Thursday’s Tunes…in memory of Grant Hart

Husker Du Don’t Want To Know If You’re Lonely

 

This week’s Thursday’s Tunes are posted with a deep sense of loss.
Apparently Grant Hart from Husker Du has died.

I’m so sad. I never met the man, yet his music touched me in so many ways at different times of my life. Husker Du were my pre-Nirvana Nirvana. Lots of the things that I grew to love in R.E.M, the Replacements and the Jesus and Mary Chain struck me first with Husker Du.
As Michael Heaney and Michael Connerty noted, knowing about Husker Du in mid-1980s Dublin was like tapping into a wild and free American underground full of exciting music, possibilities and unlimited potential.

There was always a hint of hearbreak about Husker Du and Grant Hart’s later music. I know of few sadder, more honest, songs that his 2541.

Here are some memories of what Grant Hart meant to the small Dublin DIY independent music scene and some videos.

Michael Connerty: Such prolific output over those five or so years and so much of it was total dynamite. Before I had any of their records I had this taped off John Peel and must have listened to it about a thousand times!

It’s hard to get going today with the full volume Husker Du soundtrack. One of their unique qualities was their ability to convey intensity, youthful aggression and confusion at the same time as sweetness, melancholy and romance – absolutely perfect for that time of my life.

Michael recalled a night when as a DJ at the Cathedral Club he played Husker Du’s Songs About UFOs. Michael Heaney was one of the only people to dance!

Michael Heaney: I remember that night! I also recall Stan Erraught [Stars of Heaven] remarking on my Huskers badge after some Stars of Heaven gig – it was the first time I ever spoke to him. Back then, knowing bands like Husker Du was almost like a password to a secret, exciting world of music, shared only by a few fellow freaks. Those memories are all bound up with my love of the band. Poor old Grant

Husker Du Makes No Sense At All

 

 

Husker Du Could You Be The One

Husker Du Interview/Retrospective

Grant Hart 2541

 

Green Day Don’t Want To Know If You’re Lonely [Husker Do cover]

Michael

The Future of Punk: Heavy Drapes Interview

Has punk lost its energy and direction after 40 years?
Has it become a formula?
Can you combine influences as diverse as Crass, the Damned, Hanoi Rocks and Morrissey?

The new Scottish rockers, Heavy Drapes, combine a punky energy and style with a brash attitude and songs that pack a mighty punch. Live, as I watched them in front of a large crowd from the punk community in Blackpool, I was moved by their great songs, great sound and absolute commitment. I wanted to know more about them, and the band’s singer, De, was decent enough to answer some questions from me. I was impressed with his honesty. He wasn’t trying to be a ‘spokesman for a generation’, he was just trying to make music for his mates. Music with integrity and fire and passion. No compromises. No rock and roll fantasy. And that’s refreshing in 2017.

Michael: What are Heavy Drapes trying to achieve?

De: Short term, to write a set of songs that make people sit up and take notice. To record those songs and deliver an album which is viewed as something special. That’s where we are at the moment, playing the songs live to the people who want to hear them and then recording them.
We’ve achieved all the stuff needed to get us to this point, like grabbing people’s attention by being bloody good at what we do, shouting about it, reminding people that rock music doesn’t need to be dull, it can be dangerous, glamorous and fun.

Long term, as above with some cash behind us and on an international level.

It’s all about the music, nothing will be achieved with a shit album.
What other front-men/women have inspired you?
Very few to be honest. Iggy, Rotten and I’m struggling after that. There’s a number I’m interested in coz they deliver good chat, like Morrisey, Liam Gallagher, Ian Brown. They talk about stuff I can relate to.
I wanted to be a front-man because learning an instrument wasn’t for me but it was an attractive outlet to express myself.

What career highlights so far are you happiest with?

De: That changes week on week. Right now, it’s the success of the Rebellion show, the actual gig and the mountain of good stuff which has come on the back of it. To go from opening for 999 in front of 80 people (which was a great gig) to pulling over 2000 in the Empress Ballroom, all in 18 months with only a 4 track EP under our belt, is astonishing. How did that happen?

