Holding It Down in the South Bay with Bill Daniel


November 26th, 2012 by

Big Boys (photo by Bill Daniel)

San Jose has long had a very active and dedicated, but a very elusive punk scene. All ages (and otherwise) shows have carried on in California’s third largest city largely unnoticed by the local press. Flyers occasionally show up at record stores and on lampposts-the ones with those creepy yellow San Jose lamps. It’s a sprawling metropolis that could hide several scenes. Many venues have come and gone, including Vic’s Garage, Nickel City, Homestead Lanes and, um, the Avalon. It seems that the Silicon Valley’s king city may now have a new punk homebase.

30 North Third Street in Downtown San Jose (DTSJ) is the home to The San Jose Rock Shop – downtown’s only musical instrument outlet. Somewhat less visibly it is also home to an all-ages, members only club that is very much run in the spirit of 924 Gilman Street. At the same address, through a different door, lies the recently opened Seeing Things – Gallery/Books/Zines. The space opened up with an exhibition of the Tri-X-Noise photo exhibit of regular contributor to this site Bill Daniel. You have just hours left to see this exhibit of very large photo prints, its last day is TODAY, November 26th!

This article pretty much wouldn’t exist without a recent posting by Gary Singh in the most recent Silicon Valley Metro.



Peruvian punk documentaries: El Grito Subterráneo y Lima Explota


September 25th, 2012 by

Our new bilingual web correspondent Mariel Acosta brings us a breakdown of two Peruvian punk documentaries—in English and Spanish, por supuesto—to coincide with our article on the history of Peruvian underground scene in the current issue of MRR! El Grito Subterráneo and Lima Explota can be seen as a chronology of social and political events in Peru as the context and historical framework that has shaped Peruvian punks’ ideals and their scene…

El Grito Subterráneo (The Underground Scream) (1987)
Director: Julio Montero

A DIY low budget documentary that juxtaposes the Peruvian punk underground scene and lifestyle with presidential speeches and mainstream news segments, giving a historical, socioeconomic and political context to Lima’s ’80s punk scene. The film describes the country’s social situation through interviews and mainstream news reports providing an interesting contrast. El Grito Subterráneo shows the birth and development of an unconventional music circuit in an alarming social and historical context. The documentary came out originally on VHS and in more recent years on DVD; however, it’s hard to get a copy of it outside of Peru. Currently it is available online, though it’s split into several parts:

El Grito Subterráneo documents the “second wave” of Peruvian underground punk, which emerged with scarce resources, but a lot of enthusiasm, imagination and comradeship. This era started in the 1980s and persisted until the first years of the 1990s. The film features footage 19 of Peruvian bands — extinct bands and others that are still thriving in the scene, including Voz Propia, Leusemia, Eutanasia, Kaos, Flema, Narcosis, María Teta, Empujón Brutal, Sinkura, Guerrilla Urbana, Autopsia, Juventud La Caigua S.A., Zcuela Crrada, TBC, Daniel F, Erupto Maldonado, G-3, Psicosis, Sociedad de Mierda, Luxuria and Excomulgados.

The documentary’s intro begins with a manifesto of its mission, the political and cultural position of the punk youth at the time and their feelings towards Peruvian society’s status quo then:

01:37 “This video documents the youth’s artistic work that’s a testimony of its creative potential and libertarian character; it’s an example for the present and future generations. It’s a cultural production made by a group collective based on group work, consciousness and the will to change Peru’s society invoking the utopia of a fair and more humane system and new forms of living. We establish that the mass media diffuses values inadequate for the development of autonomous cultural forms because they’re at the service of multinationals. We establish that college education diverts from the immediate reality and that the civil society remains passive in the face of the deterioration of human rights”

02:56 “Rock is the legitimate expression of youth. Youth protest movements are presented by the system and the media. Stripped from its anti-establishment character, the 70s punk movement, the chaos generation, is the scream that recuperates its generational protesting charge. Expressive language, manifestation that assumes the underground vanguard that’s committed to the radical proposals for the renovation of our third-world Latin American reality.”

03:52 “By expressing myself through this video, I wish to develop a contemporary artistic discipline that breaks the hegemony of corporate TV stations and that’s capable of producing libertarian messages.”

Maria Teta

Among the most important segments of Grito Subterraneo, in videos 2 and 3, are images of a mainstream news report showing an underground where youth with “an anarchic posture and foul language express their rejection to the society we live in,” as described by the reporter. Furthermore, the correspondent interviews some of the kids and asks questions regarding their way of dancing, the music they’re listening to and their politics, and further into their interview other kids give their opinion on the posers that attend the shows, who “say they are punks, but they are shit!”

In the same news report they interview a psychologist and a psychiatrist who give their interpretations, which don’t differ from each other or from reality, on the behavior they observe in the punks — their rejection to society and their desire to change it by seeking to destroy superficial socioeconomic values. At the same time, the news reports are alternated with footage of Guerilla Urbana playing at that show, and in the background one can hear their songs “Vivo en una ciudad muerta” (“I Live in a Dead City”) and “Eres una pose” (“You’re a Poser”). [You can read the obituary for Guerilla Urbana guitarist Jose Eduardo Matute here.]

In video number 5 the first band is interviewed. They propose that the bands that represent the movement should be more militant — that is, they should not only sing their stances and politics, but they should also take action in order to sustain the movement. They also suggest that kids shouldn’t get into punk as a fad, but that punks should maintain their ideals and manifest their concerns.

In video number 7, the members of Eutanasia (see the article on Eutanasia’s reunion, in the June 2012 issue of MRR) are interviewed and they give accounts on problems within the scene, such as, sectarianism, divisions and their repercussions. These guys advocate for unity among the groups. Eutanasia also mentions that they sing social commentary songs and through these they manifest their discontent and nonconformity towards the society and political climate of Lima in the ’80s, and through them they express their lives and experiences. The following band, Leusemia, criticizes the state of the punk movement, stating that what was once underground rock was now dead. They also mention the danger of the commercialization of artistic expressions of punk, and the difficulties bands go through to play shows in some venues, given the dominant society’s rejection of their expressions, which leads them to create an underground circuit.

The following videos (8 and 9), give a more political twist to the documentary; towards the end of video 8 there’s a speech by president Alan Garcia (in office from 1985-1990) from the parliament. There he addresses the nation during a (unspecified) national holiday. Then on video 9, there’s a sequence of bulletins and news on La Matanza de los Penales, The Prison Massacres in the San Juan de Lurigancho, El Frontón y Santa Bárbara prisons where hundreds of inmates in all tree rioted simultaneously to demand the release of political prisoners who were accused of terrorism.

On video 11, María Teta y El Empujón Brutal give an awesome performance at a show, with provocative songs that allude to feminism and subversion to religion by mocking some religious practices defying conventional values. In the interview of María Teta that follows, she speaks about police repression and how she was once was tortured for hours when she was arrested. The documentary concludes with a Sinkura interview and more footage of DIY underground shows.

Lima Explota (Lima Explodes) (2005)
Director: Santiago Herrera

This documentary presents Peru’s hardcore punk scene of the 1990s. Lima Explota is a commitment to everyone who left their mark in the development of this genre. Hardcore punk clearly expresses that it’s not just a phase in Lima’s music scene but it’s also the result of hard work from the bands that throughout history have consolidated this movement, and through this, establishing that hardcore is a firm and truthful form of expression; a social critique, and a way to deal with life.

Lima Explota features interviews and archival footage of shows from bands like Desarme, Futuro Incierto, Alhambre, Asmereir, Generacion Perdida, Metamorfosis, Dios Hastio and Contracorriente. In the interviews, bands comment on the bad influence mainstream media, MTV, and mainstream “punk” bands, like Blink 182 had on people’s perception of punk and the influence of this in the scene. Also, they address issues like the danger of the commercialization of punk, which led to the disintegration of some bands and subsequently of the hardcore scene by the mid- to late 90s.

