About Me

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Detroit, Michigan, United States
I'm a punk rock guru from Detroit. Part skinhead, part crusty, part metalhead, part hardcore kid, part party kid, 100% punk rocker.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Interview with Face Reality

Face Reality interview

1. When and how did the band get started?

We got started in the beginning of 2008. I approached Robbie and Niemi (who isn't in the band anymore) to play guitar. We practiced a few times, recording some riffs onto a tape recorder. We finished our demo and played our first show June 8, 2008.

2. What do you feel about Detroit? Is it a receptive hometown or is it just a means to a better end?

I love Detroit. It's a very receptive hometown, especially as of late. Things seem to really be picking up. All my friends in bands from out of town are starting to have more of a desire to play here which is going to make things pick up even more.

3. What kinds of venues have you played around Michigan? What about around the U.S.? Ever play any festivals?

In Michigan, we've played the DAAC in Grand Rapids, the Metal Frat in Ann Arbor, the Garden Bowl, Refuge Skateshop in Dearborn, the Trumbullplex in Detroit, the Magic Stick in Detroit, a ton of basements and I'm sure we're leaving some out. As for out of town, we've played all over. Basements, larger places, small businesses, we've played em all. We've played a few fests as well. My favorite fest we've played so far was this past October in Chicago on X/X/X.

4. How did you come across Dead End Records? What prompted them to press your ‘Positive Change’ 7”?

Dead End Records approached us after hearing the mp3's of our demo. They offered to press the demo onto cassette but it was while we were pressing our own tapes. So instead they asked us to do a 7" with them which we agreed to do.

5. What bands (local and national/ international) do you take influence from?

Locally, we take influences from Negative Approach. Also, recent bands such as Build and Destroy, Retribution, Fireworks and Louder Than Bombs are inspiring. Other Detroit acts that aren't affiliated with hardcore/punk such as Danny Brown, Mayor Hawthorne, Black Milk, and

Guilty Simpson are great too. They're all working to get Detroit's name out there as much as possible. When we started as a band, the idea was to sound like Straight Ahead, Turning Point, Warzone and Youth of Today, but I'm glad we've come into our own.

6. What is the intended meaning behind the band name ‘Face Reality’? I took it as a call to accept the truth, regardless of its outcome, essentially a philosophical call towards truth-seeking and being a truth-seeker.

Well when we started as a band, I wanted it to be called Another Way. That didn't end up working out and in almost all of my favorite records I was hearing "face reality" in the lyrics. At that point, it felt natural to name the band Face Reality.

-Hard Stance-Face Reality

-"All you hippies better start to face reality..." Cro Mags

-"Things I see, they scare me, yet I must face reality..." Turning Point

When I decided to name the band Face Reality, we already had the demo and lyrics written. The demo had songs written about questioning what we really need in our society, thinking straight despite peer pressure to go with the flow, understanding different point of views, and taking risks in your life. I think these all coincide with facing reality.

7. Why did you become straight edge? Is it a fraternity of sorts or is it more of a thing that you do for personal reasons?

I became straight edge because I felt alienated by choosing to not drink. It was comforting to know such a huge group of people loved the same music as me and didn't drink or get high. I love being in a straight edge band and having straight edge friends, but I also love drugged out bands and my drunk friends. So it is a personal choice.

8. What do you think the purpose of straight edge is? Is it possible to partake in drugs or alcohol and still keep one’s mind “straight”?

Yes, it could be possible for one to keep his mind straight using drugs or alcohol. Straight edge is a social group of people involved in the hardcore/punk scene who choose to not numb their minds with drinking and drugs. I also think some people that are straight edge don't have their mind straight and use other forms of social crutches to stay sane.

9. Is it a coincidence that a lot of young kids who claim edge and follow a lot of corresponding bands are generally not seen at bar shows (this comes from my personal observations, in case you’re wondering)? Would you play a bar show?

When I was younger and straight edge, I never felt comfortable going to shows at bars because usually they were 18+. Also, some parents might be wary about letting their kids go to a punk show at a bar. If the show was all ages and the right bands were playing, Face Reality would have no problem playing a bar.

10. When did you sign to Youngblood Records? When is the self-titled EP due out?

We signed to Youngblood in mid-January. I met Sean last August and we had been in constant contact since. The self-titled EP is being mastered now and should be out by summer 2011.

11. What are some of your personal favorite local and national bands?

For local bands, I named off a few above. As for national hardcore bands: Noose, Dead End Path, Mindset, Thought Crusade, Give, Power Trip

12. Outside of the 7”, what does the band have coming up, plans-wise?

We have a couple weekend tours in the making with the bands Mindset and Thought Crusade as well as a tour in July with United Youth from Wilkes-Barre, PA.

13. Do you think Detroit is an underrated or active scene (not either or)? What do you think fans should do to become more active or stay informed?

Detroit is definitely an under rated city. We have a lot of great bands and a few great venues. Communication seems to be the only problem. We need to work harder to promote gigs to all types of people. Instead of just passing out flyers at hardcore shows and posting something on the internet, posting up flyers at record stores, coffee shops, skateparks; anywhere really.

14. What kind of books or magazines do you read? What would you recommend to someone who is not in the know?

I love reading skateboarding magazines as well as zines that talk about music. A combination of both is always great. As for books, I like reading about my favorite bands and have been reading a few books by Kerouac as well as Orwell.

15. Anything else you have to say?

Start bands, open a venue, write zines, do something. Don't complain about shit on the internet. Always keep the faith. Face Reality in 2011.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Shark Week/ Ailat/ Take a Hint/ Clear Blue Ska/ The Toasters, February 21, 2011 at Mac’s Bar

Shark Week/ Ailat/ Take a Hint/ Clear Blue Ska/ The Toasters, February 21, 2011 at Mac’s Bar

Lansing is a sort of home away from home for me; I know lots of natives and MSU students here, there’s lots to do, places to explore, and importantly, shows to see. Although limited on the venues, Lansing rarely disappoints. DRI, the Resignators, Left Alone, D.O.A., Agnostic Front, numbers of local-area bands, and more all passed through the city, either at Basement 414 or at Mac’s Bar. Despite the utterly shitty weather the former bassist from Treehouse Rivals and I had to go through to get there, we arrived early, record-shopped, and made our way to the show. Somewhere in the between, I lost my mp3 player and was a bit livid, but the Toasters would make it all better. Right?