Punk was about style and politics as well as music…has style always been important to you personally?

Yes, more so than the politics. I was only a boy when punk grabbed me, it was the visual aspect mixed with high energy rock that got me hooked. Yeah, I was much more interested in a nice pair of trousers than I was with what ‘Anarchy’ actually meant. That wasn’t any different from my mates. We got into punk coz the bands poked fun at the stuff our big brothers liked. We loved the Damned too, the first album. The Clash were never big round my way. No one sounded as dangerous as Sex Pistols or the Damned; I wasn’t aware of Iggy & the Stooges until later.
All said and done. I got well into a bit of Crass; they nailed it visually and musically for me on the Stations of the Cross album.

 

When did you start going to gigs…..what gigs stand out for you?

Gigs in my early teens happened but when you don’t have your own cash, you need to be choosey. Possibly the most painful moments for me as a teenager were the times I didn’t have the cash for a show or being too young to get in.
The first time seeing the Damned was pretty exciting. It was absolutely believable to me that Vanian could jump off stage and suck my blood. They looked like a bunch of nutters, it was really appealing. These nutters delivered a perfect first album.

Brigandage, Boys Wonder, Sid Presley Experience, Hanoi Rocks, they’re all in my head at the moment, so they must be special. Public Image Limited the first time they toured; buzzing I was. And Oasis back in 1995 when they played Irvine Beach in a circus tent, there was something special happening, you could feel it.

Sex Pistols 1996 Glasgow, they looked and sounded like a big, fuck off rock band. Sex Pistols again at Crystal Palace, Birmingham, Brixton, Loch Lomond and Hammersmith. I’m a sucker for the big tunes.

5 favourite singles

Easy and without hesitation. Anarchy In The UK, God Save The Queen, Pretty Vacant (Sex Pistols), Problem Child (The Damned), Sheena Is A Punk Rocker (Ramones).

5 favourite albums

I only have 3 albums where every single track gives me goosebumps; Never Mind The Bollocks, Damned Damned Damned and [Iggy and the Stooges] Raw Power.
The other 2 would have to be, ummmmm! Ramones 1st and Stooges/Fun House.

Why has punk remained so vital to people?

I don’t have the answer to that. The punk that’s out there at the moment isn’t vital to me, I’d rather listen to nothing. We formed Heavy Drapes to give our mates a band to come and see coz they were moaning about everything being a bit dull. The more shows we did, the more people were telling us the same thing. We’re 4 guys in a rock band who like a bit of early punk rock and we’re stirring things up because we’ve taken the time to think about what we’re actually doing. It’s vital to the people who like us that we do well and don’t self-destruct, they’ve bought into us but that’s not a punk thing, that’s a music thing. Nope, lost with that one.

How are you carrying on the punk ‘tradition’?

By stealing the bits we like and moving forward. I’ve never thought of it as tradition, I just think if you’re going to use bits and pieces from the past to create something fresh then why not the good bits? I’m not going to be inspired by Rancid, then try and sneak a beard into punk. I’d rather have the awareness to know that Stiv Bators with a beard would have been laughed at. It’s like, punk has become so far removed from what it was. It’s like the hippies have taken over. We exist to show that it doesn’t need to be like that, it can have a bit of style and swagger.

So there you have it. Heavy Drapes, a new band with roots in punk. With songs full of sinew and muscle, blood and guts. And if their roots are in punk, they are not just wallowing in nostalgia, looking at the punk past, in fact, they may be the future of punk.

Even better, they have just enlisted Paul Research. Many of remember the brilliant but short-lived band, Scars. In my opinion, Paul was one of the best of the post-punk guitar players, with a distinctive sound, full of electricity and imagination. Scars played a diverse, daring style of New Pop and played a brilliant set in the Dublin’s Project Arts Centre with The Atrix in 1981. A gig that lives in the memory.

Michael

Interrobang‽ Interview

 

How do you follow up on the most unlikely global hit pop song ever?

