Winter 2014 Updates

January 30, 2014 at 1:21 pm (Uncategorized)

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with the likes of Mike Magrann of Channel 3 and Mark Anderson of Positive Force D.C., as well as a previously unpublished interview with Justin Sane of Anti-Flag, among others.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 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.

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Happy Holidays! Updates for the End of 2013!

December 24, 2013 at 1:59 pm (Uncategorized)

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!

December 1, 2013 at 9:22 pm (Uncategorized)

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:

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


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.

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

November 6, 2013 at 4:43 am (Uncategorized)

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!

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Oct. 2013 Updates!

October 23, 2013 at 3:41 am (Uncategorized)

1239813_10151661330849352_501456927_nThis fall has been exhilarating already, at least in these weeks as the subtropical East Texas nights finally cool after the autoclave summer has ended. Last Saturday I was fortunate to sing some Black Flag songs, and play drums on ‘greatest hits’ style live Biscuit Bombs versions of tunes by Big Boys, Really Red, and Minutemen, at Jamail Skate Park along the sluggish bayou near downtown Houston where old school skate heroes like Steve Olson and Tony Alva befriended the loose-limbed, agile little kid locals (and a few veterans too!) and shredded the concrete slopes. The event proved that skatecore is alive and well, even in the era of mammoth Tony Hawk and Vans franchising.

The previous weekend  I was a guest speaker at Zine Fest Houston 2013, where I showed my underground documentary film Chronicles from the Zero Hour, featuring members of the Epoxies, Chumbawamba, Dag Nasty, Paint it Black, MDC, and Strike Anywhere, along with live footage of TSOL and Circle Jerks. Afterwards, I discussed the pressing issue of archiving print counterculture cropped-headergoods, offering digital versions of such work, and/or adopting Creative Commons licensing as well. I also discussed the merits of creating Apps on sites like Biblioboard, donating material to local libraries, and disseminating print items via vlogs, blogs, and websites too. You can read my interview with the Fest’s organizer here.

510ehZHLzRL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Just yesterday, I received my hard copy of the book Waxed Up Hair and Painted Shoes: The Photographic History of the Replacements in the mail.  I feel very fortunate that the editors made use of Visual Vitriol/ Center for Punk Arts materials throughout the rich, evocative text, including six images of 45 singles, flyers, and zines from my archive. Be sure to check out the book at your local ma and pa record or book shop, or visit the behemoth Amazon here for very affordable copies.  Meanwhile, Peter Case (Plimsouls, The Nerves) and I have been exchanging emails, poems, and ideas concerning the possible follow-up to our last book, Epistolary Rex. If you have not witnessed our neo-Beatnik, “occupy literature” ravings, then by all means shop here for a copy.

Tony Alva, Jamail Skate Park, by David Ensminger

Tony Alva, Jamail Skate Park, Houston, by David Ensminger

If you are attending the Texas Book Festival in Austin this weekend, please stop by and visit my talk with writer Denise Sullivan (Keep On Pushin’, Rip it Up!: Rock’n’Roll Rulebreakers, and more), which will commence at 1 pm on Sunday in the capitol building. We will be discussing punk’s legacy, the work of Lightnin’ Hopkins, and music journalism as well. For details, check out the official website here.

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Fall 2013: New Projects Underway — World War II POW Camp Material Culture

September 30, 2013 at 7:46 pm (Uncategorized)

X, Sept. 2013, shot on the sly by David Ensminger

X, Sept. 2013, shot on the sly by David Ensminger

First, I am excited to announce that I interviewed John Doe of X last weekend for an hour and a half before a show at Warehouse Live in Houston, TX. The well-rounded, detail-savvy interview will be added to the manuscript for my next book project, Mavericks: Interviews with Indie and Roots Rockers, which is still being evaluated by a college press. Even though cameras were not allowed on the gig floor, I did manage to snap a quick pic of their manic set, which ripped headliner Blondie to shreds.

I have also begun to publish, on-line, my newest folklore project, described below.

