Oct 1, 2014 - MRR columns    No Comments

MRR column #375

The BBQ place on the corner of Divis and Grove used to be called Pitts. It was a dinky old place, and was potentially a cover up for dirtier business, but made great barbeque and had been around for years. Now, instead, we have a new BBQ place, that have no smoke coming from their chimney, with pic-nick tables and chairs occupying half the parking lot, the other half of which belongs to one of the few weed dispensaries left in the city. Across from that now, instead of the plant store that used to be there, is a bougie restaurant, (apparently with a great mescal catalogue, but who gives a shit about that!) which has adjacent to it a big ass garage, which, in true gentrification style, has also been turned into a day-time eating and drinking establishment. So. You have rich ass white people eating in a parking lot expensive ass meat, across from a place where more rich ass white people sit in an open garage drinking expensive ass cocktails as they watch the World Cup. On Sundays there is farmer’s market, where all these people flock to, to buy $8 juices and $2 peaches. Up the road, a giant Victorian house built in 1900, which once used to house a church was recently purchased by real estate developers for $1.4 million, 40% over the asking price. Meanwhile, rent is rising to astronomical prices around the whole city (average rent right now is over $2,900!), and typically cheaper neighbourhoods such as the Mission, Dogpatch, Excelsior are rapidly filling up with middle-income tenants, who still basically earn more than you or I could make in a decade. And, much like Brooklyn being the cheaper solution to Manhattan-workers, Oakland is now also being overrun by techie yuppies. So not only did they push people out of SF, they are spreading like a disease, pushing people out of Oakland too. Soon the whole Bay will be theirs and that whack-job who wants Silicon Valley to be its own independent state, might just get his wish. But who gives a shit?

In a similar act of absurdity, whole favelas in Brazil have been demolished to make way for new stadiums and sporting grounds in light of the current FIFA Soccer World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games. I know how that is. Greece hosted the 2004 Olympics, and it’s all just one giant embezzlement scheme to put money into the pockets of the few, covering it up as “public benefit works,” lying to our faces. Of course a chunk of those facilities has been left to rot, empty and rusting. Meanwhile, the amount of people who can’t afford housing anymore in Greece is rising. Empty buildings, people without a home—the state can put two and two together, they just don’t give a shit. These blood-sucking fucks have spent millions on the World Cup, because they know that when you don’t have clean water, electricity or even a place to sleep, having a 46,000-capacity soccer stadium is exactly what the people need! They sent boats down the friggin’ Amazon to get the material to a town you can’t even get to by land (that doesn’t even have its own soccer team!) to make a stadium just for this FIFA-extravaganza sporting fiasco. The definition of deliberate futility. Capitalist expansion in all its glory. But of course we are all posers and still watch the games on TV, instead of massively boycotting FIFA and its evil government-backed corporate-ass-licking scum. But hey, it’s just good ol’ sporting fun, right, who gives a shit?

So, it’s print week, we’re putting together the whole magazine, I’m finishing up my late reviews, people are working on layouts and Diana hands me a letter. It’s from USPS. To send out the magazine to our international distributors, we use ISAL, which is the International Surface Air Lift service. We have drive to the airport each month, go through security check and into multiple offices, fill out all this paperwork each month, and it’s generally a pain in the arse, as most things National Security are. So, each country we ship to has a different code. Apparently we’d not been using the right codes, something we were unaware of, since 2011. This lead to a financial discrepancy which they decided only now, three years later, to notify us of. And they demand we send a check for the financial deficiency in 30 days! I know USPS is struggling financially, and maybe they’re debt-collecting left, right and centre, but if they are auditing little corporations like MRR that just manages to break even each year, then they must be in real trouble.

The second of the Three Strikes of Unluck (they always come in threes, hear you me) was when we got a hand-delivered notice last night stating that our rent was going up by $415 per month, effective August 1st. This will total our rent to $5,660 per month. (gasp if you will) Add to this our print bill, which approximates to $3,800 – $4,000 per month, our electricity, gas, water, phone/internet and waste disposal bills (roughly $450 a month), plus ~$400 or so every couple months for packaging materials and office supplies, (mailers, boxes, packaging tape, printing paper), the monthly staples of toilet paper and shitworker coffee (because dozens of punks come through here every week), plus quarterly or yearly registered costs, like our PO box, our postage meter, our resellers permit, and last but not least, our yearly taxes.

If you can’t be bothered to do the math, that’s over 10K a month in combined expenses, which we have to hustle day and night to cover. MRR has no rainy day fund. Not because no one ever thought of it, but because there is barely any revenue left at the end of the month to put aside. If we do make some extra cash, it either goes straight back to the people who have generously loaned MRR money over the years, or it goes on funding other projects to help MRR stay financial afloat, such as the Los Crudos discography we are going to work on. Savings Account has been set up because the prospect of having to move is no longer just a scary item on our “to look into” list, it’s a scary reality we now wake up to every morning. Much like the trash compactor in Star Wars Episode IV – A New Hope, we feel like the walls are closing in on us—fast. So, I’m waiting to see what the Third Strike will be and preparing for the worst.

 

Moving on to another item on list of Shit that Pissed Me Off This Month, I want to discuss something that preoccupies some punks but maybe not enough of them: sensationalizing / misappropriating fascism.

First let’s get those little definitions out of the way. Sensationalize: verb; to present information in a way that is intended to provoke public interest and excitement, to increase viewership or popularity at the expense of accuracy. Misappropriate: verb; to dishonesty or unfairly take for one’s own use.

How these two concepts merge? I’ll tell you. When a magazine sells Totenkopf (skull) buttons and T-shirts with swastikas, or a band uses the Celtic cross in its logo or the Odin Rune (or Norse Rune) in its poster, this is sensationalizing swastikas, it’s misappropriating Totenköpfe. In their effort to be “edge” and “shock” the squares, they are also demeaning the horrors that millions of people suffered from the monsters using these same symbols.

For some fortunate enough to have never directly experienced the results of fascism, Nazis have taken on this illusory mythical dimension, distorted by underground culture (pop fiction, grindhouse movies, punk, gangs, hooligans) the passage of time and the collective ability to ignore and eventually forget… Unless someone pops that bubble for ya. Running from neo-Nazi worms and neo-Nazi cops three years ago during the massive annual anti-fascist march in downtown Athens will do that to you. Perhaps to those removed enough fascism is something “exotic” or “cult,” like the Yakuza, or the Hells Angels. The difference is that if you came across these groups and you were sporting their colours and couldn’t back your shit up, you’d probably get a fractured scull rrreal fuckin’ fast! Punks may not fight you but they sure as hell won’t fight for you.

Given the general rise in extreme right parties around Europe, and the rise of “dumb punk” it’s no surprise really that the spineless worm ideology might crawl its way into certain punk heads. In so many punk scenes it is such a given that fascist sympathizers or neo-Nazi supporters are absolutely not tolerated, that it almost seems absurd that in the year 2014 we’d have to point out why fascism is a deep rooted problem. This is not to say that white power flirting skins and meatheads don’t exist in some scenes, just that not all of them manage to infiltrate it, let alone coexist without being questioned. So, when I see bands that use these fascist symbols actually be a part of an established punk scene and get away with it, I think “How the hell did that get past so many punks? Don’t they have something to say about this? Don’t they care? Do they even know?” After all, knowledge is power.

I won’t claim to know how it is elsewhere, but in Greece punk and politics go hand in hand, so there is absolutely no way a band that flirts with fascist, white power or neo-Nazi notions would be given space or the time of day. What is most likely is they’d get their ass handed to them on a souvlaki stick.

But hey, it’s just punk rock music, who gives a shit, right?

___________

Sep 26, 2014 - MRR columns    No Comments

MRR Column #373

mrr_373_smHoly shit where has the month gone? Today is already Sunday the 27th of April. That’s exactly two years since I arrived at SFO airport, ready to start my journey as the new MRR coordinator. I can’t believe it’s already been than long, yet it still feels like yesterday I was gapping at the green-taped record collection and smoking my fist cigarette in the Tim Yo courtyard, truly buzzed and on high from everything.

Running MRR is a crazy, amazing experience, yet I think if we were to tell most punks what the actual job is, they would run away in terror. Or laugh at us for being lunatics! “Not get paid? Work over 48 hours a week? Ha!” For real though, it is the most demanding yet most rewarding job I have ever done. It’s thankless, intensely stressful and requires a pretty strong character that can roll with the punches, take things with a pinch of salt when necessary, offer support and solutions, deal with every kind of punk imaginable (don’t waste time on the haters), and also be an emotional and psychological rock to handle it all without jeopardizing the magazine, its financial or ethical integrity, or any of the 200+ shitworkers involved. And there is also that small thing of remembering to give yourself some time and space to consider things with a clear head and gain some always-helpful perspective. When pulled from all sides, every so often you need to centre yourself enough to remember what balanced feels like.