A song, perhaps best known for the infectious chorus, ‘I get knocked down, but I get up again’, scorched across the global pop charts some years ago. Its title was Tubthumbping and the collective responsible for it were Chumbawamba previously known only to the DIY music community.

Interrobang‽ are the new band from two members of Chumbawamba, Dunstan and Harry, yet the sound couldn’t be more different. That’s says a lot about a commitment to be creative, innovative and experimental. Onstage they are dynamic and thrilling, combining just the sounds of guitar and drums with Dunstan’s vibrant, expressive talk-songs.

Because the guitar is such a vital part of the band’s sound, yet avoids most of the clichés and limitations of rock guitar, I wanted to know more about it. It reminded me of the intensity of Fugazi and even the Ruts or the interesting bits of Bauhaus in places, so I asked the Interrobang‽ guitar-person Griff and here’s what he had to say.

 

 

 

Michael: For me, Interrobang‽ came as a complete surprise. I’d seen two-piece bands with a drummer before, going back to House of Freaks circa 1989, yet Interrobang‽ was captivating, even revolutionary. Musically speaking, can you recall any acts that gave you a similar feeling, overwhelming you by being original without feeling like a gimmick?

Griff: I love that feeling when you discover a new band that makes you throw out everything you previously understood, and makes you want to set sail on a new course. I felt like that when I first heard Public Enemy in the 80s. A friend leant me It Takes A Nation Of Millions on cassette and it was all I listened to for about a month, it blew my teenage mind. The noise, the words, it was something totally new to me and it seemed to make so much other music I was listening to at the time redundant.

 

How difficult is it for you as a musician to compose for a lyricist/performer who seems to have a very strong sense of how to perform his lyrics?

Griff: Our process for writing the Interrobang‽ material was very much a collaborative effort. The initial batch of 4 songs were created in a room as a live band, using improvisation as the main way to generate sounds. Dunstan would start reciting/shouting the lyrics at a tempo and vocal pitch that was right for him and I would respond with whatever felt right in the spur of the moment. We recorded what we did so that we could pick and choose the things that were working after the event. Even so, quite a few of the songs just came out fully formed that way. I think Curmudgeon and Billingham just happened without us having to change very much, we just used the recordings to learn exactly what we had played on the initial attempt. Obviously slight improvements and tweaks to the guitar parts happened as the songs all found their space over time, but the structure and essence of those two songs just arrived fully formed.

Geographical limitations meant that we had to find other ways of writing as the project started becoming more serious as I was in Leeds, and Dunstan in Brighton. After the initial batch of songs we moved to a process where I would record improvised guitar parts and ideas in isolation and add them to a Dropbox folder. Dunstan would then pick and choose the ideas that he felt best suited the mood and tempo for songs as he generally had a good idea of how he wanted to deliver the lyrics he had. He would then chop up my guitar ideas and put rough vocal takes on top using garage band i think? I would then get those Garage Band versions from Dropbox and then try and play his arrangements again as a song, maybe changing a few things here and there. This would then go back in the Dropbox and Dunstan would then add his vocal again, maybe moving guitars around again. We’d go back and forth like this until we had a finished song of guitars and vocals. i was always keeping an eye on the parts to make sure that it was something I could recreate live using the loop pedal, as we were very much focused on the live presentation of the songs for the first couple of years. The idea of how to record them came much later. We deliberately made the decision not to think about the recordings until we had played as many live shows as possible. We wrote 12 songs in this way before Harry joined the band on drums.

 

Can you tell us a little about how you actually create your sounds in the live shows?

Griff: My technical set up is very simple as far as the sounds I create, as I don’t use any pedals to influence the personality of the sound in any way, it’s just the Les Paul plugged into the amp, well… 2 amps 🙂

In the initial rehearsals I tried to do everything using a single guitar amp. I’d start looping and then would play live guitar lines over the top of the loop but it was immediately apparent that that wasn’t going to work as the drums had to follow the loop rather than the other way around. It was impossible to do that with the live guitar playing over the top, we kept losing track of where the loop was and things would fall apart.

