|Lance Hahn 1967-2007|
his death in 2007, Lance Hahn sent me two chapters from his (still
unpublished) book 'Let the Tribe Increase'). This would have been
Chapter 6 'Bullshit Detector' and features Amebix, Andy T,
Disrupters, Sinyx, Snipers, Icon AD, Metro Youth / Sanction and
Kronstadt Uprising. As well as Lance's interviews with group members,
it includes several extracts from fanzine interviews.
there is a strong emphasis on the political views of the groups
which makes this a fascinating piece of social history.
NO GODS. NO MASTERS.
LIVING IN FEAR OF TOMORROW
Story Of Andy T
ANARCHY, SELF RULE, CAN’T YOU SEE?
Story of the Disrupters
DO WE OWE ANYTHING TO JESUS? NOT A LOT!
Story Of The Sinyx
UNCOMFORTABLE REALITIES ARE ALWAYS BETTER FACED AND NOT FORGOT
Story of the Snipers
FIGHT FOR PEACE
Icon AD Story
TOO MUCH ON MY MIND
Story of Metro Youth / Sanction
BLACK IS THE SHADE OF NEGATION
Story Of Kronstadt Uprising
DETECTOR BY LANCE HAHN
would suspect that macho, maverick, American expatriate writer Ernest
Hemmingway would have such an impact on punk rock? Perhaps showing
that at least initially a more literate and sophisticated genre, it
was he that first made reference to the imaginary device in his
quote, “The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in,
shock-proof, bullshit detector.” That sentiment was picked up on by
Joe Strummer in the Clash via “Garageland”, “back in the garage
with my bullshit detector.” Inspired by that song, Crass began a
series of compilations of likeminded groups of all genres. Calling
these compilations “Bullshit Detector”, there were three in total
with the first coming out in 1980. While many of the artists involved
would never be heard from again. Several others would become critical
to the scene often winding up recording for bigger indie labels like
Spider-Leg, Bluurg or Crass Records.
wanting to exert any sort of quality control over the product, the
songs appearing on these compilations ranged from proper studio
recordings to simple homemade cassette tapes. With all the contact
info listed with each band, these compilations helped not only with
the communication in the DIY, anarcho scene, but also with the rise
of cassette culture that was so important.
NO GODS. NO MASTERS.
Sergio Leone’s remake of “Yojimbo”, “A Fistful Of Dollars”,
Clint Eastwood is introduced as the Man With No Name. This smart and
ruthless loner threads warring factions without backing down or
getting killed, manipulating them in the process. This character,
which was actually named Joe, would continue his merciless trek
through “For A Few Dollars More” and ultimately in “The Good,
The Band And The Ugly”. Such a character was one of the earliest
influences on the group that would become Amebix naming themselves
originally The Band With No Name.
(Aphid), bassist and vocalist, “We originally formed at school.
Billy and Clive were in the Band With No Name, the first band. We
went through several changes in line up before going to Bristol and
to many for their dark, gothic imagery and their metal influenced
sound, the group’s origins were still centered in punk rock.
“Through Stig, my older brother and friends at school, we listened
to everything we could get hold of and John Peel on the radio to find
out what was happening…
suggested it when he returned from Jersey. We liked the ideas of
Sniffing Glue fanzine who said that anyone could have a go. So we
took them literally without any musical knowledge or even the ability
to tune our guitars.”
in 1978, The Band With No Name would go on to play 15 shows before
having a rethink and reemerging as Amebix. But before that would
happen, they recorded a demo tape. While maybe not successful getting
the demo out to the public, one copy did get into the right hands
finding them a spot on the first Bullshit Detector compilation.
“Stig and I recorded a terrible demo in my bedroom in a couple of
hours. We sold six copies, and one of them I gave to Crass when I was
working as a music reporter for a local paper. That gave us our first
track on ‘Bullshit Detector’.”
in the transition to Amebix, this raw and noisy demo has almost more
in common with what would have been considered industrial at the
time. The echoic, muddy noise surged forward through songs like
“Amebix”, “’77 Faded Heaven”, “Rabies”, “Disco Slags”
and “University Challenged” which is the track that would appear
on the aforementioned Crass compilation.
first Bullshit Detector was an indicator of things to come, as it was
the debut for many groups that would play a prominent role in the
anarcho scene like the Alternative, Andy T, The Sinyx, The Snipers,
and The Disrupters. Like most things Crass were involved with, the
record found a wide audience selling thousands of copies and putting
the newly christened Amebix in front of an automatic audience.
“It was very encouraging for us. It helped us to decide to pursue
the music further.”
and his brother had become aware of Crass and the growing anarcho
scene from a friend at the special school.
“A lad called Ali at the special school mentioned there were a lot
of punk kids from London who had been sent to that school for
behavioral problems. We hung out with them when they came into town,
and they introduced us to some new music.”
name Amebix, which was also the name of the first song on the demo,
was meant as a musical descriptive term rather than anything
“Amebix was from Ameoba. We decided on the name after a gig in a
special school in Devon. We were emphasizing how primitive we were; a
basic musical form.”
the pseudonym of The Baron, Rob and brother Stig brought in a drummer
named Martin, who let them live in his family’s abandon mansion in
Dartmoor. This life would play heavily with the band’s ideas and
“When Martin joined us we lived in his parents’ manor house on
the edge of Dartmoor. Very ancient Scooby-doo type of place. We
got into drugs there and playing at night, sleeping during the day,
reading a lot of Occult stuff. We were drawn to a heavier type of
imagery than anything that had previously been associated with punk
few gigs they did at the time were largely exercises in futility.
“We played around youth clubs and village halls for the time we
were in Devon, often being canned off stage or attacked. Some trendy
new wave types of bands were also on the scene. They could play.”
after adding a synth player named Norman, Martin’s family returned
to find what was probably their worst nightmare. The band packed up
and headed for Bristol while Martin’s parents got him medicated.
Bristol, the band soon became friends with hardcore punk Disorder.
Two bands trying to survive together seemed like better odds.
“We squatted together, shared everything, gigged together and
shared the drummer until Virus left Disorder for Amebix full time,
but only for a while before he left.”
this point, the squatter scene was still considered synonymous with
the anarcho scene and out of financial realities, Amebix were in the
middle of it.
“Hardly at all in Devon. But once we moved to Bristol we were
living the life all the time through necessity. Squatting and eating
from the bins.”
other ways, the band was to be loosely related to the anarcho scene
“Yes and no. I always thought we had another take on music and
attitude, not so much political, although we tried to be at first.”
than a year after that first demo had been released, the “Bullshit
Detector” album finally came out. Through Crass, they were
introduced to the guys from Flux of Pink Indians. It proved to be
good timing as Amebix had just been able to scrape together the money
for their first recording session as a serious band.
“We were mainly trying to survive when we hit Bristol. It was a
very desperate time. I still don’t know quite how we managed to
record at all. But we all put in our dole cheques and went for a
day’s session for “Who’s the Enemy”.”
on Flux’s label, Spiderleg, the four track EP was unlike anything
at the time. Tribal with metallic guitars and short, sharp lyrical
phrasing with only the second track, “Curfew” acknowledging the
hyperactive hardcore that was happening around them. The thunderous
tom tom drumming from Neil AKA Virus, resembled Theatre of Hate or
even Joy Division. Raw and simply recorded (at SAM studio for 85
pounds total!), the songs “Carnage” and “Belief” represented
the band’s unique style that would guide them for the rest of their
existence while the final song, “No Gods No Masters” would be
their battle cry.
“It is still a relevant slogan; self empowerment.”
Gods No Masters
God is your chain
you really want your freedom?
the artwork came label art depicting what could either be seen as a
demonic face exploding or something more abstract.
from Rejected Fanzine #3, “It is a painting of a guy called Austin
who dealt primarily with atavistic art, symbolism if you like. The
face is a very immediate painting to me, you know what was in the
artists mind when he painted it. Atavism
is the drawing up of images from the past through art including
in 1982, the band now found themselves with a little more freedom
following the success of previous Spiderleg releases by the System
and especially the Subhumans. It was followed up early the next year
with a two song 7” called “Winter”.
“It was very much an expression of everything around us. It was a
grim time in the early days in Bristol, the drugs and the hardships.”
catch your death
let your death catch you
winter tears the Earth apart
hope we see it through
maybe addressing more worldly things, the b-sides “Beginning of the
End” is no more joyful.
time is near at hand
fact you must accept
stands still for no man
even for the rich
sorry we’re so humourless
just the way we are
laugh but I don’t get the joke
walk but don’t get far
grim, deathlike sketches that also featured on the first EP were this
time further emphasized with a foldout poster sleeve. Released on the
heels of the Subhumans debut LP, this was another success for the
band and Spiderleg.
these EPs under the belt, it was a lot easier for the band to hit the
road and play around the country.
“A fair amount. Disorder and Amebix would do a lot of gigs together
all over the country, including free festivals etc.”
was during this time that they played for a while as a trio having
lost Norman on keyboards. But with news from back in Devon, they
hoped to bring back Martin though this time as synth player.
in Children of the Revolution fanzine #3, “We released a second
single, ‘Winter’ also on Spiderleg and were happier with the
results, as we had the use of a better studio. We will soon be
recording a new 6 track 12” EP and hope we can get Martin back to
play synth for us as he has just been released from a psychiatric
12” was “No Sanctuary” and was miles better than the previous
“We recorded in London, stayed with Flux and worked hard at it.
Jello visited the studios and told us that he liked what we were
doing and wanted to offer us a deal if we needed one later on.”
not very common in recent times, 12” EPs were pretty common even
for punk bands in the ‘80s. But for Amebix at this time it was a
“We didn’t think there was enough material for an LP. Also a lot
of people were doing 12"s at that time, seemed right.”
lyrics, though no less grim, were a lot more thematically
recognizable with songs attacking technology (“Progress?”),
accidental nuclear war (“Sanctuary”), religion (“The Church Is
For Sinners”) and general civil liberties (“Control”). But
standouts on the record would have to be “Battery Humans” and
“Sunshine Ward”. On the former, a story about factory farming is
told as if humans were being vivisected.
in Cell Block 427 the rest don’t care if he’s missing
beasts fuck frantically, fearful of their slaughter
bloated specimen rolls off its mate and proceeds with pissing
shit drips between his legs as he pisses on his rotting daughter
“Sunshine Ward” the band are as critical of themselves as with
their fellow drugged out squatters.
in this building is freezing and wet
I once had a brain then I seem to forget
just when I caught it, it slipped through the net
we sedate ourselves slowly
time for regret
the first note of feedback in “Battery Humans” to the ending
trancelike instrumental of “Moscow Madness”, this is certainly
the band’s most unique musical document. With simple yet great
sounding production, the band for one record abandons most of the
heavy metal trappings that appear on all of their other records.
Driven more by songs than by riffs, this record also best showcases
the original drumming style that was crucial to their early sound
keeping them from becoming just a straight metal band. Along with a
big bass sound that wasn’t present on the 7”s, there are moments
even reminiscent of “Death Church” by Rudimentary Peni.
a trio the group went on to tour Italy. Before the end of ’84, they
had added George from the group Smart Pils on synth and toured
Holland. At the end of that tour, Virus left the band to be replaced
“Spider was in a band called Scum before he joined Amebix in around
mentioned before, Jello Biafra had been around during the recording
of “No Sanctuary”. Liking what he heard, he offered to release
the band’s debut LP on Alternative Tentacles and the band agreed.
1985 would begin with a lot of serious work with songwriting.
“We began to get more serious by the time we were writing material
for “Arise”. We took Jello up on his offer, although they were a
little disturbed by the Metal sound when we presented the finished
in Paid In Full fanzine #3, “The deal with Alternative Tentacles
came about because when the Dead Kennedys and MDC did their last tour
here, we got in on their guest list because our old squatting chums
Disorder were playing support for both bands. After the gig all of us
went back to the posh hotel the DKs were staying in. There were about
50 of us if I remember correctly and the hotel bar was open late. So
naturally we caused some minor havoc. So the bar refused to serve
anymore drink until we had left the hotel. So not wanting to deprive
the DKs of alcohol we departed taking MDC with us as they seemed
adventurous types and took them back to Bristol with us and they
stayed the night in one of our numerous squats.
was a different experience for them coming to terms with the squalor
we lived in. When they looked at us in the morning one of them said,
“Christ you guys look real unhealthy.” A fairly accurate
statement at the time. So they bouth us breakfast healthy things like
orange juice and stuff and from there on we got on really well with
them and Jello Biafra. When we played the George Robey in London they
came to see us and liked our stuff. Then we took them back to
Southern Studios and made them listen (full blast) to the master tape
of our second single “Winter” which Jello raved about. After
leaving Spider Leg Records we contacted Jello and he immediately said
yes. We convinced him that we could make a classic album if we were
left to our own resources and with out any interference from the
record company as we had with the anarchist Spider Leg Label.
‘Arise!’ is the result.”
nine songs that make up “Arise!” are thought by most to be the
most important Amebix document. With its high production standards,
most complex arrangements, and metallic guitars, it’s like if a
much, much more sophisticated version of Venom swapped Satan for
anarchy. While metal may have been a disturbing trend with crossover
in hardcore punk, this record, with all of it’s heavy metal
influences, was still far removed from that sad scene. The alien
metal guitar sounds with the soaring synth noise was a mix of New
Model Army and Berlin era Bowie. In fact, the whole record has
futuristic feel to it. Not the space rock of Hawkwind, but something
new and unsettling.
“It is still strong. Simple and strong. I am very proud of that
record as a real milestone. “Monolith” was very badly produced.
For me “Arise” was our “Black Sabbath”, and “Monolith”
was “Never Say Die”.”
in Paid In Full #3, “Are people raving about it? I didn’t
realize. That’s nice to hear. Though I do believe it’s the only
true Amebix record so far because we produced it all ourselves and we
weren’t pressured at all. I don’t tend to take a lot of notice of
what’s going on in the music industry or what bands are cool, etc.
I just sit out in my country retreat, read books, play a bit of
chess, improve my mind, go for walks and things like that.”
the most part, this record is a departure from the thinly veiled
political statements of the previous 12”. This time around, fantasy
imagery is used to convey the alien landscape they viewed the world
as. The threats of nuclear war, pollution and religion had now become
mythological battles. Outsiders to the teeth, this record was not
science fiction but the world as seen from the bottom.
some hard times coming down
the smell of revolution on the wind
we’re grinding our axes
tales ‘round the bonfire at night
will set out with a fire in our hearts
this darkness gives way to the dawn
the light we’re united as one
the kingdom of heaven must be taken by storm!
rare exception, and standout track on the record, is “Largactyl”.
“It was about the drugs that Martin was put onto after we left
Devon and his parents returned to find their son a junkie.”
in Paid In Full, “I suppose we should have put something on the
sleeve for people that haven’t had anything to do with mental
hospitals and psychiatrists. I wrote the lyrics to ‘Largactyl’
and it’s a very serious son. It was written for an old friend and
ex drummer of ours. It’s a sad story but I’d better tell you what
happened to him.
ago we had a gig set up at some party somewhere and we were waiting
for Martin to turn up (our drummer). We had been crashing ‘round at
his place, an old vicarage which was on the edge of Dartmoor in
Devon. He had been acting a bit strange about a week before the gig
(ha hadn’t said a word for four days). I think he was worried about
his parents coming back. But his eccentricity didn’t really worry
us because we were dosing in his house (manor) which was old and
definitely full of lost souls (ghosts) and evil presences which we
got used to after a while. But if we brought any one else back there
they would usually shit themselves and run away literally.
didn’t turn up to the gig as his parents found out we had been
living there. I think they found some used syringes, which belonged
to me and a girlfriend of mine at the time. He was so frightened of
his parents at the time it was ridiculous. He was 23 years old, 7
feet tall (yes, really) but his parents had some horrible power over
him. That was the last we heard of Martin for three years.
one day a friend of mine met him in London and gave him our address.
We received a letter from him saying he had been incarcerated in the
psychiatric wing of the Royal Free Hospital under police observation
for strange behaviour (running down Glouscester Road jumping on car
bonnets). He was pumped full of Largactyle, which is a drug which
they prescribe for almost any mental illness
are not quite sure what it does but it keeps the patients sedated,
which is all they care about in mental hospitals. Well, Martin was
one of us. Not the type to let them shut him up so naturally they
increased his dose of Largactyl. The letters we received from then
ondwards were utter gibberish crap! This wasn’t the old rebel
Martin. This was the scribblings of a fuckin’ cabbage. We rang the
hospital and found that he was living in a boarding house and had
been released. But when we met him he had been converted into a
complete and utter straight. It was disgusting to see. We askedif he
wanted to play synth for us but he was too scared to step out of
line. When we left the hospital they gave him enough of that
Largactyle shit to kill himself three times. It actually eats away at
was to all of us a sane, powerful, intelligent, rebellious person.
Now all his spirit is drained and he just wants to shuffle about in
his house in Devon. I still see him about once a year, but in secret
in case his mother’s spies are watching him. I took Largactyl four
tablets without knowing what they were. I was paralyzed in bed with
voices talking inside my head loudly and clear as a bell. Whole
conversations like there were people in the room. This lasted for a
day. It was horrible and uncontrollable. Imagine being injected or
force fed that every day. This happens to thousands of mental
patients every day. Who’s next? Me? ‘Nuff said.”
standing on a hill
down at the city
about your life
your bottle of pills
released you from the hospital
this is how freedom feels?
record insert ends with a dedication to the people who fought the
police at Stonehenge that year.
in Paid In Full, “No. None of the band were there because it was
happening while we were recording ‘Arise!’. It was very
frustrating because I have a lot of brothers and sisters in the
convoy and I couldn’t get up and leave the recording studio because
I considered it as important as the battle of Stonehenge. At the time
I was staying in the Hangar in Bristol, which was a starting base for
some of the convoy. But I couldn’t go to Stonehenge so I waved them
goodbye and wished them all luck in the morning and then went down to
the studio. When I got back the place looked like a refugee camp.
People were crying. Loads of them were locked up in Salisbury nick.
few days later this 14 year old boy I knew came back with a hole
straight through the front of his skull that was so wide it couldn’t
be stitched up. They had to fill the hole with bandages. It was a
well planned fuckin’ massacre! After we had finished recording, I
went out to the emergency convoy site at Westbury to see some
friends. Every single coach had it’s windscreens smashed in and
there were a lot of battered people. But they are still strong and
hopeful which is good because they are good people. They’ve fed me
and clothed me over the years of visits I’ve made and I do my best
for them when they are in my area. I could tell of many atrocities
that happened at Stonehenge this year. But there isn’t enough time
or paper to do so. i thin I an say that we as a band and organization
fully support them and sometimes we play for them to buck their
spirits up. Me? I love them.”
the release of that record, the band were back on the road playing
all around the UK as well as the continent. Despite the record
getting around the US, the band never made it over. With Alternative
Tentacles not especially happy to have a metal record in their
catalog (though this could have easily have been paranoia on the
band’s side as AT were happy to reissue ‘Arise’ on CD a decade
after it’s original release), the band and label parted ways.
“I don’t know. I think that we felt that they were uncomfortable
with our direction and were not really doing any kind of promotion.
That’s what we felt at the time. “Arise” could have been a huge
hit if people had really believed in us. I still appreciate their
this point, George left the band to focus on Smart Pils.
in Paid In Full, “An old Amebix saying ‘you can’t afford to
carry dead weight’. Callous but true. Virus got lazy. Jenghiz is
doing four years for smack. George wants to play bass in his own
backlash in the hardcore scene against metal had a profound affect on
perception and therefore the future of Amebix. It’s important to
remember that at the time, heavy metal had previously been the enemy
of punk as much any other form of mainstream, corporate music. In the
States, crossover bands were seen as bringing commercial and
non-artistic elements into the punk scene. It was seen as co-opting
by the metal bands gone hardcore and careerism by the hardcore bands
gone metal. As time would tell, both sides were half right. But many
people see the introduction of heavy metal as the beginning of the
end to the first generation of hardcore.
course, Amebix were hardly what you would think of as a crossover
band. Metal was just one of many influences.