Right: The show kicked off with Lincoln Park High School band Shark Week, who spent no less than one entire song talking shit about Total. The band was mediocre, about what I anticipated for a high school third wave ska band; only one band has overcame and trumped the hype for high school bands, and unfortunately this band, as of yet, is not the second. Including a few originals and a few covers (including an unnecessarily poppy cover of Mustard Plug’s Beer Song) the band at least succeeds at funny names for a band, and could click in the future for me. An okay way to start.

Queerly named group Ailat followed. The question-raising name was met with an equally odd sound. The band, it turned out, was completely without a vocalist for the show, due to a premature release. An unfortunate occurrence for the band, no doubt, but they rebounded and simply went instrumental, qualifying as a decent modern version of some instrumental-era Black Flag. The band turned out to be rather enjoyable, the best of the openers. I intend to keep my wits about me for…Ailat.

Next was Take a Hint. I very much applaud tromboner/ singer Kenny Plont for his proactivity, but I cannot fathom understanding or liking this band. It seems like ska that tries too hard to encompass multiple genres and retain a solid, primary sound; it comes out as poorly played third wave ska. Given this understanding (and the dim talent present in the band’s underling members), Take a Hint is okay, nothing worth going out of your way to find or avoid, the ultimate in “Meh”.

Next on the stage was Clear Blue Ska. This band, while enjoyable at times, apes the stereotypical third wave sound so much that one may as well rewind thirteen or fourteen years ago, back to the “Let’s Face It” and “Keasbey Nights” days and view, over and over and over again. Some deviation from 4:4 timing, coupled with offbeat kind of necessary for the band to be a step off the ground from unconditional support from family members and friends.

Finally, the legendary Toasters climbed atop the stage. They showed where third wave fucking started and displayed that they still do it the best. “2-Tone Army” and “Don’t Let the Bastards Grind You Down” just did it for me; they ripped another hour and fifteen minutes of tracks other than those two, and they really proved that old school usually trumps new school. No snowstorm could’ve kept me from this, and none did; it was well worth the danger.

-Aunty Social

Broken Teeth/ UDI/ Plain Dealers/ The Ratfinks show at Corktown Tavern, February 19, 2011

Broken Teeth/ UDI/ Plain Dealers/ The Ratfinks show at Corktown Tavern, February 19, 2011

I hate 21 and up shows; kids love the music and can’t even fucking get into a show? Because your employees are too lazy to check ID at the bar or you don’t want to charge a cover at the door? Fuck that! Even from a business perspective, it’s entirely nonsensical to wield the banhammer in the direction of passionate underage music fans. If no one is coming into your business, you cannot make any money. A $5 non-drinker is still a potential customer, and that’s $5 a head more that can be made than if you ban them. The benefit outweighs the risk. In any case, my friend the doorman let me in regardless of age and I found a comfortable roaming circle in which to reside for the show.

First was local upstart Broken Teeth, who’ve been very active and seem to progress with each passing show; this show was no exception. Fuelled by beer and a general hatred of this “new school” sort of lifestyle begat by our generation the Millenials, the sound is an homage to Boston bruisers Slapshot and old Detroit hardcore and it’s still fresh to hear. In a world dominated by the likes of trust-fund urban hipsters playing faux punk and kids swallowing the anti-capitalist capitalism of Fat Wreck in one gulp, it’s honestly a fresh breath to see that my generation is still capable of gritty, dirty back-to-basics hardcore. I thought I might be perpetually paralleled with punk veterans alone, but Broken Teeth shows that this is not the case, at all.

Following was UDI, straight from the gutter in the alleyway to the stage. I imagine the singer is what would happen when an auctioneer loses satisfaction with his job and life, becomes an alcoholic, and joins a gang of three other people with similar life problems. Although very disciplined for a non-practicing band, UDI doesn’t seem to get much of a chance to leave town, unfortunately. Grand Rapids and Lansing would do well to be receptive to this drunken thrash punk.

Third were Ohio punks the Plain Dealers. My memory of them is, sadly, somewhat fuzzy, but it seemed to ring of simplistic Stooges-style punk, not complicated but not weak. They did a cover of a Jabbers song, and it fit very well. There’s not a lot to describe the band, as I don’t have a lot to compare it to. A worth opening band, at least.

Last in line were the Ratfinks, who’ve been crawling into and out of Detroit sewers for nine years, and seem to have a steady base from which to work. Spitting out both album artifacts and newfound nihilistic sonic waves, the band is on the beaten but best path for bands. One of Detroit’s drunk-punk crews with a slight subtraction in daily drunkenness, the Ratfinks are fucking back!

The show wasn’t much more than an eventful night at the bar, but the bands are undoubtedly worth mentioning and reviewing. This is a regular Saturday night show in Detroit; it only gets better from here.

-Aunty Social

Ghetto Blaster- EP review

Ghetto Blaster- EP review

Ska: A genre inhabited of 85% high school and college students with more free time than they know what to do with, and 15% musicians who happen to like the genre. Ska is a little overdone as a third wave movement, but fusion is the future for ska; this brings me to the second genre: Hip hop. Once populated by oppressed black youth with rhythm and poets of the most delicate prose, it is now held down by hipster swine and the very occasional rhyme master who values music over money. Is essence, rap is commercialized, industrially profitable hip hop. Alone, these two genres are mere bastards of their former selves; together, they’re a furious, fervent, fun mix that really engrains the oncoming fourth wave of ska.

The general vibe of the EP is very radical leftist, sort of crew-like feeling, notably touched on in the song ‘GBC’, short for “Ghetto Blaster Crew”. At times, the EP shifts to a more upbeat hip-hop ska kind of feel, instead of a Choking Victim-lite. ‘Get Drunk’ is one of those tunes. What is meant by “Choking Victim-lite”? The feeling is less ominous and hopeless, but still manages to speak of radicalism. The vocals are a mix of raspy, Rollins-like singing and classic emcee rapping or beatboxing. The guitars are downtuned, minor-chord ska-punk with very heavily accented offbeats. Lastly, the rhythm section just keeps the beat, allowing the guitars and singing to speak as the primary communicator.

