Crass and Slice Of Life’s Steve Ignorant: “I don’t have to be conforming to the unwritten punk rule book”

Handmade collage by B.

Our editor spoke with Steve Ignorant for her forthcoming book. Steve was vocalist for one of the most important punk bands of all-time, Crass. Their political punk encouraged and inspired generations of punks to think for themselves and to question authority, the world around them and themselves. 2020 finds Steve still making music with latest project the acoustic-based, Slice Of Life. He’s still singing about injustice, but his songs have taken a more personal and vulnerable turn. The following is an extract, you can find the full longer in-depth chat in book, Conversations With Punx; along with thoughtful, insightful chats with Dick Lucas from Subhumans, CJ Ramone, Operation Ivy’s Jesse Michaels, Black Flag/Circle Jerks/OFF!’s Keith Morris, Zero Boys’ Paul Mahern and 100 more punks!

Why is music important to you?

STEVE IGNORANT: It’s a way of putting a message across and it can stir up all different kinds of emotions, really that’s it.

Two things that I have noticed that are very prevalent in your music is emotion and also compassion; have you always been a really compassionate person?

SI: Yeah, I have. I’ve often met people that say I’m a bit of a romantic, I don’t know so much about that but, I have always been compassionate ever since I was a child. Not to be depressive or anything but I think it’s because when I was growing up in the ‘50s and ‘60s there was even more injustice going on then there is today. From seeing that and the way certain people are treated, I think that’s where it comes from.

Before you started making music I know that you worked for the British Royal Infirmary, right? You were using Plaster of Paris on people’s broken arms and legs and you also wanted to do a First Aid course to become a paramedic.

SI: Yeah, that’s absolutely true. See I went for a job at that hospital as a Hospital Porter and I was asked if I can stand the sight of blood, I said, “yeah”. They said, “ok, well you can put Plaster of Paris on people’s arms and legs” and then it was possible for me to do a course with the St John’s Ambulance Brigade. From that I would have possibly been able to become an ambulance driver and from there a paramedic. It’s very interesting work.

So you’ve always liked helping people!

SI: Yeah, unknowingly. I don’t think I’ve ever sat around and gone, “Oh, I’m going to help people” like a missionary or something. I’m always helping people, if I’m doing gigs I’m giving money away [laughs]. I moved to this place where I live, by the seaside, and ended up working on a lifeboat. So you’re absolutely right—I’ve never thought of it like that! [laughs].

You just have an innate disposition to help others.

SI: Yes! You could say, I’m not a believer in God and all that stuff but, in some ways you could say that I’m a Christian really… helping other people and all that. I can’t help it, I’ve got to do it.

With the songs you’ve written in Crass and your newer band Slice Of Life, you’re singing about injustices in the world; do you still process your anger in the same way?

SI: Rather than being head on and writing something like “Do they Owe Us A Living?” or “So What”, I’ll find a more poetic way of doing it, a more subtle way. I think doing it more head on like “fuck you!” is more for younger people, I don’t think it’s for a sixty-two year old man to be doing [laughs]. I mean, you can if you want to… Things are more thought about these days, it takes me quite a while to write a song.

With your new band Slice Of Life’s music the songs are very personal; when do you feel your songwriting started to become more introspective?

SI: The day I realised was the day I started working with Pete [Wilson] and Carol [Hodge], we didn’t have a bass player at the time. When I started working with them I thought, I can do what I want! I don’t have to be conforming to the unwritten punk rule book. I can absolutely do what I want with these people! If I want to do a funk track, I can do that, if I want to do a reggae track I can do that, I could even do an orchestral thing—I can do whatever I want! The songs I do with Slice, tend to come from influences throughout my life. There’s a little bit of jazz in there, a little bit of Bowie, a little bit of doo-wop. Going back to your first question; how important is music? Well, it’s always been a part of my life. So that’s when it occurred to me that I could do whatever I wanted and fuck what anybody else thinks! Once I realised that it was a huge relief, a huge weight off my shoulders.

Did it feel empowering?

SI: It did! But, it was also a little bit frightening.

*Conversations With Punx (coming late 2020).

Please check out: STEVE IGNORANT.com.

Concrete Lawn on their forthcoming LP Aggregate: “Drums and bass are hench as fuck”

Handmade mixed-media collage by B.

Sydney punk band Concrete Lawn will be releasing their new LP Aggregate May 1st on Urge Records. They first came to our attention in 2018 when they put out a killer cassette tape, DEMO. We interviewed CL about the new forthcoming album, recorded, mixed, and mastered by Jono Boulet from Arse/Party Dozen.

How did you first discover punk?

