Fuckin’ hell what a crazy month! It’s 23.45, this column is (of course) late and due in a few hours, and I’ve just come back from the Youth Avoiders show in Oakland (they were super tight!) Touring with them right now are also Dry Heaves, but sadly I missed their set as I was literally throwing the last of my boxes into my new room as they were starting their set (I have cool friends who send me text updates because I’m perpetually late for things!) I recorded a radio show with Youth Avoiders and Dry Heaves yesterday, then we got cheesestakes and smoked weed in the park overlooking the SF skyline, freezing as the fog rolled in! …Fuck, I am gonna miss meeting and greeting all the rad punks who came through the house while living at MRR—and the record collection…and shitworkers, and assigning and layouts and emailing back and forth with all of you…
I did two trips with all my crap from SF to my new spot in Oakland, but not before going through three hours of radio post-production hell (with a hangover), literally slamming my laptop shut and shoving it in my bag as the others yelled “Come on, come on! We’ve got to go go go!” But—the radio show was successfully posted and I had so much fun with them all; best punks, the lot of them! Never been to Sheffield, but from the likes of those lads, it’s probably a fun punk scene up there. Check out their sets, they played some cool Sheffield punk! And it was great to see Youth Avoiders pull out French records, all of us geeking out on Taulard and Camera Silens! And of course if you’re a punk with any sense, or taste, you’re obsessing over Rixe right now like I am (eh, and a bunch of other people too). So imagine my delight when I found out that Max, who plays guitar in Youth Avoiders, is also the drummer of Rixe! Tres cool! I confessed that the song “Infatigable,” was like a kick in the ass for me; an emblematic song that gave me strength!
The hunt for a new place to live had seemed endless (technically it started in November) and by April 10 (with April 15 being our move out date) I still hadn’t found anywhere. There were days when I’d wake up to three rejection emails—which I guess is fine because I probably wouldn’t want to live with people whose prerequisites were “No pets. No smoking. No drugs. No overnight guests. No loud music. No parties.” “…and no mail!” added Jason Ryan as I laughed and moaned over another empty beer can, at that point of mental exhaustion when you start to laugh at your own delirium.
There were definitely a few nights when the only thing I did was drink drink drink after a long day of hauling boxes at work, endlessly scrolling through craigslist, getting more depressed and angry at the situation, sad to be leaving but also ansy to be out of limbo land. Getting used to not being at or within a few blocks from MRR, trying to finish up projects and tie up lose ends while poorly balancing my old responsibilities with my new schedule; packing more records and books than I thought I could accumulate in three years, in a country to which I arrived with merely a suitcase.
And then, bam! Record Store Day was already upon us, and (if you hadn’t already guessed) that’s one of Revolver’s busiest seasons. After which we celebrated Liquor Store Day, and just got piddled while moaning and laughing about the craziness we’d all just been through. (Hello Revolver people who read this!)*
I have mixed emotions about Record Store Day, so I’ll say this: what may have started as a way to support small, independent record stores, has turned into the music industry’s Black Friday—it’s rather sickening but also not entirely surprising. For decades, the vinyl industry and its pressing plants were held afloat by relatively indie clients; punks obviously never ceasing to need their wax. But this is capitalism we live with, so of course major labels hopped on the chance to make more money from another Grateful Dead record. Also, bitch time, but who really needs another Nirvana covers album? Nirvana covers. Like that band hasn’t been covered to the end of the universe and back already…and even if the bands weren’t meh (which I think they are), their renditions were sometimes painful to sit through…and with the worst fuckin’ baby-blue cover…
On Record Store Day I didn’t buy any records (very consciously so) but I did see Silent Era at Thrillhouse, which has teamed up with Prank Records and added a new section. As Ken Sanderson said, “there’s now a Soundtrack section.” (Fine with me!) Mariam was also in town briefly before flying out to Europe on tour with Permanent Ruin. If they’re coming through your town, make sure you see them, they’re great live and lovely people! Oh, I also had my first Greek experience after three years of living here: I had Easter lunch with a Greek friend, her husband, her mother and…an Australian Orthodox priest (!) who’d lived in Greece for then years…
Now I’m sitting at my new desk, in my new home, eating a stone cold burrito from four hours ago on a plastic Snoopy Christmas plate, exhausted and achy from ten days of couch-surfing all around the Bay (thank you Will, Ben, Travis and Michelle!), wreaking as if I’ve only showered twice in that time (which is a fact) but feeling pretty pumped that this long ass month is almost over! This is my 36th issue of MRR, almost my third month at Revolver (the half-way home for coords) and—omergwad I just noticed—exactly three years since I left Greece to come to SF to coordinate what you’re holding in your hands right now! And tonight is the first night I officially no longer live at MRR… [shivers] Uncanny!
We’re still looking for that special someone to coordinate with team supreme Grace and Eli, so get in touch for an application! You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(*) P.S. I walked into Revolver a few days after we got the new issue in stock and Bobo said, “so this is the girl who doesn’t like reissues!” Followed by “biting the hand that feeds,” laughs Radu… Which of course leads to a greater discussion on the record industry, and by extent the music business and how indie companies are or are not free from capitalist shackles. Spoiler alert, they’re not. But that’s a column for another time.
What’s up everybody! Welcome to spring! “Brush your teeth and break some bones.” We hope you liked our Art & Comics special last month! Grace and Alex put a lot of work into it, and we’re stoked to be able to present so many radical and creative punks in our pages! We’re also rather gleeful that our April Fool’s prank worked on some people—to set the record straight, no, we will not just run art and comics from now on, we still want you to submit your interviews and guest columns and scene reports and photos! We are always looking for artists to create ads and flyers and whatnot for these pages, our events, our website and such, so get in touch at email@example.com with submissions!
We’re back to another regular issue this month, and are simultaneously working on a bunch of other MRR projects as you may know. First off, we are almost all finished with the Los Crudos Discografía 2xLP—Record Store Day pressing plant holdups mean the release date is set for end of April, but it is finally happening—thank you to everyone who pre-ordered for the support and patience! This will be MRR’s seventeenth release (MRR-017) and we are super proud for it to be such a historic band’s collective work! Crudos are gonna be playing some shows when the record is out, so keep your eyes peeled for updates! Working on this release, as well as MRR’s previous record, Sound the Alarms! comp, has taught me a lot about the whole process of putting out a record—the wax, the jackets, the labels, the inserts, the info, the formatting. One day I will dedicate a column to this process, like a basic Record 101 for Dummies (I know I was one). It’s not as hard as you think; as long as you’ve got it all organized, and perhaps a little help from others who have done it many times before, and you can do it too, no doubt!
We have also made some exciting progress with getting the MRR Record Collection Database into a re-searchable format (right now, the 47,000+ entries live in an XL sheet). Ex-MRR coord Cissie and MRR shitworker Jason have both been working their magic at coding poetry and database architecture, and hopefully within the next few months we will have the MRR Database open to the pubic to search through. We are nowhere near done, and we have to do some serious consistency checking, updating, accuracy control etc., (data entry/organization, love it!) but we are just buzzing with joy that this project is taking off! When ready, it will be a searchable database where you can look up any band, record or label that exists in the MRR archive, along with images, links to other database entires and info, and of course the corresponding review from the magazine, (Tim Yo’s review of Discharge’s Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing!)—this and so much more; the cross referencing potential seems endless if you think about the vast archive of materials we have accumulated since 1977 when the radio started and 1982 when the magazine started! If you enjoy geeking out on fact checking or data entry, hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org and maybe you can help us get this invaluable resource out into the world!
Also, as you may have heard, MRR is working on a massive, global event on May 16, 2015. Our goal is to have as many “MRR Presents” shows as we can around the globe! So far we have at least 50 cities locked down, with at least one in every continent—sans for the North and South Pole, so if you know any punx there tell them to get in touch!! Check further down these pages for info and a map with the cities we have locked down! Basically the idea is that we want to have a day when all punks can partake in a common MRR-focused event. There are time differences, so it’s basically gonna be over 24 hours of punks coming together to support their own local scene and MRR in the process. This idea came to us not only because some people had emailed and asked, “Hey, can we organize a MRR Presents show in out town too?” (as we host such shows once a month at a local club here in SF), but also because it is a brilliant way to create awareness about the magazine and what we do, and to offer a chance for communities around the world to feel connected. This is not just about trying to benefit MRR and get some much needed cash donated; it’s also about having a day dedicated to all the punks who have been and are still involved with this grand institution we call Maximum Rocknroll. Doing what we do for free, for the love of it, for the love of MRR, for the love of punk. There’s thousands of us—just think of all the “MRR punks” you know; either submitting something for review, or whose band was interviewed, or maybe they sent in photos or demos, or helped with editing and layouts… We exist in every continent, in an astounding number of countries! We can all connect on May 16 (by the way, totally unrelated to the Lagwagon song, sheer coincidence), and bask in the knowledge that we di this vast thing on our own, DIY style, but together—no big ass fancy sponsors needed, to bigwig capitalists funding it, no PR company promoting it. The true spirit of DIY, the global punk scene which MRR helped create and nurture will take the world by storm! In a physical sense we’ll congregate locally, and in a metaphorical sense we will all be on the same mental wavelength globally. “The name on everybody’s lips, is gonna be… Maxi Rocker!” Just think, we could break the fuckin’ internet! MRR will be everywhere! Photos will pour into Facebook and Tumblr feeds, Instagram tagging will explode, cities around the world will be wheat-pasted with posters bearing the MRR logo, the sounds of a thousand punk bands will echo around the world like an earthquake. If this sounds like something you would like to be involved in, email us at email@example.com for more info, and also check out our Facebook page and the related event at facebook.com/events/805881439498975.
We are also still looking for a new content coordinator to run this brilliant rag along with coord team supreme Grace and Eli! This is an unpaid position, full time, but if you are the right kind of person, then offering your life and soul to this institution for a couple years should be right up your alley! We are looking for a detail-oriented punk, with excellent organizational skills, an encyclopedic knowledge of the international punk and hardcore scene both past and present, and the ability to live and work in a busy house, lined by 47,000 records, supported by a Board of 15 or so people and over 200 local shitworkers, both local and remote. You will get to live in the MRR house bill and rent free, but you will also have to find a part-time job to support you caffeine / record / junk food consumption habits. I would say the most important thing is to be a fast learner who can juggle multiple projects and deadlines, capable of constant follow up, but not forgetting to take care of yourself, mentally and physically. It’s a truly once-in-a-lifetimes experience, and what you will learn here are things you will carry with you for the rest of your life. Be it the music you discover, the people you meet and interact with from all corners of the earth, the mistakes you make and learn from, the skills you hone, or the projects you complete and feel proud of. I couldn’t learn anywhere else what I have learned here, and I’ve met such creative and enthusiastic and dedicated people, some of the absolute best punks in the whole wide world. I feel truly honoured and fortunate to have been able to sit behind this desk, to have access to this impressive and living archive and to tap into a vast network of cool punks. It is something I always hoped I could hack, and now, three years down the line, I feel ready to conquer anything. For real, if you can do MRR, you can do anything after that. Could you be the next coord to help propel MRR into the future? It is a big, big responsibility, and the stress levels can get high, but it is as noble and as worthy a task as I could ask for in my life. I am sad to have to go, and wish I had the energy and mental strength to continue doing this for another century. Yet there is a reason coords rotate—each system is only as strong as its weakest link and, after a while, you have to be diligent with your pruning, and make room for new growth. I am nowhere near ready to stop being involved in MRR, and I know that once I have my life back on track (to some capacity anyway) I will be able to focus on the long term projects we are working on with renewed passion and dedication.
New York was practically non-stop fabulous! I had a tragically bumpy ride to the airport (don’t drink and fly), but made it to NYC in one piece, and spent almost every minute of the day outside. Chinatown for treats and coffee, 42nd for skyscraper views from new friends’ balconies, the Bowery for bar hopping (Dick Manitoba’s bar ain’t too bad), Central Park for Sunday strolling in the snow, Chelsea for hotel rooftop bars and cocktails! Glammed it up for the Suicide show, which was not a disappointment. Alan Vega has had two stroked in five years, so even though he came on stage with a cane and had to sit down a couple times, his delivery was still rather impressive—he has the Alan Vega moan, the scream, the screech, the drawl and snarl. Martin Rev was raging at the keyboards throughout, not a laptop in sight! He wore a sleeveless vinyl vest with nothing inside and vinyl pants, his butt-crack exposed the whole time—it was epic, he did not give a fuck! They performed some classics (sadly “the sound,” that tinkling, xylophone sound from “Cheree” was not adible) thought I would have been perfectly happy with a pure noise-fest too, inaudible, unrecognizable reverb and fuzz…but they didn’t stray as far into noise and experimentation as they did in their earlier shows in the late ’70s. Sure, they must have been mind blowing back then, breaking convention and bending sound and samples, loops and grooves, but in 2015, I was more than happy to hear the music I loved in a manner that was familiar and comforting. Oh, and Pharamkon was also great, almost brought down the roof with her bass-infused poundings, and I loved how impressed the crowd was that she came down from the stage and walked amongst them—they must have never been to a punk show, heh.