This record, this 8-song EP, this is the future for ska Two simultaneous kinds of radical, download this protégé of fourth wave ska.

-Aunty Social

The Accused- Curse of Martha Splatterhead review

The Accused- The Curse of Martha Splatterhead review

The future of the Accused was essentially halted when vocalist Blaine quit; he’d been the voice of the band since 1984, and now, his shrieking demonic voice had been silenced in favor of a new singer, Brad. After years of practicing and a general hiatus/ break-up, the band got together and recorded this album. Was it going to live up to Blaine’s Accused?

In all truth, it is on par with Blaine’s early 90s Accused, but not his 80s thrash greatness. While enjoyable, the songs don’t have quite the catchy hook and power they did with ‘Grinning Like an Undertaker’ or ‘Fucking for Bucks’. Still, this is a good thrash album regardless to the previous outputs managed by the band. The songs rage, screaming of the undead, Martha Splatterhead, hellbound fiends, and everything in between. The guitars pound the pavement still, pushing the speed to the levels reached in years past. The rhythm section rips rather rhythmically, a modern-day Charlie Benante and Dan Lilker. The singer, while not quite as good as Blaine, still screeches better than any metal singer from a 1993 origin onward. Brad is not the best, but he is an absolutely suitable replacement.

I recommend the album; it’s not a shit-your-pants type of release, but I’ve listened to it more than two times and I’m still not sick of it. They’re doing something right. Thrash ain’t dead; those who speak as such, watch where you tread.

-Aunty Social

Assembly of Extinction- Feast or Famine/ Social Outcast split LP review

Assembly of Extinction- Feast or Famine/ Social Outcast split LP review

Old-school crust-influenced hardcore, B-sided with cacophonous street punk crust. The only unifying things between the two sides of this album are that both bands were from Detroit (both are defunct now) and both bands have dual-vocal 90s crust influence in their respective sounds. Both bands had a purpose in their time and still have one today, although their purpose today is more historical, as opposed to their original state, which was restorational. The first bands described above, Social Outcast, was a Detroit-based band in the vein of a welding between Discharge and Conflict. They brought a unique anarcho-punk sound to the Michigan punk scene, and this set of songs was their finest, albeit final, release. The second band described, Feast or Famine, was a bring-it-back kind of band, sporting studs and spikes to compliment the dual-vocal cacophonous crust music. Today, the record seems historical, a record of an era once here, now nowhere. One question I must ask is…, “Can we please go back to that era?”

The first side of this LP consists of nine really fucking loud crust songs by Feast or Famine. I’ve mentioned before the extremities of the wall of sound theory in music being tested, and this band really pushed that theory as far as it would go, straying from pungent, angry punk to putrid, permeated low-tuned screams and screeches. Some of the songs are great, others are rather irritating. However, given the context of the music world at the time of the band, the extremes of the music are excusable. In the late 90s to early 00s, punk seemed to go a bit soft and flaccid, with the likes of Green Day, Blink 182, and Lookout! Records pop punk leading the way in popularity, capitulating the rage and unique identity in past years’ punk. Feast or Famine was the reaction to this, and these nine songs knifed this lovey-dovey nasal-driven bullshit and wounded its high popularity. This band, in a way, brought punk back, and even though the noise sometimes screeches against my ears with wall-of-sound crust punk, I’d rather listen to a man screech about his studs and spikes rather than endure another nasally singer-guitarist whine about how he’s in love, because nobody cared when his band’s first album came out, either.

Social Outcast’s side has much to say, but I have few words. This sonic boom sound is sincere in delivery and nigh perfect in dominant force. Dual vocal hardcore with crust influence, bellowing for bombs to stop dropping, this band has everything a band needs: Clear, angry vocals, buzzsaw guitars, a punishing rhythm section, and it pushes the envelope of the system lyrically. Although the songs don’t perfectly encapsulate my description, they are about as close as one can get to fulfilling the Eightfold Path of Punk. I believe my point has been made.

Although both bands no longer function actively, Social Outcast may see a discography release in the future, and Feast or Famine took hardcore back from the bowl-haired emo fucks and the pathetic pansies of pop punk. This album did enough for me philosophically and musically, and both serve as a personal influence to my music and print writing; honorable and deserving of a listen, to say the least.

-Aunty Social

Friday, March 4, 2011

Interview with State

Interview with Art & Preston of State

1. What record got you into punk initially? Was there a record that inspired you to start your own band?

Art: Hmmm. Depends how you define punk. But probably when a friend played the Ramones’ "Commando" for me over the phone, and I couldn't hear any of the goofy words...just this great fresh SOUND.

I wasn't inspired to start a band by any one record, but I wanted to form an underground band, "like the Stooges". Little did I know!

Preston: Definitely the record that got me into punk was the Stooges’ first record, which came out, I believe in 1969, when I was about 14. I bought it the week it was released, and would listen to it over and over again during all my teenage years. Everything about that music was so enthralling. It sounded exotic, especially the dark, kind of modal guitar melodies, while at the same time it gave voice to the very streets of Ann Arbor that I wandered every day. Iggy’s accent and intonation, the attitude—it expressed teenage life in Ann Arbor so perfectly and beautifully. Especially teenage lust. “Can I come over tonight?” I was totally inspired, and still am, by all the Stooges’ music, which was so completely and unabashedly original, and truly ahead of its time—and of our own still. Like my other idols—the Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix—no-one has ever matched it, and it keeps propelling rock-n-roll forward toward the greater potential they embody.

As for being inspired to be in a band, it was the MC5’s performance in West Park in 1969, from which point on I was stage-struck. I had seen bands, including the Iguanas with Iggy on drums, when they played a party at the frat house I lived next-door to, as well as the Prime Movers, SRC, the UP, the Amboy Dukes… But the MC5 blew them all away. The “high-energy”, the righteous indignation and anger, the psychedelia, the volume—it all just put a stamp on my soul to follow the path of rock-n-roll in that particular spirit which is at the root especially of hardcore.

