Nov. 2014 Updates!

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Updated 13 Nov. 2014.

Hello everyone, a sudden blunt cold front has finally crept south into ozone city, so a change of season can be felt. A few leaves are actually turning amber even as flowers bloom bright in ecstasy. If you would like to read an excerpt from my new, in-depth interview with Jello Biafra, iconic singer of the Dead Kennedys and longtime political rabble rouser, please visit Houston Press here.

For a review and pics of his show at the Continental in Houston, now my most “liked” story ever on Facebook, please click here.

Next up, I hope some of you may be able to attend the book event for Subterranean Hum, my new collection of poetry co-written with Peter Case, thrice Grammy nominated singer-songwriter and godfather of punk and power pop, whose bands the Nerves and Plimsouls stretched throughout the first and second waves of contemporary underground music, starting with key shows with the Ramones in 1977.

Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine, the Continental, by David Ensminger

Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine, the Continental, by David Ensminger

We will be gathering at Cactus Record on Nov. 10th at 5:30, free beer will be served, and we shall read portions of the sinewy, street-wise work and discuss my other book, Mavericks, which came out a few months back and features a dynamic interview with Case as well.

You can read my newest interview with Case in Houston Press here.

Soon, my interview with Italian hardcore pioneers Raw Power will be published by Maximum Rock’n’Roll, so I will let you know when it hits the shelves!

In the meantime, for an overview of Subterranean Hum, read Case’s ultra-energized back cover blurb: “The days pile up like snow drifts in Atlanta, & here we are—recombining & reclaiming the world from psychic & somnambulistic free-fall, one post-human block at a time: commuting on Interstate 10—winding through Exxon-lands Satanic Mills—learning to speak & see in the dark—driving with the lights on at noon in a Gulf Coast storm—writing in difficult circumstances—moments snatched ballpoint on three by five cards—seen from trains—planes—van windows & waiting room benches—throughout America, Australia & the U.K.—shared with each other & you for inspiration & to keep the words flowing—situations with friends & lovers—troubles & actions on the streets—who keeps the roads open if we’re shut down? who keeps the language alive if we go silent? Subterranean Hum proclaims pockets of resistance—coming up from under—scattered lights seen from the sky in the small hours—& nevertheless, was composed for KICKS!”

Gary Floyd book released / San Francisco Lit Crawl Event!

litcrawlmoderncityPlease join site editor and author David Ensminger at Modern Times Books in San Francisco on Oct. 18th as he hosts a panel called Punk: The Permanent Revolution as part of the city-wide Lit Crawl fest. Joining him will be icons like Kathy Peck of the Contractions (just confirmed), Mia Simmans of Frightwig, Jack Grisham of TSOL/Joykiller, Peter Case of the Nerves/Plimsouls, and Gary Floyd of the Dicks/Sister Double Happiness. Others might convene as well! The event is FREE, books will be found galore, and it rolls at 8:30, but be there by 8 pm to mingle and meet.

Also, the Gary Floyd memoir Please Bee Nice has just been published by Left of the Dial, a small publishing house headed by Ensminger. Copies will be distributed to outlets like Alternative Tentacles over the next few weeks, but you may order a copy right now via Amazon here. If you would like more information or desire to order a copy directly from the publisher, please send an email to leftofthedialmag@hotmail.com.

Gary Floyd is an iconic underground rock’n’roll figure who has resided in San Francisco for three decades. He epitomizes the links between the outsider ethos of the Beats (both their queerness and spirituality) and the vexing and volatile punk era. If one band other than the Dead Kennedys and MDC defined the political turmoil of the 1980s, it was the Dicks, one of the anchors of the Rock Against Reagan tour. Plus, Floyd was one of the very few openly gay punk rockers in a scene saturated with righteous politics. In a very earthy and honest voice, the memoir covers much of his life, including his early East Texas dog days, his queer-punk radicalism and ornery hell-raising in Reagan’s trickle down economy America, his rootsy and blues-leaning Sister Double Happiness alternative rock, and his discovery of Eastern spirituality (he almost became a monk), plus the Gary Floyd Band and Black Kali Ma. The book, stylized with rare flyers and photos, is breezy, sharp-tongued, detailed and insightful, poetic but not overly ponderous, raw and refined in the right places, and candid about a scene still mired in controversy.

Fall 2014 News! Mavericks is Released! Updated entry!

