Write Yer Ane Zine

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

Conroy’s Basement; Mini-Zine I

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2016; Ten Years of Cowpunk (Mailshot!)

This is a copy of the Tuesday 19th January email newsletter to the MTAT mailing list. Sign up here.

We at MTAT hope that everyone had a good time over the festive period and is looking forward to what the new year brings. 2016 marks ten years since MTAT put on our first show as a collective and we are very excited to be kicking off Ten Years of Cowpunk with another step in our evolution; we have a new HQ!

We have come to an agreement with the good people at Conroy’s in Dundee and will now be hosting shows in the basement of the pub. Conroy’s used to be The Beat Bar/Satchmo’s/The Saltire in years gone by and was one of the first venues we ever used back in Dundee, first hosting Frank Turner and Even In Blackouts there on November 15th 2006. An intimate basement space in the city centre, it’s pretty much perfect for small DIY shows and we’re very excited about the possibilities this arrangement may afford us.

february 27th

The inaugural show at Conroy’s Basement will happen on Friday 27th February and is a collaboration with Oh No! Not Another Wild Goat that brings together Bear Arms, Get It Together, Robot Doctors, Lachance and Polar Bears In Purgatory to kick things off with a bang. We shall then be celebrating the tenth anniversary of our first show on Saturday 12th March, ten years removed from hosting Glass and Ashes / I-Farm at Dexter’s with The Try Hards and 15 Minutes. Full details of the birthday show will emerge soon.

Some other show dates for the diary;

show dates

Book Yer Ane Fest X will take place at Buskers, Dundee from Friday 2nd through Sunday 4th December. The original BYAF took place in 2008 and we did two in 2009, hence why the years don’t align, so it’s serendipitous that in coincides with our tenth anniversary. We’ve already got some plans in place and we look forward to seeing what develops over the course of the year!

Before then, we are very proud to be part of the forthcoming split single release from Billy Liar and Paper Rifles in support of Refugee Survival Trust. A collaborative project alongside Anti-Manifesto and Struck Dum Records, the split single will be released on CD and as a digital download accompanied by a series of short films by Steve Cardno documenting the project.

refugee single launch

The single will be launched at a benefit show at The Southside Social in Edinburgh on Saturday 30th January featuring a host of multi-discipline talent. The RST was set up in 1996 as a reaction to the problem of refugees and asylum claimants being made destitute in Scotland. Grants made by the RST either alleviate poverty and destitution, or help refugees and asylum claimants to overcome obstacles in accessing educational and employment opportunities. We are proud to show solidarity in this endeavour. Thanks also to For The Love Of Punk for covering the story.

To help in the combat against the winter blues (and to help us clear some space for new stuff), we are keeping our End Of Year Sale going until the end of January. We’ve got loads of cool stuff from as little as three quid, although we are down to our last one or two copies on a many records, so please do act fast if there’s something specific you’re looking for!

Season Ticket

2016 MTAT Season Tickets are also currently available for £100 and are limited in numbers. A Season Ticket gives for entry to ALL SHOWS (including BYAF X) and physical/digital copies of ALL RELEASES this year, plus a welcome pack with a MTAT HXC shirt and cool free shit. Knowing some of the plans we have in the works, it’s the bargain of the year for sure!

cover

Cheers to everyone who has picked up a copy of the excellent “Swells/Repels” EP by Stonethrower thus far. The EP was released on the Sunday of BYAF IX and we still have some copies left. We’d recommend checking out Minimal Media for a series of tremendous live videos from the weekend too. For our full recap of all things BYAF-related, check this story. Keep your eyes for new videos on Cowpunk TV too!

Right, that’s enough banging on for now. There is much to look forward to this year and loads of incredible new music coming your way. Thanks to everyone who has bought records/season tickets recently and everyone that continues to support what we do. The last ten years have been a continual evolution and we look forward to seeing how things develop further in 2016.

Thanks for the continued support, as always!
Make-That-A-Take Records

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.

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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

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.

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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!

Incoming; PMX “Dark Days” EP, September Vistors, Dundeemofest + More

Once again, apologies for the lack of WYAZ posts recently. Between work, running the label and everything else that I’ve got going on, I simply haven’t had much time to write. Miss it though I do, there are times when something has to give. I’ve been spending quite a lot of time working on new Tragical History Tour material for my forthcoming LP, which I’m hoping to release sometime during the first half of next year. If any other labels wanted to get on board with a co-release, do please hit me up! I’ve also been working away diligently in the background on the upcoming MTAT releases and Book Yer Ane Fest IX, which is pretty much fully booked now. We’ll have the “official” poster and full line-up to announce very shortly.

Our first order of business for September is the release of the long-awaited new “Dark Days” EP from reunited Perth punks PMX. The band’s last release was the incredible “Rise and Shine” album way back in 2004 and the first release of any sort since “The Ballad of Tony Montana”, a 25 minute progressive punk rock epic that many people may have missed. “Dark Days” is also the first release featuring the new line-up of Scott Henderson on lead guitar and Kev Henderson on drums. The EP was self-recorded/produced with the drums being tracked by Bruce Rintoul at 45-A-Side Recordings in Glasgow, before being mixed by the band in Perth. The EP was then mastered by Jason Livermore at The Blasting Rooms in Fort Collins, Colorado and it sounds absolutely incredible. To say that we are excited for this release is a considerable understatement.

