Tying up the loose ends of a life in hardcore from 1986 until yesterday lunchtime

'Punkier-than-thou' - The Wire, June 2013.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Poison Idea, Ian MacKaye and that record cover: an interview with Kalv of In Your Face records

'By using my name, P.I. themselves have elevated me to a god. Surely no one would treat a human being like that' 

Ian MacKaye, July 23, 1989.
It's with those words – in that pointed, gnomic tone familiar to anyone who has listened to Minor Threat, Fugazi or any other of MacKaye's many bands – that the target of Poison Idea's ire skewers his unsolicited appearance as the title of their 1989 mini-LP. It was one of the most contentious moments in the career of the Portland, Oregon punk pioneers, no mean feat for a band who were never ones to shy away from controversy.

And those sentiments form part of a terse letter written to my friend and Geriatric Unit bandmate Kalv – who pressed the Ian MacKaye EP (grotesque cover and all) on his In Your Face label – after he alerted MacKaye (as a matter of, I suppose you could call, 'courtesy') to the fact that his name was going to be plastered all over a record cover that would eventually be deemed too obscene to be printed in the UK.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

The Top 10(ish) gigs I've missed

A six-week period of enforced immobility due to an ankle injury that has baffled (or bored) medical science reached its nadir last week, when - in the space of two days - I managed to miss gigs by Lecherous Gaze, Beastmilk and Systematic Death. To soothe my tortured soul, I did what any right-minded person would do in this day and age: I had a moan about it on Facebook. 'You should do a Top 10 review of the gigs you've missed,' suggested Brockley's answer to Atonio Gramsci, my pal Karl. So, given that I wasn't really going anywhere, I did. I didn't include the gigs that I just had a desire to go to but no real plan: Husker Du at Glastonbury in 1987, the Cro-Mags at the Christmas on Earth fest in Leeds in the same year, Bad Brains on the I Against I tour. However much I may have bemoaned on missing out on these in the following years, those excursions did not exist outside the realm of fantasy, because - as a 14 year old - I had neither the money, nous or parental approval to just pack my bags, jump on a bus to parts unknown. (I waited till I was at least 16 for that). No, these are the gigs that - were it not for the pernicious influence of something or someone (usually myself) - I would definitely have been in attendance. And not always for the better, either ...

Monday, 9 September 2013

Bl'ast on Discharge's grave in the new world

If you haven't already read this appraisal of Discharge's fall from grace in 1986, do so. It's a pretty entertaining and well-researched read (if a little short on actual new information), but the real gem is Nate Wilson's recording of the show, which definitely deserves to join the (admittedly quite small) pantheon of 'great gig riots caught on tape'.

By sheer coincidence, during an interview with Clifford Dinsmore of Bl'ast, we took a detour from talking about his old band's pretty fucking amazing bit of archive raiding for Southern Lord (the interview can be found on The Quietus btw) to discuss Discharge, their ill-fated US tour in 1986, and Bl'ast being witnesses to one of the more notorious episodes in punk rock history.

Friday, 2 August 2013

How The Process destroyed hardcore in Oakland FOREVER!

The calm before the storm
So I had the pleasure of hosting Alicia and B. from Replica (Great band. Check them out.) earlier this week, and Alicia passed on to me a thoroughly entertaining piece of information. We had played together in Oakland, Ca, in October last year, with Iron Lung and Gehenna, and the show was absolutely nuts - 300-plus crammed into a room that should really only accommodate half that. The cops eventually came and closed it down during Iron Lung's set, there was barely enough to room to breathe when Gehenna played, and, when we were on stage, things had already got so nuts that some kid - who was getting in people's faces, punching them and, laughably, attempting to attack Gav - had a bottle smashed over his head for his troubles.

Take as evidence this video from our set. It's all vacant stares and the occasional nodding head, but even by the end of this small section, we'd started to win over the crowd (and even the guy filming it, judging by his comment - cheers!). If you extrapolate that over another 15 minutes then the chaos you're picturing might just match what was going on in front of me when I was playing. (Seriously, I did wonder if I was going to have to jump off the stage and sort out the wee dick that kept trying to punch Gav; of course, the Guvnor doesn't need my help, and defused the situation (a bit) by bending over and laughing in his face. Then, naturally, someone smashed a bottle over the guy's head.)