What won’t kill you will only make you stronger says the cliché (for a reason I suppose) and even though I hate making mistakes, and often in my efforts to avoid them end up making even larger ones, I am always willing to learn from them and admit that I might have been wrong. Almost everything goes through the three coords, and we are always working extra hard to keep up—we are basically on overdrive almost all of the time, just by nature of the job, due the sheer volume of things we must do and take care of on a monthly basis. Add to this the weekly crises and unforeseen dramas that inevitably veer their heads just at the wrong time.

Juggling all of it is our job but we’ve gotta have a break sometimes, even if only to regroup and continue kicking ass the other 363 days of the year. The only two sort of “holidays” we do at MRR are Punxgiving and the 4th of July barbeque—and again, not because we celebrate the events that happened on those days (far from it), but more so because everything is closed, (our printer and vendors included), a lot of our shitworkers are away and hell, kicking back with friends and fellow shitworkers to have some beer and hot-dogs is necessary sometimes—all work and no play make coords a grumpy bunch. So we decided to add one more day to the MRR holiday calendar: 420. Which was, coincidentally this year, also Easter day. Which was, coincidentally this year, the same day for both Western Christian churches and Easter Orthodox churches. (Having been raised in Greece, a traditionally Orthodox country, but with half of my family being from England, and loosely raised C of E, I’ve always been aware of both dates as they often determined possible time off/visits to or from the UK.) It seemed everyone was on holiday for some reason or another, but while for MRR it had nothing to do with religion (or weed really) the events in our city seemed to slow down our operations enough to make it pointless to resist—it’s basically hoards and hoards of people out in the streets smoking pot and acting weird, so making a trip to or from the compound seem like a scene out of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, only you are the only one not on drugs and you’re in a bus or train, or stuck in traffic, or swerving through rowdy drunk and high people on your bike.

This month there was also an insane amount of shows! I saw Destruction Unit (who were just massively great) and CCR Headcleaner (who were different live to what I expected them to be, but still not as good as I’d hoped), then a week after that I missed OM (who now have the very creative drummer from Grails, and a citar apparently) and on actual 420, Godlfesh were also in town! I had helped with a couple of Justin Broderick’s shows in Athens when he toured with Jesu, but have yet to check Godflesh off my list. That same weekend was Tankcrimes Records’ Brainsqueeze Festival, with bands such as Negative Approach, Municipal Waste, Fucked Up, Conquest for Death, Cannabis Corpse, Bat, Final Conflict and much more. I went the first day and gotta say, I think Iron Reagan stole the show: snotty thrash punk, songs that were short, fast and loud, with guitars that slay and a singer who seems a bit insane. Good stuff and congrats to Scotty for doing such a good job.

I will leave you with a thought from Distort #43. While interviewing Puce Mary, Daniel writes, “I spend a lot of my time writing, for which solitude is necessary, but the result is that often the writing is an expression of sickness, as often the impulse to be alone is the impulse to not infect anyone.” That’s a keen observation, one I can relate to on some level, and like Puce Mary says, I find it’s more about me not get infected by others, rather than the other way around; as if any outside influence might affect the intensity or intention of my thoughts. So often a creative state of mind is achieved in isolation, perhaps because it finds the maker naked and vulnerable; like an animal licking its wounds, or a sinner expelling their daemons, or a sexually aroused beast letting their imagination run wild. Over-obsessing, self-debasing; analyzing, scrutinizing. It feels like a ritual I don’t want others to be a part of because it’s clumsy, dirty and even embarrassing, both dizzily engrossing and agonizingly soul draining. When it comes to the writing process, I find that what you are writing about is almost irrelevant to finding that zen space where you can focus and channel your thoughts the way you want. I don’t have time for much writing anymore, but I do like to read about how others manage their own creative process. It’s a fascinating subject.

Jul 18, 2014 - MRR columns    No Comments

MRR Column #371

mrr_371_smI feel like I do one of these updates every few months, but when you’re coordinating this thing time goes by so fucking fast! We’re thinking two months in advance, working on three to four different parallel timelines, sitting alongside 30 years of punk history, an archive of 45,000 records, helped by a group of 150+ shitworkers dotted across the planet! Sitting in the coord seat is one of the most exhilarating experiences and I feel extremely lucky and honoured to be doing this! (It can also be exceptionally aggravating at times, and I know I’ve almost suffered three heart attacks in front of that screen, but whatever, all in a day’s work as über-human. Do it all smoking a cigarette on one leg while scratching my arse. (I know, my modesty kills me too.)

MRR isn’t just a magazine. It’s not just a radio show or a website. I know some people who live online in the virtual world, and thus think they are authorities on everything think MRR is run by a bunch of political hyenas (which is, in part, true) and funded by leprechaun gold (which I assure you were are not), but it’s not just that. We are all part of a living, throbbing organism; a diverse circus of freaks and geeks, all excited and inspired enough by this institution to donate our time and effort, to keep it going, to help it thrive. Some things are bigger than us and I respect that.

From the moment we start the cycle, every single thing that comes through our door or inbox is handled by us and we have people helping on all levels. From unloading the pallet every month with the new issue and stuffing your issue into an envelope, filling out the online orders or picking up the mail from the post office and processing everything; scanning, proofing, editing images and text, doing layouts; producing radio shows, doing reviews; conducting interviews, transcribing audio files, translating content for the website; designing house ads, submitting to the Monday Photo Blog; green taping and filing records…and this is only in regards to who around right now. Add to that the thousands (if my calculations are right) that have been involved in one way or another before this period in time, and you have yourself something seriously massive.

The amount of transactions between the readers and us is also crazy! Be it a T-shirt order from France or a sub renewal from Philly; an email about an ad for a West Coast tour or a tour report guest column; a new volunteer, a returning reviewer; a new distributor in Australia, a layout person in Barcelona or a photographer in Jakarta; an interview from Slovenia or a scene report from your town! The readers are the contributors—that’s the magic of this magazine, that’s why it keeps going, because people want and can be a part of it. Without the readers this magazine would be like many others: done. But MRR can never be done. So long as there are people with something to say, the integrity to back it up and the brains to get it done, MRR will always exists. (Oh, an unhealthy relationship with coffee also helps).

In any given day I am whooshed through different regions and time zones, just by sitting at our computer. I can feel the scale with which we are working, the outreach and connectivity, and it’s truly the reason I wanted to be coord in the first place. I have felt this connectivity before and it’s like a surge of adrenaline straight to your heart. It makes all the stiff hours in front of a computer worth it. It makes all the angry letters, rude emails and ignorant comments disappear. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again for those of you who live elsewhere to this reality we inhabit called the here and now: everyone here works really hard. USPS is not our ally; unfortunately, neither are foreign customs or the skyrocketing rent prices of San Francisco. Every month is a struggle to make it work; and not for lack of organization or effort, oh no! The operations in place toady are based on a collective experience of about a century or so—if you add up past coordinators’ experiences into one pool of knowledge and advice, I mean—and we are constantly trying to improve. SO have patience with us dear reader. And if you disagree with what we do, make your own zine.

If you read Ray’s column, you’ll already know that MRR is doing shows yet again! Yes! It’s official and we’re stoked! MRR alongside Thrillhouse Records will be doing shows, every second Wednesday of the month, at the Knockout on Mission Street. We’re got a crüe of about six people who are helping us book them, and we’re aiming to be able to include local as well as touring bands!

Speaking of shows. San Francisco is definitely not the easiest place to book all-ages shows, as some of you may already know or have experienced. Most of the shows are (or rather oftentimes have to be) bar shows, or one-off house shows, or…wait, I think those are the only two options in SF right now. Ties with Submission are no longer there, Thrillhouse is taking a break and the Fortress just closed down. But hope springs eternal and action speaks volumes.

About three years ago it must be now, two MRR shitworkers set out on a mission. They knew it would be tough, they knew it would take ages, they knew it might not even work, but, in true DIY punk fashion, they tried it anyway. They went through every step of the tedious process and red tape to start their own non-profit. They did all the research, filed all the paperwork, badgered the city to follow up on it, and sent in more paperwork. Ample patience and determination were required; the whole process took fucking months! Then, they waited. And waited some more. But one day, a few months ago, they got a letter in the mail. The SF All Ages Art & Music Project (AAAMP) had been approved! One of the punks behind this project mentioned to me that the name sounds a bit lame, but I beg to differ. An amp is not only an integral part of any punk rock show, but the word amplify also means to intensify, to augment, and by doing this project they are literally and metaphorically helping amplify the SF punk scene. In actuality, reason the acronym is such is because, not only did it sound legit and it helped them go trough non-profit paperwork without much question, but it also allowed them to fly under the radar with city permit processing: getting approved for an art gallery that hosts musical events is obviously less threatening than what punk is actually all about.

In addition to that, AAAMP is also our new fiscal sponsor! That means y’all can still make tax-deductible donations (which would support projects like the crazy record and zine archive we maintain) plus it also allowed for us to kick our old sponsor for mishandling our account (and that’s a diplomatic understatement).

