Kevin McGovern Dirk Le Buzz Chuck Foster Sergio Chiari Shawn Abnoxious Rick Hostage Cover: Amanda Liberty Special Thanks: Alana Missy Brey, V. Blackburn
ROCK’N’ROLL? I’M NOT SEAN BATEMAN. (ARE YOU ELECTRIC OR AUTHENTIC?) By Sergio Chiari:
Hello L.A.! What happens is that one morning you wake up and you know you like Punk Rock. It also happens you run some old 80's hit on Youtube and stumble into an old hit from the Hohokam, a synth pop published in 1984 from Gary Numan for his Numan Records and you feel more “Punk” than ever. You just need that. Then you scroll the comments just below the track and you read the comment of a guy who surely knows: “BTW, this was a huge radio hit in Los Angeles in the 80's ...”. And you reconciled with existence. New Wave? Synth Pop? Who cares, just details, and you start shaking again. Certainly, if there is any idea of Punk Rock on earth, a “true” punk rocker probably’s dancing
this one, disguised as Ranxerox on the famous Italian comic, and it’s not waving in the sewers as the gutter punks from Penelope Spheeris. Music style or attitude? If Punk Rock musically born American and later with McLaren becomes an extraordinary marketing machine, marking the transition from something that has just become aware of what it is to a supernova that affects each "Post" (Punk) you can imagine, what is left after that? Where is that blend of attitude, classic rock and hedonism that marked its highest point? Where is traceable, which places that aren’t its fragmentation, its politicization and its degradation? I laugh… Los Angeles does not yield to these enticements of politicization, She knows that Punk does not mean Punk Rock. And it went HC. A city capable of giving birth to the Berlin Brats with "Tropically Hot", Punk before and beyond the Punk Rock, is a bitch weaned to every vice. She sees the light of some of the best bands of the movement (Bags, Weirdos, X and so on) and wave goodbye. A city where most of the consumption patterns intended to influence millions of people through the movie
industry are produced cannot afford a “manifesto”. She’s so well aware about that, and when she brings the Punk rock movement into the cinemas she makes it so bad, with little assumption and a lot of confusion, producing films where “Punk” is revealed in its absence, outlined in its philology, more concrete in its attitude (out of this world as in “Repo Man”). I tried to imagine with my editor, Kevin McGovern, during one of our conversations what would have come out of those years if Punk Rock in L.A. could be renewed with more Punk Rock, if it had not been swept away by the New Wave, HC, Garage Revival and so on, but assimilating all these experiences and continuing to sound “PUNK”. It has come up with something like that: “…I guess that the possibilities of a mixing between the late 70s punk songwriting and those kinds of 80s caustic mood remained still partially unexplored and unexpressed. We have entered a phase in which the new wave has drastically broken in many ways (goth, punk-funk etc etc) and PUNK as a genre has not had time to live an interim phase in which that type of mood of the reflux of the 80s was expressed
through a simple punk song. The Ramones have deprived the rock n roll from the boogie element, but that kind of Punk Rock rarely found itself inspired by what was happening in the 80's breathing also from the point of view of hedonism and crisis, mixing immediately with more genres, breaking up or becoming more and more political. We are living in a time where everything glitters but we are also experiencing a deep crisis. That’s perfect for some good punk rock…”. Ok, That’s really romantic, but as Punk rocker I deeply live the contradictions of my (not so) human being and I assume I was wrong, because who really cares about a kind of music? When it comes to dance you dance, right? So if Punk is attitude why we should sacrifice on the altar of this unstructured Rock'n'Roll? In addition, if it is only a kind of music we want to be credible and genuine, so contrary to the concept of attitude, why we feel it so different? Which brings us to the concept of authenticity in music and the dynamics of the commercialization of the music as a product (whether recorded on a
vinyl or digitally distributed). Ok, let's talk also of the concept of authenticity in music. The more I'm getting closer to the concept of "music business" and audio production during a year of sacrifices (being paid from Warner Music Spain to study music business, that’s hilarious) this experience does nothing but confirm what I already knew, and that is that music is always produced for a consumer and that this product is purchased by: 1 mass audience 2 by a public that at best is approached to the concept of passion 3 by a public that at worst is similar to a crusader of a specific music genre (and very frequently the last two concepts are mixed together). What unfortunately the pint that critics and experts miss and continue to miss is that in this music, produced to be sold, very often the medium coincides with the message, a Marshall McLuhan’s wet dream. Disgusting but true. Reflecting on popular music, and it’s all folk & popular music, from the songs of the natives to the
black metal, when we try to highlight our differences, depending on what we hear or we like, waving this alleged concept of authenticity, actually we hear something that in terms of pure production is stationary for years on these four chords, four software, those beats, these instruments (until a new and real technological revolution, it will change anything?). We are in 2012 and I do not see cars flying around. Where is the Blade Runner’s promised land? It is certainly the technological revolution and the fragmentation of the small medium, that helps to share ideas and music, but it’s really producing “something else”? Ergo, many of the producers and musicians who appear to be "authentic" (simply because we have chosen a religion over another) produce music based on those cues that are taken repeatedly for many years. And with the same instruments (all the electronic music of the recent years is produced with the same software, that are constantly updated, business in the business). So, this is business, but I could like it. Stop boring if I like something else, stop boring everyone if they like something else, you music genre purists! It’s
that “else” that Punk is made of. So what I really expect from a song, from a record it’s simply what it has to offer, if it's a song or an experimental digression I don’t care that much yet, nothing that is not the brilliance and the quality of music. As Carmelo Bene said, I carry a feather, not a sword. Authenticity? I do not give a fuck, it’s a miserable lie to catch faithful and sell them some records. Back in L.A., perhaps that “Punk of the future” is still around, bizarre, like a ghost walking the streets of Hollywood. Probably he does not differentiate between genres of music, he has just watch "Repoman", he doesn’t care so much about rock'n'roll and his walkman is playing "king king king"...