CAMPBELL (guitar): I first discovered punk when I found The Stooges’ “Fun House” in my dad’ s CD pile when I was 14 and it blew me away from the moment I listened to it.

JACK (bass): Going to see shows at Black Wire Records (R.I.P).

What are some of your favourite punk records?

CAMPBELL: Some of my favourite albums are The Saints – Eternally Yours, Ausmuteants  – World In Handcuffs, Devo – Q: Are We Not Men?, Anaemic Boyfriends – Fake ID 7″, Radio Birdman – Radios Appear, The Cure – Boys Don’t Cry, Gee Tee – Live And Dangerous, MC5 – Kick Out The Jams, XTC – Drums And Wires, Gangajang – Sounds Of Then (I know it’s not punk but who cares!) and too many more to name.

JACK: All Bagged up by The Bags, as well as some of those early X records, also The Urinals. That Decline Of Western Civilisation doco really had a huge impact on me. Then also more angular stuff like No Trend was big to be honest, probably the only punk band I regularly listen to at home I think. In terms of locals: Nasho, Canine, Morte Lenta and Robber are my favourite punk bands.

MADDISON (vox): Can easily say Fuckheads by Gauze and Pick your King by Poison Idea but in terms of current punk/hc records, I would definitely say Binasa EP by Sial, Anxiety’s self-titled and Perfect Texture by Geld, mostly everything from Static Shock’s record label is simply sick. 

Photo by Dougal Gorman (courtesy of CL’s Insta).

Who or what made you think, ‘hey, I wanna make music!’?

JACK: Seeing small DIY bands and spaces and people doing things on their own terms, again, Black Wire Records; but also Paradise Daily Records, Sexy Romance, Dispossessed, Monster Mouse, Beat Disc, Sex Tourists, Pink Batts, No Refunds (remember those shows LOL?), Orion are all things that stick in my mind as like, things that made me want to do this. 

ALEX (drums): In high school a lot of my friends were in bands and I always wanted to do that. There was this show on at school like for the end of the year and I thought to myself, I could do that mad easy!

I know that everyone in the band grew up going to heaps of shows; what was the first show you went to?

CAMPBELL: First show I went and saw was AC/DC when I was about 15, it was pretty boring it was a bunch of 70 year old men on stage playing for 3 hours practically the same song. There was a heap of aggressive bikies there too LOL. But, the first proper show I saw was The Pinheads and some random indie bands. Pinheads pretty much blew the other bands out of the water with their wild spontaneous energy.

JACK: First show I ever went to was My Chemical Romance in 2007 and it is still the best show I’ve ever been to LOL.

MADDISON: For my 15th birthday, I got given my eldest sister’s ID. First time I officially used it was at the Lord Gladstone for this shit Violent Soho-like band. Got kicked out in the first 10 minutes LOL… maybe due to the fact that I was wearing a Grateful Dead tie-dye t-shirt, and purple gumboots.

You’ve about to release your new LP Aggregate; what’s your favourite thing about it?

CAMPBELL: The drum sound, that’s all I’m sayin’.

JACK: Drums sound great on the record, they often sound like break beats which is sick. Alex taught themselves drums via jazz I think, very cool.

ALEX: I like hearing how we’ve come together as artists, and how like everything has come together and it sounds tight.

MADDISON: Drums and bass are hench as fuck, especially in “Milk”.

You recorded with Jono from Arse; how did you come to working with him? What was it like working with him?

CAMPBELL: Jack just slid into his DMs that simple. Jono was super easy to work with and he was super patient with us, for example he sat down with me for like an hour to help me try and find a good guitar tone and he stayed back with Madz until late into the night doing vocal tracks.

JACK: Sent him a text message because we liked his recordings, that Top People EP [Third World Girls] is great.

MADDISON: Simply Jono’s chicken pillow, I want one.

What’s one of your fondest moments from recording?

CAMPBELL: Watching old blokes out of the studio window play lawn bowls, while we were trying to record.

JACK: I think I was really stressed about life stuff at that point so it was nice having three days or something to not really have to do real life things.

While writing for the record what kind of place where you writing from? What emotions were you tapping into?

JACK: Dissolution, boredom, hatred, I guess. Also, obligation, because people keep asking us to play shows LOL.

MADDISON: To be honest, this whole album has been written over a period of almost two years so I can’t remember what frame of mind I was in whilst writing the lyrics but probably anger/frustration LOL. It’s hard for those emotions not to arise as frequently as they do considering most of the population are clueless clowns.

What’s the title song “Aggregate” about?

MADDISON: Most of my lyrics touch on the issues of systemic oppression/abuse, although, this song in particular focuses on ecocide, land dispossession, and the lingering injustices of colonialism. Title itself is just a bunch of elements combined to form a solid. Needed in concrete mix I think IDK thought it was cute.