There’s a lot of history in this record too; I first met Chic sometime in the late 90s when we’d spend our time moshing down the front at the all ages shows put on at the Lesser City Hall in Perth by the Youth Enquiry Service. I remember one time we smashed our heads together while Threshold Sicks were playing; it was the start of a beautiful friendship. PMT, as they were at the time, played the last ever Humus Kife show at the launch of the “Eye of the Storm” CD at Perth City Hall in August of 2000, when there were 10 bands set up individually, Jools Holland style, all around the City Hall. We then played loads of shows together when I was in 13 Broken Fingers (with Craig from Get It Together no less) while I was at university before eventually living together in the “flat of doom” above Domino’s in Perth some years later. I’ll never forgot walking down the line outside a sold-out Curly Lloyd’s handing out anti-war propaganda before the beginning of the Iraq War way back in 2003. I’ll also never forget some people looking at me like I had two heads while I did so. I remember manning the fort with bookings at Barcode/Angry Mic’s whilst PMX were away touring with Randy in Canada and I skipped out on going to Taste of Chaos with them as I had a show of my own somewhere that night (I’m pretty sure that’s right anyways!). Abbie and I lived in Matt’s house, Chic played drums in both Joey Terrifying (replacing Kev no less!) and Uniforms, we were the Asbo Brothers; the connections go on and on.

Needless to say, there is considerable personal emotional investment in this EP and there were times when we thought that it’d never happen. MTAT never work with artists without whom we have personal resonance and connections, with the release of this EP following perfectly in line with this tradition. To put one’s energies and resources into something with which one has no emotional connection, for the purposes of financial gain or some other motivation, is an exercise in futility, at least as far as I’m concerned. The EP itself is, to my mind, an absolute masterclass of modern melodic hardcore punk; taking everything that we loved about the “old” PMX and marrying it to a greater darkness and maturity that comes with age and experience. It also fucking rips.

The record is currently streaming in full at DyingScene.com and is available for digital and physical pre-order with an instant download of the track “Brave Face”. The EP is officially released tomorrow morning and will go live at 9am. The initial pressing of the CDEP is limited to 300 copies worldwide and all orders from MTAT come with stickers. All pre-orders will also have a link to the full release emailed first thing on Saturday morning.

Following the release of “Dark Days”, we have a couple of absolutely cracking shows coming up in the following week.

Billy Joe September

We are very excited to welcome back Scotland’s finest guitar-slinging angry young punk rock poet Billy Liar and Richmond, Virginia’s Joe McMahon of Fat Wreck Chords’ punks Smoke Or Fire back to Dundee as part of their ongoing UK/Ireland tour. Billy and Joe were last seen in Dundee back in April, although I’m looking forward to actually seeing this show as I was in Europe on tour with Get It Together when they played Cerberus Bar last time.

This show will see the Billy/Joe tour crossover for one night only with that of Kate’s Party. Kate’s Party are a “female fronted” (I’m no fan of writing that shit ‘cos, y’know, gender is over, if you want it) power-pop/punk rock band from Dublin, Ireland and I’m very pleased that we were able to make something work at pretty much the last minute. They’re a hard-grafting bunch who have put out releases on Dublin’s Toast Office Records and are one of the most acclaimed indie/punk bands to emerge from the Emerald Isle in recent years, so we’re very excited to be able to host them in Dundee.

These touring parties shall be ably supported by Dundee’s finest indie/emo-punks (not sure they like being referred to as such) Robot Doctors, who shall be stripping things back and performing acoustically for us, and Edinburgh’s finest history-teaching soulful acoustic punk rock balladeer Paper Rifles, who just dropped the 3-track “Songs For Ophelia” single through Aberdeen’s Struck Dum Records. It’s a cracker of a mixed bill for a Monday night and it’ll cost ye five bones for the pleasure. It’d be great to see things get nice and cosy in Room at the Top of a Monday evening.

dundeemofest (2)

The following Friday, 11th September, sees the inaugural DUNDEEMOFEST happening at RATT and it will be the first and only Scottish show from Nashville, Tennessee emo punks Free Throw as they make their way around the continent on their first European Tour. These dudes are on Count Your Lucky Stars Records and are firm favourites of us in the MTAT camp, so we’re very happy to be hosting them for their only Scottish show. If you haven’t heard these guys before, then I’d recommend checking out the wonderful “Those Days Are Gone” LP for a heart-warming slab on midwestern emo that falls somewhere between the sepia-tinged landscapes of American Football, The Weakerthans and Dikembe; some may call it “emo revival”, I just call it honest, heart-on-sleeve earnest American emocore stripped free of pretense and played with heart, passion and soul.

They’ll be joined on the UK leg of tour by Holy Pinto, who come with great acclaim and shall be playing Dundee for the very first time. These guys have been making a lot of noise recently and have been plying their trade across the UK, Europe and the US so we’re delighted to welcoming them to Dundee. Holy Pinto play a quirky, danceable style of emo/punk not a million miles removed from the likes of Tigers Jaw/The Wonder Years and their “Stenography” EP out on Get This Right Records is a little cracker that I look forward to picking up at the show.

Joining the touring party will be a foursome of Ecossemo’s finest. It’s always a pleasure to host the gentlemen of Carson Wells, who have delivered one of the albums of the year in the form of “Tread A Northern Path”, an utter spellbinding journey and a tour de force that encapsulates everything we love about the Aberdeen three-piece. They’ll be joined by fellow north-east soul punks Min Diesel, who released an incredible LP on their own in the form of “Mince” through Cool Yer Jets and Struggletown Records earlier this year.

It’s only fitting that Dundeemofest features a couple of Dundee bands and we’re very excited about the prospect of hosting the first home town show from Please, Believe! You’ll reckon this band of weel ken’t faces from their previous projects that include the likes of Bonehouse/Gone Wishing/Pensioner/The Fall of Boss Koala/Little Anchors and countless more. These troops take the templates laid by their former projects and inject it with the fire that only being a three-piece can bring, creating a fragile yet chaotic emo/punk rammy that is universally understood while retaining a distinctly north-eastern Scottish identity. With a band of such fine calibre, we expect nothing less than emo fireworks.

Opening the show will be our very own Lachance, who continue to knock it out of the park with their emotionally-charged melodic punk rock, coming over like Latterman being given a solid skate punk kicking for spending too long with their poetry books. Lachance absolutely destroyed it at the Songs For Mum CD release show last month and the addition of Maxwell’s Dead’s Russell Broon on drums has lit a firecracker under them, adding a healthy dose of punk rock fire to the brooding emo flames. Make no mistake, hearts will be bursting out of chests all night long and it’s shaping up to be one of the most emotionally intense nights of what has already been an incredibly emotionally intense year.

