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,
—Lydia Christina Athanasopoulou