So, I did a bit of research and bought a Radial Tonebone Twin-City Active ABY Switcher pedal. This let me send the guitar to 2 separate outputs. You can send to output A, or to output B, or A AND B at the same time. I sent output A to the loop pedal and then the loop pedal could have its own dedicated amp. Then when i played my live lines on top I could switch to output B going to a second amp and that way the loop amp was playing LOUD right next to the drums, with no live guitar obscuring the loop. Now it was possible for Harry to follow the loop without things getting out of synch. It still wasn’t easy to do, and it required a great deal of skill form Harry, especially as we drop the loop out in sections and need to maintain tempos so that when the loop comes back in things don’t fall over, but Harry managed to do it with some practice.

It wasn’t until we got all of this working that I realised that I could voice the amps in a way that would sound amazing when both amps are playing the same sounds (ie. when the loop drops out). I make sure the loop amp is quite clean, with a lot of attack, to make it easy for Harry to hear and follow, but the live amp has a bit more gain like a traditional rock sound. The result when you play power chords through both of the amps is a big part of the Interrobang‽ sound.

 

How did you come to fall in love with the guitar in the first place?

Griff: I was always very musical as a kid and was playing violin from the age of about 7 in primary school. My friends were always surprised how I could pick up an instrument and play any tune that they named, it was like a party trick. I started playing guitar when I was about 11 when a guitar playing friend of mine asked me to help him work out the chords for ACDC Back in Black. Once I’d worked it out I couldn’t put his guitar down, and ended up getting my own £60 Kay’s guitar a few months later for Christmas from a second-hand shop at the end of my street. I never put it down from the day I got it. I spent a lot of time working out guitar parts from cassettes I had of The Buzzcocks, SLF, Sex Pistols, The Damned and plenty of others.

 

I’ve read a bit about your ‘mood boards’ (I am a teacher and this is very exciting to me, as lots of my students aren’t rewarded by the standardised education system). Can you tell us more about how you use the mood boards as a road map?

Griff: The mood board was the idea we had on the night that we formed Interrobang‽
Dunstan told me that he had all these lyrics ready, and when he told me what they were about I immediately wanted to help him put something together to deliver them to an audience. I didn’t want to push my musical ideas onto him, as i knew he would have strong opinions about how he was expecting it to sound, so I suggested to him that he make a compilation CD of songs and bands that he thought we should be referencing. It was so useful for me as it was a very coherent compilation and I was inspired by it instantly, having lots of ideas about what to do. The keystone of the mood board for me was the Gang of Four and Wire songs. I knew it had to be anti-rock, brittle, insistent, and intense.

The other very important influence on there, and the one that pretty much dictated, and helped me to develop, a specific guitar style for the project was Dr Feelgood. To be honest I have stolen Wilko’s approach and style on the guitar, and then added a few inflections of my own. I decided to put a few rules in place for my parts, to try and spell out the anti-rock thing. Self-imposed rules included; NO bending of the strings, NO hammer ons, NO pull offs, NO solos, EVERY note was of equal importance so I took Wilko’s relentless up/down strumming pattern and applied it to single notes on single strings. I tried to make it as robotic as possible to emphasise the motorik nature of the sound that you get when using loops.

There were other things on the mood board which didn’t influence my playing style as much but were more influential in an atmospheric aspect. Things like Beefheart and Tom Waits.
The mood board was a great way to start the project and it was good to communicate with actual sounds and songs rather than dialogue which can leave too much room for mis-understandings and conflicting assumptions. I really think that this helped us get to the interrobang‽ sound quickly and without too many wrong turnings.

 

Not everyone is familiar with your past history, what parts of your music career have shaped you, and what you bring to Interrobang‽

Griff: I’ve played in a wide range of musical projects throughout my life, and it would be hard to find a consistent musical approach or thread through them all. I’ve usually been a facilitator of other people’s ideas though.