There are a limited number of e-tickets remaining that are available for £6, otherwise it’ll be £8 on the door please. We shall also be hosting a hostile MTATakeover of Kage Nightclub after the show and will be spinning the finest in punk/hardcore/emo in the club until the early hours. The show itself is open to all 16+ although I’m afraid that the club night is only open to those 18+. Such are the limitations of Scottish licensing laws I’m afraid. Physical tickets are also available from Groucho’s and cost £6 plus booking free.

Finally (for now), we have an absolute BEAST of a last minute hardcore show happening at Cerberus Bar on Saturday 19th September. This show has come together in the last couple of days and we are still awaiting confirmation from a couple of bands so don’t yet have a poster, but we can promise you that it’s going to be an absolute face-ripper.

Nothing Clean are an absolutely uncompromising powerviolence/hardcore/thrash band from Leicester who had a show fall through in between their Aberdeen and Glasgow shows, so we were more than happy to step into the breach and help them out with a show. I’m compelled beyond my will to lend I hand when I know that I’m in a position to do so and, having spent a fair amount of time out on the road, know that there is nothing worse than having a day off on tour when you were planning on raging!

They’ll be joined to Fife’s newest gnarly instrumental hardcore band God Never Did Anything For Us who will be playing their first ever show. They’ll be joined by another two bands although it’s probably wise to await 100% confirmation before divulging names. Either way, the show will be kicking off at 8pm on Saturday 19th September at Cerberus Bar, Bell Street, Dundee and donations upon entry to support the touring band would be very much appreciated. Please keep your eyes peeled on the MTAT facebook page for futher developments.

Shirt HXCFinally, thank you so much to everyone who picked up merch and records during our Summer Vinyl Sale, the support is very much appreciated. We have limited numbers of these cracking MTAT HXC shirts left in a variety of sizes in both black and white, so please head over to our merch page and grab one if you’re keen. We also still have a handful of tote bags left. Thanks so much to our pals BW/WB for hooking this up and we wish them the very best of luck in their future endeavours.

See ye in the pit, punx!

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.

 

Incoming; June Visitors!

Firstly, thanks to everyone who has been in touch this month, bought records from us and that came out to our only show of May with our friends Sweet Empire, Irish Handcuffs, Terrafraid and Shatterhand. Things pick up a notch with the arrival of summertime and things get pretty busy between now and Book Yer Ane Fest IX at the end of November. We’ll be announcing the first batch of bands and releasing a limited number of Earlybird Weekend Tickets for £20 on Monday 15th June, so keep your eyes peeled for that.

Lastly on the shill front, we still have some MTAT Half Season Tickets available for £50 which gives you entry to ALL SHOWS and ALL DIGITAL RELEASES this year. Bargain of the year. Grab one now before they disappear.

Before all of that though, we have some incredible shows coming up in June;

the scandals final2

The Scandals are a four piece punk band from New Jersey in the finest tradition of their home state, combining gritty street punk with street-wise rock’n’roll poetry, coming over like The Bouncing Souls/Lifetime getting down and dirty with Ted Leo and Bruce Springsteen. These dudes are a blue-collar band that live in the van and on the road, with lead vocalist Jared often taking to the road acoustically during band downtime. The band formed in 2004 and they’ve spent most of that time on the road, developing the kind of intrinsic tightness that only a life lived in close quarters can bring.

It’s testament to their character that they’re coming to play the only Scottish headline show of their European tour on an off-night from their UK dates with The Gaslight Anthem, and are driving from Peterborough en route to Belfast in order to do so. Our man on the scene Billy Liar has assured us that The Scandals absolutely killed it at the Rotterdam Riot last week and I’m very excited that the band will be playing their first ever Scottish show in Dundee this coming Saturday.

They’ll be joined by a premier league supporting cast of locals too. Maxwell’s Dead are celebrating their eleventh (11!) year as a band and will be on suitably riotous form when they hit the stage for their first Dundee show in a while, alongside Robot Doctors who will be marking almost one year to the day since the launch of their “Time Will Tell” album (which ye can get for free download right now). Opening the show will be Fife Young Team street/dubpunx Salem Street who bring their wise-beyond-their-years reggae/punk jamz to Buskers from fresh blowing Nice’N’Sleazy Festival away.

This should be an absolute banger of a sweaty Saturday night rock’n’roll show. E-Tickets are available for a fiver and it’ll be six quid on the doors, which open at half 7. Please get down early to cut loose for all the bands!

Gab De La Vega

The following Friday (June 12th) sees us return to Cerberus Bar for the first time since hosting Wank For Peace back in April and we’re delighted to welcoming Italian straight-edge vegan punker Gab De La Vega for his first visit to Dundee. Gab is a veteran of the European DIY scene, the founder of Epidemic Records and full-time punk rock activist and educator. In recent times, Gab has stepped away from fronting his long-time hardcore band The Smashrooms to take up arms with an acoustic guitar, taking a rootsy Chuck Ragan/Tim Barry-esque stripped down approach and uniting it with his uniquely poetic punk rock philosophy.

Gab will be joined in Dundee by the wonderful Paper Rifles, who continues to grow as an engaging and powerful performer with every show, seldom-seen Dundee emo-punks Lachance who will be playing a super-rare acoustic show, and by Tragical History Tour. THT will also be joining Gab at the preceding Scottish shows in Glasgow and Edinburgh on June 10th/11th respectively.

This show is entry by donations on the door please with the first act (THT) kicking off at around 8pm.

Fur Coats front_1000

Friday June 12th is also NEW RELEASE DAY!!!

We are mad stoked to be involved in the release of the brand new “Short-Brain” 7″ EP from Chicago pop-punks The Fur Coats in collaboration with two of the coolest punk rock labels around in the shape of Drunken Sailor Records (UK) and Rad Girlfriend Records (USA). The record comes on beautiful translucent green vinyl with awesome full colour artwork from the wonderful WOLF MASK as well as lyric sheet, digital download code and free MTAT stickers!

