Featured Posts
Hoarder

MRR Radio #1580 • 10/22/17

On this week's MRR Radio, Greg, Jeff and Morgan talk about escaping wildfires and play a bunch of punk records. Intro ...

Read More

AQUARIUM by Martin Sorrondeguy

MRR Radio #1579 • 10/15/17

Strace and Strayla vote MITCH CARDWELL for President of Punk.  Intro song: AQUARIUM - Human Current Sounds from the New Bins MR. WRONG - ...

Read More

Secreto Público

MRR Radio #1578 • 10/8/17

Matt is joined by Ben and Claudia for just another hour of the best new punk and hardcore worldwide! Intro ...

Read More

Maximum Rocknroll #414 • Nov 2017

Are y'all ready for Maximum Rocknroll #414? Our November 2017 issue will teach you a thing or two all about ...

Read More

Flipper rules, OK?

MRR Radio #1577 • 10/1/17

Phillip Greenlief spent an afternoon in the stacks. This is what he came up with. BAD RELIGION - You Are the ...

Read More

Monday Photo Blog: At the Factory with David Ensminger


September 17th, 2012 by

David Ensminger, zine editor, punk historian, and a few other things I may be forgetting, returns for another  Monday Photo Blog. This time reporting in from Lufkin, TX, which is in the “rural outreaches of East Texas”, at the DIY, all ages space, The Factory.

Social Bliss at The Factory in Lufkin, TX on May 23. 2012. (Photo by David Ensminger)

Social Bliss at The Factory in Lufkin, TX on May 23. 2012. (Photo by David Ensminger)

Crowd at the Factory on May 23, 2012. (Photo by David Ensminger)

No talk in the 80s!! The Hates at The Factory, May 23, 2012. (Photo by David Ensminger)

The Rusty Shacklefords at The Factory, May 23, 2012. (Photo by David Ensminger)

Send your tour photos, bands that have come through your town, the best of your local bands, etc. to: . Include your name, a link to your website (or flickr, Facebook, or whatever), and the band (or subject), date and location of each photo. Just send your best photos — edit tightly. Three to seven photos is plenty, and it’s best to send pictures of different bands. Please do not send watermarked photos. Please make your photos 72 dpi and about 600–800 pixels at the longest side. Not everything sent in will be posted, and a response is not guaranteed, but we do appreciate all of your contributions. Feel free to submit more than once. Thanks!



Monday Photo Blog: David Ensminger


January 23rd, 2012 by

David Ensminger, former editor of Left Of The Dial, is also responsible for interviewing some heavy hitters for this very zine. He’s also handy with the camera as I learned this weekend when I opened the email he sent over for this installment of the  Monday Photo Blog. Below are four photos from the recent Visual Virtriol in Houston, TX. Two nights of punk from the Houston, New Orleans, and surrounding vicininty held at Super Happy Funland. If you’re interested, David also has a book of punk flyers titled Visual Vitriol: The Street Art and Subcultures of the Punk and Hardcore Generation available here.

Busy Kids, from Houston. (photo by David Ensminger)

The Drafted, from Baytown. (photo by David Ensminger)

Vivian Pikkles, from Houston. (photo by David Ensminger)

Sparrowhawk, from New Orleans. (photo by David Ensminger)

Send your tour photos, bands that have come through your town, the best of your local bands, etc. to: (note new email address!). Include your name, the band (or subject) in the photo, where and when it was shot, and a link to your website (or flickr, Facebook, or whatever). Just send your best photos — edit tightly. Three to seven photos is plenty, and it’s best to send pictures of different bands. Please do not send watermarked photos. Please make your photos 72 dpi and about 600–800 pixels at the longest side. Not everything sent in will be posted, and a response is not guaranteed, but we do appreciate all of your contributions — and feel free to submit more than once. Thanks!



RIP, Fred “Freak” Smith, Black Punk Pioneer


September 11th, 2017 by

A few weeks ago, a “semi-transient African American man” was found dead, killed from a knife wound behind the softball field of Las Palmas Park, located in San Fernando, CA. This was Fred “Freak” Smith, beloved guitarist who shaped the trajectory of mid-1980s punk in seminal bands like Beefeater, one of Washington, D.C.’s most inventive outfits. Having recently tried out for the band Romones, he had been living at Blake House, a group home, for a short stint, but wound up traversing the restless streets, seeking solace where he could.