Updated Sept. 30, 2014.

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Great news, my last book, Mojo Hand, a co-authored biography of the bluesman Lightnin’ Hopkins, fully anchored by the research of historian Tim O’Brien, just won a 2014 Certificate of Merit from the Association for Recorded Sound Collections for Best Research in Recorded Blues, Hip-Hop, and R&B!

Also, my photo of the Bellrays playing live in Houston, TX was published in the Aug/Sept 2014 issue of the veteran and venerated punk zine Trust out of Germany.

My newest collection of interviews, Mavericks of Sound, is now available from Rowman and Littlefield. The best price can be found on Amazon.

Writer David Ensminger's new book "Mavericks of Sound" released by Rowman and Littlefield

In Mavericks of Sound: Conversations with the Artists Who Shaped Indie and Roots Music, I offer a collection of vivid and compelling interviews with legendary roots rock and indie artists who bucked mainstream trends and have remained resilient in the face of enormous shifts in the music world. As the success of the concerts at Austin City Limits have revealed, the fan bases and crowds for indie and roots music often blur and overlap. In Mavericks of Sound, I bring to light the highways and byways trod by these music icons over the course of their careers and the ways in which their music-making has been affected by, and influenced, the burgeoning indie and roots music movements.

Ranging from seminal modern singer-songwriters to rockabilly renegades and indie rockers, Mavericks of Sound features a set of broad, penetrating, and insightful conversations imbued with a sense of musical history and heritage. Ensminger captures firsthand accounts from singer songwriters like Texas Country musician Tom Russell and first wave indie artist and folk rocker Peter Case; rockabilly artists Junior Brown and the Reverend Horton Heat; American indie rock icons such as 11th Dream Day’s Janet Bean, Pere Ubu’s Dave Thomas, Apples in Stereo’s Robert Schneider, and Swans members Michael Gira and Jarboe; English and New Zealand figures such as folk legend Richard Thompson, The Clean’s David Kilgour and The Waterboys’ Mike Scott; and folk, country and rock legends such as Merle Haggard, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Ralph Stanley, Neko Case, and Yo La Tengo.

Mavericks of Sound is the perfect work for contemporary indie, roots, Americana, country, and folk music fans who want to understand the unique artistry and unbound passion behind America’s musical innovators that readily broke and remolded rules.

GetInlineAlso, over the past few weeks I have been avidly at work on memoirs for both Gary Floyd of the Dicks and Dave Dictor of MDC. Dictor’s slim, highly personal book is still trying to find a publisher, but I will announce progress soon! Meanwhile, Floyd’s earthy, poetic book has gone to the printer, to be published by my own press Left of the Dial. It is due out mid-October!

I look forward to meeting some of this blog’s followers during the Lit Crawl in San Francisco on Oct. 18th., when I will be hosting a punk forum and discussion at Modern Times books, an old indie store, as the last event of the festival. An iconic series of punk veterans will join me, including Peter Case (Nerves, Plimsouls), Mia d’Brunzi (Frightwig), Gary Floyd (the Dicks, Sister Double Happiness), and Jack Grisham (TSOL)! Also, I hope Kathy Peck of the Contractions will be there too.

Gary Floyd, Houston, by David Ensminger

Gary Floyd, Houston, by David Ensminger

During late summer, I covered local gigs for the weekly paper, Houston Press, so be sure to check out these preview/review/interview links to pivotal performers like:

Austin’s garage rock raconteurs OBN IIIs here.

Italy’s hardcore pioneers Raw Power here.

Classic posicore 7 Seconds here and here.

Ribald bluesy Buddha of punk Gary Floyd here.

mrr_377_cvr-300x388For fans of overseas punk zines, my photos of Verbal Abuse and Cerebral Ballzy were featured in the June/July issue of Trust in Germany.

Lastly, my in-depth interview with contagiously talented Mia of Frightwig can be found in the Oct. issue of Maximum Rock’n’Roll!

Summer 2014 updates! New Gary Floyd date!

davidpromo4First, I hope summer is unleashing its potential in your life, like an ongoing revolution of self-determination!

