Friday, October 23, 2009

A Nation of Shop Keepers?

The British Isles is a collection of small nations made up of former barbarians and conquerors lost in time and unable to understand how to work in the modern era. At least when there was an Empire we could still console ourselves that we were a force to be reckoned with.

You only have to observe almost any group of Brits Abroad as we drape our flag over ourselves and urinate on sleeping Spanish homeless dudes in some atavistic territorial marking to see that we're a lost bunch of savages with absolutely no idea how to behave. Anyone familiar with Amsterdam can attest that the British are the only thing that can actually lower the tone of the red light district anymore than it already is.

And far worse than Brits Abroad is actually being one stuck on the Islands with all the other displaced savages. It's modern times, go work in a shop and raise capital, go drive mass transit systems. Fuck, have you met Glasgow bus drivers? Whilst spending some time in Spain a few years ago i was amazed at how easy it was at the time to scam on to the subway system for free right in front of the workers eyes. If i tried that back home they'd have chased me out of the station and kicked the living shit out of me for daring to avoid paying.

Any excuse for a fight and i'd be lying if i said i didn't suddenly spark to life when near any form of conflict. The hardest thing about moving to Canada for me six years ago was changing the way i intereacted with people on the streets and in supermarkets. The casual offerings of violence that in general aren't going to actually transpire and usually merely demarcate personal space and community standing don't mean the same in sunny Toronto.

It took me a while to figure that one out and actively change the way i interact with strangers.

When people talk about looking for the meaning of life i think what is more accurately being done is looking for a way to experience a life most of us feel divorced from. I've always found that playing in the bands i stick out for the long haul fills a large part of that existential gap relatively well for my needs.

Shank started two years after i moved to Glasgow, Ebola overlapped the first eighteen months of Shank's five year existence and i think i'd parted ways with Sawn Off about a year prior.

I've written some stuff of this before.

I guess i was revisiting Shank recently to hear how i used to write songs; i'm in the midst of a lengthy personal experiment where i'm writing in an intentionally mechanical and highly restrictive way in Blockade. Not that it's entirely comparable as regarding direction Shank was mostly a duality and Blockade is generally a dictatorship.

Shank's formation was essentially the same as Ebola's; life is shit, let's do something better.

At the time i was working in a shit job at a community mental health residence. I intentionaly put myself on to permenant night shift and work would generally consist of making long distance calls from the office phone, write songs on the beaten up acoustic guitar rescued from Carstairs (god knows what former cannibal descendent of Sawney Bean that had belonged to..), smoke a bunch of hash whilst watching a horror film rented on the unit's microscopic entertainment budget then fall asleep listening to whatever harsh noise i'd traded for that week. Seven hours later i'd get up twenty minutes before the boss came in and just barely pretend to have been awake all night.

Anyway, Shank, four displaced angry bastards that used to drink in Halt Bar on Woodlands Road together and happened to all have the necessary skills to be in a barely functioning band together

Getting anything done was always a major problem; we owned no equipment, none of us could drive (and most of our friends lacked that skill as well), no one ever had any money and there was always the black hole pull of Glasgow's legendary entropy of the human spirit holding at least one of us back.

It's funny i look back on it all with fond memories (and typing this with the rain pelting against my window inspires even more nostalgia, all i need is a screaming smack head outside my apartment door and i'm set) but at the time it was a nightmare. Amazingly we never came to any physical blows amongst ourselves despite all butting heads constantly, though i do remember quite clearly one on-tour suicide threat that had the rest of us almost relieved that if carried through we wouldn't be compelled to do this shit anymore.

Looking back on the recording of our LP now seems almost farcical to me. We set up in our by-the-hour practice space with our friends new fangled hard disk eight track recorder (a big deal in Glasgow circa 2000) and blasted through twenty one songs live (like, actually live) in less than four hours. About three months later we recorded a second guitar and i did a small amount of additional vocals in a sketchy lock-up on some industrial estate in Edinburgh.

And this all took fucking months to plan. Hell, it took so long that Slap a Ham (the label it supposed to come out on) folded and 625 and Deep Six had to step in and release it.

And live? Equally ridiculous; Playing with an anarchist puppet show in Bradford (you have no idea...), being chased out of a squat in Poland by neo-nazis, three of us chasing some poor kid up the stairs and out on to the street (over God knows what) in Glasgow leaving Jason playing drums on his own to a perplexed audience.

Oh, and let's not forget the perfect end to that band; me having chronic pneumonia on tour in California and playing our last ever show almost unable to breath. Two nights earlier in San Diego i was hallucinating my arse off in the van immediately before we went on and i had to be propped up against a pillar just to make it through a vastly reduced five minute set.

Alas the proposed gig in Glasgow that would've been Shank, The Exploited and a bunch of Gabber DJs never happened. That night of old school crazy Exploited punks Vs young Mad Skwad Team Gabber Ned would've undoubtedly been punks answer to the Heysel Stadium Disaster of 1985. I guess i'll never be able share that tale of adventure with my grandchildren. Still, at least i'm not dead because of it...

Here are some download links:

Coded Messages LP and split split LP with Iron Lung
Curse of Shank pre LP discography

Shank was undoubtedly the most "real" band i've ever been and ever will be involved in. On a romantic level i miss that, but on a practical level i'm glad those days are long gone.


Orcustus - s/t
Grey Wolves - Judgement
Spacement 3 - Playing With Fire


The Power of Myth - Joseph Campbell


EHV said...

Please do that print-zine you've been threatening.

Survivalist said...

next year, i just need less other stuff in my life (don't we all?)

Papst Benedikt XVI said...

speaking of SHANK... is there any chance to hear those 4 tracks that have been recorded in an Australian cellar and didn't make it on The Curse Of SHANK?

and speaking of The Curse as soon as I realized the strange cover was taken from a movie I also hunted down Scum - not for the weak at heart either!

Survivalist said...

They're on one of the ridiculous 625 comps, Barbaric Thrash something or other? It was 2xCDs and a 7" (Asocial i think)

My copy is at my parents house 5,000 miles away and not on hand to rip. It was four songs we released on tape (i think i only bothered to make eight copies or something stupid) and we gave them to Max in lieu of having anything else.

I doubt the master still exists but we did instrumental demos of most of the LP that same day. In retrospect i wish we'd recorded the entire full length on a four track like that.

both versions of Scum are required viewing.

Papst Benedikt XVI said...

thanks for the info.

what does both versions of Scum mean? cut and uncut edition?

Survivalist said...

Scum was originally a BBC one-off drama made in 1977 and banned until the early 90s

A film of the original TV play was made in 1979.

the 2005 DVD has the BBC play as a bonus feature.

There are a few minor, yet signficant differences between the two (Carlin has a relationship with one of the other prisoner's in the original version)