The musical project I was working on directly before the Interrobang‽ project was an improvised psych rock 3 piece that was all about the loop pedal. I’d just come out of a singer-songwriter band before that and I was sick of spending rehearsals discussing what should happen when, rather than actually playing. We were called The Other Things and we would play for 4 hours solid once a week. We’d record the entire 4 hours and then edit it into a 40-minute album, and stick it on Bandcamp. I was exploring what I could do with the loop pedal in that project, so when Interrobang‽ started I knew I wanted to put some of those techniques to use in a different context.

 

To me, Interrobang‽ is a form of mash-up, with music meeting a dramatic vocal performance. Can you think of any other cultural mash-ups that you admire/appreciate?

Griff: Hah, that’s funny that you use the word “mash-up” because the only other musical collaboration the I’d had with Dunstan was in the early 00s when we worked together to put out a white label of a mash up that I had created. I was in London at the time and I’d made a bunch of tracks where you take accapellas or instrumentals of popular songs and mash them together to make new songs. I’d made one that mashed together Kylie Minogue’s “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head” with Happy Monday’s “24 Hour Party People”, basically it was Sean Ryder doing his thing on top of the Kylie groove, with Kylie singing the chorus’. Dunstan loved it and set up a little label and we made 1000 white labels of it, and then drove round London record shops selling them to shops out of the boot of a car. It was a lot of fun.

I think we also tried to do something similar using lots of post punk 7” singles that Dunstan had, but tried to add his vocals on top, a bit like the early Sleaford Mods stuff that Jason did before Andrew Fearn was on board. I can’t remember why we didn’t get very far with that project, but it didn’t really come to fruition. I think I have some recordings on a hard drive somewhere of that stuff. I might have to go and dig it out to see what’s there!

 

Did any punk records/groups/statements make an impression on you? Any punk records or acts that stand out for you?

Griff: I was born in 71 so was too young to get any of the first wave of the punk thing as it happened. But I did go digging through the punk sections in local record shops as a teenager in the mid 80s and loved all the big names that were available there. The first gig I ever went to was Public Image Ltd at Manchester Apollo, it was quite a daunting experience as I was about 15. Most of my friends at the time were either into indie stuff like The Smiths and The Cure or into Led Zepellin and Pink Floyd. I loved all that stuff too.

One record that made a big impact on me was Rudimentary Peni’s Death Church. When I saw the hand drawn cover in a shop in Affleck’s Palace in Manchester I was intrigued and bought it straight away. I didn’t really understand the context of that record, knew nothing about the anarcho punk scene, but it totally engulfed me. It was so dark and was like nothing else I had ever heard. Quite psychedelic in a way.

When I was older at the end of the 80s I moved to Newcastle and met a new crowd who were all into American hardcore stuff. Minor Threat totally blew my mind because of their straight edge stance and total commitment to their message. I shaved my head and tried to adopt some of their approach for a while, but struggled with the straight edge thing, haha.

One of my favourite bands that I discovered around that time, and one that I think has a huge influence on how I approach the Interrobang‽ songs was NoMeansNo. The “Wrong” album was, and still is, one of my favourite albums.

https://www.facebook.com/intrrbng/?ref=br_rs

 

Paranoid Visions talk about Rebellion festival


One of the most-talked about events at the Rebellion festival this year was the collaboration between Steve Ignorant from Crass and Dublin’s punk stalwarts, Paranoid Visions. They took to the stage in front of one of the biggest crowds of the festival. For anyone who has been following Paranoid Visions since their early days this was an unlikely triumph. They struggled to get gigs in their home-town of Dublin when punk was a dirty word and punks bands were barred from just about every Dublin venue. Paranoid Visions persevered though and gained the respect of the international punk community. In fact, the band are largely responsible for the current thriving punk community in Ireland. I asked Peter Jones (P.A. Jesu) from the band some questions about the ‘Blackpool triumph’.

How did it feel playing in front of thousands of people on Saturday?