“We were all into a lot of different music, from T Rex, Killing
Joke, Sabbath, Bowie, Eno, everything. A lot of really good metal was
emerging with the likes of Accept and Mercyful Fate. I got right into
at the same time, they were as weary of a lot of the new crossover as
in Rejected fanzine #3, “Personally I don't like Anthrax or Venom.
I like a few bands in that wave but most of it is rubbish. If punk
bands want to sing about anti metal that's up to them, we can sing
about what we want can't we???
am very selective about the sounds that grace my turntable as that
scene is turning as equally sub-moronic as the last days of punk rock
(a snivelling head pops up and says what about me?). So there needs
to be an integration of ideas and positive energy from both
movements, others even if we want to be mega radical and form a new
music. Our stuff is too simple but it would be nice to see the more
aware sections of youth come together for a change, don't you think.”
fact, lyrically the band was as strident as ever dismissing the idea
that they would ever write typical lyrics of any sort, certainly not
typical heavy metal.
in Rejected, “We'd never start writing Satanic songs, there's a
backwards bit on Arise that takes the piss out of all that, and we've
never tried to have a heavy metal image or view. We're just Amebix;
No Gods No Masters...”
further complicate matters, the band would sign to the newly formed
Heavy Metal Records.
“FM Revolver records had a sub label called Heavy Metal. Stone
Roses were on the label just prior to us appearing there. We wanted
to get our music across in to the Metal scene as the Punk thing was
dissipating into lethargy and rot.”
the record had even been heard, accusations were flying at the band.
in Rejected, “Fuck you!! To the people who think we've adopted a
new image and started to play heavy metal, this year the Amebix have
been together 10 years (not as the present line-up) I was in a punk
band for a few years called Scum, before Amebix. You can't keep
churning out the same old stuff all the time or else you'll stagnate.
Yes, we've played punk/metal but we've played it differently. You
ought to hear what we're doing now.”
approximately two years after the release of “Arise!” came the
bands final studio album, “Monolith”. Recorded on the cheap, the
band went back to SAM studios where they had recorded their first EP.
While musically fascinating and complex, the results were a bit of a
letdown after the breakthrough of “Arise!”
“It is a very, very intense record, but terrible production. Some
of the songs on that were extraordinarily heavy played live. We were
overwhelmed by the amount of sheer power we could get out of so
little musical ability.”
record still managed to sell several thousand copies, but not enough
to keep the band from spinning in their wheels. With inertia running
low, the band split before the end of 1987.
“We came to a point where we were no longer inspired. We ran out of
juice. It was as if we had been given a certain amount of energy in
order to make those two LPs and then we were empty. The choice was
either to continue and become a parody of ourselves or to be true to
the whole ethos of Punk Rock, die young, burn out at your height. I
am still proud that we were the only one of our contemporaries who
actually took that path and stuck to it. It is embarrassing to hear
decades old renditions of re-hashed punk bands who didn’t know when
to stop, or those who have reformed for the money. Amebix was the art
of punk in a complete sense. It will never be reproduced and stands
as a righteous testament to our life and times. The Power Remains.”
public fascination with the band continues to this day. The result
has been a series of semi-legit and bootleg releases including the “V
Zivo” cassette on FV/Skuc Ropot, “The Power Remains” LP on
Skuld/MCR, “The Beginning Of The End” bootleg CD, and “Make
Some Fucking Noise” LP on The Only Good Dealer Is A Dead One
Records which is a vinyl pressing of the “V Zivo” cassette.
“The “Make Some Fucking Noise” remix is good, very happy to
hear that. A lot of other people have ripped us off all the way
along. We haven’t received any courtesy from any bootleggers with
one exception. We never did it for the money but many people have
made money off our backs and that saddens me. They forgot what it was
the breakup of the band, Stig and Spider got back together with
George to form Zygote. While their one record doesn’t come near
capturing their powerful live show, which was a cross between Amebix
and Motorhead, it is still a find document of the short-lived band.
For a while, Spider played in the band Muckspreader. But health has
essentially put the former bandmates on the ouside of music.
“Stig has had drug problems since those days. He is very ill.
Spider has tinitus and I hear from him from time to time. Stig is my
brother. It has been hard to watch him destroy himself since those
days in Devon. Choice is a terrible thing at times.”
the tragedies and hard times of the period, Rob remains true to his
most distilled ideals.
“No Gods, No Masters.”
LIVING IN FEAR OF TOMORROW
Story Of Andy T
word and protest music seem to go hand in hand. It was certainly true
in the punk scene and that’s not limited to the anarcho world. In
the earliest days you had Patti Smith and Jim Carroll in New York.
You had John Cooper Clarke in England and later Atilla the
Stockbroker. You could even find some inadvertently hilarious poetry
on many of the early Oi! Compilations.
T came from the world of Crass and within a short period of time
inspired many people to go out get on the mic. Part of the
intellectual tradition that many of the anarchos get coy about, Andy
T came from the ideological angle before discovering the artistic
T, “I was interested in Anarchism before the Punk thing. I was a
member of a political group called Direct Action Movement. We met in
a pub every week and talked endlessly, that was about as direct and
active as it got.”
before his renowned as a spoken word artist, he came to punk rock as
excited and inspired as anyone else in.
T, “I have been into music ever since I could crawl, having two
older sisters who brought music into the house. Listened to anything
and everything, The Who, Beatles, Stones, Small Faces, Elvis, Little
Richard, Chuck Berry etc. soaked it up like the proverbial sponge.
Had a big pile of singles and albums with an old dansette to play
them on. I began buying stuff myself in the early 70s. Spent
Saturday afternoons rooting round in dusty shops in Manchester and
Rochdale. T Rex, Bowie, Velvets, Stooges, Mott, Zappa and loads of
other obscure stuff. I used to go to a club in Manchester called
‘Pips’ which had Bowie and Roxy rooms, a lot of the people who
later formed punk bands went there.
had a girlfriend who worked in a record shop and was able to borrow
LPs to tape. It was a chart return shop and they got all the latest
releases. I picked up the Ramones first album due to liking the
cover, as I had done with the New York Dolls a few years before.
Like so many others who heard that album, something primal clicked
Punk came along it seemed like a natural progression. Bands suddenly
seemed younger and more like the audience. It was a very exciting
time, new bands springing up every week - some better than others but
all worthwhile in their own way. There was suddenly lots more gigs to
go to every week, Manchester had such a vibrant scene. I went to gigs
in London as well but they didn’t seem as exciting as ‘up north’
I suppose because they were saturated with music more than us.”
those early days, he was able to pull a band together. In 1977
Reputations In Jeopardy were born.
T, “We formed Reputations in Jeopardy in Rochdale where we lived in
late 1977. I had been writing lyrics/poetry for about 4 or 5 years.
My boyfriend Chris had a bass guitar and two female friends (whom I’d
met through my girlfriend) played drums and guitar, Jane on drums,
Siobhan on guitar. We practiced every week at the local youth club
in the basement. We knocked a short set together very quickly. None
of us was very proficient but we did a few gigs and enjoyed the
spirit of the times. We advertised for a second guitarist to fill
out the sound. Chris the Joiner was more proficient than any of us
but wasn’t into the Punk scene as such.
played quite a few gigs in and around the Manchester area. The first
time we used a PA was a bit of a shock as I was used to shouting to
be heard above the others. A singer from one of the other bands on
the bill advised me not to shout so much. I hadn’t realized I was
doing and after that everything sounded so much better.”
well documented at the time, nothing more than gigs ever developed
and the many recordings have since been lost.
T, “I used to record most things we did and send them to people
with a view to getting gigs. Everything was recorded on a little
portable cassette player. I don’t have any of these anymore, which
is a shame. We never went into a proper recording studio; I don’t
think it ever occurred to us to try.”
of a hobby, the band wound up having an expiration date.
T, “The girls’ left the band to finish their A levels and we got
a new drummer, Pete, the result of another advert. He used to
complain his drum kit was rubbish all the time so I invited a friend
of mine from Manchester to come down and listen to us rehearse. He
was John Maher, the drummer from the Buzzcocks. He liked us and had
a go on Pete’s kit with us. Of course, it sounded really good and
wish I had a tape of it. Pete never mentioned his rubbish kit again
after that night!
band didn’t have the same dynamic after the girls left but this was
the line-up that was picked for the Bullshit Detector album.”
Andy’s continued involvement with the local punk scene, he started
to become aware of the growing anarcho world floating up from London.
T, “We used to put gigs on our area with a group of close friends.
We would hire a local hall or pub, hire the PA and print tickets and
posters etc. and book the bands. Most of the anarcho-punk bands from
that time played at one of our gigs. We also produced fanzines and
flyers giving information. We also used to put the bands up in our
flat. I felt very involved in that scene and met a lot of lovely
people through it.”
relocating to London, Andy soon got to know other likeminded
T, “I cannot remember where I first met Crass exactly. I think it
was thorough my friendship with the Poison Girls who lived just down
the road from Crass. I found we had very similar ideas and Penny, Gee
and Steve have been lifelong friends and are very dear to me.
people said they felt intimidated in their presence although I never
felt this. We always had lots of fun. They pioneered the playing in
very out of the way places, not on the usual rock n roll circuit. We
went places bands didn’t normally play and always met enthusiastic
soon, Andy got very involved in the first Bullshit Detector
compilation showing up on several tracks.
T, “Since about 1974 I had been writing to people I read about or
met at gigs and sent tapes of my stuff. Used to correspond with a lot
of interesting people. Crass chose five tracks from a pile of tapes I
sent them for Bullshit Detector. They asked for art work of a certain
size so I crammed the info for all five tracks into that sized space
but when the sleeve was printed they had blown the writing up large.
I didn’t realize that I had five such spaces to fill up, a bit of a
compilation would start (and almost end) with the first documents of
his spoken word.
T, “I had been doing it for years and it seemed quite a natural
thing to do. Also you didn’t have to worry about loads of
equipment. It was a lot easier to do gigs. Just to get up on stage
between bands armed with a backing tape, and shout at people. I used
to get friends from other bands to back me sometimes, just
improvising in the background. Mostly we used a backing tape but not
every PA had a tape deck we could use. I had a poem in the middle of
the set, which needed drums and it served to break the set up. I’d
often get a drummer from one of the other bands to play. Martin from
Flux, Spider from The System, Penny from Crass and Sid from Rubella
Ballet all had a bash at some point and very good they all were too.”
with those tracks, he was also credited to having been in the group,
Fuck The CIA.
T, “I used to record loads of poems/songs in my bedroom. The ‘Fuck
the CIA’ track was me and my younger brother Jerry. When Crass
chose the track for the album I had to think of a name and chose it
from an old 1960’s poster. It was never really a band to speak of
but he’s still my brother.”
of the groups from the first two “Bullshit Detector” did
subsequent recordings for Crass Records (Alternative, The Snipers,
Omega Tribe, Anthrax). Andy T was no different.
T, “They asked me to make the record. Penny wanted to record me
Of The Flesh” is equal parts spoken word and sound collage. It’s
eeriness both precedes the second Rudimentary Peni LP as well as more
avant-garde groups like Nurse With Wound.
lifestyle is built upon pain and suffering
is the poison in your mind
face is a mask of violence
is your power and force is your tool
acceptance is the food of your paranoia
recording was unlike any other Crass Records release. Much of the
initial material was put together at Dial House.
T, “Just another nice weekend up at Dial House. Then mixing at
Southern Studios in Wood Green. I thought it came out well. We
aimed to cram as much as possible into those grooves and I think we
filled about 15 minutes, quite good for a 7 inch single.
inside cover photo was from another fun session involving Phil, Annie
and Steve and a lot of printing ink – not blood!
was quite proud of the finished article and wanted to give John Peel
a copy to play on his show. Rather than post it I chose to wait for
hours outside the BBC to give it him in person. I’d been listening
to his radio programs since the early 70’s and he’d introduced me
to a lot of good music. I told him a little bit about it and he
seemed interested. Unfortunately he never played it on his show. A
friend of mine asked him about it at one of his University gigs in
Suffolk a few years later; John said he thought it was a bit too
extreme for his show. That made me very proud indeed, to be thought
too extreme for John Peel’s listeners.”
with the usual suspects, a mysterious “E” is credited as
T, “Ian Edwards was a friend from Lowestoft in Suffolk who I had
met at gigs. He could make some very strange noises with his
like the bands on the label, he did a lot of touring once the record
T, “We toured loads, all over the UK. Did lots of gigs with the
likes of Crass, Flux of Pink Indians, Dirt, Poison Girls, The System,
the Alternative, Chumbawamba, Anti-Sect and Kukl etc. Must have done
hundreds of gigs in the early 80’s.”
than be a lone voice on stage, Andy used prerecorded tapes at some
gigs. Most often he would have live players improvising behind him.
T, “That’s funny; I don’t think I was ever very subtle –
especially ‘live’. The message was fairly clear and direct and
not buried within the music. People tended to stop pogoing and listen
and they responded in a positive way. Sometimes they would throw
bottles but I saw this as a sign of affection.”
different approaches had a drastic effect on the performances. At a
show in Brixton at the Old Queens Head in August 1983 Andy with a
single drummer sound minimal and particularly brutal. A show four
months earlier at the 62 Club in Aberdeen he uses prerecorded tapes
to a much eerier affect. It’s the second gig that gets the crowd
chanting the words along. But the effect is most striking on newer
poems like “Phallic Metallic” and “Sexuality”.
his hands he holds his power
prick, his doomsday machine
rape the flesh of womankind
burn the flesh of mankind
tool of mans sexual violence
tool of mans ultimate violence
Andy kept good track recording many of these dynamic performances,
all of which in their tone have a very different feel from the
T, “I used to record most things and very often, taped backing
tracks for use in live performance. I did a tour with a guitarist
friend improvising, which went down very well indeed. I also still
had a tendency to get anyone who happened to be about to improvise
behind me. Often I like to get people to use instruments they weren’t
familiar with. I always liked to experiment with ideas and subvert
was talk of possibly doing a record for Corpus Christi. In fact, it
was more than in the talking stage.
T, “We did intend to record an album for the Corpus Christi label.
I had quite a few things written and several ideas for backing, from
various musicians etc. Also I had some things I had written for
Nico, from the Velvet Underground, to sing. She was a friend and
liked my stuff. It would have been interesting to have taken that
further. We recorded some live shows for possible inclusion on an
with the dissolution of Crass in 1984, so did much of their work with
the label and the Andy T album was one of many projects never
finished. It was just as well as Andy had been himself losing
interest in the scene as well.
T, “Towards the end of 1983 I was becoming increasingly jaded by
masses of Punks who seemed more interested in getting stoned and
pissed than doing anything constructive. A lot of audiences seemed
stuck in a time warp and not actually moving at all. Prior to this
time I experienced the scene to be more productive, people got
together and achieved things, often small but sometimes bigger.
seemed that people were learning that they didn’t have to wait for
things to happen but could actually do things for themselves.”
though he’s long since retired from spoken word, he still maintains
the convictions that got him onstage in the first place.
T, “The politics almost seem more relevant now than they did then
with political lies, warfare, ID cards, corporate greed and
corruption, and environmental destruction. Nothings really changed
much on a worldwide scale. At the time we had Thatcher and Reagan in
power and each other pockets. Now we have Bush and Blair still
treating us all like fools and getting away with it.”
ANARCHY, SELF RULE, CAN’T YOU SEE?
Story of the Disrupters
many ways, “Punk And Disorderly” was the most important punk rock
compilation ever. It wasn’t a benefit for anything. It didn’t
showcase one city (or country even) or one particular scene. It
wasn’t Oi! or peace punk or anything. But it managed to get
everywhere and exposed thousands of people around to world to the
band’s that would be their personal soundtrack to UK punk in the
‘80s. Real or not, this compilation captured that feeling more than
any other and there wasn’t a single unreleased track on it. That
should be a lesson for all contemporary and future punk compilers.
of the most inaccessible yet memorable moments of that compilation
was the near-tribal march of “Young Offender” by the Disrupters.
It’s a genuine one of a kind. I’ve never heard something quite so
primitive. When hip journalists would talk about the primitivism of
the Fugs or Holy Modal Rounders, this is what I expected but never
got. Taken from the group’s first self-released EP, the song only
cares about the small number of people that can totally relate to
it’s subject matter making it all the more attractive to outsiders.
Disrupters were founded by a group of teen punks obsessed with the
“Someone played me some Ramones and Sex Pistols, this was back in
late '77, I was 14. It totally blew me away; I was instantly hooked
and threw myself into the scene…
was a realization that anybody could have a shot at what those early
bands were achieving, and it looked such great fun.”
it was certainly fashionable to get into punk in England in the late
‘70s, for young Steve it was also the outsider factor that got him
so heavily committed and keeps him interested to this day.
“ABSOLUTELY!!!!!! But then I’ve always been a bit of a black
sheep or misfit if you like, I find the straight world very hard to
live in. So I’ve given up trying, do as thou wilt and all that.”
working with a couple of school friends, the band officially formed
when Steve was still just 17.
“We were all mates anyway living in Norwich, initially it was
Gibbon and Dave Howard’s band and they got me in, we had trouble
finding a drummer so we poached Kevin Wymer from The Aborts, it was
always obvious they were going nowhere so he joined us. This around
a flip decision, they chose the band name that would wind up gracing
many record covers.
“There were a few names kicking around but we went for The
Disrupters the others were really shit...”
from the drummer, none had ever played in a band before and could
barely play their own instruments. But taking a very, very literal
position on the punk philosophy of DIY, they began playing gigs well
before they were ready.
“The early gigs were really bad in hindsight, we really couldn’t
play at all, but I knew if I stuck at it then things would improve,
early gigs were mainly with local with bands like The Pits, Intensive
Breeders, The Torpedoes.”
a few practices, it was easy for a young punk band to put together a
set just long enough to play a pub.
“The set was short in those days, about 20 mins long the songs were
mostly a collaboration between me and Gibbon (he came up with a
riff and I would put lyrics to it) then Kev would sort out the
band recorded their seven-song set at practice. That would become
their long lost first demo tape. The only song to survive from that
recording was the track “Napalm” as it appeared on the first
“Bullshit Detector” compilation.
“Yes our track, ‘Napalm’, on Bullshit Detector was our 1st
release, we did a demo recorded on a cheap cassette recorder one
afternoon, about 7 songs, I have no idea what happened to that demo I
don’t own a copy.”
song is rough and tumble but surveys a basic idea that would be a
staple for many anarcho bands to follow.
women and kids out there
we don’t fucking care
haven’t got too long
got some napalm
grenades, incendiary bombs
B, C and D bombs
bomb your villages
the deafening seriousness of these comps, the Disrupters managed to
have a punk laugh with the liner notes. “Alleged guitar inspired by
a lack of muscle and an abundance of alcohol.”
“We heard that Crass were looking for bands for a compilation so we
sent them a copy of our demo. I liked those albums at the time,
haven’t thought of playing them in many years though but I suspect
they haven’t aged well, but I guess it showed what was happening on
the scene at that time. Maybe I should dig them out they’re still
hidden in my vinyl collection somewhere.”
within a few months in 1980, the Disrupters went from first practice
to appearing on one of the biggest punk compilations of all time.
teens in Norwich, the band were fans of Crass, but were still pretty
removed from the growing anarcho scene.