2. Where did the band initially meet before starting State?

Art: Just around the neighborhood, around town. Ann Arbor 's pretty intimate.

3. Where did State play some of their first gigs (city and venues)? How well were you received?

Art: The first gigs were in Ann Arbor , and outlying areas like Saline and Hamburg . We actually went over pretty well, not too much bottle throwing.

Preston: Notably, Bookies in Detroit , which people trace Detroit punk back to. That was before I myself had joined the band. They also played at the VFW Hall in downtown Ann Arbor with Gang War (Johnnie Thunders and Wayne Kramer) and Destroy All Monsters (Ron Asheton, Mike Davis, and Niagara ). I saw the State at the Half Way Inn on the University of Michigan campus, affectionately known as “the Half Ass”. And I saw them at the Statehouse, which was the underground club Art started. Our first show with me on vocals was at an obscure bar called Shirley’s in Detroit City . Nobody was there except the other band, the Fury—also of Ann Arbor —and our friend Jamie.

But soon we were playing other Detroit clubs, both commercial and underground, and got a good reception at the Michigan Union Ballroom, at CBGBs, and around the Midwest and the East Coast. Like any band, some shows were to an empty room, while others were wild. We did shows at the Statehouse on State Street in Ann Arbor , which by then was just what we called whatever house Art was inhabiting.

The pre-hardcore State got a mixed reception. Some people were unimpressed, even scornful, while others really liked what Art was doing—chaos and all—including Ron and Niagara . And, of course, me. I especially liked Art’s rendition of “Ramblin’ Rose”, the MC5’s rocked-up blues cover.

4. When did State release their first 7” record? What label released the record first? Why did Havoc Records repress it?

Art: First record, No Illusions, came out in spring of '83. It was on our own label, which we called "Statement". Havoc re-pressed it 'cause it had become sort of a mini-classic, but unfortunately they put out an earlier mixing session, it wasn't the original record, wasn't the one Ron Ashton helped with. They don't think little details like that matter. But the real record is much better. I wanna put the real one out online, for the picky people.

Preston: Eventually we may well re-release No Illusions in its original form, on Statement Records, on 7” vinyl, etc.

5. What caused some of the internal tension that made the band break up in the late 1980s? What brought the band back together and when?

Art: I realize now it was pure bullshit ego, essentially. But lots of things played into it, involving words like prison, drugs and death. A bad time for us. What brought us back together was I think the fact that we realized No Illusions had some legs, somebody besides us was interested, there were new punk fans who were liking that record.

Preston: As I am sure anybody in a band knows, it is harder to hold a band together even than a marriage. Tensions within any serious band are enormously powerful and destructive. The trick is to manage that stress for the sake of the outcome. And we continue to do this, and to get better at resolving conflict. It isn’t simply interpersonal tensions, but it comes down to difference in opinion like whether we should have two or three choruses in a given song, how long the lead break should be, whether we should repeat a hook, what drum beat is best, etc. etc. etc. We have gotten a lot better at keeping these issues in perspective by keeping in mind that we are all interested in the same thing, which is maximizing the power and impact of the song in question.

We reformed in 2003 when asked by State Control Records—an Ann Arbor record store—to do a reunion/benefit show at their store. Keir and I had been in the Bitter Pills for ten years, while Art and I were in a new band called the Blackletter Saints with Jeff Navarre on bass. Keir filled in one night at the Elbow Room in Ypsilanti when the Saints’ drummer (Shuoen Ballard of the Cult Heroes) was called away for a Heroes gig, and so three original State members were playing together again, including some State covers, so Josh Redd Sanchez of State Control thought we should reunite for real. Actually, Art used to cameo in the Bitter Pills occasionally. Anyway, after our packed and insane reunion show, being the State again seemed our best option.

6. How many albums/EPs did State release before breaking up the first time? How many have they released since reforming?

Art: The No Illusions EP, an LP called "False Power", and a track on an Ann Arbor compilation called "Cruisin' Ann Arbor", I think. Since reforming, jeez I really don't know. I'd have to tally 'em. There's been a lot.

Preston: Since reforming there are: Nixed Life (CD on Grand Theft Audio, 2006); All Wrong (LP/CD on Underestimated Records, 2006); and the following 7” EPs from 2007 through 2009: State/Fuck This split EP (Punksbeforeprofits), Sanctimony (Punksbeforeprofits), Verboten (Statement), Nihil ex nihilo (Punks beforeprofits), Wüste Deutschland/Dregs of Detroit (Gossenwelt), and Excommunicated (Statement). We have a couple new tunes which should be out sometime soon on Puke-n-Vomit Records with Grand Rapids ’ Attention Span. And we have records of new songs in the works with Arbco Records of Ann Arbor.

7. When did you form the Bitter Pills? What kind of music was that?

Preston: I think it was 1993, when Keir showed up—literally—on my doorstep asking if I wanted to form a band. He had been in a metal band called Anhedonia, and I had broken with a rock band called Destruction Ride a year or two earlier. Keir and I decided to play nothing but punk rock and to play with punk bands only, which at the time was a bit of a novel idea. Pretty much every song was fast thrash. The lyrics were about life on the streets, with titles like “Runaway”, “Streetwalker”, and “Troublemaker”.

8. What did the Bitter Pills release? Are any of those records still available?

Preston: The Bitter Pills recorded a studio album, which I don’t think we ever mixed. We had some pretty crappy CDs we used to give out. I plan to do some kind of Bitter Pills website eventually featuring some of our better stuff. Josh Redd Sanchez will be releasing some Bitter Pills songs on an upcoming retrospective of various artists’ different band incarnations, including myself and including Art.

9. What happened to the Bitter Pills? Did they break up or simply go on hiatus?

Preston: The latter. Jeff Navarre had joined the band and played some shows with us, and I think Jeff and Keir and I have plenty on our plate with The State alone.

10. What makes State able to crank out records on a frequent basis?

Art: We do them very cheaply and don't finish them. It's easy!