For the sake of openness, transparency, and shared knowledge, I have published an ongoing blog about the material culture of POW camps in America during World War II, which will be updated every week for the foreseeable future. Mistakes will be made, so I apologize in advance, and I encourage you to add, expand, fix, or re-shape the text by using either the feedback mechanism on the blog or by emailing me at: Please used the heading  “POW article.”

Remnants of Camp Hearne, TX, including the fire hydrants, shot by David Ensminger

Remnants of Camp Hearne, TX, including the fire hydrants, shot by David Ensminger

Abstract in Process: With over 400,000 Axis troops in internment camps throughout most American states and Canada, the region hosted an influx of short-term, temporary, and forced immigrants on an unprecedented scale. Each detention site became a distinct pop-up cultural microcosm – an Italy, Germany, and Japan in exile – that featured both elite high culture activities, like symphonies and romantic drama, and resilient folk art practices as well. Due to overall American tolerance and generosity, in most cases, internees could revel in a sense of pride, nostalgia, and heritage, although overt Nazism was discouraged, undeterred by armed guards and razor wire, which sometimes did not even exist.

Many camp routines did reflect rigid military mores and hierarchies, both Axis and American, but work environments for rank’n’file enlisted men POWs (officers were not required to work), which took place in branch camps situated in rural communities, from rice paddies and East Texas ranches to Midwest orchards and asparagus canning factories, tended to offer more flexibility and freedom, as asserts Nick Clemenza too, a guard stationed in New Mexico “at the Bogle farm, where American soldiers would tell a prisoner needing discipline that he would have to go back to the base camp in Roswell. This worked as discipline because the prisoners preferred the freedom of the Bogle farm.”

These opportunities, which offered kinesic and proximal immersion in workaday American life, fostered amiable perspectives towards former enemies. Such newfound relationships are evidenced in the folk production of goods, from paintings and cabinetry to jewelry, models, and toys, that were handcrafted and gifted, bartered, traded, or sold to locals (the collection of Robert Henderson features a receipt for a POW handicraft valued at $6.00 in 1943, a rare paper trail of evidence), cementing long-lasting relationships and receptive attitudes towards democratic values and systems. Such aspects  are chronicled in letters, visitations, and the immigration of former POWs back to America, the country of their detainment.

This blog is dedicated to probing and documenting the lifelong impact of these camps upon prisoners and citizens as well as serve as a means to understand and value the material culture of folk goods that became a mainstay of the informal, shadow economies that shaped camp life.

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Updates and New projects Underway

August 19, 2013 at 8:27 pm (Uncategorized)

First, a quick note: my article examining punk spaces, dances, and practices has just been published with both text and a video component in the peer review journal Liminalities. The title is “Slamdance in the No Time Zone: Punk as Repertoire for Liminality,” and it can be read here.

Currently, I have four books in various stages of completion, including another book of interviews, this time surveying Americana/roots and indie musicians from Dave Alvin and Richard Thompson to The Swans and Waterboys. A publisher’s editorial staff is examining it. Next, my co-write of the tell-all Gary Floyd (The Dicks/Sister Double Happiness) biography is entering the final stages of text edits and will be published DIY style, likely using Create Space by Amazon within a month or two. Lastly, I am trying to publish my short story collection digitally while also working on another radical punk band biography. Fifty pages have been churned out, a publisher is interested, though the band is quite busy, even three decades after forming, so though it is hush hush right now, I hope to share more information as soon as steam gathers.

Below, I am listing my three current photography projects, which involve documenting male vernacular spaces, the allure and aesthetics of vintage arcades, and the DIY folk art environment Swetsville Zoo in Colorado. I have begun uploading the series into my photoblog, which you can access here. If you subscribe for free, you will receive new additions via your email in-box. I usually post one-two images per day. You may reproduce or use them according to the Creative Commons licensing, which can also be reviewed on the site, or feel free to email me:

Baytown, TX, 2013

Baytown, TX, 2013

Barbershops as Male Cabinets of Curiosity: The Original Mancave Microclimates

As a folklorist, I am currently documenting “manscapes” – spaces made, maintained, and preserved by men. They range from barber shops and cluttered offices to tool sheds and teeming basements/backrooms. As gender routines morph and change quickly in the 21st century and commercial spaces become more homogenized, these sites remain some the last vestiges of ‘everyman’ democracy: depots of male memorabilia, tableaux of testosterone, and folkloric wellsprings that embody history, heritage, and identity. As such, they merge a male fascination with material culture (signage, paintings, media, mementos, clothing, gear, etc) with the psychology of a self-governed comfort zone.