The legacy of Beefeater is summed up most forcefully in their brilliant, genre-blurring LP House Burning Down, released on Dischord after the band’s demise in 1986. Combining hard funk, tribal stomp, raw jazz, shades of reggae, metallic leanings, and hardcore prowess, it’s an unmatched landmark, even now. Yet, the band was unstable (drummers came and went) and their fiery brand of politics set the teeth of both right-wing and left-wing punks on edge.

Smith, who changed his name to Freak, was the nimble musical backbone of the band. After joining Strange Boutique, he also helped pave the path of elegant post-hardcore music in D.C. as well. In the last half decade, he shredded in American Corpse Flower. And wherever he went, he was described as vivacious, spirited, generous, and skilled to the core.

As Bobby Sullivan, singer of Soulside and Rain Like the Sound of Trains, texted me earlier today: “Fred Smith was/is a larger-than-life character who literally lit up my youth. As a young person immersed in the D.C. punk scene, I had an extra in: my older brother lived at Dischord House. That meant I saw many of these bands form, from first talking about it in the living room, to practicing in the basement, and then taking it to the stage. Onam (Tomas Squip), the singer of Beefeater (Fred’s band at the time) also lived at Dischord House, and I spent many mornings with him when I would sleep over. My brother was a late sleeper, so I’d end up in the kitchen getting breakfast together and chatting about all the things I wanted to bounce off my older brothers and sisters – all the fine folks on the Dischord roster in the eighties.

Fred was somewhat of an aberration in that crew. Unabashedly cussing, drinking, being himself with no fear of judgment, he was something to behold. He was also a very skilled musician bringing a different flavor to that scene, which was sorely needed. My most poignant memory of him was when my band Soulside played with Beefeater at D.C. Space, I’m guessing in 1985. Scott, our guitar player, asked if he could borrow Fred Marshall half-stack and Fred replied, ‘Yeah mother fucker! And do what ever you have to do. Smash it if you need to!!!’ We all knew he was serious because that’s exactly the type of guy he was.”

BEEFEATER (photo by Al Flipside, 1985)

Other D.C. rockers like Jason Farrell of Swiz/Bluetip/Red Hare recall his outsized personality too. He emailed me this recollection:

“In 1984, I was a 14-year-old little skater kid just starting to go to shows, meeting other skaters/hardcore kids, taking every opportunity to stage dive, reveling in this crazy scene we stumbled into. I didn’t yet know much about the smaller D.C. bands that were percolating at the time (Rites of Spring, Beefeater) because all my friends and I were focused on whatever Government Issue and Marginal Man were doing.

“I’d seen Void a few times prior, but they didn’t really click with me until this one Wilson Center show… they were killing it. But apparently, it wasn’t enough to satisfy this big black dude who kept screaming and heckling them from the pit… ‘I better hear some motherfuckin’ ‘My Rules!!!’ Goddammit!!! If I don’t hear ‘My Rules’ in the next ten seconds I’m gonna kill every motherfucker…’ etc. It was kind of funny at first, but then it got kind of weird and a little scary.

“After a few songs like this, the air was tense …The singer seemed nervous. People didn’t know how to react… my little friends and I thought some shit was about to go down, and whatever it was would be beyond our capacity. But then they played ‘My Rules,’ the place exploded, and this crazy dude was overjoyed.

“In the time since, I have convinced myself that this crazy man was Fred ‘Freak’ Smith.”

Our counterculture needs to reckon with the future. More and more legacy punks deserve attention and advocacy. I have personally seen medical issues sideswipe those I have been lucky enough to play alongside—like members of Mydolls, Anarchitex, Big Boys, the Dicks, the Nerves, and the Hates. Others, including Dave Dictor of MDC, have partnered with me on projects. But all have dealt with dire health issues. As punks age, they often feel economic duress quite intensely. While some cities like Austin and Denton (both in Texas) have set up some infrastructure and programs for musicians, much more needs to be done.