Tomorrow I will be appearing at the Mudlark Theater in New Orleans, where I will be showing an exhibit of punk photographs, plus projecting many more on stage, as well as unleashing/screening my documentary Chronicles from the Zero Hour, featuring an iconic collection of faces, including members of MDC, Chumbawamba, Strike Anywhere, Dag Nasty and more. The event is a fundraiser, so please be sure to spread the word, virally, quick-as-can-be.

mudlarkOsa Atoe interviewed me for the terrific local monthly paper Antigravity, and you can view the PDF of the entire issue here! It features my photos of MDC, Mydolls, Suicidal Tendencies, DOA, and more!

Peter Case and I just submitted our poetry anthology Subterranean Hum to the printers yesterday, so look for it to be available soon via usual on-line outlets like Amazon, any stops where he or I tour, and hopefully some indie bookstores near you! We extended it beyond 100 pages and redesigned the interior, so it’s really evocative and alluring, I hope!

My previous academic article examining the traditions and issues concerning black punk rock performances and representation has been made more easily available on-line, so in case you cannot buy Visual Vitriol, which recycled it for a chapter, you can now find it here. Just scroll down to find it or search for my name.

MavericksSound3My new book Mavericks of Sound, featuring everyone from the Swans and Yo La Tengo to Radio Birdman and Pere Ubu, will be published by Rowman and Littlefield in Sept., so please alert your local library if the hardcover cost is a bit too steep for your habits.

Lastly, Gary Floyd (the Dicks, Sister Double Happiness, Black Kali Ma) and I will be appearing together at Cactus Records (check out the flyer I made!) on July 25th to celebrate my book Left of the Dial, DJ some of our fave records from the store, and discuss our upcoming biography of Gary, which should be finished by September.

garyjulycorrectPS. I am 200 pages into my new book examining the politics and culture of punk, including its history of humanitarian outreach, the blurred line between sex culture and punk communities, the scenes of Washington DC and San Francisco, and the impact of punk on the Deaf community…More soon!

An Interview with Filmmakers Paul Bishow and James Schneider

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Punk the Capital! Chronicling the History Of D.C. Punk ! An interview with filmmakers Paul Bishow and James Schneider

What do you think are some of the great misconceptions of DC punk?

JS/PB: One of the things we cover in the film is the whole scene that preceded the Bad Brains in D.C. in the late 70s, that small but fairly cohesive group of people working together to build something. I’m not sure it can be called a misconception but definitely the pre-1980 DC punks deserve a lot more attention, historically speaking. The other thing is the Straight Edge movement. Drugs and alcohol just weren’t what the younger punks were looking for. The excitement and the establishment’s reaction to the music was enough. So the whole “boredom” thing just didn’t enter into the equation. The energy of the music and all the things going on around the scene made for constant activity. Drugs and alcohol just didn’t have a part in that new and intense DIY ethic. That was part of what harDCore was about beyond DC as well.

bbrainsmadDoes this documentary try to flesh out details or elements that books like Dance of Days could not, or did not?

JS/PB: First of all, Dance of Days was a major accomplishment in covering such a large time frame of DC punk, including the later DC punk period of the 80s and 90s that often gets less attention. Our film elaborates on the generational and cultural shift happening in DC circa 1979. We dive back into what happened before then, in the late 70s, and then after, with harDCore. We get to the heart of why DC Punk has such staying power, why harDCore had to happen, and why DC was such a fertile ground for this new scene. The answer to these questions come straight out of that transitional moment, and specifically the Madams Organ artists co-op. It’s something you can pick up on when all the pieces are assembled and when you see all the interconnections between the generations and how they perceived each other.

Bad Brains, Madams Organ, 1979

Bad Brains, Madams Organ, 1979, still from film

Looking back into DC punk origins, do you think bands like Slickee Boys, Tru Fax and the Insaniacs, and White Boy were just as vital as veteran punk bands in NYC, like J/Wayne County, Dictators, etc?

JS/PB: Definitely on a local level they were. These were bands you might see a couple times a month and that saw each other even more. They were as important in DC as those NYC bands you mentioned were to NYC. And DC has a tradition of hard working bands, whatever kind of music it is. Those early bands knew what was going on and had their antennas out. Those DC bands you mention were a huge influence on the younger generation, if not musically, at least in terms of proposing a model of how non-competitive and community-like a music scene should be. In our film we also go into how they also showed the younger generation the basics of DIY.

Much of DC punk has often been associated with Dischord, yet Pussy Galore, Half Japanese, and Peach of Immortality also sprouted. Why do you think harDCore gained such a strong presence in history and lore compared to other scenes?