They also reveal multiple little histories, highlight objects that trigger narratives and storytelling, and foster uncensored memory sharing. Such spaces underscore the allure of, and need for, social ritual and dissemination of localized lore.  To outsiders, they seem unruly and random, ad hoc and even anarchic, but to insiders they are cabinets of male curiosity – experiential, arranged, curated, adaptable, and distinct.

Colorado, 2013

Colorado, 2013

Known Pleasures in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction: The Allure of Retro Arcades

Penny arcades, once a staple pleasure in beach swept boardwalks and teeming inner cities throughout vaudeville era America, now have entered a second life in the 21st as miniature simulation sites chock-full of relics re-animated upon insertion of scuffed and mottled coins. Offering games full of hectic, herky-jerky rhythmic riots, they still shine as a crudely lit homage to ma and pa consumer-based democracy and continue to destroy children’s ennui in a burst of bells, clanks, dongs, rat-a-tat-tat reverberation and other pervasive cacophonies in a bid for players to win tickets exchanged for a panoply of plastic trinkets, gadgets, baubles, and gewgaws.  The game room has always been a perennial staging ground for anxious nimble-fingered pinball heroes (forming a underground system of prestige based on points, not the merits of machismo) and a boisterous pleasure zone for latchkey kids.

All the loud motions and kinetics become interwoven with an early 20th century visual zeitgeist, replete with exotica, peepshow peekaboos, world war reenactments, un-ironic Orientalism, dime-store mysticism, sports of all stripes, sci-fi predicaments, hunting tournaments, and freak show fetishes. The games, mechanically “crude” compared to the digital apparatuses now infesting 2.0 arcades, are avatars for yesterday’s youth, who plied their trade in these synthetic landscapes of industrialized pleasure, their entire history of mirth written in Edison bulbs, painted glass, metal molds, and geometric wood. The games remain odes to controlled outrageousness, quivering hi-jinx, and clamorous intimacies in fabricated fun zones, where coins can still buy two minutes of pulse-racing hand-eye coordination flux. In all, the sites exist as living museums of wall-to-wall sonic shebang and glaring Pop graphics, tall tales and gamer lore, and hectic short-lived victories every bit as vital as Friday night lights.

Swetsville Zoo, CO 2013

Swetsville Zoo, CO 2013

Yard Art Alchemy: The Aesthetics of Swetsville Zoo

What is a zoo but a place of captivating creatures? They are curated territories, a sanctuary of encounters, a passage through limbo. This zoo, made by self-taught artist and former farmer Bill Swets, filled to the brim with manmade, syncretic, and synthesized creatures evoking industrial past-times and contemporary craft, is a vernacular environment replete with unknown stories and invisible histories, of narratives frozen in rusted and welded parts, squished between the government funded freeway, a rippling river bound to overflow time to time, and a new gleaming Wal-Mart. What should be an ignored sideline gap becomes a reminder of self-reliance and vision. As such, it is an in-between space, a local aesthetic intervention that defies the carefully controlled suburban sprawl, a three-dimensional manifesto for a do-it-yourself ethos made vibrant and visible, a margin ripe with possibilities.