Lastly, the new comp is almost completely sold out. Get it while you can and fret not: more exciting things are on the horizon! Join us!

MRR Column #370 – YETT013

mrr_370_smShut Up and Deal With it

Getting old really sucks. This is theoretically my birthday month and this year I’ll be turning 28. “That’s 28 years awesome, people!” Ha ha, I love that mentality but seriously, it’s just one more year closer to death. Which is the inevitable fate of man, the price of living—so I might as well wallow in my own self-pity for a pint or two, while the clouds are still hanging low, then by morning I’ll be back to work, back on track. Caer está permitido; levantarse es obligatorio.

Year End Top 10

I have heard a lot of records this year, and normally it’s one of the hardest things to do, compile this list. However, my existentialist personality and experiential nature mean that the records I consider the best are usually the ones that make my heart flutter. Hopeless romantic? Irrational favouritism? Or just subjective selection? Whatever you wanna call it, here are the records that help me make it through another year of chaos control.

Epic Bleakness: PANDIMIA – “Moderna Panoukl” 12″ (Scullcrasher / Scarecrow / )

This record was the one I played the most on repeat over and over again. Super well written, a fair production that gives this band’s anarcho/post-punk sound enough space and grit to make your bones quiver, and the best fucking vocals and lyrics in Greek punk since the Antimob record in late 2012. Superb! I can’t wait for their next expulsion of negative energy! “There is no yesterday. There is no tomorrow.”

Raging Spite: BURIAL – “Renegade” 12

Ugh! What to say about this energized, pissed off, snotty hardcore from Germany? The production is amazing and they churn out one trudging rager after another, with reverbed vocals that spit venom, guitar work that’s a perfect mix of energized Japcore solo noodling, mean chugging riffs, and frantic drumming that have you in a frenzy! The tracks on this 12” just make me want to run wild in the streets and ramble into decadence! Grab this, bang your head against a wall, smash your TV with a baseball bat or kick that fucking cop in the balls—it’s an adrenaline kick like no other!

Melodic Lament: QUOD MASSACRE – “Kje Je Odgovor!” LP
 + GOLA JAJA – “Naked Bollocks” LP (NE!)

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: NE! Records was the star label for me this year, releasing stellar slabs of wax from ex-Yugo bands. There is no doubt that region was highly prolific during the ’80s and Slovenian Quod Massacre and Croatian Gola Jaja confirm this statement. With deeply melancholic tones, pensive lyrics and compositions that go well beyond the classic punk cannon, these band made some statement tracks that will twist their way into your heart and stay with you forever. Small pieces of a punk history well worth preserving!


Punk Extraordinaire: KAOS – “Betonska Djeca” LP (NE!)

Holy shit was this Croatian band some kind of revelation! You hear so many bands trying to sound like this today and then comes along this record, containing within all the sonic experimentation and blissful post-punk eeriness you ever wanted, ad you think, “shit, this is fucking punk! The vocals on this are absolutely enchanting, spooky and spine-chilling and the whole record transports you to its own surreal world of deformed melodies and reconstructed realities. Avant-garde punk.

Exciting Discovery: KLAXON – “1984” LP (Sydney Town)

Thanks to Justin Briggs for playing this record for me! This Italian band plays such a beautiful yet intense mix of proto-punk, proto-Oi! and rock’n’roll, yet still deeply catchy, sensitive, festive and political. Excellent!

Purposeful Strike: VOCO PROTESTA – “Neniam Konfidu al la Stato” LP

Excellent chaotic Japanese punk, summoning the very best elements of distorted Japanese hardcore with some added early European stress! Esperanto anarchist lyrics. Love this sound and love the urgency and demanding nature of every track! Haunting guitars and crashing drums that make my insides tingle, with menacing, hypnotizing vocals and a production that storms the room like a mob of revolutionaries! Fucking fantastic!

Energized: ABSURDO – flexi + 12

Damn, what energy these guys have! I missed all their Bay Area shows because I was working (of course!) but fuck is this some driven, tight stuff! This has a sort of vintage sound, but with a very modern earnestness and the way they just go into every track just grabs you. Pissed off and passionate! All elements merge and you feel it surge through your whole body and off you go!


Maggie Thatcher Rot in Peace: GOOD THROB – “Culture Vulture” EP

I don’t know if it has anything to do with my English punk half feeling rather undernourished, but I just fucking love everything this release! The vocals and lyrics are so powerful and in your face, they really have that essential punk element that sets apart certain bands. Intellectuals, nihilists, smart asses, darlings, bearers of stark realism? Whatever they may be, they have taken simplicity and drawn it out; twisted, bent and pounded into a phenomenal pièce de résistance.

DHK – “La Krudeza No Muere” LP (La Vida Es Un Mus)

Another anarchist D-beat rager. There is something primal about this that just makes so much sense! The vocals are gruff, the drums are relentless, the bass throbbing and the melodies are simple but effective. Infectious and commanding, this puts me in the right mood to face the day! It’s noisy and scary and is what you should play it at top volume for your idiot neighbours next time they piss you off!

V/A – “Welcome to 2013” LP (Not Normal)

This was one helluva comp! Oh my! With such bands as INSERVIBLES, HONDARTZAKO HONDAKINAK, ASPIRINA INFANTIL, CÜLO, BROWN SUGAR, PORKERIA, GOOD THROB and many more, how could this not be included! An excellent one to pick if you want a good mix of jams and ragers!

Very Honourable Mentions

PROXY’s Police Car EP was probably the perfect mix tape jam; DEFEKTNO EFEKTNI D/A 45 has a couple of the best bass lines I heard all year; I’m super happy about the Greek reissues V/A Diataraxi Koinis Isixias LP and EX-HUMANS Anofeli Epiviosi LP. The PLEASURE LEFTISTS Elephant Men/Not Over 45 and 
SHOPPING Customer Complaints LP made the perfect back-to-back listening experience, the GLAM Veneno en Sus Flechas 12″ spun me through many a heavy workload, while

MRR Column #369

 

mrr_369_smHere’s a short interview I did with Salonica sludge hardcore band, Bad Trip. They just released a new LP, have a new drummer and are about to embark on another European tour, just them and their van…

Please tell us how it all started, a bit of history on the band.

In 2004 George (guitar), Georgie (drums) and Alekos (guitar) started jamming in one of the studios in the Ladadika area [old part of town with tavernas, studios, markets and old manufacturing comps] in Thessaloniki. Back then we played hardcore/crossover but gradually the whole thing started to mutate, it became more experimental, more psychedelic and rotten; al this on a hardcore base of course. In 2006 Fotis (bass) and Lopez (percussions and samples) joined the band and with this line up we did some live shows and recorded our first demo. In 2008 we changed drummer and now on drums we have Sakis. Like this we wrote our split with 63High and our record What Does Not Evolve Must Burn. In 2009 Fotis left and Panos took over on bass. Lopez doesn’t play with us anymore, but he still does sampling for us and he’s like the fifth member of the band.

What Does Not Evolve Must Burn has great cover art! You also have a split 7” with 63High. Could you tell us a bit about how you came to record these?

The self-titled CD came out in 2007 and it’s a recording of one of our rehearsals. We printed 500 copies and they were handed out at shows. In 2008 came out split 7” with 63High [Salonica ska punk band], written live by both bands in one of the warehouses in the Ladadika (thanks Anastasis & Lpz). We recorded it in two days in June of ’08 and in early ’09 it came out in 1000 copies. But we weren’t completely satisfied with the final result. We sent one things for cut and received something different. Shame on you Gz! In 2009 we recorded What Does Not Evolve Must Burn EP, with lots of difficulties, like lack of time and equipment and Sakis showing up with a soaring fever. It came out in 2010 in 500 CD-R. It got sold out so we cut some more. At the moment we’re mixing out latest work. It was written in August 2011 under good conditions and with no time pressure finally! Three tracks, live, duration 32 minutes. We’re quite happy with the results, it’s wuite aggressive and alive. In 2012 it’ll be ready in the form of 500 CDs and 500 LPs. We also have a track (God Mode) featuring in the Spinalonga Records compilation called Miss Fortune was a Henhouse Manager and another two (Organized Crime & Evolve) in a compilation by NoiseItalia called Noise From Mars. We’ve done all our recordings on our own, with whatever equipment was available to us at the time. The artwork for all our releases has been done my Laura (kitchenwas)

You’ve already done many local Greek shows in many cities. Where have you been and what have you seen?

We’ve played in Larisa, Halkidiki, Kozani, Ermoupolis, Heraklion, Rethymno, Tyrnavos, Salonica and Athens. In Thessaloniki and Athens things are a lot easier for people trying to organise shows. You know, to set up the live and break even, invite bands from elsewhere, have people show up etc. Outside the large cities, in the provinces and rural town, things are harder in many aspects (expenses, locations and venues, infrastructure) So, a big bravo to all the people who are involved and are trying to run all of that.

