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…

roseburg_vitriol_better

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.

LOTDtrust

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!

Oct. 2013 Updates!

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.

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

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: leftofthedialmag@hotmail.com. 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.

Updates and New projects Underway

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: leftofthedialmag@hotmail.com.

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.