Unpunk Soundtrack: Vatican Shadow’s new 2xLP, Nekromantik OST, Friday the 13thOST, Close Encounters of the third Kind OST, Gojira OST, Sun Ra’s Space is the Place, Madvillain, the Fabulous Flames.
Punk Soundtrack: the Cramps, Prag, the Exploding Hearts, Rixe, Midnite Snaxx, Cal and the Calories, Quaaludes, and of course, the Extremo Nihilismo en Barcelona record! Déme las drogas, déjeme bailar! Until next time, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I’m flying over Reykjavik right now. The temperature outside is -59° C and from my window seat I can see a plump duvet of white clouds covering everything in sight. My mp3 player is out of battery so I have some random classical music station playing from the “in-flight entertainment system” (Hayden’s “Finlandia in D” apparently—how fitting) I wish I could see the landscape beneath us. Turbulence is frequent, the air dries up my nostrils and eyes and, even though we are traveling in “a flying Datsun” as by friend Bakalis calls SAS airplanes, at almost 2000 km an hour, none of that has yet deterred me from enjoying air travel. “I’m probably tempting fate,” I’m quick to second guess myself, as the seat belt sign flashes on again. How determined we are as humans to go places…
I just left Athens, Greece via København, Denmark, where I spent a night at a quaint and colourful hostel, and will be changing yet another flight from Newark to SF after that. The holidays had been long anticipated and with good reason: it was the first time to go back home after 2.5 years. I realize that’s not such a long stretch of time in the grand scheme of things, but sometimes we miss the things we expect least, the things we once ran from.
It’s been an exhaustingly fun month, if not only because of the excess late nights, drinking and smoking in bars (Yes, both. Inside. At the same time.) but also thanks to being with my nutty but very loving family again—all five of us together again, ready to hug and weep, as we are ready to bicker and disagree. We excel pretty well at both.
I promise next month I will write about the Greek elections, SYRIZA, the feared “Grexit” and Greek politics Man of the Year, Yianis (one “n”) Varoufakis. Right now, however, I would be doing everyone a disservice, as my humble opinion would be rather skewed compared to that of an expert—or in the very least someone who hasn’t spend the last month under a proverbial rock, indulging in excess and gluttony, a womb of impropriety and shamelessness. Or what I like to call home.
The day after I arrived in Athens, Greece I went to the dentist to get a whopping great bit molar with a root at a 90-degree angle taken out of my mouth—exciting stuff. (It cost about a third of the price compared to such dental work in the US.) Soups and puree were on the menu for me, which was not so bad, as the rest of the time I stuffed my face with whatever food was put in front of me. I drank less coffee than I usually do, which was somewhat due to the fact that Greece has shitty filter coffee and even worse instant. So I cranked up my nerves with Freddo Cappuccinos (one of Greece’s finest inventions) and chain-smoked rollies because tobacco is so damn cheap back and I’m a lousy quitter. I triangle-commuted between three completely different parts of town—a bus, a metro, a train; more buses, more walking, another train—feeling like my nomad teenage self again, walking a lot despite the freezing cold, stopping to sit in sun patches to smoke, letting the busy patterns of the city whoosh around me like a flock of dirty pigeons; tracing the cracks in the road as I sit red-eyed and drunk on the owl bus, dangling my legs off the overpass bridge, smoking a joint and feeling the planks shake underneath me as the trains rattled through, just below my Chucks, content with the notion that all the possessions I needed in the world at that moment could fit in my pockets. Free to roam, fine to dwell. I closed down the bars I went to (many of them operated by killer bartender friends…) and got away easy with only one major hangover (tip: after four Appletinis and two Espresso Martinis “because your hangover is kicking in,” a White Russian is probably a bad idea…) However, I saw some friends I hadn’t seen in half a decade or so and caught up with others as if I had only seen them yesterday. Passionate discussions around empty coffee cups about the Greek situation and elbow bending at the bar while measuring up life’s greater challenges were the MO.
Some things had drastically changed: my friends now running their own businesses, others with newborn children, friends and relatives developing cancer, a seemingly inexplicable explosion of bakeries and coffee shops. While other things had remained exactly the same: the empty store fronts by my downtown flat, the patchy green view from my parent’s house, the constant barrage of propaganda in the media, the calming cycle of lapping waves on an empty beach in winter, the crappy but history-drenched sidewalks and abandoned neo-classical mansions downtown. Things ending and things beginning, a constant reminder of the duality of life and how fucking short it is.
The country is in crisis, and it’s not the only one, societal depression casting a dark shadow—though some wouldn’t want to admit it. Perhaps because then the reality would sink in further, forcing them to take a long, hard look at their lives and make some tough choices. Or perhaps because at this point people are so sick and tired of discussing the fact that there is a crisis (and of being the bad, disobedient child in the EU family) they would rather focus on something less passé than self-pity—after all, they’re a proud lot, even if prone to making bad decisions from time to time. Like many of those neo-classical buildings laying to waste in downtown Athens: there’s an exterior façade scribbled with political slogans for the world to see, but inside nothing but a hollow shell, the foundations crumbling, the beams of support crooked or broken, the last layers of optimism peeling away like old paint.
There were only a couple of days that I actually had to myself and I made sure to spend them as deep in the heart of the city as I could. On one of the nights I stayed downtown—still suffering jetlag that had me napping from 8-11 pm, then feeling wildly awake until 4-5 am—I left the house as the sun was rising above the apartment blocks, and just started walking. Patision, Eksarhia and Monastiraki, resting on benches in Evangelismos, sipping cheap-as-fuck coffee, reading the headlines from newspapers that hung up outside the periptera kiosks, old men in Trilbys and women with bags of groceries briefly pausing to look, then shaking their heads in a “bah humbug” sort of way and going about their day. The weather ranged from sun with teeth, to snowy, to grey and rainy to sunny and mild again, so being outside was in itself an intensely enjoyable experience. I listened to what people were saying as I sat on the bus, had the radio on all the time when at home, the soundtrack switching between “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” and loud debates about the future of the country. Elections were coming, and I wasn’t going to be there to witness whatever surrealism was to surely take place in their wake.
So I spent as much time as I could with friends and family, kept a strict schedule to ensure I would have time for everyone and everything and sucked out of them as much of my old self as I could. My punk neighbour whose balcony is literally a stone’s throw away from mine we could practically tightrope across the street into each other’s houses for morning coffee and cigarettes, the bakery below my house always smelling of spanakopita and fresh bread, occultism and conspiracy talks with my metal friends from a few lifetimes ago, coffee in my neighborhood square waiting an hour-and-a-half (I kid you not) to be seen at the bank for a transaction that took all of two minutes. Beers on a bench overlooking the city up north, spontaneous 4am drives to Piraeus down south and its myriad little piers and wharfs, the land of fish and fairy lights. Treating my jetlag with booze and Downton Abbey, slipping in the snow after too much wine with my sisters, seriously shedding a tear after what tasted like the perfect kalamarakia. Tickets to shows at big ass venues as a gift versus shows with no ticket at squatted farms in sub-zero degrees, drinking flat beer trying to fathom where pretentious people come from versus dancing in the pit with my friends, pogoing and dancing like here’s no tomorrow. I went to an Asteras Exarhion footie match and it was so comforting to freeze my toes off on a Saturday morning, watching a relatively jinxed third league football team run it out for 90 minutes to what is left of their fan-base, most supporters either too busy working, or moved away, or unavailable for political reasons, or dead, or simply ephemeral spectators who’ve moved on to something else.
The Mountza zine boys and myself were also invited to talk about MRR and the significance of zines in today’s digital era, and surprisingly, it went really well. It was hosted by fanzines.gr, a zine archive focusing on Greek zines, and Arxeio 71, a squatted self-run space in Exarhia. I have the whole discussion on tape, so will soon dedicate a full column just to that discussion.
Talking with people, the one question that came up the most was, “Is it better there?” Trying to pin down what core differences exist, without wanting to allow them to define or suggest one or either as a winner, I constantly remind them that it’s useless to compare any two countries, let alone the US to a small village like Greece. In some cases it’s about what you want to do with your life, what you want from a place and what you want your role in it to be; what you are willing to compromise and sacrifice and what you end up carrying in your heart no matter where you call home.
I am back in SF, excited about my new job at Revolver Distribution. It’s been a while since I felt optimistic. Like all things I s’pose, it’s about attitude. Perhaps things weren’t apart but falling into place. After being at the institution that is MRR, and over a year of hiding in and behind books at Green Apple, I feel very, very lucky to now be working in a place like Revolver; being around records all day, listening to new music, not always punk, and not working at a computer screen—the day goes by so fast filing orders, pulling records, packing them, weaving through aisles of shelves stacked with new discoveries, lots of eternals and even some forgotten sonic romances. So right now I am binge listening to Wendy Rene, Charles Mingus, ’70s Algerian proto-Raï music, and instruments and dialects never before put to tape from the Caucasus region. As it often happens with records I am intrigued by but know nothing about, I got a Cüneyt Sepetçi & Orchestra Dolapdere record, a musician whose family moved from Thessaloniki to Istanbul during the Greek-Turkish population exchange, giving his music a Greek, Roma, Albanian, Rumelian and Turkish flavor. My man Mike and I laughed about how these kinds of sounds appeal to us, reminding us of how weirdly in the middle Greece is as far as East-meets-West Europe. It reminded me of a phrase we have about the Italians, which does however apply to other cases too: Una Faccia, Una Razza, one face, one race. Music working as a bearer and cultivator of culture and tradition; a nurturing space existing outside the physical confines of the tactile world, allowing us to crossover and recreate things we cannot in real life, offering solace or curing nostalgia. Self-defined expression as found in notes and form.
I am also hella stoked (to use a local phrase) to be going to NYC for four days in early March, for a Suicide show (yes, the Suicide). I have no idea what it’s going to be like, but I’m prepared to be blow away by whatever they decide to expel that evening. Whatever the result, I’m sure it will suit me just fine. I’ll report back on it next month.
In the abstractive music corner: I’ve been listening to Bristol’s Antoni Maiovvi LP Avrokosm on repeat; minimal, atmospheric house “cosmosis” which could beautifully score a John Carpenter movie, or the weekend e-binge from my dreams. (Not Not Fun Records) Also, on heavy rotation is the Ciudad Lineal LP, from Barcelona, titled El Nuevo Hombre; minimal, electronic cold wave with new wave and punk touches and enough pop sensibilities to engrave itself in your brain as something you’ve been listening to forever. (La Vida Es Un Mus Discos)
And from the red carpet: I watched the Alan Turing movie, The Imitation Game, and the WikiLeaks movie, The Fifth Estate, and felt oddly inspired by both. Note that I have no allegiance to government agencies, but getting inside information on Bletchley Park from my grandfather who was a decoder there during the war against the Germans, did give me a different insight into things. Birdman I found underwhelming, Blue Jasmine is only worth it for Cate Blanchett, and Grand Budapest Hotel was fun and classically Wes Anderson.
Meanwhile, back in Malaka Land: …it’s almost Easter, which means 40 days of fasting is almost over, which means Clean Monday with its delicious food and weird kite-flying tradition is also over; which means the Carnival weekend of excess drinking and drug use has been and gone (bad techno music and whistles included), which means so has Tsikopembti, the Thursday before Carnival starts, when people indulge in too much grilled meat and wine, streamers and confetti. Wacky Greeks, but hey, the food is always delicious!
Oh my what a year it has been! With job changes and trips, baseball games and ferry rides, crossing the Bridge, burning others; radio shows and tons of live shows, surfing and bowling, bawling and laughing, readings and hangovers, zines and making new friends. Friends from Brazil, Spain, Japan and Malaysia, Peru, Indonesia, Mexico, Italy, Finland and more. I feel very grateful that I had the opportunity to be exposed to so many new records this year, so I consider it an honor and privilege to be able to compile this list of humble picks. In alphabetical order.