The record is currently streaming exclusively and in full at New Noise Magazine. Check it out here!

ajj2

Rounding out our hat-trick of bad ass shows this month is one that we’ve been waiting for for quite some time. We are absolutely overjoyed to finally be bringing the wonderful Andrew Jackson Jihad to Dundee. Sean Bonnette has long been one of our collective favourite songwriters and they are personally a band that I have long admired. I had the pleasure of playing with AJJ during one of their first UK tours a good few years ago (playing the 13th Note in Glasgow) and it’s been incredible to watch them grow into one of the most essential bands in punk rock.

It’s extremely heartening to see a band grow organically whilst retaining everything that made you fall in love with them in the first place, only even more so. They’re one of the biggest punk rock bands in the world right now and it’s our absolute pleasure to be hosting them in Dundee for the first time. This one kinda feels like a home team win!

AJJ are joined on this UK tour by Hard Girls from San Francisco. Signed to Asian Man Records, Hard Girls are a kick-ass indie/punk three-piece in their own right as well as comprising the backing band from Operation Ivy’s Jesse Michaels in the seminal Classics Of Love. One of the most accomplished bands around, Hard Girls provide perfect foil to AJJ and their coming together should make for one of the most exciting tours of the year.

Furthering the Asian Man connection, The Murderburgers will also provide support at what will be their first Dundee show since the annual Book Yer Ane Fest rammy. Opening the show will be the mesmerising Terrafraid who will be playing tracks from their new record “Suadade” as well as prime cuts from last year’s classic “Despondent”.

There are still a limited amount of e-tickets available for £8 here. Please note that no physical tickets will be sent out and that your name will be added to the WILL CALL list at the door of the venue. All ye need to is give your name at the door of the gig and your name will be scored off the list and your hand will be stamped.

If you would like a physical ticket, please grab one in person or over the phone from Groucho’s Records in Dundee. Tickets are £8 also but will be subject to booking fee. Alternatively, physical tickets can be bought directly from us in person at any forthcoming show so just come grab one at the distro table.

It’ll be a tenner on doors so we’d encourage ye to grab an e-ticket if ye want to save a couple of quid for drinks. Of note, all shows at Buskers are 14+ so do please bring ID if you intend to purchase alcohol. Anyone found purchasing alcohol for those under 18 will be kicked out of the venue, so please don’t do that!

Finally, please note that TINS FOR TUNES will be in operation in support of Dundee Foodbank at all shows!

Should be a great month. We’d be stoked if you’d come join us!

“The Frankie Stubbs School of Economics”

Disclaimer; the views expressed herein are purely my own and are not necessarily representative of the collective beliefs/feelings of MTAT Records.

My intention is not to throw anyone under a bus; that would be an exercise in counter-productivity; and it is not my place to make judgments pertaining the booking practices of others. This piece is purely from my own perspective and any beef should be directed towards me (email please) and not my comrades.

byaf first

There seems to have been a lot of talk and controversy on the internet recently about charity gigs and benefit festivals. It’s not just been one or two people talking about it, it seems to be a polarising topic and many people across the punk and wider music scenes have been engaged in debate about the rights and wrongs, do’s and don’t’s, yes’s and no’s surrounding charity events and benefit gigs. I’m not here to tell anyone that they’re right or wrong, people are free to do as they wish, but I aim to address how we do things with Book Yer Ane Fest.

Hosting Leatherface at Book Yer Ane Fest V was one of the highlights of my life. When we started BYAF back in 2008, there was never any goal in mind; we just put a show together for Joey Terrifying that ended up as an all-dayer. We wanted to contribute positively to a local charity that meant something to us, that cause being Safe-Tay, following on from the great work done by our friends the PCC that they had started with the two Motionfests in 2006/7. The fact that things have evolved and developed as they have is equal parts good fortune, serendipity, perseverance and hard graft; “be good to your punk scene and your punk scene will be good to you” and such capers. Sometimes when you gamble, things turn up trumps. Other times, you’re in the shitter. As I seem to be fond of saying; ye cannae enjoy Premier League glory every week, there will always be the shitty 0-0 away games in the rain in deepest, darkest February; not every show can be a 300 troops through the door sell-out.

We always strive to support charities that mean something to us personally and, specifically, we aim to work to benefit charities that work in our locality. Yes, we have done (and will continue to do) benefit shows for wider international organisations such as Doctors Without Borders, the Haiti Earthquake Appeal, Skateistan and many more, but I feel it is equally, if not more, important to engage with charities that do essential work on our doorstep; Safe-Tay, Tayside Mountain Rescue and Dundee Foodbank specifically (check out TINS FOR TUNES for more information). We also aim to do benefit shows year-round, rather than just on isolated occasions. This is something that was always been woven into the fabric of what we do and something that we will unapologetically continue to do. It’s not about scoring points or being seen to be doing something, it’s about engaging with and supporting local and national communities and the people who undertake the often thankless tasks associated with charity work. I have volunteered for charities for most of my life, donate personally to charities that I support and do everything I can to support those that need supporting. This has nothing explicitly to do with punk rock or music but with who I am as a person. This doesn’t make me any better than anyone else, it’s just my view of the world and something that I personally feel needs done. It’s also not something I feel compelled to crow on about at length, so I’ll leave that part of it at that.

However, when it comes to charity shows, specifically BYAF, it’s a slightly different kettle of fish. As things have grown and evolved, our expenses have grown. It’s a fairly tricky operation to book, accommodate, feed and water 40 odd bands from across the globe, many of whom may be on tour, and keep everybody happy and fulfilled when you’re trying to make money for charity. Sometimes we’ve had success, sometimes we’ve been met with failure. Some BYAFs have made a couple of grand, some have barely made a couple hundred. In total, we’ve raised over eight grand for Safe-Tay and the causes they support. We also continue to do shows and work with them throughout the year; from including literature from the Samaritans with our merch orders to hosting awareness-raising shows. This is something we will continue to do without an end in sight and for nothing more than the desire to do so.

