dogs and a cat, so I perked right up by then to have fun playing with them in all their fun energetic madness. I would wonder if they would be more confused by what I say, being that they are more used to hearing German, but then I quickly stopped as I would be aware that I tend to over think things like that too much.

cat

Switzerland:

That night was another night off and on our journey we realised we didn’t have a place that was best on the route to stay over, but luckily F.U brought their large tent, so it was going to be a night of camping for us, which we were excited about, as we have never thought to go camping on any previous tours! After stopping by France for some food groceries, finding a spot was quite a mission t, as most land is owned and suitability was quite rare. A camping site wouldn’t let us in because we didn’t have a “camping card”. Asking where we could get one resulted in said informant telling us they have no idea. We would keep moving location to location. There was one spot we found, but given that there was used toilet paper and condoms, we realised it was more popular a spot than we first thought. Time was getting on and we realised we had at least an hour until sun down and we’d rather not put up a tent in the dark. Managing to get online briefly using Jason’s phone, we found that there was a cheap camping site about 30/40km away, so we aimed for that as our last shot. Getting there it had become dark, there was nobody at the front desk so we asked a fellow camper walking around. He suggested we just go ahead and drive in, set up tent and settle it in the morning (or leave early before they catch on and drive off scott free). There was drinking happening from all the guys (I went wild on peach ice tea) and we had a fun talks. I was amazed how well I seemed to sleep in there. But then again, I wrapped my scarf around my whole head/face with my hat pulled down and sleeping bag over. Everyone else seemed to have a cold night. Sean at some point just went and slept in the van. I was the first one up bright and early so managed to go on a coffee hunt and use the shower facilities.

The drive to Switzerland was just heaven. The most beautiful sights to behold. A lot of journeys would be sleeping in the van, but this one was worth staying awake for as we would drive through the Alps and be blown away. Arriving in Chur, we would be in amazement at the surroundings of these surrounding mountains of this town. It was all just generally very photogenic from every angle. We were put up in a great hostel not far from the venue. It was huge and we couldn’t be more relieved at the gift in the form of beds and showers. The venue itself, Tom’s Beer Box, was incredible. Again, it was just us 2 bands playing, but we were amazed before tour to learn that we would be paid 400 for this show. Especially, being a Monday night, which is when they tend to have most shows (!?). After hanging out at the venue and setting up we were taken to a nearby restaurant/cafe where we had a nice meal. I can’t quite remember the name of my dish, but the waitress seemed very shocked by my insistence of “yes, withOUT cheese”. When it arrived then it was a nice meal, although basically tomato-ish bread with salad. Still, the poshest bread I’d had in some time, it was grand! We finished up with coffee and we were brought complimentary shots of some drink (I didn’t have mine, so gave it away). It seemed to be hit or miss. As we walked back to the venue, Lasse whispered to me “did you hear how much we are actually getting tonight?” “No?”. Let’s just say, it was relatively much higher than 400 we originally thought. We couldn’t believe it and thought surely not! For just us two bands? Apparently, Switzerland has a lot of money to throw away…

The show was fantastic. The locals were fun, energetic & surprised us with having a Monday show go down so well. Not long after playing, I went back to the hostel to relax & catch up on sleep while the rest stayed out to party. Seems they had quite a wild night ahead of them…Late at night, I heard them come back & enter our room drunk. They decided there was still fun to be had out on the streets of this small town so off they went. I vaguely remember hearing them come back later that night even more drunk, but I was too half asleep.

The next morning I heard about all the events the night before & how they were nearly arrested. It seems on their drunken adventures, they had come across a building, with drunken curiosity, saw that the door was open. They went inside wondering what this place was, only to discover it was actually the Chur courthouse. Before they knew it, they heard speeding cars and sirens. They went back outside to be surrounded by police cars, while they played the ‘dumb tourist’, saying that they thought it was their hostel and it was a mistake. They were all just thankful that they all happened to come up with the same excuse to tell, so they were sent on their way. But it looked like they had all sorts of fun the night before after I had left the venue. I saw photos of Sean having a go in the wheelchair of the girl who was at the front of the floor all night as both bands played, and plenty more of everyone dancing with the locals.

sean alps

Slovenia:

Slovenia was another great place to play, with a beautiful town and beautiful weather.
Throughout this tour during our set on each show, I would make an announcement about The Scottish Association Of Mental Health and that it’s who we support with album sales, and requested if there was such a charity like them that they knew of in their own country I would love to hear about it. It was in Slovenia that Lasse got a phone call to inform him that a friend back home had taken his own life. It was heartbreaking to say the least to hear such news. I didn’t know this friend that they were speaking of and had never met him, but it was a real eye opening matter for a lot of us, which would lead on through the rest of the week with myself having conversations with the guys about mental health; the stigma surrounding it in which like the circumstances with their friend, nobody had any clue that there was anything wrong. SAMH is an organisation that helps one speak out about it, and  seeing/hearing of these things in other countries was so tragic to know of. I wondered what they had to turn to, and how the people of these countries coped with or without such support from such organisations. It made for a lot of bonding and opening up amongst ourselves. I still think of this friend of theirs. I know they all will never forget him.

We were warmly received by the locals. I was so surprised how known we seemed to be, in that our name was becoming more known in Slovenia. At one point, during the end of our first song Sean’s amp broke. So to stall time while his head got switched I played a solo song, “Where There’s Warmth“, to the crowd. We always joked throughout tour about how we would be received to the punk audiences on this punk tour when our music is unashamedly pop influenced. I figured an acoustic ballad would be a strange choice to go down with (in an amusing sort of way), but was surprised when Sean informed me afterwards that a girl approached him saying she was glad she got to hear that song live as it was a personal favourite. It was then that we really pleased to think of the crowds each night and how open they were to the realms of punk rock; what it is and what it stands for. Heart.

We spent after the show outside most of the night, chilling out in the beer garden area by the entrance as the locals watched late night football. I was automatically drawn to a stray cat that had come over to play and we all gathered round like amazed children and swooned at its very sight. It was so very hard to leave it behind but we headed off eventually and stayed over in a large squat building that night. I tried to sleep as the rest of the guys explored the hallways, given the haunted mansion look of it all. I would have done he same if I wasn’t so tired. It did have a fantastic run down Stanley hotel vibe going for it.

The next day was spent having a walk around the streets in the sun looking for second hand stores to do some shopping. We were determined to make the most of it, as Sean had always gotten the most ridiculous/wonderful outfits out of Eastern Europe shops like that and we were determined for more. He bought himself a new shirt. Well, by shirt, I mean top half of pyjamas. The woman selling him it seemed very confused.

band

Croatia:

So back to the organised musician part, we all fuck up! When others I’m with do, I laugh it off. Mostly glad that it wasn’t me. But a lot of the time I will fuck things up royally. Little things, but you have to laugh! Early on in the tour Leo realised he had forgotten his passport, which would have been needed to enter Croatia. He had tried everything up to that point in calling the nearest embassy and such but nothing was of any use, so we would continue with our plan to smuggle Leo in.

Of course, we didn’t do that. We’d heard that a valid form of identity was all that was needed so would attempt that. So we arrived at the border and we accidentally pulled into the wrong lane, which maybe got us off to a bad start with the current officer, then we all provided our passports and Leo provided his driving licence and such, but he was having none of it. He was clearly in no mood for coercing and told us to be on our way. So turning back around, we stopped by a little cafe for coffee and to think of our next move. Our first thought was to go to the next border and just try there. But with the thought of perhaps this grumpy officer giving the heads up to the other border about a bunch of punk scots amnd Danes on their way, F.U insisted we go ahead without them, play the gig, get the money then come back and collect them. We eventually settled and agreed that was the best option, as Leo had already informed the promoter of the plan. It meant they also got to have a nice night out in the nearby town too.