Langspielplatten & 12”
BISHOPS GREEN – self-titled (Rebellion / Longshot / Contra / Bords de Seine / Bandworm / Randale)
I do like myself some Oi! every now and then—not the meat-headed, stomping tantrum kind mind you. BISHOPS GREEN blend just enough melody with just enough aggression and vocals that cry out perfectly over the memorable hooks and riffs. Ideal for: tumbling around in the pit, walking home after the show, walking out of a bad situation.
COPYCATS – An Idea Died (Ccats)
A catchy record with a myriad reference/kick-off points, a pleasant discovery from Andalusia, this is new yet familiar, cheeky yet conscientious. Early punk fans take note. Ideal for: alphabetizing your record/book collection, making food with friends, beer under the sun, house parties.
GOOD THROB – Fuck Off (Sabermetric / SuperFi / White Denim)
What to say about this that has not already been said? Perfect punk vocals, ideal parts disheveled and cerebral, angry and as sharp as a needle piercing your eardrum. One of the best bands in the UK right now. Ideal for: whacking someone over the head with a cricket bat, throwing darts at a picture of Maggie Thatcher, robbing a bank.
JUANITA Y LOS FEOS – Nueva Numancia (La Vida Es Un Mus)
I fell for this record straight away. There is something about the expertly poppy, familiar songwriting and emotive, sing-along vocal melodies that pull at my heartstrings. Bittersweet and melancholic, like a doomed to fail relationship. You really don’t want to leave, but it’ll hurt much more if you stay. Ideal for: Home-alone wine sessions, driving around singing at the top of your lungs, bedroom dancing, goodbye kisses.
KOMPLOTT – Sei Vivo, Sei Morto A Nessuno Importa(Complotto Autoproduzioni)
Like the sound of a thousand execution cannons, this record is furious. Blown-out and massive, its blast flattens you against the wall. This looks and sounds top-notch. This is the sound of my migraine. Ideal for: shooting a firearm, instigating a fight, helicopters crashing into each other.
ORDEN MUNDIAL – Obediencia Debida (La Vida Es Un Mus)
An established killer record. Alternating between slow moving and ominous-sounding, and menacingly angsty and positively manic, this record ambushes you and goes by in one fell swoop. Ideal for: no breaks on your bike, smashing bottles, outdoor plaza shows, fighting with someone and knowing you’re right.
RAKTA – self-titled (Dama de Noite / Nada Nada Discos)
The finest group of ladies I met this year, RAKTA create some earthly post-punk that eagerly explores sound as much as it exploits it. The final result is a whole that’s greater than the sum of its parts, as this oozes with the energy of old souls channeled through amps and keyboards. Ideal for: dabbling in divination, meditating after an argument, creative projects, casting curses.
TAULARD – Les Abords du Lycée (self-released)
Probably the record with more character I hear this year. A definitively well-rounded effort, from the lyrics and artwork to the song structures and quirky elements throughout—keyboards and sad little notes creep in and lodge themselves like a lump in your throat. Quintessentially French-sounding—if that concept exists anywhere else outside my head—a glimpse at something different and extremely appealing. Ideal for: sad clowns, playwright reading, wine-fueled political debate, breaking up.
TERCER MUNDO – Ser Nosotros Mismos (Cintas Pepe)
A grand group from Mexico, playing straightforward and distressed punk; sincere and to the point, the spirit lives deep in their bones and their music wedges itself under your skin like a splinter. I don’t need to say this is political and far from whatever trend-wave punks are riding these days. This is the real thing. Ideal for: freaking out in public, smashing windows, tumbling down stairs.
TOTAL CONTROL – Typical System (Iron Lung)
Yes, this record would go one once in the morning and come off again once the night was over. Soothing, repetitive, minimal, eloquent, imaginative, well orchestrated, purposeful, daring, dreamy, uncompromising. All these words could describe this record but they’d still fall flat. There were days when I actually had to listen to “Liberal Party” first to be able to go about my day; the sax and ENO-like ambience powerful enough to offer me an escape route to sanity and peace in a world crumbling with insanity and chaos. Like a drug that makes everything go away. Ideal for: floating on clouds, sex in museums, ironed clothes, theorizing about life.
ACID BABY JESUS – Vegetable/Brain Damage in Athens City (Slovenly)
A warmly accepted record, if anything for the fact that it reminds me of home. A deliriously charming VELVER UNDERGROUND feel, mixed with some ’20s rebetiko swagger to it. ABJ are enjoying their evolutionary trip down whatever rabbit hole they fell through a few years ago, and I’m equally enjoying the results. Ideal for: sandy beaches and hilltop views, Turkish coffee and weed in pillow-littered lounges, the sun shining through the leaves, inner city bar hopping, a ménage à trois on LSD.
ARREST – La Poli Bastarda (No Nostalgia)
An excellent first release, with lots of memorable songs and catchy sing-along parts. Smart musicianship, unafraid to mix things up and a beautiful look to the whole thing. Ideal for: pensive and/or creative activities, walking around in the setting sun, exploring abandoned libraries, mixtape material for friends in far off places.
BIG ZIT – Electric Zit Vol. 1 (Not Normal)
Yes, this made it on of course. It’s well-recorded and zealously performed, with an appealing anti-intellectual veneer adding to the songwriting’s full-force effect. Created by punk youths unafraid to push themselves, unabashedly playing what they want to hear. A shining moment for USHC. Ideal for: picking your nose, pizza for breakfast, telling your boss to shove it, pissing in public.
D.H.K. – Extinciön (Hysteria)
I love Peru punk and D.H.K. have been leading the way for a few years now. An excellent follow up to 2013’s La Krudeza No Muere, this is top-notch (so rather shitty sounding), blown-out, political D-beat hardcore punk. This is vicious and fervent! Ideal for: running head first into a crowd, screaming at the mirror, trashing cop cars, your world falling apart around you in slow motion.
GLUE – Enemy (Katorga Works / Video Disease)
A venomous-sounding band if ever we saw one this year. GLUE encompass the dark afterthoughts of hardcore, dispensing copious amounts of aggression and intellect. Ideal for: late-night revenge, spitting in your enemy’s eye, the anger stage of mourning, morning nihilism.
GUTTER – March of the Dead (self-released)
Plodding and grating, this is old school hardcore straight from modern day Athens, GR. Simple and effective, with hooks and breakdowns, a punk twist and a textured sound fitted to basement thrashing. Ideal for: karate kicks, jumping out of a moving car, punching fascists in the face!
PURA MANÍA – La Estafa Musical + Música Para Gente Fea (Cabeza de Vaca)
These two EPs are definitely two records I would suggest you buy with your eyes closed. Catchy, brooding, agro and totally enthralling! Love the coughing at the start of La Estafa Musical, the gritty production, Oi! influences, the artwork, the attitude. Ideal for: thrashing around the city, drunk and snarling at everything, ready to pogo your woes away, high as a kite.
RITUAL CONTROL – No Affinity (Residue)
Gripping, relentless and punishing hardcore with a frenzied twist and a dark edge. Detailed songwriting and feverish delivery, this has the force of a thousand galloping horses as they career your way! Ideal for: circling your room like a tiger in its cage, slamming doors when exiting a room, hating the pit, running with hyenas.
UNA BESTIA INCONTROLABLE – Nou Món/Cinturons, Genolis, Vidres I Cossos (Iron Lung)
A band of much charisma and raw energy. UBI deliver an orgasmic live show and their song-writing threads its way into the deeper layers of (your) being; a wormhole of forceful dark energy. Emotive and animated, captivating yet liberating at the same time. Ideal for: pondering the vicious cycle of love and death and whether any of it is worth a damn, tripping on mushrooms while staring up at the sky through forest treetops, headbanging in a trance.
WAÑUY – Muerte (Odio los Discos)
More incredible raw punk from Lima, Peru! Slightly slower though equally as chaotic, rudimentary and radical. Destructive in the best possible way. Ideal for: late night drinking in public squares, pre-show misanthrope, hating the world, sweating and puking in the gutter.
From the past…
ALERTA ROJA – Algo Esta Cambiando… y muy ViolentamenteLP (Lengua Armada)
A most stunning release, undeniably appealing and sincere from Æ80s Argentina. A sound hard to recreate in this modern age, an emotion since repeated yet perhaps never as appreciated as when hindsight stirs the bitter sweet pangs of passing time. The final song on this record will forever send chills up my spine and go down in my book as one of the best songs ever written. Ideal for: thumbing through books will yellowed pages, riding around the city on a rusty scooter, leather jackets and neck scarves, reading war poetry, forbidden relationships.
CHARLES DE GOAL – Algorythmes LP (Danger)
French cold wave that sounds like it was recorded inside a damn concrete cell, with minimal beats and textestres triste. Dripping through the speakers are the sounds of urban bleakness and post-modern nihilism. At times rhythmic, always gloomy and austere. Ideal for: staying home, hearts of stone, crippling misery, endless winters in houses without heating.
NAPRED U PROŠLOST – Komunizam EP (No Plan)
Serbian agitation at its best, this is a fit of spasmodic punk energy! Falling-over itself with urgency, each composition has intensive spurts of despairing, protesting vocals, with choppy riffs that sound like they’re the chaotic sound-map of a rapidly dispersing crowd. Ideal for: chasing cops, verbally extinguishing your opponents, the early formations of a rioting mob.
P.I.G.Z. – Bloody Belgium EP (Ugly Pop)
A magnificent piece of punk history from Belgium, with trailblazing grit and scorn characteristic of ’77 punk. “’Is this Democracy, or is this blindness?’ [the singer] chastises and squeals, everything sounding charismatically shambolic but utterly electrified,” I wrote when I reviewed this and of course it rings true, as this record stands the rest of time and is well worth a position in your collection. Ideal for: making fun of politicians, paint-bombing City Hall, boombox mixtapes, setting people’s teeth on edge.
QLOAQA LETAL – Nunca, Siempre LP (Metadona)
A real surprise, a unique diamond in the rough, like an ugly perhaps dangerous creature found roaming the streets. Unhinged and dark songwriting, with throaty beastly vocals, drum-machine beats and the best cover in punk this year! Withdraw into a cave and worship at the altar of QLOAQA LETAL! Ideal for: bondage dalliance, underground train station raves, lurking in dark corners plotting how to destroy the world.
STIGMATHE – Suoni Puri Dalla Liberta EP + Lo Sguardo Dei Morti EP (No Plan)
Italian punk has something so special about it, and STIGMATHE are one of my favourite Italian punks bands of old. Their two seminal EPs, both brimming with dark, haunting rage, reissued so you too can bless your ears with this blistering hardcore hurricane! Racketing beats beneath rusty-razor-sharp guitars, petrifying solos and nightmarish screams. Can I just die while Side A of Lo Sguardo Dei Morti is playing? Thanks to Adam for reissuing these and for gifting me a copy of each—much cherished! Ideal for: playing with sharp objects, anguished disorientation, howling at the moon, exhausted and sleepless in the darkness before dawn.
STRESS – Sound of Insecurity LP (B-Other Side)
I could write a whole column just about this record, and it there could still be more left to write. A statement record that gathers the disillusionment and disappointment felt by ’80s Greek punks, that feeling of political deception and societal asphyxiation. A testament to the ailing urban psyche of a deceived generation. Ideal for: burning ballot boxes, outdoor punk shows-turned-riots,
WILD YOUTH – Wot ‘Bout Me/Anti You 45 (Retrobution)
A lot of early punk scenes glorified UK punk, but not WILD YOUTH! A truly punk record if ever there was one, with gloriously rough riffs and snarling vocals! “I don’t wanna talk about Johnny Rotten, I don’t wanna talk about Sid Vicious. I don’t wanna talk about Joe Strummer, I just wanna talk about, about me! Wot ‘bout me?” An essential record every punk should own! Ideal for: spitting in the street, bleaching your hair, pogoing in the pit, party crashing bougie galleries.
V/A – Bart Bay Area Retrograde Vol. 2 LP (Dark Entries)
What a collection—and there’s a BART Vol. 1 too! A knowingly curated selection that takes you back to a very different San Francisco, circa 1978-1983. A journey through neon-lit underground hallways where Moogs and Rolands rule, creative experimentation and exploration abound, and punks and weirdos intersect with artists and performers. Minimal electro, synth punk, new wave, early industrial, post-disco dance and much more—a truly fabulous View-Master-like trip back in time. Ideal for: riding BART (though I would have thought that was rather obvious), minimal (re)decoration / haircut projects, dance floor flirting, basement punk/dance clubs.
