Storm Stereo #8 on Berlin Community Radio

lydsHallo meine Lieblings!

Today was a special day, as Storm Stereo was broadcasting live from the studio at Berlin Community Radio! Dead chuffed that the lovely people at BCR invited me to host a show, and even though I was so incredibly high on coffee and crunched for time coz of my nervous banter, it was a mighty fun show. Sadly there was a glitch I only just became aware of, and ANALOG BLOC was not played (but instead it was MISS KITTIN twice! Ooops, sorry!) But you should check it out below!

Of course, time flies when you’re having fun, and I realized I had to cut my sets shorts, so no KAOS, ANTI… or EFIALTIS, but I managed to squeeze in some Greek synth personal anthems, some Yugo and Polish punk, some electro beats, and more! Always too many lovely people to mention, so just know you are all in my thoughts no matter where you are on the planet: from Barcelona and the UK to Japan and Canada, and from Athens and Australia to Lyon and the far, far West!

Until next time, stay posi, stay strong! With love from outer space

—Obsessionist

JOSE LARRALDE – Quimey Neuquen (como una daga en mi corazón)

LOWER – But There Has To Be More (seasonal existentialism)

FELIX DA HOUSECAT ft. MISS KITTIN – Silver Screen Shower Scene

COSMETICS – Black Leather Gloves

LED ES EST – Scissors

LUST FOR YOUTH – Barcelona (como una daga en mi corazón)

TUXEDOMOON – No Tears (ADULT Remix)

SECTA – Oposición (ugh, that riff gives me goosebumps every time!)

DEAD HERO – Oi!

BARCELONA – Caudillo / Infierno de Cobardes (I •love• those vocals!)

ODOS 55 – Attiki Victoria

ERA OF FEAR – Mizeria

PARAF – Fini Dečko

MOSKWA – Ja Wiew, Ty Wiesz

Advertisements

MRR #398

mrr_398_cvr1“I’D SELL MY SOUL BUT NO ONE’S BUYING”

The Diät tour had ended, and we had made it safely back to Berlin.

Berlin: a place where addictions come to reinvent themselves. Where drinking beers on trains is no biggie, the party starts after 4am, and rolling a big fat jozza by the canal is common practice for locals and tourists alike, who both flock here from all corners of the earth. It’s a chunky city, with wide streets and pavements, clusters of massive, modernist buildings, colourful murals on post-war project housing, green parks and grey skies, and a canal winding through the centre, lined by leafy banks and cobbled walkways. It was the beginning of spring and the budding branches seemed to extend skyward, as if stretching away the stiff winter and welcoming warmer days with open arms.

Every morning for a week, my kind host Iffi and I would wake up, jam our new radio pop song obsessions while eating porridge with ginger and almonds, then head to Static Shock Musik, where we’d jam the Chain of Flowers record hella loud while opening up shop. At least Iffi was jogging every morning to detox from tour—I was waking and baking at the house and day-drinking on the bench outside the store. I was on a hedonist’s quest, sans most of the resulting pleasure. I helped out with some odd jobs at the store (once a shitworker always a shitworker), walked around the Russian Memorial park twice and yet still failed to actually find the massive statue (what a loser), smoked a joint by the Brandenburg Gate and contemplated the evolution of identity in the age of the selfie stick, and lay under the sun in the park staring at the clouds that looked like dicks with wings, listening to Lust for Youth (so unpunk) and thinking about Blake, the demonization of the body and the absurd things we sometimes do to dismantle the illusions in our head. I went to Bis Aufs Messer Records (they also sell their own yummy coffee!) and with beers by the canal, reunited with the lovely Beeney, who was a MRR shitworker my first summer in SF! I saw a packed Diät gig at Tommyhaus, and danced to punk 45s and tunes by London’s Scraps at the Acid Baby Jesus show at Urban Spree, and drank divine Moscow Mules lined with dingos on the balcony at Kastanienkeller where Warsong from Zaragoza joined locals Sunbather in a packed and fun show. By far the most exciting band (and tightest drummer) I was introduced to this time around was Sick Horse, who play a mix of sinister psych garage and tense, snarky punk.       On what I thought was my last day—because I don’t know how to read a bloody calendar—I woke up to barking dogs and smeared make-up. I stumbled out the house and through Alexanderplatz (the smell of sausage practically nauseating), walked through Museumsinseln but didn’t actually go inside any of the museums and almost fainted with dehydration by the canal with no corner store or café in sight for blocks or bridges. Poisoned by nicotine and negativity. With an extra day in town I felt suspended in my own mind so I decided to avoid humans and sat on a bench by the river in the sun with Low on repeat for three hours. Then I drank my way to an early night at the store. An earth angel came my way—in that way they do out of nowhere—and, after chatting for a while, about my meanderings, my life in the US, she realized I was the writer of what has comically devolved into MRR’s emo column, sans any of the music. “Yeah, you’re more confused in person than you come across on paper.” Ha, I liked her immediately! After Static Shock closed we went round the corner to hers, where she cooked me up a mini feast and gave me beer and the most delicious home made vodka-lemon drink that her dad makes back in Poland—it was like heaven in a shot glass. We talked and smoked and jammed Total Control and made each other lists of bands to check out, and her hospitality and open-heartedness humbled me. The next day it was “goodbye Berliners,” and a done deal to return for the festival two weeks later.