To address the point at hand; to me, there is no hard and fast rule when it comes to booking bands for charity benefits. Obviously the aim is to make as much money and create as much awareness for the cause as possible, but it’s also imperative to remember that there is no benefit for anyone involved if there aren’t the bands playing that people want to see. From my (our) end, the aim is always to provide an interesting, diverse yet complimentary line-up that is reflective not only of eclecticism but also cohesion of message and intent. There are bands that we’ll never book (insert countless thousands of names) and we’ll never book bands aren’t in some way knowledgeable about what BYAF is all about, or at least interested in developing an understanding, as it’s hardly quantum theory, it’s a fucking DIY punk benefit. Essentially, any careerist bands that are looking to make fat cash can get fucked as it’s never going to happen. On another point, local bands generally know what they’re getting involved in and we strive to be unambiguous with all bands when it comes to booking BYAF; it started as a local charity all-dayer and in my heart of hearts, that is exactly what BYAF remains.

When it comes down to it, we will never pay any band more than we paid Leatherface for BYAF, hence the “Frankie Stubbs School of Economics”. I’m not going to discuss specific sums of money but Leatherface came out for a fraction of their usual cost and were absolute gentlemen about the whole thing. Leatherface are also one of my favourite bands of all time and if ever there was a band that I’d have made allowances for, it would have been them, but they responded positively and were more than happy with what we offered. If it’s good enough for Frankie Stubbs, it’s more than good enough for whatever flash-in-the-pan indie rockers that are this month’s flavour or some broken down rehabilitated punk dinosaurs that were barely relevant in the first place.

Bands for benefit shows have to be taken on a case-by-case basis; there’s a world of difference between the need to have expenses covered (a basic necessity of the touring band) and bands being money-grabbing arseholes. I know for a fact that a well-known band took a four-figure sum for a recent festival that actually lost money. To me, that’s bullshit, especially when said band took to social media and crowed on about how great of a cause they were supporting. So great of a cause that they saw fit to deprive the charity of any profits for the festival. To me personally, as a “musician” and “promoter”, such actions are unconscionable. I understand all the “but they’re professionals and need the money” blahblahblah; I call horseshit on that as no band NEEDS a grand to play a show, whether it’s a one-off, part of a tour or otherwise. That said, we’ve had instances (rare, to be fair) at BYAF when bands have “held us up” for more money than was originally guaranteed; those bands will never be asked back and are on the shitlist. Most bands, however, are more than keen to support the cause and get involved, and most are more than happy to be involved.

I often get asked about how best to get bands on BYAF; for locals it’s simple – come and get involved in your local music community, contribute something positive other than bitching and moaning, and actually do some research before getting in touch (I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve posted the FAQ). For touring/national/international bands, it’s case-by-case. If we can make it work, we will, but no one band is bigger than the festival itself. BYAF is generally a “cowpunk family” affair; it takes more than just one person to make this shit work. We also don’t book bands for BYAF that we wouldn’t book a regular show for. For me/us and everyone else involved, ye have to be sensible and realistic about things, but that works two ways. For example, we collectively need to realise that it’d be foolhardy to book Flavour of the Week and The Tasteless Scoots for a grand and hope for the best while only paying Respected Punks and The Internet Darlings fifty quid to drive from London or wherever.

Anyways, long story short; it’s called Book Yer Ane Fest so I’m in no position to tell people what to do and what not to do when it comes to booking their own shows/festivals/benefits/whatever. What I can say is that we strive to be open and honest with the bands that comes to play for us, let them know in plenty of advance what it is we are doing and what we are trying to achieve and that they’ll have a rad time with an attentive (and appreciative audience), will be well taken care of and their presence greatly appreciated. Finances (or the lack thereof) are always negotiated well in advance so there are no surprises for either party. If any band, regardless of “status” has issue with it, we just won’t book them. It’s that simple really.

We aim to provide a quality weekend of diverse DIY punk/hxc/emo goodness for a reasonable price whilst supporting charities that work within our local communities. I hope that is something that we achieve every year. If we fail in this objective, I feel that we have ultimately failed in our mission. This year the price for BYAF is going to be slightly higher than in previous years. This is unavoidable as we no longer have the run of our own space (that’s an entirely separate issue, which we’ll get to soon), but we still operate on the same premise and the objective remains the same. If bands/punters have any issue with how we operate, then they can feel free to let the boots do the talking and stay away or go elsewhere or, indeed, book their ane fest.

It’s important to be realistic but it’s also important to keep things in perspective. Ye can’t expect Recently Reformed 90s Nostalgia Band to play for a door deal any more than ye can expect Super Hyped Local Rock Stars to be grateful for their slot, but there is a middle ground where everyone can be happy (or at least contented) and everyone, specifically the charity, can benefit. That, after all, is exactly the fucking point of a benefit show; not ego, not earning fat cash, not taking the piss.

With all that said, a limited number of Earlybird Tickets for BOOK YER ANE FEST IX will go on sale on Monday 15th June alongside the announcement of the first batch of bands. Ye can ensure your entry to BYAF IX and all other shows this year by grabbing a MTAT HALF SEASON TICKET for £50. Now that’s a fucking bargain.

As Biohazard so eloquently put it; THERE IS NO BLACK AND WHITE, ONLY SHADES OF GREY.

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.

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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

European Tour Report (April 2015)

The Get It Together / Tragical History Tour “Rebuild, Recover” UK/EU Tour kicked off for me on Wednesday 1st April when Craig came to Dundee to pick me, my guitar and the MTAT distro up. We took the short ride in our hired banger of a van (who was a workhorse despite appearances) to Redd in Dundee, where my friend Dave Hughes was playing a show, to borrow a PA and load it into the back of the van. Years of touring with the likes of Papa Gain and Jonny Domino has taught me that you’re definitely better “looking it at than looking for it” and this tour proved to be no exception. After loading, we headed from Craig’s place in Alloa where we met Graham, played a few games of FIFA (at which I was awful), drank some tea then fell asleep to the hypnotic sounds of water flowing through the fishtank. Awaking around 6am with a desperate need to pee, we left to gather Mark and Fraser before hitting the road for our first stop in London; All Ages Records.