I was very nervous to be honest. Most of those songs have lived with me for almost 40 years so I know how much they mean to people, not least myself. What made it worse was we had opened a floodgate and the buzz seemed to be quite strong about the show. Steve holds those songs so dearly to his heart that he always wants to do them justice. But hearing the roar as we came out, listening to the “bomb tape” crass used to use live and kicking into Owe us a Living and just hearing the power of the live sound and seeing the delight on people’s faces calmed me within seconds. It was a really special 50 minutes I have to say!!! Those songs are deceptively difficult, crazy structures and dynamics and a very accomplished and original rhythm section!

 

Did it feel surreal considering how ‘far away’ punk felt when you went to that first Poison Girls gig?

Not really, over the intervening years we / I have grown into it and that initial introduction to the diy, no stars, no barriers approach of true punk is in my blood I suppose. But that being said, afterwards, I was thinking about it and wondering exactly how I had reached this stage!

 

How did the connection with Steve Ignorant first come about?

Steve always gets asked this too. And the answer is that we just kind of assimilated him! I promoted the Dublin gig for his Last Supper tour and we were supporting him in Manchester. We just kind of hit it off, he liked the clear chaos that surrounds us and we weren’t tongue tied around him so we are easy to get along with. We were asked to support in New York but when their visas fell through we were left high and dry with flights booked and only local gigs to do, so he felt obliged to pay us back with the support at the final show in Shepherds Bush.

After the gig we were chatting and I said we had a song (Split Personality) that needed his delivery style and we were struggling to get it right. So he said “fuck it, I’ll do it if you want”. So we arranged for him to come over and stuck him in a studio to do it and also suggested we did another one, “rock n roll n revolution”, for a single Louder than War records wanted from us. Done and dusted in 2 hours including tea break. Later that night he explained how he really enjoyed working with us like that as it reminded him of recording Stations of the Crass… get in, get it done, get out! And said any time we want to do more he’d be up for it. So then it just steam rolled…..the proposed ep became an album, one off gig at Rebellion led to tons of offers, many of which we turned down and continue to turn down if it doesn’t suit (we turned down a lot of money for Punk Rock Bowling in LA as Steve had 2 Slice of Life gigs already booked…. !). I think the relationship is long-term even after we all retire from live duties we will nestle in studios to create music together!

 

Can you tell people who missed it what you performed?

The idea was to do songs that encompassed Steve’s 40 years singing in punk bands plus a nod towards the scene he helped create through crass, so we have songs there from Crass, Conflict, Stratford Mercenaries, Schwartzenegger and with ourselves. Plus Poison Girls, Dirt and Flux of Pink Indians songs because we all loved them so much and thought it may increase the party/celebration feel.

Owe us a living
Securicor
Join the dots
Banned from the roxy
Hiroshima
Where is love
Charity begins at home
So what
What a shame
Berkshire cunt
No more running
Braindance
Persons unknown
Big a little a
Tube disasters

 

Yikes…..

I have seen the audience for P.V. grow every year at Rebellion, what was it liked playing there this year?

It was amazing. I thought our crowd might be compromised as we were technically overlapping with DOA, the Members, the Professionals and Slaves… plus we were playing the following day with Steve. But we jammed the venue to capacity. I don’t really know, but the reaction commercially and critically to the past few records has been better than ever so maybe the new breed of punk rockers are getting into us too or maybe its an audience outside the UK and Ireland that’s finding out about us.

Is this the most stable line-up the bad has had? To me it feels like the most vibrant/powerful.

Absolutely. We’ve always been a bit of a revolving door. We have traditionally had adequate musicians who really understood what we were doing, or great musicians who didn’t, or in some cases musicians who had no concept of what we are about…. But for 5 records and 4 years we have had the perfect combination of terrific musicians who completely understand what being in this band involves and why we do it. They also embrace the musical diversity and have a style of their own which fits really well. It’s the best and most stable line up we have had. And that shows in the records and gigs we’ve done.

 

What other bands were highlights for you this year?

Interrobang continue to prove they are the best band in the UK. Slaves blew me away. TV Smith, UK Subs and Ruts DC were as astonishing as ever. Bad Religion are amazing and I was so pleased to see them for the first time.