The cover art by Maxine Booker is beautiful; what was the idea behind it?

CAMPBELL: I’m not sure what the idea behind the art work is but, we all just thought the art work look really good. Sorry if that sounds super shallow but LOL.

JACK: Max is one of our dear friends and they made great art work what the fuck more do u want lad.

MADDISON: It’s a DIY artwork that evolved into an inverted wood block print. Concept surrounding the artwork is open to the audience’s interpretation.

Art by Maxine Booker.

What’s been one of the best shows you’ve ever played?

CAMPBELL: Playing at the Marrickville “Bowlo” early last year, it was super sweaty and it was a Sunday arvo so no one was being super serious.

JACK: My favourite live show was NAG NAG NAG 2019, we were playing wayyyy too late in the night and we just played super sloppy and I kept hitting Campbell with my bass. At some point he tried to hit me back and I tripped over the power cord for the whole stage!! I don’t really remember but it was nice to have fun in front of a crowd of serious punk people. This is may be contentious, though I think Mad wasn’t happy with that show LOL.

ALEX: I really liked the show we played with Pinch Points and Surfbort at the Croxton a couple months back. We played mad tight and I had met a bunch of people the night before and they came through it was lit.

Vid by Gummo.

Have you ever had an embarrassing moment on stage?

CAMPBELL: We were opening for Straight Arrows and playing a good set but then realising I had my fly undone throughout the whole entirety of the set.

JACK: I felt really sick one time on stage.

What’s one of the biggest challenges your band faces?

CAMPBELL: Old gronks!

JACK: Being organised enough to practice, coming up with interesting riffs, being treated as novelty teenagers by an aging scene of men in their 30s.

Besides music what are some things that are important to you?

CAMPBELL: Anti-gentrification.

JACK: Community and forms of care which don’t replicate broader systems of power.

ALEX: Not allowing wack shit to keep going on. I want to write plays one day.

MADDISON: DIY culture, solidarity, and my darling dog, Zeus.

Please check out: CONCRETE LAWN. CL on Facebook. CL on Instagram. Pre-order Aggregate on Urge Records.

Washington D.C.’s Bacchae: “We can have either decent human lives or capitalism, not both”

Original photo by Kara Donnelly, . Mixed media handmade collage by B.

Bacchae (pronounced Bock·Eye) are from Washington D.C. The punk quartet – Katie McD, Rena Hagins, Eileen O‘Grady and Andrew Breiner have just released their new LP, Pleasure Vision. The band jump between styles and mix genres, from synth-driven pop to heavy riffed, experimental post-punk; their songs are full of melody and bounce, lyrically tackling themes both personal and political. Bacchae are a band to watch.

How did you first discover music?

KATIE McD: I grew up going to church every Sunday and that was my first exposure to live music. At home, my mom would play a wide variety of music and watch VH1. One of my first memories of popular music was watching the music video for the B-52’s song “Love Shack” in the kitchen while my mom was singing along and preparing dinner. The line, “I got me a car, it’s as big as a whale” seemed like the height of comedy to my preschool self, but the music also gave me chills.

RENA HAGINS: My mother is really into music and would always take me to shows growing up. She is really into reggae and we would listen to her tapes and I would go with her to festivals. I expanded upon my musical tastes by buying compilation CDs. I remember getting every Punk-O-Rama and Give ‘Em the Boot and learning all the words to every song. I found local bands through friends at school and attended shows whenever I could. My favorite local venue was an indoor soccer arena called The Corner Kick. That is where I first saw one of my fave DC bands, The Max Levine Ensemble. My first major rock concert experience was Blink 182. Between songs they said “Let’s give it up for blow jobs and cumming!” and my 14 year old self was completely mortified to be witnessing that with my mother.

EILEEN O’GRADY: My extended family on both sides loves to sing. All of my aunts and uncles and cool older cousins sang at every family gathering. I have an early memory of listening to the band, Weather Report, on the radio with my Nana. The DJ was listing off the lineup of players on a particular song and apparently made a mistake, so Nana called and corrected them. She already had the radio station’s number from doing call-in quizzes.

ANDREW BREINER: First, I was into my parents’ albums: Michael Jackson and ’60s pop rock like the Byrds and the Monkees. That, plus the newly-available Napster, was the basis for developing my own taste. I got into what I thought was more “edgy” and “obscure” 60s stuff as a tween, you know, like the Beatles. Or even the Sonics. As silly as it seems now, what really excited me about music at the point was the feeling that it was countercultural and saying something different from the main narratives of the world. That’s how I went from 60s rock to anarcho-punk like Crass, and then learned that pretty much all genres can give some window into other worlds. Still, I will not comment on my nu-metal phase that somehow fit into my early musical development.