In addition, punks who are female, queer, people of color, and/or disabled (some prefer the term differently abled) are even more at risk, due to ongoing discrimination. Thus, those fighting for justice, equality, and fairness should not merely protest Trump’s agenda, they need to react proactively to the issues affecting a growing segment of punk veterans struggling to pay bills, maintain homes and health, and stay free and productive.

Buying old records is not enough. Antifa is not enough. But each of us can change that.

—David Ensminger

This interview was originally published in Maximumrocknroll magazine #324, May (out of print).

David: Tell me about your musical heritage.

Freak: In very early 1983, I had just quit my government job at the Department of HUD. My dad was one of the first black Deputy U.S. Marshals. My dad was a doo-wop singer in the 1950s with Marvin Gaye and Van McCoy. The band was called the Starlighters and had a hit song called “The Birdland.” After they fizzled out, my dad got into law enforcement—the second generation of the Smith clan to do so. My mom was overseas working for the State Department (a gig she earned struggling in the ranks for at least fifteen or so years) while working for a 1960s program called “Voice Of America.” They divorced in 1971. As my dad kept stressing me to go into law enforcement as a lifelong career, the music side of me was tearing me apart. So, I finally decided for the latter.

And you started to immerse yourself in punk music?

All this punk rock shit was happening in D.C. as well as New York, Massachusetts, Michigan, Ohio, and L.A. I was so intrigued. It was kind of like the Hippie movement of the early 1960s but more radical and more in your face—”We are sick of this shit world, and we are now here to fucking change it whether you fucking like it or not” attitude. In this circle of mostly pale, tattered clothing, safety-pinned boys, aside from the few black fans in the audience, there was us! Gary Miller, aka Dr. Know of the Bad Brains, John Bubba Dupree from Void, Stuart Casson of Red C and the Meatmen, and the late great David Byers of the Psychotics, Chucky Sluggo, HR, and myself. Now I am just noting the guitar players, but would never, ever, exclude or forget Shawn Brown from Dag Nasty, their first original singer, and the late Nikki Young of Red C.

Through friends & some various acquaintances, more notably a guy named Ray Tony aka “Toast” and Eric Laqdemayo, aka Eric L from Red C, I heard about Madam’s Organ and the Atlantis Club. Soon I was auditioning at old Dischord house for a band that, from the start, proclaimed, “We are not here to make any money, are you in?” My brother Big Myke said, “Fuck this” and split. I hung around. Beefeater had an amazing, but at any given time, a very tumultuous run, with two vegan, militant vegetarians and throughout the two and a half years of our existence, three meat eating, substance abusing alcohol driven drummers, and myself!

What was it like to be a black punk in D.C.?

Let us all keep in mind that D.C. is what, 80 percent black, and this punk rock scene was fueled by angst-ridden white kids, a lot of whom I found out had fucking trust funds waiting for them when they became of legal adult age. Shit, I didn’t even know what a fucking trust fund was back then. It was very strange to be these “token” Negros playing in front of predominantly all white audiences, but we did it. As Shawn Brown and myself will attest, there were fucking issues man. A lot of fucking issues that we had to address when we did shows. When I first heard someone refer to me as the “negro Lemmy,” I was floored. I immediately lowered my mic stand down from the height that I set it. When I heard Shawn Brown being referred to as “the negro version of Ian MacKaye.” I was floored again. When I told him, he was taken aback but still plugged on. In retrospect, even in this new scene, I was always wondering, would racism ever end?!

Read the rest of this entry »



Blast From the Past: The Fix


August 11th, 2015 by

This originally ran in MRR #319/Dec ‘09 which you can grab here

Can’t Fix This: The Brutal Urgency of The Fix

fixred

 

Hailing from Lansing, MI, a college town full of copycat, run-of-the-mill, faceless rock bands, The Fix were a blunt concoction of raw power stolen from the “Gimme Some Skin” era Iggy and Stooges and the dirty Midwest diatribes of the Dead Boys squeezed into ferocious two minute songs at dizzying speeds. In 2006, Touch and Go re-issued their long lost singles Vengeance and Jan’s Room (both released in 1981), along with demos and live tracks, to the hurrahs of hardcore enthusiasts. This interview with singer Steve Miller, who is now a journalist, took place in September in Houston, Texas by David Ensminger.

 

MRR: Did you see the Fix as carrying forth the legacy of proto-punks like the MC5 and Stooges?

