Featured Posts

MRR Radio #1584 • 11/19/17

Another fuct up Rotten Ron and Horrrible Halitosis Punker Power Hour. Intro song: DRUGCHARGE - Husk Rotten Ron fucks it up so you ...

Read More

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 ...

Read More

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 ...

Read More

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 ...

Read More

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 ...

Read More

Blast From the Past: Xcentric Noise


August 4th, 2015 by

this ran originally in MRR #339

by Andy “Shesk” Thompson

I’m listening to the Beating the Meat LP from 1984 to get me self in the mood, but it really pisses me off every time I hear it… It was a great compilation, a culmination of the stuff I’d done to date, all the excitement of receiving the tapes, the tape-to-tape duplicating, the stupid sound effects, the letters, the DIY!! When I went into a studio with the quarter-inch tape to put it together (Angel Studios near Hull, with Steve Larkman the engineer — I’m sure he thought I was nuts), I paid about £240. I designed the cover and wanted to do the usual inner sleeve — since packaging was always well important and far more interesting and exciting than a two-track single in a plain sleeve — but I had no money and accepted an offer to release it…and was ripped off, struggled to get any copies, the cover was just turned orange and had no inner sleeve, it never looked or felt right — and yet sounded amazing! There was no communication and it took ages for me to get back my costs for the studio, which only happened because I knew the guy at the distributor Jungle Records and he felt guilty, ’cos he knew I was on a loser. I managed to get a few copies off him, too, but not many. I dunno how many were actually made or sold.

And for the record, I made nothing from Beating the Meat and was forever pissed off that all those years had been hijacked!! Just one of my many regrets, but at least it got the bands heard again around the world! Please have it for free (download via mediafire.com) ’cos I’m not re-releasing it, not that I ever got the master tape back anyhow. I’ll be happy you just at least hear all the bands on it, ’cos that’s all Xcentric Noise was about — trying to pass on some of the excitement I was feeling, spreading this amazing music with message and passion and screaming anger and everyone doing it yerself! It was just so energising….

DISCOVERING PUNK

shesk_oldI first got into punk about May ’77, the moment I first heard it. I was only fourteen years old, previously had liked T. Rex and Sparks and some Bowie. I remember going into school the day after seeing a newspaper with the Sex Pistols in it, and talking music with my mate Mu. He said, “You’d love punk — listen to John Peel.” Bang, it was instant — a real slap in the face. My tranny radio and the pillow were my friends for a few years after that, and definitely the best part of the day! I guess maybe I’d finally found somewhere I felt I could belong, somewhere outside the norm.

I grew up in Little Weighton, England — a village with no streetlights, pretty cut off from the world. I guess I didn’t fit in with the norm, a kinda loner but with friends, the weird one, and the only one really into punk down our way. But ’cos I played football pretty good, I didn’t get fucked around, just the piss-takes like normal. They never got punk rock! I just ended up doing stuff all the time in me room while always liking and supporting the underdog (Hull City / Norman Wisdom [RIP] / Newport County); I was anti-injustice, anti-apartheid and anti-poverty, and I hated pop music, disco and shit soft rock crap.

Read the rest of this entry »



From the Vaults: Matrax compilation


December 3rd, 2012 by

Sticker included with compilationIt’s been over two and a half years since I made a post here on MRR, but I was inspired to digitally resurrect myself after getting in touch with one of the people who released a tape compilation that resides in the magazine’s archives. The Matrax cassette was assembled by two punks from Ottawa in 1985, and features 13 all-female bands. I was familiar with some— the Raunchettes had a few vinyl releases including one on Bomp!, Pre-Metal Syndrome did an LP on Adrenalin OD’s label, Anti Scrunti Faction did stuff on Flipside Records, a couple bands appeared on the seminal P.E.A.C.E. comp, etc. — but many of them were obscure, with some intriguing band names. Industrial Waste Banned? Cracked Maria? Topless Answer and the Frilly Questions? The tape itself is a diverse and engaging listen, ranging from straightforward punk to brooding post-punk to more experimental sounds and beyond. To my ears, some of the best material includes the catchy tune by Sally’s Dream, the fuzzed-out, tightly wound hardcore of the Raunchettes, and the snotty blast of ASF’s “Writhe Like Worms.”