“Not at all really I was still kind of wrapped up in the Sex
Pistols dress to shock thing, Crass gave the scene a more intelligent
and constructive slant. A realization that punk could mean more than
just shocking your granny but could be used as a force for real
with the success and notoriety of the “Bullshit Detector” comp,
the band started 1981 by going into the studio to record their first
record. Heading into local Whitehouse Studios, the band recorded
“Young Offender”, “UK Soldier” and “No Place For You”.
With the aforementioned title track, the backing tracks also
indicated the groups interest in political music.
say the army is for protection
their guns are trained on you
soldier or Russian threat
them together, they both spell death
“I am not a great fan of ‘Young Offender’ (or its B-side) but
it did very well for us, and we did keep it in the set until our
demise purely because fans liked it. Not one of my faves though.”
than wait and shop the tapes around, the group formed Radical Change
Records around this debut EP.
“We wanted complete control over our stuff, bands like Six Minute
War were doing it D.I.Y. so we saved up enough to record a few tracks
and get 1000 copies of a 7" pressed.”
a situation of right place and right time, the group was then offered
on their first release, to be featured on the “Punk And Disorderly”
compilation LP alongside Blitz, the Partisans, Vice Squad, GBH, the
Adicts, and the Dead Kennedys.
“Theo Chalmers was compiling it for Abstract and he asked
permission to use it, that was cool it’s a good LP to be on and it
sold shitloads. In terms of exposure and royalties it was good for
with all the sudden interest in the band, they weren’t able to do
any touring to support the records. The first of a few line-up
changes was occurring.
“Not at all, we had just kicked Gibbon out of the band and replaced
him with Paul Greener. Apart from ‘Napalm’ and ‘Young Offender’
we had scrapped the entire set and were writing new material. Paul
was a better guitarist and (at the risk of appearing bitchy) was a
much nicer guy to be around. There’s no way we had any future with
Gibbon in the band.”
the first pressing of the record quickly gone, the band needed to
find a way to keep it in print. Their distributor agreed to start
manufacturing the label giving the band a lot more freedom with their
“Apart from the 1st 1000 copies of ‘Young Offender’, Backs
Records funded Radical Change. We couldn’t afford a repress so
Backs (run by Johnny Appel) offered a partnership, they were getting
a distribution cut already.”
that support, the band were able to spend a little more on the
recording of their follow-up EP, “Shelters For The Rich”.
“All 3 tracks on there were the 1st songs we did with Paul, we
used Spaceward Studio, which had a good history (SLF did
"Inflammable Material" there and The Subs recorded the
single version of CID there too). I like it better than the
1st single but there was still room for improvement.”
the music taking shape (it had been nearly a year since the first
EP), the lyrics were also becoming more sophisticated. The political
ranting now expanded to animal liberation on “Animal Farm” as
well as more particular ideological questions on “Self Rule” as
well as the title track.
million rapes and beatings which way can I turn?
thousand executions while the bodies burn
about your kids
shelters for the rich
the freedom Backs had given them, they were also able to use Radical
Change as a means for helping out likeminded bands that they
“Mostly me and Kev were doing the groundwork, then we'd run an idea
to Backs and they would decide if it was worth putting money into,
mostly we had a good working relationship with them.”
first band they worked with, they knew from being on the “Bullshit
Detector” LP. Icon AD would release their first 7” on Radical
Change. There had also been talk about releasing the Anti-System LP,
but they decided to work with another label.
“Anti System ended up with Pax in the end, but we worked with
Revulsion and Self Abuse and put out a comp LP called "Words
Worth Shouting" featuring demos we had been sent.”
started with the band going into the studio to record their first
full length LP. “Unrehearsed Wrongs” was a collection of twelve
raw punk songs including a revamped version of “Napalm” from that
first demo tape.
“It was cool, we were at Flying Pig Studio working with a guy
called JB also it was Steve Hough's recording debut with us, he was a
cool guy and fit in better than our previous bassist. It was recorded
and mixed in 2 days I have fond memories of it, not least because we
now had a stable line up in place.”
with the unusual “Norvic The Clown”, a spoken word rant by band
collaborator Prem Nick, the band kick in with “Gas The Punx” and
don’t slow down. Another early song reworked is a cracking version
of “Animal Farm”.
“The title is something of a private joke. We were having trouble
recording one of the songs on it and I said ‘how about we call this
album UNREHEARSED SONGS?’ Then Paul changed the word "song"
for "wrong" and it stuck. Sounded better than anything else
we were coming up with at the time. I like that album best, ‘Gas
the Punx’ is probably the best track on it and it was always a
crowd pleaser, also proud of ‘Pigs In Blue’ and the rerecorded
only a couple of singles in the previous two years, the record was a
major success for an indie label.
“It did well and charted in the indies, I felt we stumbled a bit on
the 1st two singles but the album kind of captured our live sound
better, its certainly better than the 2nd LP we did. It was a good
period in our history.”
the year was over, the Disrupters put together their third single.
“Bomb Heaven” along with b-sides “Die With Mother” and “Make
A Baby” was one of the group’s darkest moments.
Bishop’s face turned a shocking pink
about my shares in Rio Tinto Zinc?
only way to save my bank account
to burn heaven down to the ground
EP was a prelude to 1984’s “Playing With Fire” LP. A criminally
underrated record, a tamer production style only partially hinders
the 14 tracks.
joke has worn thin, it’s not funny anymore
too much blood staining the floor
boot boys running amok
on the sitting duck
the band were able to take what was becoming typical subject matter
for many punk bands and writing about them in a new and unique way.
But with the band not even happy with the record, it was somewhat
1985, the band decided to take it easy just recording the six-song
12”, “Alive In The Electric Chair”.
“Personally I like the 1st LP and "Alive In the Electric
Chair" 12", I’m a bit self critical of the other
we can now look back and say how this was the band in its final
stages, you wouldn’t know it by this fresh and raw record. Even the
lyrics seem more angry and inspired than the previous years product.
Brighton bomb missed, you cunt
Brighton bomb missed
hope you rot in hell, you cunt
hope you rot in hell
spit on your grave when you’re dead, you cunt
spit on your grave when you’re dead
maggots will eat your eyes, you cunt
maggots will eat your eyes
great record would prove to be the final record as the Disrupters.
That same year, Radical Change released the compilation LP “Words
Worth Shouting”. The Disrupters contributed the song “Dead In The
Head” to go along with songs by then unknown acts like Revulsion,
Haine Brigade and Deviated Instinct.
“It was a comp LP for a local Hunt Saboteur group. All the bands we
either knew or had been sent demos by. They all gave their services
no record to support, the band made their first trip to the continent
the following year.
“We did Belgium in 1986. That was fun but apart from that we just
toured England. We were supposed to do France at some point but it
fell through. It was never full time. We were always signing on
because there wasn’t enough money coming in. They were great days
but very lean, in terms of finance.”
two more years, a film about the band called “Anarchy Peace and
Chips” was released on video. With that tape as their final
statement, the group split late in 1988.
“I got a bit bored with all the in scene bitching that was going on
at the time, and thought "fuck this I'll do something else."
I’ve always kept my hand in a bit but I figured the band had run
its course really. When I left the rest of them followed suit,
nothing acrimonious just time to call it a day.”
Steve has all but entirely ruled out a reunion, he remains musically
active with New York Scumhaters while Kev plays in Saigon Kiss. Still
being connected to punk rock, he’s been able to assess the old days
with more smiles than most.
“Certainly there was a lot of naivety, I have a greater
understanding of human nature these days (at the wise old age of 42)
but I think it was worthwhile; some great things were achieved and
some not so great. I have great memories of The Stop The City demos
in London. Man they were hilarious!! Mind you I got dragged through
the law courts on more than one occasion but hey its all character
building ain’t it? HAHA!!!!
lets not forget the anarcho scene produced some really cool records
that are often overlooked. Because apart from the political
aspect of the scene, music was what got us involved at the
his reservations about some of the recordings, he can still focus on
the good parts of being in the Disrupters.
“A great experience but I still feel puzzled that I have spent
many more years discussing the band doing interviews like this all
these years after we split. But its very flattering. I’m glad
people remember us. All I can say is we did our best and above all we
were honest in what we tried to do.”
DO WE OWE ANYTHING TO JESUS? NOT A LOT!
Story Of The Sinyx
was a conscious effort to stick to the Sinyx ethos of being
completely independent and doing it themselves.”
has had a history with punk bands going back to the first generation
with proto-punks like Eddie And The Hotrods. Of the second generation
scene, one of the most important and often forgotten bands was
probably the Sinyx.
Sinyx were formed in the Fall of 1979. Friends from school, the band
was made up of Paul Barrett (also known as “Alien”), Paul Brunt,
Auntie and Vints (don’t really know there real names). The name was
a random selection made by Auntie. Starting with a gig at the Focus
Youth Centre in 1980, the band soon developed a local following.
Pegrum, “The Sinyx were the first overtly political punk band from
the area. The ‘first’ pure punk band was The Machines in 1977,
who put out an EP in 1978 on Wax records and were local legends.”
their political angle, the band wound up with a following the
included punks and skins.
“From the off there was something special about the band – I
remember seeing their first gig, with the Icons – the place was
rammed with Punks and Skins and they blew the roof off the place.
They were very intense on stage, and the Sinyx had these really
memorable songs like Camouflage and Therapy Through Violence. They
never set out to be pigeon holed into any kind of corner, and always
took their own stance on things.”
1980 the band did gigs in the area mostly at the Focus Centre as well
as a few other local punk spots.
“The Focus Youth Centre in Central Southend was a great place. It
was quite a large purpose built building, with a Downstairs Bar and
Stage, an upstairs bar (The legendary Pine Bar) and a main theatre.
Both Sinyx and Kronstadt would hire out the main theatre and put on
several gigs there, with various guest bands poets etc. The woman who
ran the center, Pat was a great lady, really supportive, and most
local Punk bands got their first gigs there. The places didn’t have
a bad sound and there was always a regular punk clientele, so from
1980 to about 1986 it really was a key place to get started and play.
The Pine Bar was almost exclusively Punk, and was a safe haven to
hang out. In London, The Sinyx would play the Pied Bull quite a lot,
and in Southend the other main venue was The Grand Hotel.”
the growing interest in the band, they began to play out of Southend
with other likeminded bands. This turned into a lasting friendship
with the Erratics and Flux of Pink Indians. This connection would
help get them in touch with the Crass camp.
“In the early days, the Sinyx would play with the Erratics and Flux
of Pink Indians out of town a lot – Sid from the Flux briefly
played drums in the Sinyx. They were great double –bills, as The
Flux and Sinyx were coming from the same kind of place, but playing
quite different stylistically, which made for great, original gigs.
Around Essex the band would sometimes play with The Waxwork Dummies
of The Icons.”
the band made the trek to Wapping near the future site of the Anarchy
Centre where they recorded their first demo tape.
“The first demo was recorded on the 1/3/80 at the Elephant Studio,
Wapping, London, with tracks including “9-5 Auschwitz”, “Bullwood
Hall”, “Camouflage”, “Britain is a Mausoleum”, “Mark of
the Beast”, “Automaton” and “Therapy through Violence”. It
was a great first recording – Best songs on it are “Mausoleum”
and “9-5 Auschwitz”. It’s got quite a unique sound. Aside from
the usual Punk influences, Barrett was into the Velvet Underground,
and I remember Auntie being into Chrome.”
this point, Auntie had gotten to know some of Crass and passed a copy
of the demo along to Penny Rimbaud. Eventually, the band was
contacted for inclusion on the first “Bullshit Detector”
compilation. The track “Mark Of The Beast” would end up being the
only thing released from that demo.
first “Bullshit Detector” compilation turned out to be a sampler
of future bands to record for Crass Records. While that never
materialized for the Sinyx, their track was a standout in it’s
shambolic approach and fast-paced march through a blasphemous rant.
got the mark on my forehead
the mark on my hand
I’ve sussed it out
bible and religion
just a load of shit
Archbishop’s a fool
Pope’s a hypocrite
section of the cover art consisted of bible quotes out of context as
sexual innuendos as well as a graphic of Christ on the cross with “Ha
Ha Ha” replacing “INRI”. Playfully amateurish, the scrawl
seemed all the more outrageous.
the quick release of that record in 1980, the band found themselves
playing more gigs and to bigger audiences.
“The 1980 era gigs were excellent, intense affairs – playing with
the Flux a lot and helping generate a great scene.”
live performances helped to tighten up the band’s set and new songs
were added. Before the year was up, they had gone back into the
studio to record again. On September 6th,
they cut four songs with Barry Martin late of the Kursaal Flyers.
“There were four songs on it, Animal, Decadence, Suicide and a
re-working of Britain is a Mausoleum. It was produced by Barry Martin
(local guitar legend, now playing in the Hamsters). I think it was
slightly overproduced, with a few unnecessary guitar effects,
however, it wasn’t that bad and did show the evolution of the band
and Baretts rawer singing style – Best track was Suicide.”
despite the new recording and steady gigging, two of the Sinyx had
decided to split the group before the year was over. Paul Brunt and
Vints decided to leave the band with little fanfare or acrimony.
“I don’t really know – after the Sinyx I don’t remember Paul
Brunt playing in any bands. Vints played in the Nihilist Corps and
KMosaic for a while and I lost touch with him after that. He was a
great drummer and on the local scene was quite a legend.”
another local punk band, The Icons, were calling it a day.
“The Icons were a Southend Punk Band that existed between 1979 –
1980 and consisted of Copper – Vocals, Filf – Guitar, John –
Bass and Peanut – Drums. They were a good live band, and recorded
Robinson (Filf) and John Edwards were soon asked to join the band on
guitar and bass. Deciding to give a try at the previously rudimentary
drumming, Auntie switched from bass and soon proved to be forceful
behind the kit.
“After Paul Brunt and Vints left, the Icons had split up at the
same time, and being friends and coming from the same musical
background, it made sense to join forces. With Auntie moving to
drums, it led to a new, harsher and more powerful sound.”
new line-up was debut at the start of 1981. The change in style was
greeted positively and a new direction was being forged away from the
fast marches and more towards the heavier, more doom-laden sound of
their later musical output. Some songs new to the set at that point
were “Animal”, “Fight” and “Excommunication”.
“By 1981 when the line up changed, the gigs became, if anything
more intense, and when the band would play their two key songs –
“Fight” and “The Plague”, the place would erupt. Also, there
were a number of great alternative venues always cropping up –
disused churches etc where some great gigs were played.”
this time, the band felt they were in a position to release their own
record. Wanting to work outside of the normal system of independent
punk labels in Britain, they decided on a project release with long
time friend, Rob of Reality Attacks fanzine.
“Rob ran the fanzine and was really into the music and ideas of the
idea, and subsequently when the idea of the EP came about, it made
sense to put it out in conjunction with the fanzine.”
time around, the band decided to record at home at Spectrum Studios.
“Spectrum studio was brilliant. It was a small studio in Westcliff,
on the outskirts of Southend. It had been there for quite a while,
and the engineer, Warwick Kemp was a cool guy who had got this
amazing 16 track from Decca, who’d used it in the ‘60’s to
record bands like the Rolling Stones. It got a great sound (The
Kronstadt also recorded their last demo their in 1986). Sadly, under
strange circumstances in the early ‘90’s there was a fire at the
studio that completely destroyed it and everything was lost, which
was really tragic.”
four tracks recorded were “The Plague”, “Decadence”, “Zulu”
and “Animal”. The record was titled “Black Death” which
seemed to come from the lead track.
“Mainly it was Aunties and Paul’s idea, so you’ll have to ask
them, but the key song on the EP was “The Plague”, which had the
lyric ‘anarchy is here – the plague of peace’ and so the “Black
Death” fitted the title excellently.”
record would turn out to be a one off project for Reality Attacks and
would be the label’s only release. Despite it being on such a fly
by night label, the record did still fit into the anarcho approach
and more specifically with Crass.
“Obviously, there was a Crass connection, and they were very
helpful in advising the Sinyx on the best way to put our their own
independent EP etc and were very encouraging, but essentially the
Sinyx were quite unique.”
record was released to critical and popular success even making a
decent showing in the UK indie charts. But as was becoming their
curse, the release of the record saw the second line-ups
disintegration. With Filf deciding to leave the band, Auntie and John
decided to both move to guitar for a bigger wall of sound and a new
rhythm section was brought in comprising the band’s final line-up.
“When Filf left the band, they had a rethink about the sound, and
wanted to pursue the really intense wall of intense sound they’d
been developing, so Andy Whiting (ex-Kippars and future Sonic
Violence bass player) was brought in on bass, John Edwards switched
to second guitar, Auntie switched to first guitar, Barrett carried on
singing and I stepped in on drums. (I was really into that heavy,
tribal style of playing at the time that suited their songs and sound
had up until then been drumming for Kronstadt Uprising, another local
band that had played many times with the Sinyx. The crosspollination
would continue as at different stages Filf would play guitar for
Kronstadt Uprising and Paul sang with them at a different time.
the third line-up, the band still remained on course getting further
and further into heavier music on the edge of what later would be the
doom metal scene. Not wanting to sever all connections to the past,
the band also continued with the “hits” of the earlier days.
“The set was quite a mixture of the old and new at this point.
Whenever the band would play live, a large portion of the crowd would
always want to hear some of the ‘classics’ like “Britain is a
Mausoleum” and “9-5 Auschwitz”, which we enjoyed too, but the
newer songs were becoming really strong and we would introduce more
and more of them, creating quite a formidable canon of work. Newer
songs like “David’s Star”, “Charles Manson/g”, “Kiss of
Death” and “Blasphemer” were especially strong.”
this set, the band played its first gig at the Forest Gate Centre on
1982 supporting the Mob and Rudimentary Peni. The band found
themselves in the favor of the still developing anarcho punk scene.
“We played with the Mob a lot, Riot/Clone, Assassins of Hope,
Rudimentary Peni, Nightmare loads really.”
band was now able to play regularly for the rest of the year
highlighted by an August 1st
gig with the Mob at the Centro Iberico.
“The gigs at this time were very special, and when the band and
audience clicked in, it was a very intense and uplifting cathartic
experience. We’d regularly leave the stage covered in blood from
the intensity of our playing. The first gig I played with the Sinyx
was in a big hall in Forest Gate, London. I think it was with the Mob
and Rudimentary Peni and was a great gig. Probably the best gig was
at The Centro Iberico in West London. We played with the ubiquitous
Mob, amongst others, it was a great summers day. The inside area
/venue area was painted in an astounding array of colors, it was
rammed with a very encouraging and up for it crowd, the sound was
great and people tell me it was one of the best gigs they ever saw.
It certainly felt great to play – I remember it was really hot, and
so intense, just before the encore I had to vomit, temporarily passed
out and just made it back for the encore of ‘Fight’.”
this point, their set included new originals “David’s Star”,
“Charles Manson/g”, “Kiss Of Death” and their final
composition, “Blasphemer”. Unfortunately, no proper recordings
were ever made of this last line-up to document the songs.
“No real demos – I think we made a 4-track reel-to-reel of a
couple of songs at the rehearsal studio, but I‘ve never heard them.
There were a lot of live bootlegs I remember, which was really the
best way of hearing the band at their best.”
the band was probably at it’s most cohesive, it was also on its
last leg. A month after the Centro Iberico gig, the band, for all
intensive purposes, was done.