Preston: We have had interest from various labels, as the above thumbnail discography shows, which doesn’t include the various compilations. We work very hard at continuing to write new songs, and have put some of the records out ourselves, on our own dime. Most of us in the band are pretty happy with the production despite a limited budget. Rock City Studios has also been extremely flexible and generous. As for “cheaply”—well, not really. But the in-house, D.I.Y. approach has kept costs down.

11. How do you feel about the general vibe that State is “one of the best and most important hardcore bands you’ve never heard”?

Preston: We were never as good at publicity as some other Michigan HC bands. We did not have the support of a publicity machine like the Necros did. Truthfully, I think we did not want to be more famous than we were. And we don’t care to be known outside of the punk diaspora. As for myself, I am very content with meaning what we do to those who know and like us.

12. How do you balance family life, work life, and band life?

Art: No problem, the wives rule everything! Glad I don't got one.

Preston: Actually, I myself am very grateful to Keir’s wife Kathleen who has generously hosted our rehearsals in the basement of their house for 18 years now, being a perfectly gracious hostess the entire time without fail, first the Bitter Pills and now the State. My wife Aviva is a dyed-in-the-wool punk chick who supports the band and understands the music. When luck prevails, she goes to State shows with me and we have a blast. Keir has two young daughters and I have four young daughters plus a ten-year-old son. So balancing is exactly the right term for it. The State should be on a perpetual tour, but the regular jobs we all hold, plus the family thing, make that impossible, so we hold it to two or three shows a month, including one out-of-state show per month. And we rehearse once a week for exactly two hours!

13. What makes Ann Arbor a great community for people and for music?

Art: The oppression of complacent pseudo-hippie capitalists. It drives the ragged fringe of desperate survivors to extreme forms of creativity sometimes.

Preston: I like the diversity of Ann Arbor . It also draws punk youth from all over Michigan and the U.S. But a great music city like Austin it ain’t. We do sometimes play memorable shows here, like the Ron Asheton tribute show in February of 2009 and the outdoor Punk Week show in August of 2010. The State has always focused more on, and done much better in Detroit , which is much more a rock-n-roll city. The U of M makes Ann Arbor a better environment for more artistic, poppier music. Garage does well here, but we are so way not that cool.

14. What inspired, the dark, anti-authoritarian sound that was, at that time, brand new and untried?

Art: That was the part that was just naturally us. Do you really think it was new?

Preston: I am glad it strikes you that way. Darkness is our thing. I even hear people used to refer to me as “De-Preston”. And anarchism is in our bones. And there are real forces at work even in the U.S.A. conspiring to rob us of our freedom—which are greatly succeeding.

15. What’s your personal favorite song or album you’ve ever written? Why?

Art: I like No Illusions 'cause we took some care with it, within our humble budget, and it's a true record of the band. Preston was fabulous on it.

Preston: My current favorite is “Vixen”, because it is dark, and kind of wicked.

16. How do you maintain such a stage presence despite being more of a veteran in Michigan punk rock? You seem to have more energy than most of the younger groups do.

Art: Thanks! It really doesn't feel very different to me when we're actually playing than it did in the 80's, though I think we're a little sharper now. The music buzz, unlike other things, hasn't decayed.

Preston: I dunno. Check out the U.K. Subs sometime, or the Buzzcocks. Where does rock-n-roll energy come from, anyway? Solving that riddle is the key to any great rock band’s success. Watch Bones or Ron Asheton in concert sometime—they never move, never flex a single facial muscle. But they blow you away.

We came up in the era of “high-energy rock-n-roll”. You know, “E = MC5”. So maximum output is our singlemost objective. It is unachievable, however, without dynamics, without the motionlessness. It’s a fine art.

17. Why do you prefer to release you music on primarily vinyl?

Art: That seems to be what the people putting out our records do, though I think our 2nd LP, All Wrong ('06?) came out on CD as well as vinyl.

Preston: Vinyl sounds warmer, darker, hotter, better. It lasts. And it’s a physical object. It’s a better platform for artwork.

18. Anything else you’d like to include personally?

Art: Thank you for your interest, and for getting up and doing something. It can be a lot of work, but it's a lot of fun too. Right?

Preston: Just our gratitude to you and your readers.

Show review, Jamestowne Hall, February 12th

Show review, February 12th, 2011 at Olde Jamestowne Hall extravaganza

As I drunkenly walked out of CCS with the help of two individuals whose names I could not possibly recall, local friends Dave, Kyle and Amanda rode in a car with me, driving my Bacardi-influenced ass back home, since I was suffering from a set of Leftover Crack-esque conundrums (you can’t go home and you can’t stay here, and rock the 40 oz.). Nevertheless, I was dropped off at home, half-drunk and carless. Just sober enough to be aware of this conundrum, I stumbled/ walked to downtown Ferndale from my home, eventually taking a brief residence in the local Dunkin Donuts to wait for the bus (it doesn’t run 24/7), as I had no swift way to retrieve my car. Luckily, a nice fellow who also took up residence let me know when the bus was set to run again, although I somehow woke at just the right time. I took the bus straight down, got my vehicle back, and rode the freeway out to Chesterfield, where I had to be later that day to take a band on a three-day tour. I arrived an hour later, parking in an eastern Macomb county suburban subdivision and sleeping in my car for a couple of hours before waking for the rest of the day to take local punk band the Plastic Boyz on two out-of-state tour dates and one local date. What a way to start an event like that.

I really hope you find the previous story interesting, because it trumps the show I went to at Olde Jamestowne Hall on February 12th. Usually, Ripped Heart is pretty good about throwing cool shows, but sometimes (at least this time), it was a botched effort. The show ran fine but the bands…I was, for the first time in my life, hoping to run into that little banjo-playing fucker; at least he was captivating and had a story to tell. These bands… aside from the two Detroit regulars and one Grand Rapids group, couldn’t compound a worthy message with Steven Spielberg, Geddy Lee, and J.D. Salinger at their disposal. Once in a while, music is not even a case of personal taste; I don’t really like the 13th Floor Elevators, the Beatles, or polka music, but I understand that these all are a personal preference. Some music is just without any instrumentation or underlying message worthy of a listener’s ear. It seems that they all seemed to just jump on the same show.