Who or what inspired you to want to make music yourself?

RH: I used to play cello and viola up until I was about 12 years old. I couldn’t afford to purchase any instruments, so I had to eventually give it up. I always loved to perform and participated in chorus and was also in a few plays during my school years. I’d always been fascinated by bassists when I went to see live music and made it a point to learn and join a band one day. I was given a bass by my partner about 4 years ago and started learning immediately.

KM: I started learning how to play piano when I was 8 or 9 years old. When I was 13, I decided to teach myself how to play guitar (because it was cooler) and began writing songs. I listened to WHFS and idolized Gwen Stefani and P!nk at the time; middle school was miserable for me, which also helped inspire me to write music. The songs were terrible and I never shared them with anyone; I just played them alone in my room.

EO: I played bassoon in school band growing up all the way through college and was actually pretty good. I’d always wanted to play drums but was intimidated for a long time, especially since I was used to seeing boy drummers. There was an extremely cool woman who taught drums at band camp who I never uttered a word to but was quietly obsessed with for years.

Then I grew up and came to DC and saw local punk bands with great drummers, like Ashley Arnwine from Pinkwash and Daniele Daniele from Priests. Those folks pretty much directly inspired me to start learning myself.

AB: I think my youthful excitement about music was always tied up with the idea of playing it. I had tried and failed to stick with piano lessons when I was pretty young, cause I was totally unmotivated by the goal of being able to play classical pieces. But I wanted a guitar basically as soon as I got into rock music and I’ve been playing on and off (sometimes off for years at a time) since then. It was a totally different experience, being able to actually learn the things I heard and loved. I think the amazement of being able to recreate or create something as cool as music myself is still why I do it.

Photo: Kara Donnelly.

How did Bacchae come together?

Katie, Eileen, and Andrew began playing music together as the backing band for a friend’s experimental rock musical. Around the same time, Andrew met Rena when they played together in a one-time band as part of Hat Band DC, a fundraiser for Girls Rock! DC. Bacchae was formed shortly after in the summer of 2016.

Your new LP, Pleasure Vision, came out at the start of March, congratulations! We’ve had it on high rotation here at Gimmie zine. How did the record get started? What was the first song you wrote for it?

RH: Happy to hear that y’all are enjoying the record, thanks! I don’t think we really have a defined start date of writing specifically for this album. Some songs we started writing 2 years ago (ex. “Turns Me”) and others came together in their final form at the studio (Ex. “See It Coming”).

AB: We spent some time playing shows off of our previous EP (S/T 2018) before we decided what we were going to work towards next. I don’t think we were certain this one would be an LP until a few months before recording or so. We just started working on new songs and it took shape from there as we tried them out at shows and tweaked them. “Everything Ugly” was the first one that we finished. I remember Katie brought it to us not long after the EP and it came together almost immediately.

Where was your head at when writing, Pleasure Vision? What kinds of things were inspiring your songwriting? I’ve noticed that all your lyrics are written in the first person.

KM: Half of the songs on Pleasure Vision are about emotions that almost everyone experiences and hides (sadness, longing, heartache) and the lyrics are inspired by a mix of my personal experiences and friends’ experiences. Half of the songs are more political and invoke anger, exasperation and hopelessness. “Older I Get,” and “See It Coming” are two examples of this–they’re both about being angry and dissatisfied at society/Capitalism and feeling sort of powerless in the face of it all. As for the first person thing: if you pick an album at random, the majority of the songs will usually be written in first-person. For example, Green Day’s album, Dookie, is written entirely in first-person.

What’s the significance of the LP’s title, Pleasure Vision?

AB: Pleasure Vision is interpreting the world around you through the lens of optimization and acquisition. Our world is increasingly uninterested in things unless they offer a straightforward, often quantifiable, benefit. If you have a hobby, for example, it’s supposed to help you develop a marketable skill, help you network, or make you healthier. Even if it’s for enjoyment, you’re encouraged to validate it by saying it’s to decompress (from work) or that you’re engaging in self-care. I imagine an overlay on anything we look at: Taking a bath gives you two pleasure points, which counteracts the two stress points you picked up by working a 10-hour day. Everything has to be done with intense purpose. Nothing can be idle or casual or meaningless.

What’s one of your fondest memories from recording your record?

EO: The recording studio has a little chillout area with a TV and collection of VHS tapes. While J was doing the first rough mixes, we crowded around the TV and watched Wallace and Gromit and ate snacks. It was a perfect way to decompress after a somewhat stressful process and be reminded that we’re all friends and love each other.