“In late ’82 after a really powerful gig with Rudimentary Peni at
the Moonlight in Hampstead, London, Paul Barrett left the band, and
without his voice I didn’t feel it would be the same, so I left
too. (I also wanted to concentrate on Kronstadt Uprising a lot as we
were starting to take off at the time) Auntie, John and Andy Whiting
carried on for a few more years, with Mark Bristow in the vocal
limelight for a while, and with Donald on drums, but I think that
line up eventually disbanded around ’86, where not too long after,
Auntie and Andy Whiting started up Sonic Violence.”
Edwards would eventually leave to play bass for the short-lived
Allegiance To No One and Paul briefly sang with Kronstadt Uprising
before quitting music all together to become a psychiatric nurse.
Steve decided to focus all of his attention on Kronstadt Uprising.
Auntie and Andy Whiting would carry on with Sonic Violence who would
release a volley of records and have some success in the Head Of
David / Godflesh vein also playing gigs with bands such as Extreme
Noise Terror and Concrete Sox though never capturing the same unique
quality of the Sinyx.
“Without Paul Barrett, it wasn’t really the Sinyx, yet at the
same time, Sonic Violence took that intensity of the Sinyx and took
it in a different direction. The song “Blasphemer” was the last
new Sinyx song I remember playing with them and was the only Sinyx
song to my knowledge that Sonic Violence did. Auntie was the
main Sinyx songwriter, so obviously there was that legacy and
simultaneous continuum, but personally for me Paul Barrett was the
voice of the Sinyx, and once he left, as I said earlier, that was the
end of it for me to.”
UNCOMFORTABLE REALITIES ARE ALWAYS BETTER FACED AND NOT FORGOT
Story of the Snipers
anyone attempting to find some sort of musical aesthetic relationship
between the bands on Crass Records, the Snipers are a perfect
obstruction. Even their only record, the “Three Peace Suite” EP,
is a mish mash of un-commercial styles. From hypnotic drone to fast
paced punk to almost dance-like post punk, the record was an
uncompromising bridge between the various colors of the new music.
the few years the band existed, the Snipers never backed down from
their iconoclastic message.
Coming Attack fanzine #2, “Government, oppressive leadership,
domination, complete control – servility is what it’s all about.
‘Tow the line’… ‘Be a good (?) boy/girl’… ‘Do what is
expected of you’… ‘Do what is right’… (What is right?)”
in 1979, the group hailed from the town of Bruford, about 20 miles
west of Oxford. The line-up, which seems to have remained the same
throughout the groups existence, featured Russ on vocals, Dave
“Bungi” on guitar and vocals, Steve “Whacker” on bass and
Mark on drums.
group was quick to do a practice room recording, which became their
first demo tape. To call the 10-song effort “raw” would be an
understatement. But the fact that it sounds like just one mic propped
up in a corner where the group probably thought would give them the
highest fidelity makes it a more fascinating relic: a rare though
fact, the group is barely holding it together as they seem to be
fighting with their instruments as much as the outside world. It’s
an addictive cacophony of furious strumming and bashing while
fighting for the self-discipline of rhythm. There’s conflict
between the bass and guitar chords. It’s not that they are making
mistakes. They’ve simply chosen to play related but different
chords in the same structure. It works whether they like it or not.
it’s the vocals that sort of make or break the group. The virtually
deadpan, unbothered delivery can either be seen as a brilliant
condition or total tedium. At the time it sort of had the appeal of
some of the early Fall singles. A decade later the style was
unconsciously mimicked on the first few Pavement recordings.
this was no stream of consciousness. The group was vehement in their
Coming Attack, “Ordinary people are an inconvenient nuisance to
‘people in power’. Their lack of conformity makes them difficult
to control – the difficult ones, the ones who say ‘no’ too
often or too loud, are a problem. We are better off without them, at
least that’s what we are lead to believe.”
was this kind of thinking that made them natural allies with the
Crass camp and in 1980, they appeared on the first “Bullshit
Detector” compilation with “War Song” pulled off of the demo
die for King and country
die for money and hate
one asks the children if they want to die
are the mistakes of the chosen fools
compilation took them from their own self-organized gigs to
involvement in the ill-fated 1980 festival at Stonehenge. According
to a review in the NME “the evening
began peaceably with music from Nick Turner's Inner City Unit, The
Mob and The Snipers, but when punk band The Epileptics took the stage
they were greeted with nail of flour-bombs, cans and bottles. Their
lead singer was knocked to the ground by a bottle.” (Possibly the
most remarkable thing about this review was the writers insistence on
differentiating the Epileptics as a “punk band” as opposed to The
Mob and The Snipers…)
following year, the group released “Three Peace Suite” on Crass
Records. Recorded like most of the label’s material with Penny from
Crass, the extremely more polished sound gave the band a whole new
dimension. Starting with the hypnotic dirge of “The Parents Of
God”, there is something about the overall approach that is in
equal parts reminiscent of the first few Public Image recordings and
the Cravats on speed. “Nothing New”, a song retrofitted from the
demo, is almost like the Pop Group with it’s disco-like drum
pattern and aforementioned conflicting guitar and bass work. On “3
Piece”, the group goes for breakneck speeds sounding like a
psychotic version of Wire.
telling than the actual song lyrics was the hand drawn chart on the
back cover that seemed to be some sort of map of religious
consciousness connecting thought balloons with words like “religion
is gently coaxed into the mind by media”, “the desire to be told
what to do”, “consider tribalism”.
promising record would end up being the Snipers’ only document. An
LP was recorded for Crass, but never saw the light of day. The
following year, drummer Mark moved away putting into motion their
Coming Attack, “Behind most commercial media, no matter how
outspoken or revolutionary they seem, are the same band of bigoted
hypocrites trying hard to ‘clone’ ‘their public’ into a mass
of stereotyped zombies. Their ‘freedom of speech’ is subject to
well defined rules of the game. What sort of a game is it that
shatters life and can cause so much suffering in the name (excuse) of
‘what is right’? People have problems, problems have solutions.
But violence is no solution.”
FIGHT FOR PEACE
Icon AD Story
were one of the 10 or so bands off the first “Bullshit Detector”
comp to survive long enough to release a couple of the their own
records. With the memorably catchy “Cancer”, the band managed to
make the most of a pretty poorly recorded practice tape.
by Craig “C#” Weir, the original inspiration was his neighborhood
friend, Shonna. Having introduced Craig to the first wave of punk,
Shonna himself went on to found the pivotal second wave band,
Abrasive Wheels. By 1978, Craig had his first guitar and was totally
absorbed into punk rock.
first incarnation of the band was Icon. With schoolmates Mark Holmes,
Phil Smith and “Dicky” Watson, the group went through several
names (The Jackets, Terminal Boredom) before settling on a song title
from the Siouxsie and the Banshees album “Join Hands”.
as young teens, the band was eventually able to get gigs outside of
their town. The more gigs, the quicker their musical education and by
the time they got in touch with Crass, they were a fairly tight punk
Mark was the one interested in politics at the time and sent off
their practice tape to Crass. The result was the inclusion of
“Cancer” on the 1980 “Bullshit Detector” compilation. With a
song in many ways atypical for Crass, its lyrics naiveté is almost
metaphorical and surreal.
can almost taste it
getting so close
no need to waste it
only a growth
paracitomal kill the parasites?
are they ready to kill themselves
the following year, when school finished, the four essentially
drifted apart effectively breaking up the group. But in the
subsequent year, Craig had written some songs that he decided to
record. Employing the aid of Mark on drums, they recorded some tracks
with Mark’s wife and her sister on vocals.
is everything and simultaneous to this happening, Radical Change, the
label run by the Disrupters, were looking to release some other
groups. With both bands being on the “Bullshit Detector” comp,
things started to fall into place.
a whim, Craig had sent over the demo and Steve of the Disrupters dug
“I loved their track "Cancer" on the 1st Bullshit
Detector LP and I contacted them to ask if they had any more stuff
out. They sent me a great demo so I offered to release it for them.
They were a cool band I think, very underrated.”
the other two original Icon members uninterested or unable to reform,
the group carried on with Marks’ wife, Bev adding Roger Turnbull on
bass. The band was resurrected as Icon AD just in time for the
release of their debut record, “Don’t Feed Us Shit”.
“The first title was taken from the chorus line of our first proper
recording, ‘Cancer’, and was a fierce two fingers up to the
government/anyone who lied and rammed bullshit down our throats, and
who we felt were eating our lives away and destroying our freedom.
(Quite ironic that it ended up on a compilation called ‘Bullshit
four-track EP was an especially melodic affair not too unlike what
groups like Shelley’s Children would be doing a few years later but
with a serious inclination towards Stiff Little Fingers (especially
on the second song “What’s Your Name”). The sweet vocals and
chiming guitars make for a criminally underrated record.
record was an indie success and the group were soon asked to their
one and only Peel Session. They concluded that four song set with a
great updated version of “Cancer”.
only other proper recording of Icon AD was the follow-up EP, “Let
The Vultures Fly” also on Radical Change. With a more rock edge and
bigger production, the group still maintained their political edge
along with less obvious, but equally wonderful vocal melodies.
“The meaning of ‘Let the Vulture fly, was our way of saying NO!,
stand up for what you believe in, a plea for peace, an anti-war
message, SAYing NO to senseless killing which we considered to be
‘legal murder’ authorized by selfish leaders of countries.”
the cover art had evolved. The one-legged, peace symbol guy with the
rifle for an arm was replaced with a spikey top with a circle A on
despite the anarcho imagery, Radical Change’s distributor and
manufacturer, Backs, was certain that Icon AD could make a go of it
as a commercial pop act. The label wanted to release a new EP with a
glossy cover. The band flat out refused and the third record was
after, the group split up again for good. Ironically, Craig’s
teenage son now plays in a new punk band.
TOO MUCH ON MY MIND
Story of Metro Youth / Sanction
never looked to them for politics; I just liked the punk rock noises
that they made.”
Cross, bass player for Metro Youth / Sanction
was a hub for punk rock activity in the ‘80s. The home of numerous
bands and probably even more fanzines, the city developed it’s own
unique scene of bands combining influences from several different
generations of punk rock. It was at school there that Nigel and Rich
first met and began playing music in the band XLR8.
“The four original members of Metro Youth were all at the same
school, Hele’s School in Exeter, Devon. Three of us were in the
same class. We’d all started there in 1977, and pretty quickly
realized that we were all drawn to and excited by the music of the
Pistols and the other bands that we started to hear about. We all
listened to the late-night John Peel program on Radio One (the only
national music show where this music found an outlet to begin with)
and swapped tapes and shared records and started to read the music
press. There was a punk rock ‘in-crowd’ that we were never really
accepted as a part of, but we just got on with our stuff regardless,
and there wasn’t much in the way of animosity, at least from other
was the first to make the move to start a band, and once I’d found
out that he got himself a drummer and guitarist (neither of whom were
at Hele’s), I realized I’d need to buy a bass guitar if I was
going to become a member of XLR8. So I bought one, for forty quid.
That’s the only reason that I ended up playing bass — whatever it
took to be in the band. We all piled into Nigel’s garage in what
must have been late-1978 or early 1979 for a few rehearsals, but —
literally — none of us could play a note or hold or beat. I’d
bought the first Clash songbook, which we all tried to decipher, but
we couldn’t work out how to make chords on the guitar, or how to
match them to notes on the bass. I remember we did this very spartan
and weedy version of ‘Police and Thieves’ and that we wrote a
crappy ‘Borstal Breakout’ rip-off before we realized that this
was going nowhere.”
were more of a whim than a band and soon dissolved. But for Nigel and
Rich, it was a way of testing the water. It gave them their first
taste of musical creativity. Instinctively, the process intrigued
them. With the end of XLR8, they decided to find more likeminded
people to form their next band, Metro Youth.
“XLR8 packed up, and within a couple of months Metro Youth came
together during a series of rehearsals in Easter 1979. We were all
either 15 or 16 at the time. I was 15 myself.”
many bands of the time, Nigel and Rich were drawn together more by
their desire to create and be part of a growing youth movement that
was largely (if only in lip service at the start) based on
encouraging everyone to participate. The DIY ethic started with the
idea that you could just pick up your musical instruments and make an
interesting noise without years of training. As a beginning block,
this concept could be used to infuse DIY ethics into all aspects of
the process of popular music. As a basic pretense of punk, the
anarcho bands took it a step forward seeing it as a way to affect
life and culture.
rounded out the band with schoolmates, Andy and Tim. Eventually, Andy
became the drummer, Tim the guitarist, Rich on bass and Nigel the
“We learnt to play our instruments through trial-and-error and
experimentation. It is absolutely true than, when we started, none of
the original four members of the band could play anything — at all.
We knew nothing about guitar tuning, yet alone song structure or key
shifts. For the first few weeks, everyone in the band tried their
hand at everything — drumming, guitar, bass and vocals. We all just
moved around, and started making a horrible racket afresh each time.
What eventually got us moving (like so many other bands since the
dawn of rock’n’roll) was working out cover songs, by playing
along to records that we liked.
first recognizable songs to emerge from our cacophony were things
like ‘Mongoloid’ by Devo, ‘Where Were You?’ by The Mekons and
‘Law & Order’ by Stiff Little Fingers. Looking back on it
now, what began to turn things around was the emergence of Andy’s
natural talent as a drummer. Once his technique started to reflect
that, my dead simple bass playing helped to give us a solid rhythm
section, and the confidence to start writing our own material. It’s
become something of a cliché, but it’s no less true for that —
one of the hugely important things about the emergence of punk was
its message that you could be a part of it if you got stuck in, and
its insistence that enthusiasm and commitment was what mattered. It’s
very clear to me, looking back on it, that the fact that we couldn’t
play really didn’t concern us at all. We just were not put off by
that. We wanted to play, and knew that it would come together somehow
if we picked up those instruments and got on with it. After that, our
ability to play developed almost beyond recognition in the couple of
years that followed.”
teenagers, the band was a little too young for the first generation
of Exeter punk bands. Metro Youth’s inception happened during a
lull in the area’s underground music scene. Not having much of a
connection to the rest of the Exeter punk scene, the band developed
independent from any notion of what was going on around them.
Un-influenced by bands and musicians in their area, they were forced
to take their own path from the development of their music to the
selection of a band name.
“When we started we didn’t really know a lot of other local
musicians. There had been a spate of 1977 Exeter punk bands,
including The Scabs and The Fans, but we only knew about them by
reputation, really. There had been a couple of other short-lived
bands at our school, but it was only later that we really connected
with the local scene, such as it was.
talked and talked about possible names for ages, and, for a time,
different versions of ‘Victimize’ and ‘The Victims’ were in
the front running. Eventually, ‘Metro Youth’ emerged as the name
that everyone disliked least. I’m reminded; re-reading one of our
old fanzine interviews, that drummer Andy came up with it. I suppose,
not very subtlety, we were identifying ourselves as ‘urban youth’,
which, considering we lived in a small town in the rural southwest,
was an odd choice. I didn’t like it much then, and I can’t say I
like it any better now!”
the line-up of Metro Youth resolved in 1979, the band began an
intense period of rehearsals to develop their set and their
individual musical styles. This started during their schooling at
Hele’s School and continued until they were all signed up at Exeter
College. Practicing for several weeks in the typical “suburban
garage”, the band was eventually forced by noise complaints to
soundproof their living room and move their base of operation.
band’s first live performance came in August of that year at the
St. Thomas Methodist Church Hall. As might be expected, the first gig
was a shamble of failing equipment and nervous technical inability.
Despite that the crowd, having been through a musical drought, were
eventually won over and reacted wildly. This was a great dose of
encouragement to the band.
as time went on, the band began to be kept at an arm’s length from
many in the punk scene. Their growing association and influence from
political bands like Crass and Crisis was the cause of some scrutiny
from the more traditional punk luminaries of Exeter.
“The first time that I can remember being aware of the existence of
‘punk’ was reading the headlines about the Pistols in the tabloid
newspapers on my paper round in 1976-77. But it wasn’t until I
heard the music that I really started to sit up and take notice. I
read the British music weekly Sounds
each Thursday, and it was in there that Garry Bushell wrote the first
ever national music press report about Crass, announcing the imminent
release of ‘The Feeding of the 5000’. The record and Crass
sounded amazing, so I sent off to Small Wonder and had a copy of the
first pressing of ‘Feeding’ by the following week.
can remember that it took me a few listens to get into the whole of
it, but that I loved ‘Do They Owe Us A Living?’ from the first
time I heard it. There were a handful of incredibly significant punk
records that sounded like no one else had ever sounded before, and
changed what you thought about punk. ‘Realities of War’, the
first Discharge EP would be one, and ‘Feeding’ was definitely
another. Next, I bought the ‘Reality Asylum’ single, and started
to get more and more interested in the anarcho side of punk.”
dawn of a new decade was still a difficult time for new music outside
of London. Finding venues for their music, the band took it upon
themselves to set up their own events rather than waiting for a
promoter to call (a call many bands waited for that never came). This
was combined with the grass-is-greener mentality of many music scenes
towards it’s local bands.
“Gigs were always extremely hard to come by. Our first gig, in a
church hall in 1979, was pretty shambolic, until the encore when we
started to pull things together at last. Once we’d got a grip on
our nerves and had a few shows behind us, we played some pretty good
gigs, I reckon — including a No Nukes benefit at the university; a
headlining slot at the Rougemont Festival in an Exeter park; and the
major support slots that we got. We had a small local following, but
it was hard to build anything because the scene was so weak. There
was never an ‘anarcho-punk’ scene in Exeter, at that time. But
remember, Metro Youth was not in the straight anarcho-mould anyway.
was certainly true was that Exeter punks had little enthusiasm either
for local bands, or for bands that they didn’t already know. One
example of that would be the reception that The Ruts got when they
opened for The Damned at the Routes club in Exeter in 1979. Metro
Youth people knew Ruts songs because we’d taped the sessions the
band had done on the John Peel show and couldn’t wait to see them.
But this was in the days before their Virgin signing and to most
Exeter punks turning out to watch The Damned they were unknown. The
Ruts did blistering versions of classic songs like ‘Sus’, ‘You’re
Just A’ and ‘Babylon’s Burning’ and other numbers from what
would become their first album, and most of the audience just stared
at them in blank indifference.
lot clapped and cheered but The Ruts went down pretty badly overall.
Of course, then a smacked-up Malcolm split his head open on a cymbal
and had to be hospitalized at the close of ‘It Was Cold’, but
that’s another story… The Ruts played again, at the same venue to
a fuller crowd once ‘Babylon’s Burning’ had charted, and that
time the place went wild — on hearing the same set. That sort of
mentality made it hard for local bands, and not just Metro Youth, to
win a hearing.
for trouble at our gigs, there were only a few instances of that, and
— Whitstone apart — nothing major. I later encountered much more
trouble at various Crass, Poison Girls and Flux gigs. There’s
nothing quite like being punched in the side of the head to the sound
of ‘Fight War, Not Wars’! Exeter itself wasn’t too bad a place
in terms of street hassle or violent hostility towards punks, at
least by comparison with other places we got to know.”
Community Centre was a 20p ride from downtown Exeter. Metro Youth
selected it as a venue for organizing a three band punk gig at a
remarkably cheap door price of 30p. Unfortunately, a group of media
brainwashed punks took it upon themselves to trash the hall and
physically attack band members who tried to stop the destruction.
Being stuck with a very large repair bill from the hall, Metro Youth
were nearly forced to sell off their musical equipment to get out of
this overnight debt.
“The Whitstone gig exposed our naivety big time. It had seemed
obvious that self-organization was the way to go — no-one in town
would let us book a punk show, and all local punks were moaning at
the lack of any action. We hired the Whitstone Community Centre, a
few miles out of town, booked a bill of local punk acts and laid on
transport there and back. Tickets were 50p (inclusive of the coach
fare) and we pretty much filled the bus on the night.