Free and folkloric, playful and poetic, it serves to show the humor of recycled fabrication, remixed public surfaces, and the easygoing elegance of repurposed goods from the rims of car wheels and computer monitors to municipal parking meters and plastic play figures. It feels like a fossilized children’s show, on ode to innocence regained from adult cast-offs. It evokes fantasy kitsch, a morphology of metallic mirth symbolizing uncanny habits. It’s a place to memorialize cartoonist Charles Schultz and rattle oversized chimes. A place to bemoan the lost sense of future – like an un-flown rocketship car and gearhead robots assembled only once in playful Frankenstein daydreams. Using both machine-cut goods and hand-installed innovation, it exudes a democratic spirit and a semiotics of fun built to slowly decay. It blurs assemblage art, over-sized folk curios, and sculptural Pop, tapping into a collective memory of late 20th century iconic figures, bugs, and vehicles.

Ensconced in a clearing next to low-key houses and a trailer retrofitted as a castle, some creatures appear spindly or convoluted, grinning wide, capable of slight mayhem, as if on the verge of thrashing about, ready to clatter into action and give chase. On any given day, children scamper, tread, and maneuver through the re-imagined nuts and bolts, the remolded castaways, in awe at the miniature metallic leviathans, the yard art alchemy.


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Late Summer 2013 Updates!

August 2, 2013 at 3:09 pm (Uncategorized)

The summer has been very eventful for the Center for Punk Arts, especially July, when I set up a quick “flash” fundraiser for queer blues-punk icon Gary Floyd of The Dicks, Sister Double Happiness, and Black Kali Ma, who is undergoing knee surgeries and dealing with an eviction notice at the same time.  Newcomers Talk Sick Brats and Ex Girlfriends joined punk veterans Beatless to play for a raucous, sweat-drenched crowd at Sound Exchange (thank you too fellows!), which together with an auction of books, photos, and Gary Floyd art raised $600.00. On related news, I am finishing edits on my Gary Floyd co-written biography, which we will likely self-publish within the next month or so after being rejected by a number of publishers unwilling to support one of punk’s greatest icons.


Next, I’d like to announce some upcoming Fall dates. First, I should be appearing at Houston Zine Fest 2013 as part of a panel discussion at the Museum of Printing History on Saturday, October 12 3-8pm, especially regarding the digital archiving of my old fanzines and magazines, released last year by BiblioBoard as the Punk and Indie Compendium. To read a brand new article about the Biblioboard project in general, which mentions my efforts, read this great piece in the Library Journal.

I am also slated to appear at the Texas Book Festival, sometime during Oct. 26-27. More details will be forthcoming.

In regards to my newest books, an array or reviews have appeared the past few months, so below I will provide links to each.

My book Visual Vitriol has become a centerpiece of an article discussing the links between academics and punk, just published by the journal American Studies. The article is titled “Punkademia,” by Maria Elena Buszek,and unfortunately can only be accessed via research databases, but you can see a snippet and read the “abstract” here.

From Baltimore, Blake Underwood penned this huge, excellent review focusing on my style, content issues, and political/cultural angles. Read his piece in Indyreader.

Another short but very exciting, eyes-on-the-prize review was also just featured in the long-running indie favorite Roctober.

Adam Ellsworth’s fine piece focused on my underlying philosophy and approaches in Arts Fuse.

Lastly, veteran LA punk John L. Murphy did catch a few typos but overall lauded the book’s “punk-as-folk-music?” ethos in Popmatters.


In mid-July, I ventured to Austin for a quick meet and greet (thank you Austin 360 for the coverage), and met some readers and fans interested in not only Left of the Dial but Barred for Life too, the Black Flag tattoo fan culture book I edited.

Also, I have also begun editing the first 50 pages of the MDC biography with Dave Dictor and Ron Posner. This project is ongoing, but we hope to gather enough text, photos, and flyers for a release in the not too distant future. I was able to spend a day with them in June, when they shredded Houston ear lobes in the suffocating heat. I will update this post as new information gathers steam.

MDC at Walters in Houston, TX, June 2013, by David Ensminger

MDC at Walters in Houston, TX, June 2013, by David Ensminger

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Summer 2013 Updates!