Friday, 12 April 2013

Degraded in Chelsea: my DJing stint at the American Hardcore 1978-90 exhibition

'Yes, but how much can you take'... DJing at the American Hardcore show
“Welcome to the final nail in hardcore’s coffin,” was how I greeted my friends who stopped by to say hello. Sweaty and harassed, hauling a box of old HC 12s and 7s from South Kensington tube to a posh side street, I’d barely had a chance to register my surroundings before being led up to the glass-fronted DJ parapet overlooking the gallery, other than that the place seemed pretty bloody swank. But the looks of bemusement from those that trudged up the stairs to ask me what the fuck I, of all people, was doing here consolidated the uneasy feeling I’d had since I walked in – this had the makings of a weird fucking scene, and a significant distance from the "Hey, let’s get pissed and play some raging old hardcore records" party I’d deluded myself into thinking I’d signed up for.

The first half-hour was fine, because the place was basically empty, and I got the chance lazily switch between Rodney On The ROQ and Let Them Eat Jellybeans comp tracks and then amuse myself by playing songs that, to me at least, commented on the stupidity of trying to reframe hardcore as an antiquated gallery exhibit in the posh part of town: Flipper’s Ha Ha Ha – “Isn´t life a blast/It´s just like living in the past” – or Urban Waste’s Reject – “Cos they’re really the rejects/for liking music from the past.” The gallery staff were awfully nice – and made sure my beverage requirements were attended to with haste. But as the place filled up, I could tell something was wrong - so terribly, terribly wrong. For every familiar (albeit confused-looking) face, two dozen moneyed Made In Chelsea extras swanned in and swooned as Toby Mott, the artist behind this exhibition, greeted them at the door. These were clearly his target demographic – Prada-clad west London fuckwits so far removed from punk’s milieu that the irony of a high-class gallery show dedicated to Crass’s seditious rage (one of Mott’s previous projects) wouldn’t occur to them in a million years. The angrier I got, the more obnoxious my music choices became – Reagan Youth (‘Sieg Heil!’), Angry Samoans with the Hitler speech intro, Vile’s 5 to 10 (‘Rape little girls? Not me!’), and to round off my section of the evening, SS Decontrol’s endurance test How Much Art? I wasn’t expecting a riot (although, in my wildest dreams, I would have loved one), but I was kinda sorta hoping that someone might accost me about the off-colour nature of my selections. But nothing. It was every punk’s nightmare: impotent rage being met with indifference, or worse, smug indulgence.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Conquest for Death video

I guess this is a bit of cheat, as I have nothing to do with this band other than they are my friends - but I feel my life in HC is inextricably linked with these dudes. I've known Devon and Craig for what seems like half-a-lifetime (and I take a perverse pride in featuring in one of Craig's legendary tour journals), and Shank had the pleasure of Robert - a prince among men - chaperoning us around the Bay Area when we were over there, the first of many rather lovely times spent in his company. We even ended up going to see Mike Giant together about getting tattooed, before he became an international art superking.

Anyway, this is an awesome video, with amazing footage of some of their outlandish tours - Namibia, China, Botswana, Mauritius - which foments two (kind of conflicting) thoughts in my head. THIS is what DIY touring is about - blazing new trails, rather than just trudging around the same well-worn sequence of Euro squats and municipal youth clubs. Secondly, while I'll never miss the tedium of  long-ass drives and the ennui of trying to fill the gap between a 4pm soundcheck and a 1am stage slot with anything other than alcohol or sleep, I do miss the camraderie of life on the road and the joy of hosting old friends who swing by your city on their tour or being hosted by them when the roles are reversed - and I miss these guys a lot, too.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Shank, Live in LA, 2003

Shank, Live in LA, 2003 from Jamie Thomson on Vimeo.

Been meaning to get this up on the web in some form for years - because it really was the highlight of our existence as a band. We thought Gilman St a week earlier wouldn't be beaten, but we hadn't counted on the LA kids. And it seemed the perfect way to bow out, too. This is the shortened version that starts about five minutes in, when it starts to get really nuts. It's not that the first five minutes are in any way dull, but who watches an internet video for more than five minutes, really? And I wouldn't want you to miss the real chaos. Some choice quotes from the crowd include: "You guys from Russia rock!", and "Somebody just broke a leg - yaaah!" (He didn't, but I don't think he was going jogging anytime soon either.) On a personal note, today I was actually wearing the very same grey shirt as in this video, cheapskate that I am (although, it does fit me much better these days). That makes that shirt nearly nine years old! Those Dickies guys, they don't fuck around ...