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Once we’d dropped off some MTAT releases (grab your copies of the Franz Nicolay 7″, Get It Together 7″, Kaddish LP and Bonehouse LP now) and collectively spent a shitload of cash on records (I finally found a copy of “Everything Sucks”, on tangerine vinyl no less), we headed up to The Unicorn where we met up with our pals in Mug and met the dudes in Waco and Demon Smiles, with whom we’d spend the next two shows. The Unicorn is a great little spot where I played last year and the show was fun with a very attentive crowd, especially for a roaster armed with an acoustic guitar. I also met my old uni friend Bundy of Chi Weapon, who I hadn’t seen for a couple of years, and all the bands killed it. Mug are, to my mind, one of the most under-rated punk rock bands in the country and are definitely due some kudos. Thanks also to Mark for hooking us up with the show and looking after us after such an early start and long drive. Once the show was over, we packed and went to my sister’s house that we used as home base for the next couple of nights.

Day two saw us playing in Brighton and we headed south after taking our time getting ready. We went for a walk throughout the city and paid the obligatory visit to Punker Bunker, where we dropped off some more MTAT releases and spent some more cash on records. Buz is one of the good dudes of UK punk and I can’t back PB enough; a quality little store. We then had our first burrito of tour and I have to say that I was left disappointed. While it certainly filled a hole, it lacked kick even with hot sauce. Bummer. The show was upstairs in an old boozer called The Quadrant and was quality. The room was tiny and quickly filled up with bodies. The assembled crowd were super respectful while I was playing and it was one of the more emotionally intense shows of the tour. It felt like we were connecting on a very cerebral level with punk rock the great unifier.

A local band called Barriers were up next playing on their third show and they showed great promise with their thoughtful metallic-edged hardcore before hometown troops Demon Smiles took to the floor. I enjoyed their set far more than I had the previous evening and they were very emotionally engaging as well as being in possession of some fizzy pop punk bangers that reminded me of Tilt. Good shit indeed. We spent a little time repositioning gear ahead of the Get It Together set, knowing fine well what was about to occur; utter madness. From the moment the band kicked in, the crowd kicked off and it was chaos throughout the entirety of the set, with circle pits, slam dancing and a fucking wall of death when the band were hollered back for an encore. Utter bedlam in the best possible way.

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We loaded out down the tiny stairwell and packed the van, experiencing the only potential beef of tour when some roaster decided it was a good idea to repeatedly try and hit the bass drum as I was carrying it towards the van. I told said roaster in no uncertain terms that such actions were unacceptable, to which he replied “I do what I want”. Being the zen motherfucker that I am, the bass drum didn’t end wrapped upside his head but in the back of the van, despite the strong temptation. We headed back to London to crash out at Lisette’s for a few hours before getting our shit together and heading for the Channel Tunnel first thing in the morning.

The morning started in the usual haze of coffee and sleepyheads. Before we knew it we were driving onto the train and through the tunnel then driving through France. I slept all the way through Belgium, waking only to smoke at the service station where we shared knowing nods with another touring party of punk rock roasters. We reached Beverwijk, Netherlands in the early evening and went for a cup of coffee before loading into the venue and meeting our hosts in Sweet Empire. It was great to catch up with those dudes again and they absolutely nailed it with their set. They seemed to be having a lot of fun at their hometown show and played a quality cover of “Paranoid” by Black Sabbath. Sweet Empire are themselves back in Dundee on Monday 18th May with German punks Irish Handcuffs plus Shatterhand and Terrafraid at what should be a peach at Redd Suite. Thanks so much to Jort for sorting us out with the show and to Rowald for accommodating and providing us with a wonderful breakfast. Also, I don’t often get vinyl envy but I did on this occasion. Rowald has a wonderfully extensive collection of quality records and we all had a pretty good time flicking through them and being jealous!

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3am in Beverwijk, Netherlands.

The next show was in Heerlen, Netherlands and we’d been told that was this Dutch bat country, so we were all pretty excited to check it out. I’ve always loved playing shows in smaller towns that perhaps don’t have the chance to host too many punk rock shows and we were all pumped when we rocked up to Cafe Bluff. The venue was pretty much perfect for a punk rock show and after loading in and setting shit up, went spent some time talking to venue owner Andre and the dudes in Superhero Status who we were sharing the bill with. We met some crazy locals too who we seemed to connect with, especially after we played, and we had a great time talking and hanging out with everyone. At the end of my set, Mattias of Superhero Status came up to me full of compliments, declaring that I’d “blown my (his) fucking mind, man” and that Get It Together played “the true hardcore”. Cannae argue wi that!

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A warehouse on fire somewhere between Heerlen and Nijmegen.

We’d met up with my good friend Graham who lives in Njimegen and he had an empty flat for a couple of days so we headed south and spent the night there before heading up to Amsterdam the next day. This show was one that we were scrambling for before we left for tour and information was pretty scant going in, but there was an address and a gig poster so we figured that we’d deal with whatever came our way. We parked up the van and went for a wander through the city as it was the first time for a couple members of our touring party but, given our lack of proclivities in such directions, the Red Light District held very little interest and we spent our time just having a walk around the heart of the city. We took the ferry back to the other side and made our way back towards the venue, which was a car garage that doubled as a squat.