Bands that rocked it in 2014:
S.H.I.T., PIG DNA, LOWEST FORM, RITUAL CONTROL, PELUQUERIA CANINA, CADAVER EM TRANSE, LAS VENAS, BLOTTER, UGLY PARTS, SUNSHINE WARD, AUSCENCIA… It was a very good year for: berets, dubious fascist symbol use, saxophones, synths, the word “catholic” and “flesh,” one-sided 12”s, 12” as opposed to 33rpm full-length albums, nakedness on stage, leather gloves. I know I’m forgetting a bunch of bands and trends, oh well. Time to look to the future, no more dwelling on the past.
Mud puddle reflections, or notes on this past year*
A list-style column can save you time when on a deadline, while still serving as a tool for self-reflection.
New Year resolution lists are meaningless to people who function with constantly revolving deadlines, on three different timelines, between four different time zones. However, lists are an immense help, if only because they give the swirling chaos inside your head some kind of temporary structure. Entropy is queen, so get used to it.
Keep notes of every idea you have; future band names, book ideas, song lyrics, arty experimentations, the lot. Most of it will be rubbish, but who knows, one might turn out to be fruitful for something, or work as a solution to an unexpected challenge.
Always keep a weapon of self-defense, like a baseball bat (or machete…) hidden but accessible by the front door. You never know when someone with unfriendly motives might show up; punks at large were and are still disliked by a lot of people.
Remember to eat healthily and get at least one day a week of physical and mental rest. Intense work schedules (and too much coffee) will wreck your nerves and most probably affect your output.
Get familiar with your local post-office, watering hole, corner store and pharmacy. During the busy print and distribution weeks, they could be your go-to saviours.
But don’t get into the habit of liquid lunches or Guinness for dinner! Day drinking gets more appealing with age but hangovers last twice as long.
Stretch, at least twice a day. Bad posture is modern torture.
Punks is organization, punks is respect, punks is nerds, at least in this line of work. I resent the notion that being respectful, tidy and thoughtful towards your comrades are characteristics only of squares. Do as you would be done by. Kindness can go a lot further than disdain.
Working where you live can quickly turn into living where you work—and that can lead to working all the time. If you don’t stay organized and committed to balancing your time between your work life and your personal life, you could end up feeling drained and eventually even bitter or resentful.
Initial and label your shit. It’s crazy how many updates certain projects need, and how often things change: deadlines, group XL sheets, inventories that live on a cloud, common schedules and calendars, documents and contracts. Keeping track of updates will help keep things on track and in check. Plus it will help you retain some sanity amidst all the emails flying back and forth. It also increases accountability for projects that many people work on and lessens the chance of financial damage.
Distance and downtime for reflection and revitalization are imperative. If you have the opportunity, don’t waste it. Others aren’t so lucky.
Remaining committed and following through with what you said you would do is probably the hardest challenge when working in a group. Dropping your responsibilities will only burden other members of the group, or slow down, even jeopardize, the group’s goals. In either case, it creates a negative outcome and someone else is going to have to “get the snake out of the hole” as we say back home.
Being honest and transparent makes life so much easier. Like Mark Twain said, “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” Covering up our mistakes is one way of dealing with the fact that we don’t want to own up to making them, whether it’s because we fear being reprimanded, or because we don’t want to admit that we are failing in some capacity at something, but it could lead to a larger mess eventually.
Asking for help may feel like admitting defeat, but spreading yourself too thin will also eventually lead to burnout or sloppiness. Be brave, be calm and face the facts; you’ll handle the situation much better for it.
Recognizing what hinders you, or others, and finding ways to move past it, can be liberating. It’s like an “oh, I get it!” moment when things click into place. We’re all somewhat jarred or dysfunctional in our own way; learning to work with what we’ve got on ways to better improve ourselves can also help us learn more about who we are and thrive as a result.
Getting thrown in at the deep end is not the best, but it’s not necessarily the worst either. Some lessons you have to learn the hard way. Trial by fire, as the epic Satan song is called. A thick skin has its virtues.
Say what you mean, mean what you say. If someone made you feel like shit or did something to tick you off, tell them. Bottling up frustration won’t make you feel better (energy never disappears, merely transfers) and it’s possible they were unaware of their actions. Do as you would be done by and have the integrity to be honest about your feelings.
Don’t assume anything about anyone or anything. Assumption is the mother of all fuck ups! Equivalently, make sure you set your boundaries. Some people will take that mile after you give them that first inch—in some cases just to test or spite you. Fuck ’em!
Just because someone isn’t speaking up about something, or voicing their opinion on a subject, doesn’t mean they don’t have something to say. Silence is not always consent or ignorance. Silence can be reflection, doubt, mindfulness, even a flashback to a darker time.
The right to freedom of speech doesn’t always come with the ability to do so. Same goes for the right to self-expression and self-determination. Check your privilege blinkers.
If you don’t actually care for someone or something, don’t waste energy and saliva on it. Instead, spend that energy on building and empowering your community and the people you care about.
Records are not the be all and end all of punk. Don’t let anyone make you feel like any less of a punk just because you are not a record collector. Record collecting is in so many cases a privilege. (No diss on all the people who worked hard to build their beautiful collections. Kudos.)
When it comes to your own creative output, follow your own rules, even if that means no rules at all. Being creative and experimental is one of the greatest engagements punk has to offer us; don’t let someone else dictate your aesthetic or style. Don’t think outside the box; just get rid of the box completely.
It’s easy to let our bruised or inflated egos get in the way of positive change, tainting us with self-righteousness, jealousy or selfishness. Sharing (knowledge, experience, a cup of coffee) is caring. It’s about cooperation not competition.
Lastly, fuck the outsider critics and don’t let anyone put you down. They weren’t there fixing the problem, pulling all-nighters, constantly picking up the slack; you were. If you worked your ass off to do everything to the best of your abilities given the situation and available resources, then everyone else can shove it.
(*) All views and observations voiced above are solely those of the author and no one is expected to agree with them. Judge your own fucking life.
There is no way you have not read or heard about the tragic and disturbing events that took place these last few weeks in the US. The discrimination, oppression and violence against people of color by the police (and by extension the state and white elite), this racism and plague of white supremacy, they are but components to the larger scheme of systematic domination. If there is something we can do as punks, as a community, it would be to lend our respectful support in whatever way is asked of us. Truly horrible times. Let them not drain our hope, but instead fuel our anger. “I believe in justice. I believe in vengeance. I believe in getting the bastard!”
I think of all the people of color who lost their lives here in the US, on their way home, unarmed, and shot for not being white. I think of all the people outside the US, who lose their lives on their immigration journey here, trying to get to “the land of the free.” I think of all the people losing their lives on makeshift floats crossing the Mediterranean, washing up dead on coasts of Italy and Greece. The people trying to escape war-ridden countries through deserts and land mines. People dying in Frontex cells on some border, imprisoned for being a “xenos,” a foreigner, an outsider. All of them just trying to get to a place they can call home… This is a war and we are all its refugees. Be safe dear readers, love one another, and fight back. “Fool’s won’t and dead men can’t.”
“I don’t see you on here” said the lady behind the desk.
“I should be, my reservation is right here” I reply, holding up my phone showing her the screen with my flight itinerary.
“Oh that was yesterday hon…”
My hands got shaky and for a second I went beet red. I fly almost once a year, how the hell could this happened to me; the most organized person this side of chaos?! Dammit!
“… OK then. One ticket on the first plane to San Francisco please.”
“Sure thing. That’ll be $70 for the ticket and $25 for your luggage.”
“Double dammit! … OK…here’s my card.”
Swipes card. “I’m afraid it’s not going through…” Triple dammit!
Thanks goodness my friend Jason had offered me a ride to the airport and was there—he and his working credit card…I hugged Jason for being my savior but what I really wanted to do was punch myself in the face for being an idiot. I bought the ticket, went outside and chain-smoked three cigarettes said my goodbyes and dragged myself to my gate, flustered and swearing obscenities under my breath. I am not a chilled person.
But wait a minute, what the hell am I doing away from MRR anyway? Why am I even outside San Francisco? I never leave; I’m the coord who hasn’t even crossed the Golden Gate Bridge yet (sad but true). I get separation anxiety every time I leave the compound for more than a few hours. (Man, this must be what having kids is like… Glad I’m never having any of those!) To maintain my sanity, I needed to get away for a while, recharge my batteries, then come back and get knee deep into it again. “I’m not looking for escapism, I just want to escape.”
I was originally going to go on tour and help roadie, but that kinda fell through, which is fine really; I looked forward to a week of having nothing to worry about except whether or not I have enough cigarettes in my pocket. So I booked a ticket to NYC, my favourite place in the whole wide world (so far!) Thankfully I have awesome friends and Ermis and Afroula (and their gorgeous cat Eddie) let me stay with them for a few days. Yessss! This was really going to happen!
San Francisco is changing faster than you can say “gentrification,” which means that all the cool things that made SF a colourful, creative, radical city are being whitewashed by yuppies, techies, trust fund students and rich families. That aside, SF is too small for me. When I lived in Athens, a city with a core population of over 3.8 million people, I felt it was too small for me. SF, which has a core population of just under one million people, its metro population just over 4.5…still too small for me. I need some place where I can go up onto a steep hill and look down and see a city that goes as far as the eye can see. I need a metropolis to fit my busting personality, my endless thirst for discovery. SF is truly beautiful, but, if I didn’t have this über-demanding job at MRR, I think I would eventually go mad living in the Bay Area as it is right now. I am not a chilled person.
Friday went like most: On the floor by 10am, a full coffeepot awaiting my consumption, the inbox refreshed, the lists all updated. Then the doorbell rang; once, twice, three times. Then the phone. Then the mail arrived, then a couple shitworkers; then more punk guests to check out the compound. By 8pm I was nowhere near finishing all I had to do before safely being able to exit the building. By 11pm I had finished my emailing, by 1am I was done with editing, and by 3pm I had showered and packed my bags. By 4.30 when the shuttle bus arrived I was wide-awake, ready to finally get on that fucking flight to NYC. I am not a chilled person.
On Saturday Jason picked my up at JFK (he really is the best) and we headed straight for Brooklyn. As we rode over the BQE and talked about Spike Lee movies, I said I wonder where Queens Bridge is. He said he was surprised I even knew that place. I said “I get a lot of my New York references from Beastie Boys songs” and started to rap, “We’re doing fine on the 1 and 9 line. On the L we’re doin’ swell. On the number 10 bus we fight and fuss. Because we’re thorough in the boroughs and that’s a must.” He laughed and pointed towards Manhattan as it slowly rolled past us on the right. Man, I have to move here one day!
Our first stop was to get a traditional cheese slice (yum!), then check in on the felines he was cat-sitting (both adorable). Then we met up with Jason’s friend, Rugrat, who took the bus (!) all the way from Columbus, Ohio (!) to come with us to the show and hang out (punks have no qualms when it comes to traveling for punk, I love it!). Despite already counting about 36 hours without sleep I was feeling surprisingly chipper—dazed and still slightly nauseous from the plane but definitely standing. We headed to the Acheron (which people mispronounce all the time, something I as a Greek find quite entertaining), chatted about the current state of NYC punk, and hung out outside, beneath the graffiti-filled buildings, smoking, laughing, yelling at each other and generally looking like a scruffy bunch of delinquents. The Black and Blue Bowl was happening right around the corner, with bands like Agnostic Front, Biohazard, Madball, 7 Seconds and apparently the next night Discharge too!
I was too out of it and engrossed in conversation to catch the first two bands (though Ajax sounded great from outside) but of course I headed in for EU’s Arse, who were pretty darn incredible! The singer has a temperamento that is magnetic and engaging, as he squeals, screams and wriggles on stage. Sure, maybe the young kids have all the gimmicks and béret-props, but what EU’s Arse were playing in Udine, Italy back in the ‘80s is still what the young kids are playing today. It’s not boring or overplayed, it’s classic and inspiring.
