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MRR Radio #1583.5 part 2 • 11/15/17

On this special episode of MRR Radio, we pay tribute to the late great Fred Cole. This is part 2 ...

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MRR Radio #1583.5 part 1 • 11/15/17

On this bonus episode of MRR Radio, we pay tribute to the late, great Fred Cole, who has been screaming ...

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SNFU!!

MRR Radio #1583 • 11/12/17

On this week's MRR Radio, Rob turns the show over to Craig Billmeier to rock out with some of his ...

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MRR Radio #1582 • 11/5/17

This episode of MRR Remote Radio comes from Lima, Peru, where Gustavo answers the age-old question of what would've happened ...

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Maximum Rocknroll #415 • Dec 2017

Check it out, it's Maximum Rocknroll #415, the December 2017 issue! We are proud to feature an interview conducted by the organizer of ...

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Maximum Rocknroll #415 • Dec 2017

Check it out, it’s Maximum Rocknroll #415, the December 2017 issue! We are proud to feature an interview conducted by the organizer of the Bay Area’s Evaluate What You Tolerate compilation and zine with Cat Brooks, co-founder of the Anti Police-Terror Project. She speaks at length with us about organizing alternatives to state policing. We also hear from Portland, Oregon’s No! To Rape Culture collective about marginalized people collectively organizing against rape and other forms of oppression. Ex-VELVET UNDERGROUND member Willie “Loco” Alexander spills all about his 50-plus-year-long “so-called career” from his early garage rock years to his modern recordings. We also have part two of our lengthy article about the history of Alabama punk, covering Huntsville, Tuscaloosa, and more! Also included is an article in tribute to the radical life of Fred “Freak” Smith of BEEFEATER. We have a ton of international punk coverage this month! There is a massive feature on Sheffield, England, including a scene report, a mini-interivew with the Kids of the Lughole label, a full-length interview with COMMUNITY, and a photo spread from the Noise Annoys festival. For those hungry more more photos, there’s some fresh shots from Toronto’s Not Dead Yet fest as well. Russia’s STRESSHOLD give exclusive tidbits about touring and feminism in their home country, while Irish punks GRIT describe the politics and gentrification in Ireland. We also get updates about mental health from misanthropic Norwegian punks NEGATIV (who are a lot more positive than you’d expect). Plus you’ll find enough columns and reviews to gossip over for the rest of the month. So what are you waiting for?

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You can also order this issue by mail by sending $4.99 in the US, $7 Canada, $9 Mexico, or $11 worldwide to: MRR • PO Box 460760 • San Francisco, CA 94146 • USA …or just SUBSCRIBE!


Still available: MRR #414 • November 2017 issue…

MRR #414

History of Alabama Punk part 1: Birmingham, BAD EXAMPLE, Bay Area heartthrobs MIDNITE SNAXXX, São Paulo’s CANKRO, Chicago’s C.H.E.W., PERIOD BOMB, Sweden’s BRING THE DRONES, PADKAROSDA from Budapest, UNSANITARY NAPKIN from New Zealand, and in memoriam: Victoria Scalisi of DAMAD.

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Maximum Rocknroll #414 • Nov 2017

Are y’all ready for Maximum Rocknroll #414? Our November 2017 issue will teach you a thing or two all about the History of Alabama Punk! This issue features the first of a two part series all about the DIY scene throughout Alabama, with this part focusing on Birmingham. But our focus on Alabama is not entirely retrospective; BAD EXAMPLE will catch everybody up to speed on current happenings in Birmingham. We also hear from Bay Area heartthrobs MIDNITE SNAXXX, who run through their tour of Alabama and a slew of other snacky tidbits We also catch up with not one, not two, but three bands as they begin their tours throughout the United States: São Paulo’s CANKRO talk about being an intercontinental band, Chicago’s C.H.E.W. finally reveal the meaning behind their name, and the nomadic PERIOD BOMB unleashes a treatise about the contemporary DIY scene. For international coverage, Sweden’s BRING THE DRONES discuss their supergroup status, Budapest’s PADKAROSDA dissect just what it means to be a Hungarian band, and New Zealand’s UNSANITARY NAPKIN find ways to resist Trump from the other side of the world. We also hear from the friends of Victoria Scalisi from DAMAD who tell us about her kindness and strength in the wake of her passing. And somehow after all of that, we still managed to fit all of the columns and reviews that you’ve come to expect from Maximum Rocknroll! You don’t want to miss this jam-packed issue.

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You can also order this issue by mail by sending $4.99 in the US, $7 Canada, $9 Mexico, or $11 worldwide to: MRR • PO Box 460760 • San Francisco, CA 94146 • USA …or just SUBSCRIBE.

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RIP, Fred “Freak” Smith, Black Punk Pioneer


September 11th, 2017 by

A few weeks ago, a “semi-transient African American man” was found dead, killed from a knife wound behind the softball field of Las Palmas Park, located in San Fernando, CA. This was Fred “Freak” Smith, beloved guitarist who shaped the trajectory of mid-1980s punk in seminal bands like Beefeater, one of Washington, D.C.’s most inventive outfits. Having recently tried out for the band Romones, he had been living at Blake House, a group home, for a short stint, but wound up traversing the restless streets, seeking solace where he could.