Continue reading MRR #398

Infatigables

rixe

Hello my loves!

Cor blimey what a fantastic time I had in the UK! I went to Bristol, Brighton, Weston, Clevedon… Got high in cemeteries and drunk on champagne beer, bought a bunch of sick records, some of which I’ll jam on the next radio show… Which has now been renamed to Storm Stereo… (Yeh, I just changed it… ’cause I can!) Now I am back in Athens for a couple of weeks, taking care of some business while also trying to take it easy, finalizing some projects, turning 30 (!) with my twin sister, seeing the new French Oi! sensation RIXE at our new and improved tropical basement… The new RIXE track is banging by the way, check it out!

MRR Year End Top Tens 2015
Eagerly awaiting my copy of the MRR Year End Top Tens issue. Til then, I snapped a pic of a copy I found in the UK!

I’m also working on the second part of the Ex-Yu Special for MRR, alongside Habi from NE! Records, coming mid Spring 2016. After our Ex-Yugoslavia Special Part 1, with bands from Slovenia, we are moving on to Part 2, this time covering bands from Croatia, such as the beloved PARAF and KAOS form Rijeka! (One of the many cities on my “Punk Cities to Visit” bucket list)

When it comes to my obsession with Yugoslavian punk, PARAF was the band that started it all for me. It was the mid 2000s and a friend was getting rid of a bunch of his zines. One of them, called I believe Where The Wild Things Are, came with a CD-R comp, with something like 32 bands on it from all around the world. One of those songs was PARAF’s hella catchy “Fini Dečko” (Fine Boy). From the first strums of the guitar and the creeping keyboards I was intrigued. By the time the impressive vocalist had finished the first verse, I was in shivers!

Who was this fascinating band? Where did they come from? Where can I find more of this? (This was pre widespread internet access mind you.) I had already been on a frenzied search of all things punk, new and old, the weirder and more remotely-located the better. A decade almost went by, and by cosmic coincidence I ended up in San Francisco in 2012. While there, I got to know Habi from NE! Records, who specializes in Ex-Yu punk. Six years after that, I have just finished editing interviews with both PARAF and KAOS. And the rest, as they say, is history…

I have also just finished up an interview with Charles from Le Turc Mecanique Records, based in Paris. I’m very excited about his label and outlook, and that should be on the internets at some point soon. I’ll keep you posted. I have also been asked to guest review something by the nice people are Delayed Gratification, but I won’t give it all away too soon… 🙂

Diat Tour
Click pic for more info!

I’m hitting the road again on March 21st, as I shall be performing roadie duties for one of my fave current bands right now, DIÄT from Berlin. They’re going on a mini tour around the EU and UK, and I’ll be heading back to Berlin with them for a few days afterwards. Berlin punks, hit me up! Oh, I’ll also be DJ-ing the Glasgow show! If you see me, come say hello and tell me all about your local scene and why it rules!

To close off, I’ll share something I was reminded of while jamming NTS radio recently. Absolutely killer one-man project from France, which I first learned about while going through the MRR record vault a few years ago—fantastic stuff. If you liked QLOAQA LETAL that Metadona Records recently reissued, then check this out!