So ahead we went. Getting through the border this time seemed to be much easier. That same officer wasn’t there, instead was another one who was in a booth, and when handing him the passports, he just asked “where’s the other ones?” “Ah, we ditched them” “ok” and off we went. On reflection, we could have probably just had F.U in the back seat…

We arrived at the venue. It was an enormous building. A squat-like building that seemed to serve many functions inside, like rehearsal spaces and even dance classes for children. We got into the room we were playing in and realised we were the only band playing that night. The general sort of gigs they tend to have there were a bit heavier than our sort of thing. One guy in his mid to late 40’s who was hanging around in the room after we had set up, waiting for the sound guy to arrive for sound check, was making conversation with Jason. Now, if you know what Jason looks like, it’s quite easy to make the mistake which this gentleman certainly did. He told us;

“I must go now! BUT! If you boys be on around 10pm, I’ll be back! I love to see some fucking good proper crust! All these punk kids trying to tell me what what fucking hard stuff is, no! I want some fucking real heavy crust shit!! Look forward!”

Oh boy was he going to be disappointed….

As we hung around waiting for the sound guy & for food to be ready, Sean was on their computer (I should mention that Sean’s mobile phone has been broken for some time. It ONLY works if it is plugged in) trying to find a place to crash that night at someone’s house that he knows, as our drive that night (including picking up F.U from the nearby town) would be about 8 hours and the venue wanted us to go on around midnight. This seemed to be a normal time for gigs to start there, as the pubs would close and that’s when people would come along (or that was at least the logic in my mind). We managed to talk down to 11:30 for going on. It was around about the middle of playing ‘Is It Worth It?’ That I noticed the look of confused horror on that middle aged crust punks face.

The show was super quiet. The sound guy was awesome and definitely gave us the best sound out of the whole tour, but unfortunately there were just little numbers there. We didn’t care though, we just wish we could of stuck around to hang out all night there with those who were. Coming off stage, the promoter gave us money he got from a whip round of donations from the folk who were there. Incredibly generous people! Being late, we packed up super quick and stocked up the van to go pick up the Danes, staying over at a squat in Germany that was halfway to our next destination. It was when carrying the final things to the van that we saw the crowding herd approaching the venue coming to check out the gig….I could only assume the pubs finally closed by then….fuck….

We were lucky that we didn’t attempt to smuggle F.U in on that second attempt, as on the way out, it was flashlights in the van from another grumpy bugger. Having our passports checked like they were Rubik’s cubes. The officer asked Sean “spring break?”. We informed him we were musicians (not frat boys…) then he just quickly “oh ok. Bye” and we were gone. Collecting F.U, Lasse informed us that it wouldn’t have worked anyway, as he’d noticed that night that his passport was a month expired.

gav alps

Back to Germany:

The squat we stayed in that night was built with bunk beds which were wholeheartedly appreciated. We were so lucky to have such good sleeping places throughout this tour, not one rough night! (minus the snore battles that sound like a flemy minefield). It was perfect for regaining energy to get to the next venue; our buddies’ rehearsal room/venue space in Nürnberg, which I last played at 5 years ago. This place was run by the awesome guys in Money Left To Burn and had a long cherished history for its use as a punk space. It was saddening to hear during that tour that the guys had forced down on them the decision to be out of there by September due to the noise. Same old story, eh? At least we got to have a great night there once more. After our set, we took the opportunity to just have some fun. I got on the drums & others would pick up instruments and we jammed a linoleum cover. Sean got up to play a solo set at the insistence of the owners. He didn’t know what to do so played singalong covers of Cher’s ‘Believe’ (you can find that on YouTube) and Ronan Keating. Also jamming out Metallica riffs. Eventually I went up and did my cover of R Kelly’s “Ignition (also can be found on YouTube) and an Osker song. There was more folk going up and jamming, making it a party. The party continued late into the night until people went out to the nearest bar. I stayed in to sleep. Although everyone was back after 15 minutes after realising the bar scene there wasn’t quite so upbeat as they hoped.

Frankfurt turned out to be a fantastic night ahead too in terms of place, people, food, the whole package! The venue was literally next to the border of Poland. I was in Germany, then nipped over to Poland to buy a pack of cigs. It was strange, but lovely to see Poland for the first time. Nice to say I walked there too. It took me 20 seconds.
Theshow was full and after playing, parties proceeded. Lasse had some super hot chillies (no idea what kind, I don’t know chillies very well, but insanely mental is how I would describe them based on everyone’s reactions). Everyone did the challenge on camera of taking these chillies and proceeded to suffer immensely from it. I did not participate, I just filmed gem all & laughed my arse off at the state of them. Not long after, I decided it was time for getting away from it and rest. A lot of bars were hard for me on a personal level. A serious struggle. Back home, anxiety had limited me to how often I could be out in public or any forms of crowded atmosphere. I couldn’t handle it well, just given how late we were into the tour, I hadn’t been in this kind of position in a long time, as I had gotten so used to living in seclusion and being on my own in my own safe environment. It was a major worry before coming on this tour how I would cope and if I would even be able to cope at all. Some nights felt like I couldn’t and if have to take a little private time to myself. That night was the most daunting and heavy hitting, feeling struggles to express anything and not knowing what to express. It was only a thin curtain separating me from the rest of the venue & drunk folk, as I would switch the lights out & lay in the dark trying to forget where I am & fall asleep. But I’ve never been a great sleeper in general, and it doesn’t help when you see that it is 5:30 in the morning and you can hear Sean dancing and singing along to “Who Let The Dogs Out” as it blasts in the speakers. They are all having a good time and it is essential that whatever I am feeling is personal and should not be a burden on them. That’s where the guilt lies mostly, which makes it harder to shift when you have no way of letting it out of your system or retreating to your safe place when you are miles away from your bedroom.

Eventually more started to fall asleep but I decided to move into the back room where it was further away from the blasting speakers. Although it was near 6am so it was pretty light, but my biggest regret; Jason was passed out on the floor. Given the choice of them blasting speakers playing bad 90’s synth pop and Jason’s sleeping nostrils, I should have stayed in the other room. A thrown pillow and hitting of a cow bell did nothing.

By the time everyone got up I was like a zombie. I just needed coffee and a cigarette more than anything. Several of both on repeat. The others seemed surprisingly fresh. Possibly because before going to sleep they had a swim in the German/Polish river, which gave them a great buzz and woke them up quite a bit. Our host laid out a massive table with a massive breakfast buffet out in the sun for us. Not a whole lot was vegan and I was far too light headed to do much talking, so I just grabbed some rolls knowing I had my own fillings and such for them for the journey in the van. Loading up the van, an old lady in her car was trying to get out of her street which was blocked, so Jason moved bags and such out the way to help her car get through. To his surprise, the old lady got out of the car and approached him with a fruit basket and some fruity sweets. If this was the local hospitality, we were loving it; sweet old lady locals.

We got to our next venue after trying figure out how due to road works. F.U told us how they remember playing there 3 years ago and those same roadworks were there and have been ever since. Strange. We pulled in to the venue and, as we are getting our things out the venue, Leo nipped inside to find the promoter. He comes back out and says “they are playing your album in there and there’s a cat on the bar”. I thought I’d misheard or didn’t understand the metaphor, until I realised he was being literal. I went in and there was a cat resting up on the bar. The cat seemed to justice this venue and had his usual resting spot up on the bar. Already, this was my favourite venue.

They, by far, served us our best meal; a huge dish of home made vegan meatballs, steamed vegetables, so much. It was glorious. The room upstairs we were in was great with its high built bunk beds. It looked like the most comfiest spot yet. I even took the couch while everyone took the beds, as the couch looked like even the most comfiest thing I’d sat on in some time. It was that good. We played that, an emotional night, as it was our last show with Forever Unclean. We had a fun night doing our final singalongs to each other’s sets, but for me and Sean it was another early night, a chilled out evening for the long journey the next day, to Copenhagn then Gothenburg.

tour over

We dropped off our Danish brothers in their home town and said our farewells. It was real sad, as they were by far the most incredible people and best tour buddies. We really connected on a lot of levels and loved spending the time we had together with each other. I still sit their songs on repeat in my head and you better believe I am bringing them to Scotland!

We headed up to Gothenburg to play a secret rehearsal room show to friends of ours, but time was getting on. It was a struggle to know if we would make it. We’d get there for at least 10pmish, mostly with the hope of going around the corner to the vegan pizza restaurant. We were so insanely hungry that we would consider playing just one song so we could run and get our pizza. Obviously joking around, we got there and played through our set for friends and had a lovely catch up. They even brought us clean socks and vegan cake!! (Thanks Svetlana & Petter!) but sadly, we got round to the restaurant and they were no longer cooking. You could buy already cooked pizzas, but not vegan ones. Heartbroken.