 

What’s next for Paranoid Visions?

We are writing the next album “Dog Eat God” for 2018 release. Pushing the ante even further with this one. One track, Alphabetti Spaghetti will have 26 guest vocalists. We cut down on gigs this year and will continue this practice next year so everything we do feels like an event. We are also working on plans for a short tour with Steve and are entertaining offers from several territories before deciding which to do!

 

What’s happening with the new punk bands in Ireland?

Lots of great local bands as always. The Lee Harveys, the Black Pitts and I Am A Carcrash continue momentum and will all likely have releases over the next year. We are also starting a series of singles called “No Romance” (continuation of the Advance Records and Dando Sessions themes). This will consist of a 4 band 4 track split ep to serve as an intro to the individual 3 track ep releases by each band to follow in the wake. Volume 1 will have Audible Joes, the Turn, the Gakk and the Nilz on it. We are talking about a UK bands one afterwards. There will be a common theme throughout for artwork and presentation so they become collectable.

Michael

Rebellion 2017 Protex

The pioneering punk/new wave bands of Northern Ireland including the Undertones, Stiff Little Fingers and Rudi didn’t just write great songs, they wrote great pop songs. Of course we didn’t appreciate it at the time but they didn’t just write pop songs for the moment, they wrote songs that stood the test of time.

Protex were one of best of that wave of bands, although the commercial success they’re deserved eluded them.

This is brilliant bouncy pop, ’60s harmonies on songs like Got Johnny, Place In Your Heart, Private Lines and I Can’t Cope have the members of the international punk clans rocking back and forth in their Docs and brother creepers in appreciation. Lots of the crowd can’t have been born when Protex first recorded these songs, but the young Brazilian punks who look they stepped out of Love And Rockets light up and sing along with Don’t Ring Me Up. The tall serious German punks nod along and even crack a smile.

While Protex wrote escapist pop back in the day, new songs like Walking On A Tightrope have a political edge. That represents progress, at the height of the Troubles every utterance from an Ulster band was judged as either too political or not political enough. It was a terrible trap for young bands, so it is heartening to see that for Protex the passing of the decades means greater creative freedom.

Long may their vocal harmonies and ringing pop tunes entertain us.

 

Michael

Rebellion 2017 Petrol Girls

Petrol Girls

The reason why a festival like Rebellion is such a goldmine for me is that you can discover fantastic new bands that deliver on every level. And so it was with the mighty Petrol Girls.

In fact this afternoon’s trio, the Membranes, Interrobang, and Petrol Girls indicate why punk is so interesting, even if it is self-defined and means something different to everyone. Together, the three bands took the festival up a level. It was already great, this made in really great.

It is empowering and inspiring to see the level of honesty that Petrol Girls possess.

8 years ago they were on acoustic stage, now here they are holding their own on the main stage, a thrilling four piece, male-female combo with lots to say. They don’t just entertain – they provoke, and give you lots to think about.

And if there is any doubt that they can entertain, their ‘ahh ahh aah’s’ are a welcome sonic addition to punk’s song language.

There’s certainly no doubt about their aim to provoke……the set began with an angry declaration that they stand against ‘punks replicating the forms of authority that we stand against’. Forms of authority that Include sexist, racist, homophobic attitudes.

I can only admire a singer who addresses recent suicides in the music community and urges the audience individuals to ‘try and fucking talk about this shit….to friends, family, mental health professionals.’ She went even further and spoke about her personal experience with ‘dynamic therapy, online cognitive behaviour resources….all during a set of powerful, captivating, intense and creative hard music.

This was not some narcissistic ‘look-at-me’ drama either, the meaningful words were combined with a nurturing sensitivity. Onlookers were advised that in four songs time sexual violence was going to be addressed from the stage, giving people who weren’t prepared for such a discussion the choice to avoid it.