Until next time, stay posi, stay punk. The world is ours to reclaim.

 

With love from outer space

—Obsessionist

Record of the Week on MRR: 92 – Cenzura/Cukrarnar LP

r-7090463-1433501179-1515-jpeg92 – “Cenzura/Cukrarnar”
The travel back in time continues! Next stop: Ljubljana, Slovenia circa 1978. Like many bands from former Yugoslavia, 92—who get their name from the police’s phone number, the equivalent to 911 in the US—fuse new wave sounds with reconstructed regional and traditional musical elements, all filtered through punk with a keyboard twist. 92 were informed by, but not dependent on or limited to, bands such as the CLASH, SEX PISTOLS and STONES, and concepts such as nihilism, Dadaism and social critique. Their logo of the number 92 inside a triangle charms and perplexes me despite its simplicity. This results in upbeat tracks with layers of choppy and grazing guitars, dancey drums alongside swelling bass, and soulful, raw organ riffs haunting the whole thing. The lyrics are critical and sharp. “Cukrarnar” (“Sugar Works Man”) tells the story of a “raged vagrant on the street […], he’s dirty and full of trash, in sugar works every night he spends, but then he wakes up on the bench.” “Cenzura,” which discusses the issue of state censorship, is slightly darker, with its dense opening riff and staccato keyboards. “Basically you corrected everything on your own.” The keys are wonderfully expressive, tying this whole concept together in a unique manner; at times sounding almost like a child’s melodica, at others more like a breezy church organ, or carrying the frenetic beat in an almost accordion-at-the-fair fashion. Their collected works LP, which was released in 2013 also by NE! Records and reviewed in these pages, is definitely worth checking out if you have an interest in early European punk, but this 45 works as an excellent introduction to this extraordinary band. Two tracks that are equal parts vibrant demonstration as they are creative exuberance. As always, comes in a beautiful packaging, with lots of pictures and translated lyrics. Check out their interview in MRR #378 and hvala NE! Records for doing such a great job!
(NE!)

Reissue of the Week on MRR: Blitzkrieg

1-blitzkrieg-naslov-1BLITZKRIEG – “Apel” EP
Croatia, our distant love affair continues! Underrated, shambolic protest punk from Zagreb. BLITZKRIEG formed in 1984, then a year later recorded their four-track demo in two days. All four are on this nice slab of wax, and fuck if they aren’t all really good. The recital intro to “Apel” (“Appeal”) from the bleach-blonde, leather-clad singer is giving me chills—it’s annoyed and determined and snarky and passionate. “This is an appeal to reality.” A rockin’ riff rolls in and the gritty mid-tempo has me sucked in. The singer is kind of dragging his voice, sniggering between lyrics, while the guitars are kind falling apart in a warm wave of basement fuzz. “Tko je kriv?” (“Who is to blame?”) is a certified jammer, with its chopped up guitars and impatient vocals: “Who is to blame for the quiet agony of society?” All tracks have been remastered but I enjoy the graininess to this recording; it’s so analog and intimate, it adds character and depth, of which they already have ample. Comes with translated lyrics and cool pictures—some seminal Yugo punk! (Lydiya)
(NE!)

Slovenian Punk: A Brief Introduction

I have had a great deal of interest in how and why bands form under extreme political environments, and so when we decided to work on a series of special features focusing on bands active under socialism in the former Yugoslavian Republic, it was the perfect opportunity for me to dig deeper, do more research and look into what has already been written about Slovenian punk; and one article in particular was immensely helpful in understanding the historical events which lead up to the explosion of punk in Slovenia and the rest of Yugoslavia. I am not a historian, and surely history is better documented and passed on by those who made it happen, so that is what we  aimed to do, beginning with part one of our ex-Yugo series in MRR #378. The bands featured  have some incredible stories, which will surely make other punks around the world revisit their own ideas and ideals, but I figured a short introduction and some background information might help frame the greater political and social picture a bit better. Knowledge is power and we still have so much to learn.