The next day, I had to get a morning flight back to London. The plan was that me and Sean would fly back together, he already had his flight booked well in advance. I booked mine in Saarbrucken. Asking him if it was the morning one I should book. Obviously, he wasn’t paying much attention, as I learned a few days later it was the night one I was supposed to get. So it was a whole day in London on my own trying to figure out what to do. After my phone battery dying when landing, the first couple of hours were spent in a coffee shop charging my phone and contacting buddies from our last tour, members of The Exhausts and Petrol Girls, then I made my way to their house to hang out. Sean wouldn’t arrive at their house until near 3am, then we set our alarm for 6am to get up and grab our bus back up to Scotland.

Oh, also, about Sean’s vapour stick, I was right. It broke within a week.

Thank you so much to Gavin for sharing his tour story with us. Terrafraid play Redd Suite, Dundee on Monday 18th May with Sweet Empire (NL), Irish Handcuffs (GER) and Shatterhand before supporting Andrew Jackson Jihad (USA) and Hard Girls (USA) with The Murderburgers on Saturday 13th June.

sweet empire

100th Post – New Release; Tragical History Tour – “Live in Dundee” EP

Today we celebrate the release of the Tragical History Tour “Live in Dundee” EP recorded by Russell Brown of Maxwell’s Dead live at Buskers, Dundee at the Franz Nicolay 7″ launch show with Billy Liar and Broken Stories on Saturday 14th March 2015. The EP is available for free/pay-what-you-want download with all donations being greatly received and going towards the EU Tour fund for the forthcoming jaunt with Get It Together.

This post also marks the 100th post on Write Yer Ane Zine, so what better way to commemorate such an occasion than with some fresh live acoustic cowpunk jamz?

liner notes

Tragical History Tour will be “headlining” a hometown show at Cerberus Bar, Dundee this coming Thursday night at the last MTAT show of the month alongside an hat-trick of Edinburgh singer/songwriters in the form of Paper Rifles (Jon of Curators fame), Benny Monteux and James Johnson (ex Shields Up, current Elk Gang). The show kicks off around 7.30pm and entry is by donations please.

tht march

The Get It Togther and THT UK/EU Tour then kicks off next Thursday in London. We are still looking to fill one final date on Thursday 9th April somewhere between Leipzig and Dresden. We are willing to play anywhere within reasonable (6/7 hours maybe?) drive of both of these cities and are just looking for some place to play as days off on  tour suck. If anyone out is keen to help us out at all and/or can point us in the right direction, please do give us a shout and email makethatatakerecords@gmail.com

Thus far our schedule is looking as such;

Thursday 2nd April; The Unicorn, Camden, ENG
Friday 3rd April; Quadrant, Brighton, ENG
Saturday 4th April; Cafe Asgard, Beverwijk, NL
Sunday 5th; Cafe Bluff, Heerlen, NL
Monday 6th; Auto Control. Amsterdam, NL
Tuesday 7th; KTS, Freiburg, GER
Wednesday 8th; Kulturcafé Manfred, Leipzig, GER
Thursday 9th; ***Free To Book***
Friday 10th; Luther 33, Dresden, GER
Saturday 11th; Ramones Museum, Berlin, GER (afternoon)
Saturday 11th; Venue TBC, Berlin, GER (evening)
Sunday 12th; Sub071 Leiden, NL

Get It Together continue to support their incredible “Rebuild, Recover” 7″ EP and I very much look forward to slamming down with these boys every single night across tour. I’ll be the hype man jumping into the pit and getting y’all fired up! As I said previously, any donations for the new THT EP will go straight into the tour fund to keep the show on the road, so please give generously if you can.

THANKING YOU FOR EVERYTHING.

Exclusive Interview / 7″ Stream; Franz Nicolay

We roasters at Make That A Take have long been fans of Franz Nicolay and we’re very proud be putting out his Double A-Side 7″ single on the eve of this UK Tour. I first met Franz when he came to play Book Yer Ane Fest V whilst on tour with Chris T-T and we had the pleasure of introducing him to Frankie Stubbs. We’ve also had the pleasure of putting Franz on a couple more times over the years, developing friendship along the way, and we are very pleased to be welcoming him back to Scotland for four shows starting in Perth next Friday (13th March). Cheap e-tickets are available for the “official” record launch show at Buskers, Dundee with Broken Stories, Billy Liar and Jon Shoe (The Cut Ups) on Saturday 14th March here.

franztour

It is with great excitement that we present the stream and pre-order of the new Franz Nicolay 7″, produced by J. Robbins and featuring Andrew Seward (Against Me), Yoni Gordon and Ara Babajian (The Slackers/Leftover Crack). The record is limited to 300 copies and is “officially” released on Monday 9th March 2015. Thanks to Punktastic for premiering the stream on Monday.

On the eve of the record release and tour, I asked Barry “The” Kydd if he’d like to conduct an interview with Franz for WYAZ. He duly agreed so I put them in touch. This interview took place over email. Thank you to both Barry and Franz for taking the time for do this exclusive interview.

Nicolay_PressPhoto_NicoleMago_BWVert

B : I’d like to start fairly early if possible. What was your local music scene like when you were growing up, and how did you come about to find yourself a wielder of such an array of instruments?

F: There wasn’t any. I grew up in a town of nine hundred in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire, in the pre-internet era. I got my music information from the mainstream music press. I was into Pearl Jam and U2. The nearest thing to a local music scene was a handful of jam bands in Portsmouth, about an hour and a half away on the seacoast. There was one called Thanks To Gravity I liked. I was really a rube, musically and otherwise, when I went to New York for college. I consciously scrubbed some of the real New England locutions from my vocabulary after people noticed.

Curiousity, really. I started playing violin at four or five after seeing Yitzhak Perlman on Sesame Street, then piano a year or so later. I wanted to play trombone in elementary school band–as a not particularly manly kid, I was obsessed with low instruments–but my arms were too short to reach seventh position, so they gave me a French horn. I played that from fourth through ninth grade, when, of course, I got a guitar. I got really into The Basement Tapes in high school, hence mandolin and accordion. The mandolin was my graduation present to myself. Etcetera, etcetera. I find the process of learning a new instrument conducive to writing – the process of figuring out the new dialect of a familiar language leads you down some interesting roads.

B :Yeah, I can certainly see the logic in that. In terms or writing, do you find its the music first, or words? Have you followed a process throughout your career or do you take each one as it comes?

F: I used to do music first, when I was a teenager up until I stopped writing my own songs for a while. I would sing a dummy melody and hang words on the vowels. Now I’m more interested in the words, and more likely to have chunks of music and chunks of words and move them around against each other to see what fits. The words usually get precedence, which is why my songs have such odd forms these days.

B: I kinda love the subject matter of most of your songs, and how you tend to approach it. I remember probably the 2nd last time I saw you, which I’m guessing was almost 2 years ago now, the song from To Us, The Beautiful – “Marfa Lights”, was already in your set, so much so we asked you about it afterwards. Have you been writing this new record that whole time? Are you pleased with how it’s turned out?

F : Yeah, “Marfa Lights” had been percolating since 2012, when my wife and I played in Marfa. I had the chorus right away. Then some of the elements of the verses are from my UK tour the previous year with Chris T-T. So yeah, that was the first song I wrote of this batch and had been around for a while. The others were mostly all written in the first half of 2013, either in my wintry apartment in Toronto or in Virginia waiting for my daughter to arrive.

I usually stockpile lyric ideas while I’m on the road, and it’s just a matter of waiting until I have a sustained period of time at my desk to assemble the pieces. And sometimes I’ll go over discarded leftovers from past projects to see if there’s anything I missed. “Shallow Water” was a banjo riff from when I was writing the songs on “Do The Struggle,” that’s why it’s the only non-guitar song on this record, it’s an older part. I scavenged the bridge lyrics for “Open With The Wrestlers” for some lyrics I wrote for a one-off performance of a song by my friends the avant-jazz band Gutbucket from almost twenty years ago. The music for “Pilot Inside” was actually a demo I did for a TV advert for a large internet company which shall go unnamed. They rejected it, so, whatever dudes, I think it’s catchy, I’m keeping it. But mostly everything was written in one burst in the first half of 2013. Then it was a matter of convincing myself it was worth all the stupid effort to make another stupid record. Sigh.

