FUTURE OF PUNK ?

 

About a year ago, I did an interview for a Serbian zine called OOPS….. when I’d done it I felt like I had been a bit negative about the scene and stuff in places…. In particular the question below, so I wondered what some others may have thought about those aspects of  the interview… so I mailed this to a few folks, and was hoping to get a discussion going and keep the conversation between us flowing and exchange some ideas which I would then print in this here zine… alas, only Graham (Crime Scene distro) and Andras replied, and I got so busy with other things that I neglected the zine a little bit and didn’t really follow this through as much as I planned.. anyhow, some opinions are expressed, so I thought I’d still print them here… anyone got any comments? Then get in touch with me at the address at the front, cheers. You can view the whole interview I answered on my webpage at www.rippingthrash.com Thanks to Graham and Andras for the input…. If anyone has opinions about any of the points raised here, let me know. I want feedback !!!!

AND ABOUT SCENE BACK THEN - CAN YOU MAYBE MAKE SOME COMPARISONS BETWEEN THOSE DAYS AND TODAYS SCENE?                  

Steve: Yes, a lot of things have changed, I guess things can't stand still, people change, so by nature the scene is gonna change too, although I think a lot of the changes aren't for the better. Maybe I'm just sentimental, but I think the scene was better back then… but that's maybe just cause it was newer to me then ? Main changes: the scene is a lot smaller now, especially in the UK, I think a lot of the old crew have settled down, left the scene, got into rave or whatever. It's a very small core of people left that are active, and gig attendances these days are quite low, back in the 80s it was a lot bigger, I suppose cause of bands like CRASS and CONFLICT. One positive note though is that the DIY network across the world is a lot more organised these days, back in the mid-80s there wasn't really an established diy network for distributing records etc. Another change in the scene is that it is now more split into different factions such as new school hardcore, pop-punk, emo, grind, anarcho punk etc. I remember back in the 80s that everything was part of one general hardcore punk scene. Young kids in the UK sadly are not getting into anarcho punk, crust etc, they all go for the skate punk, new school and emo shit, which probably explains a little why the scene is so small, the anarcho punk scene here is mainly full of 30+ folks such as me !!!

WHERE DO YOU SEE PUNK GOING?                                                                         

Steve: I really don't know where punk is going to go. I'm positive about a lot of things, but in general I'm negative about the scene as it is getting smaller all the time, I'm talking about anarcho punk, hardcore punk scene of course rather than punk in general (ie pop punk etc), the scene is getting smaller, people lose interest as they get older and they aren't replaced by younger members, it’s the same people who keep things going and so what will it be like in 10-15 years when a lot of us are approaching 50 years old ?? well I think the punk scene will still exist because there's a core of people who are 'in it for life', it's part of us. So I think something will still be happening, but I think it could achieve so much more than it is at present… I think the only way to combat this is for the scene to be more united, as there's a lot of people doing good things but in all different scenes etc, it all needs bringing together… it's too segregated at present which I think is killing the scene. Also it seems to me that the scene isn't political as it used to be. I suppose that's understandable to an extent when you consider the mid 80s scene was bigger and inspired by Crass, Conflict etc. But on the positive side a lot of people are still actively involved in political stuff, it's just usually on a more local level I think than in the past (except for the anti capitalist demos for example). It's a common perception that the punk scene and the activist scenes are more separate than in the past.

Andras: First off, your interview with the Serbian zine. I don't think that you were negative at all, really, just pretty objective and realistic. I will take issue with one point of yours though, where you say: "Young kids in the UK sadly are not getting into anarcho punk ..."