Anytime you grow up in a place like Michigan, it’s just part of your life. You’re used to being weaned on bands like the Stooges and the MC5, so it’s more cultural than it was musical. If you are going to play music, it’s probably gonna have an element of that stripped down, unpolished feel to it. Plus, you’re going to shows. In a lot of areas, people had to wait for the Ramones to come through to really start the bands. The saying was, the Ramones would play a town, leave, and five bands would spring up in the next few months. It seemed like in Michigan we had been going to see shows at these raw-ass places since we were kids, so when you did get around finally to starting a band, it was part of your spirit – that raw edged, beat the shit out of your instrument kind of thing. So, it was really pretty natural.

 

MRR: Were those people around at all still?

When, we started, it was about 1980, so yeah, Destroy All Monsters (Ron Asheton) was playing around, I believe the bassist from the MC5, Michael Davis, was in that for a time. So, you’d see these guys. Obviously, they were sort of heroes to us since we were little kids, so we might say something, but it wasn’t like you were going to go, “Dude, you were sweet in the MC5” or something like that. You’d just see them and say, hey, that’s the dude from the MC5. I remember doing a show in Ann Arbor and seeing Ron Asheton there. Everybody knew him. We wouldn’t talk to them much.

 

MRR: Did you travel much to see shows?

We lived in Lansing. When I was a kid, we traveled to Detroit all the time There was the Masonic Theatre, the Ford Auditorium, and earlier on the Michigan Palace. I remember seeing T. Rex and ZZ Top at the Michigan Palace during the Fall of 1974. We showed up, and we saw T. Rex open. We were all there for T. Rex, and ZZ Top came out, and they had cowboy hats on, and we were like, “Fuck You.” We left. That was the kind of shit we were up to. But yeah, you’d go see Blue Oyster Cult in a small place half-full. All that raw shit would come through. So, we traveled all the time. But by 1980, not so much, because a lot of that arena rock shit was pretty dead.

 

MRR: Do you remember any leftover student radicalism during that time?

Nah. We were getting into that 1980s kind of thing. Two of the guys in the Fix were students. Craig was the kind who would spout a slogan once in a while. We’d all look at each other and say, “What the fuck did he just say?”

Read the rest of this entry »



Blast From the Past: Really Red Part Two! U-Ron Speaks


July 23rd, 2015 by

This originally ran in MRR #326/July ’10, which you can grab here

Deep South Punk Legends from Ozone City:

U-Ron from Really Red!

By David Ensminger

 

While flying home from Portland last weekend, where I lectured about the need for a greater understanding of Mexican-American gravesite traditions (no, they are not landscapes of trinkets, they are spiritual culturescapes), I flipped through a mid-1990s MRR that included multiple angry letters to the editor about Mykel Board, the magazine’s perennial “straw dog.” Today, I read angry letters denouncing my March interview with John Paul of Really Red, which I prefaced by explaining that punk was a wide umbrella genre with an inclusive community. If we denounce him with a purge befitting Stalin, then we should throw out our records by the Dickies, Dag Nasty, Bad Brains, and the list goes on. I support the editors. In today’s saturated media environment, easily entrenched political slogans and platitudes on CNN and punk blogs act as substitutes for authentic discussion and discourse. The real danger is smug self-satisfaction.

When they offered to re-print my 2005 interview with U-Ron, I approached him about openly releasing his email to me, too, in which he explains his reaction to the article, (the email can be found in the letters section of this issue). I do not seek to fissure the band’s relationship with each other. I seek to explore the multiple perspectives (even multiple truths) that occur throughout the history of most punk bands. As a reader of MRR since the winter of 1984, I feel more dedicated than ever to its efforts because it is willing to engage, not pretend, and to incite, not recite. Flex your head.