B : Haha, I think the new record is absolutely great, your efforts are fully justified in my eyes. I reckon the sound you achieved this time is far more, accessible, shall we say, and I think the whole record benefits from that shift. On the arrival of your daughter, (congratulations) do you now feel as though the reasons you have to write and indeed sell your music have changed? Has your whole outlook altered?

F: It’s hard for me to pick apart what’s changed about my outlook towards music and my outlook in general. The major effect in terms of how I think of myself as a musician was I had to come off the road, because while I could support myself touring, I’d never reached the level that some people do where they can fund their year on just a couple months of tour. So then I was just an unemployed dad in his late thirties with no way of supporting a family. And that dredged up all kinds of resentments, some justified, some not, about the idea that you could have a decent career and some success and still never be able to make a humane living and just have to start from scratch. I’m no rock and roll martyr.

B : I can imagine it being very difficult. Did you see that documentary – “The Other F Word?” All about punk rock dads trying to find that balance between staying relevant yet needing to feed and keep a household. Really interesting and not something a lot of folk would consider. How long is this current stretch of touring? Do you have any coping mechanisms for being away from your family?

F : No, I haven’t seen it. This tour will be two weeks. That’s about the maximum my wife can conceive of looking after our daughter on her own, for the time being. She’s still young enough that she doesn’t really notice if one of us is away. And as any dad reading this knows, the thing you want more than anything else is just a little quiet alone time, so from that standpoint, a little bit of driving around by myself is a wonderful thing.

B: As a band member, session musician and now into the solo career you have embarked on, has been incredibly impressive in terms of the quality you consistently produce. Do you have a favourite song or project from anywhere your whole career that you are especially proud of?

F: How about if I pick one from each period? I’m a sucker for the expansive, wide-screen songs, so I love World/Inferno’s “We Will Never Run Into One Another On Trains,” The Hold Steady’s “First Night,” my own “Joy.” “Agada” and “Sugar Park Tavern Death Song” from Guignol. I think “Do The Struggle” is my best set of lyrics. “This Is Not A Pipe” has the best balance between how much people like it and how I never get sick of playing it, which is rare, really.

If I had to pick a starter box set for someone who had never heard anything I’ve done, I would do W/IFS “Red-Eyed Soul,” THS “Boys And Girls In America,” Guignol & Mischief Brew “Fight Dirty” (which has the highest ration between how good I think it is and how few people own it) and my “Do The Struggle.”

B: Excellent, expansive answer. You are good at this interview game!

F: Most people have strong opinions about themselves.

B: Haha, I reckon the appeal to both you, and the audience with “This is Not a Pipe” for example, is the way you can alter and vary the methods of delivering each line so well, to keep people’s attention, and to keep it fresh for you. I don’t think I’ve ever seen another artist who can make a whole room just shut the fuck up and listen better than yourself. It’s quite a talent. Who would you say, if anyone, helped you to define your onstage persona?

F: Maybe, but I do that with lots of the songs, that’s just the one that the most people connect with so they notice it more. Anyway, I don’t know, I just study showmanship and pick up ideas where I can. The vaudevillian aspect of the way I present gives me cover to have a wider emotional range, and a show is all about managing the dynamic–offset a sad song with a one-liner, suddenly slow down a fast song–and the wider the range the more I can do. People have short attention spans. One of the reasons I’m ambivalent about guitar songs and playing with a band is it severely limits what I can do with the show. Can’t spend a lot of time chatting at the crowd, or stop the song in the middle and make a joke, if you have other people onstage.

B: Yeah I would certainly agree with that. Watching you is very much a show experience, not just watching a band or singer songwriter.

B: Ok, speaking of short attention spans, I should maybe start wrapping this up with a few quick fire fun ones. What’s the weirdest place you ever played? (Apart from Dundee)

F: Ulan Bataar, Mongolia. I was travelling through and posted on a bunch of expat blogs, ended up at a faux-Irish pub frequented by Australian and New Zealander mining executives and managed by a gay Belgian who’d fallen in love with a member of the Mongolian national ballet and emigrated.

B: Sounds like absolutely your perfect scenario to play in. What will be on the stereo as you drive around the UK next month?

F: I got this amazing trove of Prince demos going back to the mid-seventies, when he was a teenager with a four-track rocking the George Benson sing-along-to-your-fusion-jazz solos style. Still got 600 tracks to get through.

B: Ha. That does sound amazing. Have you performed any marriage ceremonies lately? 🙂

F: Not a one. 😦

B: I suppose those requests are few and far between. Quality, not quantity.
If you could only play 3 more shows in the remainder of your career, who would you want on the bill with you? and where would you want to play?

F: Jeez, I don’t know. On the one hand, it’s a free shot to dish out some compliments; on the other to answer it would involve some touchy alpha ranking assumptions about who would support whom. I’ll take a pass. I love everybody. I would want to play a proscenium stage with those bare lightbulbs around the edge, and thick red curtains.

B: I cannot argue with that. Is there a song that exists that you wish you had written?

F: Many, but the first one that jumps to mind is “Johnny Mathis’ Feet” by American Music Club. Recent songs, Dave Dondero’s “This Guitar” and Bill Callahan’s “Small Plane.”

B: What’s next for you after this UK tour? I noticed you have a book coming out, that’s pretty interesting.

F: I’ll be doing two weeks of festivals and club shows with the band in Europe in August. Maria and Lesia and I will be travelling most of the summer, in St. Petersburg, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine. And yeah, the book – “The Humorless Ladies of Border Patrol,” on The New Press sometime early next year. It’s about DIY touring in the former Communist world, from Belgrade to Beijing, with portraits of some of the characters who constitute the local scenes and some deep dives into the history of punk and politics in Russia and China. It’s been a long time in the making and I’m more than a little amazed I’ve been able to find a good home for it.

B: The New Press will certainly be a great home for it. Look forward to picking that up, sounds fascinating. On the east coast of Scotland, there is a certain trend for yelling bizarre heckles that are intended to humour rather than offend anyone, it’s ran for as long as I can remember. What’s the strangest/best heckle anyone’s ever yelled at you?

F: I can’t remember anything specific – but when I’m in the audience, I’m a big fan of “That was a really good song!” It confuses people. Oh, I just remembered one – in Donetsk, Ukraine (which is now the hub of the war) a guy said, “I don’t like USA, but I like you!” So that was…nice.

B: Haha, Constructive heckles are great, we will try to entertain you as much as you entertain us when we see you. Franz, it’s been a pleasure bouncing questions back and forth, thanks so much for taking the time to respond. Very excited about MTAT’s involvement in the 7″ release and the numerous Scottish dates coming up, travel safe and I will see you soon.

F: Yessir! See you in a couple weeks.

Thank you so much to Barry and Franz for taking the time to do this interview, much appreciated gentlemen.

Franz will play an intimate in-store show at Groucho’s, Dundee from 2pm on Saturday 14th March before the record launch show in the evening. It’s a free show so come down and enjoy a unique performance, have some banter and maybe get your 7″ signed!

grouchos

Thanks to everyone for reading. Do please grab a copy of what is a little gem of a record!

See ye at the shows!

“We Don’t Glow, We Burn”; UNIFORMS (2011-2015)

pink couchthe end-page-001(1)

Being in UNIFORMS has been a life-changing experience for me. Punk rock sometimes truly does have healing powers. Being part of this band helped pull me through the darkest period of my life, from the death of my father and everything that followed with it to sobriety, recovery and everything else that comes with it.

I will forever be thankful to my brothers for supporting me through the darkest days; for the unity, for the shared experiences, for the loyalty, for the music, for the love. With that love comes honesty and a responsibility to do what is best for the collective health and well-being of everyone involved, and it is with that in mind that we bring this chapter of the story to a close. I am very proud of my brothers and everything that we’ve done together. We have stood together through things that may have destroyed others. We have always done things with great intensity and (I hope) integrity.

Words are inadequate to express the depth of the gratitude we have for everyone who took a chance on and supported our silly punk rock band. UNIFORMS has been therapy for me, the soundtrack to our lives and a central focus of existence for the last three and a half years. For that I shall be forever grateful.

While our end may come as a surprise to some, it is not a decision that has been made lightly but I truly believe that it will be for the best in the long run, no matter how sad it may be right now. There is nobody more gutted about this than me but sometimes you just have to be a zen motherfucker. While there may be questions, rest assured that this is a decision based on love. There is no drama, no heel turn, no Gainesville screwjob. If you listen to the songs, it’s all in there.

We apologise to those who went to bat for us as regards the European Tour of which UNIFORMS will no longer be a part and to anyone that we may have disappointed. I shall be joining our comrades in Get It Together on the road and will be playing some of the shows solo.

All of our shit will continue to be available for free/pay-what-you-want download here.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who joined us on this ride.

It’s been somewhat emotional.

last pic

WHAT’S A PUNK TO DO???

End of Year List; Favourite Records of 2014

10174862_791793044216668_1275556213106828936_n

End of Year Lists are becoming customary it would appear. People appear to compile their lists for many different reasons and while it may just be a piss into cyberspace, I have put together a completely non-scientific list of favourite records from 2014 taken from what I know everyone in the MTAT crew’s favourite records of the year to be. To say that “x record is better than y record” is to engage in endless nonsense, so there are no rankings or such in this list, just a whole bunch of top quality records that we’d recommend checking out. Huge thanks to everyone who continues to support DIY and underground punk rock worldwide!

Bear Trade – “Blood and Sand” (Everything Sucks / Dead Broke Rekerds)

Our favourite northern punks delivered a stone cold classic of modern UK punk rock that ranks up amongst the finest punk records that have ever come from these shores. While there is undoubtedly a big Leatherface influence there, I think it comes more from the geographic and lyrical similarities rather than any overt aping of said band, combined with a heavy dose of melodic witty cynicism as displayed by the likes of Mega City Four, Brocolli and their ilk. Most importantly though, there are songs. Bangers by the fucking bucketload. If “Dead Leg” doesn’t get stuck in your head like a terrace anthem then you have no heart and no soul. Their headline performance at BYAF VIII was just the icing on the cake for me!

The Kimberly Steaks“To Live and Die in West Central Scotland” (MTAT / All In Vinyl)

Quite simply one of the finest Scottish punk rock records of modern times. Grieg Steaks is an exceptional songwriter who manages to wrap modern day punk rock poetry around 90 second pop-punk bangers that are deceptively complex whilst narrating tales of the grim realities of live on the bleak west coast of Scotland. It’s easy to make comparisons to early Green Day, Crimpshrine and the Lookout Records cast, but there’s a depth, wit and distinct Scottishness that sets the Steaks apart from their pop punk peers, in my book at least. We were ecstatic to play a part in the release of the album on CD and the record came out on All In Vinyl with artwork from WOLF MASK. Essential listening!

Terrafraid – “Despondent” (self-released)

One of the finest and most fully realised adventures in romantic pop-art/math-rock/emo-punk to ever emerge from Dundee. In the words of Barry “The” Kydd; I predicted it would happen one day, the coveted number one slot goes to a record born, raised and recorded right here in Dundee. As with every year I need to go with the record that affected me the most during these last 12 months. It’s Despondent by miles and miles and miles. Again, I wrote every thought I have about this in a review right here.

Kaddish – “Thick Letters To Friends” (MTAT, Black Lake, Boslevan, The Ghost Is Clear)

I’d apologise for the bias if this record wasn’t so fucking incredible but I won’t as it is absolutely no secret that Kaddish are one of my favourite bands. “Thick Letters To Friends” took some time to come into existence (having been recorded back in 2012) and its release was a worldwide collaborative effort between the bands and the labels but, by fuck, was it worth it. Coming on 180g heavyweight vinyl, this record is one of the finest hardcore records that I’ve ever heard; full-on throat-scorching yet strangely accessible dischordant emo-core that is arguably one of the defining documents in the Book of Ecossemo. Quite simply stunning. There aren’t many copies left to be had so get one before they disappear.

Against Me! – “Transgender Dysphoria Blues” (Total Treble / Xtra Mile)

One of the most important punk records of the century thus far, Transgender Dysphoria Blues is another fascinating chapter in the story and evolution of Against Me! as a band and of Laura Jane Grace as an individual. As probably the most righteous “fuck you” record of the year, this album is an all out binge and purge chronicling LJC’s transition, shedding light and giving voice to those under-represented and address these issues with trademark candour. I dare say this is a life-changing record for many and the sheer balls of the record has to be admired. A watermark moment in punk history and an absolutely exhilarating piece of work. Rarely, if ever, have I seen a band so stoked as I did Against Me! at The Garage back in November.

Stay Clean Jolene – S/T (Drunken Sailor / Dead Broke)

Though only released at the start of December, Stay Clean Jolene march instantly onto the “Best of…” lists by unleashing an instant punk rock classic. With premium punk rock pedigree featuring members of The Great St. Louis and The Leif Ericsson, SCJ bring together the finest ingredients of UK punk rock and mix with a veteran’s seasoning and experience, the likes of which can’t be faked. Instantly hooky, accessible, melodic and memorable whilst being full of shred, harmonies and more than a hint of darkness, this LP blows the pretenders away. Remember where you saw them first too!

The Hotelier – “Home, Like Noplace Is There” (Tiny Engines)

Again, in the words of The Kydd; “Utterly astounding collection of music and lyrics that devastated and inspired me in equal measure. Soundtrack to 10 months of my year and by far my most cathartic musical experience of the year was hearing this played live, in full, surrounded by pals and in the highest of spirits in Florida. What a rush. OOOOOPEN THE CURTAINS……”. Brutal, beautiful, cathartic emo goodness.

The Walking Targets – “Chasing Days” (Round Dog Records)

The first and sadly only full-length album from young Edinburgh emo punks who played their last show at Fest 13 in Gainesville. They released this record back at the start of the year and it saw them pull together their finest work to date, proving once again that they have the chops and wisdom of those far beyond their tender years. In mixing Gainesville gravel with Midwest punk and the influence of the best of Scottish pop-punk, The Walking Targets created a record that owes as much to the likes of The Murderburgers as it does Hot Water Music and Dear Landlord. “Chasing Days” is a fitting epitaph for one of our most beloved bands.

Blacklist Royals – “Die Young With Me” (Krian)

Another record that was a long time in coming, “Die Young With Me” tells the story of the band struggling with and ultimately surviving their fight for life  soundtracked by some of the finest, most heartwarming Hammond-soaked American rock’n’roll that is equal parts nostalgic and anthemic. While their earlier work may have possessed a street-punk swagger, this new record displays a confidence, grace and maturity that can only be found having experienced near-death. Recorded in LA, they’ve come a long way since playing to 30 folk on a bleak Sunday night in Dundee.

The Holy Mess – “Comfort In The Discord” (self-released)

Straight ahead kick-ass gobby melodic punk rock and roll with a crust edge to the pop-punk sheen from Philadelphia three-piece who unleashed their finest work to date. With razorsharp melodies, buzzsaw guitars and an unimpeachable work ethic, The Holy Mess made it to the UK for the first time and made an instant friend in me as I grabbed this record from them on beautiful purple vinyl. Classic punk in a way that is all too rare these days, these dudes are DIY as fuck and are doing their shit the right way. Hopefully have them back over this way in 2015.

Chris Cresswell – “One Week” (One Week Records)

cresswell_cover

One Week Records is the brainchild of Joey Cape and it sees individual punks head to Joey’s California home and spend a week recording. Simple concept, stunning execution, especially when the individual involved is Chris Cresswell of The Flatliners, one of the finest songwriters of this generation. Things are stripped back from the usual Flatliners gusto and reveal a depth to songcraft that may have been missed previously. Originals like “Little Bones” are chilling and the cover of “Arrhythmic Palpitations” by Dead To Me is absolutely gorgeous. A wee gem of a record.

Algernon Doll – “Omphalic” (Struggletown)

 

The third full-length from Glasgow-based singer/songwriter Ewan Grant saw Algernon Doll continue to evolve from multi-layered lofi acoustic experimental/soundscape artist in full-blown fuzzed-out hulking punk rock/noisemongers on an explosive LP issued by Struggletown Records. Drenched in reverb and destructive nightmare-like noise, Ewan’s knack for pop melodies shines through and shows a great 90s grunge/indie influence, like a nervous ritalin-fuelled Nirvana tearing strips from the Teenage Fanclub catalogue. Thrilling noise pop mayhem. We’ve got a few copies on green vinyl left here.

Fat Goth – “One Hundred Percent Suave” (self-released)

“One Hundred Percent Suave” is where Dundee noiseniks Fat Goth complete their transformation from spiky agit-punk noisemakers to full-on monolithic stadium-straddling ultra-rock behemoth, oozing tongue-in-cheek machismo with dark, twisted humour and rock riffs to slay a mammoth at ten paces. With Metallica-esque leads, QOTSA/FNM style experimentalism and a gothic pop-nuance, Fat Goth have crafted an album as thrilling as it is confounding. One of the finest pieces of dark art to emerge from Dundee in some time.

The Smith Street Band – “Throw Me In The River” (Poison City Records)

Our Australian pals pull another absolute blinder from the bag. Again, in the words of Barry; “Again, it’s only been out a month or so but fuck me is it good. In my recent stay in hospital I turned to this to get me through a particularly dark and challenging night of hitting rock bottom. Couldn’t have picked a better record to stick on. Utterly life affirming, jaw dropping. Cannot wait to see them again and scream my brains out to these new songs. Close 2nd on the bonniest looking vinyl of the year. Beaut.”

Ahamkara – “From The Embers Of The Stars”

Super-bleak atmospheric melodic black metal mayhem from the grim north of England that sounds like it comes from the very heart of the scorched earth. Multi-layered, complicated, orchestral and euphoric, this is an outstanding piece of work that needs to be listened to through headphones or massive speakers in order to fully appreciate the depth and majesty on display. I can imagine it soundtracking an endless trek through the tundra, cold, without end, unforgiving. Fours tracks in a little under an hour. Truly epic.

Sad and French – S/T (Black Numbers)

Absolute heartbreaker of a record. Barry wrote at length about this LP for punknews.org so I’d recommend ye check that out here. Puts it in a more eloquent manner than I could muster. Safe to say it sounds like late nights/early mornings that I myself am trying to leave behind.

The Fur Coats – “The League of Extraordinary Octopuses” (Drunken Sailor)

Utterly infectious super-bouncy upbeat melodic pop-rock goodness with tongue planted firmly in cheek from the (short) brain of Chicago queer-punk Marc Ruvolo and his band of merry gentlemen. I had the pleasure of spending the weekend in Marc’s company with The Fur Coats Scotland when we spent a weekend playing shows throughout the country in October and I grew to love the record even more after having time to pick Marc’s brains about it. We’re delighted to be working with Drunken Sailor on the forthcoming 7″ that is due to drop next summer. Keep yo eyes peeled!

 Capitol 1212 – “The Return of Rudy Nacho” (Irish Moss)

Absolutely slammin’ dancehall/reggae/dub/hip-hop mash-up madness from Edinburgh on what is a history lesson in the roots of reggae and hip-hop with a punk rock heart on Irish Moss Recordings, coming on like Jurassic 5, Afrika Bambaata and Grandmaster Flash jamming on crust-punk and hxc records from the mind of From The Cradle To The Rave/My Own Religion mastermind Kenny Dargan. Don’t take my word for it, check out the hooks and bass on that fucker!

Vamos – “More Songs About Circles” (Anti-Pop)

Ultra-hooky Beatles/Beach Boys-like melodies wrapped up in Buzzcocks-esque barbed wire fizzy pop-rock mixing wit, humour and sheer tragedy. One of the most complicated bands that I’ve had the pleasure of touring with Vamos are a band who are at their most thrilling when they’re teetering on the edge of chaos. “Hands” is undoubtedly one of the sweetest pop-punk songs ever written and a beautiful example of what these guys are capable of. The record was recorded 100% analogue to 8-track tape in a farm house in Ireland under the guiding hand of Vinny Vamos. Heartwarming and heartbreaking all at once.

Bongripper – “Miserable” (self-released)

Sludge-core/doom at its absolute pinnacle; this is over one hour of claustrophobic, suffocating doom/metal/punk misery that is as thick as it is rage-inducing. Pure hatred and misanthropy in drop B, this is some caustic, hypnotic, mesmeric shit that thumbs its nose at such silly conventions as “song” and “melody”. While there may be hardcore records of far greater depth, this is one the one doom record this year that made me want to self-immolate. Absolutely vengeful stuff, the kind of revenge you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy.

So there ye go, there’s 20 records that we would recommend checking out from 2014. Let us know what ye think or if there’s anything screamingly obvious that we may have missed!

Cheers!

Last Show of 2014; Dundee Foodbank Benefit – This Saturday

2014 has been another very interesting year in the history and evolution of Make That A Take Records. We’ve hosted some incredible bands and put out some records that we are very proud of. Thank you so much to everyone who continues to support what we do. I’ll write up a full retrospective of the year (hopefully) over the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, we have our final show of the year to look forward to and we’re doing it as a Christmas Food Drive to benefit Dundee Foodbank. The fact that there are families and children who are dependent upon foodbanks for survival is disgusting in and of itself, the fact that it’s happening on our very doorstep is even worse. I would actively encourage those who are coming to bring items of non-perishable foodstuffs to Kage on Saturday in exchange for a Christmas present from MTAT. All food will then be delivered to the food bank over the weekend in time for Christmas. Please see this list of suggested items.

Christmas show

We are very pleased to welcome Basement Benders from Chattanooga, Tennessee to Dundee for the very first time as part of their whistle-stop UK tour. These dudes have impeccable punk rock pedigree and have collectively been part of literally dozens of DIY punk bands including the likes of This Bike Is A Pimp Bomb, Future Virgins, Cleveland Bound Death Sentence and many more. The band have only released a top notch demo tape thus far but have their first 7″ coming out very soon on Drunken Sailor Records.

The show at Kage will be their second of the day as they’ll be playing a matinee show at the 13th Note, Glasgow at 1pm on Saturday alongside Get It Together and Science Made Us Robots. This triumvirate will then be joined by Dundee’s finest soulful indie rockers Robot Doctors, who shall be playing a rare stripped-down acoustic set to open proceedings. There will be free download codes for everyone on arrival and Christmas presents for all who bring donations for the food bank.

ONSIND

We have also just announced the first of our shows that we’ve got booked for 2015 featuring ONSIND, Spoonboy, The Spook School and A Hopeless Cause. The show is strictly limited to a capacity of 70 people so ye can ensure entry by grabbing yourself an e-ticket. This show, as all others are, is included in your 2015 MTAT Season Ticket which includes copies of all 2015 releases as well as all shows, including Book Yer Ane Fest IX. Ye can get one of them for 75 sheet here.

Hope to see y’all out on Saturday night for the last tear-up of the year!

Book Yer Ane Fest VIII; A Retrospective

Writing the post-BYAF blog is always daunting for me, so much so that I pretty much skipped out on writing about last year’s entirely.  I guess that had more to do with my own circumstances than anything else, though, as has been discussed in detail elsewhere. This time last year was a pretty dark time for me personally, but ultimately a time that led me into the light, so to speak. Without dwelling too much, it’s safe to say that I’m in a far better place this year. I don’t think that I’m alone in saying that BYAF VIII was pretty special and it may well have been the smoothest running fest that we’ve ever done. It’s humbling that so many people can come together and get behind the loose objectives that we all share and there’s no way that things would have ran so smoothly without the support and co-operation of everyone involved.