On Sunday I rolled out of bed pretty late for CET, so we just headed to our friend Leda’s house, a punk we all knew from back home in Athens who moved to NYC a few years ago. We rolled cigarettes and played Cards Against Humanity outside in the sun, downing beers, then coffee. At some point I heard a strange, sweet tune wafting through the air. I had heard that tune before, I recognized it from the movies: it was an ice cream truck! (Yes, those things actually exist!) We spoke of the differences between Athens and NYC, and SF and NYC, and SF and Athens, and even though I still have not put my finger on what it is that makes this country so surreal (too many things probably), I was feeling more at ease in NYC, no doubt. Something about the smells in the air, the 24-hour diners and cheeky rats make me feel right at home. I am not a chilled person.
That evening I also met up with a newer writer punk friend, AC. We met by Peter Luger on Broadway, and walked to one of the Art University campuses, where we strolled through the outdoor art exhibits and counted stray cats. The night was starry and mild. We sat under a statue with a yellow balloon tied to it and talked about the joys of writing. I tried to suck the helium from the balloon and recite Bill Hicks in a squeaky voice, but all I managed to do was inhale some random person’s second-hand breath. Oh well. We continued south of Williamsburg and headed towards AC’s warehouse bookstore. It was quite a way down, so I balanced on the back of his bike as we rode past the waterfront, the Manhattan city lights gleaming in the distance, the Brooklyn bridge every bit of majestic you expect it to be. The warehouse is simply huge and reminded me of the kind of place you’d hole up in in the event of a coup d’état, or if the zombie apocalypse finally came. I think the people in charge have the same idea. Rows and rows of household materials, antiques, ornaments, furniture and every other thing you could imagine: from bathtubs, marble sinks, ceiling fans and picture frames, to chandeliers, rocking chairs and coffee pots. And of course, in amongst this paradise of “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” was AC’s little bookstand. Four or so bookshelves and one display table; set up looking like the world tiniest bookstore, perfect with its dusty carpeting underfoot, rusty chandeliers for sale up above and the hand-written section signs pinned to the shelves. Lucky for me, I was gifted something special: The Wit and Humor of Oscar Wilde and a night of great conversation.
We had no supplies, so headed out in search of some coffee and beer and slowly walked back through the warm night and empty streets. Back at the warehouse we were greeted by Bagel the cat. We listened to a little transistor radio (the kind that fits in your breast pocket) and priced used books, shared stories and listed books we hadn’t yet read. Around 3am we headed back north, made food and more coffee and listened to the Sun Ra special on WBGO on the little transistor radio. The sun had started to come up and was reflecting off the buildings and through the trees. I got some writing done, as did AC, a compulsory need writers have in order to move on with their often-hectic lives.
Later on we headed to the local library in search of some maps. Alas they had none so we strolled through Prospect Park. As we walked past a junior baseball league match, I heard an ice cream truck’s tune somewhere in the distance yet again. It started to rain, so out the other end we went and ducked into a perfectly scruffy little diner for coffee and donuts and talked zines, punk, MRR and the oddball opportunities life throws you. By that time the clouds had cleared and the sun was out again; setting just as I crossed the bridge on the J train back home. Overground trains are so much cooler than underground trains.
The next day I woke up so hungry I demanded we go to a diner for brunch. When in Rome… naturally we went to Astoria. When the waiter came to refill my coffee I almost squealed with joy—the land of bottomless coffee cups! After brunch we walked into a corner store to buy cigarettes and I found out they make frappe! So, one glyko me gala (sweet with milk) and off we were to Hell Gate, a picturesque arch railway bridge that goes through Astoria, across the East River and into Queens the other end. It was warm and sunny, the park was full, an ice cream truck was serving cones to the kids and the Triborough Bridge loomed in the distance, suspended and impressive.
For all the hype it gets, and all the hipsters who have moved there, you’d expect Williamsburg to have more than three crappy bars. After going in circles for 30 minutes around Lorimer Street, we eventually found somewhere with a garden out back to wet our whiskers. Two drinks were not enough, so Jason and I headed into Alphabet City, found Joe Strummer’s mural on Avenue A and 7th and got cocktails at Niagara. (when they’re well made like those ones, I love me a cocktail, or four.) Through the window we could see Tompkins Square Park, aka (what once was) The Punkest Square in Manhattan. We sat there for a while afterwards and, even if we were the only punks there, it felt great to sit outside and soak up the night. We had one of those deep conversations you often have when forming a new friendship. We laughed at the people and situations that made us grow, worried about the ways in which our lives would be changing over the next year (for vastly different reasons) and for a moment silence fell; the kind that two people can share and actually enjoy. A silent ice-cream truck drove by. I told him how I wanted to move to New York. He told me he’d been thinking about moving to the Bay. “I know it seems that way, but I am not a chilled person. I’m a West Coast person trapped in an East Coast body.” As we headed our separate ways we both recognized our position in our respective presents, and realized that the future isn’t as scary when you have friends to hang out in parks with.
A little earlier he had told me a saying from the ‘80s people had about Alphabet City. Avenue A you’re Alright, Avenue B you’re Brave, Avenue C you’re Crazy, Avenue D you’re Dead. I thought about this as I noticed the street sign above my head said Avenue C and 3rd. After leaving David the punk lawyer’s pad (who owns an original Minor Threat EP, which I got to touch and smell!) I had intended to walk down to the Bowery area to catch a nightcap before catching my train, but had drifted off to the right somewhere by mistake. It was past midnight and I was still in my T-shirt. The rats crawled between the rubbish bins, the kids played basketball in the outdoor courts and the bars and shops were all still open. There were old ladies buying groceries at midnight on a Tuesday! Fantastic! I continued to roam until I stumbled upon a wine bar near my station. Unfortunately the place was almost closing for the night so I chugged my overpriced glass of rose, scribbled down some notes at the bar and bolted. As I walked towards Essex Station I saw some tourists point to a gutter and shriek in mock horror. Yeah, we are all in the gutter, but I am not a chilled person.
I was still on West Coast time so even though my SF-conditioned body woke up at 8am, it was already 11am in Brooklyn. Afro and I got some coffee and donuts from Dunkin’ Donuts (I know, the worst, but it’s actually kind of the best) and talked about New Yorkers. Have you got anxiety because you live in New York, or do you live in New York because you have anxiety? Most people would coil up at the sight of hundreds, thousands of people walking down Lexington Ave., but I relished in it. I had missed that feeling, of being able to be a nobody, an anybody (a somebody?) as I walked side by side all these complete strangers. There is a sense of destiny in the air, as if something strange and magical can occur. Like spinning tops, people are constantly trying to avoid crashing into each other, lest their precious time is wasted, their important schedule affected. Yet when two of them do collide, just by accident, because of some unlucky series of events, their courses alter, moving into a new, shared dimension that never would have existed otherwise. Social entropy.
David the punk lawyer grew up in Manhattan and spent many of his early years exploring Grand Central Station. So when we met beneath his office at 51st and Lex, it seemed like the appropriate place to get some gelato, coffee and postcards. It’s a massively huge station; a little city beneath the city, with shops and restaurants, news stands and shoe cleaners (yes, those still exist apparently); the terminal area alone expanding for almost one square mile, with 44 platforms serving 67 tracks! Over 20 million people go through it on an annual basis and I was one of them.
Dinnertime was rolling around and I was to meet Ermis in Chinatown for dumplings and teriyaki chicken, which was, of course, delicious. Drinks at the Cakeshop with Stav were up next. (I walked by ABC No Rio but still haven’t managed to catch a show there yet! Ugh! It’s been added to my Next Time list.) I know Ermis because along with another eight or so punks we used to run a tropical wet hole/show basement, called Katarameno Syndromo, in the shittiest part of Athens. I know Stav through a different group of friends (hi Elly!), also from Athens. Ermis and Stav are both Greek artists (comics, painting, sketching, tattoos) who have lived within a few miles of each other in Brooklyn for the past four years or so—but had never met! So when I was there last December I insisted they do! And now we were all hanging out together—don’t you just love how small the world can be sometimes?
Stav and Dana live in Green Point. From their sixth floor apartment I can see the Empire State building. We discuss language, politics and “political correctness.” An electric storm is raging above our heads but their two luscious Persian cats, Gordon and Charlie, snoozed under the table, on the sofa, looking completely cozy and at ease. For once in a long time I could relate. I tucked my working friends into bed and settled into the snug duvets myself. The lightning illuminated the room and I counted the seconds between lightning and thunder; the furthest strike about three miles away (fifteen seconds), the closest right around the corner, a mile down the road (three seconds). I tried to sleep but I could feel my neurons fire up, visualizing them spark with every strike of lightning. I was wide awake and wandering down my own neural pathways, but unable to find Morpheus anywhere. So I smoked another cigarette on the balcony, admiring the skyline, feeling electrified. Around 3.30am I finally retired. I am not a chilled person.
The next day I did a spot of cat-sitting while my friends went to work. I didn’t technically need to, but it was wet and dreary outside, so what better way to spend the day than with cats, drinking coffee, listening to records and writing postcards and letters? It didn’t look like it was going to clear up, so I ventured out anyway, through McCarren Park to meet Santi, who does Hysteria Records (he just put out that wicked D.H.K. EP, reviewed further down in this issue). We went to the tasty vegan diner Lauren from La Misma works at (I missed their Bay Area show, I heard they killed it! Hopefully got an interview coming soon!). Then we went to 538 Johnson St., where a bunch of shows happen, most recently NY’s Alright Fest, and climbed up onto its perfect punk roof, talking about new bands and records, up-coming projects and travels. It was still very cloudy, and that only dispersed the light, so everything had a sepia tone, quite cinematic. (hysteriarecords.bigcartel.com)
“Do you have ADD?” David the punk lawyer asked me as we walked towards Time Square, then back again, in search of some grub, my head darting left and right like a pigeon. Everything excited me. I felt alive in all that craziness. Maybe because I felt less crazy myself.
Stav and I hopped a train to Chambers Station for, weirdly enough, more cat-sitting. I got to see City Hall for the first time, got more stamps from a very drunk kiosk guy, and went up seven floors to an apartment overlooking City Hall Park. A tall and skinny silver skyscraper (World Trade 2.0) towered to the left, the park below, New Jersey in the distance, and looming above it all the most vicious looking cloud—sludgy green/charcoal grey with shards of blue/white lightning shooting out at a scarily close distance. It was sick! (yeah, that film Twister? Love it!) We had to bolt, but fuck if the architecture and urban landscape isn’t crazy: one skyscraper reflecting of another, lights glowing, lines and angles merging, materials mixing; shape and perspective take new form, different dimensions skip out from between the buildings, space feels like its constantly altering, you’re over-stimulated and the city shifts and morphs around with you, almost as if it’s pulling you into its alternate reality, simultaneously pushing you to keep moving forward. I like that forging of energies, the mutability, it keeps me on my toes, it keeps me buzzed. ‘Cause hey, I am not a chilled person.
• The Flex and Violent Opposition show in Oakland was great, lots of people went flying in the pit and their energy was quite different, a nice change of pace, and very cool people too. Also, I went to Don Pyle’s photography exhibition at 1-2-3-4 Go! and of course his work is amazing, with prints from the early Canadian punk scene, plus pictures from Ramones, Blondie and Iggy shows in Canada! He’s great at capturing people in their moments of bliss, ecstasy and exhilaration on stage. (Fell in love with Debbie Harry all over again.) If you haven’t already, check out his interview in MRR #350, July 2012!
MRR is doing monthly shows again! Wanna help out? Suggest a band, out-of-towners included? Get in touch at email@example.com. Also, send your demo tape/CD-R for review, or submit your info for the New Blood section! Do you take pictures? Monday Photoblog your best shit on our website! Are you the next Nick Blinko? Submit your art for the artpage! Do you have a record out, or do a label? Send us your vinyl for review. What gets reviewed is then kept in the vast MRR record collection of about 46,000 records—a punk resource and treasure! You can help preserve it by donating on our website at maximumrocknroll.com/donate.
•We are working on an Iberian punk issue! Submit interviews, scene reports, photospreads, oral histories, guest columns, resource lists; we want to know about bands, zines, labels, collectives, show spaces, and anything else you think we should know about!
