Jan 18, 2015 - MRR columns    No Comments

MRR Column #377

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.

ENDNOTES:

  • 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,

—Lydia Christina Athanasopoulou

lydia@maximumrocknroll.com

Jan 8, 2015 - MRR columns    No Comments

MRR Column #380

Intergenerational disparity

“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 lydia@maximumrocknroll.com

Jan 3, 2015 - Open Mic    No Comments

Jan. 5th 2015 • Maximum Rocknroll & Mountza: An zine event @ Αρχείο 71

I have been invited to chat with the Mountza Fanzine team about the historical role of zines in the punk scene and their new role in the digital age. Below is the info from the fanzinesnet.gr website, who were kind enough to organize this event.

Τα μουσικά zines αποτελούσαν για πολλά χρόνια το σημαντικότερο μέσω επικοινωνίας της underground μουσικής σκηνής, λειτουργώντας ταυτόχρονα κι ως βασικός συνδετικός της κρίκος.  Ο ρόλος αυτός των φανζίν, καθώς και ο προοπτικές τους στην ψηφιακή εποχή θα είναι στο επίκεντρο της συζήτησης  που θα πραγματοποιηθεί τη Δευτέρα 5/1 στις 18.30 στο Αρχείο71, με τη συμμετοχή της κοορντινέιτορ του Maximum Rocknroll και των εκδοτών της Μούντζας.

Το Maximum Rocknroll εκδίδεται ανελλιπώς από 1982 στο San Fransisco και έχει συμβάλλει στη δημιουργία μιας πραγματικά παγκόσμιας πανκ κοινότητας, καλύπτοντας τις εξελίξεις σε κάθε γωνιά του κόσμου που υπάρχει πανκ σκηνή. Η Mountza εκδίδεται άτακτα στην Αθήνα από  το 2007, φιλοξενώντας σε κάθε τεύχος εξαιρετικά άρθρα και συνεντεύξεις που αποτυπώνουν το πνεύμα και τα τεκταινόμενα της σκηνής.

Πριν τη συζήτηση, θα πραγματοποιηθεί η προβολή της ταινίας μικρού μήκους Fanzini Sa Marsa (Fanzines από τον Άρη) του Siniša Dugonjić. Η ταινία προβάλλει την πορεία της φανζίν σκηνής στη Σερβία, εν μέσω αλλαγών των πολιτικών καθεστώτων και του πολέμου. Η ταινία θα προβληθεί με ελληνικούς υπότιτλους.

Το Αρχείο71 είναι ένα αυτομορφωτικό εγχείρημα και λειτουργεί από το 2011 στη συμβολή των οδών Ζωσιμάδων και Καλλιδρομίου στα Εξάρχεια. Στεγάζει βιβλιοθήκη, κινηματικό και οπτικοκοακουστικό αρχείο, ενώ δραστηριοποιείται και με τις ομώνυμες εκδόσεις. Την ημέρα της εκδήλωσης θα υπάρχει πάγκος με τα έντυπα και βιβλία που διανέμει το Αρχείο71, καθώς και πάγκος με τις διανομές της Μούντζας.

Arxeio71-20150105-poster

Dec 31, 2014 - MRR columns    No Comments

MRR Column #376

Dammi droga, mi permetta di ballare

I’m staring outside the open window, pretending the distant hum of traffic is the sound of waves crashing at the shore. I have so many things swimming around in my mind, it’s hard to target just one thought and execute it. All I can think of is time and the catastrophes/surprises it expels our way.

I’m having trouble writing because as soon as I type it up it feels worthless. There are real, horrible things going on in the world right now, and I feel stuck and motionless. I am surrounded by punk and punks, yet I feel so far removed from it all. I find my interactions with people to be puzzling; they all seem to have so little to say about everything; or too much to say about nothing. I feel like my thoughts are still racing but my ability to articulate them is impaired. My mind feels stunted, and time for reflection is a luxury.

I’ve been on a month-long rollercoaster of highs and lows. Manic frustration followed by forced positivity, though evidently waning in the shadow of realism. I drink to remember the dead, but more so to forget the living, the wretched living. I attempt to wash down the lump in my throat and push aside all the dumb shit that gets in the way of the real issues at hand. I pull at my hair nervously; dreaming at night that chunks of it is falling out. Distractions and destruction pile around me like bricks. I don’t want to be resentful or cynical but I’m having a hard time finding the silver lining.

Human interaction becomes limited, if not outright avoided. Everyone seems too preoccupied posting their lives online to actually live them. Even punk settings start to seem trite. Shows blur into one another, people become dark figures in the night, their eyes darting, their tongues tied; some invisible force standing between them and everybody else. All alone together. A bunch of unloved rejects incapable of loving each other. No one ever picks up the phone anymore—”just text me”—and we share likes instead of time together.