This raises a few issues. First off is the one of musical taste. I'm not into anarcho punk as musically it does absolutely nothing for me. This is not to say that I don't empathise with the ideas and opinions that some anarcho bands put forward, it's just that the medium leaves me cold. Moving on to the message, I have to admit that I think the one put forward by most anarcho bands is that of resigned negativity. Yes, I know that things are fucked up, I know the world is going to hell, but it doesn't take a punk band to tell me that. I can switch on BBC News 24 and get enough fuel for negativity and bitterness. This is one of the reasons kids don't switch on to anarcho. They're at a stage of their life when they're full of energy and, for the most part, joy. They're not yet jaded enough to empathise with anarcho. They're also confused about a lot of things which we older punkers take for granted - sexuality, relationships, peer pressure - so find a sympathetic ear in skate punk and emo etc. This is why bands like Good Riddance, Avail, Dillinger Four and Propagandhi will probably do more to influence kids politically than some bitter anarcho band trotting out the same party line as they were doing nearly 20 years ago.
I also think that anarcho bands are so stuck in their own ghetto that they don't see that it's actually a fantastic thing that kids get into Avail, Dillinger Four and Propagandhi as opposed to the mainstream alternatives of Blink 182, Sum 41 and nu-metal crap. And maybe some kids will get to the good, independent label stuff by starting off listening to Blink 182 - how many of their fans gave wondered about the drummer's Dag Nasty tattoo, for example?
Finally, I think the point of ghetto is vital. I feel that the anarcho scene makes no effort at all to include "the kids", plowing on in the same tired furrow. Here in Bristol, local collectives put on the kind of bands which they like - largely anarcho. Which is fine, but then they complain that the kids and people like myself don't turn up. I supported anarcho gigs for years, hated most of the bands but did my bit for "the scene". Needless to say, the same dedication wasn't shown when other, non-anarcho punk and hardcore bands did the rounds and eventually I got sick of hearing the same tired lines with no real positive solutions beyond trotted out to the drunken converted. If we want to talk of "unity" we have to go back to those genuinely mixed line-ups of yore - put on a sXe hardcore band with an anarcho band, a skate band and an emo band and you might actually get somewhere towards that vague ideal of genuine scene unity: the underground against the mainstream.

 

Graham (2003): I agree with Andras on the point of @narcho exclusivity. I have been part of putting gigs on for years in Bristol now and granted I tend to only put on bands I like (why lose money on bands I don`t like?) but there`s a large slice of our crowd who only go to certain styles of punk and do moan about "the youth" not turning up. Well the prospect of attending a gig full of drunken 30 somethings harping on about the 80`s and looking down their noses at anyone with a taste in music which does`nt fit their microscopic worldview must be pretty daunting. This obviously is`nt the case of all older punks but you know, unless we encourage people to get involved it`ll turn into Kerrang punk and MTV arseholes before we know it. Share your fucking thoughts and tape them old bands, lend them zines, don`t just moan about them.

 

Steve: Andras raises a few points here that I would question… first off, people don’t know how fucked the world is, or if they do, they aren’t always aware as to why and the real reasons for all of this mess, ie reading between the lines and seeing through the bullshit fed from the main news channels and through the tabloid press…. And how many young kids are tuning in to BBC News 24, only a minority I would’ve thought… to take a paerrticular topic, I would guess there is little coverage of say animal rights on BBC News 24… in fact animal rights issues are mainly ignored by the media, there seems to me to be more sympathy in the mainstream media for anti capitalism issues than for animal rights issues… and as the media in this country is so powerful, that has to have quite an effect…

 

The other point I would question is about kids being young and not being cynical or jaded enough to be into anarcho… so whats changed since 1982 then? I can speak for myself and probably a lot of other people my age that were ‘youths’at that time but we were brought up on the Crass era etc, and not just for the music but those bands influenced a hell of a lot of the punks who were getting into the scene at that time….the world was fucked then and punks wanted to do something about it… how many punks got into direct action through being infuenced by Conflict for example? Andras, are you saying then that the world is less fucked today and that theres less for the kids to react against ?? I’d say the opposite is true and the world is more more fucked and there are more issues to react against.. I mean there are new issues now like globalisation, but all the old issues like animal rights, war, poverty etc they haven’t gone away since 1980 have they? All those issues are still there… I just think its easier for kids to get into punk because of MTV, the internet etc, but the punk they get into is watered down, musically and lyrically….(with some exceptions)…. The message ain’t getting across… you only have to look at how many kids went in and ate at McDonalds after seeing Propagandhi…. Whats that all about?

I do however agree with Andras’ points about the ghettoisation of the scene at times and that more gig lineups should reflect different punk genres.. there’s a few DIY gig promoters who are trying to do this so maybe that’s something that’s improving….

 

ANDRAS (May 2003) It's a mark of how jaded I've become that I seem to care less about this now than I did a year ago! I do, but I've stopped believing that punk either has any of the answers, can do anything about it or that I would think any  differently had I not got into punk/hardcore. But I digress. No, I think you're right Steve - the world is more fucked today than it was back then, but only marginally more so (compare the Gulf of Tonking incident early on in the Vietnam War to the premiss on which the latest Gulf War was fought). But there is definitely less for the kids to react against. It's often the case that the means of reaction and rebellion - art, music, literature, film - are becoming increasingly commodified (cf. Crimethink's take on the Simpsons).

