Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Armed with Anger: how a young man from Leeds survived the 90s

Thanks to a very nice person in Ireland i received a copy of Ian Glasper's latest book, Armed with Anger; How UK Punk Survived the Nineties in the mail today. Shank, the band i was in before moving to Canada, and the band that informed the earliest beginnings of The Endless Blockade has a segment in the book.

Because i've been around for a while i frequently get asked in band interviews about the differences between hardcore then and now, and the state of the scenes in both Europe and North America. It's hard to adequately explain it to people under the age of 30 and i generally just dismiss the question with some kind of "there were terrible bands then and there are terrible bands now and there were life changing, vital, incredible bands then and there are life changing, vital, incredible bands now" response.

The pieces i can't get across to others are how i situated myself in the world as a depressed, angry, anti-social youth compared to the more reasonable grown-ass man i am now, or how information travelled and how we decided which things were significant and meaningful before the internet explosion of the last decade (or more, depending on where you lived in the world).

Lately i've been thinking a lot about what makes my connection to underground (ie not concerned with money) music and the culture surrounding it so important to me. One of the main ways i've been framing the question to myself is "what are the differences and what are similarities in my approach as, say, a 24 year old  - the age i was when Shank began - and as a 39 year old"?

I don't really have any answers to share with anyone else, except maybe privately among the other ex-members of Shank, Ebola and Sawn Off; my unholy trinity of 90s bands.

A part of me thinks this is my version of a mid-life crisis, where i second guess my motivations and frequently feel weird because i'm 20 years older than most people that come to see my band play in. Sometimes i look for reasons to give up making music. After Mission from God came out i told myself that as soon as i can  take the music i hear in my head and accurately reproduce it for others i'll stop making music.

In a way i'd love for this to happen, but i know i'm never genuinely 100% satisfied with any thing i release.

The only thing the above rambling has to do with the Glasper's new book is that reading about, and consequently remembering, the roots of some of the things i do now now and what they meant to me a long time ago has only added fuel to the fire of these thoughts and ruminations.

I don't envy Glasper putting this book together; it can't be all things to all people. What he's chosen to include and exclude are not always the things i would have chosen to include or exclude. And that's the thing about the pre-internet era, there was no real consensus for deciding what was significant and meaningful in the way there is now.

What was important to a person in Newport was not necessarily transferable to a kid from Wigan or Sunderland. I think Glasper is 100% correct to include a band like Bloodshot in the book. Bloodshot only released a handful of tapes and left almost no legacy, but they epitomised the drive and spirit to get out there and create some kind of meaningful experience for themselves. They toured far more than any of my bands ever managed and all of my bands were "big shots" with crappy split 7"s that we could trade for other crappy split 7"s.

But at the same time i look at the contents and wonder why Nailbomb are mentioned only in passing and stuff like Bus Station Loonies, Whippasnappa, Chineapple Punks, or Demonic Upchucks get sections in the book. Part of this is because i don't place any value in those bands, but there are lots of bands in the book that i don't care for that are absolutely essential in telling the story of UK hardcore punk in the 90s.

Like i said, there wasn't really a way of achieving consensus in the pre-internet era on who was important beyond who had records out. Glaspers experiences are not going to be even remotely similar to my own

I suspect that for anyone who wasn't there there's only really a small segment of this book that will be interesting to read, but as much as i hate nostalgia (and i'm not really convinced this book is merely nostalgic) i'm really glad it exists.

And fuck, i know a lot of dead people. RIP Jas Tommer, Lobster and a ton of other people, some of whom i didn't know were dead until i flicked through the book.

A half arsed list off the top of my head of some records from that time and place that  i think are essential:

Downfall - Not Your Fault 7" (1992)
Nerves/ Substandard - split 7" (1995)
Hard to Swallow/ Underclass - split 7" (1996)
Health Hazard - Not Just a Nightmare 7" (1993)
Wartorn - Banzai 7" (1994)
Urko/ Minute Manifesto - split LP (2001 - though both are most definitely 90s bands)
One by One - Fight 7" (1992)
Disaffect - An Injury To One Is An Injury To All 7" (1992)
Voorhees - Spilling Blood Without Reason LP (1994)
Kito - the Long Player LP (1998)
Ironside - Fragments Of The Last Judgement 7" (1993)
Stalingrad - Politics of Ecstasy 7" (1996)
Kitchener - The Price Of Progression 7" (1993)
Fabric - Body of Water LP (1994)


Steve said...

The Urko side of the split with Minute Manifesto is incredible. It's just so vicious and nihilistic (and also contains one of my favourite samples before a song, ever).

I never managed to catch them before Jas passed away, it being 'before my time', and I was still only just discovering that the Indian Queen was a goldmine for seeing amazing bands right on my doorstep. I'm definitely going to seek out this book...

Graeme said...

Like i said, there wasn't really a way of achieving consensus in the pre-internet era on who was important beyond who had records out.

As I remember things (I'm in my mid-30s, in Canada, if that helps), it wasn't even so much about who had records out as it was about who had records out that you could actually get. There were a lot of "important" bands that you heard about or read about, but getting a hold of those records and actually listening to the band wasn't always easy. Sure there was always mailorder and distros, but money was finite.