So I smoke and drink to keep my hands busy. The awkwardness seems contagious. Sometimes they look at me like I’m crazy. My insides are ablaze but my thoughts are flat. I try to make a connection but get nowhere. Is it me? Fuck it, I’ll stay silent. Even when I do talk I feel like I’m a strain on their attention span. Too serious to be fun. The needle popping their instalife bubble. Do they even realize how guarded we all are? How do you escape something you cannot see?

Then the surge of isolation recedes and I push myself out into the world again. Sitting in the back seat of the car, slouched beneath the window, the breeze outside hot, hills of gold rolling by. The river is warm and the beer is cold. It feels good to swim for the first time in two years; I think I’d dry up and die if I lived too far from water. Perhaps that’s why I drink so much. Either way, the calming effect of nature and day drinking only lasts a few hours and by the time my front door reappears in sight, I’m longing to be taken anywhere but home.

I escape to more shows, drink more beer and vodka, smoke more cigarettes and weed. I work eleven hours a day. I quit my other job to keep up with running the mag alone. I eat less and sleep less, and still stress about MRR 85% of the time. I went to a show and told myself I wasn’t to talk about MRR all night. I was surprised at how hard it was and how little I shared with people aside for punk—and even then, that often meant nothing…

The house show is by the freeway and everyone is huddling under the trees for some precious shade. It’s been unusually hot for the Bay and people are getting crazy. Once the show starts the pit erupts. People go flying from the windowsills, jumping on couches, sweating like pigs and stinking like rats. Everyone seemed to be high on something, even if that was just pure pit adrenaline. I pogoed so high I hit my head on the ceiling and despite being pushed into a corner, I managed to keep from suffocating—or kicking someone real hard in the butt.

I’m in the back yard of some shitty punk bar in Oakland. The second I walk in I regret the idea but it was too late to go back—I bought the ticket, I’ll take the blasted ride. Shitty beer and tater-tots litter every table. People are clad in their punkest attire, lots of heavy make-up, big hair and biker boots. Everyone looking at everyone else to see if they are looking back at them. It’s sad to think that the epitome of some people’s existence is a Saturday night at some dank punk bar.

This country is so fucking vast and expands for-fucking-ever yet I feel more restricted in this drab back garden than anywhere else before. I find a spot mid air and manage to extract myself from the crowd, a moment of dismal clarity followed by a sudden landing. Two girls cackle next to me on the pick-nick table, laughing at stupid jokes their friend is telling them. Their faces distort and their bellies heave as their fake laughter stamps out all other sound.

I’m paranoid and tripping. Or am I? I yank myself up in horror and go inside to check out the bands. Five minutes in a wave of cold sweat takes me over. I turn to find the exit, my eyes wide open, but everything has already turned grey. I stumble towards the direction of the door, nothing but the thickest black clouding my vision, my eyes still open. I get hot and cold flashes and drop to the pavement, my forehead sweating but the rest of me shivering uncontrollably. Now I hate myself as well as everyone else.

The subway lights flash past me rapidly in the tunnel, their reflection on the window next to me increasing my visual blight. Life seems violent, movements abrupt. Everyone has sadness in their eyes, some of them regret and fear. The drunk on the train has taken off his shoes. Voices thunder and whisper in my head. I feel like I’m being viciously shaken by the shoulders to wake up, but I can’t—because I’m already awake: American nightmare.

ENDNOTES.

  1. Shows have been insane this month! I got to see Gag, Blazing Eye, Gas Rag, Glue, Nudes, Savageheads, and Meathead, (all of them slayed by the way) but didn’t survive Eli’s to get to see Hank Wood and the Hammerheads. Coming up in August is Tercer Mundo from Mexico, Kuudes Silmä and Maailmanloppu from Finland (check out the interview/tour dates further down these pages) and Una Bèstia Incontrolable from Spain (check out their interview in the previous issue). Also Green Beret and Koward will be touring through, plus CCR Headcleaner and Big Black Cloud are playing the MRR and Thrillhouse Presents show.
  2. I have been listening to loads of Old Continent ‘80s coldwave and I’m amazed at the amounts of it out there! These are just a handful of bands you should check out if you like bleak, stony beats, new wave experimentation and dark synth punk to accompany you on your lonely nights of self-pity and you endless days of disappointment and despair.

From France: Opéra de Nuit (new wave post-pop with ethereal femme vocals); Ruth (they have only one album, the 1985 Polaroïd/Roman/Photo, with bleeps, horns, keyboards, flutes and more); Mary Blööt (quirky and dancey, remember that song “Pretty Day” with the metronome computer bleeping intro, also in that 1982 song “Da Da Da” by German weirdos Trio?). The song “Dernière Nuit” by Message has an intro that just makes me melt. End of Data formed in 1983 and theyr LP Sahrah isrhythmic, with lots of Cure guitar picking and Bowie-esque vocals. Guerre Froide (1980-81) sing in French, German and English and have gruff chords with a drum machine to back up the über-minimal synth notes; apparently they still release music. Martin Dupon were short-lived (1981-1988) but their first single (Your Passion/Lost and Late) is a delicate other-worldly tune with a mix of female humming, male moaning, lots of synth bleeps, drum machine snaps and even a clarinet!