RH: We brought a Nintendo Switch to the studio and hooked it up to the TV and watched Andrew and Eileen play the Untitled Goose Game. It was so fun to see them wreaking havoc as a goose on the loose!

KM: Listening to everyone do overdubs and everybody’s words of support before and after takes. 

What’s your personal favourite song on the record? What do you love about it?

RH: It’s so hard to choose just one song as a favorite! I love the record as a whole. If I REALLY have to choose, I guess I would say “Losing War”. It’s unlike any song we have previously released as it is a bit heavier and grungy. We played it for the first time at the Pleasure Vision record release show and it was so much fun to play live. It’s got a good groove to it and the bassline just puts me in a zone. I also love that we had the opportunity to have Shawna Potter of War On Women add some guest vocals on the recording. It was so much fun to work together!

EO: “Hammer”–it’s such a bop. Andrew’s guitar solo always makes me want to stop playing and just dance around.

AB: “Leave Town”. I’m a sucker for intense fast songs like that. It has a type of heaviness that I don’t feel like we’ve gotten into before, stop-starts, and a tempo change, while still sounding pretty straightforward. And Katie’s singing on the breakdown part still surprises me with its force every time I hear it.

KM: I think “Older I Get” is my favorite because it’s heavy but fun; I really like the ascending guitar thing and the beat.

How did you feel upon first listening to your record in its entirety for the first time once you got the

mixes back?

AB: Honestly, the first time hearing mixes was when I was most fatigued from playing and hearing the songs over and over again. I had just listened so many times it was impossible to try and form any kind of objective judgement. Also it was hard not to just listen intently to my own parts to look for flubs. I spent a few days totally avoiding listening to the songs, and when I got back to it was much more “wow, we did this??”

RH: It’s really tough to listen to mixes and try to give any feedback on changes. When I had some time away from them, it was incredible to listen back and think about everything we accomplished with J. Robbins at the Magpie Cage studio. I am really proud of how far we have come as a band.

Where did the idea for the Rorschach Test style art on your album cover come from?

AB: It fits with the ideas about Pleasure Vision being a way of twisting and interpreting what you see around you to fit certain purposes and to have a particular kind of meaning. The Rorschach Test is the perfect example of that kind of thing: it has no inherent meaning and is entirely about the interpretation you bring to it. We were also experimenting with the idea of doing something based on a vision test chart, and while that’s not exactly evident in the final design, that is how they ended up being laid out as a kind of chart.

KM: Eileen has a good story about this!

EO: My parents are both therapists and they flipped out when they saw the cover. My mom didn’t know that the Rorschach inkblots are in the public domain, so she texted me frantically asking if I had found the inkblots in her office and, like, stole them. Once they realized it was all above board, they were just very interested in what underlying psychological reasons led us to the design. Typical. 

Can you tell us about the best and worst live show you’ve ever played?

EO: My favorite was playing House of Independents in Asbury Park. It was the best line up basically of any show I’ve ever been to: Paint it Black, Screaming Females, Give, HIRS, and us. The energy was WILD. Rena had this stellar crowdsurfing moment that our photographer friend Farrah Skeiky caught on camera and it looks like a literal Renaissance painting. Also we got to spend a lot of time at the beach that weekend and ate ice cream and boardwalk snacks.

RH: I started a spreadsheet to keep track of every show we have played since forming in 2016.  It’s wonderful to look back and see how much we have accomplished over the years. There’s a note section so we can add highlights like “Katie’s keyboard fell on top of her during Leave Town and she didn’t miss a beat!” or “A transformer blew and the show got shut down after our set!”

I don’t think there have been any shows I would consider to be the worst, and it’s really hard to narrow it down to the best one. Our first official show together was on August 8th, 2016 at a DC venue that no longer exists. The show wasn’t particularly amazing aside from the fact that it was the first time the 4 of us played live together and that was a really special moment. Our “Bandiversary”is August 8th because of this show.

Photo: Kara Donnelly.

Why is music important to you?

RH: Many of my favorite memories involve music and I am just happy to experience it in any way I can.

KM: Playing music and writing songs is cathartic; practicing music is something that can help you grow alone or with others.

AB: Related to how I found music: I think music can say things that aren’t generally said, both through words and the sounds of it. Music lets people smuggle kind of weird or new ideas into reaching an audience since there’s something universal or at least widely understandable about it, but also so much room for inventiveness and uniqueness.

When not making music what would we find you doing?