One of the best shows I remember was in Crete, and our live in Heraklion (thanks Evangelismos, thanks Apatris), but also out show in Rethymno, where it was supposed to happen in the University, but at the last minute the University President brought in the cops, so the show had to be transferred to the TEI [university], but with the help of people and professors, it happened normally and it was really great.

What are your future plans for shows abroad? I know you are trying to build your own PA and want to take a van around Europe! What’s the deal?

Like we said, at this point we’re wanting to tour our new record. Once it’s cut, we’re going on a Greek tour (Hania, Rethymno, Heraklion, Patra, Athens, Volos, Larisa, Yiannena, Salonica, Serres, Kavala and Xanthi) and then we’re thinking Germany and Holland, as we have some invitations for shows there, at some of the social spaces and squats. As for our PA, we’re trying to gain complete independence as a band, with out own PA and back-line, so that we can set up a live show anywhere and with anyone we want. To need nothing but four walls, two electric sockets and some good spirits. And of course this PA to support other bands and situations as well. This whole project is moving along with the help of two friends, George and Chris, who are constructing the speakers!

You play a heavy mix of sludgy hardcore post psychedelic… something, that raises the hairs down your spine. What are some of your influences and do you have a particular way of putting your songs together?

All members of the band listen to all sorts of music. From classical music to grindcore, and ambient to gabba. From the beginning we wanted to ‘tangle’ lots of styles together, we didn’t want a particular style. Οχιφάση. Αφασία.

There’s usually a general backbone, some riffs in some order, we go to the studio and jam, for hours, days, months. In the end we’re left with something that satisfies us. Then we give it to Lopez and he add his own parts. We use samples and voices. There are things we want to say, but instead of using lyrics, we use phrases from films or documentaries which express us. So, each time we have a different “vocalist,” a woman, man, child, people of all colour, aliens, everyone.

What about your shows? Do you like to give some kind of message or do shows for a good cause?

So far we’ve done 40 or 45 shows and about half of them were solidarity or benefit shows. The rest have been at squats, universities and self-organised places, and we have also played at 3 clubs, but without an entry fee. However, we have declined offers for club shows a lot of times, because to a certain extent I think the clubs exploit bands. Also, we played once with 65daysofstatic and Dub Trio (yeah, nail us for that!) After so many years as a band, we decided to do these two support acts because we dig the bands, but we generally prefer self-organised DIY shows and most definitely solidarity and benefit shows.

Which bands would you like to share a stage with?

Neurosis? Botch? The Ex? At a free university show? Can we, can’t we? It’s a dream isn’t it?

Some of you play in other bands and have traveled around Europe a few times with your work as musicians, sound engineers etc. what are your impressions of the Balkans?

In the Balkans in general things are quite tough, in each country for different reasons; in Serbia because of the war, which you can still see reflected on people’s faces and city landscapes; in Bulgaria because of the regime and the nationalists (a friend who organised ska shows kept getting threatening phone calls from fascists). There are people who try quite a lot and do stuff despite the hardships and deserves every support. In the rest of Europe things are definitely better and in some things more organised.

Tell us a bit about your local scene. Are you involved? What do you like or dislike about it?

Thessaloniki has a large and very active scene. A lot of bands, a lot of shows and some very well organised spaces. The last years there’s been a lot of movement. We’ve seen a lot of good shows live and got to the point that there would be two or three in one night. Except for the Biologica squat, which is the oldest DIY live show space in town (21 years and still going!), there are quite a few groups of people/friends who do things, who take an abandoned building and gave it life and transformed it into a fully equipped live space. (Respect to Street Attack/Panicus Maximus/T.L.S/FreeTeza)

We are also part of this ‘movement’, we help out, set up shows, organise them… Also, George and Panos have helped some bands with their recordings. (Bmw Rockers 57, the Crazed, Johnny Carbonaras, 63 High, Last Rizla, Totalalitar, Last Century/TελευταίοςΑιώνας, Area 51, 666 Casualties, Terrorismo Musical and more).

As much as we like how “open” and “free” this place is, we don’t like the notion of “purity” within the DIY scene, you know “This band can’t play at our shows because they’ve played at clubs” and that sort of thing. Normally we should be opening our doors and the ideology of DIY shows and music, and try and make it contagious, not raise walls between us. So even if a band does accept to play at a free show, so long as the money goes to the space that’s hosting the gig, or to a good cause, what’s the problem?

Also, it disgusting that some record stores and distros take material from the bands, sell the records and then never gives the bands what it rightfully deserves at the end. With that money bands can upgrade their equipment, put out records, pay for studio time. Surely we’re not talking about large sums, but it’s a small help to keep things running and when you cut that, or delay things, you make it harder on the band. And because Bad Trip, like others, have been fucked over by record stores and distros, we decided that from now on our material will be distributed only at our live shows. Also anything we’ve done and everything we will do is available for free download on the internet a www.badtrip.bandcamp.com. Whoever wants to buy it can do so and ultimately support the band and not some club owner or random distro.

Any differences between Athens and Salonica? Salonica shows always start after midnight and end at like four in the morning!

In Salonica things flow at a different speed. The city is smaller, you can go most places without public transport. It’s easier to “propaganda” a show, communication is more direct (word of mouth works best), choices are fewer and so most shows have a large turnout. But there has been some progress as to the time they start, now usually round 23.00 and end at 06.00 (if there’s an after party!) It’s an improvement isn’t it?

You also have other side projects and bands. Tell us a bit about them please.

Sakis plays in Sklerotiks, while he also used to play in greet the Dead, Drunkard and Dihasménes Alíthies/Indecisive Truths. Alekos plays in Johnny Carbonaras, Burning Red and Boblywood, and he used to play in Insidious Browbeat. Panos plays with Underwater Chess, Boblywood, Johnny Carbonaras, Go Over 100, Broken Seals, Dinos Sadikis and in the past with s.ink, Scab Level, 63High, Thee Pancakes and many more.

What is your goal as a band? Do you have a grand plan or just take it day by day?

Make more music, do more shows, see new places and meet new people!

Last question from me. if you could bring back one musician from the dead, who would it be?

Jimmy Hendrix ? Django Reinhardt? Rowland S. Howard?

Would you like to say something to your readers? Last words are all yours!

create-change create-change create-change create-change create-change create-change create.

Jul 7, 2014 - MRR columns    No Comments

MRR Column #368

mrr_368_smWell I guess another year is here. Holy shit how time flies! I’ve been sitting at this desk for two hours trying to get my thoughts in a row, trying to get into my groove, but no luck. We went to print at 5 am, the next day I worked until midnight, then the day after that I went to a birthday generator show that was shut down by the cops. The generator wasn’t even running yet, they were doing an acoustic set!

Right now there’s music blasting downstairs, I hear merriment and laughter, and as I look out the window the rolling fog that’s coming in from the ocean only reminds me of the deadline approaching—and the page stares back at me blankly. Every fucking month I tell myself to get this done early and every month I fail royally. Time is one of the most precious things you have here, so procrastinating feels like a sin. I chain smoke and delete every other sentence. I’m trying to think of an interesting way of putting all this information across and my brain won’t let me. I ended up rhyming for fuck’s sake! So to hell with it, here’s the juice:

Last year began with lots of champagne consumption. Cheap champagne, pink champagne, fake champagne, boxes of it, as I celebrated weddings, birthdays, reunions and anniversaries. Then of course there was the daily drinking, celebrating death, destruction and the Damocles’ sword that hangs above my head from a thread. The spring days were spent indoors, in the company of great writers, scientists and philosophers. Shelving books doesn’t pay too well, but the Accidental Death and Dismemberment benefits sounded too good an offer to pass up. I went to the horse races on St. Patrick’s Day, drunk in a swirling sea of dollar beer and flashy green outfits. I trekked the landfills of Oakland, sippin’ vodka and trippin’ beneath the AT-AT walkers—the dogs, as he calls them—talking faster than my brain could monitor, smiling a mechanical smile I couldn’t control. The summer weeks were squandered chasing the sun and wishing the ocean wasn’t so damn cold. I caught an Earthquakes match in sunny San Jose, then stumbled into a Portuguese fest and crashed their photo booth and buffet. I wasted time at my first baseball game trying to find one designated smoking area and almost got myself into a federal felony. I saw fireworks twice, dressed up as Waldo for Halloween even though I wanted to wear corpse paint and still never made it across the Golden Gate Bridge. I supposed I need a new year’s resolution.

I’m saving my punk picks of the year for the Year End Top Ten issue, but outside of punk: I listened to a lot of Alice Coltrane, David Axelrod, Thelonious Monk, Lee Fields, Wendy Rene, Lydia Mendoza and Charles Bradley; also lots of black metal, retro electro futurism and John Carpenter movie soundtracks. I revisited The Network, Hobo With A Shotgun and Danger: Diabolik, discovered the masterful Berberian Sound Studio (UK, 2012), Underground (France, 1985) and The Wounds (Serbia, 1998). I’ve started reading eight different books, but have found time to finish none of them. I’m too weary to read before I go to bed and riding my bike to work means I no longer have those cherished fifteen minutes of bus reading time. Work piles up and more books and records are added to the list of things to check out in the free time I never find time to make.