Centre had tried to cancel the booking at the last minute, once
they’d learnt that Whitstone would be full of ‘punk rockers’,
but we gave all the guarantees under the sun and they finally
relented. In our naivety, we hadn’t given much thought to
‘security’, and in the end, we just couldn’t protect either
ourselves or the building from the attacks of a minority of the
audience, who trashed as much of it as they could, attacked us when
we tried to intervene, and who had no interest in what any of the
bands on stage were doing. That night ended any illusions we might
have had that punks felt an innate ‘common cause’, were automatic
allies or all looking for the same thing. We felt let down, betrayed
and well pissed off.
other bands on the bill were sympathetic, including The Drop (who we
became good friends with, and who wrote great songs like ‘Arcadia’
which never got recorded before they split), but my recollection is
that we were seen as ‘the organizers’, and pretty much left to
get on with it.”
the band still persevered and remained committed to the DIY approach
to organizing gigs and recording demos.
The first ever demo, featuring soon to be discarded songs such as
‘Arson’, was recorded at Catharsis in 1979 (all known copies have
since gone missing). Next up was a professional recording session at
Exeter’s ESR studios.
The results were largely positive with support slots for the
Bodysnatchers at St. George’s Hall and two dates with Tenpole Tudor
in Portsmouth and Exeter. These gigs made deep impressions with the
band and people who saw the gigs.
a 1981 interview for “Obnoxious” fanzine, the band reflected on
the gig with the Bodysnatchers.
– Did the Bodysnatchers treat you okay when you supported them?
– NO! They didn’t speak to us at all.
– Start again, they arrived four hours late for a start; by the
time they’d set up and sound checked it was about 5 minutes before
the place was due to open and we hadn’t tuned up or anything, so we
had to soundcheck as people were coming in. Then the lead vocalist of
Bodysnatchers said to Nigel you can do two songs then walked off and
that was it. They weren’t interested or anything, just another
support band to them.
following issue of “Obnoxious” ran this review of the band’s
gig with Tenpole Tudor.
wasn’t a bad atmosphere this evening and it was a pretty good
turnout, surprisingly the audience was mainly made up of punks and
there weren’t many rock-a-billies… This was the biggest gig Metro
Youth have played since supporting the Bodysnatchers in 1980 and they
were on top form… (they) began the new set with “UK 79” an old
Crisis song, they carried on with “Equality” a rhythmic riff with
a lot of drum punch. They carried on with things like “H Bomb”,
“H Eyes” a great Ruts cover, played nearly to the exact style,
and then one of my favorites “Brutalised”… They were very much
together tonight, so if you missed them that’s your fault.”
“We were a small, local band, struggling to find an audience and
get outlets for our work, and The Bodysnatchers show was a chance to
play a big local gig with a proper PA and light set-up. We were
really excited about it; because it marked a step up for us — the
chance to play to an audience of a several hundred, rather than a few
dozen, with the possibility of a useable live recording taken from
the mixing desk. I have to say that we weren’t that interested in
The Bodysnatchers. I seem to remember that we thought they were OK,
but I’m sure we didn’t own one of their singles between us. We
were a pretty straight down the line ‘77-style band at the time,
and hardly the ideal support for them.
fact that we got offered the gig is a reflection of the poverty of
Exeter’s local music scene in 1979 — an up-and-coming all-female
ska combo, and Metro Youth were the nearest thing there was in the
way of a possible support act. I don’t remember them saying a word
to us all night. Tenpole Tudor, who we played two support slots with
in 1981, were much more friendly and interested, Eddie Tenpole in
the band still considered their best gig to be with The Gift at their
rehearsal space, Catharsis.
was an old warehouse on the south side of Exeter that the band moved
into in 1980. The rehearsal space soon also became their main base of
operation and ad hoc recording studio. During this time, the band
added Heather (Heff) on saxophone to broaden their sound. This
crucial move completed the picture that most people think of when
they think of Metro Youth. Having seen the band open for the
Bodysnatchers, she added a Lora Logic type element to the music and
also reinforced the band’s increasingly political outlook.
they talked about Heather’s joining the band in “Obnoxious”
– Do you think having Heather on sax has helped musically?
– Yeah (laughs). Seriously I think it has.
– I think the sound has quite a lot of depth to it.
– I’ve got grade eight clarinet. You can throw that in if you
– Now we’ve got more songs with sax in and it is very healthy.
– I think it could be quite interesting because I’m not quite as
punk minded as the rest of the band are. And I like all sorts of
from the sax, Heather added backing vocals that were especially
prominent in their live set. Her vocals were especially reminiscent
of Exene Cervenka’s on tracks like “Boys In Blue”.
band could now reach out beyond the ’77 style format. Their
inspirations were expanding and that exponentially affected the
development of their music.
“We always listened to a massive range of stuff. The original Metro
Youth foursome didn’t have that many records to start with, but we
all raved over the original ‘Live at’ and ‘Farewell to’ The
Roxy albums, and loads of the early Small Wonder releases, as well as
‘Bollocks’ and the first Clash LP. We all loved the UK Subs,
Stiff Little Fingers and The Ruts too. As well as that, we were
variously into people like X-Ray Spex and 999. We also rated more
consciously political bands like Crisis, The Pop Group, The Gang of
Four and The Au Pairs. Our tastes were pretty diverse.
our vocalist, was really into reggae artists like Black Uhuru, Misty
in Roots and Linton Kwesi Johnson. Tim, our guitarist, loved trashy
stuff like The Anti-Nowhere League, and bubble-pop like The Rezillos.
Drummer Andy liked bands liked The Damned and The Stranglers. He
liked all kinds of bands (punk and not) who were really proficient at
what they did, and could play their instruments. At the time, our
saxophonist, Heff, really liked Lora Logic, and I know that that was
a big influence on the way that she wrote for our songs. I was very
much into the anarcho thing, but I never saw it — in musical terms
— as an exclusive thing.
would buy Conflict and Cockney Rejects singles at the same time. I
liked Sham and The Upstarts. I never looked to them for politics; I
just liked the punk rock noises that they made. I treated them very
differently to the way that I approached anarcho-punk.”
was also at this time that the band started a working relationship
with Len Gammon. While the band never had an actual manager, Gammon
was a big booster of Metro Youth and helped out over the next year or
so with many of the details and responsibilities that go along with
keeping a young band moving.
“Len Gammon helped out Metro Youth in a number of different ways,
but in no way was he a manager for the band. We never had a manager.
Metro Youth would have been opposed to the idea in principle, and
Sanction would never have entertained the idea for a minute. Len ran
the Catharsis rehearsal studio, put on a gig for us there in March
1980, and engineered our first ever four-track recording (the only
one I don’t have a copy of). He also put in a lot of ‘good words’
for us around the place. We all liked Len.
was used by pretty much every local band around 1979-1980. It was an
old warehouse on the banks of the River Exe on the edge of the city
center. It was pretty tatty and basic, but there were few noise
restrictions, and we liked playing there. It’s where “Brutalised”
was worked out! The funny thing about booking Catharsis was that you
could never get Len to answer his phone. When you did manage to book
a session, there was no guarantee that you’d be able to rouse Len
at his flat when you went round to pick up the key. You might get a
rehearsal, you might not.”
Catharsis, the band quickly worked out a blistering set that they
recorded there in the space as their second demo tape. Recorded right
to four track, the demo included the classic punk songs “Red
Rifles”, “No Tomorrow” and “Brutalised”. All three tracks
sound unbelievably fresh even today. While each one is a sing-a-long
in it’s own way, the music is sophisticated and overflowing with
excitement. The punchy rhythm section and imaginative but understated
arrangements keep each song moving and creates a safe backdrop for
the stretched yet tuneful vocals as well as the incredible sax
Lora Logic comparison shows up the most on “Brutalised” while
more avant-garde influences are more evident on the other tracks.
Listening back on it, it’s a shame these three songs were never
released as a single as they really compliment each other.
“As Metro Youth, we did those three studio recordings — one at
ESR and two at Catharsis. On top of that we had two live tapes, taken
through the mixing desk at our two largest St Georges Hall gigs. We
distributed versions of all of them to fanzine editors and the like,
and a couple of tracks from the live stuff were taken for various
benefit compilation tapes.
Catharsis tapes were way better than the ESR one, even though we
knocked out the Catharsis ones on a stripped down four-track while
the ESR session was done in a professional studio. Inevitably, the
Catharsis recordings captured the immediate, raw, un-doctored noise.
The ESR tape smothered and neutered all that edge. We didn’t know
enough at the time, I think, to recognize how much we’d been mugged
by the production on the recording.”
would be the track that actually created a tangible link between
Metro Youth and the anarcho scene around Crass. On hearing the track,
it was chosen for inclusion on the second “Bullshit Detector”
“It should be said right up front that the scene wasn’t just
found in London. That was true even of what Crass themselves were
doing. By 1981-1982, Crass Records had signed artists from as far a
field as Rochdale, in the north of England (Andy T) and Dunfermline
in Scotland (The Alternative). Crass’s interests weren’t
restricted to some narrow London ‘scene’. But, more than that,
anarcho-punk, as a movement, established important bases way beyond
London, and across the country.
local anarcho-scenes sprang up in places as far apart as Bristol in
the southwest, in Birmingham in the west midlands, in Sunderland in
the northeast of England and in Dunfermline, around what The
Alternative were doing. Anarcho-punk also found an important footing
in Belfast, in the north of Ireland, around the Anarchy Centre (which
both Crass and Poison Girls played at). Of course, loads of
important stuff was centered on London, but don’t get the
impression that London was where anarcho-punk stood or fell. Our
knowledge of things like the Anarchy Centre, the early London
anarcho-gigs, the anarcho-squat scene and all kinds of other things
only came from record sleeves, anarcho-handouts and bits that we
could glean from the national music press.
knowledge of what was going on elsewhere around the country came from
fanzines, letters, visits and visitors. To us, stuck in Exeter, where
things were so sluggish, what was cracking off elsewhere always
sounded really impressive and exciting, but a world away from where
have to remember that prior to the impact of punk, there was no
network in place for the distribution of independent records and
publications. Seminal punk records like SLF’s ‘Alternative
Ulster’ and The Ruts ‘In A Rut’ took ages to circulate as far
Devon. The distribution deals just weren’t in place. It was really
difficult to get hold of stuff. A lot of the time you read about
bands whose stuff you had no chance of getting hold of.
first time that I went to the Rough Trade shop in London, sometime in
1981 or thereabouts, I couldn’t believe that they had — as well
as this amazing collection of punk vinyl — folders stuffed full
with punk fanzines, that you could browse through and pick from. That
was a revelation to me. To realize how large and diverse the fanzine
movement really was, and just how many titles there were. There were
a smattering of gigs in Exeter and in Bristol (about seventy miles
north), but we felt completely off the beaten track in many ways.”
success Metro Youth could have received on the release of the
compilation never occurred, as it wasn’t released until 1982, after
the band had split. The band’s delight at making the final
selection for Bullshit Two
was somewhat marred, on receiving the advance copies of the record,
by two disappointments: first, that Crass had selected the weaker of
two possible mixes of the song from the tape, and, second, that an
unwanted fade out had been imposed on the end of the track.
Rich, “Don’t get me wrong — we all felt that it was a real
achievement to be included, we were really happy about that and
grateful to Crass for the opportunity. It’s just that, if we’d
have been asked, we’d have made different decisions about both the
mix and the ending.”
1981, the band added established local musician Brian on second
guitar to fill out their live sound and to take over a lot of the
lead guitar work.
“Listening now to some of the live and studio recordings, I’m
struck by how much better we got, and how quickly. With Heff and
later Brian joining in 1981, the situation changed. Heff was already
an accomplished clarinet player and saxophonist. She’d even been a
participant in the BBC ‘Young Musician of the Year’ competition
one year. She picked all our stuff up by ear, and kept her sax parts
pretty fluid and improvisational. She was good enough to do that and
have it work. Brian was a talented guitarist, who we’d got to know
from various local bands he’d played in. Tim, our existing
guitarist, was an effective riff-pounder, but he was more than happy
to play rhythm guitar to Brian’s lead.”
this six-piece line-up was short lived. After a few gigs, both
guitarists split the band effectively ending Metro Youth. Their final
gig was on December 3rd,
“Metro Youth came apart at the end of 1981, at the moment when
things were going better than they ever had for the band. We had a
whole bunch of gigs set up for early 1982, but Tim, our original
guitarist, was moving to Plymouth to go to art college, and our new
lead guitarist, Brian, decided for personal reasons to pack in
playing music completely, and we failed to persuade him to stay.
There really weren’t any personal tensions in the band. If we’d
have kept one guitarist, I’m sure we’d have carried straight on,
but, losing both, we just stalled!”
end of the band, however, didn’t diminish the remaining four
members interest in DIY or the music scene. Through 1982 they
continued to be involved with fanzines and promoting gigs while
playing music was put on hiatus.
many individuals and bands involved in the DIY culture of the anarcho
punk scene of the time, the members of Metro Youth were involved with
their local fanzine scene both as supporters as well as contributors.
Metro Youth’s successes were used to help support others like the
printing of “Obnoxious”, “Never Surrender”, “Catalyst”
and “Radical Hedgehog”.
“Phil Hedgehog was, at that time, a young anarcho-punk from the
Forest of Dean (just west of Bristol) who started writing to us after
buying an ‘Obnoxious’ fanzine at the massive 1981 CND rally in
central London. Over the next couple of years, me and him became the
best of friends, and he came to stay in Exeter a fair bit. Phil, who
never became a member of Metro Youth or Sanction, was — and remains
— a brilliant cartoonist and graphic artist, supplied loads of
cartoons and drawing for ‘Catalyst’ fanzine, which me and Heff
produced between 1982-84, and did all kinds of illustration work for
was very much involved with what we were doing. Phil also produced
his own fanzine ‘Radical Hedgehog’, which, with its entirely hand
drawn contents, was pretty much unique in fanzine circles at the
time. Phil was one of the organizers of the second Exeter Crass gig
in September 1984, and contributed the spoken-word track ‘Radio
Times’ to ‘Bullshit Detector 3’.”
was a local fanzine that supported Metro Youth from the start. The
fanzine’s editor, Clem Page, was able to print the zine’s four
issues with the help of the band financially and in terms of
“‘Obnoxious’ was an Exeter based anarcho-punk fanzine, put
together by the then fourteen-year-old Clem Page who we got to know
when he approached us for an interview. Clem was seriously talented
and articulate for such a young kid, and various members of Metro
Youth got involved helping him out with his fanzine, and him with
‘Catalyst’. Me and Heff, in particular would write things, help
out with interviews, print pages, but it was always Clem who edited
his appalling spelling and hit-and-miss typing skills, he did pull
together quite an impressive fanzine, particularly with the later
issues. It sold pretty well at local gigs and demos — relatively
speaking — local fanzine print runs would be in the low hundreds at
that time. It’s not much of a surprise looking back on it now that
Clem, who was very advanced for his years in many respects, suddenly
took off in a new direction, almost overnight, abandoning his punk
and anarcho interests. Nothing we said could convince him that it
didn’t have to be ‘all or nothing’, and he quit our circle and
scene completely. Of the fanzines of the time (1980-1982) Obnoxious
certainly held its own.”
and Heff eventually started their own publication with Catalyst.
Leaning more towards politics, the fanzine pooled the resources of
other underground publishers they met along the way.
“Me and Heff put together the first issue of ‘Catalyst’ fanzine
in early 1982, with help, from the very beginning, from Phil
Hedgehog. We also met with and swapped materials with Higgs who
published ‘Never Surrender’ in nearby Bideford. Phil Hedgehog
began to produce his own fanzine ‘Radical Hedgehog’ in Coalway in
the Forest of Dean from 1983, and we had regular contacts with other
south-west fanzines editors, including Tim, who we’d known from
Exeter Youth CND, who went on to produce ‘Children of the
Revolution’ in Bristol where he settled.
we were also in contact with dozens and dozens of other fanzine
producers across the country, and we put a lot of effort into that
‘postal network’ of producers. We’d send out ‘swap’ copies
to names on a list, and then pick out a handful more from the reviews
sections of those zines and do the same again. We got to know quite a
few fanzine editors pretty well, and visited them or had them come to
stay with us. Some of the better fanzines were really excellent. Why
did fanzine culture seem so important? I suppose we felt it was
equally as important as the music — another forum for the message,
another conduit to people, another voice for what we saw as ‘the
was also something that anyone could do to get involved. If you
didn’t have enough friends to form a band, you could put out your
own fanzine by yourself — handwritten in block-capitals if need be.
If you could only afford to print 30 copies, then fine, do exactly
that. Fanzines were another expression of the DIY ethic. After a
time, many titles tended towards the formulaic and ritualistic, and
the law of diminishing returns started to set in. But by best of the
early 1980s titles — works like ‘No New Rituals’, ‘Acts of
Defiance’, ‘Kind Girls’, ‘Joy of Propaganda’, ‘Cool
Notes’ and loads of others — were very effective for a time.”
six issues, “Catalyst” covered political issues from an anarchist
perspective as well as the occasional band likeminded inclinations.
“‘Catalyst’ fanzine was a political publication from front to
back. We did do features on music, but it was a pretty straight down
the line anarcho fanzine. Quite a lot of the early issues were all
but illegible, and, reading them today, chock full of semi-literate
sloganeering and ‘stream of consciousness’ stuff. They got
better. We could only afford a few photocopied pages, and the rest
had to be run-off on hand-cranked duplicators using wax-covered
stencils punched out on a typewriter. The quality of the finished
print was crude at best, and scrunched-up and ink-splattered at
worst. Things did improve with later issues, and our design and
writing skills picked up as well.
would have features on companies like Rio Tinto Zinc, actions like
Stop the City, law-and-order issues in Northern Ireland and —
something which became the overriding priority for us — the
struggles taking place against the deployment of Cruise and Pershing
nuclear weapons in western Europe in the mid to late 1980s. We wrote
a lot about actions we took part in, air bases we visited, peace
camps that we stayed at, and the strategies and tactics of
‘non-violent direct action’, including blockades, fence-cutting,
and occupations at places like USAF Greenham, Alconbury and
might also include an interview with Dirt or Conflict, but we’d
also have regular ‘punk really
is dead’ features,
slamming the state of ‘the movement’, railing against the
limitations and blind spots of its politics, but also urging on that
movement to realize what we saw was its very real potential. The last
‘Catalyst’ was produced in January 1984, and a few months after
that I joined the collective producing the fortnightly Peace
News magazine in
Nottingham, and so left Exeter for good.”
involvement with “Bullshit Detector Volume 2” helped pave the way
for them to set up gigs in Exeter for Crass. The first came shortly
after the split of Metro Youth.
“We ended up organizing the first Crass gig by accident, really.
Patrick, one of the local promoters from Stagger Lee, had been
putting on a series of punk gigs in the city. Stagger Lee had given
Metro Youth support slots in the past, but we were becoming more
critical with how Patrick, as an individual, was putting gigs
together. We were red-hot on the question of anti-commercialism and
the DIY punk ethos, increasingly defining ourselves by anarchist
politics, and were very concerned to hear that Patrick had got Crass
to agree to play live in Exeter in 1982.
cut a long story short, we were very concerned that someone with no
interest at all in the politics would be organizing and potentially
profiting from the Crass gig. All our correspondence with Crass up
until then had been through the PO Box in London, but Anna-Joy David,
a YCND organizer, had given us Crass’s home address at a meeting
held to launch a YCND group in the city. We wrote to Crass at Dial
House to warn them of our concerns with Patrick, and a few days later
Andy Palmer rang me up and asked if we’d be willing to put the gig
on ourselves instead. We said OK, although we’d never meant to
offer ourselves as alternative organizers!
first gig was put together mainly by me, Heff and Graham, a local CND
organizer and activist, with various friends and other CND people
helping out on the night. The second gig in 1984, I only agreed to
organize after a visit to Dial House to talk through my concerns
about Crass’s live performances in late 1983 — a front-to-back
rendition of the ‘Yes Sir, I Will’ album, which me, Phil and
other friends had endured at a hideous gig in Birmingham that
had major criticisms of the route Crass were taking live, although I
completely understood the frustration that led them in that
direction. My view was that ‘Yes Sir, I Will’ was a stunning
record (and that’s still my view today), but — performed in its
entirety — it just did not work live. The short version of the
story is that Crass decided to rework their live performance (though
not because of what I said to them!) for what became the final tour,
in the spring of 1984. In light of that, I agreed to put on the gig.