RH: I have gotten really into birds lately. There’s a Sparrow, that I’ve named Bird Alex, that lives in the awning by the front door. I recently put a bird feeder up on a tree outside my bedroom window so I can watch all the birds coming by. I’ve seen lots of Robins, Blue Jays, Cardinals, Mockingbirds, and Woodpeckers. There is one Woodpecker that had it out for me. It was coming to the bedroom window and pecking at the frame very early in the morning and waking me up before my alarm. I figured out a way to divert this unwanted wake up call by putting a stuffed Owl in the window as a decoy. Haven’t had any trouble with the Woodpecker in a few weeks. Fingers crossed the Owl decoy continues to work!

EO: I like pro wrestling. DC just got a new local pro wrestling promotion called Prime Time Pro Wrestling, which has put particular emphasis on LGBTQ wrestlers. They produced an explicitly queer show last month called Butch v. Gore where I saw a wonderful match between Effy and Faye Jackson. Effy wears a pink spiked leather jacket, fishnets, and a tiny speedo that says “Daddy” on the back. Faye has this famously great ass, and she kept shaking it at Effy (who is gay) to his visible horror. I was screaming the whole time.

KM: I’m a beekeeper; at this point I’m not sure if it’s a hobby or a lifestyle. Checking on my hives has always been a pleasure, but during the pandemic it also feels like a particularly special weekly event. Now that we’re confined to our homes, I’m also trying to focus on improving my drawing skills and taking better care of my houseplants.

AB: I like reading history a lot lately!

What’s something important that you think more people should know/care about?

EO: More people should know the power of a being in a union. Workers joining together is the only way we will end capitalism.

AB: We can have either decent human lives or capitalism, not both.

RH: Health care is a human right and everyone should have access to quality coverage.

KM: I keep thinking about how much violence and sorrow the pandemic is going to cause across the world. I wish that more people knew this: if you’re thinking about suicide, the best thing to do is to tell a friend about your feelings. You can also call your national suicide hotline. In the U.S, it’s the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) and in Australia it’s Lifeline (13 11 14), but also if you type “I want to kill myself” or “suicide” into Google, it will show you what the number is in your country. Most of these organizations also have 24/7 online chats.

Please check out: BACCHAE. Bacchae on Facebook. Bacchae on Instagram.

Devo’s Gerald Casale: “People that end up being called creative, all they did was stay true and in touch with their ability”

Original photo courtesy of Gerald’s Insta by Norman Sieff. Collage by B.

Devo are one of our all-time favourite bands! They were punk before punk. Staring out in 1973, the band was born out of the transformative effects of a historic tragedy, the Kent State Massacre Shootings – Kent State being the university where Gerald Casale, soon-to-be Devo co-founder, was in attendance. Four students were shot during the protest against the Cambodia Campaign (US military operations, including the illegal bombing of Cambodia). Gerald was there on the front line and saw “exit wounds from M1 rifles out the backs of two people” that were friends. The Ohio National Guard fired 67 rounds at unarmed demonstrators in 13 seconds! Witnessing this changed the course of Gerald’s life, he took the anger, frustration and disappointment in the powers that be – he saw “clearly, and horrifically, how everything really works, and how the truth doesn’t matter” – and channelled that into music and visual art, thus creating Devo, one of the most original bands that ever was.

Our editor interviewed Gerald in-depth for her book on punk, creativity and spirituality that will be out later in the year. The following is just a short extract from the larger chat.

Have you always been a creative person?

GERALD CASALE: I guess I have been, you don’t think of it that way but in retrospect, yes.

What attracted you to taking that path?

GC: I don’t think creative people choose to be creative, personally. I think that they are and they can’t help it. Furthermore, I think that so many young people as they grow up are innately creative, but they are somehow socialised to quit being creative and to quit trusting their instincts and their intuitions and they lose that ability. Whereas people that end up being called creative, all they did was stay true and in touch with their ability.

What has fuelled your creativity?

GC: I’m not sure about that in the beginning… as children we have all these dreams and intuitions and fantasies and epiphanies that the human complex brain, even in a child first making connections, you’re unfiltered then and uncensored, so you start writing things or drawing things, whatever you do. What you’re doing is externalizing your thoughts. If you become “artistic” or the other people in society in your group of humans decides you are artistic, you start doing things consciously because you’re getting rewarding for “oh, that guy can draw” or “wow! That’s a great short story he wrote”—we all want to be accepted and find a reason to be part of a society where you’re rewarded. So the artist finds out that they can still be accepted and still be true to themselves.

Have there been times in your life when you haven’t been creative or maybe doubted your abilities to create?

GC: [Laughs] Anybody that would say that hasn’t happened would be lying. As you get older and the pressure mounts and the forces of conformity and survival basically attack your freedom and your creativity, you go through periods of course where you give up or question what you’re doing. So, yeah, it’s cyclical.