The legacy of Beefeater is summed up most forcefully in their brilliant, genre-blurring LP House Burning Down, released on Dischord after the band’s demise in 1986. Combining hard funk, tribal stomp, raw jazz, shades of reggae, metallic leanings, and hardcore prowess, it’s an unmatched landmark, even now. Yet, the band was unstable (drummers came and went) and their fiery brand of politics set the teeth of both right-wing and left-wing punks on edge.

Smith, who changed his name to Freak, was the nimble musical backbone of the band. After joining Strange Boutique, he also helped pave the path of elegant post-hardcore music in D.C. as well. In the last half decade, he shredded in American Corpse Flower. And wherever he went, he was described as vivacious, spirited, generous, and skilled to the core.

As Bobby Sullivan, singer of Soulside and Rain Like the Sound of Trains, texted me earlier today: “Fred Smith was/is a larger-than-life character who literally lit up my youth. As a young person immersed in the D.C. punk scene, I had an extra in: my older brother lived at Dischord House. That meant I saw many of these bands form, from first talking about it in the living room, to practicing in the basement, and then taking it to the stage. Onam (Tomas Squip), the singer of Beefeater (Fred’s band at the time) also lived at Dischord House, and I spent many mornings with him when I would sleep over. My brother was a late sleeper, so I’d end up in the kitchen getting breakfast together and chatting about all the things I wanted to bounce off my older brothers and sisters – all the fine folks on the Dischord roster in the eighties.

Fred was somewhat of an aberration in that crew. Unabashedly cussing, drinking, being himself with no fear of judgment, he was something to behold. He was also a very skilled musician bringing a different flavor to that scene, which was sorely needed. My most poignant memory of him was when my band Soulside played with Beefeater at D.C. Space, I’m guessing in 1985. Scott, our guitar player, asked if he could borrow Fred Marshall half-stack and Fred replied, ‘Yeah mother fucker! And do what ever you have to do. Smash it if you need to!!!’ We all knew he was serious because that’s exactly the type of guy he was.”

BEEFEATER (photo by Al Flipside, 1985)

Other D.C. rockers like Jason Farrell of Swiz/Bluetip/Red Hare recall his outsized personality too. He emailed me this recollection:

“In 1984, I was a 14-year-old little skater kid just starting to go to shows, meeting other skaters/hardcore kids, taking every opportunity to stage dive, reveling in this crazy scene we stumbled into. I didn’t yet know much about the smaller D.C. bands that were percolating at the time (Rites of Spring, Beefeater) because all my friends and I were focused on whatever Government Issue and Marginal Man were doing.

“I’d seen Void a few times prior, but they didn’t really click with me until this one Wilson Center show… they were killing it. But apparently, it wasn’t enough to satisfy this big black dude who kept screaming and heckling them from the pit… ‘I better hear some motherfuckin’ ‘My Rules!!!’ Goddammit!!! If I don’t hear ‘My Rules’ in the next ten seconds I’m gonna kill every motherfucker…’ etc. It was kind of funny at first, but then it got kind of weird and a little scary.

“After a few songs like this, the air was tense …The singer seemed nervous. People didn’t know how to react… my little friends and I thought some shit was about to go down, and whatever it was would be beyond our capacity. But then they played ‘My Rules,’ the place exploded, and this crazy dude was overjoyed.

“In the time since, I have convinced myself that this crazy man was Fred ‘Freak’ Smith.”

Our counterculture needs to reckon with the future. More and more legacy punks deserve attention and advocacy. I have personally seen medical issues sideswipe those I have been lucky enough to play alongside—like members of Mydolls, Anarchitex, Big Boys, the Dicks, the Nerves, and the Hates. Others, including Dave Dictor of MDC, have partnered with me on projects. But all have dealt with dire health issues. As punks age, they often feel economic duress quite intensely. While some cities like Austin and Denton (both in Texas) have set up some infrastructure and programs for musicians, much more needs to be done.

In addition, punks who are female, queer, people of color, and/or disabled (some prefer the term differently abled) are even more at risk, due to ongoing discrimination. Thus, those fighting for justice, equality, and fairness should not merely protest Trump’s agenda, they need to react proactively to the issues affecting a growing segment of punk veterans struggling to pay bills, maintain homes and health, and stay free and productive.

Buying old records is not enough. Antifa is not enough. But each of us can change that.

—David Ensminger

This interview was originally published in Maximumrocknroll magazine #324, May (out of print).

David: Tell me about your musical heritage.