The Loving Dead and Lobster Ect were missed by me because Saginaw is 90 miles from Detroit, and I see no reason to skip a whole class for the bands I’ve heard nothing of (I took a half a class to myself, and I drove 90 miles to make a show that started at 4 pm).

Next, as I was walked in, Desiring Dead Flesh started their set. I like their style, but for some reason, the music comes off as grindcore/ powerviolence rather than hardcore punk. That might have to do with the eight-year old drummer and the limited drumming dynamics inherent in his age and corresponding size. In essence, a Mid-Michigan xBRANIAx that doesn’t quite equal their fastcore competitors in-state.

Funneling in and out, the next band the Yuck Yucks from Owosso started up. I anticipated a second-rate crack rock steady band: some relatively generic upstroke chords, 6:4 timing drums, and maybe some song lyrics about drinking, drugs, hating redneck neighborhoods, hating the government, being poor, etc. That’s what I got, but without any of the general interest or quality. Maybe that has to do with the fact that they (admittedly) had not played in two years, but I suspect it’s a mixture of no recent experience and second-rate songwriting. If you can’t be unique, at least be enjoyable. Not idolizing Stza and Ezra may be a start too.

The Explicit Bombers were up next. It’s never a good sign when my brain sinks into a mood ripe for lyrical and literary inspiration. I’m not a very positive person, and my situations receptive to inspiration are the extreme of my negativity (much like most other artists, who take their inspiration from emotions, mine just happen to be negative). In other words, I listened to this band, trying to figure out what I could take away from this band, and I saw…little. I guess it’s good to see younger kids getting involved in punk, but there’s a philosophical simplicity the band and its members had that I have no way to look past. The music is some blatant blueprint Fat Wreck punk with whiny pop overtones; if this band has any hope, they need to drop any and all Fat Wreck influence, to just do the Johnny Ramone thing and stop listening to music when writing their own. NOFX is painful enough to listen to with angst-saturated vocals, left-wing propaganda (both left-wing and right-wing annoy me in their respective ways, left-wing just incorporates music and right-wing usually doesn’t), bad pop punk songs long ago perfected by 60s garage bands and the Ramones, and a sarcasm that is somehow held in reverence. A NOFX cover band is just a bar band without the bar; this band needs to expand their philosophical and musical horizons, because what they’re doing right now is less tolerable than radio rap music worthwhile for only pissing off suburbanites and smoking the wacky tobacco to.

Next was another new band Skitch. I feel it’s far too soon to render any real judgment, but as an introduction to the band, the show for them was okay at best, mediocre at worst. Sort of poppy, but more Queers-poppy than third wave poppy. This is why demos are so vitally important: They can turn my (and others’) perception of a band 180 degrees around and I hope that’s what the case is here.

Next in line was CbJ, who never let me down. This case was no exception; the band did very well for what I did see. They seem to have a fourth wave prototype built, incorporating a numerous amount of different influences into their sound with a solid foundation of edgy third wave ska (I can’t call it skacore, but the punk influences are undoubtedly present). They also cover some nontraditional songs and just seem to have something that binds them; it’s something that keeps them going, even when their colleagues dissipate and fall apart. This is Detroit’s new Telegraph; hopefully they don’t shit out a record like Switched On.

Towards the end of CbJ’s set, I departed, disgusted with the majority of the bands in correlation to my drive (90 fucking miles for this shit!?) and decided my time would be better spent urinating on car door handles. Turns out I was right. I’m sure Taozins and 40 Oz. of Spite did reasonably well, but they were a piece of bronze amongst a swamp of shit; I suspect they will survive without my misanthropy-induced thousand yard homicidal stares.

-Aunty Social

Seven Inches of Black Plastic

Seven Inches of Black Plastic

These are two unrelated, yet equally relevant issues regarding punk rock and individuality in general: The 7” vinyl record, and dildos, or in less mystifying words, self-sexuality. Both are vital to the continued existence of a strong, pro-active music scene for punks everywhere.

The 7” vinyl record is the treasure trove of punk. For a band, they have to choose their best songs, shorten their descriptive information, and lower the price from a 12”. High quality, low information intake, and low cost. What more can you ask for? Just a few 7” records that really deliver on this are: Civil Disobedience- In a Few Hours of Madness, Detroit Birds- Endangered Species, Minor Threat- Minor Threat, Negative Approach- Negative Approach, Poison Idea- Pick Your King, State- No Illusions, and more, certainly. In all of these, the bands picked their best tracks, put them together and released them to the world. Being that CDs cost the same to press regardless of how much content there is, a 7” record is still more viable than a CD for an upstart punk band, at least in regard to official releases (a burned CD-R handed out for free is better for an unofficial release). I’ve began to make it a point to dig through the 7” bin of any record store I go to before I ever even touch the CDs or LPs. The 7” is the punk rocker’s album, and it has considerable value over a theoretical LP of the same songs with a B-side of shit songs to compliment them. Check your local 7” record bin at the record store before you consider even browsing the CDs; chances are, you’ll find something ten times better and half the cost.

The B-side of this column relates to self-sexuality. Even in the dawn (or afternoon, metaphorically speaking) of this era of women’s liberation from stereotypes of submissive housewife, some women still have not crossed the bridge from uniquely submissive sexual satisfaction to inclusive and different types of sexuality, including bisexuality, bigamy, BDSM, and namely, for all intents and purposes of this article, self-sexuality. Some still feel the guilt the politically conservative Christian institutions have tried to indoctrinate into humanity, and this is not right. Males DO NOT have a monopoly on the control of sexual satisfaction; some could be said to not possess it at all. This perceived monopoly is a gap preventing mankind from achieving individuality; one of the most important aspects of individuality is to not NEED the company of another for survival. Man has survived and evolved long and far enough to be content fulfilling the daily sexual drive alone. Men have already found this, no doubt.