mrrtozibabe
Tozibabe

It was 1948. WWII was over. The leader of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the charismatic bon vivant Tito, had just split from Stalin and the Soviet Union, entering Yugoslavia into the newly formed Non-Aligned Movement. The country’s trade depended heavily on the Soviet Bloc, and with Western politicians “keeping Tito afloat” in hopes of appeasing Yugoslavia into neutrality and weakening the Soviet Bloc, the country plunged into an economic crisis. This was ideal ground for the introduction of a capitalist economy. What followed were two decades of “liberalization” in the ’50s and ’60s (less party involvement in the economic sphere) and a decrease in personal spending due to post-war displeasure, which was in turn met by heavy promotion of consumerism by the party. This lead to an increase in spending, as Slovenian families shrunk to an average of 3.5 members per household. People were buying TVs, record players, washing machines and scooters, many traveling to Trieste, a neighboring Italian city popular for shopping.

An unplanned side effect of this gradual shift towards consumerism meant that, surprise surprise, people pushed aside collectivist social notions for more individualistic consumption-driven ones. As Gregor Tomc says in his enlightening chapter, “A Tale of Two Subcultures, A Comparative Analysis of Hippie and Punk Subcultures in Slovenia” from the book Remembering Utopia: The Culture of Everyday Life in Socialist Yugoslavia, “Nobody seemed to notice how the emphasis of socialism shifted from creating an alternative to capitalism to entering into a competition with it.” This liberal economic change also brought about a rise in unemployment, which the party dealt with by opening the borders (the known Gastarbeiter), meaning lots of young people could travel abroad and be exposed to Western culture and youth styles. The results of this increased familiarity with the West is what helped the radicalization of the youth movement, and the growth of the hippie and punk movements.

During the ’50s the Yugoslav republic viewed jazz with suspicion, and it was even debated amongst top communist officials, saying that its “unhealthy outgrowths […] have nothing in common either with music or with dance” even though “it can—with its modern expressive means—positively influence the mood of the working man, his cheerfulness.” The only two recording studios were state-run and hard to get into without a record deal, which was contingent on a band’s lyrics, which were subject to the “Committee of Trash,” which basically regulated lyrics and made sure they did not oppose the party. This made access to self-expressed ideas and independent cultural media more difficult. For example, Pankrti recorded their first double single in Italy and any band that did release records made in state-owned studios had to “adjust” their lyrics, giving the art of reading between the lines a new meaning in the context of anti-authoritarian lyrics.

grupa-92-465x312
92 aka Grupa 92

Something to remember, though, is that youth culture in Yugoslavia was developing in a socialist society gradually experiencing the assimilation of capitalism, while still being under the watchful eye of the Party gatekeepers, who were also having to learn how to react to, confine and/or control these new, “decadent” “imported” ideas from the West. This disapproval only made it all the more appealing, of course.

Something to remember, though, is that youth culture in Yugoslavia was developing in a socialist society gradually experiencing the assimilation of capitalism, while still being under the watchful eye of the Party gatekeepers, who were also having to learn how to react to, confine and/or control these new, “decadent” “imported” ideas from the West. This disapproval only made it all the more appealing, of course.

It is hard to imagine a life split in two the way it was for Yugoslavians: on the one hand a public life appropriate for state controlled activities (class-integrated neighborhoods, party-controlled school system, state-run cultural industry) and on the other a private, “spontaneous” life not structured by or around the official state norm (playing in rock bands, joining a commune, or being active in political youth groups). The hippie subculture was an important part of youth culture in 1970s Slovenia, as was the subpolitical student movement, which in some cases resulted in students being more radicalized that the party elite, as expressed in a popular student slogan of the time, “Communism against ‘communism.’” Western student movements were influential in this radicalization, leading Ljubljana University students to protest against dorm rent increases, the Vietnam War, Nixon’s Yugoslav visit, the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, lack of Slovenian minority rights in Italy, and more.

hardcore-ljubljana-degenerikblog-300x301
Hard-Core Ljubljana Complication

The student youth party was instrumental in the growth and dissemination of youth culture, and so when in the mid-’70s the state forced it to merge with the Alliance of Socialist Youth of Slovenia (ASYS), it left a sort of void which neither the hippie culture (which bored suburban youth) nor the socialist realism movement (the dominant one until then, a mix of traditional working class culture, Soviet block art and Western “progressive” ideas) seemed capable of filling. This was the ideal time for the party to strengthen its influence and, of course, for something new to flourish in the wake of its reaction. Over the next couple of years the punk movement grew tremendously, with more bands surfacing in Ljubljana and all around Slovenia—bands like Pankrti (Bastards), Lublanska Psi (Ljubljana Dogs), Grupa 92 (Group 92), Berlinski Zid (Berlin Wall), KuZle (Bitches), UBR (Uporniki Bez Razloga [Rebels Without a Cause]), III Kategorija (Third Category)—and this just in Slovenia, not to mention the rest of the Yugoslav federation.