We met our host Goiz, a Zapatista from Mexico who had been living in the squat for the last year. He explained to us that they were facing eviction and harassment from the police, all the while apologising for the lack of people at the show, for which we assured him that there was no need. He was a sound guy and pretty much the only person that spoke to us while we were there, with many of the rest of the folk present absolutely burst oot their nuts. Fair play to them likes. There was no electricity in the venue so the gig was run off a generator at half-power so we set up the PA (better looking at it than for it!) plus backline and waited until showtime to fire things up. Fraser and I killed some time outside by filming some acoustic songs in the back of the van. Ye can check out “What Would Vinnie Mac Do?” below;

We also met the dudes from Black Volvo and it soon became apparent that the other two bands on the bill weren’t showing up and with them, the crowd of people who’d planned on coming with them. As such, I took to the floor and blasted through a quick set before Get It Together proceeded to blow out the power of the generator with their first note. We managed to kickstart the genny, which then blew out another couple of times before managing to maintain life for both the GIT and Black Volvo sets. Mark got screamed at by a feral punk for playfully blowing out a candle and I thought for a moment that he may get his eyeballs clawed out. Once the show was wrapped, Graham pointed out some unsavoury ongoings, at which point we packed the van and took our leave. It wasn’t quite The Warzone but it wasn’t a kick in the arse off it!

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We headed back to Njimegen for a quick sleep at Graham’s before heading south to Freiburg, Germany and one of Europe’s oldest and most well-renowned punk squats in the form of KTS, an amazing space with living quarters, kitchens, artist studios, accommodations and a fully spec’d up performance space. We met my friend Laurin from the band Casually Dressed and were introduced to the wonders of Club Mate, a German caffeinated malt drink that was pitched to me as the equivalent of Irn Bru. I’m a no-sell on that idea but the stuff itself was magnificent and I must’ve drank at least a dozen bottles of it by the end of the tour. We also met the dudes from Daylight, a pop punk band from Barcelona who were charming and super keen. Mark talked to them about Catalonian independence (a cause that we all support) and football. We didn’t get a chance to go outside and have a kick about though, which was a bit of a bummer. They were really eager beavers but musically weren’t really my cup of tea but they were super-tight and full of saccharine sweet harmonies, although there was a little too much sugar washing down the medicine for my taste buds I’m afraid. I’d imagine the kids today would lap it up *ho hum, old punk grumble*

I really can’t say enough about how amazing I found KTS as a place and the warmth of the people who come together to make such places work. It was truly a privilege to play there and to be their guests for the evening, so thank you so much to Laurin and everyone involved for welcoming us so warmly. After the previous gnarly evening in Amsterdam, it was great to feel re-connected with like-minded individuals and morale in the camp was certainly lifted after some great food and a great show. The dudes in Daylight were also great for a banter too and seemed to appreciate our slightly off-kilter sense of humour; “sounds great, songwriting could be doing with a wee bit work though”.

KTS, Freiburg, Germany

KTS, Freiburg, Germany

We were up early the next day for a cross country drive to Leipzig so after a quick Club Mate and check-up that things had gone well at home with the Joe McMahon/Billy Liar/Broken Stories/Gone Wishing show the night before (I’m assured it went well even though I’m gutted to have missed it), we were all back in the van. We made good time, something that was a theme of the tour so kudos to all involved, so had some time to relax and gather our thoughts before loading into Kulturecafe Manfred. Leipzig is a very interesting place and the venue was in an autonomous zone in the city where all of the buildings are owned by the occupying anarchists. Sindy and everyone at the venue couldn’t have done more to make us feel welcome and invited us to join the community at the weekly supper club before we loaded in for the show. The street is full of different venues all catering to the various sub-genres and movements within punk rock, every scene active and full of activists.

The show turned out to be one of the rowdiest of the tour. Mark ended up getting busted open hardway after taking a beer bottle to the nose in the pit and concluded the set by hanging upside down from the rafters. The only slight bummer of the night was when I noticed an old crust punk helping himself to a couple of CDs from the distro table while I was performing, but we dealt with that in a quiet manner rather than making a public fuss about things. There is no call to steal from us. If you are so strapped for cash that you feel you need to steal music, I’d implore you to talk to us and there’s every likelihood that we’d just give you the CDs that you’re looking for. However, one bad apple need not spoil the harvest and I’d like to extend a personal thanks to everyone for the warmth of their welcome and for enjoying the show to the fullest. It’s nights like that that can remind us of just how vital and invigorating punk rock can truly be.

After making use of the showering facilities, having another great breakfast and talking punk, pop and politics, we piled back into the van and made our way towards the Czech border. We were all very excited to the heading towards Prague and were awestruck as we found ourselves winding our way through the narrow streets of this beautiful city. We parked up outside of what I thought was a pretty suspicious looking hotel and had to load the gear up a steep and winding cobbled street and down a tiny stairwell into the basement of the venue, a small punk rock pub called Sběrné Suroviny. Like in Leipzig, we were the only two acts on the bill so we both played slightly longer sets than we usually would and, in what would prove to be somewhat the trend, I found the people to be much more open, receptive and communicative once we had performed. As I’ve said before, punk rock can be a great unifier and it was heartening to see this being repeated night after night. There’s a power in the music, something in the ideas and delivery that transcends the limitations of language; the fractured English of the Czech punks being far better than my non-existent Czech skills, that brings indescribable joy. The Bohemians FC firm seemed into the Scottish hardcore anyways. It was great also to see my friend Ben, also of the aforementioned Chi Weapon, who these days lives and plies his trade in Prague. It seems that the cowpunk connections extend to all reaches of the continent.

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Making friends with Bohemians FC fans

After the show, we made our way to the home of our hosts Arnie and Jonas, a squatted house on the hills overlooking the city of Prague just below the near-derelict former Czechoslovakian national stadium. Jonas has lived in that house for over twenty years and for the brief hours that we were there, it seemed like one of the greatest places on earth. After some tea, we bedded down for the night before waking up early to go and see the sights in one of the most beautiful and amazing cities on earth. Arnie and Jonas were absolutely exquisite hosts, giving us a guided tour of the city and sharing stories about punk, anti-fascism and football whilst walking in glorious sunshine. I’m always so grateful to be able to spend some time in the places that I play and I’m sure I can speak for all of us when I say that we had an amazing time in Prague. Thank you especially to Arnie, Jonas and Anita for sorting us out with the show and making us feel so at home. Once we said our farewells to Arnie, Jonas and Boogie the dog, it was back out on the road and into Germany, where we were immediately pulled over and questioned by the German Border Patrol. Thankfully, they were fairly sound individuals and seemed frankly unimpressed when they questioned our rock’n’roll credentials for having no cocaine or marijuana in our possession. Punk’d by the polis, seick!

