Thursday, April 20, 2006
NEW TRAILER & NIRVANA
Today I was looking for old stuff to sell back to Amoeba Records and I pulled out the Nirvana box set. Yeah. I bought the thing. But I bought it used. I figure Coutney Love can stand the loss. Anyhow, I put the DVD in just now, to see how they handled the video portions.
I remember what it was like seeing those kinds of scenes on TV in the early 90's. Total deja vu. It looked exactly like a bigger version of the scenes when ODFx and the rest had played at The Dale in Akron or the Lakefront in Cleveland. It never bummed me out kids were still doing that stuff and I had to admit Nirvana was a damn good band. What bugged me was how the media reacted as if this was all brand new & completely without precedent. It also bothered me how the whole thing was being promoted as some kind of amazing grass roots movement, absolutely spontaneous. In actual fact, the same kind of publicity machine was pushing Nirvana the way they'd been pushing the New Kids on the Block. A friend of mine was a radio programmer at a small Akron radio station back then & he told me how the folks at Geffen were doing everything in their power to get him to play Teen Spirit. If they were spending that much time, effort and energy on a station in Akron that you couldn't even pick up 10 miles away, just imagine what was happening in the rest of the country.
In terms of intensity, Nirvana in 1991 couldn't hold a candle to ODFx in '81, or Starvation Army or Agitated. The difference was that what we were doing actually was wholly without precedent. Punk rock back then wasn't just pretending to be dangerous, it actually was dangerous. Take a gander at the "Dover Story" segment of the documentary (over there to your right). I'm amazed no one was killed at that gig.
I have to admit, though, that songs like In Bloom or Teen Spirit are quite simply better songs than most of what our bands came up with. In their own way Nirvana were originals just because what they did came from their own real experience. And that is important. I think what actually killed Kurt was the media. He knew what really went on ten years earlier. He knew it was all hype. He was a genuine person. His songs deserve to live on. It's too bad he couldn't find a way to live with it because he was an amazing artist.
Monday, April 17, 2006
CLEVELAND'S SCREAMING: THE BANDS
Here's the final line-up with my own subjective views on each band. You can find more info on these groups at the Clepunk website (www.clepunk.com) under "Bands."
My two favorite bands on the scene were ODFx (which I joined) and Offbeats. Offbeats had a strong pop sensibility. Their songs had hooks, melodies, all that good stuff which most hardcore bands lacked. I'm not even sure they qualify as hardcore except for the fact that they played all the hardcore shows. Their style was more like the Ramones or the Dickies. They put out an LP on Relativity in the mid 80's. Unfortunately, that album really didn't represent them very well. Recently they've issued a CD on Smog Veil Records which finally gets it right.
The Guns started out as a teenage thrash duo. These kids were a phenomenon to behold. I think Scott Eakin was 14 and Dave Araca was 15, or maybe the other way around. But when they played it was just pure power. Their song "I'm Not Right" is a hardcore hit that should have been. Every bit as intense yet catchy as "Institionalized" by Suicidal Tendencies or Black Flag's "Rise Above." It's the soundtrack to the trailer of the movie. The band expanded and started playing a more metal sound which won them a lot of fans. Dave Araca passed away and that looked like the end for The Guns. But Scott reformed the group for the December show and put on a smokin' performance.
Agitated started off being a metal band. At least that's what they told everybody at the time. But they always sounded like thrash to me. Tommy Hawk of Offbeats was the guitarist and main song writer, so they sometimes sounded like a thrashier version of Offbeats. Lead singer Mike Mohawk had one of the first mohawk's NE Ohio had ever witnessed. Their original bassist, Johnny Phlegm, wanted no part in the show, so I was drafted as a replacement. One of the most fun shows I've ever played.
I've put up a whole page about ODFx (aka Zero Defex) at http://homepage.mac.com/doubtboy/ODFx.html. So go there and check it out.
The Plague were another amazing group. In some ways they remind me of Agitated. The fact that they shared the same lead vocalist kinda ads to that effect. Their EP "Nazi Submarine" is one of the most sought after punk rarities ever, and with good reason. A hot, hot tune. When the band played Germany they were afraid to play it, thinking they might start a riot. Instead the fans screamed for it at every show.
Two other new bands also shared the stage that night. CHROME KICKERS are basically The Plague reunited, an amazing band who kick chrome for sure. DRIVEN HIGH features Scott from The Guns on drums along with two hot chicks on bass and guitar. Another band not to be missed.
Thursday, April 13, 2006
Of course, I agree with this & I've said it lots of times before. But this may have been one of the more unique facets of the hardcore scene in NE Ohio. Certainly it wasn't completely unique. The Washington D.C. scene had a strong set of ethics, too -- which influenced us in Akron to a great degree. But I'm not so sure that's what punk rock was everywhere else.
I didn't really understand this until I started writing about Zen. One of the first things I put up on my first Zen website long before my book Hardcore Zen was published, said, "punk is Zen, Zen is punk." This was a play on a famous Zen saying, "Form is emptiness, emptiness is form." I said it because I thought that a lot of the ideas I gleaned from punk rock, particularly about ethics, were the also fundamental to Zen. Zen, for me, was the carrying through of what I started learning in punk rock.
But when I put that up I got a lot of flak, particularly from British people who read it. To them, punk rock was a lot of noise and clatter that lead to drugs, suicide and all kinds of other nasty stuff. Granted, these people were not part of the scene in the UK, so their view was formed by what they heard about punk in the mass media. Still, there is some truth to that view. Even in Cleveland, there was a small group who got into smack and at least one of our crowd died as a result. Still, the overall movement was anti-drug and tried to stick to certain ethical principles.
Which begs the question, why didn't it work? Why did it fly apart so fast? Why couldn't we keep that together if it was so good? I don't really know. I'd like to think some of us did. But, on the other hand, I got very disillusioned with punk rock by about 1983 -- which was only 2 years after I had come to believe it could save the world. It took another two decades before I could appreciate what it had been...
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
Punk was a grass roots movement that took place in a large number of places simultaneously. And though there was an overall unity to the movement, each local scene had its own unique flavor. In those pre-internet days, communication was not nearly as swift or as thorough as it is today. So one city's interpretation of what it meeant to be punk was often vastly different from another's.
A few punk superstars emerged from the Akron and Cleveland scenes -- Devo, the Dead Boys, Chrissie Hynde, Pere Ubu. But by the time hardcore emerged in the early 80's, the media spotlight was no longer focused on Northeast Ohio. The scene that developed there was totally unique. And yet it was very much like other hardcore scenes across the country and around the world.
In the documentary "Cleveland's Screaming," you'll get an intimate look at the NE Ohio scene.
I'll be using this blog to post progress reports on the making of the film. Enjoy!