Listen: Hohokam - “King” Watch: “Repo Man” by Alex Cox Read: “The Rules Of Attraction” by Brett Easton Ellis
Robbie, you´ve meanwhile moved to South Africa, how was that going to happen and what are you doing over there in the moment ? Though I still have a house in a country town in South Africa, I am back living in Phuket, Thailand. I came to live in Thailand in 1997 as I had just sold my TSOL master recordings to Nitro and I could pay off my debts and have enough for a “fresh start” in Bangkok where the cost of living was exceptionally low. However, in 1999 I inherited money and I started “parking” money around the world as I was terrified of losing my capital sum in a financial calamity. One place that I visited as a tourist was South Africa and I bought a building plot near the Indian Ocean as an investment. 3 years later after a series of actual financial calamities, my Austrian lawyer in Phuket advised me to leave Thailand with my 2,5 year old Thai dialect speaking son until matters had calmed down with my common law Thai ex-wife, who had previously absconded with a serious amount of money. I had decided we should stay for a while in an English speaking country with affordable child care and it so happened that the South African currency had crashed and at that time South Africa was a very inexpensive place to live. A few months later, my then 12 year old daughter joined us from California, so for the year 2003 we had this family unit of 3 persons. By this time I had spent all that remained of my inheritance on establishing ourselves in South Africa. Fortunately, a South African bank lent me some money against my house and I used half of it to buy other properties. For the next 3 years, the South African property market probably out performed even the insane California one. Then a year before the California bust, the South Africa market began its own tortuous descent and I got sucked down into the whirlpool. South Africa is one of those countries where you simply can't walk away from debt. If you owe $10 or $10,000,000, they come after you. So I had a painful 2 year period of unwinding my debts. You already shared a big part of your life in Bangkok, Thailand and generally travelled a lot between countries throughout your whole life. Would you say that you are just a restless person or were the circumstances of your life forcing you to do so ? I think I am a restless person. My twin brother (Randolph) also travelled but he valued having a home in the UK. He loathed the businessman's lifestyle of 5 star hotels so he commuted across the Atlantic weekly, on an insane basis. As he enjoyed free Upper Class travel for life, he could afford it. Yet he died at aged 44 from cancer. Would you say that this was already rooted for you because although being born in Santa Monica and growing up in Los Angeles you moved to England with your mother at an early age ? Well, yes, because I, like my sister, had this unyielding desire to be close to my father who was based in Los Angeles. There were times when I was physically distant from my father
but the emotional bonds had me returning to California whereas my brothers maintained their U.K. ties. After my divorce in 1991, I was just looking for an escape from California and by 1996 I was living in Acapulco but still with an apartment in California. As your mother moved there due to the completion of her doctoral thesis at Cambridge University would you say that you grew up in a privileged family ? Prior to Cambridge, an emphatic “Nein”. I had a very ordinary suburban upbringing in the new suburb of Anaheim in Orange County, California. To be sure, I was part of the privileged white majority during an era of racial segregation in California. Ironically, when we found ourselves in Cambridge in 1962 the standard of living was circa. 1910 Los Angeles, if that. No central heating, an outside toilet, gas and coal fires, almost no privately owned cars. Yet we knew immediately we were privileged as we had far more money than the locals. And now at Christmas and my birthday also in December, my father would send me $60 or so. It was a lot of money back then. Did you feel alienated after moving to England and if yes where did you recognize it the most ? I don't remember the pain of homesickness at all but I remember that I was homesick for the first 2 years and wanted so much to go “home”. My sister succeeded : my father rented an apartment for our grandmother within the boundaries of the Beverly Hills School District and she finished her schooling at Beverly Hills High School before moving onto UCLA nearby. Yet now I suffer the pain of nostalgia for Syd Barrett's Cambridge! There's part of my neighbourhood here in Phuket that always reminds after dark of Chesterton, Cambridge. I think it's the street furniture, the overhead lights … and the lack of cars! Which episodes of those european years stayed in your mind the most, as I know you reported about the 1974 Soccer World Cup for the London Evening Standard ? Each one of those years was extraordinary. They are far more delineated in my mind than the South African years, especially post 2004. Only a few years later when the London Punkrock scene was about to explode you moved back to California and mentioned scene as looking was despised by you as a “passing and rather ugly fashion movement”. Instead the year 1977 stood in your mind as the 1977 Nureyev summer season which is of course a very big difference to the “Summer of Hate” that Punk Rock incorporated. Which were the reasons that you weren´t caught by the Summer of Hate too, what has it been in detail that lead you to remark above mentioned opinion ? Was 1977 the summer of hate in London? Maybe in Alan Edwards' imagination!