PB: For me, I loved a lot of the non-Dischord bands like Half Japanese or the Velvet Monkeys, but also remember, not all Dischord bands sound or sounded alike, so I wouldn’t say there was just a “Dischord sound” either. Dischord definitely had a huge presence, to the point where bands even setting themselves up as anti-Dischord such as No Trend. But really that is just the dialectic of punk, all in good fun. DC harDCore took hold and spread widely largely because of Dischord’s well organized sense of mission, they really did want to change music from bottom to top.

I know the film has taken ten years: did any painful truths become evident — personas unmasked, limitations understood, places and people lost forever?

JS: Several people we interviewed have passed away since we started this film, and several DC Punk landmarks have been transformed into condos or Starbucks. So there have been some major changes in D.C.’s character but that really has helped us in how to think about D.C.’s identity in our film. So our doc has hugely benefited from the time it’s taken, including a lot of technical advances that will help with all the archival work. Also, some people are more willing to talk more than they did before, some less, but I would say overall that folks are now taking stronger positions and thinking more about about that history.

trufaxSome proceeds will benefit Positive Force, an iconic force within the conscience and outreach of DC punk. Do you think it helped re-ignite the ethos of local punk right as many critics saw it waning in mid-late 1980s?

PB: I do not think the conscience of punk waned.

JS: It definitely was part of the politicizing of DC punk, which was not a bad thing. I grew up going to those early Positive Force shows so my early exposure to any kind of political consciousness came from those events and the bands that were singing about issues. Then I could go see other local bands or out of town bands and get a totally different flavor, there were choices. It’s worth pointing out that even before Positive Force DC began, harDCore was on the outs and a lot of people in that scene were looking for a new direction. Positive Force became part of that evolution.

I know that punk in DC should be spoken in the present tense — bands still emerge. What ones today, do you feel, link to the spirit evident as in the mid-1970s?

JS/PB : There’s a resurgence of a harDCore scene happening in DC these days which is cool, but the links with the older scene are not always what they could be. That might be changing. In the meantime, the younger scene calls that 1980’s generation the “olds.”

Apart from the fan rituals (zines…) and band performances, what part of the DC punk legacy still deserves much attention — perhaps art and photography, like Jeff Nelson, Cynthia Connolly, and others?

Bad Brains, 9:30 Club, still from film

Bad Brains, 9:30 Club, still from film

PB: I think mainly what we know now is that the influence continues (though not always recognized) in terms of the directness of the ideas and presentation. The art of thinking for yourself. That’s the very basic ingredient of Do-It-Yourself.

JS: In terms of Dischord, there’s an aesthetic that has aged well, and those people you mention were a big part of that and hold a sizeable place in our film. I think it’s important to point out that this whole younger generation thought that something important was happening, which is why there were so many people documenting it. They were right.

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Late Spring 2014 News!

IMG_0048Thank you, readers, for continuing to make this blog relevant. Almost 100,000 views prove the appetite for punk folklore is deep and profound, whether we examine art, sexuality, or music.

I have updated the theme of the page to make the material more reader-friendly on mobile devices. I use this same format for my World War II blog about POW material culture, and the overall experience seems improved.

I continue to write for the Houston Press, including this brand new preview of the micro-group Dos, the spare, experimental, but melodic duo of Kira Roessler (Black Flag) and Mike Watt (Minutemen), both of whom appeared in my book Left of the Dial. Since it is concise, here it is below, rather than a mere link.

“Time-tested by stints in underground heroes Black Flag and the Minutemen, as well as the dynamism of marriage and divorce, the “world’s smallest supergroup” — the Mike Watt and Kira Roessler duo known as Dos — wears resilience like a second skin. The music feels probing yet mellow and exploratory, still landing squarely within the rubric of punk. Tunes like “Taking Away the Fire” and “Diogenes” feel akin to artful meanderers Sonic Youth, while recent instrumental “Number Eight” is playful, ambient and melodic. Never kowtowing to trends and styles, Watt and Roessler have become masters of unique, seminal, one-off music. No wonder Nameless Sound and Girls Rock Camp Houston have joined forces to bring them to town for workshops and gigs to inspire the next generation. “Dos is the entire package,” says firebrand musician and GRCH cofounder Anna Garza (who proudly sports a Black Flag tattoo), “a dream come true.”

againstme3For my review of the Gainesville punk legends Against Me!, who performed to an ecstatic, roiling crowd a few months back in Houston, click here:

Next, my interview with their new drummer Atom Willard, the explosive arms behind bands like Alkaline Trio and Rocket from the Crypt too, can be read  here.