From Belgium: Satin Wall (1981) sound like nihilist poetry set to a minimal guitar and a spooky melodica, Gainsborough-esque but punk and edgy. There is also a neat comp I am trying to get my hands on, called B9: Belgian Cold Wave 1979-1983, which should be stellar! Includes Siglo XX, who sound Joy Division-ish, or like something Total Control might have got inspiration from, and the Neon Judgement, who border into pure dance beats with post-punk guitars, wheezing synths and yelled desperate vocals.

From Switzerland: Grauzone, sing how polar bears should never cry and the vocals on “Eisbær” are dramatically drab, the guitars a mix of Talking Heads oddities and post-punk soaring melody, a composition of stripped down genius. The cover Pol Pot did of that song is also very good.

From Russia: Notchnoi Prospect formed in 1985, and seemed to have evolved into different genres with time, but I’ve been blasting their 1988 record Acids. Durnoe Vliyanie released Nepodviznost in 1988 and has a sort of Joy Division deepness to the vocals, while still retaining a new wave character to the tunes. Agata Kristi’s “Kankan” from 1989 is a spooky track with scary female vocals and poppy synths and buzzy guitars.

From Greece: Χωρίς Περιδέραιο (Without Pendant) were around in the ‘80s and play synth punk with slightly absurd twists and have only two records; a single Άνωση/Το Χρώμα και το Σχήμα (Elevation/The Colour and Shape, 1983) and a LP, Χορός για Μουσική (Dance for Music, 1985). Eirkti Records just reissued the 45, and they also played a live show too apparently.

ΟΔΟΣ 55 (Odos 55), from Athens are a new band and have a LP out (also on Eirkti Records) that is simply the perfect soundtrack to your midnight walks through empty streets and derelict buildings. “Αττική Βικτώρια” (“Attiki Victoria”) takes you through the city’s underground transit ducts and passageways, a recurring beat set to the motion of a train heading for a dead end. “Για Πάντα” (“Gia Pada”) is a manifesto of repetitive negation. “I don’t want a house. I don’t want a job. I don’t want a god. I don’t want tomorrow. I don’t want war. I don’t want peace. I don’t want colour. I don’t want history. Without meaning, without hope. I don’t want time, I don’t want money. I don’t want the present, I don’t want the future. The only thing I want, the only thing I want, is to live forever. In another dream, in another moment, to hide there. The only thing I want is to live forever.”

More next month! lydia@maximumrocknroll.com

Oct 1, 2014 - MRR columns    No Comments

MRR column #375

mrr_374_cvrThe BBQ place on the corner of Divis and Grove used to be called Pitts. It was a dinky old place, and was potentially a cover up for dirtier business, but made great barbeque and had been around for years. Now, instead, we have a new BBQ place, that have no smoke coming from their chimney, with pic-nick tables and chairs occupying half the parking lot, the other half of which belongs to one of the few weed dispensaries left in the city. Across from that now, instead of the plant store that used to be there, is a bougie restaurant, (apparently with a great mescal catalogue, but who gives a shit about that!) which has adjacent to it a big ass garage, which, in true gentrification style, has also been turned into a day-time eating and drinking establishment. So. You have rich ass white people eating in a parking lot expensive ass meat, across from a place where more rich ass white people sit in an open garage drinking expensive ass cocktails as they watch the World Cup. On Sundays there is farmer’s market, where all these people flock to, to buy $8 juices and $2 peaches. Up the road, a giant Victorian house built in 1900, which once used to house a church was recently purchased by real estate developers for $1.4 million, 40% over the asking price. Meanwhile, rent is rising to astronomical prices around the whole city (average rent right now is over $2,900!), and typically cheaper neighbourhoods such as the Mission, Dogpatch, Excelsior are rapidly filling up with middle-income tenants, who still basically earn more than you or I could make in a decade. And, much like Brooklyn being the cheaper solution to Manhattan-workers, Oakland is now also being overrun by techie yuppies. So not only did they push people out of SF, they are spreading like a disease, pushing people out of Oakland too. Soon the whole Bay will be theirs and that whack-job who wants Silicon Valley to be its own independent state, might just get his wish. But who gives a shit?

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

___________

Sep 26, 2014 - MRR columns    No Comments

MRR Column #373

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jul 18, 2014 - MRR columns    No Comments

MRR Column #371

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MRR Column #370 – YETT013

mrr_370_smShut Up and Deal With it

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

Year End Top 10

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

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

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

Raging Spite: BURIAL – “Renegade” 12

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Energized: ABSURDO – flexi + 12

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Very Honourable Mentions

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

MRR Column #369

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which bands would you like to share a stage with?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jimmy Hendrix ? Django Reinhardt? Rowland S. Howard?

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

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Jul 7, 2014 - MRR columns    No Comments

MRR Column #368

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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