Roasters in Prague

Roasters in Prague

Next stop was Dresden and it was great to finally meet Gruni in person. Gruni is a punk that I met online a couple of years ago after we got talking about Uniforms. We were booked to play in Dresden on our tour that didn’t happen last year so it was great to finally meet and we seemed to get along straight away. Gruni fed us and took care of all our human needs before introducing us to our sleeping space for the evening upstairs in the squat. Luther 33 is quality spot on three levels, with the venue/bar in the basement, apartment upstairs and guest accommodation above that. As was the case in many of the squats that we visited, they exist under constant threat of eviction and harassment from the authorities, but the guys in Dresden definitely have their wits about them. Many of the punks in attendance at the show also shared a distinctly dry wit with the show being one of the most “banterful” of tour, with a great deal of back and forth between performing roasters and audience. I had some kind of strange out-of-consciousness moment during my set when I doubled-over laughing at the very thought of what was going on; I was ringleader in a room full of Germans singing along to “Smoke Weed Every Day” at the top of their lungs in an anarchist space in Dresden; in that moment it struck me as the most surreal yet beautiful thing on earth.

Once again, we arose early and left Gruni asleep as we tidied up after ourselves and left him some records as a token of our appreciation before heading to Berlin. I’ve been looking forward to playing in Berlin from almost as long as I can remember and felt like a little kid when we pulled up into the city and parked outside the Ramones Museum. We went inside and met Flo and his staff, gazing round the place in awe. This was another show about which we had scant details but had been set up by my friend Freddy Fudd Pucker, who is currently on tour in the southern hemisphere. We arranged a plan with Flo and it was set that I’d play at 8pm in the evening and that we were welcome to leave the van parked where it was. Absolutely perfect. We then spent the afternoon visiting some of the historic sites around Berlin and took in the panoramic Berlin Wall exhibition before talking a walk up to the wall itself, then walking down to the Brandenburg Gate. We then went for some amazing Mexican food (German burrito 1, English burrito 0) before heading back to the Ramones Museum. We were joined by our friend and Berlin resident Craig Dickson of Taking Chase/Elk Gang as well as drummer Graham’s brother and fiance, so we had a nice little crew assembled for the show. For me, it was an absolute joy and a very deep honour to play in such a prestigious place that has been visited and performed in by a great many artists I admire. To be asked to sign my name on the wall alongside some of the names that are there is humbling and something for which I am eternally thankful.

Ramones Museum, Berlin

Ramones Museum, Berlin

Post-show, we jumped in the van and headed for the East Side Gallery, a part of the Berlin Wall that remains standing and has been preserved as an art gallery. To be at the wall in the dark of night across the street from a massive O2 arena was slightly surreal and the darkness cast an ominous shadow over “The Death Strip” between the two parts of the wall, where trespassers or those trying to cross would be shot on sight. To be standing there for the first time, at night, with all the sounds of a metropolis around me set my heart racing. It was equal parts awe-inspiring, humbling, sickening, eye-opening and heartbreaking all at once, a feeling that I don’t think I’ve fully experienced since visiting Auschwitz many moons ago. To spend time considering the savagery of our species over the past century and, indeed, every century that preceded is a necessary exercise in humility.

East Side Gallery

East Side Gallery

We headed back to Craig’s, had some ginger tea then bedded down for the night as we had another gnarly drive for the last show of tour in Leiden, Netherlands the next day. We thanked Craig for his hospitality, loaded up on breakfast and set the SatNav homeward as everyone settled in for a seven hour drive. We rolled up in Leiden and met Jaap from Black Volvo at the home he shares with his wife and son where we were fed and watered before heading for the show. Black Volvo played with us again and absolutely destroyed it. We’ll be looking forward to having them up in Dundee at some point this year with their manic Dangerfields/Zeke meets Beastie Boys gonzo stomp. That shit is so good and I’d recommend checking out their new LP on Round Dog Records. The show itself was fairly quiet but was a uniquely intimate affair in another functioning squat that is facing closure. The European use of existent resources seems so much smarter than our austerity measures and it seems counterproductive to my mind that the authorities would want to close places that actually benefit the community. Money to be made, I guess!

After the show wrapped, we loaded out for the final time, said our goodbyes to the Black Volvo dudes and headed back to guitarist Roy’s place where we slept for around 5 hours before getting up and straight back into the van to drive through The Netherlands, Belgium and part of France to catch our train from Calais to Folkestone, where Fraser took over the wheel and slammed us back up the road to Stirling in around 8/9 hours. By the time we arrived at the Granada services outside Stirling, we’d covered somewhere in the region of 4000 miles and played 11 shows in 12 days. Papa D was kind enough to agree to come and pick me up so we unloaded the van for the final time, loading all of my and the MTAT shit in the back of Papa D’s motor and had a big group hug.

Get It Together are an incredible band and an incredible crew of dudes who I am proud to call my friends. It truly was a pleasure to share this adventure with you gentlemen, so thank you very much for sticking by your boy. To Mark Bell, Steve Todd, Cat Goodman; Jort, Rowald and the rest of the Sweet Empire dudes; Andre at Bluff, Goiz at Auto Control, Laurin and everyone in Freiburg, Sindy and crew in Leipzig; Arnie, Jonas and Anita in Prague, Gruni in Dresden; Flo and crew at the Ramones Museum and Craig in Berlin and the dudes in Black Volvo, thank you so much for an amazing time.

Cheers!

Cheers!

Tour was incredible and another wonderful experience, so thank you all. Thank you also to Abbie for being my eternally understanding better half and the MTAT crew for keeping things locked down while I was away.

Ye can download the THT “Live in Dundee” EP here.

Check out the Get It Together “Rebuild, Recover” 7″ here too!

Solidaritat Catalana per la Independència!