This was then put together by me with help in the week of the gig
itself with anarcho-punk mates, from Peterborough, Newcastle and Phil
Hedgehog. So neither were really Metro Youth or Sanction gigs. The
first was a split benefit for Exeter CND and the magazine Peace
News. The second was a
joint benefit for Alconbury and Molesworth peace camps.”
first Crass gig became pivotal both for Rich and his crew as well as
for Exeter. One night of support for Crass helped clear the air and
unified as well as validated what many in the scene had been doing
for some time.
“There’s a lot I could say about both those gigs, but I know that
Crass thought of both of them as examples of successful shows, and
were really pleased both we how we put them together and with how
they went off on the night. Crass and the brilliant PA crew that they
used both times, run by the talented engineer and mixer Paul Tandy,
were incredibly efficient and well organized from the moment that
they arrived, getting the gear set up and transforming the insides of
the hall (decked with banners, TV and projection screens) and
sound-checking in the matter of a couple of hours.
sense of focus and concentration was completely understandable, but
it meant that it wasn’t really until later in the evening that they
had the time to relax and chat with us a bit more. I can remember
feeling a little put-out at the time, initially, that they weren’t
more friendly and interested in what we were about from the off, but
I think, if anything, we were being a bit over-sensitive and not
making allowances for how much work they had to get done to get the
the end, Crass were pleased with how we had organized the evening,
and seriously happy to be fed and watered and looked after properly.
I think at a fair number of gigs they had gone hungry and neglected,
and were left trying to pull things together themselves on the night.
They even beat us to doing the washing up, and Andy took ‘our’
recipe for home made soya milk back to Dial House with him.
did entirely ‘take over the event’, and I think that was what
partly surprised us to begin with. But that was the way of working
they had developed. That’s what the experience of being on the
road, trying to put on the kinds of shows that they were doing, had
taught them was necessary. Crass sent us handwritten ‘contracts’
for both gigs, which might surprise some people. I’m sure that came
from a combination of being ripped off by promoters and let down by
inexperienced and overwhelmed young punks.
gigs were pretty large events, and when we were pulling together the
first one me and Heff were just eighteen. Our experience of
organizing up until then had been pub gigs. Both gigs I can safely
say were absolutely electrifying, although I spent both evenings
charging about everywhere sorting things out, so I didn’t get to
see all that much in the way of interrupted performances. We had
arranged security staff (paid and volunteer) for both nights, but we
did it in a low-key way, as agreed with Crass — and frankly, there
weren’t enough people to call on if things had turned seriously
ugly. We monitored things really closely as a result. As it was,
there wasn’t any trouble to speak of on either night.
talk about the first one, it’s still struck by how much the
atmosphere changed over the course of the evening. To begin with, it
was a memorable sight to see dozens of black-clad punks slouched in
groups on the floor in the main hall watching the ‘Choosing Death’
film show. It didn’t feel like ‘a gig’ at all at that point.
Later, as the place filled up, the mood was more tense, the room more
packed, and, as Annie Anxiety performed, there was a real ‘edge’
to the atmosphere in the place.
that, I think, was just as much a reflection of the intensity of the
evening, and of the contents of the performances, as it was an
indication of the intentions of the crowd. These performances
demanded a reaction from the audience, and you could feel that
recognition in the air. Then Crass came on, opening up with an
excoriating version of ‘How Does it Feel?’, which launched them
into a powerhouse set. They took total charge of everyone’s
attention from the off.
never forget the ‘turning point,’ the moment when we knew we’d
made it. It came when Crass, knocking out ‘Big A, Little A’ got
to the section: ‘if you don’t like religion, you can be the
anti-christ.’ Steve Ignorant delivered the next line, ‘if you’re
tired of politics, you can be…?’ and then turned his microphone
towards the audience, inviting.
of voices bellowed back, on cue, ‘an anarchist!’. As the drums
and hacking guitar powered back in, me and Heff threw our arms around
each other laughing, because we knew, at that moment, we’d pulled
it off. It wasn’t that we thought that the three-quarters of the
600-plus audience who’d yelled it, meant it. But it did mean that
the audience were ‘up for it’ and willing Crass on, on the night.
brilliant moment came right near the end of the set. Crass were
closing with the inimitable ‘Punk Is Dead’ and the whole front
section of the audience had taken up the closing chant — ‘punk is
dead! punk is dead!’ — and were yelling it back at Crass.
up on stage Ignorant and Andy Palmer, shaking their heads, were
insistently singing back at them, ‘oh no, it’s not! Oh no, it’s
not!’ That was both really funny and really striking all at the
same time. It made me laugh out loud, but it also made all the hairs
on the back of my neck stand up. It was a brilliant way of making
the point, of forcing this issue — they were saying ‘stop and
think! Is there a future for punk or not? Does it mean anything any
more or not?’ Quite a moment, I thought.”
was around this time that the “Bullshit Detector Volume 2” double
LP was released featuring “Brutalised”. Immediately recognized as
one of the better songs on the compilation, it brought new interest
in their activity from Exeter and beyond.
“By the time that Brutalised came out on ‘Bullshit Detector 2’,
Metro Youth had been wound up. That was simply a product of the
length of time that it took Crass to prepare the compilation for
release. Choosing from amongst hundreds of cassettes, and then mixing
the selected tracks and preparing the artwork from the band’s own
submissions did take a while — which is hardly surprisingly when
you think of how much work Crass had on at the time. It was Eve
Libertine who we liased with mainly, as she had taken on
responsibility for ‘Bullshit 2’. She told us, at the 1982 Exeter
gig, that ours was her favorite track on the LP — and I like to
think that she didn’t say that to every band she spoke to.”
is a punk riff with a big walking bass part and effective emphasis
brought by the amazing sax part. Like an anarchic X Ray Spex, the
song is truly one the best songs on the comp and of that era of
anarcho punk. Lyrically, it’s a reaction to seemingly random
violence against youth everywhere by social and governmental
youth dies, it’s not surprising
hardly worth analyzing
last in the news, both sides losing
hardly worth passive viewing
terrorist gone or was it a soldier?
land mine / bomb? Oh just turn over
terrorist gone or was it a soldier?
abroad, it’s guns they’re hoarding
funny how murder can be so boring
of doom, war clouds looming
funny how murder can be so time consuming
are killing or are they the dead?
too far away to recall what was said
the start of 1983, the four remaining members of Metro Youth
reconvened under the name Sanction. Having taken enough time off from
playing music, they had a change of heart and decided to play
together again but this time with a more experimental edge to the
music and a more openly anarcho political agenda. But little was
known of the band’s activity, as they didn’t appear publicly.
Word of the band’s existence and music was mostly dependent on
interest that remained from the Metro Youth track on “Bullshit
“There was a bit of a hiatus in 1982, following the end of Metro
Youth, with fanzines, arrangements for ‘Bullshit Detector’ and
organizing the Crass benefit taking priority. Following the September
Crass gig, three of us left Exeter to start college courses in
Bradford, Birmingham and Nottingham. Each of us who went realized,
for our own individual reasons, that we’d made a really stupid
decision, and agreed that we would return to Exeter and re-launch the
band in 1983.
first rehearsed again in January 1983, when Phil Hedgehog came to
visit us for the first time, and Sanction got properly restarted
around April 1983. Did we aim to keep a ‘low profile’, or choose
to be ‘unproductive’ for some reason after that? No, absolutely
not. We’d have loved to have been able to do more, get more
projects organized and be part of some larger local community of
people trying to do similar sorts of work. But there was precious
little to ‘connect’ to, where we were, and few opportunities to
promote what we were doing. We certainly didn’t seek some kind of
cool obscure and underground status.”
the start, Sanction were set on developing a set of new originals
with only a couple of leftovers from Metro Youth being “Brutalised”
and “Red Rifles”. In many ways, Sanction was a continuation of
Metro Youth as well as an exploration of one aspect of Metro Youth.
If Metro Youth had stayed together, they surely would have been
forced to either choose a path or continue in a variety of directions
running the risk of losing focus, certainly a common obstacle of all
bands in that position.
“Sanction certainly felt like a continuation of Metro Youth to
begin with. Sanction started out with four Metro Youthers in it, and
we continued to play quite a few Metro Youth songs at the outset.
Metro Youth’s own music style had developed quite a bit over the
two years of the band’s existence, or at least it had diversified.
We were still producing straight-out punk numbers, but also more
complex and unorthodox stuff as well, examples of which would be
songs like ‘Utopia’ and ‘Equality’.
began as a much more political project from the outset, reflecting
changes in where we were at individually and collectively. In the
summer of 1983, Sanction got a house together on the outskirts of
Exeter, where we could rehearse without disturbing the neighbors, and
all of the songs that we started to work on were political ones in
one way or another… We were definitely a political punk outfit from
the very start.
Sanction house was, in reality, a ‘holiday cottage’, sat at the
far end of a large field that it shared with just one other house at
the opposite end. It was set back from the road, surrounded by trees
and backed onto fields of sheep. It was outside of town, but you
could be in the city center in forty minutes, if you took a leisurely
walk down the canal tow path, passed the ‘Double Locks’ pub that
became our local. It was pretty idyllic in many respects.
hauled our instruments and duplicators up there, set up a shared
house, bathed in the summer sunshine and hung out at the pub on the
canal. It was toughest for Andy, because he was holding down a job in
town, and having to haul himself in to work in the mornings, while me
and Nigel were unemployed, but it worked fine for several months.
the winter came, things turned a lot grimmer. We froze. This was a
summer building. The cottage walls were paper-thin, the roof wasn’t
insulated, and there were icy draughts blowing everywhere. No matter
how many logs we burned, it was impossible to heat the place. We had
to rehearse in coats and gloves. With Sanction making no headway in
Exeter, spring seemed a long way off. We gave up the cottage in the
end not because the band fell out about living together, but because
it wasn’t worth investing in a place that was basically
uninhabitable for half of any given British year. ‘A nice place to
visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there’.”
their short existence and outside activities, Sanction managed to
develop a following in the anarcho punk community largely due to demo
recordings made at the time. Rich, “We recorded two tapes. The
first was a eight song demo, recorded at a new studio on Queen’s
Street in Exeter on 20 August 1983, when we were still a four-piece.
The second was a recording of our only live show in Exeter in May
1984. We circulated those mainly through the fanzine network, and to
the people who were continuing to write to us because of ‘Bullshit
a few tracks appeared and re-appeared on benefit compilation tapes in
the UK and US at that time, like ‘Inner Ear Damage’ (a
Californian release) and ‘Alternative South West’ (put together
in Devon). In the decades before CDs, all DIY punk compilations were
on tape, and the humble cassette was the always the weapon of choice
of anarcho-punk. On ‘Have a Nice Day: Volume 4’, put out by
‘Caution’ fanzine in late 1983, for example, Sanction appear
alongside bands like The Subhumans, Chumbawamba, Passion Killers and
Faction. I’ve got four or five such Sanction-included compilations
on my shelves, but I know there were a fair few others. You didn’t
always get sent copies of what people had done!”
one studio recording yielded eight great songs including updated
versions of “Red Rifles” and “Brutalised”. Other songs were
“Our Lives, Our World”, “Butchery”, “Time Is Tight”, “Old
MacDonald’s Song”, “Unknown Soldier” and “Plastic Bullets”.
More prominent were Heather’s vocals, taking the lead role on many
songs. The songwriting had also become more adventurous bringing to
mind the Cravats, the Ex and at times, Eve Libertine’s songs with
Crass. The variation in song structure was result of intense
commitment towards learning their instruments without the benefit of
professional training. As the group grew more proficient at
performing, they still were able to maintain a unique style. But of
course, their immediate listening choices also played some influence.
“We were listening to a whole range of stuff. I certainly was the
biggest fan of straight anarcho-punk, and was listening to everything
that I could track down. There were a lot of influences as well as
that though — all sorts of things from reggae, PIL, Gang of Four,
Au Pairs, Pop Group, Devo as well as traditional and new wave punk.”
course, the lyrical content was as pointed as ever.
noose is tight
above the water
of one grasp
my death with deceptive names
your stomach with my limbs and brain
will die so you can be content
did I ever give you my consent?
don’t want to die for you in pain
should lower your bloodstained face in shame
right of death have you got over me?
you do is butchery.
frustration with the local music scene and the new atmosphere in the
mid ‘80s kept the band from performing live. The lack of
sympathetic venues and even less sympathetic ears kept the band
dormant. This situation eventually led to Heather splitting the band
to focus on her other project, Toxic Shock.
“Heff had intended to move into the house as well, but in between
the folding of Metro Youth and the launch of Sanction, she had formed
the two-piece feminist combo Toxic Shock, featuring Al on bass and
vocals and Heff on sax and vocals. The two bands did do some work
together, releasing a joint demo tape amongst other things, and Heff
contributed to the first Sanction studio recording, but with Toxic
Shock based in Birmingham, Heff eventually decided to stay put,
prioritize Toxic Shock, and quit Sanction.
Shock subsequently toured with Poison Girls, gigged with Conflict and
many others, and released material on the Birmingham based Vindaloo
Records, before calling it a day. This meant, among other things,
that Sanction were pretty quickly a three-piece.”
the course of the almost two year existence, the band only managed to
play one gig.
“We struggled so hard to find outlets in Exeter to play, it just
proved to be impossible. There was no pub circuit, certainly not for
the kind of stuff that we were doing, and nothing in the way of local
club venues. We got to know another local outfit called Wounded Knee,
who were pacifist and vegetarian, but who were more into the
‘spiritual’ side those beliefs, than the spray-painting,
fanzine-publishing, state-smashing end of stuff that we were drawn
to, and we agreed to do a gig together at The Caprice in Exeter in
May 1984. By this time, Sanction was a three piece, with Nigel on
guitar and vocals, me on bass and lead vocals and Andy on drums. It
was OK, but it didn’t really lead to anything else…
tried really hard to play more often! This was not an attempt on our
part to be ‘obscure and mysterious’; it was a reflection of the
fact that Exeter was in 1983-84 a seriously tough place for anyone to
get gigs, and a near impossible place for an agit-anarcho band like
Sanction. Any leads that we got just ended up going nowhere. We were
stuck, living in our cottage on the outskirts of town, rehearsing and
writing and existing as a ‘correspondence band’, sending tapes
out, answering fanzines interview questions and getting songs
included on numerous anarcho compilation tapes. We had more interest
from punks in Italy than from Exeter.
obvious thing to have done would have been to ask Crass to join the
bill at one of their Exeter gigs. Even by 1982, the question simply
did not arise. Earlier on, Crass would have, and did, include local
bands wherever they played, but that inevitably meant that local
bands with no interest in what anarcho-punk was about ended up
performing under the Crass banner. Part of Crass’s determination to
retain complete control over the performance on any night, meant that
the bill was agreed in advance and included only thoroughbred
anarcho-punk acts, most if not all already signed to Crass records.
Metro Youth or Sanction was simply never asked, and I’m sure that
would have been politely but firmly refused even if we’d have had
the gall to ask!
could have played with Poison Girls in October 1981 in Exeter, but we
didn’t find that out until the night of the gig, when they invited
us to join the bill — but some of Metro Youth were out of town.
We’d asked for the slot before, but talked to the wrong people in
Exeter CND and not the organizers. I really regret that we weren’t
able do it in retrospect, but we carried out a cracking good
interview for ‘Obnoxious’ fanzine with Poisons and Tony Allen
before they went on stage. Both Allen and the Poison Girls were
excellent that night. There were other possibilities — we traveled
to a squat gig in Swindon, but there was no generator for us to use;
we had agreed to organize a joint gig with Flux of Pink Indians in
Exeter, but the timing didn’t work out; illness forced us to cancel
a gig in the north-east at the last minute — so we didn’t have
the best of luck.”
spite of the lack of live gigs, the anarcho community was strong
enough for a band like Sanction to become known and make their music
available without the benefit of a tour. At the time, there were
several bands that never even attempted to perform live. The DIY
community was strong enough that Sanction was soon known throughout
England as well as internationally.
“The core activists and enthusiasts of British and European
anarcho-punk were all, in one way or another, connected — through
the vast web of bands and performers and the interconnections of the
fanzine network. Hardly anyone in Exeter knew who we were, but the
band was known about in the anarcho-milieu in this country and
abroad. We publicized our work through fanzines, contacted people
through the mail and had our songs included on DIY tape releases.
Mail from ‘Bullshit Detector 2’ continued to come in for Metro
Youth for a good couple of years after the release, so we’d write
to people about Sanction.
was how we ended up working, and of the three of us, I had the most
interest in following up on all the stuff that was coming in. All of
us in the band shared the frustration of not being able to do more,
but I know that for Andy and Nigel, there was even less going on with
the band because of that. The chance to correspond with fanzine
editors in France and Germany about what we were and weren’t up to,
felt like a poor compensation for our inability to get out there and
do it on our home turf.”
last hope keeping Sanction going was the possibility of recording for
Crass. There had been ongoing discussion of a possible single which,
obviously, would have helped their cause greatly. But just as things
were looking more and more likely, Crass split up in 1984 ending the
bulk of their operations.
“Talks about doings a single for Crass were pretty serious, as far
as I remember them. We last spoke with Penny Rimbaud about it at the
1984 Exeter Crass gig, and sent in a tape of Sanction material, which
both Eve and Penny sent us encouraging comments about. I’m
reasonably sure that we would have been invited to record one, if
Crass had not packed up within a matter of weeks of that gig, at the
end of the tour. Andy T, The Alternative and The Snipers all had
tracks on ‘Bullshit Detector 1’ and then did singles on the Crass
label. Omega Tribe did a single and an album after having a track on
‘Bullshit Detector 2’. It wouldn’t have been an unusual
development at all. I’m also sure it could have transformed the
situation for Sanction had we been able to do it.”
1984, any interest in politically active punk was dead in Exeter.
Apathy was the general sign of the times and the creative elements of
the anarcho scene had given away to more straightforward hardcore.
Even at Crass gigs, there was little interest in the anarchism
outside of it being a trend in punk rock entertainment.