What’s been one of the biggest challenges for you in regards to your creative life?

GC: Opportunity. I have no shortage of ideas and insights and plans but of course so much of what an artist does depends on opportunity, mostly financial but also distribution. Here’s an idea… how does the world see that idea? Well, someone has got to let them see it, there’s all these gatekeepers, all these middle management censorship kind of people and they don’t share your vision, your originality, they don’t share your ability to create, but what they’re there to do is to decided which creative people get seen and heard. That’s what you read about all the time, that’s why people feel so disenfranchised, as minorities, as disenfranchised people because of their sexuality or whatever, they’re not getting the same opportunities; certainly historically they have not gotten the same opportunities as “insiders” the people that are embraced as the ruling class.

Was it hard for you to balance expressing yourself and being an artistic band and then when you got really popular and broke into the mainstream; was it hard to balance these things?

GC: Certainly, but not consciously. DEVO was “an art band”. We became popular for doing exactly what we wanted to. We didn’t change what we wanted to do to become popular. Suddenly here’s an artist doing something nobody cares about that everyone is making fun of, everybody is putting you down then suddenly that same exact thing hits a moment in the cultural zeitgeist where people go, “oh, these guys weren’t clowns, they were right” and now you’re popular. Now the only challenge is to stay relevant and keep doing what you do rather than letting your popularity stop you from doing what you were doing. In other words the artist is ultimately responsible, you’re always going to have your enemies, you’re always going to have people trying to thwart you and block you and bring you down but finally, the artist is the only one that can bring themselves down.

Read the full interview soon in book, Conversations with Punx.

Please check out: Devo. Gerald makes wine – The Fifty by Fifty.

Billy from Disco Junk: “People need to be more aware of what their friends are feeling.. not in just an empty “Are you ok?” way.. check up on friends & do things to make them happy”

Original photo by Bridget Angee. Handmade collage by B.

We love Melbourne punk band, Disco Junk! Guitarist-vocalist-songwriter Billy really, really loves music and wanted to make his own so bad he taught himself how to play guitar and recorded his first songs simply using an iPad. At Gimmie we believe that if you really want to do something, you’ll find away—be like Billy! He’s already put out 15+ releases, including a compilation of 32 underground bands to raise money for Australia’s recent bushfire tragedy relief, has a zine Magnetic Visions AND he only turned 18 in January this year!  

How did you first discover music?

BILLY: The earliest memories of music I have are listening to Midnight Oil and Spice Girls with my parents when I was like 3. I guess a more technical definition of me discovering music was when I heard “Warning” by Green Day on some internet video and was sucked into that fandom. I got into local music when I was 15 and one of my mum’s friends told me to listen to Modern Living by The Living Eyes and it changed my entire perception on reality, went from the Beatles to Ausmuteants real fast. Long story short Spice Girls and Green Day!

When did you first know you wanted to make music?

B: I guess after listening to Green Day I started wanting to make music. I’d always been somewhat “creative” but very lacking. Tried painting, drawing, animation, film making and other hobbies for years with no success. But once my aunty gave me an acoustic guitar, I just wanted to do stuff on it, and I started to figure out how to do stuff on it. Once you start seeing some success in what you’re doing it really motivates you to continue, every time I’d learn a new chord or I’d figure out how to open Garageband, I’d just want to do it more.

What was the first gig you ever went to? Tell us a bit about it.

B: The first gig I ever went to was Courtney Barnett at the Palais Theatre, it was kinda weird, Courtney seemed like she was really uncomfortable. I’ve seen her three times since and they where MUCH better. I think the true first gig was Jebediah at Melbourne Zoo, met the band and they were amazing live. I bought my first electric guitar after seeing them in order to try and do what they were doing.

When you started Disco Junk you wrote, recorded and produced all your songs yourself; can you tell us about how you got started? Were there any challenges?

B: I got started by just pointing my iPad at my guitar amp and just pressing record, it was a hellish set up and there where a lot of angry screams trying to get a decent sound. Eventually I just sorta gave up and worked with what I have, which is what you sorta hear on Disco Junk’s Party With Spools Of Tape. I eventually got a lot better at it through a lot of trial and error.

What kind of things inspires your songwriting?

B: Really anything. I’ve had times where I’ve put my heart and soul into it, tried to come up with really deep lines and its just been awful and then a song I write about the film Robots will be (in my wrong opinion) a million times better. The main inspiration is other people, bands like Pinch Points, Rhysics, Living Eyes, Program, Sunnyboys, Lemon Demon and Lassie are some big inspirations right now.