Meanwhile, agitprop mid-1980s icons Vex, an obscure Texas punk band that melded the likes of Really Red (in fact, their drummer, Bob Weber, smacked the skins for this occasion) with the Fall, recently reunited for an intense record store gig that featured local luminaries in the audience, like members of the Hates and Mydolls. Read my overview of the band here.

Also, I was able to have an on-line conversation with skater-cum-artist Steve Olson, who revolutionized the sport in the late 1970s, became an uber-punk, and now is an intriguing conceptual maker of modern objects that blur borders between pop, Dada, street art, and fun fun fun. To read our interview, click here.

My work in Visual Vitriol examining the gender roles within the punk subculture was noted in the new essay “Every Song Ends” from Write in Tune: Contemporary Music in Fiction, Bloomsbury Publishing USA, 2014.

Via the Internet, I am sitting on the dissertation committee for Marco Ferrarese, a PhD candidate in Social Sciences researching Malaysian punk and metal identity construction and traditions at Monash University Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur.

MavericksSound3My book, Mavericks of Sound, featuring a wide array of my archives from the last 20 years, including interviews with roots rock (Dave Alvin of the Blasters, John Doe of X, Merle Haggard …) and indie icons (Violent Femmes, Apples in Stereo, Swans…) is due out in September from Scarecrow Press. I just completed the first round of text edits, and the cover has been designed. Please look for it soon, and pre-order if you like, at sites like Amazon.

Grammy nominated singer-songwriter (three times!) and godfather of punk and well-chiseled pop Peter Case and I are completing the final text layout for our book of Beat Generation style poetic ruminations titled Subterranean Hum, which should go to print next month.

Recently, concerning my Midwest punk archive blog, I was interviewed by Adrienne Evens, a graduate student in the School of Library and Information Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison for “Action, Cooperation, and Independence: A Survey of Community Archives and History-Making Organizations in the Midwest” – her report debuting at the Midwest Archives Conference (MAC) in Kansas City, April 24-26.

I have also assisted Monalesia Earle, another PhD candidate, research a chapter on black punks and lesbians for her work regarding “Queer(y)ing the Punk Aesthetic: Reading Race, Desire, Anarchism, and Latinidad in Cristy C. Road’s Bad Habits” and related areas of interest at Birkbeck School of Arts, University of London.

Over a few months, I have provided historical material, background research, and even dialog editing to Deaf/Hard of Hearing performance artist and filmmaker Alison O’Daniel for her project The Tuba Thieves, which contains a film in homage to the infamous punk site Deaf Club of San Francisco — an oral history topic in my book Left of the Dial.

Cross your fingers, for I hope German fanzine Trust will publish portions of my own punk photography archive sometime soon, which includes UK Subs, Vibrators, Youth Brigade, Adolescents, MDC, and many more.

front cover onlyI will update portions of the this blog with new material during the next several months, including a new emphasis on punk sexualities and politics. I am still waiting to hear back from the journal Post and Post-Punk about my essay “Protest and Survive,” which examines the political aims and outreach, not mere rhetoric, of punk bands throughout history. You can read the abstract below.

Abstract: Punk rock has long been equated with ever-shifting and fluid concepts of dissent, disruption, and counter-cultural activities. As a result, since its first and second wave incarnations during the 1970s and 1980s, when bands in Britain from The Clash and Sex Pistols to Angelic Upstarts, U.K. Subs, and Crass offered alternative political convictions and subversive lifestyle choices, the media has often deemed punk a threat. Bands like Circle Jerks, Dead Kennedys, Bad Religion, and Millions of Dead Cops followed suit in America, pushing similar boundaries as the music mutated into “hardcore” – a harsher, stripped down, and more choleric variant of punk — that branched deep into suburban enclaves. Those antagonisms and ideals were, in turn, translated by another wave of bands, from Fugazi to Anti-Flag, whose commitment to community building were as pronounced as their taut, explosive tunes. My current on-line punk visual history efforts, including amassing and archiving over 350 politics-related gig flyers, focus on mapping, cataloging, and understanding the various activism and outreach inherent in punk. My text provides an overview of punk’s social, cultural, aesthetic, and political features; provides original interviews with members of MDC, Channel 3, Minutemen, TSOL, and more; highlights where punk money was gathered and spent as well as probes whether these actions promoted volunteerism, philanthropy, and community involvement; and paints a contextualized picture of how punk critiqued dominant culture not simply by offering rhetorical stances, symbolic strategies, and clever conceits but by channeling support and both impacting and making media that documents a wide array of humanitarian outreach, including gay and lesbian, environmental, and homeless advocacy as well as medical services and research.