One of the things about punk, not only in Slovenia but anywhere where punk has flourished, is that its characteristics are not that of a subculture stemming from the mainstream. Instead, punk springs as a reaction, a counterculture. Of course this meant that, even if the societal background in Slovenia was not necessarily adverse to youth cultures (as Slovenia was one of the most developed states in the Yugoslav federation) the system, which was losing control over media during the ’70s and ’80s thanks to new media technologies, viewed them with suspicion, even confusion. So, once the party finally declared its disapproval of punk, this opened the way for increased suppression from the state police. A number of incidents occurred, but perhaps the most well-known was the “Nazi punk affair,” when a populist newspaper wrongfully assumed three Ljubljana punks, who were sporting “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” pins with swastikas crossed out, to be members of the Nazi party. This resulted in their arrest under the charges of secretly trying to start their own IV Reich(!). It was clear that punk was no longer considered to be just a symbolic threat.

indust-bag-465x299
Indust-Bag

The student movement, despite having merged with the Alliance of Socialist Youth of Slovenia (ASYS), was still a major contributing factor to the evolution of punk. The elderly party elite figured it no longer played a leading role in the political landscape and dialogue, since it was now under party regulation. However, they underestimated the student movement power and, with the help of people like P. Mlakar (a poet, philosopher, artist, book editor and more), Igor Vidmar (a radio DJ, concert promoter, political activist and more) and other members of the student movement, they supported punk by playing punk bands on the radio, promoting their shows, publishing their comics and recording their records. If Marcuse’s “repressive tolerance” is where capitalism and totalitarianism meet, then Slovene punks were having to balance the thin line between the two, stemming from the former and growing into the later. Such a system clash is ideal for the eruption of youth movements, especially one as vivid and forceful as punk. Much like when two tectonic plates collide and mountains are formed, Slovenian punk rose, growing past the police interrogations, the arrests, the censorship, even Tito’s death. It would not be wrong to say that the punk movement in Yugoslavia helped society further open up to the concept of revolution, and this is perhaps where its strongest appeal lies: in the manifestation that, yes, punk can be more than just music, concerts and records; that, in fact, punk was and can still be a powerful force of social change. In his introduction to an interview with another Yugoslavian band Pekinska Patka, from Serbia, Spencer Rangitsch says that they “didn’t just ‘push the envelope’ of what was deemed socially and politically acceptable, they also broke boundaries in radical ways which helped create new spaces and possibilities for a youth subculture to thrive.” And that sounds pretty fucking punk to me.

These is much to be said about this unique time and place, and my short introduction is by no means a comprehensive deposition of all the facts—one could fill books and books and still have more to say. This was, however, the most relevant information I found, in large thanks to the aforementioned paper by Gregor Tomc. There is probably less written about punk in Yugoslavia during the Yugoslav wars that followed Tito’s death, but that is not to say that it did not exist. The idea behind this Ex-Yugo Special is to learn more about how and why punk erupted in Yugoslavia under socialism, and to shed more light onto how punk survives during and after wartime. Hopefully in the process we can broaden our horizon of punk history, helping us better frame our own perceptions of it. One of the most important characteristics of punk, for me, is the realization that, since we chose to create, and thus define the culture we engage in and the life we lead, then it is also up to us to preserve and document it. I am honoured to be able to offer these pages to some of the unsung progressives of the first wave of punk, and in doing so express my admiration for their contributions to it. Ladies and germs, Slovenia.

qm3
Quod Massacre

I have put together a shortlist of some of my favourite Slovenian punk songs. Not a comprehensive list by any stretch, as there are many bands missing, but here you go anyway. In no particular order: