Joe Kidd: “Your band is not playing PUNK ROCK anymore, is it?”
About two weeks ago one guy turned up at the ricecooker shop, browsed through the stuff and finally stopped at my table asking me questions about my band. One of his many questions particularly brought me a sense of annoying d?©j?† vu, it’s a question which has been put to my band ever since we came out with The Allure of Manure back in 1998.
“Your band is not playing PUNK ROCK anymore, is it?”
Hmmm. How do you answer that eh?
“If you need to label my band’s music with a certain pigeon-hole, I’d prefer you to call it PUNK ROCK, therefore my band is still playing PUNK ROCK la boss!”
The thing is, people have their own ideas about “punk rock”. I come from the old school where punk had a wide-ranging reach, open-ended subscription to new ideas and always evolving.
In terms of musical style, Patti Smith and Television’s art-damaged, poetry-informed scrawny-rock was as punk as The Sex Pistols, The Buzzcocks or Wire or Amebix or Discharge. In today’s terms, I see Tragedy as punk rock as I Farm is as punk rock as Gogol Bordello is as punk rock as Steve Towson is punk rock as John Zorn is punk rock, etc.
Nowadays, kids would term Gasoline Grenade’s brand of fast melodic pop-punk as “punk rock”, while Apparatus’ Swedish/Finnish mid-80s aspirations as “D-Beat” and Blood On Wedding Dress’ late-90s San Diego approximation as “math-screamo” or whatever.
Well, all of the above is punk rock boss! But if you wanna go really nitty-gritty, Gasoline Grenade should be “melodic pop-punk”. And my band is, err, punk rock, but NOT melodic as before lah.
Or maybe we should term it, as “Dung Rock” as that would be a good “nitty-gritty” description without confining it to a certain cage.
And talk about “cages”, I have a bone to pick. Well, I have many bones to pick especially about the local punk rock scene, but lets talk about “cages”.
Too many local bands are too lazy to find their own voices.
A lot of bands just go for a certain well-established sound that is either very popular currently or historically. Lets say Tragedy is very popular lah, so a lot of bands wanna be Tragedy, well, more like Tragedy-like, if not a “Tragedy-cover band”. The same goes with most bands who aimed at nothing but terms such as D-Beat, Screamo, Melodic Pop-Punk etc. etc. Bands copying this and that style and never tried to go further or outside that self-imposed cages.
As someone who has been around longer than you lot, frankly I’m really tired of listening to the same old shit which has been under perpetual cycle since a certain “style” got established in the global punk rock history.
It’s boring, boss.
GOOD, NOT GREAT..
Truthfully, I don’t want to be a downer, because we do have heaps of good bands, not great, but good bands. Bands who play very well, have good showmanship, great sounding recordings, some with very good lyrics too; but when it comes to having their own identifiable sound or unique style, we have very few. Sadly.
The tragedy is that we have a lot of talent but that talent is used not to embark on new adventures but, unfortunately, used to copy or approximate other people’s talent. Is it because you are lazy? or is it because you would rather play what your friends think as “cool”? “Wah, you sound sebijik macam Mob 47! Cool!”
Well, I don’t know boss. Am just tired of it lah. I wanna get excited to see and listen to a local band again, that’s all. I want to hear a band that sounds different, even if it’s not leaps and bounds different. A small attempt would be celebrated. At least there’s an effort to be themselves.
Going off on another tangent but possibly on one of the main causes to this current “we have good bands but they copy other bands” dilemma is CRITICISM or the lack of it.
According to my favourite online dictionary, at least the 6th description on the page; “Criticism” is: “the act or art of analyzing and evaluating or judging the quality of a literary or artistic work, musical performance, art exhibit, dramatic production, etc.”
It’s about conveying your very own evaluation of a certain work, in this case, of bands and their creative produce, whether it’s recorded or performed. And of course, it should not be malicious in nature but constructive, at least for fairness sake lah.
The problem here is that nobody likes to be criticized. Over here in Boleh-land, criticism is always taken as a “personal insult”, well maybe not always but largely that is how it’s swallowed. Thus it’s very hard to be frank, and so kids nowadays (being nice belias) never would say what they think right to your face. Or even in their blogs or writings. They would say it behind your back.
It is tragically funny. I remember reading Mikon’s writing about how “belia” our so called “punk rockers” are. And I can’t help but totally agree with that., but of course, nobody would admit to it lah. True, most of the local “punks” are timid creatures. Timidity and punk rock? Pretty odd coupling that. Like the recent term popularised by people like Johnny Ramone and Michael Graves; “conservative punk”. Huh? Isn’t that an oxymoron? Just like “nazi punk”, for me those are contradictory terms colliding.
Anyway, so the local kids are sweet. No criticisms. Not in their writing and public spiel. Well, maybe they would criticize the war in Iraq and Bush and all that “safe” global issues; but very rarely their local politicians, authority figures and of course not their friends, the bands or the scene they are in. Nope. Like I said it before, if they did. it’s all done behind your backs.
But gawd! Without criticism how can we gauge our work? By the sales? By the number of people shouting along and slamming to your songs? Is it by votes via sms? Or is it by the reviews in some overseas fanzines whose writers are pretty clueless to what punk rock means in our Southeast Asian context?
Most importantly, how do we step further when we are oblivious to where we are in terms of our very own output?
And isn’t punk rock, hardcore or whatever it is you wanna call it has “critical views and thinking” as one of its main arteries? Being critical is intrinsically punk rock boss!
So where are we? Where are all those people who are a bit “kurang ajar” and speak up their minds? Actually we don’t really need people who are “kurang ajar” but at least people who care about the scene, the bands and where we are at. People who want to build upon what we have and go further, as far as we can reach, at the very least artistically.
Where are you?
BTW; we had a video of a show my band did at the Life Centre, KL, many years ago. As people were trickling out of the venue, one guy came up to the camera and said, “Carburetor Dung is crap on stage!”. Now, that’s punk rock! And I admit that statement was very true, even painfully valid in 2007 and yeah, we heard that and we are still working on it! 🙂