 

 

 

Winter 2014 Updates

The Swans, the Axiom, Houston, TX, circa 1988, by Be DeSoto

The Swans, the Axiom, Houston, TX, circa 1988, by Ben DeSoto

This post was updated 2 Feb. 2014.

Happy new year to everyone! My new book, Mavericks of Sound, over 300 pages featuring an array of interviews and photos with roots and indie rockers from Merle Haggard to Pere Ubu and the Swans, has been accepted by an imprint of independent publishers Rowman and Littlefield. The book should be processed beginning in March 2014 and hopefully available to the public by the end of the year.

In the meantime, be sure to check out my new short but feisty interview with Joey Shithead of Canadian punk stalwarts DOA in the Houston Press.

You can also peruse an excellent review and overview of my book Left of the Dial, written by Steve Scanner, in the website Scanner Zine here.

My newest academic article, “Protest and Survive: the Praxis of Punk Politics,” has survived its first draft and is being submitted to journals for possible publication. Currently 25 pages, it includes new interviews with the likes of Mike Magrann of Channel 3 and Mark Anderson of Positive Force D.C., as well as a previously unpublished interview with Justin Sane of Anti-Flag, among others.

Below, I offer you an excerpt of an article I penned examining the work of punk historian Jon Savage. The link to the complete article can be found at the end of the segment.

Who Owns Punk History: Jon Savage, the England’s Dreaming Tapes, University of Minnesota Press

Originally published by Popmatters, 15 Dec. 2010.

Englands-Dreaming-Tapes-book-coverUndoubtedly, punk still exists as a tantalizing music subculture that has expanded, mutated, and doubled-back, like a snake eating itself, in routine redux over the last 30 years, turning three garage rock chords and the so-called truth into nihilistic newer variations like D-Beat, crust punk, powerviolence, grindcore, and screamo. Recent anniversaries of Frontier Records (label to TSOL, Circle Jerks, and Suicidal Tendencies) and melodic punk stalwarts Bad Religion testify to long term trajectories and traditions; meanwhile, interpretations of the pose, language, style, and attitudes of punk have infected multiple academic disciplines from sociology and folklore to musicology and women’s studies. In purely commercial terms, punk has long been subdued and harnessed, reshaping retail commodity culturescapes. Faux-hawks, patches, studded bracelets, and skulls stitched on T-shirts have become common fashion accessories in bland suburbs and edgy barrios alike.

The telling, not the mere examination—acts of theory and conjecture—of its convoluted history, grounded in memoirs, magazine exposes, blogs, and films, remains unstable, partial, thorny, and riddled with gaps. Certainly, seminal books have risen to the top of the heap. Many brim with oral history, which some readers believe fosters candor and authenticity. We Got the Neutron Bomb (Three Rivers Press, 2001) surveys West Coast punk while Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk (Penguin, 1997), by former PUNK fanzine editor Legs McNeil, helped by co-editor Gillian McCain, represents hard-boiled New York City. These quasi-journalistic romps featuring iconic talking heads reminiscing about their roles and first-hand experiences without much writerly fluff proved to be quite popular.

That modus operandi essentially makes this epic 752-page collection of compiled interviews by Jon Savage feel weighty and pertinent, even if one has already read his much-lauded England’s Dreaming: Anarchy, Sex Pistols, Punk Rock, and Beyond (St. Martin’s Griffin, 1992), which almost 20 years ago examined the zero hour of punk, mostly in England. Representing just a portion of his impressive archives for the text, these transcripts make readers feel like they are sitting at Savage’s side as he finesses rock ‘n’ roll rebels and forgotten helpers alike, though don’t expect many WikiLeak profundities dug from the minefields of memory. Plus, interviews with the likes of Ed Kuepper from The Saints and V. Vale, editor of vintage San Francisco Search and Destroy fanzine, remain available on http://www.jonsavage.com only.

The template formula is quite breezy, off-the-cuff, and anecdotal. More recent Do-It-Yourself texts, such as the reference books American Hardcore: A Tribal History (Feral House, 2001) and Going Underground: American Punk 1979-1992 (Zuo Press, 2006), both written by ‘80s scenesters, attempt to reflect a vast landscape of punk, but also have been heavily critiqued for their shortcomings; for instance, Randy “Biscuit” Turner, singer of the Big Boys, told me that the sections in American Hardcore… blurred and distorted details, relied on gossip, and misrepresented bands. Meanwhile, although “Biscuit” was featured on the cover of Going Underground…, he was not interviewed. He exists as an embellishment only—a mute icon—unleashing a protruding middle finger in the photograph akin to similar outlaw images of Johnny Cash.

Though academics have lauded Savage’s England’s Dreaming… as a nimble intellectual text, others equally detest it as well. Punk writer Stewart Homes dubbed Savage a cultural elitist who “shores up their theory by appropriating punk rock” while legitimizing Au Pairs and Gang of Four and ignoring street punk, which he seemingly judges as both laddish and loutish (Cranked Up Really High – Genre Theory and Punk Rock, Codex, 1995). In 2003, Captain Sensible of the Damned told me, “England’s Dreaming … is a ripe load of shit if you ask me. I much prefer Johnny Rotten’s No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs (1995).” Additionally, Andy Czezowski, former proprietor of The Roxy, one of punk’s most prominent early clubs, aggressively admitted to the on-line journal 3: AM Magazine: “The guy’s a total wanker, constantly re-writing history to suit his own purposes… Just a shallow journalist really… totally peripheral guy. Always intellectualizing” (2003).

51BFJMuvPhLThis new transcript-based format might be an avid antidote to such charges, for Savage doesn’t interpret, preen, or prettify. By avoiding rabbit holes of theory and pontification, he simply allows readers to indulge in these moments, like a fly on the wall. In that sense, these pages may offer up a common ground to all sides – a rich, interwoven series of conversations, unadulterated and sculpted only by his own keen and casual questions, including lengthy bits with both Sensible and Czezowski in raw, not boiled, form.

To be fair, no account of punk is bound to be error-free, without gaps, or even fully democratic.  Don’t look for the likes of Chelsea, UK Subs, The Jam, and Slaughter and the Dogs in this volume. The old stand-by stalwarts, however, do offer scoops: Joe Strummer wholeheartedly illustrates the rundown, inner-city, squat-ridden, pre-Clash London era of the 101ers; wise and wily Johnny Rotten dispels the artiness of it all, reminding readers the Pistols were studio mongers akin to stadium rockers, layering a staggering multitude of guitar tracks on “Anarchy in the U.K.” (not that Bad Religion isn’t equally guilty); while Adam Ant flagellates the ludicrous pretensions, ala Rocky Horror Picture Show, of the Derek Jarman film Jubilee (1978), which featured an early line-up of his band, Gene October of Chelsea, gender bender American rocker Wayne County, and female iconoclast Jordan.

As for the Pistols, Johnny Rotten is cast as the aggravated adrogyne, Steve Jones as the illiterate trad-rock sex machine, Paul Cook as the blank faced unknown, Sid as the sweet kid swallowed by Nancy Spungen in a mythic downward spiral, and Glen Matlock as the effete middle-class popster.  Part leftover fans of Small Faces, part Bay City Rollers boy band gone wild, part consumer warriors and art saboteurs, they staged their hit-and-run media blitz, and we’re still debating their worth.

To see the complete text, please visit Popmatters.

Happy Holidays! Updates for the End of 2013!

vvI hope everyone is finding some relaxation, recovery, and reflection in the final days of 2013. Currently, my newest book Mavericks: Conversations with Indie and Root Rock Icons is under review at a major press, so I am awaiting their response and gathering the visual elements of the book, including flyers, fanzine clippings, and photography. The text is large, several hundred pages, and will encompass artists from the Clean and Radio Birdman to the Violent Femmes and Ralph Stanley. I should know more very soon.

I also continue to edit a book of poetry with Peter Case of the Nerves and Plimsouls, which should be completed within the next month as well as we make the final content decisions and craft the front cover.

In addition, Visual Vitriol continues to make a deep impact on academic studies. I just received notice that my focus on street posters as the “second skin of cities” and other related concepts has been cited several times in “You and I aren’t so equal; the visual representation of gender inequality in the contemporary  New Zealand workforce and the visual manifestation of inequality in Wellington’s southern suburbs,” by Natalie Ellen-Eliza for a thesis presented in fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Philosophy in Visual and Material Culture at Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand. You can actually read her entire work here.

In the meantime, I was able to spend last night with my former student turned graphic designer Beau Eaton at a local bar that has been open since the 1940s. He made an incredible Visual Vitriol poster using old-fashioned hand-set type for a show at Umpqua Community College in Oregon, so I present it to you again, along with my own Bowie-centric one as well. Enjoy your winter…

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Dec updates! Review in Trust, Peter Case gig, and new punk reseach underway!

Peter Case, Houston, Nov. 2013, by David Ensminger

Peter Case, Houston, Nov. 2013, by David Ensminger

First, I hope the upcoming winter season finds everyone in good spirit and productivity! I was able to spend much time with Peter Case of the Plimsouls and Nerves these last two weeks. We appeared together at Cactus Records in Houston, and he also gigged at Mucky Duck a few weeks later as well. I snapped this pic of him not far from the record store after looking at the palm trees and thinking, ‘This could be the front cover for Miami by the Gun Club,” a band we both admire.  So, this pic is an homage of sorts. We are gathering work for our follow-up to Epistolary Rex, our book of letters and correspondence. This one will likely include poems, prose, and tour diaries. The text editing and selection is underway as I pen this update, so look for it to be published this next year, either DIY or by a small indie press.

Next, Left of the Dial just received a very positive and compelling review in the long-time iconic German fanzine Trust. I thank writer Jan for his input and support. In fact, the Vic Bondi interview in LOTD was previously published by Trust, plus they published the skate punk theory section of Visual Vitriol as well, so I am indebted to their commitment: they continue to find my work an European audience.

Lastly, I am preparing an academic article relating to the politics of punk, which should be completed at the end of the month. Please read the abstract below, and if you have any documents, fanzine articles, reviews, or insight and experience that may help with the effort, please feel free to contact me at: leftofthedialmag@hotmail.com.

Also, visit the archive I have established to highlight the punk-meets-politics material here.

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Practicing What they Preach? Using the Visual Culture of Punk Flyers to Index Counter-Cultural Conscience

Abstract: For decades, punk rock has been equated with ever-shifting and fluid concepts of dissent, disruption, and antithetical activities. As such, punk has been deemed a threat to social-cultural mores since its first and second wave incarnations during the 1970s and 1980s, when bands in Britain from The Clash and Crass to Newtown Neurotics and the Membranes offered pithy political invectives and counter-culture visions. In the United States, bands like The Dicks, Dead Kennedys, and Millions of Dead Cops followed suit in America, pushing similar boundaries as the music mutated into “hardcore” –  a harsher, stripped down, and more choleric variant of punk — that branched deep into suburban enclaves.  My book Visual Vitriol (University Press of Mississippi, 2011) explored both the street art and social discourse of this generation, while my new on-line digital archives, including over 300 politically related gig flyers, and curatorial activities, such as co-organizing the exhibit Punk and Politics in Portland at the vegan, worker-managed collective Red and Black Café during July 2012, focus on mapping, quantifying, and understanding the various activism inherent in punk. My text will provide an overview of those projects, highlight where punk money was gathered and spent (while probing whether it promoted volunteerism, philanthropy, and community involvement), and try to paint an accurate picture of how punk critiqued dominant culture not simply by offering rhetorical stances, symbolic strategies, and clever conceits but by channeling support and media to a wide array of social, cultural, labor, political, gay and lesbian, and environmental efforts.

Nov. Events: Left of the Dial Book Party with Peter Case of The Nerves and Plimsouls!

LeftofDialCactus Records in Houston, TX is hosting a Left of the Dial book party with author David Ensminger and his longtime friend and collaborator Peter David Case of the Nerves and Plimsouls! Please join them as they discuss the legacy of punk, Case’s recent touring and writing, the bluesman Lightnin’ Hopkins, and future projects. Case will also play a small selection of music too. An in-depth, 20-page interview with Case leads off the Left of the Dial book, which also features the likes of Mike Watt (Minutemen), Gary Floyd (The Dicks), Jack Grisham (TSOL), Ian MacKaye (Minor Threat, Fugazi), and many more! Be sure to have Case sign a copy and see him play live sometime soon in your area!