Thursday, February 18, 2010

ADDICTED TO NOISE! How I got into Punk/HC/Metal music..

Question: Dig you have said how you started Earache, but the story on how you got into punk rock and underground music in general is lost. I understand you entered it through punk and you were a bit older than the average kids at the time? Which "scene" grabbed you, which clubs and gigs were you going to at the time, was this the late 70s? Was there music in your family etc? A bit of history would shed light and be interesting. From:

Answer: A lot of this is explained in Ian Glasper's excellent book- Trapped In A Scene, but if you want my attempt at a self-penned autobiography, here goes:

I grew up in one of the most notorious working class areas of Nottingham - Clifton Estate is not the most welcoming of places to outsiders, but it's where I spent my childhood and teenage years. Mum was a cleaner, Dad a factory worker, it's a gnarly area, but we didn't live anywhere near poverty or anything like that.The household did not contain any luxuries though, the family had no car for instance, and certainly no record player.

As a kid I was lucky enough to be quite academic, and could absorb facts and concepts pretty easy, so my parents sacrificed, saved and stretched the family budget to breaking point, so I could attend one of Nottingham's leading schools. There the kids were mostly from middle and upper class families, the sons of doctors and local entrepreneurs, but we all seemed to rub along together just fine. I really enjoyed school, especially the sport side of things.My grades were nothing special and I doubt any of the teachers held much hope for me.

Hardly any of my school friends or home-mates were into music, and I had no older brother to guide my musical education. My musical education came direct from the radio, I ignored Top 40 and the daytime stuff, and somehow naturally gravitated to only listening to the late night DJ's. When I discovered the John Peel radio show, I was hooked. His show actually was my musical education- talk about learning from the best!

Having no pre-conceived ideas or prejudices, I would tape every show and more or less become an avid fan of everything he played.This would be the late 70's while still in my teens.I got into everything alternative and underground because Peel was the only DJ who didn't follow the playlist. He had the freedom to play anything- from the new wavey stuff, to occasional HC punk and even obscure Reggae bands, I loved it all. Over time, I became more and more interested in the noisiest and most raucous punk bands he would showcase on sessions- especially Crass, Killing Joke, Lurkers and Cockney Rejects.

One thing Peel did not play though was Heavy Metal, but I reckon he might have sneaked on a Vardis single once, as it was bordering on Punk tempo. I loved Motorhead and Black Sabbath mainly because Discharge would name check them so that made them OK in my book.The NWOBHM era nearly passed me by, but because it was Metal's punk phase I'd pick up a lot of the early 7 inchers. Being a pretty clueless newbie, I didnt know the amazing Tommy Vance Friday Rock show existed, even tho it was on the same place on the radio dial as Peel, but on a different day, Friday. It would be a few years later when I finally got properly into metal, then I had to work hard to catch up with what was happening.

The UK has always had an amazing music press,so as a newbie the weekly purchase of Sounds and NME was a major highlight. Sounds writer Garry Bushell featured all the UK street punk - Exploited , Partisans, Blitz, and a bit of HC punk, I would absorb his writing and seek out many of the bands he raved about, but avoid all the skinhead/Oi! bands because they seemed a bit brainless.

Nottingham also boasted one of the Uk's best Indie record shops- Selectadisc -and the staff would often recommend new Lps to me to buy.One hitch, my parents did not have a turntable, so I had to buy a record player first tho! After Sex Pistols, Stranglers, Stiff Little Fingers, Ruts, Damned and all the early punk classics, I remember salivating over the Discharge early singles- these were the benchmark and my all time fave band. I remember an early Punk compilation called PUNK N DISORDERLY was a fave of mine aswell, Disorder and Chaos UK both appeared, and both of them became my instant faves aswell. Noisier the better, I say.

Anarcho-punk was also rising in the early 80's- bands from the Crass stable who had a political message became a staple of my listening. Like Flux Of Pink Indians, Rudimentary Peni, Sub Humans, and eventually Antisect because they sounded like Discharge.

After school, University beckoned, but I lasted about a year in Uni, supposedly studying Medicine, before I stopped going completely. The lure and appeal of music and the pull of the scene was too strong. To basically escape a humdrum existence, and because a 9-5 proper job never appealed, I decided to dive headlong into the HC/punk scene. The Do It Yourself ethic is strong -so I turned my hand at everything - from promoting gigs, helping out local bands, writing a zine, selling other bands singles for them, basically just "getting involved", rather than being a passive fan.