Parallel to all this, postage prices went up while my alcohol tolerance went down and the only thing that seems static is my income. Every month is a challenge; we hustle and bustle to make it all work, so every issue that comes back from the printer’s, and every month we manage to make rent and pay all the bills, is a small victory. There is always some small crisis to handle, and we’ve had our fair share this year. Whether it’s accounting hiccups, temper tantrums or outsider vices, we roll with the punches, grit our teeth and troll through it. People come and go, friends move away, bands come through, and connections are made. Some bridges are burned, not all the buried are dead, a brain on constant overdrive and a hunger that’s never fed—planning, scheming, proofing, fact-checking, weighing creation versus consequences in an attempt to defy the laws of time. Every moment feels like a piece of the 3D puzzle you have to assemble each month, every part connected to another, a structure based on the strength of every individual part to bond with its neighbour. But, like a game of Snakes and Ladders, you go up, then come down. It’s not about winning, it’s about trying. “Buy the ticket, take the ride.” HST

Yet something seems to be missing from the bigger picture, and like some kind of cosmic trick of the mind, I can’t seem to spot it in amongst the oi polloi. There must be something more essential than all the bullshit people preoccupy themselves with; some fundamental element, some primal instinct that’ll stir within them and snap ’em out of their daze! There must be some working cells left for them to realize our time is up… Oh fuck the absurdness of life, it gives me a migraine!

“The world is like a ride in an amusement park. And when you choose to go on it you think it’s real because that’s how powerful our minds are. And the ride goes up and down and round and round. It has thrills and chills and it’s very brightly coloured and it’s very loud and it’s fun, for a while. Some people have been on the ride for a long time and they begin to question: ‘Is this real, or is this just a ride?’ And other people have remembered, and they come back to us, they say, ‘Hey, don’t worry, don’t be afraid, ever, because this is just a ride.’ And we kill those people.” Bill Hicks

***

            For over thirty years punk has inspired, aggravated and motivated people around the world to think for themselves and take control of their own lives. This magazine has been there throughout all of it and, alongside several other long-running punk institutions, has proven that punks do have the power, so long as they have the will. Not everything we do here is going to be to everyone’s liking, that would be impossible; but we aim to include, as much as we aim to improve. It’s no easy task, but one of our goals for this new year is to optimize and update some of our operations. Join us!

Hearing people complain about MRR really only makes everyone here work harder; we love what we do and we do it for you. We do it because we know that somewhere, someone is going to appreciate it. We do it because we hope that it will inspire people the way it inspired us. Everyone has their story about how they first got into punk, and for many that story includes MRR. With your help we can ensure this continues to happen. We can keep the fire burning wild enough to be contagious, bright enough to be beautiful and strong enough to be threatening. Join us!

Putting out this magazine every month is a labour of love, a carefully coordinated plan, a race against time. Over 150 shitworkers voluntarily put in their free time and effort and the collective energy that comes together is the force that keeps this in motion. Every so often my confidence will falter, but then we’ll get a letter or tape from some kid in the middle of nowhere and I’ll be reminded of the impact this magazine can have. The heavy sinking feeling in my stomach is replaced by a fluttering of the heart, as it leaps up into my throat, the prospects so exciting, and the connections so visible. Receiving negative feedback is part of the job too, but thankfully there are more important things to deal with than haters. For the record, despite everything, here are some of the small victories we had this year.

In 2013 we managed to start a giant project of re-organizing our 45,000-record archive, we’ve worked on a new international compilation with 32 bands from fourteen countries (though about twice that amount replied to our open call for submissions). We’ve organized shows and movie screenings, got new shirts and stickers printed; we’re working on revamping and optimizing our web presence and we’ve just put together the third Queer Issue, its ink rubbing off on your fingertips as you read this. We’ve had new and returning Bay Area shitworkers get involved, dozens of new artists joined our creative team, our subscribers are in the hundreds and, if our math is right, our readers in the thousands! Hooray! This past year we’ve reviewed an estimate of 1,100 records, 250 zines, 30 books and 25 movies. Roughly twenty new people contribute content to each issue, ten people proof and edit, eight people do layouts and two of us check every single page before it goes to print. We’ve had two coords go and two new ones arrive and, with the help of the awesome crew that makes up MRR, we’ll be skyrocketing this magazine into the year 2014 and into the hands of more punk readers! Join us!

Jun 3, 2014 - MRR columns    No Comments

MRR Column #367

mrr_367_smNotes from a Strange Year

Moving here eighteen months ago was a culture shock. More than any amount of reading and researching could have prepared me for. You are thrown into a unique city like San Francisco, in a radically (?) different state to the rest (sans perhaps NY), in a country you’ve already heard enough about, and then you come here…and realize it’s all in fact horribly true. The “dream” is just that. North America used to be a home. Then it became a colony, a grave/new world. Now it’s an identity, a destination and, conveniently for some, a solution. Beneath this desire is only bloody conquest and injustice. Such a well-crafted scheme, such a cunning hoax, it rips you up just being here, the contradictions too harsh to ignore, the irony to sharp to be funny.

You know; you read about places, you dream of something different, you idolize concepts old and new, convinced that where you are is the absolute pits. Then you move away and it all shatters like a Tasmanian devil let lose in a house of mirrors. The grass might be greener on the other side, but hey, the neighbour is a dick, so, it’s relative really. It’s about problem solving, making your own self and community better first. Every scene has its pros and cons that spring from its unique features and qualities. Scenes flux, evolve, ebb and flow, and in some cases rot from the inside. It’s useless to compare and stupid to compete. A globally connected punk scene will flourish only when we realize that it cannot—and should not—be the same across the board. Can you imagine how boring that would be!?

I hear big words like “accountability” and “confrontation” being brought up, but what I don’t see is daily actions towards either of those two. How can people discuss these concepts when they themselves don’t take responsibility for their own actions and shy away from direct communication? (I don’t care what you say, to me “hello,” “thank you,” “goodbye” should be manageable by any punk, however “socially awkward” they are, being disrespectful in someone else’s space is definitely not punk!) One of the things that an old Greek punk band taught me was that “the only authority is yourself” and I find that should still ring true—but I’m not seeing it as much as I would like. Sure, some people confuse anarchy with apathy, laid back with lazy and independent with selfish, but I don’t. To me being a punk is about destruction, but of the right things, not our own community! And I find some people only pick certain terms and language when it suits them or, surprise, when judging others. What happened to checking yourself? What happened to being humble and practicing what you preach? Don’t call yourself an anarchist punk when your most basic of daily behaviour obviously negates both those terms, however loosely applied. Since when did mediocrity and hypocrisy become a good image for punks?

While I’m all for openly communicating (“tell me about your feelings man”), exchanging experiences (“when I was at Chaos in Tejas”), improving by example (“I told you I was right and she was wrong!”) and spreading the punk rock gospel (“Check it out, this guy died in a pool of his own vomit!”) I also don’t think it’s anyone else’s responsibility but our own to provide the solutions. The day punk needs an outsider “sponsor” to help it survive, is the day punk need no longer exist.

And this is ultimately reflected in its broken down counterpart scenes around the world and how they act upon the concept of punk as they perceive it. What is or is not threatening about punk is relative to each region. Same goes for what is threatening to punk. This is not to say one battle is more important than the other, we need punks on all fronts. I’m just saying that if you know what punk really means to you, then no one else’s opinion should really matter…so quit with why everyone else isn’t punk and get to fucking work. Why do you care so much anyway? Love always works better than hate. Segui il tuo corso e lascia dir le genti.

Because yes, discussions as to punk’s “inherent” or otherwise attributes may have some benefits (to ignore them would be ignorant) and a number of disadvantages (to ignore those would be counterproductive) but personally I feel that without punk action, the punk discussion itself is redundant. One of our readers this month asked if discussing punk automatically makes the people involved in that act unpunk. There are multiple answers to this; it depends on who you ask really. Punks will never have one cohesive opinion on things (thank hell for that!). That would be closer to indoctrination and that is rather far from what punk is aiming to do, which is to destroy the notion that rules are necessary (desirable maybe, but it should be a choice), to offer the tools and environment to create something out of nothing, and to show you that you can do it on your own, defined by you, for you.

Punk started out as a knee jerk reaction against the times and ultimately that’s what’s going to continue to happen, irrelevant of what the times are saying or how they are changing. Pariahs, martyrs, posers, temps, fakes and preachers will come and go. Those involved in the public discourse of what punk is, was, might be, could be, would be and never should be will only be heard by those also engaged in this conversation. Their messages, whether right, wrong, debated, negated or otherwise, won’t reach the furthest corners of the earth—and that’s OK, punk will ripple organically whether we like it or not. It will change and adapt, maybe seem invisible or irrelevant to some, maybe even provoke debate as to whether it really is punk. But it will be there, becoming what we make of it.