 

On the other hand, I'd agree today with you Steve that they just don't know what's going on, through unconscious or wilful ignorance. Then again, most older people don't know where to look for creditable, trustworthy news beyond the mainstream media headlines. And most - though not all - of the younger kids that I know that are into punk/hardcore have been totally caught up in the image of it all and don't really care about either the substance beyond some sloganeering or its history, ethics etc. We have to face the fact that capitalism and the new US world order has won, for now, and all we can hope for is a rearguard action to change the nature of its victory. That's the main change since 1982, but it was on the cards even back then. Any other view betrays a critical ignorance of the extent of both governmental and corporate influence and power in the modern world and how hardwired the capitalist mindset is into everyone - even into the punk scene, which has yet to, and never will, come up with a viable alternative to the capitalist way of trading and exchanging goods.  And while anarcho-punk may well have been less jaded back in the 80's, what it now presents to the outsider is a bunch of people preaching to the converted and making no attempt - with some exceptions - to include anyone that doesn't look like all the other anarcho-punks. Well, great, just like the mainstream then. (And what's so punk about drinking corporate beer and wearing leather anyway? But that's another gripe - the truth is that few people, of any persuasion or subculture thinks about about things in detail or less than superficially (another minor capitalist victory, keeping everyone's eyes off the ball ...))

 

So in essence I think the future of punk is to be one of the many sub-cultures educating and inspiring a few who are disaffected with mainstream thinking and behaviour, usually before it pisses them of and disaffects them in turn with its cliquey-ness and own narrow-mindedness and the misguided notion that it is somehow the sole saviour of anti-capitalist thought, left-wing ethics and ignored minority issues. Yeah, all the way to the bar. And the more punk allows itself to be ghettoised, the more it allows its component parts to be co-opted by corporate opportunism. But singing a few songs and doing the odd benefit will never, ever do anything about poverty, war, social injustice and animal rights other than raise the awareness of the few open-minded people still listening.

(I was a little up against time when replying this time (and up against a VERY demanding two-year old!) and couldn't expand, discuss or quantify some of my statements nor yours as much as I could have and wanted to – Andras).

 

Graham (2003) As for people not knowing what`s going on in the world with regards to politics etc. Well I personally think a lot of people do know what`s what but just don`t care. Sad fact I`m afraid. It takes time, effort, emotion and dedication to give a shit and that`s in short supply in this cultural climate/world view that a lot of people have. It`s not cynicism it`s reality. The US model of capitalism has pretty much won. Punk has been co-opted by the system on a majority of levels. Most the threat has been removed from bands that are currently "trendy" in the bigger punk scene, be it the removal of virtually all politics and an obsession with punk fashion. Style over substance if you will. That said I`m not totally jaded with punk (just yet) and there`s still a hell of a lot of dedicated people and bands out there to keep me inspired.There will always be a section of punk doing the right thing, sadly I think a lot of kids will dismiss their message and just be into it for sad reasons like "it`s brutal man".

 

Graham’s answers (he answered the whole interview which was not quite my intention! But as he gave answers I may as well print them!)

 

WHAT IS DIY IN YOUR OPINION?
This is such a subjective question that you`ll never find an answer, I can see where Steve is coming from but on the other hand each person has their own take as to what is or is`nt DIY. I personally disagree with Steve when he says he likes to avoid "stores" when selling his records.
(Steve: I don’t even buy records from stores any more!! Why would I want to trek to the nearest city to get to a record shop that’s got anything half decent and then have to pay twice the price for it? All the good stuff is available from distros anyway… I’ve hardly been to a record shop in years…) I have no problem selling my records to the local shop in town as I ask them to keep the price down. If no-one has their records in shops how are you meant to get the all important message of punk across? Are we going to carry on preaching to an ever dwindling converted mass of 30 something punks? CRASS had their records sold in shops. It`s a case of doing it on your own terms that`s all. Most labels though do it through a third party such as a bigger distributor, and that`s where the problems can start I guess. I guess avoiding HMV, VIRGIN etc is a good idea as they pretty much have no respect for people/bands and are just after the money. Smaller "indie" shops however are fair game with me. It`s a tough nut to crack but if some-one could come up with a good distribution network for small indie shops in the UK it would be so much easier to set your own terms and conditions when selling records like keeping the price low. Hey if CRASS did it, it must be right?

 WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT BUSINESS IN HARDCORE? IF PEOPLE MAKE MONEY OF HARDCORE PUNK? AND WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT ALL THOSE REUNIONS OF OLD BANDS?