The punk/HC scene has always been very open and welcoming to newcomers, especially the Anarcho-punk bands, who always fostered a sense of community within the scene.You could contact a band, exchange a few emails (or letters back then) and they might then travel the length of the country to play a show you have hastily arranged, all on trust and without money changing hands. Try doing that with a metal band!

It was only later when fully immersed in the HC scene did I notice it's down-side. Basically trying too hard is not really part of the scene, having personal ambition is seriously frowned upon.Any talk of a 'career' would be met with laughter. One thing I never realised at the time was that a good portion of the Anarcho-punk scensters came from priviledged backgrounds, they were basically dropping out for few years, and were financed by trust-funds of rich parents.Either way, turf-wars, in-fighting and jealousy were rife and the accusation of 'sell out' was the ultimate insult.

I remember promoting a gig in 1983 which boasted a who's who of the UK HC punk scene at the time- DISORDER, CHAOS UK, AMEBIX, SUBHUMANS, ANTISECT - and I invited NAPALM DEATH to open, they were a three piece, 14 years old, and this was their second ever show. The gig drew crowds from all over the UK, including a bunch of HC punkers from Liverpool area who were as fanatical about punk as myself. Me, Granny, Middie and Pek - we soon became good friends and as a gang we'd travel huge distances on public transport or hitchhiking to see bands.Trading bands C90 tape demos became our currency as we went.

Darkthrone has a song "Hiking Metal Punks"- well, if it was renamed "Hitch-hiking Metal Punks" that would describe my life in the 80s. No exaggeration, I spent probably 4 or 5 nights a week for most of that decade holed up in various suburban community centres or upstairs rooms of grimey pubs either putting on the gig, or simply watching and helping out. Being immersed 24/7 in the underground meant the mainstream and popular culture of the 80's passed me by completely. I distinctly remember a movie called Star Wars was a big talking point at the time. I've yet to see it, is it any good?

Trading tapes with other fans was how you checked out new music, and at some point a tape of an American DIY HC radio show called Maximum Rock N Roll arrived. This blew my mind as the bands played were faster and more radical than the UK ones I was used to. Suddenly US hardcore bands like MDC and DRI were soon dominating my tape deck,so to feed the addiction I spread my tape trading tentacles stateside. Trading records with the founders of MRR was amazing, Jeff Bale, Tim Yohannon and Jello Biafra were all kind enough to pass on their knowledge of the US HC scene to me.In return I;d send them UK records, and contribute scene reports to the early issues of the MRR Magazine which grew from the radio show.

Gabba is a legend of HC punk, having played in Chaos UK, his fame goes worldwide, in Japan he's revered. Back then he was, like me, a local Nottingham punk, and Discharge fanatic.I have to thank him for turning me onto thrash metal bands. Gabba lent me three of his new purchases, I think he didn't rate em much, as they werent punky enough for his tastes. But to me they were a total revelation. Its fair to say these records changed my whole outlook on music.It was the Metallica and Slayer debuts, first US pressings. They had the speed of HC punk but also a level of musicianship and powerful productions which blew my mind. Pic is Gabba (right) with Tim of the Skum Dribbluuurz (left).

Crossover and Thrash Metal from the USA was an amazing discovery- it gave me a new thing to obsess over.To me, it seemed a perfectly natural progression when DRI went from a being a hyperspeed HC band to a slicker speed metal outfit.I had no problem with it, it got the thumbs up from me. Within months, I sold off my prized HC records to buy every one of the newly released thrash and crossover albums coming out instead.

I wasted no time contacting the USA thrash musicians for tape trading purposes.My mate Jason Lebor and myself were soon trading with the likes of Kerry King and Chuck Schuldiner, both unknowns at the time.I'd be literally the first or second person to be hearing any newly recorded SLAYER or DEATH material in Europe, which made me the sort of a hub and source of info for the early Thrash/ death scene.

By the mid-80s some of the UK bands I had been helping out with advice and shows began to get record deals and started to forge proper careers.I put Onslaught, Concrete Sox and the Stupids in touch with a trading friend of mine, Tim Bennet in Bristol who had founded record label COR records to cater for the emerging punk and Hardcore scene. There was also Brian "Pushead" in Boise who I would trade with and pass on information.His label Pusmort and COR were probably the very first one after Metal Blade to feature overtly metallised- hardcore bands. Birmingham's Sacrilege was everyones favourite at the time, guitarist Damian being the first to downtune for a heavier sound, plus, he was kind enough to pass on this tip to all the following Brummie bands of which Napalm Death was one.

