March Updates!

10649648_815588148525100_6796715646734722610_nHello Everyone! I hope March has not blown into your life with gale force winds! If you happen to be near Philadelphia, please stop by the Rotunda on Sunday for an incredible event. Thanks to Kelsey Cloonan, I have been invited to speak at an intriguing, punk-as-multicultural global milieu at the Univ. of Pennsylvania, joined by other academics and icons like Martin Sorrenguy of Limp Wrist/Los Crudos, punk academics, zinesters, activists, rockers, students, misfits and outsiders, queer rebels, film and media street guerrillas, and more! This should be an engaging, insightful, and frenetic affair that examines worldwide punk spheres, communities, and issues!

Last weekend I made a hustle and bustle trip through the Midwest visiting family and researching WWII POW camps in the small towns dotting IL. Soon, I will be updating my blog on the subject with intriguing new materials gathered during that time. 11018866_807323629351552_6362010489574644115_nI was able to stop by Kate’s Pie Shop and Records too for browsing, discussions, and meeting old friends I had not seen in twenty years. The shop mixed sweets and vinyl with aplomb as I DJ’d tunes by the Dicks, Really Red, and some locals! Speaking of the Dicks, I just discussed a new project with Gary Floyd today, which sounds very, very promising. I can’t reveal any details yet.

While zooming down the flatlands of the corn field state, I also published an interview back in Texas in the Houston Press with noted hardcore punk veteran Bob Suren, best known as the fellow behind Sound Idea distro and the Florida based underground heroes Failure Face and more. Be sure to check out his new book about the frenzy and obsession of record collecting, which is discussed in my long interview with him here.

Lastly, my new book project, Protest and Survive: the Politics of Punk, has been ACCEPTED by the publisher that handled my book Mavericks, Rowman and Littlefield. The next and final draft is due July 1st, and at 300 pages, it is bound to catch people’s attention. As I tweak and work on the manuscript’s structure, I will reveal more!

Really Red Discography Release! Gary Floyd in Texas! New articles!

talksickNLLWelcome to February everyone! This month promises some exciting events. Over the next few weeks, I will be celebrating the Really Red discography, released by Alternative Tentacles Records, with liner notes (an entire interview with singer U-Ron Bondage) penned by me, culled from my magazine and book Left of the Dial. A series of dates includes original members of the agit-punk unit. My own band Texas Biscuit Bombs, joined by Houston’s southern California style melodic punks Talk Sick Brats (with me on drums as well), will be playing sets of Really Red material to highlight and honor the legendary band that molded such tunes as “Prostitution,” featured on the compilation Let Them Eat Jellybeans! alongside Circle Jerks, Bad Brains, and Black Flag. You can see the Facebook event page for the entire weekend here.

The calendar is:

10847462_10205693395479421_1298210358222839418_oHouston/Feb. 6th / Vinal Edge Records, 7 PM, with original members guitarist Kelly Younger and drummer Bob Weber, an after party (see flyer I made on the left) is set to blitzkrieg Black Barbie that same night in Houston, including my other band No Love Less (with half of Mydolls).

San Antonio/ Feb. 7th/ Tex Pop Center, 2 PM, with original member Bob Weber

Austin/ Feb/ 7th/End of an Ear Records, 6 PM, with original members bass player John Paul Williams and Bob Weber

GetInlineNext, gay punk Hindu roots rocker Gary Floyd will be returning to Texas for some appearances as well to showcase his memoir Please Bee Nice released last fall, which I co-wrote. Gary will be reading from his book, discussing his own deep history, and chatting about music and queer issues as well (he will also appear for students at Lee College and Rice University). Please let everyone know! You can see the Facebook event page for Houston here.

The calendar is:

Houston/ Feb. 20th/Cactus Music/5 PM

Austin/Feb. 21st/End of an Ear/5 PM

johndoe1Lastly, you can see my review of John Doe’s stupendous gig in Houston a few weeks back, which I authored for the Houston Press, by clicking on this link. More soon!

Three New Articles Posted! Gigs Underway!

Feral Future at Mango's, Houston, TX, Jan 2014, by David Ensmimger

Feral Future at Mango’s, Houston, TX, Jan 2014, by David Ensmimger

Happy new year everyone! I hope 2015 offers you plenty in terms of personal desires and artistic endeavors. If you have not been visiting my WWII POW site dedicated to researching life in American-based camps holding Germans and Italians, along with some Japanese, please go here.

The site now features some new text plus continues to fill with incredible images provided by John from Texas, a collector who has amassed a significant array of artifacts that illuminate camp life and the human condition at those camps. Going forward, I will let you know of future endeavors.

In the meantime, I have authored three new articles probing local Houston punk history or regional touring bands, including the Austin feminist-punk band Feral Future, whose sonic slyness resembles War on Women plus an older set like the Avengers. You can read their review here. My own band No Love Less also played that night. I will announce our Feb. gigs soon in the next update.

If you have ever wondered about Houston punk circa the late 1980s and early 1990s, between the periods of Really Red and 30 Foot Fall, right in the middle of the noise-art era of Pain Teens and Rusted Shut, then you may enjoy this interview with genre-busters EARTH ARMY, who used to be a regular presence in Maximum RocknRoll. Read it here.

Screech of Death, Houston, Dec. 2014, by David Ensminger

Screech of Death, Houston, Dec. 2014, by David Ensminger

Lastly, right before Christmas, I polled local punk veterans and asked for their favorite punk singles of all time. I knew this would hardly please all readers, due to the quirks of personal taste. They produced a diverse set of choices, including stalwarts like Really Red, Mydolls, AK-47, and Legionaire’s Disease, but they often surprised me as well. So, to dig deep into Houston’s vinyl record heritage, see this piece.

