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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
Cactus 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!
This 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 goods, 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.
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.
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.
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: email@example.com. Please used the heading “POW article.”
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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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=”http://vimeo.com/63526792″>The Compendium of Punk and Indie Rock – TechFaster Interview</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user12601287″>BiblioBoard</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</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.
As of lately, the collection, spread over a dozen blogs and digital archives (“museums without walls”), has been continuously accessed by thousands of users. Lately, I have also mined the collection to help recent exhibitions, including a San Antonio-area punk visual history display (coordinated with cohorts) for a Sex Pistols at Randy’s Rodeo anniversary show at the South Texas Popular Cultural Center, which is featured from Jan. – Feb. 2013. Next, I will be using key pieces from the archives created by notorious funk-punk and visionary DIY art hero Randy “Biscuit” Turner, including a large mixed media assemblage piece in addition to works on paper, for a retrospective of his work throughout March at the South Austin Popular Culture.
In addition, selections from the collection have also been tapped by the Austin Monthly for a future journalistic piece on Austin clubs of the 1980s and by record labels seeking to release material from Texas punk pioneers Really Red and the Big Boys in the upcoming year. Material is also regularly distributed to researchers at college and universities, including professors and students working on labor-punk links (Univ. of Oregon), the Deaf Cub (Art Institute of San Francisco), East Asian metal-punk history and theoretical evaluation (Monash, Indonesia), and punk visual culture memes (Champlain College, Vermont).
As always, I am indebted to Welly from Artcore zine, singer for the band Four Letter Word, and a keen-eyed designer, for publishing my interview with members of the Mydolls and Really Red in Issue No. 30, still available. So, buy a copy now, and enjoy Welly’s excellent taste in cutting edge new underground music and reverence for a shared punk heritage.
I recently created an App too — a compiled anthology of my zine Left of the Dial, featuring material that will not be reprinted in the Left of the Dial: Conversations with Punk Icons book to be released this spring by PM Press. This collection contains archives stretching back to my earliest involvement in punk media in the Midwest during the mid-1980s. The App can be purchased from BiblioLab on iTunes for your mobile devices, or you can enjoy the BETA version, linked and described below.
The Punk and Indie Rock Compendium: A comprehensive collection of underground and indie rock culled from Left of the Dial fanzine spanning 1988-2012!
The collection, spanning over 250 curated items, stems from the collection of writer, musician, and editor David Ensminger, who published the well-regarded, close-to-the-ground, interview-heavy Left of the Dial magazine from 2000-2005. Ensminger has produced fanzines since the mid-1980s and written for assorted academic and pop culture presses ranging from Postmodern Culture and the Journal of Popular Music Studies to Maximum RocknRoll, Trust, Houston Press, Popmatters, Artcore, and many others. This collection highlights his interviews with seminal Punk and Indie rock bands spanning four decades, including Rob Younger (Radio Birdman), Channel 3, the Adolescents, Apples in Stereo, The Clean, the Waterboys, The Hives, and other key acts. This material is culled from the raw files of Left of the Dial, deep in the archives, sometimes including even pre-production print outs, with mistakes intact. Some of the art has been revamped and re-imagined, while a handful of interviews were previously unreleased or only available for a short time on a currently defunct blog. In addition, the anthology also contains two complete fanzines from the 1980s (No Deposit No Return), original unpublished ephemera, poetic broadsides, personal letters and mailings, videos, and a smattering of album reviews as well. Lastly, rich historical photographs by Ensminger and Houston photographer Ben DeSoto provocatively capture the spirit of the genres as well. As a bonus, music tracks featuring Ensminger are also included, revealing his own spirited participation in the underground musical movements. Click for BETA version.
Next, to read my review and see vivid pics of a stupendous and seething Youth Brigade and Adolescents show at Fitzgeralds in Houston, TX on Jan. 30th, simply click here.