A continuación, sinopsis y enlaces de una serie de documentales que retratan la escena punk subterránea de Perú desde los años ochenta y los noventa. Los documentales también pueden ser considerados como una cronología de eventos sociales y políticos que marcaron a la sociedad peruana en esas décadas así como el marco histórico y el contexto que de alguna manera ayudo a formar los ideales de los punks y su escena.

El Grito Subterráneo (1987)
Director: Julio Montero

Documental de bajo presupuesto y autogestionado esta formado por una yuxtaposición de imágenes y escenas de actividades de la vida y la escena subterránea de los punks peruanos de los ochenta — ya sean conciertos, actividades de arte, entrevistas a bandas — discursos políticos y segmentos de noticias los cuales aportan el contexto histórico, socioeconómico y político de la época. Este trabajo es un conjunto de imágenes se mezclan con un registro de la situación social de la época, generando un contrapunto muy interesante. El documental retrata el nacimiento y desarrollo de un circuito de música no convencional en un contexto histórico social alarmante. El documental fue distribuido originalmente en formato VHS y en formato DVD en años recientes, pero es muy difícil conseguir una copia fuera de Perú. Actualmente se puede ver completo en Internet, aunque dividido en varias partes.

Read the rest of this entry »



A report from South Korea!


August 16th, 2012 by

Here’s a MRR.com exclusive scene report from South Korea, written by Dave Hazzan with photos by Jon Dunbar…

UPDATE: Bonus photos added to the end of this article!

In newly affluent, newly democratic, and newly open-minded South Korea, a new punk scene is developing. It’s not what it could be, but something is afoot.

Known largely in the West for its psychotic dictators to the north, and to the rest of Asia for its plasticized pop stars, Korea still fails to have a punk scene worthy of its size. Ten million people live in Seoul and another thirteen million or so live in the suburbs around it, but on a good night it’s hard to find more than 300 people out to a show.

Seoul is so big that it’s impossible to describe what it looks or sounds like. The east and north of the city are more undeveloped and raw; south of the Han River is newer and more synthetic; in the west it’s somewhere in between. But these are enormous generalizations. Whereas southern Gangnam is the best place to have your eyes widened, nose sharpened and asshole bleached, right next to it you can find rundown tenements hilariously called “villas” where old ladies supplement their non-existent pensions by carting trash through the street like mules.

Dokkaebi Assault (photo by Juyoung Lee)

In the northwest, surrounded by middling neighborhoods, is Hongdae, entertainment capital of Korea and home of the Korean punk scene. On one very sticky July night between monsoons, RUX, the 100 BLOSSOM CLUB and HUMPBACKS played a free show in a playground surrounded by bars. Hongdae, named after the neighborhood university, is described by Visit Korea as “the center of Korea’s youthful nightlife. Many of Seoul’s idiosyncratic clubs that draw the younger set are clustered in the area.” So too are three-quarters of Korea’s punk shows.

According to Hong Gu, who has played in CAPTAIN BOOTBOIS and CHADBURGER, and describes his day job as “selling yarn,” the scene “is only in Hongdae. The Korean punk scene is Hongdae!” Hong thinks it’s “shameful to call it a scene. Only a few bands are active.”

No doubt the scene is small, and everyone would like it to get bigger. But some of those with experience in bigger scenes see this as somewhat of a gift. Jonah Love, who comes from nowhere in Alaska, but when to school in Vancouver, says there are fewer shows but bigger crowds than Vancouver and people are more pumped about the music. “A lot of people coming out to play are not concerned about the size of the audience, or not to make it, they just want to hear good music.”

The mix of foreigners to Koreans that night was about 1:4, but it’s hard to tell who was there for the show and who was just passing through a well-trafficked park. Despite complaints by some that image too much a part of the scene, there were people dressed in all ways. Most were fellating cans of beer from the neighboring corner store, or drinking soju cocktails from a table stand erected by a savvy bunch of kids. (There are no open container laws in Korea.) People were smiling, there was no fighting and people seemed to really enjoy the bands, who were uniformly excellent. Friendliness is the vibe most people take away from the scene.

Caroline Pardue, 30, is an American who has taught English here for two years. “I love that it’s Koreans and foreigners coming together. I don’t think I would have met any of these people otherwise. But we have this common bond in music. It really breaks down a lot of cultural barriers.” Other people had stories about going to shows alone and walking out with twenty new friends.

Bamseom (photo by Jon Dunbar)

Park Ha-ru, 20, works at a hot dog shop and feels the same way as Pardue. “Everybody is friends here,” she says, “skinheads, punks, rockers, even girls!” Though “even girls” might seem trite to the Western ear, in seriously sexist Korea it means something. Another young girl, Yim Ye-ji, says, “It’s a small scene so everyone is friendly. You go to a skinhead show, crust show, hardcore show, I can listen to everything, because they’re all friends. It’s the same people, mostly.”

Not everyone necessarily agrees. Our yarn seller Hong Gu argues that it was all together, but since image-conscious Korean punks hit the internet they’ve decided that “‘Oh, I’m a skinhead! A skinhead is this, a punk is this!’ Five years ago, people were together.”

An eighteen-year-old who would only give his name as “Hound” says that the scene has too many “fake punks” and, “A punk should be left-wing. Here there are many fascists [in the punk scene]. Other punks, they pick on me. I’m annoyed about this.”

However immature this might sound, I have respect for the young Mr. Hound. He has two piercings through the lips, one through the septum and an enormous tattoo on his chest that I couldn’t read. Whereas in California this might be the uniform of every second chartered accountant, in Korea it’s a recipe for banishment. Which brings us to bigger issues of punk and Korean society.

Confucianism, or yukiyo, largely defines Korean society. A social philosophy rather than a religion, yukiyo is about where you stand on the social hierarchy. The youth are supposed to defer to elders, women to men, students to teachers, children to parents, workers to bosses and so on. This happens even among Korean punks.

Added to this is a massive pressure in Korea to conform. The idea of just being yourself is anathema to most Koreans — you must fit in. Failure to do so can mean you’re ostracized and that can mean no work, no means of sustenance, and the next thing you know, you’re on the streets scavenging for pop bottles at the landfill. Though the situation is better than what it was, it’s still not good. By comparison, North America in the 1950s was much, much freer.

None of this is conducive to a dynamic punk scene. Korea is saturated with bad pop music from manufactured groups discovered on TV “idol” shows and sold into slave-like contracts for the rest of their miserable careers, or at least until they’re not “cute” enough to sustain a fan base. (A fan base, incidentally, that spans from toddlers to the geriatric, men and women.) The pressure to conform means that it is very difficult to get away from “K-pop.”

Yim Yeji says, “Punk is not really attractive to Korean people. There’s not a lot of chance to see punk shows. There’s too much K-pop.” Hong Gu says, “The media is all K-pop, Idols, every day. Even MTV.”

Christfuck (photo by Juyoung Lee)

Whatever one thinks of corporatized “punk” bands in America like Green Day or the Offspring, they are often the doorways that lead people to better punk music. The Korean versions of these bands are very hard to find on TV or the radio here, though they do worm their way through the cracks. It was only after Koreans overthrew their US-backed dictators in 1988 that they could begin to listen to what they wanted, though censorship stayed well into the 1990s. The first punk bands in Korea, like CRYING NUT and NO BRAIN, didn’t begin until the late nineties, when the sound was already twenty years old in the west. Considered legends now, though occasionally seen on television, are more likely to be seen and heard about by Koreans through a forwarded YouTube clip.

Won Jong-hee, who plays for RUX, another of the original bands, says that CRYING NUT and NO BRAIN are paving the way to mainstreaming Korean punk. He insists that this is not a bad thing, especially in a Korea under the yoke of conformity. These original bands “are trying to smooth the transition to mainstream music. It’s very natural and Korean music needs that, for fans to be able to go to the department store and choose what you want to hear.”

Others aren’t so sure. Hound would identify it as fake punk, and Jon Dunbar, who’s been following the scene for years, argues that it could just end up a new form of K-pop. “K-pop websites are beginning to take notice of Korean underground music, which I’ve seen getting branded as K-indie, a despicable term, and K-pop fans are starting to notice it too, but usually don’t have the discriminating tastes to be able to identify it as anything other than a new flavor of K-pop. It’s Korean first and a specific type of music second. I hope that the Korean punk scene, what little there is left of it, can avoid that pitfall.”

Scumraid (photographer unknown)

A second, significant obstacle to the punk scene is mandatory military service — every able-bodied male must serve two years and there are no exemptions for conscientious objection. According to Dunbar, “Military service is a big hindrance in the lives of almost all Korean males in their twenties and thus causes problems for the bands, which are usually made up of males in their twenties. It’s not uncommon for a band to disappear for two years.” These bands often don’t get back together, the idea being that after military service, it’s time to get serious and get a job. Read the rest of this entry »



Greek punk videos galore!


August 16th, 2011 by

On MRR Radio a few weeks back I played a pathetically miniscule Greek punk set with a plea for some word about some Greek punk past and present. Well, the call has been answered and generous punks Lydia (Athens punk, show thrower, and creator of a new zine N o w h e r e, whose input you can read HERE) and Panos Andrianos (Mountza zine and ANTIMOB — see his contribution below) have sent the following information about killer Greek punk! Explore it and enjoy it. I guarantee no matter what sort of punk or HC you are into, you will find something you like here…

By Panos Andrianos:

Back in the mid-’80s/early ’90s, most Western punks didn’t even know where Greece was on the map. Many thought that Greece was all about feta cheese, ouzo, bouzouki, islands and traditionally dressed old ladies. During the last couple of years, things changed. Nowadays, Greece is well known internationally as the first eurozone country, which pretty much went bankrupt.

However, most punks worldwide still know nothing about the well hidden Greek do it yourself punk/crust movement of the mid ’80s and early ’90s, a movement which was authentic, had character and managed to influence deeply the majority of the local punks.

What follows, is a number of hard to find videos (mostly live sets) that were recently uploaded on Youtube. This is just to give you a short picture of what was going on in the early days of the Greek punk scene, which in my opinion was way better than the current one.

I am not giving any details about the bands performing in these videos. Check the upcoming Mountza issue (a fanzine I am doing with two friends) for an extended coverage of this scene. Bear in mind that back then 95% of the live performances took place in squats or open sites (city squares and parks) and were run in an 100% diy way. None of the following bands accepted ever to play at commercial rock clubs with high entrance fees while most of them released their records themselves.

ANTI (1980 to 1990)

(Unofficial video clip, unknown date)

FORGOTTEN PROPHECY (Ξεχασμένη Προφητεία, 1989 to 1991)

(Athens, Villa Amalias Squat 1990)

(Athens, An Club 1990)

Oh yes, there’s lots more… Read the rest of this entry »



Greek punk links galore!


August 16th, 2011 by

On MRR Radio a few weeks back I played a pathetically miniscule Greek punk set with a plea for some word about some Greek punk past and present. Well, the call has been answered. Generous punks Lydia (Athens punk, show thrower, and creator of a new zine N o w h e r e, whose input you can read below) and Panos Andrianos (Mountza zine and ANTIMOB — see his stuff HERE)  sent a bunch of links and videos killer Greek punk! Explore and enjoy. I guarantee no matter what sort of punk or HC you are into, you will find something you like here…

By Lydia:

Here’s a very, very quick list of bands and distros you can check out online…
HIBERNATION
(Χειμερια Ναρκη) [The song “Wrecks” is a fucking jam! —Mariam]
KALAZAAR
[I just reviewed this bands split and it is awesome. —Mariam]
MY TURN
ANTIMOB (Panos’ band)
DESPITE EVERYTHING
LUNATIX
BLACK LISTED
JAGERNAUT

And a couple distros to check out:
SCULL CRASHER
(Bak of Kalazaar and Jagernaut)
SCARECROW (Darek, one of the oldest and fullest distros in Greece)
LAST SCREAM (Alekos and Harris from Hibernation distro)
WAK (Apostolis of My Turn)