May 20, 2013 at 8:13 pm (Uncategorized)


So proud to announce that Left of the Dial is out, now!! The book party, with free beer, was held at Vinal Edge Records in Houston, 7 PM. No Love Less (with Trish and Dianna of Mydolls) and Modfag (with JR Delgado) will be playing the event as well. Artists included in book are Peter Case (Nerves, Plimsouls), Captain Sensible (The Damned), Tony Kinman (The Dils), El Vez, Charlie Harper (UK Subs), The Deaf Club (an oral history of the landmark San Francisco club), Mike Palm (Agent Orange), Gregg Turner (Angry Samoans), Ian MacKaye (Minor Threat, Fugazi), Jello Biafra (Dead Kennedys), Gary Floyd (Dicks, Sister Double Happiness), Mike Watt (Minutemen, fIREHOSE), Shawn Stern (Youth Brigade), Kira Roessler (Black Flag, Dos), Jack Grisham (TSOL), Keith Morris (Circle Jerks, Off!) Fred “Freak” Smith (Beefeater), U-Ron Bondage (Really Red), Vic Bondi (Articles of Faith), Lisa Fancher (Frontier Records), Dave Dictor (MDC), and Thomas Barnett (Strike Anywhere). To order directly from PM Press, see my author’s page here.

Author David Ensminger at Left of the Dial book debut, Vinal Edge Records, by Greg Rabel)

Author David Ensminger at Left of the Dial book debut, Vinal Edge Records, by Greg Rabel

The official UK Subs website and archive just published a small feature on Left of the Dial here.

(June 27th) A review of Left of the Dial has just been published by the website/blog Psychobabble, which can be read here.

A new video has been released by Left of the Dial featuring the late 1980′s Midwest punk band Insight. I played drums! Click here to hear two songs and see vintage photos of teenage years!

Left of the Dial magazine has been re-booted as a blog with (nearly) daily updates and archival fare that can be accessed here.

Also, Popmatters just published the first chapter of Mojo Hand, my co-written bio of Lightnin’ Hoopkins, on-line, so for this preview of the book, simply click here. Last week, I finished writing an Andy Warhol Foundation grant with the help and insight of Aimee Harlib at the Art Institute of San Francisco. We seek to create a web blog documenting the past and present contributions of an array of under-documented (women, dif-abilities, people of color, and queer) musicians, visual artists, and designers within the umbrella of punk culture. My App released last Fall, the Punk and Indie Compendium for BibiloBoard, was recently mentioned in a newsletter of the American Alliance of Museums. See the web page for the App here. This page will be updated as events unfurl.


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Spring 2013 Center Updates and Activities

April 10, 2013 at 3:54 am (Uncategorized)

Spring is a dizzying, fecund time for the Center for Punk Arts, Visual Vitriol, and related projects. My co-written biography of Lightnin’ Hopkins, titled Mojo Hand: The Life and Music of Lightnin’ Hopkins has been released by Univ. of Texas Press. On April 20th, Record Store Day, Cactus Records in Houston, TX will be holding an in-store event, replete with music, copies of the book available for purchase, local craft beer, and me reading portions of the text. If you are in the vicinity, please join our effort to honor the dynamic musical craft and personality of Hopkins and the legacy of my co-author Tim O’Brien as well. So far the press cycle consists of interviews with KUT/NPR Austin FM radio, the Houston Chronicle, and No Depression. Those links will be featured here as they become available. The UT press page can be found here; meanwhile, the cover and book excerpts are below. To see  photos of the Houston gig, book, and tattoo collectors, click here.


The book Barred for Life, chronicling the tattoo subculture (including practices and philosophies) of dedicated Black Fan fans, which I edited for PM Press (the publisher of my forthcoming book Left of the Dial), has also been released. Writer Stewart Ebersole has events planned for the East Coast, but Vinyl Edge Records on 19th St. in Houston, TX is actually hosting the premier event on April 13th. The 5 pm gig, exhibition, and documentation session (of local Black Flag tattoos and lore) will feature classic Black Flag flyers, band photography by Ben DeSoto (featured in LOTD as well), and music of Black Flag unveiled by the tribute band My War! (featuring members of No Love Less, 500 Megatons of Boogie, and The Drafted), along with the fury of lady punks Ex-Girlfriends. The PM press page can be found here.