Petrol Girls remind me of the type of community solidarity that the early hardcore bands, most notably 7 Seconds sang about. Yet this seems to be an evolution, instead of communicating ‘we are all together – that’s great’, the new enlightened punks like Petrol Girls are saying ‘we are all together – and if thing’s aren’t great, let’s figure out ways collectively to make them better’. And that includes refusing unwanted advances, rejecting gender norms that don’t fit and the ‘bullshit society expects of us’. Now that’s what I call punk rock!

A big personal highlight was the song, No One Reacts, and another one was seeing the merch desk that included a music, patches, their own fanzine as well as a book endorsed by Margaret Atwood, no less, about women’s first-hand experiences of being undermined by attitudes and physical assaults. Naturally, Petrol Girls contributed to it.

Michael

Rebellion 2017 Heavy Drapes

Heavy Drapes

Another band I hadn’t seen before, Heavy Drapes had the ’77 style with shades and Vivienne Westwood DIY designer punk gear.

They also had infectious melodies, the sound that brought sixties dream pop/rock into the punk scene in the first place. The tunefulness and power of bands like the Small Faces, as well as the Kinks and the Who, gave a solid gold foundation for the early wave in ’76/’77 to forge singalong punky pop music. And that’s why Heavy Drapes call to mind bands like the Jam.

The stand out track for me today was ‘Do You Want To Hang Out All Night’ and I suspect that with the right production their records could be well worth checking out.

Michael

Rebellion 2017 The Membranes and the Choir of Choirs

The Membranes and the choir

Just when you think that it’s all been done, that punk/DIY/independent music can be placed into a nice, neat category alongside comes a ‘happening’ that is inspiring, creative, funny and life-affirming.

I don’t want to say too much about the Membranes and the choir…because if you missed it, well, you really MISSED it.

It was surprising, unexpected, dare I say it, very risky, yet brilliant and funny and original.

This was space rock with a sense of humour. A piece of art and also proof that we humans have an infinity capacity for doing things that inspire other people and bring them joy.

I still have a smile on my face from seeing the Membranes in a big ugly industrial car-park with a modern choir dressed in black who sang in an avant grade style with grins on their faces.

If this is what space is like, if what the future is like…..then sign me up captain.

Michael

Rebellion 2017 Interrobang

Interrobang

A plush theatre in the North West of England. A new band, an audience of punks in a room full of history.
There is a sense of excitement. I certainly don’t know what to expect, except that Dunstan from Chumbawamba is involved.

Naturally, being creatures of habit, we look at the stage……then from behind us comes a voice, through a megaphone, it seems to say: I’m so taciturn I got to answer a question on the radio!

Odd, and it makes me want to know more. It’s good when you don’t get all the answers immediately.

Interrobang are amazing, a beat group for the beaten generation. Sharp suits and talk songs with a great two-piece backing band……this is the true spirit of punk…..vibrant, creative, entertaining and thought-provoking.

The sound contains The surprising elements of Gang of Four and Wire…..even a bit of the intro to Staring at the Rude Boys was smuggled into the mix. They represent a fantastic transition from Chumbawamba….who will never be forgotten in the Dublin DIY community for their brilliant eccentric, and pointed performances most notably in the SFX with Fugazi.

The set ended with a mantra of: I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take this any more.

Personally, I can’t wait for more from them.

Michael

Rebellion 2017 Youth Man

Youth Man

They were promoted, quite rightly, from new band stage last year. Youth Man are a Birmingham three-piece who play fast and furious rock with a mighty girl guitarist who trades vocals with a male vocalist who played bass and wore a Smiths t-shirt…how cool is that!

An absolute highlight of the festival for me. This is what punk rock is all about, unexpected, surprising, energetic and inspiring. They don’t fit neatly into any of the punk rock tribes, and personally that’s one of the reasons they are a favourite new band of mine. They are harder to categorise because they are original.

Their songs were full of tight tension and coruscating release, a bit reminiscent of moments of Sonic Youth but are genuinely genre-defying. Maybe that’s why they feeling like something new stirring in the punk universe…

One of the best bands at the festival.

Michael