The idea of people making money off punk is happening, there are a number of people GOODLIFE, DISCHORD, REVELATION etc spring to mind as well as a few smaller more DIY people who`s names I guess I should not mention as I doubt they`re paying tax!! I have no problem with people making a living off of their bands/label/zine etc as long as they do it in a considerate manner. It`d be great if we could all get out of working for "the man" and work for ourselves. Imagine that, I`d love to be able to write for a load of zones and get paid for it and then go off on tour for a few months with my band knowing that I`d make enough to cover my rent and bills. Life would be fucking great. I`m not talking about a lot of money just enough to get by on. As it stands most people have to suffer in shit jobs and do punk as a hobby. Punk is unfortunately so small that the chances of making a living is pretty much impossible from punk. As for old reunion bands, well as a rule I think it`s a stupid idea. You are NEVER going to be as good as people remember. Punk was about getting rid of the dinosaur rock bands that toured the same set over and over again in the 70`s. why is it now acceptable? You can go to the `holidays in the sun` festival in the UK and watch bands all weekend playing 20 year old songs, which tend to have lost their relevance, and these bands get paid fucking loads of money for pretending to be something they are not. There are a few exceptions to the rule such a SUBHUMANS but they are few and far between. Do you want punk to stay the same and become safe and conservative or do you want it to continually evolve and be a threat in the here and now? Or are you happy to pretend that is 1982 and that the Falklands war is still on? Some people need to re-examine why they`re involved with punk if that`s the case. Punk will be left behind if it stays in the past. Maybe it already has been left behind?

 

DON'T YOU THINK THERE'S A LOT OF HYPOCRISY GOING ON WITHIN THE SCENE?

Good question, there is definitely hypocrisy in "the scene" as It tends to reflect "normal" society. People are people and sadly they can be self centred and complete bastards. That`s a fact of life. Punk is pretty hypocritical in the fact that it (or a very large part) refuses to look at itself in a critical manner, how we do things, on a musical level, and personal/political. The answers were not cast in stone by bands like CRASS, DEAD KENNEDYS et al.

 

WHERE DO YOU SEE PUNK GOING?
I have no idea. I know Steve is saying that it`s getting smaller and smaller but personally I don`t think that`s true, maybe just in the UK things are pretty dead at the moment but I reckon it`s cyclical and  globally I think that it`s bigger than ever. I bet that bands such as CRASS, BLACK FLAG etc sell as many if not more records today than they ever did. There is now scenes in countries like MALAYSIA, PERU, ROMANIA, RUSSIA even CHINA! These people are possibly our future. What`s to say the next CRASS is`nt going to come from LITHUANIA?
Punk has already discovered metal many years ago and gone down that path techno/noise seems to be a likely avenue for it to go down next. There are plenty of HIP-HOP labels and artists that qould come under the banner of punk if the rules on musical style were`nt so dogmatic in punk rock. I guess in `77 you would never have dreamed of bands like YACOPSAE, HIS HERO IS GONE, ENDSTAND etc so who knows what the future holds. As long as it does`nt lose touch with its roots and esp. it`s political content then it can be a limitless movement.

 

Steve: I agree with Graham in that I guess the scene globally is bigger than ever, I was referring to the UK when I said things were getting smaller… one of these days I’ll get out of this country for a bit and travel, visit some friends I’ve made through this DIY international network and see if the scene is healthier in Europe or wherever…


IS THERE ANYTHING IN HARDCORE PUNK THAT YOU WOULD REALLY WANT TO CHANGE?

How much space you got in the zine??! Ha ha. Obviously there are a lot of things that I consider crap in punk that I`d like to change and I mean a LOT, but as it stands I think we have a decent little network globally that provides opportunities that other music scenes do not. Think about what you can do in punk that would be laughed at by "normal" people and other music genres. For instance I know I can go to pretty much any city in the UK and get a place to stay for the night, because of the community spirit of people looking out for each other just because at the end of the day they share the same music taste and political beliefs. People have travelled the world like this.


AFTER ALL THOSE YEARS DO YOU FEEL YOU'VE LOST ANY IDEALS THAT YOU HAD – ARE THERE ANYTHING THAT YOU REALLY FOUGHT FOR WHEN YOU WERE YOUNGER AND LOST THAT?
The older you get the more cynical and jaded you are towards a lot of things, be it politics, music or whatever. When you`re young the idealistic goals you set yourself seem achievable. Come mid 20`s and you start to realize that life`s not fair and you are not likely to get your own way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



 

 

 

 

 

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