To everyone involved, I personally and we as a collective offer our deepest thanks. I certainly can’t do it alone and debts of gratitude go out to everyone. Apologies if I miss anyone; the MTAT crew (Abbie, Barry, Jamie, Jonny, Kenny), all the BYAF volunteers who got on board with sound, feeding and accommodating bands (Gav, Sean, Laura, Ross, Russell, Gerold, Gemma, Gaz, Neil and Joanne), Fiona and all the staff at Kage, Audrey, Dave and all the staff at Cerberus Bar, Boab at Punk Rock Rammy, Tristan and Harris at Dundee Music Studios, the staff at Rainbow Music, Mitch and crew from Audiowave Dundee, Team Beard Records, Round Dog Records, all the crew at Shadow Sound Central in Glasgow, Kev and the Anti-Manifesto troops in Edinburgh, Black Lake Records, Alshy for being a top geezer, Mighty Vision Entertainment, Dave Hughes, everyone who donated tombola prizes including Kenneth and the good people of Highland Fling Bungee, Grant George at Badlands Barbers, all of the bands and labels who donated prizes, all of the bands who came and nailed it and every single person that came through the door to support what we do and, more importantly, to support the ongoing work of Safe-Tay and Tayside Mountain Rescue.

For the month of December, all donations for digital downloads from the MTAT Bandcamp page will be added to our total for donation to Safe-Tay. The Legendary BYAF Tombola was a roaring success over the weekend. Huge thanks to Abbie and her crew (Cheryl, Fraser and Barry) for taking care of everything at the tombola table and everyone who took a punt at playing as it made an incredible £444.50 over the weekend. We will have the final figure to share at the end of the month once all digital downloads are taken into account. You can find over 60 releases, most of which are available for free/pay-what-you-want download, on our bandcamp page here.

I’m always interested in hearing about the experiences of other people at BYAF, as I am usually running around like a headless chicken over the course of the weekend. It’s both a blessing and a curse; all of these friends from all over the place assembled in one place for such a short period of time that it’s rare I get a chance to have more than a five minute chat with most people. To this end, I am seeking to put together a BYAF zine of sorts featuring stories from those who have attended BYAF, not only this year but from all the fests that we’ve run since we started in the back room of Mucky Mulligan’s back in 2008. If this is something that you’d be interested in contributing towards and being a part of, please get in touch by emailing me here. With a bit of luck, I’ll manage to throw something together by the time Book Yer Ane Fest IX rolls around (running from Friday 27th through Sunday 29th November 2015, in fact). I realise I failed to make good on my promise of a zine this time around, but believe me when I say that it’s going to happen this time, dammit!

 While BYAF is pretty much a year-round job, I guess my weekend started on the Wednesday night on my way back from teaching a class in Blairgowrie when I got a heads up from a pal (cheers Pete) about potential problems with the pre-BYAF show the following evening. Cue some manic texting and a couple of phone calls with Alshy and we were all set with a new venue. Massive props and shout outs to the troops at Shadow Central in Glasgow for sorting us out with both a venue and a backline at the very last minute and to all of the troops for making it out despite the changes. Alshy and I headed down to Glasgow together on the Thursday afternoon and met Freddy Fudd Pucker, his crew of New Zealanders and the dudes from Austeros for the first time whilst hooking up with our old muckers in Mug, Sink Alaska and The Kimberly Steaks. The show itself was rare; all of the bands killed it, the space for the show was a great one, there was a veritable corridor of merch, we covered costs and everyone seemed to have a great time. After that, it was in the motor and up the road for the back of midnight. Solid job all round and a great way to kick off what was already shaping up to be a wild weekend.

The Kimberly Steaks slayed it at pre-BYAF.

The Kimberly Steaks slayed it at pre-BYAF.

First thing on Friday morning saw me cooking the biggest pots of rice my kitchen has ever seen, drinking coffee like it’s going out of fashion (nothing new there) and ringing round everyone making sure all was in hand. We try to take each BYAF as a learning experience and things were fixing up pretty smoothly. The crew met up at Kage around half 2/3 and we got everything loaded in before I left Boab in general charge of sound and setting up while I scooted up the road to meet Russell and get set-up for the pre-show at Cerberus. I’d like to thank Russell and Dave Hughes for the PA and for volunteering to help with sound over the course of the weekend, your contributions are much appreciated gents. I opened the show playing acoustic THT shit and I can barely even remember what I played. I do remember playing the blues at one point and pissing myself laughing. I guess I must’ve entertained myself at least. Gav and Sean then took to the floor of an increasingly busier boozer and played a quick set of beautiful stripped-down Terrafraid material before Maxwell’s Dead absolutely tore the place apart with a suitably raucous set of rowdy ska-punk stompers that very much set the tone for the evening. Then it was a quick bolt down to Kage to catch Lachance open up proceedings.

I was running around like an idiot at this point, so I didn’t really get a chance to watch any full sets as such for the first half of Friday night but I did manage to catch at least a few songs of every band; The Lemonaids absolutely nailed it and it was the first of drummer Ross’s three sets of the night, seeing as he was drumming for both The Kimberly Steaks and The Murderburgers. Hats off to that man for sure! Austeros were spectacular and definitely made some new friends with their sparkling pop-punk goodness. Speaking of the Steaks, the two shows at BYAF were the first times that I’ve seen the band with the new line-up and they were absolutely incredible both times. I’ve been friends with Grieg for a long time now and it makes my bosom swell with pride to see how far the band has come and how Grieg himself has grown as a songwriter. I’ve said it before that “To Live and Die in West Central Scotland” is one of the records of the year and I’ll reiterate here that it is, to my mind, one of the truly great Scottish punk records; an absolute pop-punk masterpiece. The fact that they wrapped up with a cover of “Going To Pasalaqua” was just the frosted icing on the bittersweet pop-punk cake.

The Murderburgers' Annual BYAF Rammy.

The Murderburgers’ Annual BYAF Rammy.

The Murderburgers then rammied things up another notch and the usual BYAF Boiga chaos ensued. For a band that has spent the vast majority of the year on tour, the boys looked remarkably fresh and ready for a rammy at what was their first Scottish show after tearing it up around the USA. Jonny and I had to do a little of ye olde security at the front to make sure that people didn’t fall teeth-first into the monitors but, as always, the crowd capers were all in the best possible spirits and nobody was hurt. I think the mayhem was respectful over the course of the weekend, but I’m undeniably pro-mayhem so I may not be the best person to ask as far as these things go! Judging by the smiles strapped to awbody’s coupons though, all was good. Lipstick Homicide then stepped up and absolutely destroyed it, ripping through a half-hour of fizzy and gobby pop-punk bangers that reminded me why I got involved in this punk rock caper in the first place; short, sharp bursts of energy and attitude wrapped up in a sugary pop-punk coating. They were fucking brilliant and a more than fitting end to a wonderful first night of BYAF. After sorting out the last of the “business”, we slinked off home to try and get some rest before the madness resumed the next day. As usual, it was 3am bed, 8am rise!

Saturday started with the usual coffee and rallying of the troops before I spent a quiet minute being stoked that I didn’t have a hangover on the Saturday of BYAF for the first time ever. Neil from Bicycle Thieves gave me the heads up that he was running late so Turtle Lamone opened things up in Cerberus with some of his piano punk rock wonderment before Gone Wishing treated us to his first set of the day before hitting a bolt to Glasgow to play later on that evening. The assembled hardcore crew were then treated to something very rare and really rather special indeed; a secret acoustic set from Joe McMahon of Smoke Or Fire. As I have written about previously, Joe and I have been in each other’s orbits for some time and it was really rather surreal to have him sitting playing in the boozer where we throw our last minute shows.

Once Joe wrapped, it was a quick tidy up of the gear before heading down to Kage just in time to catch A Victory At Sea kicking up a storm upstairs in the main room. The acoustic stage was running one behind all day as we felt it important than Neil being able to perform after coming all the way from Wales to play, but I don’t think that anyone minded too much. Unfortunately I didn’t get to spend too much time downstairs during the Saturday but from all accounts it was truly intimate and memorable the whole way through. That’s one of the very few downsides of being involved in putting on a festival of any kind; you can never really catch all of the acts that you want to, despite having the very best of intentions. Luckily, and more importantly, we managed to stagger things so that clashes wouldn’t happen (on the whole) and that no attendees would have to miss out on any acts. I do hope that everyone managed to catch all of the artists that they wished to over the course of the weekend. That said, I managed to miss my pals in Terrafraid almost entirely as I was running around, I think I caught them playing one song. Fair play, that song is a banger; “always does what everyone does, what everyone does, it’s all the same”.

Random observation from Saturday afternoon; Joe McMahon somehow managed to sleep through the entirety of the In Tongues set in the main room, quite the achievement. In Tongues were fucking incredible, not to mention one of the heaviest bands I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing in Kage, truly tremendous stuff indeed.