“There really was very little happening in Exeter in terms of
anarcho-punk, and not that much in the way of punk more generally, at
that time. One of the things that we hoped might come from the Crass
gigs was that it would encourage people to get involved in things,
and help kick-start a local anarcho-punk scene. At each gig, we
arranged to have stalls — things like the local CND group, Exeter
Hunt Sabs, Housman’s Bookstall (a political bookshop from London),
anti-police powers campaigners, and others, in the hope of getting
punks interested and involved in things.
the 1984 gig, with Crass’ agreement, me and Phil produced a booklet
which we gave out to everyone coming into the gig — basically a
call to get stuck in to the anti-nuclear struggle raging at the time;
to become involved in organizing events like the gig; and to
contribute to getting things off the ground in Exeter. We had 600
people at the gig. We didn’t get a single letter or contact in
response to the booklet from anyone in Exeter or anywhere else,
though there were a lot scrunched up and on the floor by the end of
didn’t necessarily mean that people didn’t sign up for CND or
Hunt Sabs that night, or contact Crass, but it didn’t do much to
improve our sense of isolation and frustration with Exeter. That
said, we never considered moving to London. It’s just not something
that ever came up. As I said before, anarcho-punk was never just a
London phenomenon, and none of us were at all attracted to the idea
of living there. I feel the same way about it today. It’s an OK
place to stay, but I consider it a foul place to try to live.
nearest strong punk ‘scene’ that there was by the mid-1980s was
in Bristol, but it was based around bands like Disorder and we were
never taken with the whole ‘cider punx’ or, later, the ‘Riot
City’ culture either!”
lack of places to play and the lack of recording prospects finally
took its toll and Sanction called it quits in August of 1984. Of
course, the political and social climate was extremely different in
the mid ‘80s and the conservatism of the times certainly had much
blame for the situation. The conservative attitudes trickled down and
would eventually send the counter-culture into a remission.
“Devon, where we were, felt beautiful but backward. If you had
transport, it was a pretty amazing place to live — with stunning
coastline, woods and moorlands all within spitting distance of our
house. We lived just ten miles from great beaches and forty minutes
from the edge of Dartmoor, and we grew to love that. But the place
was an insular and conservative backwater at the same time, totally
separated off from where I consider ‘the action’ to be —
musically, politically, culturally.
just wasn’t working, despite all the efforts that we put in to turn
that around. We had to give up the house that we had been sharing,
and that made it even harder to keep us all involved. By that point
in 1984, our frustrations with anarcho-punk had reached a kind of
breaking point. In all senses, it felt like time to move on. For
myself, I wanted to be more engaged politically, and I wanted to
write about politics outside the confines of the fanzine format.
applied to join the collective producing Peace
News magazine, which was
then a fortnightly journal, reporting on and analyzing nonviolent
actions of all kinds against the ‘war machine’. Mike Holderness,
who was on the staff there, had been in contact with Crass as early
as 1979, organizing a gig for them in London and writing the
brilliant sleeve essay for ‘Nagasaki Nightmare’, but there wasn’t
anybody on the collective who’d come to their politics through
anarcho-punk. That was one of the reasons I got the job, I think.
wanted a staff member who knew about and could reflect the voice of
that section of their readership that was from that world.
moved to Nottingham in August 1984, and Nigel returned to college in
that September, also in Nottingham. Andy stayed put in Exeter. That
marked the end of Sanction. We did talk about organizing a ‘farewell’
Sanction gig in Exeter in July 1984, but, given the reception we were
getting from the place, it seemed kind of pointless to us really.
Instead, we called it a day with a final mail-out to the people who’d
written to us or written about us.”
the frustration, Rich is still politically active and responds
positively when thinking back on those times.
“No, I don’t think it was all ridiculous, but, yes, much of it
was ridiculously naïve. It’s important not to overstate how
wonderful it all was — some fanzines were shite, many anarcho-bands
were worse, many anarcho-punks turned up from the gigs, but would
never turn out for the actions, and a lot of the political ideas
informing those actions were delusional in the first place.
I’d want to defend a lot of what went on and what we were involved
in too. I’d want to criticize the individualism and the blind
pacifism of the movement, its lack of political strategy and its
confused priorities. I’d want to point to the chasm, which
separated the claims of the movement from the reality of the
movement’s work, and much more besides. And yet, at the same time,
many of the visions, aspirations and hopes articulated by that
movement still seem to me the right ones.
wanted to disarm and break the nuclear state, end the alienation of
family life and the misery of wage slavery, free the earth of the
exploitative parasites who plunder and threaten it, and create a new
global human community, able to exist in peace, freedom and equality.
You can attack anarcho-punk’s efforts to execute the plan all you
want, but I’m reluctant to criticize the sense of ambition!
Personally, in the years since Sanction wound up, I’ve kept hold of
the anarchism and vegetarianism, and let go of the pacifism.
for as Metro Youth and, more so, Sanction go, I think we invested far
too many expectations in it, and were constantly disappointed as a
result. We could also be over-earnest, self-righteous and indignant
about many of the things we did and said — me especially — but
that kind of came with the territory, I suppose. But listening again
to some of the old recordings, particularly the later Metro Youth
ones, and some of the Sanction material we only taped at rehearsals,
I am quite impressed by the kinds of things that we were doing and
the material we were trying out. Three to four years before that, we
really couldn’t carry a note between us.”
BLACK IS THE SHADE OF NEGATION
Story Of Kronstadt Uprising
it felt like we could take on the world – I remember when we used
to play gigs in this period I’d get very fired up and want to kick
over the statues and start the Revolution NOW!”
Pegrum, Kronstadt Uprising
the spring of 1921, four years after the October Revolution, an
insurrection took place near Petrograd at the frozen Gulf of Finland.
The lack of food and fuel created unrest in the workers and sailors
at Kronstadt, a naval base 50 miles from Petrograd. Strikes
throughout Petrograd were met with state violence culminating with
gunfire at a meeting of 10,000 workers.
sailors at Kronstadt, who Trotsky had previously referred to as the
“pride and glory of the Russian Revolution”, had formed their own
free commune outside the control of the totalitarian state. On March
first of that year, they made demands including the end to privilege
for certain political parties and the end of Red Army presence at
factories and work places.
demanded an end to monopoly of power maintained by the Bolsheviks and
their bureaucracy returning power to the Soviets. The Bolshevik
leaders responded by labeling them “counter-revolutionaries” and
“mutineers”. Ironically, it was Trotsky who was in charge of
repressing the rebellion. He oversaw the formation of a special
attack force made necessary by the fact that many of the Red Army
refused to fire on their comrades. On March 18th,
Trotsky ordered an attack that ended with the slaughter of the “pride
and glory of the Russian Revolution”.
often over-looked moment in the history of the Soviet Union was the
inspiration behind the name of the band, Kronstadt Uprising. Formed
at the end of 1981, the band became known for their track on the
second “Bullshit Detector” compilation on Crass Records. But the
band’s roots go back a few years further.
1979, Steve Pegrum bought his first drum kit. Inspired by the DIY
spirit of punk rock, he did it already with the intention of starting
a band. A dedicated fan of pop music and its history, he had grown up
around music and was immediately taken by punk rock upon his first
introduction to it. Living in Southend-on-Sea would be no obstacle
“I grew up in a very musical household – my Mother played the
piano, my Uncle was a professional Jazz drummer, and there were
always parties with various people bringing instruments round and
jamming. I remember at 7 or 8 years old thinking it was really cool.
Then with the Glam stuff in the early ‘70s – especially David
Bowie and T-Rex –I started buying the records with my pocket money
and formulating the idea of one day playing on a record myself – it
took until 1982, with the release of “Receiver Deceiver” on
Bullshit Detector 2- and once I saw the Sex Pistols on “So it Goes”
and “Top of the Pops”, within a few days I went straight to
Seditionaries, and started ripping things up and my life was
Southend in the ‘70s there was quite a thriving music scene – Dr
Feelgood, Eddie and the Hot Rods etc, but by the time the Kronstadt
Uprising came to start gigging the scene was a bit stale and needed
shaking up a bit. All the old Punk bands like the Machines, etc had
folded and a new breath of air was needed.”
first direct connection to the punk scene was through underground
publications of the time. Fanzines in punk culture ranged from gossip
and ranting to high journalism. This casual approach to DIY struck a
chord with Steve.
“I’d been reading fanzines since 1977 – my favorite to this day
is still Tony D’s excellent Ripped and Torn – primarily because
they represented the views of people like myself who felt largely
dispossessed by the representation of our music by the national
weeklies like Sounds, NME etc. They also would often focus on key
geographical areas that I found fascinating and would give an insight
into the local scene. For example, in my original home town of
Southend-on-Sea there were several titles: The aforementioned
Necrology etc, Strange Stories, and Graham Burnett’s legendary New
Crimes. The ’zines really did represent true freedom and the spirit
of autonomy and were the true embodiment of the Punk D-I-Y ethic.”
he was getting involved himself, publishing his own homemade fanzine.
“My first Fanzine was Protégé in 1978, which I then re-launched
in 1979 – 1980, running parallel with my other fanzine ‘Slaughter’
which ran from 1979 –80 also. They were mainly pictorially
orientated with features on the bigger punk bands of the day. The
main fanzine I put together which did quite well – Rough Trade
really helped with the distribution etc – was ‘Necrology’ which
ran from 1981 – 1982.
was great fun to do, and concentrated on the newer scene – i.e.
Crass, Poisons, etc, but in 1982 I was playing drums in the
Kronstadt, playing drums in the Sinyx and doing the fanzine and
couldn’t do all three so I stopped the fanzine to concentrate on
the bands, and ultimately the Kronstadt Uprising.”
by his Uncle, Steve had been interested in drums. As a jazz fan, it
also showed him that a bandleader didn’t have to be the lead
instrumentalist as was the case in most rock bands of the time. But
it was seeing Paul Cook on television with the Sex Pistols that
convinced him to take the plunge and get a kit and teach himself to
play. Soon, he was taking notice of other drummers in the punk scene.
“I’d seen my uncle playing the drums as a child and was very
impressed with the sound and feel he generated. He has been a
professional Jazz drummer all his life and is still playing now at
70! Also, all of my family was into music – my dad was into the Big
Bands, especially Gene Krupa, and his vibrancy and raw energy really
struck a chord with me (I was fortunate to see Buddy Rich a couple of
times in the ‘80s). Between the ages of 7 – 12, I’d regularly
watch Top of the Pops (in the ‘70s in the UK, the real must see
program for teenagers) and I was fortunate to be watching it when it
had Alice Cooper, T-Rex, Slade and The Sweet on there regularly. The
Sweet and Alice Cooper I especially loved, in Alice Coopers case
primarily for his drummer Neil Smith whom I thought was excellent.
thing that sealed it though was watching The Sex Pistols on “Top of
the Pops” performing “Pretty Vacant” in 1977. This changed my
life forever – and seeing Paul Cook pound out the rhythm, I knew
that was what I wanted to do. Him, Rat Scabies and Topper Headon
really set me on my path.”
the spring of that year, under the pseudonym Cut Throat, he formed
Cut Throat and the Razors. Formed with school friends, Chris Davies
and Graham Godfrey, on vocals and guitar respectively, they spent the
next few months learning their craft. With a haphazard set made up
mostly of punk rock cover versions, the band fell apart before the
end of the year. But by playing with other people right away, Steve
was able to move quickly in terms of skill and understanding of band
the beginning of 1980, Steve and Graham formed a new band with
vocalist Nicholas Stocks. Appropriately punk, they decided on the
name Bleeding Pyles. Focusing on a set of originals, the band were
faced with the daunting task of making a name for themselves amongst
the myriad of garage bands popping up around England at the time.
Within a few months, this band, too, split leaving Steve to start
was around this time that Steve met Spencer Blake during one of the
Easter Bank Holiday Weekend riots between punks and teddy boys.
Spencer was a fellow Southend punk fanatic and the two began forming
a band using the name Bleeding Pyles.
on Lee Lobb on vocals and Mike Heddon who was known as Spiderman on
bass, the band began putting together a set of originals at Dave’s
Rehearsal Studio in Southend and rehearsing quite regularly. But
after having played only two gigs at the Focus Youth Centre between
the summer of ’80 and the spring of ‘81, this line-up also split
with Lee and Spiderman losing commitment.
to make the band work, Spencer switched to vocals and Bleeding Pyles
recruited Paul Lawson to play guitar and Mick Grant for the bass
duties. Rudimentary versions of later Kronstadt Uprising songs, as
well as a few tracks lost in time, were developed. Song titles
included “Receiver Deceiver”, “Blind People”, “Dealer of
Death”, “Necrology”, “Nihilistic Vices”, “Invasion”,
“Dreamers of Peace”, “Violent Fear” and “Anthem for Doomed
Youth”. But by this point, the original members of the band were
losing interest in the band’s initial vision and their musical
interests were progressing with the times, although on August 19th,
1981, this line-up made its debut at the Thorpedene Community Centre
as the (final version of) Bleeding Pyles.
“My first band of any note was Cut Throat and the Razors. We really
couldn’t play and just generated this noise that we enjoyed, with
song titles like “G.B.H.” and “Boot Boys”. The Bleeding Pyles
was an ongoing ‘pure punk’ project of mine, with various
musicians going through it’s ranks constantly, until the final line
up which became Kronstadt Uprising on 1981.”
1981, Steve, Spencer and Paul saw the punk scene as being divided
into two factions. On the one side was the Oi! movement, which they
found to be “repugnant” and wanted little to do with. The other
scene was the anarcho scene started with Crass and Flux Of Pink
Indians but brought to Southend by local band, The Sinyx.
“In 1979 I was buying records like the “Feeding of the 5,000”
12” by Crass, The Fatal Microbes, etc and it’s intense minimalism
appealed to me. By now I’d been into punk for a couple of years,
and a lot of the original bands were starting to fragment, as was the
scene itself, and I began to be aware in the fanzines, Sounds, etc of
the rise of Crass and began to pay attention. In 1980/1981 I remember
myself, along with many other disillusioned punks of the original
school found a real home in the Crass, Poison Girls, Flux, Sinyx, Mob
scene. They seemed to encapsulate the original spirit we’d seen in
The Sex Pistols and The Clash, and given it a new, articulate update
hard to describe now, how revolutionary Crass and the Poisons sounded
back in ‘79/’80. It was like nothing we’d heard before. I
remember a few of us used to have these “Sunday Morning Sessions”
at Spencer Blake’s house, where we would blast out all the singles
we’d brought the previous afternoon, on his folks’ stereo. I
vividly remember how awesome the “Bloody Revolutions” EP was.
Truly astonishing. Ditto the first time you heard “Tube Disasters”
by Flux. Live the song had been great, but on record it really seemed
to explode. There was definitely a sense that something was changing.
The paradigm shift in consciousness was occurring.”
by this new scene (new to them at least), the three re-grouped at
Dave’s. Mick Grant had converted to Christianity and that certainly
didn’t jive with the band’s new interest in anarchist politics.
They recruited would-be Goth, Andy Fisher on bass. More interested in
the Sisters Of Mercy and Bauhaus, he helped expand the bands sound
from the standard three chord fair. October 2nd, 1981, this line-up
made its debut at the Maritime Rooms as The Bleeding Pyles for the
last time. Ironically, owing to ‘girlfriend’ problems, Spencer
Blake couldn’t make the gig, and Steve’s friend Gary Smith (and
future Kronstadt singer) sat in with the band just for the night.
Quite a portent of things to come.
“When Spencer, Myself, Paul and Mick put the final line up of the
‘Pyles together in 1981, it seemed like the band had come full
circle, as by now we could vaguely play and were slowly starting to
move away from the old ‘pure punk’ style, and wanted a name that
reflected our new approach. Also, when Mick left and Andy Fisher came
in on Bass, that’s when we really started to discuss a name change,
and after much deliberation and with a suggestion by Graham Burnett,
decided to call ourselves Kronstadt Uprising. It perfectly
encompassed what we were about.”
to the political element of the anarcho scene as a conduit for the
DIY elements of punk that first piqued their interest, the new
direction was more than musical. It was through this new interest in
anarchist politics that Steve learned about the Kronstadt rebellion.
“Personally, between ’81 – ’83 I was quite entrenched in the
politics of the time, and still retain some of those ideals to this
day – much like the original wave punk ideals – pro-creation,
anti-ignorance – I think these ideas are still valid. I remember
reading a small amount about the Kronstadt Uprising in Russia at
school, and then buying a book about it at an anarchist bookshop in
Brixton, London. It really inspired me and I certainly felt kinship
with their struggle. Around this time, Graham Burnett of New Crimes
said it would be a good name for a band, and so after some discussion
with the other members, the name was chosen.”
newly christened Kronstadt Uprising worked feverishly at writing a
new set of material driven by their excitement of their new musical /
ideological direction. Their new set included the songs “Act of
Destruction”, “Charrons Hordes”, “Crucifying Anarchists”,
“Divide and Rule”, “Dehumanization”, “End of Part One”,
“False Leaders”, “Xenophobia” and a cover version of
“Holocaust” originally by Crisis.
“Crisis had always been one of my favorite punk bands at the time,
and Spencer and Paul also really liked them. One day for fun we
started messing around with “Holocaust” and it sounded quite
good, ‘til ultimately we started playing it live. People used to
love the song, and I’d like to think we helped turn a lot of people
on to Crisis. I didn’t know them personally, and as for Death in
June, I was so into Crisis, I didn’t want to know what they sounded
like really in case it was a let down. Various Goth friends over the
years always seem to highly praise Death In June. But I have to plead
November of that year, the band decided to record the songs they had
and went up to Elephant Studios at Wapping, London and recorded nine
tracks. At the time, overwhelmed by their first recording experience,
the band later felt disappointed with the recording feeling that it
didn’t at all capture the band’s live energy. Putting it behind
them, the band played their first gig as Kronstadt Uprising on
at the Focus Youth Centre.
turned out to be one of the band’s most active years starting off
with a slew of gigs earning them a large following in their area. At
the insistence of their friends, The Sinyx, the band sent the
Elephant Studios recording to Crass. The Sinyx had been featured on
the original “Bullshit Detector” compilation and Kronstadt
Uprising were picked to be on the second one, released in September
of that year.
“I’d been in touch with Crass through the fanzine/gig scene, and
my friends from The Sinyx had been on Volume 1 and suggested I send
Crass a copy of the demo that the Kronstadt Uprising had just done. I
wasn’t that happy with the recording but gave it to them anyway,
and the rest, as they say, is history. “Receiver Deceiver”
started life as a Bleeding Pyles song in early 1981, written by Paul
Lawson and myself. Although the first time we ever went to a
recording studio was just after we’d changed our name to Kronstadt,
so it is an official Kronstadt Uprising track.”
constant gigging helped them build a following. Southend had
developed it’s own anarcho community thanks to Kronstadt Uprising
and The Sinyx.
“There was quite a good anarcho scene in Southend at the time – I
personally prefer the term ‘punk’ scene if one has to call it
something, but anyway. Between ’77 – ’87 there were some great
bands – The Vicars (featuring a young Allison Moyet who believe it
or not was a belting punk singer), Machines, Eddie and the Hot Rods
and the Psychopaths, who collectively were the best of the ’77 –
’79 class, and then from ’79 – 82 you had The Kronstadt
Uprising, The Sinyx, The Icons, Autumn Poison, Allegiance to No One,
and then ’82 – 87 you had The Prey, Burning Idols, Anorexic Dread
and the Armless Teddies. I absolutely loved The Sinyx and Icons (I
joined The Sinyx for a while in 1982, and Filf the guitarist with The
Icons/Sinyx played in the Kronstadt Uprising in 1983). Also the
Burning Idols and The Prey, whom the KU played with a lot, as well as
Allegiance and Autumn Poison.”
despite the momentum, or perhaps because of it, singer Spencer Blake
found himself unable to commit to the band. As the band got busier,
he decided he needed to leave. Rather than finding a replacement,
they decided to carry on as a three piece with Paul doubling as
guitarist and singer. Their debut as a three piece was at Heroes in
Chelmsford, Essex on June 26th.
Though the band lost a few fans over the new vocal style, inertia was
on their side. The band had been asked to record a record for
Spiderleg Records (owned by Flux Of Pink Indians).
