In light of Maximum Rocknroll asking me to put together a Greek punk special for the radio, I put together a mixtape with some Greek punk from 1983 to 2016.
To start, this tape should by no means be considered an exhaustive list of Greek punk. For that you can visit anexartisi.gr and click on Bands (ΣΥΓΚΡΟΤΗΜΑΤΑ) and there you’ll find an alphabetical list of every Greek band considered ‘punk’ (ergo DIY and political) from the scene’s early stages right up until the present day. It’s an excellent resource and one day I’ll go about translating the whole thing so it’s more accessible to the non-malakas.
It would be impossible to make a tape with Greek punk and have nothing to say about the lyrics. I always thought non-Greek speakers were missing out on the tragic ironies, bitter loses and gutted realities spoken about in Greek punk music; the stories they tell, the buttons and boundaries they push. From ANTI…’s ‘human vegetables, without morals’ (the cops) to NAYTIA’s ‘Golden Youth’ created in God’s image and guided by convention, and from ORA MIDEN’s call for the death of all poets because they turn shit into sun and sea, to PANX ROMANA’s anthem ‘Alarm’ (‘I bring fear to your inertia’) or PISSA KAI POUPOULA’s cry for help on ‘Wake Up, I’m Dying!’ 1980s Greek punk was firmly rooted in the discontent with and the critique of the establishment. Sure there were songs that diverted from the political, but only marginally. Punk in Greece was definitely protest music, a political stance that went beyond just words and lyrics, but which for many became a way of thinking that went on to deeply influence the unfolding youth cultures of the time. (More on these underground youth cultures of the Greek 1980s and how they brought about a wave of gritty teensploitation movies – whether punk or punk-adjacent – at another time.)
Institutions such as the state, the military, the church and the EU (which Greece had just entered in 1981) all came under scrutiny and judgment by punks, who I like to think more often than not stood (loosely) organized against them, and mocked concepts such as ‘democracy,’ the corrupt justice and education systems, the state snitches (teachers, journalists), the suffocating conservatism of Greek Orthodox society and its insidious enabler, the nuclear family. To quote CHAOTIC END, ‘we live in darkness waiting for death.’ To the youth, all of these concepts were remnants of a past they not only felt disconnected from, they felt this past like tangled, gripping roots they couldn’t get away from. As CHAOS GENERATION sang in another song: “Chaos! No hope!” accompanied by some of the best guitars and drums in the game – their whole first self-titled record is a bleak masterpiece that brilliantly sums up the sense of isolation, claustrophobia and frustration prevalent at the time.
They felt cheated and abandoned, and, if Greek punk lyrics are any kind of public record to go by, then indeed the 1980s were a rough time: young people dying from heroine overdoses, committing suicide in army bases, and getting locked up in mental institutions thanks to medical and societal ignorance. Not to mention the regular day-to-day struggle of being poor, a minority, queer, or just different in some way. The bleak themes run throughout: ‘Trekse’ talks about running as far from this place as you can (20 years later that song’s theme still rings true for many) and ‘Kommatika Eksartimeni,’ which translates to ‘Political-Party Dependent’ which, besides having an absolutely killer riff, warns that ‘your vote is your death, your vote is your punishment,’ while on ‘To Megalo Spiti,’ (‘The Big House’) ode to the historic, now-evicted Villa Amalias squat in Athens, FORGOTTEN PROPHESY gave Greek punks the same kind of mantra CRASS were delivering overseas: Η μόνη εξουσία είναι ο εαυτός σου; there is no authority but yourself.
You will notice a lack of women on this tape, and that’s because there really were very few of them in the Greek punk scene. On this tape we can count Sonia, drummer and vocalist for NAYTIA, Yianna, drummer and vocalist for HIBERNATION (and NUCLEAR WINTER before that) and Eleftheria, bassist and occasional vocalist for OREXI GIA TIPOTA (MOOD FOR NOTHING), but that is not an all-inclusive list either. (On that note: I’m on a quest to compile an archive of female and non-male Greek punk scene participants, so more on that at a later date. Feel free to get in touch if you have info you’d like to input.) On the OREXI GIA TIPOTA track ‘Koritsi Viazi Agori’ (which translates to ‘Girl Rapes Boy,’ the only track where Elftheria sings alone) she says: ‘you think that because you are the boy, you can say that I deserve what happened to me, but now the roles have been reversed, and I’ll teach you about the pain that you ignore.’ An extremely potent narrative, and even more significant because it is a woman (and not a man) discussing this matter in a highly straightforward manner.
OREXI GIA TIPOTA
Given how (basically) homogeneous Greek society was and still is, it was refreshing to hear of FREE YOURSELF, a Düsseldorf-based band made of second generation Greeks. Their cover of GULAG’s classic track ‘Ethismos’ was, in my humble opinion, not only a hair-raising rendition of the original, it was also a turning point in Greek punk history abroad. ‘Time is a punisher, time is an addiction.’
Greek punk today may still lack a certain level of diversity, but the music undoubtedly evolved, even if rather slowly: we had thrasher skate punk, we had grungier rock, lots and lots and lots of crust and metal-influenced hardcore throughout the 1990s, and, annoyingly, too much metalcore – this explains the chronological leap from 2001 to 2010 on the tape, during which time there were many beyond-mediocre metalcore / mathcore / beatdown hardcore / “extreme metal” bands. They didn’t cross over with the DIY / political punk scene that much thankfully, which in the early 2000s was still happily riding the crust wave like it was 1996 — oh wait, that still happens!
We also have the obligatory DIS-band (noise-not-music fans should seek out GO FILTH GO’s split with BESTÖVEN), Burning Spirits-influenced hardcore like ANTIMOB and DIRTY WOMBS, and, in recent years, a return to Greece’s rich synth-punk and new wave/goth history, with bands like ODOS 55 and ERA OF FEAR (‘darkíles’ as we call them back home). We also had PANDIMIA, the most revelatory of bands for me in the late 2000s after ANTIMOB. Their track ‘Kingdom of Decline’ has lyrics which sum up the modern situation quite aptly: ‘People show you that they are happy, they’re crying on the inside, but on the outside they smile.’ Despite some drawbacks and tendencies that seem hard to break, punk in Greece remains no less political and DIY today than it was in the ’80s, with hopefully more diversity and inclusivity on the horizon. There’s no more exciting time than the present and, if the past is anything to go by, the next few years should see a boom in bands, styles and participants. I’m glad I’m back in Athens to be a part of it.
Until next time, stay posi, stay strong! Thanks for supporting Greek punk! For updates, go HERE.