First of all, I had spent most of the previous year living in Berlin and Sweden, though having a tiny London flat. I found living in London at this time the proverbial era of “No Future” … now does that make you happier? 1977 Punk was neither a mass movement in London nor in L.A. It was a scene. The difference was that London scenes thrive on “exclusivity” and L.A. ones strive for it! So despite my having been at Dingwall's in 1976 for The Ramones, I felt an outsider and there was no one to introduce me to the various characters constituting the scene. Ironically, a lot of my old school friends were involved as producers, engineers, record company executives as it all evolved. L.A. was different. Always was. It was easy to be co-opted, as I was by Brendan and others. >Being thrown right into the California Punkrock Scene by witnessing your first show with the DICKIES and the NUNS where do you see the differences to the scene happening in London ? No, this was my introduction to the L.A. “Rock” scene. The same night, at 0200, I was introduced to the Punk Rock scene at the Masque which was probably more deconstructed than anything in London, owing to Brendan's extreme amateurism which proved to be his greatest asset at the time. Which of both bands did impress you the most back then and how would you describe that moment concerning its importance for your personal life ? The Nuns hands down. The Dickies were always strictly cartoonish whereas The Nuns were “noir”. Would you say that this already was the catalyst or turning point for you to decide that you wanted to be involved in this scene ? Yes, as I was feeling very bored at that time with my conventional “Hollywood” existence. After that specific gig you got to know the Masque Club and Brendan Mullen right after. Would you say that he was an inspiration for you ? Not an inspiration. He was quite overwhelmed by finding himself at this nexus and he needed me as an advisor and vice versa. His real inclination was to be dissolute whereas mine was to create an artefact. He was very much a situationist and I was completely against that. You could compare him to McClaren but he was strictly amateur. Making the turning and heading on to your label´s history I guess the name Posh Boy was given to you by Brendan Mullen too. Would you please explain how that was going to happen and describe what is specific for being a Posh Boy ?
He did anoint me “Posh Boy” as he knew that I had gone to an elite school in England. Furthermore, I used to wear business attire much of the time as I would come to the Masque straight from working as a maitre d' at my father's restaurant. He named me in the fashion of Claude Bessy calling himself “Kickboy Face”. I thought it fitting and also self deprecating : nobody wants to be called “boy”. You often mention that you were ostracized and shunned by a lot of people within´ the scene right from the beginning, do you have any clue how that was going to happen ? First, I pissed people off by making them pay to get into the Masque, as I was the mid week doorman. Secondly, I didn't do drugs so that means of ingratiating myself was closed. Thirdly, it was “Peyton Place”, a real life soap opera, full of petty jealousies.
Nevertheless you managed to work with a lot of bands, which I can imagine must be hard when people have above mentioned opinion about someone ? When people need your help, they tend to be friendly. More importantly, I started to form business relationships that were to last. You initially also were involved with Slash Magazine when writing an article about F-WORD but later on you didn´t feel to welcome there. For what reasons was that going to happen and would you say that SLASH tried to incorporate a somehow elitist view about what is hot and what is not ? Of course you felt a lot more comfortable with FLIPSIDE and their approach to Punkrock / hardcore, a zine that was often ridiculed by the SLASH crowd, so where do you see the main differences between the both ? I could write a doctoral thesis about this. Or you may have already done so! Later.
The rivalry between the L.A. and Orange County scene of course is something everybody has somehow heard about but which were the definite points from your point of you that made this rivalry possible ? There was no real rivalry. It was no contest between the cute girls from the beach and the Hollywood/Valley girls! The suburban teenaged groups looked up to the Hollywood groups, especially as half of the Hollywood musicians were professionals. The real rivalries were to come later in the early 80's between the different groupings of fans which lead to violence and the departure of many of those cute girls.
Of course with the ADOLESCENTS exploding on the L.A. scene like a splinter grenade everything changed for the suburban kids who now no longer only were spectators. Can you describe that special moment with an example maybe to show how important it was as today it´s rather unbelievable that one band can change everything ? Come on, it wasn't just the Adolescents! It had been building since The Crowd. From 1979 onwards there was a succession of hit songs on Rodney's show, each one attracting a larger audience. By the time “Amoeba” started getting airplay in late 1980, that core audience could no longer be ignored by KROQ though it continued to be utterly ignored by the other mainstream radio stations. And once “Amoeba” started getting played once every 2 hours on KROQ, it was inevitable that the Adolescents would now play to overflowing audiences in the local clubs. Within 6 months, it was T.S.O.L.'s turn, even if they were denied daytime airtime. As you say the first Rodney On The ROQ became a monster seller also due to the recent success of the ADOLESCENTS who were also featured with “Amoeba”. How high do you rate the impact that compilation had on the scene ? Without “Amoeba”, that compilation would have sold just as well.