Lastly, thanks much to Prof. Daniel Wojcik, my mentor at the Univ. of Oregon, for alerting me to this review of Visual Vitriol, found in this month’s Raw Vision magazine, which is dedicated to outsider and visionary art! Being mentioned alongside Japanese art brut is very exciting.
First, I would like to thank the readers that viewed this page 22,000 times throughout this busy last year. I hope each of you finds the research, interviews, conjectures, neo-philosophy, ethnography, and other materials both engaging and useful. The past six months have been very eventful and fulfilling, so here is an overview that provides (I hope) meaningful glimpses into the center’s approaches, outreach, and programs.
First, the center has sponsored an ongoing video channel on youtube that includes a program titled Start the Art, a digital art space without walls that I curate on a regular basis. Ten volumes of material have been uploaded. Two have already been posted on this site. To access the others, including the vintage punk photography of Ben DeSoto and myself covering a range of bands — Really Red, Sister Double Happiness, Big Boys, Anarchitex, Doomsday Massacre, Mydolls, and the Hates — plus other areas of interest, like punk flyers, modern art, and photography, simply click on this link. This should take you to the content page.
In the meantime, here is a sample:
I now play drums full-time for The Hates, a classic Houston punk ranging back to 1978. During December, we headed into the studio to re-cut several iconic songs by the band, including gems like “No Talk in the Eighties,” “City of Ice,” “Bored with the Boys,” and many more. We have also gigged continuously throughout the year, enjoying sites like the Jamail Skate Park, Rudyards Pub, Walters, and more in Houston as well as The Factory and Standpipe Coffee House in Lufkin, TX, where the band enjoys a loyal, fervent following (see my photos of the scene in Maximum Rocknroll‘s photo blog). I designed this poster for the skate park, where I had the pleasure of meeting the drummer of Spunk, a well-admired 1990s Houston hardcore band. I still drum and sing for No Love Less as well, who featured limber jazz-punk Bob Weber (of Really Red on fame) on drums, until his recent departure to South Korea for work initiatives. Briefly, I also served as temporary replacement drummer for Mydolls and Anarchitex too.
In November, I organized a “Island reunion party” at Walters. From 1978-1983, The Island featured a bevy of iconic 1970s-1980′s first wave Houston punk bands, so the reunion included sets by edgy, long-dormant (and often mixed-sex) bands such as Bevatron, Degenerates, The Ruse, The Broadcasters, Doomsday Massacre (with a guest appearance by half of Legionaire’s Disease and Nikki Sicki of Verbal Abuse, who also played a record release party at Vinyl Edge Records the night before!) as well as The Hates, Mydolls, and Anarchitex.
The event, attended by 250 people, was a watershed — highly spirited, even sublime, mutually supportive, and electrifying, proving that vintage punk remains potent and poetic, restless and regenerative. Famed local photographer Ben DeSoto is producing and editing a documentary film about the former club’s legacy, which should reach completion sometime in 2013. I hope this flyer, the third version I created for the one-of-a-kind event, captures some of the aesthetic and vibe:
The Hates also played a reunion for The Axiom, an equally important club in the fabric of local Houston history, in late November, organized by longtime Visual Vitriol supporter JR Delgado (Party Owls, Doomsday Massacre). See this shot below, snapped by my wife Julie Ensminger.
Last year also remained a year of field work summary and presentation. I attended the American Folklore Society’s annual conference on October 24-27 at the historic Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans, Louisiana, where I presented a paper (the abstract has been filed in this blog’s archive) on the inter-connectivity of punk and Deaf communities, titled Abandoning the City of the Ear: Punk and Deaf Convergences, which was heard by an appreciative roomful. I decided to publish that material in the popular press, rather than an academic journal, so a wider audience could enjoy the history, theory, and arguments. Visit Popmatters here, where you can read the first portion, and be sure to scroll down and see my other topics for last year’s Folk Nation column, including my examination of The Beats, Vic Bondi of Articles of Faith, Herman Melville, Walt Whitman, Henry James, and more literary, music, film, and other pop culture luminaries.