By this time my contacts in the International scene were pretty vast, I knew the musicians, the journalists, the record label owners, the lot.I'd sold thousands of flexidisc compilations by pooling cash and resources with my mate, Kalv Piper who was later the Heresy bassist. I'd optimistically tell everyone I was gearing up to join the fray with a real record label of my own. It was to be called EARACHE because that was my moniker during that decade, both as a mailorder service and on gig flyers.But the label almost never happened.

My plans were always thwarted by lack of cash, despite having all the credentials and contacts, despite selling thousands of flexi records, I had no funds to be taken seriously as a contender. I simply didn't have anywhere near enough money behind me to fund the recording and pressing of an LP record, never mind the promotion, so none of the distributors would take me on.

By a stroke of luck Tim of COR managed to persaude his distributor Revolver in Bristol that I was worth taking a risk on and to prove it he'd co-release The Accused album with me on board. This became Earache's MOSH 1 but COR's GURT 17. Probably the only record I know of that has two catalog numbers assigned to it.

Revolver liked how it was promoted and sold, so this opened the door for my next releases to gain national distribution, and the start of Earache Records the label, proper.


Anonymous said...

wow, that was a heart warming story.
Goose bumps reading that.

yeah, star wars is alright. I wouldn't bother watching the latest ones tho. They're shit!

ReallyGood@Wounding said...

This became Earache's MOSH 1 but COR's GURT 17. Probably the only record I know of that has two catalog numbers assigned to it.
I always wondered about that. I have that record from back in the day. The Acc├╝sed came through Columbus a couple of times and I became a fan, so I bought the LP. Didn't know that at the time I was buying MOSH 1 and that it might have some slight historical significance.

Ekons said...

super interesting read :)

Joaquim said...

This is probably the best analysis of the 80s punk hardcore scene I have ever read.

Thanks for sharing Dig.

Honestly, you simply have to write more about this. The fact is that there are very little people like you out there, that have LIVED this time and are down to earth, open minded people with a more complex appreciation of art and the context of what happened. You manage to do that very well here, it's really admirable.

In a scene where people are proud to be drunken idiots and aggressive, some self-analysis and examinations, context, like this, is a rarity. Plus the current anarko/crust punk scene seems to me awfully repetitive and derivative of the 80s, almost like rockabilly. The freshness and creativity of the 80s simply is not there. It's just repetition.

You totally have it in you to write at least an article chronicling these times (just expand this one if you will) or even a book.

This particularly stuck me:

Anarcho-punk scensters came from priviledged backgrounds, they were basically dropping out for few years, and were financed by trust-funds of rich parents.Either way, turf-wars, in-fighting and jealousy were rife and the accusation of 'sell out' was the ultimate insult.

I come from the 90s hardcore scene in Brazil. And this is exactly true of what happened there. Not so much people coming from wealthy families (no problem with that, I never had money problems, for instance) but the whole idea of being an eternal adolescent and trying to live a PUNK lifestyle without taking this seriously, it was, in the end, basically a hobbie that lasted too long but these people never took the responsibility of supporting themselves through this lifestyle. Anyone who did would have to take a bigger step. It was always part time, or party time, as well.

Anyone who took one step further was selling out and "giving in" to the system. Because when you do take the responsibility of trying to set up a business, you just have got to make agreements with the system, and people who live this part time punk/still in the system life, and live in squats or are actually role playing being this filthy aberration/crust punk "outsider" that does not compromise, they are actually pretending they live a life outside the system which is not true, since they live in cities, use cars, print records, buy food, and they just can't see that to lead a life that goes beyond hanging out at gigs and eating vegan food you HAVE to make deals with the system and fit in somehow, or they pretend they can't see it.

I' not saying you should give up your ideals, look at Dischord records, they do it according to their way, and I have a great deal of respect for them even though it's not my kind of music. But they found a way to play the game and go ahead according to their rules, taking the responsibility of making their own business their own way and investing. I think the Crass commune is another example I have to respect regarding coherence.

So much of these scenes are lost in internal rivalry and jealousy, it's impressive.

You saw that in the early/mid 80s. I saw the same thing happening in Brazil in the 90s and 00s. As Napalm Death said: The World Keeps Turning!