Despite studying possibilities of cures or treatments for HIV, breast cancer (can we please get rid of that fucking month already!?), developmental disorders or other deficiencies of man, instead gave way to find better way to get it up and keep it up. Man has found his self-sexuality; woman has found a degree of hers, but some remain guilted or ignorant to the self-sexual satisfaction possibilities before them. The only way to get on this problem, is to get off. Just, get off! Nike would do wise to copyright that statement and invest in women’s sexuality. In other words, the blockade of women’s individual sexuality is social and external, therefore not at all rationally extricated and hereby irrelevant. Argument is not needed; just get off, and no one will make you if you try and it doesn’t work. It is apparent, however, that it is not a lack of a possibility, it is a lack in the consideration of the possibility. So, I personally urge any and all women, old, young, lesbian, bisexual, straight, black, white, whatever you may be, to buy seven inches of black plastic, and fuck yourselves today!

-Aunty Social

Dire Wolf Final Show review at the Metal Frat

Dire Wolf’s final show at the Metal Frat, show review, January 29, 2011

When the Meat Mansion’s residents were booted, a DIY venue died in Ann Arbor. Having been the home of multiple awesome punk parties, I wondered where else would a killer punk party be held. DIY venues are a handful in number in Michigan, let alone metro Detroit. Where was I to go? Luckily, a fraternity house has residents who are open to booking punk shows just down the road from the former Meat Mansion, the Metal Frat. The place has been booking shows on and off for approximately three years, and a few notable acts have been through there. I had been to one show in the past, failing to take any notice of any decent acts at that show. However, I saw a very dynamic bill of bands on a bill for this Metal Frat show. Maybe the place wasn’t all bad. I ventured off to the Metal Frat to see if this was indeed the case…

The debut band The Great Reversals set up and started their set. They play a style of strange hardcore I’m unfamiliar with, a sort of distorted-sounding heavy hardcore with intelligent, free-from lyrics and a general lack of rhythm. The sound still captivated my interest, just not in the grab-you-by-the-balls way some bands do. Think Jawbreaker meets Frank White meets a linguistics professor with an associate’s in English composition; the singer is very emotional, very serious in his tone, and in between songs, he talked about some of the things that meant something to him, a heartfelt socio-cultural speech of sorts. The sound was very tight, but I think I’d more enjoy the company of this band talking about socio-political-cultural over coffee and incense (I doubt the band smokes anything at all) rather than in a frat house basement. To me, emotionality is more purposeful in literature than in punk music, seeing as how punk is moreso an expression about/ of anger than it is linguistics or philosophy; still, I can’t count out proactivity and a packed-out basement of fans. 90s and emotional hardcore didn’t interest me when I first heard it and it still doesn’t interest me now; oh well, they have their fans, and I’m just not one of them.

After the Great Reversals finished what seemed like five songs, Muskegon home boys Retribution set up and slammed out some songs. Straight-edge with non-serrated (non-judgmental) teeth, but still cutting edge instead of breaking it, Retribution particularly impressed me for a new band; energy just fucking radiated from this west coast crew. I really felt the anger seeping through this singer’s skull, spewing from his mouth. Such great potential lies ahead for this group if they keep on the path they’re on. I know this anti-straight-edge asshole (myself) will be blasting this band’s future demo while cruising Mound or I-75.

Fresh from a signing to stalwart record label Youngblood Records, Face Reality was locked, cocked and ready to rock the block. Even though straight-edge bands really seem to have a giant hard-on for slowed-down 90s hardcore with what seems like a montage of perpetual/ never-ending breakdowns, Face Reality is a face-melting furious fighting force that I cannot get enough of. I’m more pissed off listening to Face Reality than I am SSD or Cold as Life. This band is the band to play a show with right now, without a doubt. I don’t go off for a lot of bands because I’m usually pissed off anyway, but this band just makes me go apeshit. Although no one else did, I tried to just go off and mosh the shit out of the place. Sadly, breakdowns were the population’s pastime. I still fucking love this band regardless of what anyone’s mosh pit desires are. It doesn’t make any difference what kind of punk you like, listen to this fucking band and you will never be the same again, and it’s for the better.

Next was Grand Rapids hardcore one-tour vets Damages. Although notable in their hometown, the previously mentioned, often unacknowledged wall of division between Grand Rapids and Detroit is still very high; I haven’t seen too much local recognition for this band (local being local to me, metro Detroit) and they do deserve some; even though they play 90s-ish hardcore and I’m not particularly partial to their lyrics, they still seemed to be doing something right. I had no feelings, really, about the set; intense 90s hardcore with lyrics and context not necessarily appealing or repellant to me. One thing I can say, though, is that they’re proactive and seem to be interested in doing something, which I’m always down with; we’ll see what I (or others, you lazy non-reviewer fucks) think of the 7” when I get to it.

Closing the show with their last-ever set was Dire Wolf. I don’t have any idea what they were like previous to their break-up plans, but what I saw was intense dedication (Hellmouth-like levels here, people) and the most fucked mosh pit since Leftover Crack and Negative Approach (July 1st, 2009 and July 31st, 2010, respectively). Some guy had a t-shirt burkha and was mount-moshing, someone had their nose broken (I have a couple pictures of this), and at the end of their mixed 80s-90s hardcore set, their dedicated fanbase yelled out the lyrics of their last two songs, ironically enough the first two ever written by the band. Damn near half the room just erupted in unifying chants, all together, at the same time, screaming the same song that wasn’t “Thriller”, “Filler”, or “Rise Above”. Real music dedication, real fan bases who genuinely support local bands actually do exist; I have some restored hope for humanity. Perhaps I should be worried that optimism has begun to infect me.

All in all, this show wasn’t just another shit in the stall. Out of five bands, I really got down with three, and the other two were still good, just not for my personal tastes; for a local-only show, 60% great bands is an unusually strong ratio, and I’m glad I ventured out. Although I will still draw circles on my hands to show my non straight-edge values, I think that scene, and the others who surround it, just may have something well worth mine and others’ attention.