•You know you’re addicted to caffeine when at 00.10am you’re forcing yourself to not finish that cup of coffee that’s been sitting on your desk all day, so instead you just bury your nose in it and take a big long whiff of it. I am not a chilled person. firstname.lastname@example.org
From the Maximum Rocknroll blog, October 28th, 2014 by Lydiya
I have had a great deal of interest in how and why bands form under extreme political environments, and so when we decided to work on a series of special features focusing on bands active under socialism in the former Yugoslavian Republic, it was the perfect opportunity for me to dig deeper, do more research and look into what has already been written about Slovenian punk; and one article in particular was immensely helpful in understanding the historical events which lead up to the explosion of punk in Slovenia and the rest of Yugoslavia. I am not a historian, and surely history is better documented and passed on by those who made it happen, so that is what we aimed to do, beginning with part one of our ex-Yugo series in MRR #378. The bands featured have some incredible stories, which will surely make other punks around the world revisit their own ideas and ideals, but I figured a short introduction and some background information might help frame the greater political and social picture a bit better. Knowledge is power and we still have so much to learn.
It was 1948. WWII was over. The leader of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the charismatic bon vivant Tito, had just split from Stalin and the Soviet Union, entering Yugoslavia into the newly formed Non-Aligned Movement. The country’s trade depended heavily on the Soviet Bloc, and with Western politicians “keeping Tito afloat” in hopes of appeasing Yugoslavia into neutrality and weakening the Soviet Bloc, the country plunged into an economic crisis. This was ideal ground for the introduction of a capitalist economy. What followed were two decades of “liberalization” in the ’50s and ’60s (less party involvement in the economic sphere) and a decrease in personal spending due to post-war displeasure, which was in turn met by heavy promotion of consumerism by the party. This lead to an increase in spending, as Slovenian families shrunk to an average of 3.5 members per household. People were buying TVs, record players, washing machines and scooters, many traveling to Trieste, a neighboring Italian city popular for shopping.
An unplanned side effect of this gradual shift towards consumerism meant that, surprise surprise, people pushed aside collectivist social notions for more individualistic consumption-driven ones. As Gregor Tomc says in his enlightening chapter, “A Tale of Two Subcultures, A Comparative Analysis of Hippie and Punk Subcultures in Slovenia” from the book Remembering Utopia: The Culture of Everyday Life in Socialist Yugoslavia, “Nobody seemed to notice how the emphasis of socialism shifted from creating an alternative to capitalism to entering into a competition with it.” This liberal economic change also brought about a rise in unemployment, which the party dealt with by opening the borders (the known Gastarbeiter), meaning lots of young people could travel abroad and be exposed to Western culture and youth styles. The results of this increased familiarity with the West is what helped the radicalization of the youth movement, and the growth of the hippie and punk movements.
During the ’50s the Yugoslav republic viewed jazz with suspicion, and it was even debated amongst top communist officials, saying that its “unhealthy outgrowths […] have nothing in common either with music or with dance” even though “it can—with its modern expressive means—positively influence the mood of the working man, his cheerfulness.” The only two recording studios were state-run and hard to get into without a record deal, which was contingent on a band’s lyrics, which were subject to the “Committee of Trash,” which basically regulated lyrics and made sure they did not oppose the party. This made access to self-expressed ideas and independent cultural media more difficult. For example, Pankrti recorded their first double single in Italy and any band that did release records made in state-owned studios had to “adjust” their lyrics, giving the art of reading between the lines a new meaning in the context of anti-authoritarian lyrics.
Something to remember, though, is that youth culture in Yugoslavia was developing in a socialist society gradually experiencing the assimilation of capitalism, while still being under the watchful eye of the Party gatekeepers, who were also having to learn how to react to, confine and/or control these new, “decadent” “imported” ideas from the West. This disapproval only made it all the more appealing, of course.
It is hard to imagine a life split in two the way it was for Yugoslavians: on the one hand a public life appropriate for state controlled activities (class-integrated neighborhoods, party-controlled school system, state-run cultural industry) and on the other a private, “spontaneous” life not structured by or around the official state norm (playing in rock bands, joining a commune, or being active in political youth groups). The hippie subculture was an important part of youth culture in 1970s Slovenia, as was the subpolitical student movement, which in some cases resulted in students being more radicalized that the party elite, as expressed in a popular student slogan of the time, “Communism against ‘communism.’” Western student movements were influential in this radicalization, leading Ljubljana University students to protest against dorm rent increases, the Vietnam War, Nixon’s Yugoslav visit, the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, lack of Slovenian minority rights in Italy, and more.
The student youth party was instrumental in the growth and dissemination of youth culture, and so when in the mid-’70s the state forced it to merge with the Alliance of Socialist Youth of Slovenia (ASYS), it left a sort of void which neither the hippie culture (which bored suburban youth) nor the socialist realism movement (the dominant one until then, a mix of traditional working class culture, Soviet block art and Western “progressive” ideas) seemed capable of filling. This was the ideal time for the party to strengthen its influence and, of course, for something new to flourish in the wake of its reaction. Over the next couple of years the punk movement grew tremendously, with more bands surfacing in Ljubljana and all around Slovenia—bands like Pankrti (Bastards), Lublanska Psi (Ljubljana Dogs), Grupa 92 (Group 92), Berlinski Zid (Berlin Wall), KuZle (Bitches), UBR (Uporniki Bez Razloga [Rebels Without a Cause]), III Kategorija (Third Category)—and this just in Slovenia, not to mention the rest of the Yugoslav federation.
One of the things about punk, not only in Slovenia but anywhere where punk has flourished, is that its characteristics are not that of a subculture stemming from the mainstream. Instead, punk springs as a reaction, a counterculture. Of course this meant that, even if the societal background in Slovenia was not necessarily adverse to youth cultures (as Slovenia was one of the most developed states in the Yugoslav federation) the system, which was losing control over media during the ’70s and ’80s thanks to new media technologies, viewed them with suspicion, even confusion. So, once the party finally declared its disapproval of punk, this opened the way for increased suppression from the state police. A number of incidents occurred, but perhaps the most well-known was the “Nazi punk affair,” when a populist newspaper wrongfully assumed three Ljubljana punks, who were sporting “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” pins with swastikas crossed out, to be members of the Nazi party. This resulted in their arrest under the charges of secretly trying to start their own IV Reich(!). It was clear that punk was no longer considered to be just a symbolic threat.
The student movement, despite having merged with the Alliance of Socialist Youth of Slovenia (ASYS), was still a major contributing factor to the evolution of punk. The elderly party elite figured it no longer played a leading role in the political landscape and dialogue, since it was now under party regulation. However, they underestimated the student movement power and, with the help of people like P. Mlakar (a poet, philosopher, artist, book editor and more), Igor Vidmar (a radio DJ, concert promoter, political activist and more) and other members of the student movement, they supported punk by playing punk bands on the radio, promoting their shows, publishing their comics and recording their records. If Marcuse’s “repressive tolerance” is where capitalism and totalitarianism meet, then Slovene punks were having to balance the thin line between the two, stemming from the former and growing into the later. Such a system clash is ideal for the eruption of youth movements, especially one as vivid and forceful as punk. Much like when two tectonic plates collide and mountains are formed, Slovenian punk rose, growing past the police interrogations, the arrests, the censorship, even Tito’s death. It would not be wrong to say that the punk movement in Yugoslavia helped society further open up to the concept of revolution, and this is perhaps where its strongest appeal lies: in the manifestation that, yes, punk can be more than just music, concerts and records; that, in fact, punk was and can still be a powerful force of social change. In his introduction to an interview with Serbia’s Pekinska Patka for MRR in 2010, Spencer Rangitsch says that they “didn’t just ‘push the envelope’ of what was deemed socially and politically acceptable, they also broke boundaries in radical ways which helped create new spaces and possibilities for a youth subculture to thrive.”And that sounds pretty fucking punk to me.
These is much to be said about this unique time and place, and my short introduction is by no means a comprehensive deposition of all the facts—one could fill books and books and still have more to say. This was, however, the most relevant information I found, in large thanks to the aforementioned paper by Gregor Tomc. There is probably less written about punk in Yugoslavia during the Yugoslav wars that followed Tito’s death, but that is not to say that it did not exist. The idea behind this Ex-Yugo Special is to learn more about how and why punk erupted in Yugoslavia under socialism, and to shed more light onto how punk survives during and after wartime. Hopefully in the process we can broaden our horizon of punk history, helping us better frame our own perceptions of it. One of the most important characteristics of punk, for me, is the realization that, since we chose to create, and thus define the culture we engage in and the life we lead, then it is also up to us to preserve and document it. I am honoured to be able to offer these pages to some of the unsung progressives of the first wave of punk, and in doing so express my admiration for their contributions to it. Ladies and germs, Slovenia.
I have put together a shortlist of some of my favourite Slovenian punk songs. Not a comprehensive list by any stretch, as there are many bands missing, but here you go anyway. In no particular order:
O! Kult “Za Ljudi” from their Mladi Imajo Moc EP, which translates to “For the People,” declaring, “Freedom is a scam!” You can read more about O! Kult here.
Quod Massacre “V Očeh” from their Kje Je Odgovor! LP. The title means “In the Eyes” a track that stuck with me the second I heard it, and which is a prime example of how, even if one cannot understand the lyrics, the music speaks volumes.
KuZle “Vahid” from their Archived LP, which talks about a Serb boy being in love with a Slovenian girl, but her father disapproving of the relationship. “Vahid, Vahid where are you going, you know you cannot go there / Vahid, Vahid go home, forget about her address” is the moving translation I get online for the lyrics.
Indust-Bag “Ti Si Stroj” from their Zavrzena Mladost LP; the song title translates to “you are a machine,” while their record title means rejected youth.
Grupa 92 “Od Šestih do Dveh” from their Od Šestih do Dveh/Tujci 45, this song is called “6 to 2” and the lyrics talk about the monotony of the work schedule.
UBR“UBR” from their split with Croatian band Patareni. A “no future” manifesto for rebels without a cause, clocking in at exactly one minute. UBR were definitely heavier than most of their peers, breaking through into hardcore.
Tožibabe “Dejuže” from their EP of the same name. They were the only known all-girl hardcore punk band in Slovenia at that time and this track is a phenomenal, unrepeatable classic. Trailblazers and an inspiration for womyn everywhere.
Šund “Komisija za Šund” from the epic Lepo Je… compilation. “Lepo Je…” in Slovenian means “It Is Nice…” and the subtitle to this comp is “…V Naši Domovini Biti Mlad” (“…In Our Country to Be Young”) epitomizing the irony felt by punks under the socialist regime.
III. Kategorija “Agresor” Heavier than their peers, Third Category forged a hardcore sound on the way to being metal (check out those solos!) and in some cases even noise not music before that was a thing. This band has also recently been re-released, and this song appeared on the seminal compilation Hard-Core Ljubljana.
Pekinska Patka “Bila Je Tako Lijepa” from the Bila Je Tako Lijepa/Buba – Rumba 45. This song made popular by in 1965 in Yugoslavia by chanson singer Dragan Stojnic. The original, called “Elle Etait Si Jolie,” was written in French by crooner Alain Barrière as the French entry for the 1963 Eurovision music contest. Splendidly better performed by punks, for sure.
Stay tuned for Part II of our special feature on Ex-Yugoslavian punk: Croatia.
Many things trouble me before I go to bed, and many more every morning when I wake up; but the one thought that has stuck with me the most this whole year is sustainability: the ability to maintain what we have at the quality we want. Coordinating MRR means being mentally fit and physically healthy to manage it all. Bad eating habits, not enough sleep, at least one day a week away from the compound—all these things are crucial to our ability to run this massively amazing and important institution. Putting out and collecting records means we still have resources at our disposal that we can use. Oil and paper: what happens to a punk scene when the communication, music, zines and interactions are all online? Taking it a step further, beyond the pragmatic environmental sustainability we should be working towards:
Certain things happened this month that kept bringing me back to this this notion.