Just look at the track listing on side A. To get to another point of the Posh Boy Label history would you tell us what your special relationship with the CIRCLE JERKS was about ? From your point of view the work of the CIRCLE JERKS that would become the “Group Sex” album later on should have been more polished in sound, which Greg Hetson wasn´t too keen about. Look, they were not keen on “Wild In The Streets” until it became a hit for them. They would have lived with the polishing, albeit kicking and screaming, the problem was circumstantial : Keith was too drunk to sing and I left Los Angeles for London for several months. Greg found them a “spec” deal and he wanted me to pay their studio bill. My ego got in the way and I gave them to Lisa Fancher as I knew she needed a new project. Gave them? Yes, as I released them from their recording agreement with me and I parted and remained friends with Greg. Keith may be the court jester of punk rock but he's still a horse's ass to me for his drunkenness 31 years ago. Instead I put the same amount of money into The Crowd's album “A World Apart” which I did not produce and which subsequently bombed and they became the chorus in “Posh Boy Ripped Me Off”. Would you say that there is a special Posh Boy trademark sound and in how far was that linked to the work of Stan Ross ?
Stan only engineered 2 records for me that I can remember : The Wigglers' “Dance With You” and CH 3's last album for me and maybe not much of the last one, either! Stan was my mastering engineer. He was very much responsible for final e.q., compression and quality of the vinyl records I released from 1980-1983. He also did most of the tape or music edits, at which he was truly a master, basically throwing the tape up in the air like a pancake, cutting it into pieces with a razor in mid air and having a song land fully spliced back on the playback deck. Stan very much inspired me. His acceptance of me as a client, as a producer ultimately made me believe that the recordings we were cutting were worthy of release. In an interview with one of your former label bands some years ago it was mentioned that you tried to incorporate Rik L Rik as some kind of egocentric boygroup, what is your view on that story ? You need to point me to the interview. It doesn't ring a bell, at all. In general there are also still to date a lot of rumours concerning your label and the way you worked with bands. There still are a lot of people saying that you ripped off a lot of bands and only worked for your own personal welfare, so what is your opinion towards these issues ? Once I start a project, I intend to finish it. Very often that meant people's feelings were hurt. I documented this on the sleeve for the re-issued Amoeba single from 1990. Read Steve Soto's comments as a 17 year old. They were genuine and valid. But my actions were driven by an imperative. Someone like Steve now knows as an adult, as a music professional, that it was not accidental that the label accomplished so much. He also knows the vagaries of business. Ask him if I ripped him off? I hope he says “I took advantage of him” … that was my role. I “worked” for my projects, not “for my own welfare” as you crassly and naively put it. About 15 years after the heyday of Posh Boy, I started making measurable profits from my efforts, so I obviously I have benefited but so have many musicians who have gone on record stating the same. Still, there are many who wish to use me as a scapegoat for their own failings. At this point, I think history has treated me more kindly than they. One of the names coming up more often than others concerning those issues is the one of SHATTERED FAITH. What has all the trouble with them been about ? You've done well to pick them out as an example. Joe Escalante was asked about it once and said something witty. Connecting to the above questions I also have to ask how the hatred between the Angry Samoans and you plus your friend Rodney Bingenheimer came up ending in their song “Posh Boy´s Cock” which I guess you must be not very fond of ?
Having seen the predecessor group Vom, it was hard to take the Angry Samoans seriously as I knew that they themselves didn't take punk rock seriously. For them, it was an intellectual circle jerk that became a way to party and be rock stars. I think Erich at goodbadmusic.com has written the most astute analysis of the Samoans and he still gives them a high rating. It wasn't just me, a lot of people were deeply offended by the Angry Samoans' publicity stunts, inciting violence against Rodney. Rodney's out there playing records in clubs 2 or 3 nights a week at this time and all it takes is one knucklehead to take the Samoans' bile seriously. Then they follow up with “Posh Boy's Cock” as an encore. Not funny. Those guys are plain cowards because they never dared take me on even as a posse. Then the Samoans feigned shock that the industry were boycotting them in light of their chicken shit behaviour. Would you tell us more about that friendship between Rodney and you and how important do you seize his role for the California Punk scene as again the opinions differ a lot towards his role and motivation ? We did not start out as friends and there have been times recently when we have drifted apart. We certainly did not agree artistically on everything. Our collaboration was unusual for me. I generally delegate to people, get other people to do my work but nevertheless supervise. With Rodney, it was me often taking suggestions from him and my doing the heavy lifting. What most industry people preferred to do with Rodney was let him “discover” something and then swoop in. We ended up doing the “discovering” together, a tiring process with so many groups. I am not aware of differing opinions on his role from anyone who matters. With all those legendary bands on your label don´t you think it would be a nice idea to do some major re-issue series on vinyl, I am sure there will be a lot of people who would be amazed about this ? There are some labels doing this. It is hopelessly uneconomic for me to do so. I have no base in the USA or Europe. One needs to do this out of one's broom closet these days. And then it's still uneconomic.
Also a lot of your old label bands are still or again very active like Adolescents, Symbol Six, Channel 3, Social Distortion, TSOL or Agent Orange just to name a few. Do you still follow on what they are doing and how they sound like today ? By and large, yes. Social D., no, as they are a quite different creature these days. Huge live act in the USA. Are you still in contact with people from your former label bands maybe friendships that have grown with special persons over the years ?
Are you still in contact with people from your former label bands maybe friendships that have grown with special persons over the years ? Other than Casey, I am friendly with everybody from the Adolescents. Tight with Symbol Six, we worked together on the CD re-issue of their e.p.. CH 3 has allowed me digital rights to other of their titles. Kimm and Mike are very special to me. Contrary to all the myths, Jack Grisham has been a close friend for most of the past 30 years. Besides releasing Tender Fury, I was very much involved with The Joykiller at their developmental stage. All 3 of the surviving original members have very full lives these days away from T.S.O.L.. Agent Orange is a mixed bag. Mike Palm and I were “allies” in the early 90's, then fell out again where we remain. In the interim, I have had a lot of dealings with James and Steve Levesque (former manager). I deal with Steve Soto as he played on the original version of “Bloodstains” and co-wrote “Breakdown”. My best friend is Paul “Ena” Kostabi of Youth Gone Mad (also, White Zombie, Psychotica, Damn Kids) but we only hooked up 20 years ago or so. Around the same time, Bad Religion invited me to hang out with them in Vegas where Green Day was opening for them. Greg Graffin took me to one side and complained “Why didn't you sign us and rip us off back in the day?” One important consideration is that I was in my 20's when most of the Posh Boy history occurred. Subsequently, I hardly ascended the industry career ladder; on the other hand, those teenaged musicians are now middle aged like I am, many with much more successful careers in music or in the real world. I am lucky to be treated so nicely by just a few of them! What is your opinion about other California based record labels that were around the same time as you like Dangerhouse, Mystic, Frontier etc. ? Dangerhouse pre dated my label and was an inspiration to many. Bomp was too conventional looking, What Records was too crappy but Dangerhouse showed how much collaborators could achieve on a shoe string budget. They created some wonderful artefacts, stronger on the graphics than the recorded sounds. But it proved a dead end. Drugs meet partnership. So it had to happen sooner or later and we are heading on to the last question, is it true that you preferred to produce records wearing mirrored sunglasses and a loaded nine millimeter in a shoulder holster ? I have never handled a (real) gun in my life. Brian Elliot, the studio owner, unbeknownst to me, pulled a gun one day on Agent Orange as he was hunting down some missing equipment, or so the story goes. I never provided drugs for any groups. They might get some Taco Bell out of me, that's all and why they all hated my guts.
Infamous Long Beach Punkers “Wrong Beach” and their front man a.j discuss their new album and all things Long Beach past & present
When I decide to start playing music again the plan was to do something different than Das Klown. I didn’t want to be pigeon-holed into any specific sound or attitude. At the rate I was going the next step was a heart attack, too many years of being angry. It’s amazing that some of us have lived this long after all the drugs and recklessness. I was born and raised in Long Beach & thought there would be no better name than Wrong Beach, something the city has been referred to for years. When choosing the band I wanted to be connected to people I’d grown up and jammed with through the years. We needed music…with so much great music to come out of Long Beach we started off doing “revised” covers of our favorite songs. With Punk, Surf and Rock & Roll you can’t go wrong. The lineup is me, Rikk Agnew, Johnny Barrios, Greg Watson, Dwayne Lyon, and Justin Time. We’ve all been playing for a long time in other bands and have been through the same crap in and out of the music scene.
Places like the Queen Mary, The original Super Mex, Roscoe’s and Babe’s Kitchen…because we like to eat. HA HA HA.
I don’t know I guess we’re from here, they’re from there. I’ve never really been a big fan of Orange County. There have been a lot of great sounds to come from there but I never felt pretty or cool enough to fit in. I just remember being a 16 year old kid with tattoo’s and if the cops stopped you there you were going to jail or having your car ransacked and told to go back to LB & “We better not see you down here again.”
Wow, thanks…You can look forward to great music, a good show, and something to remember.
I’m not much of a politician and have been trying hard to stay out of everyone else’s business. I don’t care if I offend people, sometimes I like too, but everyone is entitled to their opinion. We’re trying hard to not work with assholes, whether they’re promoters or in other bands. We just want to have fun and play good music.
It’s funny how the people in Europe and other states look up to all these bands from here, thinking they’re living this rad punk rock life style which couldn’t be further from the truth.
My personal one was probably with my child hood friend David Quakenbush sitting on the stage at the Starwood and seeing the Dead Boys. I’ll never forget Stiv swinging the microphone over his head and out over the audience slowly lowering it while it wrapped faster and faster around his neck until he went unconscious and passed out right next to us. We were trippin watching him turn different colors. Finally, they stopped playing and the drummer panicked and knocked over his set to jump down and revive him. It was crazy and years later I got to meet them, drink beers and reflect on the whole deal.
I think it is disgusting and if a band is that desperate they’d be better off selling their bodies on a street corner. Support your local scene and we hope to see you at the Wrong Beach soon….For upcoming shows etc.…check us out on Facebook.
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Sean Spit speaks with Dirk Le Buzz
Sean, would you please tell us in which part of Northern Ireland you grew up and how your surroundings were like ? I grew up in Antrim which is situated approximately 18 miles north of Belfast. Antrim isn’t exactly steeped in a rich history of PuNk although Stiff Little Fingers did play there at the Steeple Inn on 14th April 1978. By 1980 there were several active punk bands in the town too, Teenage Zits etc. You can read about some of these bands via the Spit Records web site. Of course growing up in a city like Belfast these must have been very hard due to the steady police and paramilitary oppression, the miserable housing situation or the highest unemployment rate only to name a few. How did you experience that situation way back then ? Antrim was j ust like any other provincial town at the time really, in that it was touched by the TROUBLES. It was a very bleak period in our history but I have fond and happy childhood memories. In your childhood and youth days, in how far were you aware of the cultural and religious differences between the rival groups in Northern Ireland, was it something that was given to one by his parents ? I was brought up Roman Catholic, however, once I heard the music of the Sex Pistols it j ust made me stop and question everything. I can remember going to mass up until I was the age of thirteen or fourteen. From then on I had started listening to music and started questioning things … I was going to night masses on a Saturday night so that I wouldn’t have to get up and go on Sunday morning. I was basically j ust standing at the back thinking, “Why am I even doing this? ” … I would class myself now as a non- practising atheist, if there’s such a thing! I absolutely detest religion but don’t forget too that we were living with real anarchy on our streets so how could you not be aware of cultural and religious differences. There were two very polarised communities in N. Ireland back then. We went to different churches, different schools etc. I can remember in the early 80s when all the Mod revivalists were wearing those red white and blue union j ack shoes. In Belfast they actually sold green white and orange pairs too! Would you say that music, and this necessarily not only means Punk at first hand, has been a possibility of escape for you, like getting away from all the trouble,
fighting and repression? What has been the first record that really impressed you, that made an impact on you? N. Ireland needed PuNk j ust as badly as anywhere else in the UK, if not more! Intolerance, brutality and boredom, not a good mix. The kids on my street had heard enough from the monsters of stadium rock, all bombast and overproduction. When punk hit Ulster, it arrived with a bang! The kids were j ust waiting for their own music, played by their bands and seized upon it qui ckly. The Sex Pistols embodied the whole new punk package, youthful energy coupled with the cool natural way that they embodied the anger and frustration of a new generation that had no hope and no future, made them the leaders of the pack. Holidays in the sun was the 1st single I bought by the band in 1977 at age 14 quickly followed by their debut album. These records changed everything. This isn’t even taking into account the band’s image, which we all tried desperately hard to emulate in our own way. The Pistols expressed in both their music and in their interviews their disgust at all the overpaid, bloated rock bands and we loved them for it. When people discovered the Pistols, at the same time they also rediscovered the generation gap too! Yes, old farterdom trembled and scorned. Who cared if punks used and reinvented other people ’s ideas and that our bands had contradictions and compromised, so what, we didn’t care! When I caught all these great bands via John Peel & Mike Read on my tiny transistor radio, I was permanently damaged! Just to make it clear, if we are talking about Punkrock in Northern Ireland, did it center around the big cities or also spread into the smaller towns ? In our little part of the world we had Rudi, The Outcasts, Stiff Little Fingers and countless others. Belfast and Derry, or two cities were where it started but there were punks and punk bands in all the provincial towns across the country. Perhaps our bands didn’t change the world, but they certai nly changed our tiny part of it. In how far did the scenes in the different cities differ from each other ? PuNk really did mean something more than a fashion trend in N. Ireland. It brought kids together from both sides of the religious divide ( unheard of at the time) . It also straddled class backgrounds too and this was happening across the whole country. Belfast had the best bands, venues and record shops, so it really was the centre of everything at the time and the place to be. Did the political groups like the I. R. A. or the U. V. F. ever try to get into the Punk scene and influence the people in it or was it j ust way too far away from that “real world” to be taken that serious ? No, but it was always there if you scratched the surface. With the Spit book both Guy and myself tried to avoid politics as much as possible as neither of us have any time for it and the book or my web site isn’t a platform for that kind of thing. That’s why bands such as notirious loyalist Johnny ( Mad Dog) Adair’s Fascist band Offensive Weapon, who were playing gigs around Belfast at the time and had a big National Front following won’t be found in either. There are some people who have a very romanticised view on the I. R. A. as they were the ones rebelling against the British regime and therefore are seen as freedom fighters. What would you have to criticise about this view?
Well republicanism or any secterinism was never in my totally alien to me. I had no interest in it then and it on the news, I simply switch off my television, so attempting to rachinalise the the thought process and believes in any armed struggle!
vocabulary or diet, it was I have even less now. If I see I’m not about to start rachinal of someone who
So how did the story of Punkrock start for you personally, when and under which circumstances did you get into it ? Which were the “Teenage Kicks” that made you love this music and attitude? I think my piece in the book It Makes You Want To Spit! Kinda explains that better than anything … that was basically the way it went although I have touched upon this in an earlier question too. Which persons did play a key role for building up what was to become the Punk scene and in how far did they contribute their part ? Belfast had Terri Hooley, even today the man is typically bubbling with enthusiasm whenever I chat to him. Terri ’s label Good Vibrations Records embodied, discovered and nurtured some superb local bands previ ously sealed off from the rest of the world by a lack of pressing plants, record labels, inadequate recording studios, promotion, venues, you name it, we had the obstacles. Even our geographical position worked against us! But, suddenly you didn’t need a rifle to get your point across. Of course ( and I guess with this question that you already have mentioned him above) Terri Hooley was one to play a special role ? Yes, without Terri…… John Peel also has been a strong supporter of N. I. Punk bands, would you say that his work also helped the scene as much as it did with his work for Punk in the rest of the U. K. ? It isn’t without reason that he has hailed “Teenage Kicks” as the best song ever written ? Yes, John championed many bands from N. Ireland, not j ust The Undertones. He also made a “pilgrimage” to the legendary Belfast venue The Harp Bar as well as visiting Terri Hooley’s Good Vibrations shop. Terri was a good friend to the Belfast scene. Has there been a specific band of which you would say that this was the one who really kickstarted it all for Punkrock in Northern Ireland, although I suppose that it must have been Rudi, at least for Belfast ? Yes, without question Rudi were at the vanguard of the local scene here and are held in very high regard and Brian Young is a dear friend but for me, my particular favourites were always the brilliantly brash Outcasts. They trundled out a raw, gutsy, barely proficient noise, constantly gigging to Belfast audiences. No one went to punk gigs here thinking that they were anti – sectarian. Nobody even thought about it. It j ust happened naturally through the music without anyone having to make a big point about it! Perspectives change with the passing of time and when hindsight kicks in. I can recall reading at the time that The Outcasts You’re a disease song was not about VD as I’d thought but about scorning religion, surely the most lethal disease in N. Ireland at the time.
Having recently witnessed two tremedous come back gigs by the band, my opinion still hasn’t changed. Of course it is not only bands who kick start a scene but also special incidents, therefore would you please tell us what happenend that night in 1977 when The Clash were booked to play the Ulster Hall as you describe this as being one of the key moments for Punk in N. I. ?
The Clash visit to Belfast in late 1977 was certainly the catalyst for the local punk scene here ( they didn’t get to play as the gig got pulled at the last minute) . I think though that it is best captured in the Spit book, where Joe Strummer himself even recounted his memories of that visit, one of his last written pieces before his untimely death, so I think it would be unfair to recount that all again here. You’ll j ust have to buy or steal a copy of the book! Apart from this special moment, would you say that Punk in N. I. was less influenced by the classical british Punk bands than in other parts of the country, because as I see it, all bands from Northern Ireland had a very own and unique sound ? I genuinely believe that many of the English bands that had record companies throwing money at them hand over fist back in the 70s, didn’t even come within spitting distance of our bands such as Rudi & The Outcasts. These bands were the real deal. They were kids, not people in their twenties pretending to be teenagers like a lot of the English bands at the time. It was also the first bands which they had been in, they weren’t simply j umping on the lastet bandwagon coming through town. Would you say that this special sound had the chance to grow because N. I. and especially Belfast have been musically isolated for a long time, as of course there weren´t that many bands who had the guts to go there ? In so far, did Pubrock play the same important role in N. I. with bands like Eddie & The Hot Rods or Dr. Feelgood ? It definitely did and it’s worth noting that both of those bands played Belfast back then when many of their contemporises stayed away, so how could they not have influenced the new up and coming bands here. Some people always wonder how some young kids who steadily experience violence and oppression would come up with such a melodious and kind of poppy sound which has become quite a trademark for N. I. Punk with bands like Undertones, Protex, Tearj erkers for instance ? Would you say that this sound was kind of a counterpart to all the bad experiences ? Yes, I’m quite sure there was an element of escapism in the lyrics etc. We were living with real anarchy on our streets, so we didn’t want to go out at night and sing about it. Bands like Stiff Little Fingers took a lot of stick here back then as people viewed their lyrics as exploiting the situation here and it many respects that was the easy route to take lyrically. I guess the N. Ireland sound was influenced too by the very basic and limited recording studios which we had here at the time. A mobile phone today as better recording facilities that some of those studios back then haa haa Apart from the sound you mention and put emphasize on in your book that Punk in N. I. really was a positive force, which of course differs a lot to the No Future cliché. How do you explain that to you ?