Freak: In very early 1983, I had just quit my government job at the Department of HUD. My dad was one of the first black Deputy U.S. Marshals. My dad was a doo-wop singer in the 1950s with Marvin Gaye and Van McCoy. The band was called the Starlighters and had a hit song called “The Birdland.” After they fizzled out, my dad got into law enforcement—the second generation of the Smith clan to do so. My mom was overseas working for the State Department (a gig she earned struggling in the ranks for at least fifteen or so years) while working for a 1960s program called “Voice Of America.” They divorced in 1971. As my dad kept stressing me to go into law enforcement as a lifelong career, the music side of me was tearing me apart. So, I finally decided for the latter.

And you started to immerse yourself in punk music?

All this punk rock shit was happening in D.C. as well as New York, Massachusetts, Michigan, Ohio, and L.A. I was so intrigued. It was kind of like the Hippie movement of the early 1960s but more radical and more in your face—”We are sick of this shit world, and we are now here to fucking change it whether you fucking like it or not” attitude. In this circle of mostly pale, tattered clothing, safety-pinned boys, aside from the few black fans in the audience, there was us! Gary Miller, aka Dr. Know of the Bad Brains, John Bubba Dupree from Void, Stuart Casson of Red C and the Meatmen, and the late great David Byers of the Psychotics, Chucky Sluggo, HR, and myself. Now I am just noting the guitar players, but would never, ever, exclude or forget Shawn Brown from Dag Nasty, their first original singer, and the late Nikki Young of Red C.

Through friends & some various acquaintances, more notably a guy named Ray Tony aka “Toast” and Eric Laqdemayo, aka Eric L from Red C, I heard about Madam’s Organ and the Atlantis Club. Soon I was auditioning at old Dischord house for a band that, from the start, proclaimed, “We are not here to make any money, are you in?” My brother Big Myke said, “Fuck this” and split. I hung around. Beefeater had an amazing, but at any given time, a very tumultuous run, with two vegan, militant vegetarians and throughout the two and a half years of our existence, three meat eating, substance abusing alcohol driven drummers, and myself!

What was it like to be a black punk in D.C.?

Let us all keep in mind that D.C. is what, 80 percent black, and this punk rock scene was fueled by angst-ridden white kids, a lot of whom I found out had fucking trust funds waiting for them when they became of legal adult age. Shit, I didn’t even know what a fucking trust fund was back then. It was very strange to be these “token” Negros playing in front of predominantly all white audiences, but we did it. As Shawn Brown and myself will attest, there were fucking issues man. A lot of fucking issues that we had to address when we did shows. When I first heard someone refer to me as the “negro Lemmy,” I was floored. I immediately lowered my mic stand down from the height that I set it. When I heard Shawn Brown being referred to as “the negro version of Ian MacKaye.” I was floored again. When I told him, he was taken aback but still plugged on. In retrospect, even in this new scene, I was always wondering, would racism ever end?!

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Maximum Rocknroll #413 • Oct 2017

It’s time for Maximum Rocknroll #413, the October 2017 issue! Do you love KLEENEX/LILIPUT as much as we do? Then you will love the scoop that we have on NEON and their involvement in the early Swiss punk scene. We also speak to Rome’s NOFU on the eve of their first US tour, while LOS IMPUESTOS tell us about the struggles of discovering new music and being a punk in their native Guatemala. Interested in the history of squatting? So is Amy Starecheski, the author of Ours to Lose: When Squatters Became Homeowners in New York City, who spills about an incredibly unique moment in US squatting history. In a dual interview, filmmakers Monika Estrella Negra and Michelle Garza Cervera about combating the dominance of straight white male voices in cinema. And still there’s more: FURY talks about the breakthrough success of their debut LP, MACHO BOYS reveal themselves as huge wrestling fans, BAUS discusses what it means to be an “Oakland” band, and FEATURE reflect on their history just in time for the release of their posthumous LP. That sounds like a lot, right? Add all of the columnists that you hate to love as well as more reviews than you can shake a stick at! Don’t miss this issue!

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Maximum Rocknroll #412 • Sep 2017

It’s time for Maximum Rocknroll #412, the September 2017 issue! We’ve got a lot for you to pore over this month: wanna hear from Alice Bag? She’s here, discussing her career in early LA punk from the BAGS to CASTRATION SQUAD, her books Violence Girl and Pipe Bomb for the Soul, plus her solo recordings and new projects. Want to hear about some of the earliest punk gigs in the Philippines? Rhany Torres was there and he’s here telling us all about the Brave New World gigs in Manila, showcasing bands such as his groups the LOST BOYS and ETHNIC FACES alongside classic Twisted Red Cross acts. There’s more: Denton, TX punks ELIX-R, NO U TURN from Myanmar, FATIGUE representing for the San Francisco firm, Mexico City hardcore courtesy of SACRIFICIO, icy punk insights from Finland’s COLD INSTITUTION, and Copenhagen’s “warm music” impresarios BIG MESS dishing on their love for ABBA and the REPLACEMENTS. On top of that we have photo spreads from First Timers 2017 at DIY Space for London, Nothing Nice To Say Fest 2017, and Springfield, IL’s Dumb Fest. Plus, your monthly dose of must-read columns and hundreds of reviews — all in these pages, and yours for the cost of less than one flexi disc.

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