In other news…: The end of yet another year rolls around. This not only means that Year End Top Tens are coming up, but also New Year resolutions. What will you chuck from your cobwebbed closet of regret and vice? What will you do to make a positive change for yourself and those around you? What happened to you this year that altered your life’s course? What are you aiming to do next year that will radically improve your future? Personally my goal is to be a nicer person to those who deserve it and to be tougher with those who warrant it. To smoke less and stress less, to eat healthier and bike more often—though not necessarily in that order. Not because the California “fitness lifestyle” is getting to me (never!) but because I’ve made myself sick with worry for too long, and coughing up a chunk of lung every morning can’t be a good thing in any state.

Living in San Francisco is a bit like a perpetual Groundhog Day: the weather is always the same and there are no real seasons. It’s like a reversed Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, “Always sunny, but never Summer!” Coming from a place where each memory has its corresponding season and soundtrack to go with it, this rather messes with my head, making my time here feel like one everlasting loop. This repetition is obviously very fitting to a job that moves in strict monthly cycles and involves leaving the house only forsupplies and the occasional gig or movie. It also means that my external references as to the time of year are the various festivals, parades, street fairs and holidays, when the city is overrun by hoards of loud, ignorant, drunk people. The city is ever changing, and right now it’s being whitewashed by gentrifying rich tech-boomers. No fun, not punk. So long San Francisco. It was nice knowing ya.

Speaking of gigs and movies, I went to the Roxie Theatre and saw Escape from Tomorrow, which was shot in its entirety in secret in Disneyland! It’s a surreal take on one happy family’s last day in the land of fantasy and pleasure, both of which come up in this film metaphorically and subliminally in all their gore and grandeur.

A few nights later I headed down to the DNA Lounge for the first time, to see a friend of mine who was in town with his band Volture, from Richmond, VA. They played alongside Oakland’s Owl and the UK’s Raven and Diamond Head—any metal enthusiasts will know this is a pretty sick line up! Lots of headbanging, wild hair and fingers in the air, too much beer, a pack of cigarettes all smoked and a very long walk home. I met my friend five years ago in Athens, Greece at an Alabama Thunderpussy gig I was helping out with and he was their roadie. As if often the case with touring bands and new friends made, we hung out for two unforgettable days, and then went on with our lives. We kept in touch every so often (those weird MySpace days) and I’m pretty sure I made him a tape, some songs of which I’d probably be rather embarrassed by now; but I honestly never knew if I’d see him again. Funny how life works and what a small punk world it is. \m/

My love for beer and vodka of course got the better of me that night. I threw up the next morning (multiple times) until all that was left was white foam and yellow bile. The slightest movement made me dizzy and every sip of water I took came back up three times as gross. From the dehydration, I could feel my brain shrink and dry up as it pulled at the tissues that connect it to my skull—a leviathan of a hangover. Which of course meant I easily caught the flu that’s been going around. Living at Maximum means you’ve got ten to fifteen people coming in on a weekly basis, and my immune system hasn’t been at its finest lately. All this during Print Week, which is crunch time.

However, I played my cards right and I had just enough energy to sneak into a play about Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) at the planetarium of the Academy of Sciences. Apparently it’s the first play ever written about an astronomer created to be performed inside a planetarium. Now, you may have guessed this (or not), but I’m an astronomy geek, have been since I was a kid. So to watch this man’s amazing journey, and his profound discoveries that altered the way we perceive life itself, was very special to me—I guess you could say he’s part of the reason I am who I am. What made this play even more exciting was that the background “settings” were all projected onto the dome, so for about an hour beautiful images from outer space swirled above our heads and the words coming from the single actor were enhance thrice over by these accompanying visual stimuli (all operated by MRR shitworker and friend Cameron!). Fibonacci sequences, Platonic solids, planets, satellites (he coined the term), his calculations and sketches all revealed themselves above us as he tried to understand the structure of snowflakes and the rotation of the planets, the source of harmony and order, the underlying principles to the organization of the cosmos itself. A man after my own heart.

It’s been a few crazy months and it’s about to get crazier. We had Japanese punks Yosuke, Wakako and FlipOutAA come through for radio shows, food and wine; we are in the final stages of preparing MRR’s new, electrifying compilation (more info coming soon!) and we are also in the process of getting two new coordinators! Exciting terrifying stuff, ha ha! Also, just before I started writing this column I found out that Lou Reed died. I was raised with so much of his music around the house (my mother’s been a fan since she was a teenager) and fell in love with the Velvet Underground so very much myself as I grew older, his music accompanying me through various stages and phases of my life, I know his passing will only make me love his music even more—a reminder of the passage of time and certainty of death. I wouldn’t have it any other way I suppose. Rest in excellence.