punk was a positive force everywhere! I don’t buy I believe that into all that No Future nonsense. PUnK was a way of life but a positive one. It gave you a real sense of empowerment, that you could be involved in the movement by starting a fanzine, picking up a camera, etc either forming a band, etc… Later on, when Punk started to die in the rest of the U. K. , it j ust didn’t stop in N. I. the opposite. How was that to come as it was also the time when the N. I. music scene in a whole did get more attention than before ? N. Ireland needed PuNk j ust as badly as anywhere else in the UK, if not more! Belfast had been starved of live bands because of the “troubles! ” with most touring bands leaving the city off their touring schedules. The city centre at night was basically a wasteland. Sealed off streets, checkpoints and numerous bomb scares made for an extremely oppressive atmosphere. Belfast wasn’t an inviting place to go after dark. The Belfast environment of the late 70s was certainly a powerful factor in much of the music that was emanating from here at the time. It wasn’t something that could be contrived. Fearsomely independent being a punk in Belfast wasn’t a disposable pastime! Punk gave people an identity of their own. PuNk was good for Belfast, there’s no disputing that! Forget the London art student punks, the violence here was real, random and above all, political. I guess it arrived here later than the rest of the UK and as a consequence, it took a bit longer to die too! Of course after this high point it all started to go down very fast. What have been the reasons for this and in how far did the bands and the climate chance within the scene ? It shone bright for several years but like every other scene around the world, it burnt out, people moved onto other things and bands split up. Northern Ireland was no different from anywhere else in that respect. Most bands from the early days always describe that the third generation punk bands drove a lot of the old people out of the scene, due to rules and regulations that were now made up on how a punk has to look, what music he has to listen to etc. Was that the same for N. I. ? I guess so, again we were no different to London or say New York. How do we have to imagine the present Punk Scene in Northern Ireland as to be honest you only get to hear very little about it? Do you have the impression that there still is more interest in the past times than in the present and why would you say it it that way ? I don’t really have any involvement in the current punk scene in Belfast. I attend the occasional gig but I certainly wouldn’t be qualified to comment on the scene. From a personal perspective, it’s the old bands and material that has always interested me as that was the time that I was on the sc ene. Again, that is why I formed Spit Records, which is a purely retro label. As looking back on it, which were the best years for you in these days and which are your favourite records, the ones you would recommend to anyone to understand what Punk in Northern Ireland was about ? There really are too many good memories to attempt to signal out one or two…. .
Please tell us more about your book “it Makes You Want To Spit” and the intention you had for releasing it ? I think it was already released in a more fanzine type format years ago already ? The initial 'book' which came out in fanzine form in 1998. That had been worked on for a couple of years. I supposed it all came about because we both had been collectors of obscure punk over the years and we were constantly getting bombardedwith all these letters ( this was pre email) from Europe, America, Japan and even further a field. People had been contacting us asking us about obscure singles released on Rip Off Records or Shock Rock Records and we were forever having to writing out replies and post them off. So, in the interests of expediency and our own sanity, we decided to type up some pages with the relevant information. However, this information j ust grew and grew. Then we decided to release it as a glorified fanzine, but financial restrains dictated that we were limited to size and paper quality, etc. We were basically working on an anorexic budget and had no money for anything, so we had to limited it to j ust 84 pages, even though we had a wealth of additional material. However, we always harboured an ambition that we wanted to do the whole subj ect fitting j ustice, but nobody would take us on. Once you mention the word “punk” there's still a stigma attached to it here, like there is anywhere really I suppose. There would be interest in the cross - community aspect of it and blah, blah, blah, but no one would take the j ob on. In my opinion many publishers were throwing money away hand over first on far less worthy causes, but once they heard the word “punk” they didn't want to know. I remember when the Sex Pistols reformed in ‘96 for their Filthy Lucre tour and they'd proposed a date in Belfast, but the Belfast City Council banned them, so that's the kind of mentality which we were contending with … … twenty years after 1877 they still banned some 40 year olds! . Ballymena Council were even more absurd, banning E. L. O. on the grounds that it was the devils music, around the same time, you know what I mean? So that's what we were up against! Mr Blue Sky. . . . . . . . . ! ! I ’m actually STILL getting information together as lots of the very small bands never got a bio into the book because of space restrictions. With the advent of social networking sites etc which have allowed more people to come out of the woodowrk, more and more bands coming to light. I guess the real reason for us writing the book was that we were tired of reading books that seem to think Punk began and ended with a small clique of fashionistas in London and once us oiks from elsewhere discovered it then it was all over. What a load of bollocks! How much time did it take to get all this informations together and who supported you with it, especially with all the old flyers, adverts, photos etc. ? As I ’ve said above, it ’s very much a work in progress with the web site which is hopefully j ust an extension of the book. The book took some five years to complete but I ’m still collecting and updating bios etc. It never stops! In many respects, the label is a companion to the book and web site! Besides the book there is also your label Spit Records, that you j ust started to bring back lost or forgotten N. I. Punk gems, what are your plans for future releases and may we even have the chance to hear some of the bands that you mention in your book which of course never officially released anything ? Gob 2 – Tentatively entitled Shell Shocked Rockers is almost complete. It ’s a 24 track compilation CD. 6 bands with 4 tracks each and yes, lots of bands that you haven’t heard before but may have read about in the It Makes You Want To Spit book or on the web site at www. spitrecords. co. uk The CD album will feature unreleased demos from 1978 – 1981 by The Androids, Acme, Ex Producers, White Noise, Shock Treatment and The Co ordinates.
Updates will be posted on the web site and Facebook page 9there ’s a link to this from the web site) so keep checking back.
To finally come to an end, what is your opinion about traditional irish music and the way it is interpreted by some very very popular Rock acts like the D. Murphys who are making big money with it by having had an irish uncle 200 years ago ? I HATE IT ALL! My dad played that type of music ALL the time when I was a kid and I hated it. As for the current Fake Irish nonsense bands ……………. don’t start me.
Published on Nov 13, 2012
Published on Nov 13, 2012
The long awaited fall issue featuring chaos, mayhem, punk rock, pop rock, and social commentary.