Our boys in Sink Alaska were up next on the main stage and were a man down from pre-BYAF as guitarist Richie was unwell and deemed sidelined but Alshy, Brad and Sneddy put in a very admiral effort in his absence and ripped through 20 minutes of razor-sharp melodic punk zingers that could peel the enamel from your teeth. Get It Together then took up the baton and ran with it in the way that only they can; Mark a ball of frenetic nervous energy while Craig shreds the skin from your face with his riffage. Unfortunately we didn’t have the “Rebuild, Recover” 7″s ready in time for BYAF (and still don’t, but that’s another story) but their set was triumphant and celebratory nonetheless, with Mark handing out vocal duties to rest his heavily-infected chest. I’m pretty sure that me and Ade got involved in some sort of hardcore version of “Cuddyback Fights” at some point too; not overly dignified but undeniably guid craic. Uniforms played next and, again, it was pretty much a blur for me. We had some technical gremlins messing with us to begin with but that was quickly sorted and I think we hit our stride. BYAF is always a pretty emotional show for us and it was also our first Dundee show since Chic joined the band so we were super pumped. I probably talked a little more shit than usual but what can ye do? Thanks to everyone who checked us out and sang along with us, it truly was something pretty damn special and it means a lot to us.

It was a quick smoke and a quick change for me before getting stage-side for Guerrilla Monsoon. It was great to finally meet those dudes in person as I’ve built up a good relationship with Mark online over the course of the year and they are just a bloody tremendous band. If you haven’t checked them out yet, I’d strongly encourage you to do so; they blend an American emo/punk energy with distinct modesty and a bucketful of indie/punk bangers. Fucking great band and one of the hardest grafting yet ungrizzled bunch of dudes that I’ve ever met who deserve everything that is coming their way. Almost the exact same thing could be said of Algernon Doll, who were at their pulverising and chaotic best. They’re currently in the States recording their new record with Steve Albini and I have absolutely no doubt that it’ll be their best and most fully realised piece of work to date. Ewan is good friend of mine and it has been a pleasure to watch him evolve from shy acoustic multi-instrumentalist to full-on tattooed rock beast. Real as fuck.

Algernon Doll

Algernon Doll

It was great to finally get the dudes from Leagues Apart up for BYAF as it is something that we’ve talked about doing for a while. These dudes are a super talented band and know exactly how to bring the rukus, although I’m pleasantly surprised that there wasn’t more of a rukus in response to James balming everyone up. The dudes were playing only their second show with their new bassist Hub (of Pure Graft) and they rattled through a the pick of the bunch from their banging “Brief Interviews With Hideous Men” LP that came out earlier this year. They may have a reputation to uphold but these roasters have got some absolute crackers up their sleeves when they get to it. Standing at the side of the stage watching them, it was impossible for me not to have a massive smile strapped to my face at the sheer sight of everyone being pumped. Talking of being pumped, being invited onstage to sing “Dead Leg” with Bear Trade during their following set was one of the highlights of my year, if not my life. It’s no secret how much I love that band and their incredible “Blood and Sand” LP has been my most listened-to record of the year. It’s safe to say that they absolutely killed it and peeled out the choice cuts from the LP and dropped in a cheeky Replacements cover for good measure. There was a little bit of confusion towards the end as we’d run a little over time, but when they kicked into “Bastards of Young” as the last song of the evening, sheer joyous bedlam ensued. It sounds cliche and cheesy, but it was fucking incredible; one of those moments that makes all the shit that comes with it worthwhile. Life affirming stuff indeed.

Sunday started with a queue outside Cerberus and some sore heads before Shitgripper played our first show in Dundee and cracked some skulls open with some instrumental doom loud enough to rival the church bells before Ewan played a secret Algernon Doll acoustic set that included a delightful Fugazi cover. Lancashire punks Dead Neck than absolutely slayed it with their 1000mph skate punk, NOFX and Propagandhi covers and the most ridiculous version of “Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” that you’re ever likely to hear. Maxwell’s Dead then opened proceedings at Kage with a last minute set of stormers and “nah-nah-nahs” before Robot Doctors slammed it with their high-energy indie rock and enviable high-jumps for such a delicate hour.

Our pals Question The Mark then nailed it and it was great to see them playing with our friend Rich of Team Beard on the bass for the first time. He played with such style and slipped into the pocket so tightly that you’d think that he’d been in the band from the very beginning before reunited Perthshire indie/emo legends Venetian Love Triangle played their first show in Dundee since supporting a little-known Biffy Clyro back in ’03. It was great to hear some of those old songs again, bringing me back to my youth and young manhood as Stef and his bands were always a great inspiration to me as a kid. I remember seeing Tenesee Kait playing Ramones covers at Blair Live in the Wellmeadow when I was around 15 and it clearly left an indelible effect on me. Italian punks Low Derive then took to the floor and entirely blew the place away with their thoughtful European take on midwestern punk rock; such a tight band with intricacy and harmonies all over the place. I was very grateful to be able to catch their full set at post-BYAF the next night. Another truly great band of truly good dudes who I very much look forward to seeing again.

Random memory; “Your voice is part of the space you take up” – Andy Chainsaw. Wise words, my friend!

photo(14)

Billy on the Acoustic Stage

By this time of the weekend my memory was beginning to haze over a little, something in which I’m sure I wasn’t alone. I think that perhaps the atmosphere in the air at the acoustic stage whilst Billy Liar was performing best exemplified that of the weekend; excitement, humour, togetherness, positivity and everything that is good in punk. Billy is one of my bestest pals and his set was, to me at least, hilarious and I think he spent more time talking shit and going nuts than he did playing songs. Either way, it was another one of those special moments. Talking of which, the Broken Stories set was one of the most poignant and heart-wrenching sets that I’ve ever borne witness to. We were obviously all very excited that the set was doubling as the launch show for the “It’ll Be Alright” 10″ EP but I shall forever hold in my heart the feeling of complete awe and utter respect with tears rolling down my face whilst Kevin and Gillian performed “Playing On Repeat” from the EP. For Morgan Nicol, Jordan Cameron and all who’ve gone too soon, may you find peace. I had to go outside for a little while once they’d finished then helped Chris T-T and The Hoodrats load in. I caught a little bit of Bonehouse’s set beforehand and they were tremendous as always, delivering buckets of blood, sweat and tears as ever. My only regret is not getting to see more.

Our friends in Carson Wells had pulled an incredible shift in driving from London where they’d played at About Time 3 the previous day and destroyed it once more. I could labour on at length about the impeccably high standard of bands across the weekend but Carson Wells are very near the pinnacle of Ecossemo greatness. Truly a spectacular band, I have every confidence that their new LP will blow minds the world over once it is unleashed next year. Don’t sleep on these boys. I finally managed to pick up a copy of their split 7″ with Human Hands too, after many months of meaning to. The mighty Kaddish were up next and were at their mesmeric best, mixing in tracks from the “Thick Letters To Friends” LP with some classics and a couple of tasty tracks from their forthcoming full-length. Browsing facebook the next day, I saw a friend post that “seeing Kaddish at BYAF was the best twelve pound I’ve ever spent”, pretty much the perfect summation of things. By this point, my brain is mush, Fat Goth are on the floor decimating Kage and rattling the remaining skulls while shredding the roof tiles off the place. Then it was over.

To offset the imminent post-fest blues, I got dressed and headed along to Kage to load out the PA loading out all the backline from both Kage and Cerberus then returning them to their rightful homes (DM Studios and our spare room, respectively). A quick shower later and Russell was texting me from outside and we were off to the post-BYAF show in Edinburgh as hosted by our esteemed colleagues of Anti-Manifesto. Unfortunately we missed Dead Neck but arrived just in time to see Paper Rifles charm us with his impassioned Wildhearts-esque acoustic set before Question The Mark smashed it through the walls one more time. I bore witness to my third Joe McMahon set of the weekend and sat quietly before Low Derive rounded out the wildest yet smoothest-running weekend of my life with some rowdy punk rock bangers. Then it was back in the motor, up the road and back to DD1.

To all involved in a truly momentous weekend, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Ye are deece.

See ye at Book Yer Ane Fest IX.

Season Ticket