I recently signed up for a staffing agency that recruited me to work at “the largest software conference on the planet.” The first gig was a three-day bag stuffing job for none other than that giant, horrid convention that takes over the city once a year, called Dremforce. Basically a production line job. We had to show up all in black. The information packet sent to us actually said, “The client requests NO expressions of individuality; jewelry, scarves, etc.” To sidetrack briefly: I looked into the role of a uniform, or at least uniformity, among workers a bit, and the read was quite distressing. Even workplace psychology, which can be used towards improving workplace conditions for the workers’ benefit, is employed by corporations to figure out how to get the most out of their workers for the company’s benefit. Increased productivity = increased profit. Increased illusion of happiness and safety = more chances of compliance + less chances of a revolt. Sustainable slavery. Our first job was to stuff a fancy backpack with a fancy water bottle, pen and promo pack of thirteen flyers, in order of promotional support of course, all stamped with the Dreamforce logo, of course. We broke up into smaller production groups and over the course of 22 hours made over 26,000 of those wretched things. Just the thought of how much money DF spent to make justthiscomponent of their conference was mind-boggling. The silky, baby-blue lining on the inside of the backpack said “I [picture of a cloud] SF.” “I Cloud SF!” for fuck’s sake! I wanted puke! I wanted to get onto the table they had us stand at and scream out to everyone, “We’re all idiots! This is not how it’s supposed to be!” … but of course I didn’t. Instead I worked in angry silence, mentally taking notes on the whole thing, wondering about all the other workers, what their story was and how we all ended up in this giant warehouse by the water at 7am, assembling bags for the Children of the Cloud. The next ten days were spent registering people in and monitoring rooms (glorified way of saying “smile, scan badge, say thank you.”) Every one of those days I had the same sour taste of irony in the back of my mouth: not only could we not find a job in this booming, highly competitive city, but when we did, it was working for the enemy: the conference that teaches the corporate world how to utilize new technologies to maximize their profits. It sounded like a marriage from hell; the techies teaching the money-makers how to make more money! Sustainable productivity.
Sure, a lot of smaller companies, unions, hotels, vendors and other service providers probably made good bucks printing all their glossy, full-color materials, setting up their booths (about six grand just for the space), putting down all those wires, housing all their attendees, making all those meals. But there was still that gross feeling of separation and inequality: either you were one of them, one of the 135,000 attendees, working for some multi-national company (though, according to DF statistics, 7,000 of them were non-profit), or you were serving them; stuffing their freebie bags, serving them food, cleaning up their rubbish, bussing them around, or simply holding up a stupid sign with information for them to read. I haven’t always enjoyed working—because come on, let’s be real, humanity is so scientifically and technologically advanced that we really should have been automated out of the industrial revolution and past the information age into the revolution of consciousness ages ago. The machines take over labour, resources and riches are equally distributed, and humans are allowed to live up to their full existential potential because we have connected to the higher powers of the universe that do not require money or status to be attained and which enrich us more than… “Oh I’m sorry, wrong meeting.” We’re not worthy of enlightenment anyway, why waste my breath?—I do however find great value in the ability to discover, develop and apply one’s skills and oneself to a healthy, productive, creative environment. That said, doing this job was probably the easiest one I’ve ever had, yet still, I was morally opposed… but of course I did the job. I was, and still am, super broke, so I can’t afford to get fired or quit. Unsustainable ethics.
On the last day of the DF convention I decided to stick around for a bit and hear what some of the 1,450 speakers spread out across 18 venues had to say. (Previous days included Al Gore (geez!), Hillary Rodham Clinton (uuuh…), Neil Young (I guess he’s been converted) and Will.i.am (pffff, I know, right?) I listened to Arianna Huffington with her proudly thick Greek accent talk about power, success, burnout and happiness. “Success and power are like a two-legged stool. Eventually you will fall off.” Then she spoke with Eckhart Tolle, the author of The Power of Now, about the importance of rest, centering one’s self and getting down time. Tolle talks of the “I am” state of just being—being in the present because you can never not be in the present—and how we lose touch with the real world when we are constantly trying to live in the future. She sits on the floor, cross-legged and goes through her five-minute centering routine, making the audience follow suit, mentioning how many corporations now offer yoga sessions and sleep rooms to their employees. Even God, on the seventh day, took a day to rest. I kid you not, she referenced that! Sustainable dominance.
I deduced that education—nay, learning is one of the most direct and integral ways we can achieve sustainability. Within the punk world, where expertise is not a prerequisite to getting things done, knowledge is a powerful tool. Learning from one another, learning how to do it ourselves, is a key part of our culture. If we can acquire knowledge, we can apply it, which is a great step towards taking change of our own lives.
What a year it has been! A year of first and lasts, I am happy 2014 will soon be over! One of my first, was back in May, when for the first time in my life, I missed a flight; from NYC to SF, going in the red by about $600. I got back home to a practically empty bank account. I had also just been forced to resign from my lovely bookstore job—as they would not give me time off (three days!) and neither could I find someone to cover my shifts—so I was broke and unemployed. Then in June and July I was running the magazine, at least everything but distro, pretty much alone, which meant I was now unemployable. Throughout those solo months I did, however, have trusted shitworkers Kyle, Layla and Chris help me out immensely, and so I want to formally extend my thanks to them for all their support! And of course to my partner Mike, who has put up with every bad morning and moody night. Then, thankfully, in August our new content coord, Grace, arrived, and we threw ourselves into training. September found me still jobless and in debt, but very much enjoying our special Ex-Yugo/Slovenia issue. By the time October rolled around, and given that we work on multiple timelines here, one of them being a two-months-in-the-future timeline, I realized Christmas holidays were right around the corner. I haven’t been back home since I got here in April 2012, and tickets to Greece are not cheap, but I went ahead and booked tickets to visit my family and friends in Athens anyway. Sometimes you’ve just gotta do what you gotta do, and you figure out the details later. So, here I am, one day after sending the magazine to print wondering what will come hurtling our way next. Taxes are due at the end of the year, the Crudos Discography 2xLP will be back from the pressing plant by that time, I am stepping down by March (could you be the next über-organized content coord?!)… Yes, dear readers, the time has come (yet again) for me to try and figure out my exit plan. I will be leaving MRR in the 2015. I were to stick around until all of MRR’s problems were solved, I would never leave. And while dedicating the rest of my life to this magazine may not sound like a bad idea, it is not sustainable for one person to do for years on end. Burnout is a lose-lose for everybody. So, we have been working on ideas that can help keep MRR in business not for one or two more years, but for one or two more decades. Part of the reason we still exist is our readership basis: without you guys this wouldn’t be possible. And even though our print run has dropped since the glory days of the ’90s, even sometimes I wonder if young punks even know what MRR is and who are we doing all this for anyway, I know what we have to keep going, with tooth and nail, until we no longer have reason to exists, because that is the right thing to do. Because people depend on us to be the living proof of a system that can persevere and overcome. Because no one else is going to ensure punk is a sustainable alternative. So, unlike, say, solar energy, an exceptional example of sustainable energy, DIY punk is a bad business model for capitalism, it doesn’t make anyone any money. So the question is: how do me move towards making punk sustainable; for ourselves, our communities, and for future punks? It’s up to all of us to answer that question, because if we don’t, the only people we will be letting down is ourselves.
Last month I shared with you some bands and songs I discovered and liked from older synth and coldwave bands from Europe. One of them was Grauzone, which I wrote in the magazine were from Germany. This is wrong. Pablo from Balkongpønker Vinilers emailed me the other day about it and I thank him for his correction (and for actually reading my column, he should get a prize for being my tenth reader!). Grauzone were in fact from Bern, which is in Switzerland and, as he said, “Switzerland doesn’t have too many record releases and it would be sad to give it to the Germans, especially since ‘Eisbær’ is a great song!” And it’s true; it is an amazing song, with catchy, jerky riffs, icy synths and lyrics proclaiming, “I want to be a polar bear in the cold polar, then I would have to cry no more, everything would be clear. Polar bears must never cry.” Their other material is equally bleak and hypnotic, with lots of ambiance and industrial-styled bleeps and breaks creeping and swooshing in and out of the rhythms and vocals. Fantastic stuff! What Pablo also mentioned that I didn’t know is that members of Grauzone were also in the Glueams, a band I really like and discovered from the comp all young girls should listen to, called My Girlfriend Was A Punk. I played their track off it, “365,” on MRR radio recently, when loyal shitworker Kat and I finally got round to recording that all-ladies radio show we had talked about for so long, along with new coord Grace Ambrose, who moved here exactly one month ago to help coordinate the magazine and be my partner in punk rock crime. It was both a fun time and an interesting lesson, learning about new lady punk bands from two ladies who have contributed much to their scenes. The radio show will be airing soon, though we realized it wasn’t in the end a strictly all-ladies radio show, so don’t cry out in anger when you hear the Glueams on my set. It was hard enough for me to think of all-lady bands as it is. Which brings me to my second point.
When people ask me in amazement, “Greece is part of the European Union?” (has been since 1981) I realize how little they probably know of where I come from, and hence what my background says about who I am as a person and why. [Let me just say here that if anyone is going to assume shit about you without investing even a minute of their time to get to know you as a person, then I don’t think you need to care about what someone like that thinks of you anyway.] Among ourselves, us Greeks joke that Greece is a “third world country” and, the horrible truth is, in some aspects it really is. Among themselves, I notice Americans joke that the US is “the greatest country in the world,” and, while I can see how in some aspects they would think it is, the real truth is that it isn’t. Sorry. However, it is undeniable that when looking at punk pioneering, feminist activism, queer rights and justice, personal politics and freedoms, they’ve come pretty far, in some case further than the rest. I doubt most punks I’ve met here in the US know what growing up in Greece during the early ’90s might have been like, and why would they? I may know for a fact that a large portion of Greek punks, whether during the ’80s, ’90s, ’00s or still, look west for punk inspiration, but I don’t really know how many American punks might have grown up looking east for it. And while I also know for a fact that a lot of Greek punks recognize that other places and scenes exist and are vastly different to theirs (sometimes even assuming they are better just because they are further west, grass is always greener and whatnot), I can’t say I’ve met too many US punks who actually realize that yes, not everywhere is like the US of A.
I grew up in the middle of nowhere, about 20 minutes (by car) from anywhere or anything, so I developed very few childhood friendships that lasted, and instead learned to very much enjoy my time alone, or spent with my twin sister making mixed tapes off the radio, our second best friend. By the time I was thirteen I felt I had absolutely nothing in common with my peers. I cut my hair really, really short, always wore black and tried my best to never look weak or vulnerable. For some reason I ended up hanging out with boys more than girls. At some shows I could count the girls in the room on one hand. If you wanted to be taken seriously by dimwit hardcore dudes, you had to be tough and take their punches. That said, the amount of times I’ve been invited to give some hardcore dude a blow job are more than I care to remember. I only wish I had realized back then the power I actually had in my hands every time they begged for it. By the time I turned twenty-two I realized I had hardly any female friends who were also punks. While I couldn’t necessarily miss being around women, because I just didn’t really know any other way, I also didn’t really know how to be a punk and a woman at the same time either. I didn’t know what was expected of me, or what I should expect of myself even, so it was really hard to talk or preach about women in hardcore when I barely knew how to be one myself. All of this led to a weird relationship with how I (more as a weirdo and less as a woman) perceived myself within that context. As a teenager I used to be a lot more vocal about what I think and believe. Then as I crossed into adulthood and felt the impact of those beliefs and choices. I was either shunned for differing from the pack, put in my place for being ill-informed, or simply laughed at for being different.
Whenever I new people, especially here in SF where people truly do come from all over and from all walks of life, I try to remember what it feels like to be looked at like an alien idiot. Ignorance is a tricky thing. On the one hand it can range from being simply annoying, to downright dangerous. Yet I find that to condemn it, sometimes, is to pass up a chance for enlightenment. Treating ignorance with horror, disgust or surprise can sometimes make others feel pissed off and defensive, or worthless and demeaned, depending on how much they value themselves and your opinion. To make a young girl feel bad about not yet getting into feminism seems to me to be the opposite of what a feminist should be doing. In the same way, when older punks mock younger punks and think they are superior just because they were pushed out a vagina before them, well, then they’re doing a disservice to both younger punks and punk at large. Questioning a guest from abroad as to why they are not familiar with certain local customs or cultural elements, and to make them feel uncomfortable about it at that, is quite ignorant and assuming in return. It ends up coming off as self-righteous. Then again it is a common mistake to expect more from punks.
The point I’m trying to get at is that certain attitudes are not very helpful or encouraging, especially when one is younger and more impressionable. The reasons why one has or hasn’t done what you’ve done, or what you expected them to do, may be unknown to you and your perhaps limited or skewed perception of the world. Not all punks have had the opportunity to develop their personal politics and unique snowflake identities the way many western punks have. I may not have considered myself an outspoken feminist in the mainly dude-dominated hardcore scene I grew up in, but just showing up, being there, week after week, show after show, and not taking shit from any of them, my opinions, passion and rage uncurbed, was a small victory in my teenage head. So it really bugs me when more fortunate punks forget that some punks, no matter their age, are still fighting for their ability to even consider identifying as feminist, queer, antiracist, even punk, whether that’s on the streets, in their punk scenes or within themselves. Check yourself for Privilege Blinkers, whatever the subject matter.