Feb 14, 2014 - Dance Dammit!, MRR columns    No Comments

MRR Column #366

It’s been a great year for Greek punk. It started off with the Antimob 12” which still gets spun on a weekly basis, and back home new bands are constantly forming, older bands are putting out new material and I’m insanely happy to be the owner of a Διατάραξη Κοινής Ησυχίας comp reissue. So what if it’s not the original, I need the music fuckers! And some of the records that have been reissued these last couple years are just so fucking brilliant, they should be available to every punk: like the ANTI… tape that was pressed to vinyl, the Διατάραξη Κοινής Ησυχίας/Disturbance of Public Peace comp, the Adiexodo .38 LP and the Ex-Humans’ Ανώφελη Επιβίωση/Pointless Survival LP.
Let’s get to the new records though! Sick of this Life 12” by Cut Off from Athens is fastcore meets breakdown meets blastbeat meets powerviolence meets grind meets mathcore. Greek salad core mixed in a power blender—get your mosh on! Gutter and Dirty Wombs from Patra also have a split 12” together, and while they play different styles, it’s a fine pick: Dirty Wombs have been super active in their local Patra scene, setting up shows and fests, and you should check out their singer’s zine, Winterview. Gutter share a vocalist with Antimob (here channeling his love for ’80s USHC), the twin guitarists dynamic duo from crust/hardcore outfit Sarabante and a drummer with…oh, about half a dozen other bands going right now in Athens (you know how it is with drummers, few and far between). Speaking of Sarabante, their recent 45 Ermaia ton Kairon/Under the Shadows was a good follow up to their really pretty darn good LP, and the track sung in Greek is especially epic! Call it Eurocrust, call it Tragedycore, either way it’s catchy and furious. Another track that I’ve been blasting that sounds great (because it’s sung in Greek) is “Κορίτσι στην Ακτή” (Girl on the shore) from Bazooka’s recent self-titled LP; a dark lament to the dead girl on the beach…That whole record took a while to grow on me, as I was more used to their spazzier Spits-styled frenzy, but I conclude that I like this fermented turn towards psychedelia, so long as they retain that teengenerate spirit that was so very refreshing when they first started out…knowing them, that shouldn’t be too hard. Also, Bad Trip from Salonica have a new LP out, with amazing artwork and of course, their signature slow, crushing sludgy post-hardcore, complete with psychedelic loops and cataclysmic crescendos! They’re one of the most DIY bands I’ve ever met, as they will seriously build their own PA, jam it into a van, then tour the fuck out of Greece, the Balkans and Europe, setting everything up themselves, proclaiming, “just gimme one socket to plus into it and we will set you up a show!” They’re also one of the most hard-working bands out there, doing sound at shows, setting up shows of their own with local and foreign bands, fests and solidarity events, plus they’ve been trying to set up their own space, but I’m not sure how that’s ben going—it’s getting exceedingly hard to work around the system and the system isn’t exactly accepting punks and their endeavors with open arms…So, if you don’t like vocals but live for the booming sound, check this record out! I’m going to try and interview them for this here column!
The record however that I want to tell you about today is the Pandimia 12” Μοντέρνα Πανούκλα/Modern Plague. First off, let me say that when I first heard this band in 2010 I was utterly delighted! It was mean, melodic, dark and angry, completely hateful and misanthropic, ideal for those moments when you grab your headphones and storm out the door into the night in the mood for revenge.
The first song I heard, called “Γουρούνια στην Ομίχλη” (pigs in the fog), is also the one to kick in the record and as the guitar closes in on you like a predator about to pounce, the singer Miltos spits into the microphone, “Here, again, they came out in packs, slow moving, in blue and khaki, looking for victims, roaming the city, their next victim could be you. Cloaked in a fog, that stings the eyes and burns the throat, pigs in the fog, they’re around here, somewhere!”
This is an instant classic and along with Genia tou Haous’ “Μπασταρδοκρατία/Bastardocracy” is an anti-cop gem that manages to express the scorn and anger of being attacked by riot cops. Tear gas has just exploded at your feet and your lungs are heaving with adrenaline and panic. Blinded, heaving and seething, you try and dodge the cops by staying close to others and away from the side streets. Breathing is critical. The more you gasp for oxygen the more gas floods your lungs and fires up your nose. Rubbing your eyes only makes the stinging and uncontrollable watering worse, the micro-molecules floating in the air, cloaking everything in a toxic fog. Then night falls and the sky lights up with the smoke of inevitable destruction.
The cops are lined up outside the parliament, where the fallen warrior of old lies in his cement cenotaph. In front of them is a line of fascist scum waving their flags and puffing their chests. The cops protect the fascist parastate, who protects the scum inside, who protect their own interests. No memorial or history book will ever tell you the whole truth. They teach you that battle is noble; that heroes die for their country and that we must honour the past and the dead. But “there is no yesterday, there is no tomorrow. Soon to be dead, we exist in the battle planes they send us to. Unknown Soldier; prey or hunter?” If the jangly guitar on this track could have been played at twice the speed it would have sounded awesome! The bass however does a great job of keeping this brooding, especially alongside the marching drum rhythm that fits so well with the theme of the song. (“Άγνωστος Σταρτιώτης/Unknown Soldier”)
“Propaganda” is another hit, with a clear and catchy opening riff/main theme, a crashing chorus and powerful delivery! Critiquing the wretched role of the media in spreading propaganda and deceiving public opinion, this track has lyrics urging the listening to shut his eyes and ears to their images, “you’re lost if your life falls in their hands,” summing up the bogus mentality preached on the eight o’clock news by the government’s conniving parrots: “There is only a golden democracy. There are only high ideals. There is only the need for security. There is only one nation so sweet.”
The closing track is also probably their best: an ode to our shitty city Athens, inspired by our lurid, rancid land Greece, this is their piece de resistance! The guitar creeps in then, then soars and swirls around your head in a kaleidoscopic manner. The vocals are more despairing and bitter than ever, mournfully snarling that it’s about more than mere survival. “People in city prisons, numbered; running without knowing what they seek. Others will show that they’re happy; outside they smiling but on the inside they weep. No living, in the kingdom of decline you merely survive.” You walk around in a daze of misery and hate, everything flashing past you like cars in the night, as the cymbals crash and the guitar solo at the end washes over you like an ocean wave, finally drowning everything out…
“Στο Πηγάδι Ξανά/In the well again” continues the narrative theme, with references to the spineless fascist scum and how it’s time for them to go back into the pits they came from. On “Μίασμα/Miasma” the bass is the main character and keep things tight, while the lyrics describe how the vile and paranoid city grows its roots inside you like a disease. On “Κακό Ξύπνημα/Bad Awakening” the guitar gets an extra level of depth thanks to some spacey slide/warp effect, making this sound ominous and psychedelic, with a strong rhythm section and lyrics about the utopias we create in our minds. “Μόνος στη Κορυφή/Alone at the top” is a slower, sadder track, with a wailing chorus and you can tell from the guitar that these guys also like to listen to some black metal and post-harcore; the effects sound rather excellent. My one complaint for the whole record, is that it should have all been played faster.
Two of these tracks, “Pigs in the Fog” and “Unknown Soldier,” appeared on the Spanish comp Recopilatorio Solidario: El Triangulo Anarquista, while “Propaganda” and “Βασίλειο της Παρακμής/Kingdom of Decadence” were originally on the Greek 2010 comp Solidarity is our Weapon.  All four of them are faster than the ones on this 12”. I know it might seem odd to say this after so much praise, but this is just my personal opinion: what they play on the record is fantastic, don’t get me wrong. It’s well written, very well produced, I bet they even used a metronome. (That would explain why everything has been slowed down from crusty hardcore sounding like early black metal, to almost mid-tempo post-punk with guitar sections that sound more ’90s Greek rock than ’80s Greek punk. The raw energy and attention to detail are ultimately what make this record so good, even if some of the basement grit got lost in the process…
Either way, Pandimia have managed to craft an excellent record, which I just can’t get enough of in spite of everything! This record is also special to me because I know some of the people who helped make it possible, like my friend Bak of Scullcrasher Distro, Darek of Scarecrow Distro and Pavlis of We Don’t Fight It Distro in Larissa. I know they all work really hard at what they do and are constantly working on new projects and finding ways to support our local scene. This record is dedicated to Villa Amalias.
In related good news, the Kallidromiou basement has been completely revamped and is looking terrific! The bleachers are gone, there’s a fresh coat of paint on everything and I think they even fixed/got new gear? It’s so important to know that despite the mayhem going on right now in Athens, and almost all the central Athens squats being evicted by the pigs, that people are not giving up or giving in and are continuing to pursue what is right, and what is needed.
There are so many more thing I want to talk about, like the murder of Pavlos Fyssas, the political and social aftermath and the crooked political reactions that followed, the fact that while these things are happening, footballers are uploading pictures of them sporting nationalist t-shirts on Facebook, people are still going to Death in June shows as if it’s no big deal and bands are still arrogating fascist symbols and imagery as if it’s nothing more than a fashion statement! So, next time, fascism!!

Feb 9, 2014 - MRR columns    No Comments

MRR Column #365

“So we shall let the reader answer this question for himself: Who is the happier man, he who has braved the storm of life and lived, or he who has stayed securely on shore and merely existed?”

—HST

I could sense a disturbance in the force. The motions of time and space were dissonant, and I could feel them dragging on as my eyes blinked and darted left and right at six times the usual speed; as if searching midair for the elusive reflections that hid somewhere behind the looking glass.

I laid there, stiff as a plank, my arms itching and burnt, my head pounding and my mind spinning like a disco ball that was never switched off, left alone above the dark and empty party room with no light left to dance with.

I felt my heart flutter—just for a split second—then it hardened up again, like a gargoyle unable to escape the first crack of sunlight. I so deeply wanted to bask in the notion of harmony, but my inner discord alone was enough to prove that reality equals entropy.

I dreamed of drowning. The ocean was filling my lungs, my nose, my throat swelling up with a burning, stinging sensation, and I became heavier than a cement block, steadily sinking into a watery grave as dark and cold as the furthest corner of the universe.

I also dreamed of running. Running with all my might, putting every ounce of effort I could muster into it, and going nowhere. I raced and sprinted and was yet still at square one; as though the earth turned to quicksand and sucked me to the spot, my legs tired and heavy, getting harder to move with every minute. The Great Magnet was holding me down. I think it’s time I listened.

I woke up furious. I had gone to bed with a tight knot in my chest, a sort of heartburn, a residue of unprocessed thoughts and undigested emotions, and the anxiety was scorching my bowels from the inside, like the fiery pits of a miniature Amon Amarth sweltering ceaselessly within.

I knew I was pushing back, not giving in to the proverbial waterworks that would inevitably come, in buckets. “The truth is rarely pure and never simple.” Getting to the bottom of it can be a life-threatening experience, though surely a cause nobler than no fight at all.

“Each something is a celebration of the nothing that supports it.” There are 4:33 minutes of silence, no moment of redemptiom to alter the course of what needs to be done; only the constant buzz of clashing forces: creation and destruction. It is between this eternal clash where we must balance, bend or break.

Reflected/Distorted

            I was recently watching a documentary on the history of US grindhouse movies. It was very interesting to see how sex and violence (or the imposed lack thereof) evolved through the ages; from early science fiction pulp and the paranormally twisted, to wartime terror, guilty lust, forbidden pleasure and post-war rebels without a cause. Zombies, freaks, deviants and degenerates “giving in to sin and temptation,” decadent sex and reckless malice. Grindhouse movies are a celebration of the rotten, the wretched and the fucked up and I like a lot of them.

Yet as I watched this surely incomplete summary of the genre, there seemed to be one element that kept veering its unsettling head: the humiliation and abuse of women. In almost every single movie mentioned, with few exceptions, the outstanding notion was that in the end, one way or another, women are the ones who get it.

Under the influence of selective perception, perhaps, my predisposition was to feel defensive and rather put off. I am usually cautious when processing multi-layered interdisciplinary notions, because I know how easy it is to jump to a conclusion and then realize you’re way off. Not everything is instant, easy or directly associated. Human evolution cannot always be listed, put into boxes or neatly separated into simple cause-and-effects.

Some things need to be processed and analyzed before we can decide how we honestly feel about them. Our mental conclusions are often informed by our emotional compasses, our feelings basically affecting our opinions. However, there is one thing that stirs in us a primordial knee-jerk reaction, something that comes before thought and emotion: our physical interaction with the world. When it comes down to it, our mind and heart can try, but our body usually wins. An act of violence can be rationalized, blocked out or skewed, but it still happened. Now amount of post-abuse restructuring erases its original existence.