What’s your favourite song you’ve written so far? What’s it about?

B: In terms of released stuff, I think “Outta Melbourne” (which is just meaningless, it’s a bunch of lines I put together) and “Defenestration” (which is just a social outcast song). In terms of UNRELEASED AND EPIC stuff I think “Where’s Bigweld” (the song about the film Robots), “Investment Banker” (a song my dad wrote so I cant really take credit) and “All The Cows Come Home” (which is sort of a self-referential song, in the vein of Ouch!!).

You recorded your “four best songs” in a “proper studio” with Billy from Anti Fade last year; what’s one of your fondest memories from recording your Underage Punk 7” (on Hozac Records)?

B: Really it was just all the time I got to spend with Lachie and Billy Gardner. Lachie (the man behind Under Heat Records) is one of my best friends and he came down to Melbourne from Mount Gambier to do the drums and it was so good to hang out with him. We went and saw Drunk Mums and Meat and it was so good. And it was incredible to spend time with Billy, he’s so switched on and wise and is such an incredible man. I learned so much from talking with him during the session. Also me loosing my voice and trying to order from a burger shop afterwards was pretty funny.

Can you tell us about your favourite gig you’ve played?

B: I can’t decide between playing with Amyl And The Sniffers at Record Paradise and the birthday show I did at Cactus Room. They where both just a bunch of friends coming together to have fun and watch some incredible bands. The energy at both shows were just incredible!

When you first started playing live you were on stage by yourself, right? Were you nervous?

B: Yes! I got offered my first gig by Ishka from Warttmann Inc before I had a band so I decided to just play by myself with a backing track. I wasn’t actually that nervous to be honest, I think I was in such a tight state of fear that I didn’t feel any emotion. But after playing with a live band and having played some more solo shows recently I now get a lot more nervous on stage solo. It’s harder to go back to if that makes sense.

Last year in 11 days you put together a cassette compilation, There’s Gotta Be Hope Right?, featuring 32 bands with money from sales going to NSW and VIC Rural Fire Services; why was it important for you to do this?

B: Well it was important because if I didn’t do it I would’ve gone insane! During the bushfires I was having some very serious mental problems and I found that working on ANYTHING was better than thinking about it. It was a nightmare to do and I still haven’t been able to donate the money because of one fuckwit but it GREATLY helped. I’ve had to start doing a similar thing with the Beer Virus epidemic recently where I upload one song at a time onto the Billiam Bandcamp in order to keep my mind off things (#shamelessselfpromotion).

Around the time you put out the cassette you mentioned online that you had a “panic attack/nervous breakdown about the state of the world”; what do you do to get through this period and manage your anxiety? It can be pretty scary and debilitating!

B: I honestly don’t even know what got me through it. I think the only thing that helps with me is work as previously mentioned. It is really scary and debilitating but some good stuff does come out of it. I’m truly proud of that compilation and I think so far it will be my biggest legacy on Melbourne music and that’s helped me get through hard times since them.

What’s something important that you think more people should care about?

B: I could say environment but thank god people are starting to clue into the fact that MAYBE all these weather events are caused by humans pumping sludge into the atmosphere constantly. But other than that people need to be more aware of what their friends are feeling. Like not in just an empty “Are you ok?” way but in a way where people understand that things they might be doing or not doing really impact other people and that they need to be aware of that. Just check up on friends and do things to make them happy, sending a funny YouTube video or talking with them on the phone does so much more than just asking if they’re ok and saying that you are there.

What have you been listening to lately?

B: A lot! ha ha… Quarantine gives you time to listen to some records. There’s a Chicago band called Spam Risk I’m obsessed with at the moment, they’re really good Eggy nervous punk rock. Other than that a list of bands and artists I really like are Hannah Kate, ISS, XTC, Leeches, Toyotal, P.R.N.D.L., Jungle Breed, Nick Normal, Met Dog and Gonzo. Lots of great music coming out at the moment

What are you working on now?

B: A lot. There’s going to be a Disco Junk album eventually but I need to finish writing it, were releasing a 7 inch through Goodbye Boozey in Italy but that will most likely be delayed but stay tuned. Ruben is working on a solo album of punky psychedelic stuff, Tom is continuing to finish the Aggressive Hugger tape and I (Billiam) am making an album available on bandcamp as I go (meaning I upload one song a day for like two weeks) and I’m writing the next issue of my zine Magnetic Visions (Issue one and two are out now #againshamelessselfpromotion).

Anything else you like us to know about Disco Junk?

B: All the members are actually just really elaborate Muppets.

Video by Vogel’s Video (please check them out for rad underground band vids).

Please check out: Disco Junk. Disco Junk Instagram.