In other publication-related news, I edited a book on the transgenerational culture of Black Flag tattoos, titled Barred for Life, written by longtime scenester and photographer Dean Ebersole. Visit his project website here and look for it to be arriving in stores within the next few months from PM Press.
PM Press will also be releasing my own anthology of punk history culled from Left of the Dial (my own zine that ran from 2000-2005), subtitled Conversations with Punk Icons. It features a “who’s who” list — pioneers from bands like Dead Kennedys, the Dicks, Minor Threat, Beefeater, Black Flag, The Nerves, and many more. Although it was initially due to arrive in Dec. it has been delayed and will likely be available in April, 2013, but you can pre-order at PM Press and Amazon.
Also, interviews with me concerning my book Visual Vitriol (Univ of Mississippi Press, 2011) appeared in two major outlets this Fall as well, each by the noted punk writer Alex Ogg. First, Alex was keen enough to stop by my exhibition of punk flyers, co-curated by Paul Cooper, at Rough Trade East in London in Aug. 2011, where he was impressed by the selection. That material, donated to Ogg, now appears in the fine art book, The Art of Punk, an incredible hands-on collection of punk visual history. I am also indebted to Ogg for featuring a one-page interview with me in the volume, plus using my own archives throughout the book, including one of my favorite items, an old Flipside video cassette cover, and many 45 records as well. Be sure to at least check out Amazon’s featured page on the book here.
Next Ogg also interviewed me for the second volume of the new but esteemed academic journal Punk and Post-Punk, a really tremendous achievement in the often staid, bureaucratic, and dry world of academia. The interview runs for twenty pages and most importantly includes a wide array of punk flyer art as well, each chosen to reflect certain topics of interest, like horror punk tropes and visionary/outsider folk art tendencies. Please visit the publisher’s website to view information about purchasing the journal and contributing to it as well. I just finished reading a vivid, well-articulated, and savvy article on steampunk in volume one and highly recommend the whole body of work that the journal pursues. Thanks again to Alex for being so utterly supportive and exhaustive in his own research as well. Visit his author’s page on Amazon here.
Also, my co-written (with historian Tim O’brien) biography of Lightnin’ Hopkins will also be arriving in April 2013 (perhaps as early as March) , thanks to the Univ. of Texas Press. Tim passed away due to cancer in Spring 2011, we miss and love him much, and this book is a testament to his concerns with the history of the blues, social justice, and Southern culture. See our book page here.
Lastly, I did curate two Visual Vitriol punk flyer shows this Fall as well, including a focus on international gig posters at Lee College in Baytown, TX during Nov. Peter Case, seminal punk figure and folk troubadour, played in front of the flyers during a student session attended by 55, prior to a set of gigs we played together as E. Rex in Lufkin and San Antonio, where Peter spoke on local radio and blazed at The Mix later that night. I documented him visiting Hog Wild Records, one of the last great indie records shops alive and well in America, below. See our co-written book Epistolary Rex here.
Lastly, I curated a specialized look at the gig flyers of The Island in Houston, TX at Vinyl Edge Records on 19th St. in Houston, TX, which has remained on the walls since November as well. You can see the flyers posted on the wall of the record store in this show below, which I snapped during the Doomsday Massacre record release party.
On the last day of 2012, the Houston Press ran my review of the Youth Brigade and Adolescents gig in Houston the previous night, a real buzzing, voracious, and stunning performance by each band. To see the full text and photos I snapped, click here.
I look forward to more frequent updates in the next year, and I apologize for all the details crammed into this one undertaking — a real reflection on a mere six months — and I do thank you for visiting the blog, focusing on punk issues, and supporting the center’s endeavors. To contact me, please simply email: email@example.com
Be well, stay stronger … David Ensminger