Julia Pine, who put the compilation together along with her friend Colleen Howe, was kind enough to answer some questions about how Matrax came to be — read below (my questions in bold, her answers in plain text), and listen to the complete tape as well!

For a little context, can you talk about how you got involved with punk and what the scene was like (in your particular experience, anyway) in Ottawa in the early/mid ’80s? How did you get “plugged in” to the international scene, to the point where you organized a compilation of bands from all over Canada and the US (and one English band!)?

I’m not sure how Colleen got involved — I think it was through high school. In the late ’70s in high school, the tiny punk scene was sort of like a support group for messed-up kids. We just naturally gravitated together, and the punk vibe at that time — mostly English bands like the Sex Pistols, the Clash, Siouxie and the Banshees, Crass, etc., and a few American bands, like the Ramones, etc., embodied the frustrations we all felt and gave us a focus and an outlet. I got involved in the punk scene because I became infatuated with a punk in my school — at that time nobody even knew what it was — and I was fascinated. We started dating, and he kind of decided that I was going to be a punk, too. I don’t think I had much choice at that time!

The way information travelled back then was through the material that came with records (covers, flyers, etc.), gig posters, zines, personal correspondence, alternative radio, and through people travelling from other cities. At that time, you could spot a punk a mile away, and we all stuck together, and if you went to a city you would just automatically hook up with the scene at a gig, or just walking down the street in the right areas of town. That’s how we all kept in touch, and when Maximum Rocknroll came along, it was very much part of that system.

Page from the Matax booklet

A page from the booklet insert (click for a somewhat more legible version)

What was the motivation for doing the compilation? What does “Matrax” mean?

By the early ’80s, there was a very strong grassroots feminist thing going on. A lot of experimentation with Wicca, alternate sexualities, and what I guess we would call second wave feminism going on. Now a lot of that is pretty mainstream, but at the time, it was all very radical and underground. There was a lot of protesting, too, about nuclear war, Ronald Reagan, etc., and a lot of sort of latter-day “consciousness raising” for women. A certain faction of the Ottawa punk scene — which was very political — plugged into that, and Colleen and I were very much part of that aspect. “Matrax” comes from “mater” which means mother in — what — Latin? We were all into Mother Earth and the feminine recovery project, so we took that, and attached it to “trax” — i.e., cassette tracks, music, etc. In other words, it was meant to signify “women’s music.”

Today I find a lot of affinities with what Pussy Riot is doing with what was going on with Matrax. A total rejection of the sexualization of women, and all about strength, empowerment and the love of women and womanhood, and very political.

How did the two of you actually put together the compilation? (Everything from getting in touch with the bands, assembling the booklet, actually selling the tape to people, etc…)

It’s kind of a miracle, actually. Before the internet and CDs and computers. It was all very hands-on. I had been in a couple of all-womyn (we didn’t use the world “girl” then) bands, and I thought it would be interesting to do a compilation of all-woman bands from around the world. I got Colleen on board, and we sort of picked up momentum from there. We were lucky to be surrounded by a lot of very talented people who helped us with the technical side — hooking together a bunch of cassette players for reproduction, helping us with the studio aspect, a fantastic cartoonist for the images, and the rest was a learning curve. We found out about the bands almost exclusively from fanzines. We just went through them and looked at all the compilations out there, etc., followed leads, etc., and wrote to them, etc. We had wanted to go further than just North America and England, but it was difficult back then to communicate and find info without the internet.

As for the booklet, we asked each band to provide an info sheet, so each page is based on one of those. The cassette also came with a sticker.