I have also been DJing and snapping pics as much as possible, including the shot you see of Screech of Death, a super-punk band of sorts, featuring former and current members of 45 Grave, Lisafer, Snap-Her, the Next, Doomsday Massacre, and Party Owls. J.R. Delgado, on the left, designed both the Gary Floyd biography and my poetry book with Peter Case.

Again, I hope the new year replenishes your spirit. Let’s be productive, together. More soon, David

An Interview with Jello Biafra!

Below is a recent interview I conducted with Jello Biafra, including portions not published by Houston Press last November.  rawpowermaxrnrIn addition, my interview with Mauro, iconic singer of Italian crossover punk veterans Raw Power, was just published by Maximum RocknRoll in their Jan. 2015 issue. Click here to order it! The photos and flyers from the layout were culled from my own photography  (live shots I snapped last fall during their incredible tour) and flyer archives as well. Last, but not least, I hope the holidays find you in good spirits. I just finished editing a huge punk history book re-release/second edition for PM Press (top secret), and I am working with Gary Floyd on dates in Texas during Feb., so keep checking back to find out more details!

Jello Biafra: Punk Got Soul

All photos by David Ensminger, shot at the Continental, Houston, TX, Nov. 2014, except when noted.

jello1For over three decades, Jello Biafra has remained the brassy-mouthed conscience of punk rock willing to knock down the sacred cows of politics and rock’n’roll. First honing his diatribes in the Dead Kennedys, next dabbling in film and spoken word, and ultimately joining forces with D.O.A., NoMeansNo, the Melvins, and Al Jourgensen for projects aplenty, he has remained ever-potent and enrapturing, a changeling that never quite sheds his skin. As a news junkie, edgy showman, political reformist, and punk shaman, he has continued to curate fabled label Alternative Tentacles, survived a bitter feud with former bandmates, and kept retirement far away while firing up Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine (G.S.M.), his vociferous psych-punk band with ex-members of Victim’s Family and Rollins Band. Plus, he has gigged twice, both notorious, with the New Orleans Raunch and Soul All Stars, a “done on a dare” band with Bill Davis from Dash Rip Rock and Fred LeBlanc from Cowboy Mouth.

Ensminger: Is your spirit today just as intense as when you played the Rock Against Reagan Tour gigs?

Biafra: Oh, very much so. At some point, I hope I finally finish my song “They Saved Reagan’s Asshole.” I just visualize the Fantastic Voyage scenario, being part of the camera that went up his ass during his colonoscopy looking for all the polyps and there’s the Reagan cancer everywhere to be seen. I mean if you look at the way we have been treated in this country, now every single national leader that has been pressed in front of us, every single President dressed in front of us on the TV set, has been one more flavor of Reagan. And that very much includes Obama. I now realize, compared to a lot of people that listen to my stuff, I am so damn old I actually have visual, tangible memories of when there were actual differences between the Democratic and Republican parties. I have actual memories of when even the big three TV networks took real pride in their news departments and attempted to out-scoop and out-muckrake each other because they hadn’t all been swallowed by global corporations who then decreed that the news must make a profit.

jellopostcardThat’s one of the main Reagan entrails that has really poisoned our society, and look no further than Texas for the very idea that there should not be any idea of a community whatsoever. It should be about everybody for themselves: they don’t need to do anything about, well, I’m not going to call it climate change, let’s call it climate collapse, but the reply is, no, the markets might not like that. Instead of Islamic fundamentalism or even Christian fundamentalism, I think maybe market fundamentalism is fucking up this country and this world even more. We can’t put any of these bankers in jail. They’re too big to fail. The market might not like that. Fuck the market, put the fucking markets in jail. How many decades has it been now since I took up the cause in the California Green Party platform of enacting a maximum wage? These market fundamentalists are basically like crack addicts. Only instead of crack addicts they are money addicts. They are wealth addicts. I mean how much more money do you need if you’ve made your first million? You can live really well off that for the rest of your life. But no, these addicts are like, “Now that I’ve made this, I’ve gotta make more, more, more” and start shaking like they need their needle of whatever, more, more, more, and more. So, I think the maximum wage would send the clowns into rehab. Sorry, Ron Paul, I am very pro-tax. I just think the people with money should be paying it. Our payback, of course, would be a free education for all, free medical care for all, clean transportation, including airfare. You could have some high-speed rail built and hop on the train and go from Houston to Austin in an hour. Sure, Europeans pay way more in taxes, but you can see the benefits all over the place.

Continue reading

Nov. 2014 Updates!

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Updated 13 Nov. 2014.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gary Floyd book released / San Francisco Lit Crawl Event!

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

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

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

Fall 2014 News! Mavericks is Released! Updated entry!

Updated Sept. 30, 2014.

mojofullcover

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gary Floyd, Houston, by David Ensminger

Gary Floyd, Houston, by David Ensminger

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

Austin’s garage rock raconteurs OBN IIIs here.

Italy’s hardcore pioneers Raw Power here.

Classic posicore 7 Seconds here and here.

Ribald bluesy Buddha of punk Gary Floyd here.

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

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

Summer 2014 updates! New Gary Floyd date!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Interview with Filmmakers Paul Bishow and James Schneider

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

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

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

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

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

Bad Brains, Madams Organ, 1979

Bad Brains, Madams Organ, 1979, still from film

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bad Brains, 9:30 Club, still from film

Bad Brains, 9:30 Club, still from film

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

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

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Late Spring 2014 News!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.