The body never forgets. It carries within it an indelible map, tracking every sensory interaction, recording every bit of abuse and affection, whether directly inflicted or latently absorbed through psychosomatic experience. If you have even the most basic connection to your body and recognize its role in the mind-body-spirit triad, you know what I’m talking about. You don’t have to be some hippie, just realistic about your own entity.

This time I could not shake the feeling. My body had made up its mind felt that this was one twisted motif. Some people focus on the effects of things. Last night I saw a movie at the Roxie, about two friends who live an anarchic life. Afterwards, during the Q&A, he mentioned that he didn’t care to explain or show why these guys were the way they were, just to show that it is actually happening. OK, fair enough. Sometimes it’s just about putting it out there for the viewers to decide for themselves how they feel about it. I prefer to study why some “things” came about in the first place. Sexual violence is nothing new and we have already resolved that it’s wrong on every account, so to continue to feature it in movies, whatever the sub-genre, without taking a stance on the matter, seems like a cop-out by way of “uncensored expression,” of which there is much to be said.

For example, reoccurring Nazi imagery in rock’n’roll/punk culture is not really up for redefinition. Neither is white boys using the n-word because they are “street,” or chauvinists calling people “pussy” or “fag” as an insult. Call me a PC punk or or whatever you want, I honestly don’t fucking care. Who are these groups (fascists, racists, sexists, homophobes etc) who think they should be redefining something they snatched and skewed in the first place? Be that the swastika symbol, the colour of one’s skin, one’s gender or sexual preferences. Just because people are ignorant, bigoted or plain dumb doesn’t mean they can, or will, get a pass for their beliefs and behaviours. There is a market for everything, even hate and human misery. Exploit it right and you can create yourself an army.

But back to the grindhouse movies. Perhaps the movie directors that decide to present this abuse do so because they want to reflect reality and reaffirm that it’s a real issue; you know, to inform the public of the perverted minds lurking in the shadows—sure. And sure-sure, it’s also a matter of “artistic freedom of expression.” Yet historically, a lot of the time these movies were made to cover or fill a specific demand that either wasn’t or couldn’t be met by larger mainstream studios. The larger forces, be it carnal, artistic, ethical or purely business related, driving these exploits are what I wonder about it. All sexual consent, freedom and experimentation, absurd fascination and, ehm, entertainment value aside, when stripped to its bare bones, where does this fixation come from?

The need to procreate? To prove male dumbinance? A purely physical desire too strong to harness? (“Babies are conceived by love, not rape”) I could meander into Freudian territory, speculate that some men’s fuck up relationship to women stems from their own problematic childhood, or some traumatic experience, a chemical imbalance perhaps, or medical condition. I could try to connect the dots between sexual exploration, sadism, masochism and the dark side of pleasure, and how each person has a different threshold of tolerance, being physical or emotional. Would women have handled their sexual power differently to the way men have over their millennial dominance?

What’s funny is that when I try to imagine a world where over the centuries men have become the sex objects of women, I automatically think of all the many men around today who would actually be turned on by this role reversal option! Their own exploitation still defined by their own primal need to be pleasured. I could be wrong…human evolution is tricky.

Jan 25, 2014 - MRR columns    No Comments

MRR Column #364

The classic man’s worst fear was inglorious death; the modern man’s worst fear is just death.

—Nicholas Nassim Taleb

 July has been a short and heavy month, with high levels of both happiness and stress. With endings and new beginnings, lethal anxiety and profound serenity. Coordinating MRR is by far the most amazing and rewarding job I’ve had, also the most stressful because I care about it more than any of my previous jobs, so when my parents announced they would be visiting me for a few days, I was glad for a short break. I needed some sun and sea and my brain needed to shift gears and slow down, even if only for three days.

            We set off on Sunday morning, drove down the 101 and headed for the Big Basin Redwoods State Park. The roads were narrow and the higher up we climbed the cleaner and cooler the air became and the thicker the forest. I guess giant mosquito bites on my bum is nature’s punishment for my peeing in her beautiful woods. Touché. After an hour of hairpins we arrived.

As we walked down the shortest path, these astounding, ginormous trees just loomed there above us, every inch of their height a reminder of how nature thrives when left alone. Every tiny shoot proof that nature knows how to take care of itself; it doesn’t need us humans at all really. Standing there, in the almost silent forest, I was filled with awe at the longevity and endurance these trees had shown. Redwoods can burn completely on the inside, looking hollow and charred, but their resin-covered bark exterior survives and the tree continues to grow. Almost like a phoenix, it burns only to be reborn.

            Looking at the tree-rings of one of these is like looking at a time map: dendrochronology. In 1215 the Magna Carta is signed. In 1440 the first printing press is invented. In 1519 Magellan sets out on his voyage around the world. In 1564 Galileo and Shakespeare are born. Some of these trees have been around for 3,000 years, and throughout every stage of human history, nature has been ten steps ahead. How miniscule our discoveries and conquests feel in comparison; how ephemeral our life; how destructive our nature. As we continued down the road I felt rather flattened, but simultaneously comforted by the thought that we will all one day be one with the trees, and then we won’t be able to do any more harm.

            We walked around the small Western-looking village in the middle of the Redwood forest. It had been thirty years since my parents were last there, and yet the steam-train they remembered was still running. We walked down the path and marveled at the Fairy Rings that the trees formed. Between three and seven or so trees can grow together, forming a circle, their roots beneath intertwining, creating a strong network of underground support. How smart, I thought. Then realized there was nothing smart or unnecessary or selfish or kind or ugly about nature: it just is. It evolves and adapts so that it can continue to be. Nature has no morals and always gets it right. Yet humans seem to talk so much of values and mores and yet still fuck everything up…

            The sun was shining and the smell in the air was earthy and wholesome. So why was I feeling so sad? Was it the full-circle I had just done, finally seeing this beautiful place my parents had spoken of for 27 years? Was it perhaps that I had not seen either of them for a year and knew they would be leaving again soon? Or was it that overwhelming realization that from here on starts the countdown? That every day counts, and you’re counting every day. That heavy burden of fear we all carry: the fear of death. The fear of this one fact we all know yet won’t accept.

            As we walked away from the hoards of screaming children and ice-cone sucking parents, I noticed a lone country singer was in fact performing the music that had been playing from the PA. He sat alone on a big stage, at the far end of a meadow, rows of empty seats beneath him, his cowboy hat covering his face, which looked a bit like Willie Nelson. What a shame I thought, no one is watching him play, everyone is too busy buying over-priced souvenirs or stuffing their face with diet Coke and hot dogs. You poor fools…

            I went to the bathroom before leaving; it was a while until my birth-town of Monterey and I’d already had too much coffee. As I peed, there was a sudden shift and everything went rather quiet. I could hear the words of the country singer loud and clear. “I know this is the same road I took the day I left home, but it sure looks different now. And I guess I look different too, ’cause time changes everything. I’m a hundred thousand miles away from home.” I wept right there and then in the bathroom stall, too scared to face my folks and tell them I go to bed every night drenched in fear… What a weak-hearted coward…

            Monterey is a small, graphic ocean-side town. My parents were amazed at how much they couldn’t remember and how much they felt it had changed. Either way I can see why my parents loved living there back in the ’80s. The house we used to live in is still there, the only thing completely unchanged. Three blocks from the university campus where my dad studied so hard at, five blocks from the ocean where my mum sat pregnant with my sister and me.

            We stayed at a rather magnificent hotel inside the Naval Post-Graduate School campus. The building had been burned and severely damaged twice, yet the inside was still stunning. Neo-Moorish architecture with earthly colours, lush plants, adorned balconies, tiled steps and exquisitely detailed ceilings. Outside my bedroom window I could see the remaining sunlight flood through the tall windows of a poolside pergola with 18th century garden furniture. Wild geese walked around pecking at the grass. I felt like I was in a Jane Austen book, only with cable TV and a mini fridge. Of course it was a non-smoking room and there was no free liquor in the fridge, but the plush bed and walk-in closet made up for that. Hotels always make me want to slip into decadence. Maybe next time…

            We walked to the Wharf and watched the seals play in the green waters. The old theatre was still there, much to my mother’s pleasure, and we even got a little tour from the owner, Antonio. He’s 92 but doesn’t look a day over 70. He told us how he built the whole building himself and still makes all his own sets for the plays. Gilbert and Sullivan, Noël Coward, Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz; he even tried a couple Beckett plays but, understandably, those didn’t go down as well with the families and tourists who flock there every year.

            The white sand on Monterey beach shimmered and the colour of the ocean was a deep blue grey. We sat there with our feet in the sand, watching dolphins jump through the waves, the sun warm enough to keep our coats off. It was, all at once, a moment of intense happiness and devastating sadness. As I gazed at the ocean that seemed to expand into infinity, I couldn’t stop thinking about that final scene from that movie On the Beach and I realized this weight will never lift. It’s the price of being alive. So I collected some shells and pebbles and a handful of golden sand and stored them in a plastic water bottle to remind me of that moment. Who knows, it might be another 27 years until I’m back there again, where it all started for me.

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