“If I remember correctly Penny from Crass put us on to Spiderleg
because he knew Derek Birkett (MD of Spiderleg) was looking to get
some new bands on the label – again we kind of knew them through
the scene anyway, and thus in 82 with the help of Colin and Derek
(Flux) and John Loder at Southern Studios, where all the Crass stuff
was done, we recorded our first EP.”
resulting record was “Unknown Revolution”. In tune with the music
of their inspirations in Crass and Flux Of Pink Indians, the EP is a
varied collection of punk songs. The music is raw despite (or maybe
because of) big production at Southern Studios. The upbeat songs had
hidden elements of melody reminiscent of songs like “I Ain’t
Thick Its Just A Trick” or even very early Stiff Little Fingers.
Lyrically, the record was also in tune with the times reflecting the
nuclear paranoia at the time of Greenham Common and Cruise missiles
deterrent ha what a joke
makes me sick and I wanna choke
it away I don’t believe my ears
only thing that has kept peace for 40 years
for power fight for yourself
let them put you on the shelf
the bomb they all cry out
that millions won’t have to die
they really understand what they’ve said?
there any real thoughts inside their heads?
tracks dealt with the topics of corporate greed and cultural
the filling is pure offal too
rotten flesh not eaten by you
taste your lies from day to day
not go back to the USA?
/ Belsen / Dachau / Death
anarchy on my final breath
Lai / Dresden / Witch Hunts / Death
rejection on my final breath
lyrics at this point were as important as the music. Punk rock, for
them, had become a way of expressing very simple, but very direct
“I’d say between ’81 – 84 they were very important and came
as one with the music. I don’t like extremely didactic lyrics or at
the other end of the spectrum banal ones, there’s a fine line to
get it just right. Some of our best lyrics are on “Xenophobia”
and the song “Twilight of Your Idols” (not released). In the ’84
– ’87 era, it was a completely different entity, going back to
our punk roots – i.e. the Iggy/Thunders etc influence - and the
lyrics were still important, but in a different way. I was very
nihilistic at the time and loved the dumb minimalism of The Stooges
and in the reverberation of songs like “Dirt” felt that it
captured the beat of the Universe.”
liner notes also included some of the band’s political “agenda”
search of the black rose…
black rose was used as the symbol for freedom during the many peasant
uprisings in the middle ages. The black rose does not exist in
nature, and the anti-authoritarian peasant rebels symbolized their
pursuit of it in much the same way the Christian pursued the Holy
Grail. Mankind has yet to find freedom, and when we do we have found
the beautiful black rose.”
no recording credits are listed on the record, it was recorded under
the supervision of John Loder at the 24 track studio Southern.
“I remember being very nervous as it was an awesome studio, and my
drumming at this stage was somewhat ‘rudimentary’ to say the
least, but I think the finished result came out ok. For just a 3
piece it sounds quite powerful (Filf hadn’t played on the record,
and although he joined just after, he left before it was released,
although Andy thought we should put his name on the sleeve anyway)
“Blind People” was one of the very first songs we ever played
together and we often used to open up a gig with that number, so we
put that on first. “Dreamers of Peace” was again an early song we
liked, although with Derek and John Loder’s help we did re-arrange
it a bit in the studio. “Xenophobia” and “End of Part One”
were more recent and again firm live favorites, and they all seemed
to gel well as an EP.”
EP also showcased the great detail and interest the band had in their
artwork. Not wanting it to be any sort of a throwaway or an
afterthought, they got artists outside of the band involved in
creating the cover art.
“The packaging was very important, as I always believed in
presenting a total full-on Kronstadt Uprising – one which you’d
always be aware of, through subliminal design/overt design, logos,
our banner on stage, badges, flyers etc. My girlfriend of ’83 –’88
(Veda Pond) did a lot of the later Kronstadt Uprising artwork which
was brilliant, Ian Hayes-Fry did quite a lot over both eras and did
the banner for us, and Celia Biscoe, Kev Hunter from the Flux’s
partner, did the actual designs for the EP. Andy Fisher loved the
Black Rose so much Celia had drawn, he had a brilliant tattoo made up
record was practically a love letter to the anarcho punk scene. It
was a great time capsule of what was happening in young, radical
England in the early ‘80s.
“I’d say ’81 – ’84 we definitely were part of the scene,
consciously so between, in my opinion, the scenes peak of ’81 –
’83. We would regularly correspond with, play gigs with and
generally believe in the whole essence of this period. 1982 it felt
like we could take on the world – I remember when we used to play
gigs in this period I’d get very fired up and want to kick over the
statues and start the Revolution NOW! A highpoint for us was
recording the “Unknown Revolution” EP.”
it would be a year before that record would see the light of day. It
was in the middle of all this that “Bullshit Detector 2” was
released. In many ways the most well received of the three “Bullshit
Detector” comps, it prominently featured Kronstadt Uprising’s
“Receiver Deceiver” on the first side.
a throwback to the band’s first line-up, the track was an upbeat
punk number with a memorable chorus. Despite the band’s objection
to the production value of the track, it became their most well known
and a live favorite. The song itself was a simple condemnation of
police violence and it’s cover up in the media.
copper on the TV screen
tells lies because the truth is so obscene
put his dominant reputation at stake
why this program is a fake
riots, Southall too
their fault but they’ll blame you
all get together for a mass debate
how to protect their precious state
double record set costing roughly $5, the compilation sold in the
tens of thousands. The success of the record allowed the band to
expand its base of activity and focus on gigs outside of their area,
in particularly setting their sites on London. They were soon getting
requests for tapes and fanzine interviews from people around the
“The response to our being on “Bullshit Detector 2” was
staggering – we were getting mail form all over the world, fanzines
were tripping over themselves to speak to us, hear other tracks etc –
it really had a far reaching affect. It’s ironic really because it
was our first ever recording, Paul the guitarist’s distortion pedal
wasn’t working, Andy had been in the band about 3 days, so
technically it’s far from us at our best, but I guess it does
represent something and people seemed to like it.”
release of this compilation further reinforced the connection between
scenes. The Southend anarcho scene now felt validated and it created
a new momentum in the scene.
the beginning of 1983, the band filled out their line-up adding Filf
(Nick Robinson late of the Icons and the Sinyx) on second guitar.
Steve had also been busy moonlighting with the Sinyx on drums.
“A load of us from Southend, in 1981 – 1984, would regularly go
to all the Crass, Poison, Flux, Subhumans and Mob gigs in London.
London was only 30 miles away from Southend so it was easy to get
there. I remember the Zigzag club squatted gig of 1983 being a high
point of the scene – in one day seeing The Mob, Amebix, Flux,
Poisons and Crass.
the Centro Iberico was really cool and it felt like we’d all
achieved something. The Kronstadt Uprising did play London a fair
amount, especially at one point with Hagar the Womb, and by and large
they’d be great gigs, but even in the ‘Anarcho‘ scene that were
was a lot of back biting and pettiness which used to annoy me
somewhat, which is why we would often organize our own gigs in
London, supply other bands to play with us sometimes bring
alternative Poet friends of ours etc and at one point we had quite a
Kronstadt Uprising collective going on.”
the strain of constant gigging was starting to take its toll on the
band. They were becoming increasingly disillusioned with the anarcho
scene and tired of being pigeonholed. After headlining a gig marred
by technical problems and skinhead hassles, the band decided to take
a needed vacation to reassess their situation.
“In terms of being labeled an ’anarcho’ punk band, I was quite
unhappy because it seemed to the easy option for people in the mass
media to compartmentalize us and simultaneously try to limit the
movement by defining it, which I was against. To me the core nexus
was always punk, pure and simple. Initially we always wore all black,
in order to reflect our nihilism and to present a strong unified
visual force. Latterly, with Goth-Glam influences, this obviously had
an effect too, and led to a strong but different image also.”
this time period Filf split the band, as did Paul for a short time.
But eventually he rejoined returning the band to their three-piece
line-up. By the end of the year, they were playing together again,
though this time determined to play the type of punk rock they had
loved from the start. Rediscovering their love for The Heartbreakers,
The Lords of the New Church and Hanoi Rocks, the band created a
raunchy punk rock-n-roll style despite the September release of
“The first single, although recorded in 1982, owing to various
label problems, wasn’t issued until 1983, by which time we’d
moved on and didn’t really take advantage of the publicity. We were
more concerned with writing new songs and recording them – songs
from this period (late ’83 – early 84) would be “The Knife”,
“The Day After”, “New Age”, and “Battlecry”, etc. Some
out of town gigs were great for us – especially in the New Towns
like Harlow and Basildon, London was always good – although some
places we were met with complete incomprehension and indifference.”
songs from that line-up included “Insurrection”, “Soldiers of
Fortune”, “Complacency Kills (Parts one and Two)”, “Final
Solution”, “Decadence”, “Animal Liberation”, “Strings of
Falsehood”, “What Price”, “Twilight of the Idols”, “Live
for Today”, “I Don't Wanna Live Your Way Today”, and “The
new direction for the band caught more than a few folks offguard.
Expecting the standard peace punk fair of “Receiver Deceiver”,
some audiences were left bewildered at their live gigs.
“Around late ’83 when we began to move away a bit from the
“Unknown Revolution” EP sound, I think some people weren’t sure
about the newer material and would still expect us to play “Receiver
Deceiver” all the time. So yes, it was a bit hard at first, but
then people began to slowly accept it, and by the time of the second
single with the new line up, it was almost an entirely different
audience. The second single had appalling distribution, and thus
didn’t get very far, so fifteen years later it’s good to get it
out on CD with better distribution at last. (Note: one of my personal
Kronstadt Uprising favorite songs – “Live for Today” – was
recorded at that session for the single but was never issued until
the aforementioned CD).”
1984, the band had a new sound and a new set of songs. They decided
to get back in the studio early that year. They recorded a full set
of material at their rehearsal space and made two trips to Pet Sounds
studio in London. By the time they had finished recording, the band
felt that they had reached their creative limitations in that format.
Besides, Steve was getting ready for his “A” Levels, Paul was
about to marry and Andy wanted to do some traveling without the
benefit of a band in tow. On the 5th
of March in 1984, they played their last gig together with the Lost
Cherees at the Old Queens Head in Stockwell, London.
the next year, Steve focused on finishing his “A” Levels,
starting up a dance club called The Taste Experience, and playing in
a psychedelic band called The Children Of The Revolution. But soon he
regained his desire to play in a punk rock band. By the summer of
1984, he had pulled together a new version of the Kronstadt Uprising
featuring original vocalist, Spencer Blake back on vocals along with
Spencer’s brother, Murray, on guitar and Steve’s college friend,
Stuart Emmerton, on bass.
however, Spencer’s lack of commitment again led him to be quickly
replaced by Gary Smith (ex-The Get) and the band proceeded to build a
new set mixing songs from the previous line-up like “Live For
Today” and “The Knife” along with new material that they were
fiercely working at writing.
April of 1985, the band went into the recording studio to document
some of what they had been writing. Away from London, the band
recorded at Diploma Studios in Wickford, Essex. The resulting three
songs were enough to impress Ian Cox of Dog Rock Records. Mutually
financed, the result was the band’s second single, “Part Of The
record, while maintaining the rawness of their previous single, was
really a completely different entity. The band’s new punk rock
persona definitely had more structural similarities to blues based
rock n roll. In it’s own right, it’s an exciting punk record that
needed to be respected: to record a totally raw guitar based punk
record in 1985 certainly showed the band had no interest in the
commercial trappings of the musical mainstream of the time.
“The love of my life musically was always that real blistering punk
/ R'n'R, as epitomized by The Stooges, Social Distortion, Pistols,
Dead Boys, Heartbreakers, Ramones, etc and original Kronstadt
Uprising members Spencer and Paul felt the same. However, at the
beginning of the Kronstadt Uprising, we could barely play our
instruments, and for myself I’d say it wasn’t ‘til 1985 that I
began to get any vague idea of what to do, so it wasn’t ‘til then
that musically I could translate my ideas into songs, which came out
with that raw sound. Also I’d say that after various let downs,
hassles and general disillusionment with some of the more didactic
elements of the anarcho scene, it encouraged us in late ‘83 and
early ‘84 to see the reemergence of Johnny Thunders, Ramones etc
and this did bring us back to our roots and simultaneously take us
off in a new direction. I understand that for people who only like
the ’81-’82 Kronstadt Uprising era of “Blind People”, “End
of Part One”, that the latter stuff may not be quite up their
street, which is fair enough, but I do feel it stands up in it’s
these concerns and abysmal distribution, the record was well received
for the most part. The fact that the record wasn’t completely
embraced by the anarcho scene that embraced “Unknown Revolution”
probably has to do with the fact that by the mid-‘80s, the anarcho
scene was very different. While some areas continued to develop,
other areas had collapsed and the initial excitement of the scene had
certainly been tempered.
the band had taken on a new musical direction associated with rock n
roll excess, Kronstadt Uprising was still true to their name and
operated under the same value system as they had since the start.
“In terms of our original Punk inspired DIY ideals, absolutely. The
second single was independent financed, most of our gigs were self
organized; we’d go out of our way to help other bands, so yes we
certainly lived that ethos. Lyrically it did evolve/change as I
mentioned earlier – and some members of the later line up were not
so politically motivated, so obviously this had an effect, but
overall, I’d pretty much say that in terms of core ideals we stuck
to our beliefs, although again I’d understand that anyone seeing
pictures of us now might find it incongruous seeing this glam-punk
image with biting lyrics – but hey that’s what we were about!”
release of the single garnered the band more positive press and
opened even more doors for them.
“In Southend we would get excellent press, even nationally
sometimes in Sounds and NME, although the best press would be in the
fanzines of the time, like “Final Curtain” and “Obituary”.
Once “Bullshit Detector” came out, we started to get featured in
magazines all over the world, do radio features in Europe etc. The
“Unknown Revolution” EP consolidated this. I moved to London in
1985, and Stuart the bass player did likewise in 1986, and
consequently we featured in a lot more publications at the time.
Southend people seemed to regard us as some kind of seminal punk
band, and right up until the split audiences there would always
encourage us. The area had always had an active music scene, and if
its known for nothing else it should be respected for giving Dr
Feelgood a forum and helping them establish a fertile land that sowed
the seed for the Pistols et al.”
band celebrated the release of this record by playing their first gig
on May 3rd
at the Basildon Roundacre. By now, the supporters of the band had
time to let the new style sink in and were more in tune with what the
band were doing. This new sound also led to a new audience of
like-minded music fans attracted to the style of the Heartbreakers
and the Dead Boys.
after the gig, the band recruited guitarist, Kevin De Groot into
their ranks from an ad in a local music store. Influenced by both
Hendrix and a lot of goth, he added a new dimension with his more
technical solo work. Again, the band rushed out to document this new
direction for the band and recorded a new demo, this time at Real
Time in London. The new five-piece line-up made its debut at the
Monico in Canvey Island, Essex on September 10th.
The band spent the rest of the year in a more rigorous schedule of
“The first era of the band (’81 – ’84) only really played
gigs we either organized ourselves or were with sympathetic punk
bands, like Fallout (ex-Six Minute War), Hagar the Womb, Lost
Cherees, Nightmare, etc The second era would play with different
bands such as The Bollock Brothers or Malice, but again we’d often
try and play with various friends bands and present a unified front,
like when we’d play with the Burning Idols.”
of the songs they were playing at that point included “Suicide”,
“What Are You Gonna Do”, “Looking For You”, “Hold Me Back”,
“Stay Free”, “Watch Me”, “Something Going On”, “Running”,
“Chasing My Angel” and “Vietnam Blues”.
band now had a steady flow of gigs and was working hard to expand its
musical palette. But with Steve now living in London, it was getting
harder and harder to practice. With no prospect of a label to release
any more recordings, the band began to disintegrate. The first to
split the band was rhythm guitarist Murray Blake in the summer of
’86. He was soon followed by their vocalist, Gary Smith, that fall.
After spending a year auditioning new singers and occasionally rhythm
guitar player, Kevin left the band effectively ending Kronstadt
Uprising for good.
“I was the only original member throughout the second line up –I
so believed in the songs and the things we were writing especially in
’84, that when Paul and Andy wanted to split the band in ‘84, I
was determined to carry it on and put a new line up together, which I
did. The second line up was pretty constant, from ‘84 – ‘86,
until Murray then Gary Left, and then in 87 I’d had enough of
trying to constantly hold the band together, so when Kev said he’d
had enough after us not finding a new singer, I agreed and we called
it a day. I think, after Gary Smith left in late ’86 and through
the bands dissolution in late ’87, if we’d found a new singer we
would have changed the name, as it would have been a completely
this point, Kronstadt Uprising had been through five line-ups in five
years. Though many ex-members went on to other musical projects, the
list still looks like a body count. Steve, oddly enough, seems to be
the only one to come through mostly un-scathed.
“Andy and Paul spilt the first line-up of the band – there was
some slight animosity but that was cleared up fairly soon afterwards.
The second line up split was a slow disintegration – Murray left in
1986 due to a bad drugs problem, Gary in late 1986 for reasons only
he knows, and finally Kev left in 1987 after a fruitless year of
looking for singers, at which point Stuart and I said enough is
enough and stopped too.
year later we returned with neo-glam/punk band The Ghosts of Lovers.
Kev went solo under the name The Misanthrope for a couple of years.
Murray went on to play bass in Sonic Violence in the early ‘90s and
did quite well with them. Gary didn’t do anything. From the first
era, Spencer played briefly in a couple of rehearsal only bands and
helped form Sonic Violence, Paul Lawson didn’t really do anything,
Mick Grant became a Christian, and Filf hung up his guitar. Andy
Fisher played guitar in Anorexic Dread for a bit before roady-ing for
the Cure, and moving to the States, where he now lives in Cincinnati.
still as obsessed as ever with raw, burning rock and roll/punk, still
love Social Distortion/Johnny thunders and Stiv Bators, and so after
the KU I played in The Ghosts of Lovers, Nicotine and Razorblades and
The Hearts of darkness. After a three year lay off due to the death
of my father and my close friend Guy Bourseau and a protracted period
of traveling in Central America, I am now writing songs again, and in
Feb 2001, for the first time in 12 years, I began recording a few
demos, with the help of Kevin de Groot, the KU-second era guitarist.
Once I get a line up together for my new band, we’ll start playing
later, Steve still happily reflects back on the band. The few regrets
or missed opportunities are minor in the long run.
“Overall I’m fairly pleased with what we achieved. I do wish we’d
been able to play outside of the UK, and maybe released an album at
the time of Unknown Revolution ep quality of some of our ‘lost’
songs such as Insurrection, Act of Destruction etc, but hey, with the
release on Overground last year of the KU retrospective
‘Insurrection’, at least a few things are out there. It’s
mainly demos on the CD, but at least there is a record of some of our
experiments. So highs would be: The first gig, playing on a stage,
people listening to us and giving us respect, Bullshit Detector (my
copy arrived on my 17th birthday), the Unknown Revolution ep, the
London gigs in 1982, and the final farewell Southend gig in 1986.
of all I’m pleased with any sense of inspiration that we left, and
the sense that anyone could do it, just get up there and kick out the
think that Crass, etc certainly contributed to the reemergence of
serious protest in the ‘80s i.e. CND/Animal Aid etc, as well as
encouraging the traveling lifestyle and the sense of
self-empowerment. I think most of the best bands of this period
provided a much needed forum for debate, and acted as a cipher for
the anger felt against an anachronistic old world order, as
personified in the Thatcher-Reagan years. Finally, yes, I would be
the first to admit that some of the music was a bit naïve in places,
however, it shouldn’t be forgotten how GREAT the following records,
and many others of the period, actually were:
Feeding of the 5,000
Girls - Where’s the Pleasure
- Everything ‘till 1983
Let the tribe Increase
Everything ‘till 1983
in 1000 years times, as artifacts of an era, I think these will stand
up far more so than whatever the mainstream had to offer. All power
to the imagination!”