 

 wrex

 

MRR: From Lightnin’ Hopkins to Roy Head to Townes Van Zandt to Steve Earle to ZZ Top (OK, Dallas should get some credit, too…), and even Kenny Rogers, Houston has been the home to a myriad of artists. When you started listening to music in Houston, were you at all aware of the city’s rich musical history? What was local music like when you were growing up? For instance, Steve Earle sings of Telephone Road and the gritty honky tonks…

First off, it is very flattering to be asked to do this interview 25 years after the release of Really Red’s first LP. It’s even odder that Empty Records wanted to re-release it 25 years after the fact. I’m pretty stunned. Really Red never thought that we would be remembered three years after we broke up. All that said, I have no idea who in the hell would want to read this, but at the risk of being totally boring I’ll try and give you the best answers I can. I have to point out that this will be my perspective and recollections. In no way should any of this be taken as reflecting the opinions of Bob, John Paul, or Kelly, the other three former members of Really Red. They might remember things in a whole other way. Maybe no one will care about or remember these people and places, but they were all involved in Houston’s formative punk scene in one way or another, and they do deserve to be mentioned. This is about a scene that is long gone, but it took a lot of brave and unique people to make it happen. They deserve credit. I appreciate the chance to give it to them and to tell our story.

When I moved from Canada to Houston in the 9th grade, I knew very little at the time about any Texas music. By time I was in the 10th grade, I started going to see live music. One of the greatest bands that I ever saw was The 13th Floor Elevators. They were amazing. A bunch of working class acid heads from East Texas who shirked any trappings of being wannabe rock stars. They were drenched with acid mystique, and when they weren’t too high to play, they were like a damn hurricane. They were playing their own brand of psychedelic punk. They were one of the greatest and strangest bands that I’ve ever seen. I still love them and still listen to their recordings.

I met Kelly Younger around that time. We formed a band with Andy Feehan, and some other guys, called The Lords. We played these community center teen dances. The Lords, only played covers. Hit singles and the like. At least we did album cuts of the Velvet Underground, Rolling Stones, Animals, Yardbirds and Love. We thought we were pretty radical because we refused to wear uniforms, and most other groups did. Most bands only played known radio hits and we played album tracks. You have to remember this was before FM radio started playing album cuts. With few exceptions, radio only would play the selected single. There were other interesting bands doing some originals, but not too many at that time. Everything was so restricted and stifled. I remember at one gig some older asshole stepped up and sucker punched Andy because he had yelled, “Fuck it!” in frustration about something. It was ridiculous.

Later, Andy Feehan and I started hanging out in the psychedelic clubs. You could go there underage because they were not serving alcohol, just lots of weed being smoked. We saw the 13th Floor Elevators playing at 2 and 3 AM. We saw bands like Bubble Puppy, the immensely underrated Children from San Antonio, The Chessmen of Dallas (the Vaughan brothers), and we got to see Sam “Lightnin” Hopkins a bunch of times. It was an excellent introduction to live noncommercial music.

The Lords broke up before I finally got kicked out of high school for “subversive political activity” and I left my parents’ home. My “subversive political activity,” by the way, was nothing more than being very vocally against the damn Vietnam War. I was on a Houston Independent School district blacklist. They were out to get kids like me, and they finally did. It happened to a lot of kids. High school was an Orwellian nightmare. It was really an eye opener. Once you see the lies exposed, it is impossible for anyone to stuff the genie back in the bottle. After high school I moved into a big house with Kelly and a crew of crazies, and it was a time of lots of live music, experimenting with acid, weed, and beer, nothing too different from the rest of the world. Kelly and I met up with John Paul around this time.

After a few years of working shit jobs and staying stoned Kelly, John Paul, and I ended up living in a series of old houses in the Montrose district. Kelly got hit by a car, and as a result of the insurance settlement he bought these huge Orange amps and some guitars and stuff, and we used to get fucked up and try and make original music. We sucked, but we had a lot of fun. We would go out to the Attics Dam area and pick shopping bags full of Texas psychedelic mushrooms. It was wild. You would wait until after a good rain and go out to the cow pastures there and pick all you wanted. People would have these mushroom parties. Crazy crazy times.

By this time the psych clubs were long gone and the local live music scene began to really suck. There were touring bands all of the time, but the local rock and roll music scene had dried up due to lack of club and radio support. Everyone who was on tour came through Houston in those days. I mean it. But a lot of the Houston clubs had a preference for cover bands only if you were local. It was fucked up. Austin had the Cosmic Cowboy thing and Houston had cover bands, kicker bars and pre-disco DJ clubs. It was a bleak time for local rock music.

Read the rest of this entry »