I recently submitted a peer review article to Liminalities, a performance journal, about punk gig spaces and liminality, titled Slamdance in the No Time Zone:  Punk as Repertoire for Liminality. I await their response and will submit re-writes as necessary, if they deem the article appropriate for the scope and style of their on-line journal. It also features a slideshow video containing images culled from my own photography archives, along with those of Ben DeSoto, so viewers can see frenzied gigs ranging from Circle Jerks and Black Flag to Youth Brigade and Agent Orange.

As always, I maintain a heavy gig schedule, performing with No Love Less (including regional venues in Baytown and Lufkin) and The Hates, who will be releasing their new CD (which revisits their older classic punk and hardcore material) People’s Temple at the end of April. At Walters in Houston on May 25th, I am hosting a gig that commemorates local early 1980′s venues like the Island, Agora Ballroom, and Omni. A poster for that event is forthcoming.

The Visual Vitriol collection has recently been massively featured in the superb insert of the Big Boys “Fun Fun Fun” album re-issue from 540 records in Austin, TX. It is very limited, so I suggest quick purchase. Another sizable portion is featured in the excellent promotional video for the Light in the Attic re-issue of the Big Boys first LP as well — “Industry Standard.” Look for key flyers and photographs by Ben DeSoto in the video below.

I also donated a set of visual materials to the illustrated history of the Replacements book project: as soon as I know more information, I will provide that as well.

On the academic front this Spring, a MA thesis paper and a handful of scholarly articles have featured references to Visual Vitriol or my related research. First it is used in the research of a Swedish academic writer in the work Punkestetik: Provokation, revolution eller DIY?. 

Next, my research on African American contributions to punk is referenced in Jasmine Mahmoud’s  “Black Love? Black Love!: All Aboard the Presence of Punk in Seattle’s NighTraiN.” Women & Performance: a journal of feminist theory 22.2-3 (2012): 315-323.

My research on Hispanic punk has recently been referenced by writer Daniel Traber (the same writer that I reference in Vitriol) in “Pick It Up! Pick It Up!: The Transnational Localism of Ska.” Popular Music and Society ahead-of-print (2012): 1-18.

Media theorist Al Larsen references my research on DIY punk media in his timely and noteworthy “Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control: The Graphic Symbol in Hardcore Punk” (I supplied two images for the text — a Big Boys flyer and Crass single). You can access it here.

Meanwhile, my focus on gendered gig spaces has been referenced in Naomi Griffin’s “Gendered Performance Performing Gender in the DIY Punk and Hardcore Music Scene.” Journal of International Women’s Studies 13.2 (2013): 66-81.

In addition, my work investigating queer punk is quoted at length in the Honors Thesis of S. M. Gray,  titled “The Queer Sounds of Justice: Contemporary Queer Musicking and Transformative Justice in The United States” (2012) as well as another Master’s Thesis, by Stephanie Salerno, titled, “Skater, Poser, Punk: The Struggle For Space, Individuality and Authenticity Within Straight-Edge, Queercore and Skateboarding Punk Communities,” which can be read in full here.

Lastly, my research surveying the history of the Deaf Club in San Francisco has been referenced in a MA thesis by Aimee Harlib of the San Francisco Art Institute titled, “INCENDIARY IMAGES: A READING OF RADICAL AIDS ACTIVISM THROUGH PUNK AESTHETICS,SAN FRANCISCO 1979-PRESENT.”

As readers may recall, I released an App called the Indie and Punk Compedium (featuring many archives culled from Left of the Dial) last winter for BiblioBoard, which is available on iTunes and elsewhere. That project  was recently covered by the tech website TechFaster here, with links to my efforts. A portion of their video interview, with selections from the App, can be viewed below.

<p><a href=”″>The Compendium of Punk and Indie Rock – TechFaster Interview</a> from <a href=”″>BiblioBoard</a&gt; on <a href=””>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

As always, I thank you for the support of the center’s endeavors, and I will update this page as events unfold, including progress on my short story collection entitled Where We Go to Fall Down.

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