-Aunty Social

In Defence- Don't Know How to Breakdance LP review

In Defence ‘Don’t Know How to Breakdance’ LP review

Steve Ignorant declared punk ‘dead’ in 1977, and hardcore unofficially died in 1986. I don’t know if anyone ever declared hip-hop dead, but if no one said it, it died roughly around 1994, amidst an East coast-West coast rivalry of sorts between rappers and the decay of stalwarts NWA, Public Enemy, and Ice-T’s genre and career change. The old breakdancing, Run-DMC rhythmic hip-hop with meaning had died and was replaced by terrible party rap fused with techno and exaggeratedly optimistic and grandiose gangster rap. However, it still lives as a bacterial parasite (not a bad or unhealthy one) in hardcore punk vets from the Twin Cities, In Defence.

The band has a sound mixing pummeling 80s skater hardcore, newer breakdown hardcore, and hip-hop, the latter taking root primarily in the vocals. The album is absolutely a cocaine addict’s friend and a pot toker’s buddy, simultaneously; the sound is tried and true, but not a generic derivative or rehashed vomit of old styles of music. It is moreso an homage-paying sound managing to be fresh yet familiar. The vocals are hip-hop influenced tough-guy hardcore rapid-fire greatness, the guitars are regular power chord prestige, and the rhythm section stops on a dime, backs up, picks it up, and goes again. I’m amazed that the band has kept such a strong, steady vibe through two LPs and multiple 7” EPs; they are amidst recording a 3rd LP that I believe will be just as good as this one was. The only complaint I could file is that the sound wears on me after a while, after a few listens. This didn’t really damper the record for me, though, it just has lower replay ability.

Minneapolis used to be a haven for phenomenal punk: Havoc and Profane Existence put that into place, and In Defence has continued to fly the banner that they sported for so long (and still do). Since Brett Favre didn’t work out, In Defence will be a more than suitable replacement.

-Aunty Social

Luvdump- Information is Power EP review

Luvdump- Information is Power EP review

It’s very rare to see the creator of a music genre topped by those whom were inspired by them. Who can top The Specials for 2-Tone ska? Youth of Today for youth crew? Discharge for D-beat? The Stooges for proto punk? G.G. Allin for scum punk? It’s hard to make a case for anyone topping these artists at their own genre. One such inventor of the genre, Choking Victim, was on the top of their genre for a long time. Crack rock steady was concocted by them in the early 1990s and perfected with their full-length ‘No Gods No Mangers’ in 1999. Until recently, they stayed on top of their genre. Unfortunately for Stza and crew, they have now been ousted. Luvdump, from Bury St. Edmunds in England, have released a set of music better than Choking Victim at its own genre. The ‘Information Is Power’ EP is a new high-point for crack rock steady.

The opener and title track of the EP, Information is Power, is a non-upbeat song, or rather, does not use any upstrokes or ska riffs; it actually rings of a very clean Aus Rotten. Dual vocals, sometimes guttural choruses and gritty, yet clean guitars and rhythm section set this song apart musically from the rest of the EP. Still, the song fits perfectly philosophy-wise and would be unfitting anywhere else. Gaza (Stop the War) shows the real teeth of the EP, showing the real crack rock steady beat with the punky upstrokes and steady rhythm section over the alternating dual vocals, using both the screechy and Oi!-like punk vocals, which is where Luvdump really triumphs over the rest of the crack rock steady bands. Next is the interlude, ‘Live for Today’, which just serves as a bridge; I might have preferred something a little more complex or a new song entirely, just combining the song to the next track, Burn the Bank$, as an intro. It still serves a legitimate purpose nonetheless. Burn the Bank$ is an anti-capitalist C.R.S. jam; it’s Luvdump’s answer to ‘Money’, and it plays and sounds much better; more danceable, more quotable, just more able altogether. The final track of the EP ‘This is England’ is a re-write of an old song the band did on a previous demo, and it sounds much more refined. However, after the song, the band pauses while the song continues, and six or seven minutes later, the band kicks into another song that rips, although that name isn’t listed. I do somewhat prefer the older version to the twelve and a half minute version, but the world never works out the way it should. The band would do wise to split the tracks into two individual ones instead of one long one with a six-minute interlude.

Despite the couple of shortcoming of the EP, Choking Victim simply cannot hold a candle to this release or this band’s potential. Luvdump is one of the best new bands to check out, play with, or just watch. Hopefully they will pass through Michigan for at least a day-long tour; I imagine the band is insane live if their material here is anything like what it is live.

-Aunty Social

The Restarts- Outsider LP review

The Restarts- Outsider LP review

The London punk trio The Restarts can’t really be labeled beyond punk rock; they play just about every sub-genre within it: Ska punk, street punk, anarcho punk, UK 82, new(er) hardcore, ’77 punk, and so on. ‘Outsider’ is another release by the British punk trio, pounding out eleven songs in thirty-two minutes. Did the band expand enough to cover some new ground and make some new fans, or at least enough to cover some old ground and keep all of their current fans interested? Absofuckinglutely. The pro-individual, anti-authoritarian message is proudly communicated through a well-written and instrumentally proficient effort by these British punk vets.

Although bassist Kieran takes on the majority of the singing, there are plenty of contributions from the guitarist Robin and the drummer, whose name escapes me. There are crust-influenced alternating vocals, street punk-influenced gang vocals, on top of the regular singing, which is the most unquestionably livid, pissed-off, jagged-toothed vocalizations I’ve heard from a band in the last decade (meaning, a band’s recorded output from 2001 to 2011, not my personal punk experiences from 2001 to 2011). With the catchy hooks in the title track ‘Outsider’ and ‘Intelligent Design’, it’s a wonder these songs don’t get on the American or British commercial radio. But music encouraging activity, anything deviating from keeping listeners fat, happy and stupid is likely filtered and booted from Clear Channel’s playlist, with a few subsidies floated the way of the censoring radio stations. No no, there’s nothing wrong with capitalism at all, just move along, buy your useless shit, recite the pledge of allegiance, and don’t stop to think twice, it’s alright; you wouldn’t want people to think you were a seditious Pinko traitor, would you?

My conspiracy theories aside, this is a great album, from its message to its instrumentation to the vocals to the sheer enjoyability of the songs. We’ve got to step it up on our side of the pond, friends and like-minded colleagues.

-Aunty Social