Where does dumb meet conceptual and where does performance cross-section with gimmick? Do you have zero artwork and information on your tape because you wanted it that way or are you just lazy? Do you take your punk seriously or is your punk anything but serious? Also, what’s in the water Down Under? And why the fuck are punks recreationally huffing glue? Maybe technology has made DIY easier, but has it also made it any better? Why do we medicate ourselves to deal with how fucked up society is instead of changing society to be less fucked up?
Catholic and white are out (thankfully), sax, electronic music and flesh are in (finally). Raw has been replaced by post, and synth is no longer a dirty word (never was in my book). I’m rediscovering French pop and electro pop, getting into Indian and Swedish jazz, Turkish psychedelica, and Rodriguez.
I told you last month that I got to see Big Zit and Ooze, but what I didn’t tell you is that after the show we all got pizza and came back to the compound and recorded an interview—or so we thought! The file didn’t save so we did it all over again! Good sports all around. A young bunch of punks who don’t follow trends or care what any of us think of them really, they just like to get weird and noisy, and effortlessly so—and that’s fine with me. Check out Cool Bands 2 in the Demo section further down.
We had a crazy first couple August weeks here at the compound, what with Grace’s arrival, radio shows, interviews, bands coming through, etc. I wanted to give a shout out to Tercer Mundo (still kicking myself for thinking they would actually play last on an eight-band bill and getting there just as they had finished!) Some people really just rekindle your love for punk, and Tercer Mundo most definitely did that for me this month. After saying our goodbyes and getting into the van back to SF (thanks, Robert!) I felt rather low. I had just missed a show by one of the best bands in punk right now, they were all lovely people and I was heading back to SF to do what exactly? There are moments when my levels of self-esteem plummet and my self-loathing rockets. The whole ride home I thought about how little I felt I had contributed to punk, how much more I still want to explore and learn, and how sometimes no matter how much you do, it always feels like it’s never enough. Because the hunger never dies. Thank fucking hell.
Una Béstia Incontrolable played a simply orgasmic show in SF, and another really great show in Oakland. It was weird to see people not knowing how to responde to their music. There wasn’t really moshing (which was fine by me) and there wasn’t much dancing or pogoing either; people were barely bopping their heads—I couldn’t understand it! Here’s this band playing simple yet organically formed music with such passion and energy it taps into your primal self, and you’re sitting there with your arms folded? It was a high I hadn’t felt in a long time and they do deserve all the recognition they’re getting. Be(a)st boys!
Phil from Shogun Records in Bouvancourt and his lovely wife and two daughters also visited the compound, and we shared beer and dug through records in the archive. We went to the park with dark/post/synth punks Kuudes Silmä and Maailmanloppu from Finland and their Texan driver Larry, who apparently decided to give back to punk by allowing touring bands to use his backline and van for tours. Rad! Check out his label Bad Hair Life! Shared smokes and practiced my German with melodic punkers Blank Pages when they recorded a radio show with Matt, and I even got in free to a Fucked Up show across the street from the house (thanks Ben!). I could have seen Boris there the night after, but opted for the KGB tour. I saw Koward and Green Beret at the World Rage Center in Oakland, and they were great, but it was just too crowded and the sound too…something for me to really get much. Their Hemlock show however meant I got to see and hear them up front and all bands that night were great. I preferred Koward a bit more, but hey, where I’m from this kind of hardcore is rare to come by, so I was stoked either way. Sterile Mind and Busted Outlook are two new Bay Area bands you should check out, they both have tapes out, get ’em!
You may have noticed (though probably not) that I changed my name. In fact, I reverted back to my real surname. (Though what is in a name? I by any other name would smoke and swear as much.) In Greece the ending –poulos, or –poulou for women, means child of. And I guess Thanasis was the head of my clan a few generations ago. It’s a long ass name and when I first started at the magazine as coordinator I switched to my mother’s maiden name, which was still passed on from her father, it was shorter and much easier to pronounce and spell. It’s been long overdue, but I realized I shouldn’t have changed it just to make it easier on others. Fuck it, I have a long ass Greek name. Deal with it. Love,
“What are you going to do after you leave Maximum?” people ask as soon as they find out I am planning to step down from coordinator in the New Year. I always hesitate to reply, because I don’t really know the answer. “Oh, I don’t know…” I trail off. “Work, save up some money… find somewhere to live that doesn’t cost an arm and a limb.” But really, I know these ideas are nothing more than temporary answers to the greater question at hand: “What are you going to do the rest of your life?” This is funny question to me, because it hasn’t been one asked of young people for all that long. Existential drifting aside, I feel lucky to even have an option.
I recently came across an article about Millennials. It said there are typically five stages of “entering adulthood.” Graduating high school, leaving your parents’ house, establishing financial independence, getting married or finding a significant other, and having children. It said that, in 1960, 77% of women and 65% of men had ticked all five of those items off their To Do list by the time they were 30 years old. This sounds about right and, one might add, what has been considered for many decades to be “normal.” In the year 2000, fewer than half and one-third of men has checked those five items off their list by age of 30. That got me to thinking: what do young punks want out of life? What do I want out of life?
Punks have always been a unique but never truly detached segment of the broader society. We may be its rejects, mutants, parasites or saboteurs, we are still, however unwillingly, connected to it in some way. The kids getting into punk today view the world quite differently to John Lydon (and thank fucking god for that because that guy’s a joke). I would love to know how Generation Z perceives the world. It’s a confusing, messed up place.
I think of my granddad’s generation, the Silents, born and raised during the Great Depression and WWII. I think of the generation before that, the so-called Greatest Generation, who fought in WWI; the common mores they nobly upheld and the institutions they so loyal supported: their country and flag, their religion, the army and state. Their belief in the “sanctity of marriage” and going to church on Sundays. The gender dynamics and class roles. Education was for the few and the arts still a novelty of the elite. Those were the days when kids were to be seen and not heard, and you basically entered adulthood in your late teens. No gap-year to discover yourself. You worked hard, you made an honest living, you found a spouse, you had kids, and you died in a rocking chair. The end.
I think back to my parents’ generation, the baby Boomers. I remember reading from my mum’s WWI and WWII war poetry and history books; the triumphs and tragedies of a generation written up as lessons to be learned in university classrooms in a “free world” they help rebuilt. For the Baby Boomers, perhaps in the US more so than in Europe, everything was promoted as possible, as long as you worked long and hard enough for it: the pursuit of education and career opportunities, a neat and happy life, a positive outlook on the future. “Pull your socks up old chap, you can do it!” These wholesome notions shattered and the deep-rooted foundations upholding them shook as the ’60s and ’70s brought on a period of more war, assassinations, rioting, the brewing Cold War, etc. etc., protest songs flooding the airwaves, blood flooding the streets. An extended, decentralized WWIII. Innocence may have been lost and faith corrupted, but I think there was still a sense of wanting to change the world. After all, what did the flower kids, activists and rebels really want? Peace, equality, and freedom.
In my adolescence, two of my favourite books were Bret Easton Ellis’ Glamorama and Douglas Coupland’s Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture, and, even though I’m not a Gen X’er, I remember relating to the characters’ feelings of disconnect and mistrust. The loss of self in a world of identities, the re-evaluation of social norms as people are pushed to the edge or discarded altogether, as they realized that humans are disposable, less than zero, and so was culture; remaining intoxicated to avoid the comedown. Whether disenchanted and nihilistic or pro-active and positive, Gen X’ers felt detached from what sounds like a polarizing no-holds-barred world. I mean, society was offering them everything new and improved on the one hand, and on the other it was setting up boundaries left and right. The Walkman! MTV! Fitness! Emerging markets! Fast money! Globalization! Counteracted by AIDS, “the war on drugs,” Valium, single parents, disposable relationships, self-committed hedonists, shoulder pads and mall pop. The latchkey kids who didn’t reject it all (punks!) wanted it all! And they wanted it immediately, maybe because they lacked other things in their lives they felt would enrich them, a large portion growing up in divorced or otherwise “broken” homes, the marketing machine now mechanized and going digital.
When explaining the differences between the Baby Boomers and the Generation X, the 1971-born Irish comedian Dylan Moral, a Gen X’r, put it this way: “My parent’s generation, the Baby Boomers, the post-war people, they had everything; they had it right, you know? Because they came to sexual maturity in the ’60s and the government said, ‘Well, what do you want now?’ ‘Oh, I dunno, how about the pill? Can we get the pill?’ They said, ‘Sure, there you go. What else is going on?’ ‘Well, some music?’ ‘Fine, here’s the Beatles; the Stones coming in later this evening. There’s the Velvet Underground, Jannis Joplin is just out to lunch, so if you want something to do between now and then I’d grow my hair and fornicate if I were you. If things get slow you could always paint your houses brown and orange and discover the avocado.’ And then when it was my generation’s turn, when it was our goal to come to sexual maturity, you know, ‘what’s going on, what do we do now?’… ‘Don’t fuck anybody or you die!! Never mind, here comes MC Hammer!’ “
As the ’90s inched closer to the new millennium, technology boomed, capitalism boomed, youth culture boomed, kids grew older faster (and continue to do so). The Millennials (that’s us born roughly between 1981 and 2000) saw the world as it transitioned further away from analog and into to digital, from old world order to new world order, from group politics and challenging conventions to identity politics and start-up novelties. We were moving through the last decade of the millennium (not just another century yo!) and that changed how people viewed the world. 2000 was no longer a year from a sci-fi movie.
The first half of the new millennium found many of us entering adulthood, questions popping up. What are you going to study? What do you want to do after you graduate? Are you going to get a Masters Degree? England or America? Corporate career or freelancer? My gosh, I have options! A futuristic, optimistic outlook on the world and all the amazing things young people could achieve. It’s 1999 all over again! Then came the big bang of financial meltdowns in 2007 and the rug was pulled out from under everyone’s feet like a mean joke.
By the time many of us were out of college the job market was shrinking and however many college degrees we accumulated, a secure job was not guaranteed. Our older siblings, now in their late twenties/early thirties, were having difficulty finding a job, so how were we going to do it? Our parents, many of them not yet at retirement age, were being laid off or their salaries slashed, so how were we going to make ends meet? Our grandparents, “who worked hard to give their kids and grandkids everything because they had nothing,” were seeing their pensions cut or diminished to an unfair pittance. My peers back home, the “Generation of €700” may not have had Great One battles, junta curfews and Cold War surveillance, but they aren’t exactly swimming in opportunities and life now seems more controlled than ever before—even if people have, on paper at least, more freedoms and right than ever before. My generation in Greece has never even dreamed of a pension—they think the system will be FUBAR to the point where pensions aren’t even a social benefit anymore, they’ll be privatized. Most of us can barely find jobs that pay enough (let alone make us happy) for us to get by each month, how are we expected to sustain a pension plan? So young people become. They go abroad and get more degrees, or take up jobs in other, better off counties.
Whereas in the past the “meaning” and “purpose” of life were more often than not handed down to you by family, religion and societal structures, and a small elite had the advantage of an individual identity and history, now we are faced with a new reality. In an increasingly consumer-driven world, where there is no consistent ethical framework, (rise of the individual, ethical egoism, corporations with rights, privatized prisons, the list goes on) it is becoming increasingly easier to define yourself not by your morals, but by the brands you buy (“I drink fair trade coffee”). Mass literacy, the ability to be a “civic-critic,” the wider but shallower assimilation of knowledge, the constantly changing narrative, the rapid speed and boundless nature of communication, the assumption that evolution is synonymous with technological expansion—all these things have altered our psychic metabolism and our collective thyroid is going berserk; hypo, hyper, hypo, hyper. The ugliness of recent history, the commercially-motivated noise, the endless chatter and little time for reflection might justify why we have stepped away from long-term perspectives and narrowed our thoughts so they are shrunk down to one single thing, closer to home: ourselves.
As I look at each generation, I keep going back to what kind of impact these changes are having on society. I may not know exactly what I’m going to do with the rest of my life, even though I have a couple good ideas, but what I think about more is what do all my peers want to be doing with the rest of their lives? What is important to them? How do they define a “fulfilled life,” and what are they willing to do to achieve that? Do they have commonly held values, and if so, what are they? What do our modern societies value and what do we discard, and why? If young punks today could change one thing about the world in this New Year, what would it be?
Send me your thoughts at email@example.com