1985 MRR Article

1985 Matrax article that appeared in MRR calling for submissions (click for a somewhat more legible version)

Do you have any particular memories of the bands? Several of them never released anything outside of maybe a demo tape or one or two compilation appearances. Were you close friends with many of the bands or did you just get in touch with them to do the tape and that was it?

The bands were a mixed bag. Some were quite slick and well established and well produced, and others just sent us a tape made on a ghetto-blaster at a gig somewhere. Luckily, as I say, we had help in the “studio,” i.e. a technical genius friend or two with a four-track in my mother’s basement, who helped to homogenize the sound a bit, and improve the sound quality. The criteria was that the band had to be exclusively made up of women.

We didn’t really know any of the other bands, I don’t think. Past Layers was a reunion of an earlier band Colleen and I were in, called Last Prayer. We were around in ’81-82, and were on a comp album that came out of Quebec City called Blender Mix. We needed to pad out the numbers a bit, so we recorded a couple of old songs from the “early days.” Hence the name “Past Layers.”

Unwarranted Trust was an all-girl band I was in at the time. We were on the famous P.E.A.C.E. compilation album put out in ’84 by MDC, as well. I think we used some studio leftovers we made for the P.E.A.C.E. comp for Matrax. Topless Answer and the Frilly Question was a friend of ours, Sue Dyment, who now goes by the name Kismet Dyment. She was a creative genius — a master social commentator who did incredible political cartoons — she did the logo for Matrax. She has just published a book you can buy on Amazon — it’s great. She also wrote incredible poetry — I guess you could say she was sort of a dub or slam poet — and I really wanted her to be on the tape, so I lured her into my mother’s basement to lay down a couple of tracks with me. I played “drums” with chopsticks on a cooking pot, if I remember correctly, as well as the incredibly distorted guitar, and she hummed the bass track because we didn’t have a bass player for that one. I think our friend Vince Saulnier or David McCaig did the recording with a number of different tracks on a machine they had. Anyway, that’s how the song “Punching Bag” came about: a feminist anti-abuse anthem based on the music of the Monkees’ “Stepping Stone.

Her other track, called “Felty-Assed Horses,” or something, was an anti-capitalist piece that we did with an old electric mini-organ thing from the ’60s that I bought at the Salvation Army. We just played it and sang together in a sort of choirboy style, and she recited her poetry over it. I think it’s so brilliant! She was, and still is, such a genius!

One other thing about the tape is that our master tape was much longer than the cassettes we ordered later on to sell. It seems the company shorted us on a couple of minutes on all of them, so Vince, who had volunteered to do all our production, had to speed up the whole master cassette to fit into the space of the ones we were selling. As a result, the whole cassette is really, really fast. When I hear it, it just sounds like The Chipmunks to me, but luckily nobody else seemed to have noticed that!

One more thing about the tape was that, even in 1984/5, it was sort of Copy Left. We sent a master copy of the tape, as well as a master copy of the booklet to each band, so they could reproduce them as they like and make their own profits. I’m not sure how many, if any of the bands did this, but I think it was a pretty awesome idea.

What’s your involvement with music and activism these days, if you don’t mind talking about it?

I can’t speak for Colleen, but I’m not particularly active these days. However, my experience with the Ottawa punk scene, and the scene in general has indelibly coloured my outlook on life, and my approach to living. It was great to be exposed to such radical thinking and lifestyles at such a young age. We mostly lived together in communal houses and lived very much an “underground” and very radical existence by today’s standards. I know I will never be able to look at the world in any way but the one I learned from those days.

Matrax compilation tape side A
1. Iconoclasts – Fight Alone
2. Industrial Waste Banned – Nice
3. Ruggedy Annes – Dead & Gone
4. Topless Answer and the Frilly ?s – You Have Struck a Rock
5. Sally’s Dream – Plaster Heart
6. Past Layers – Listen to the Clock
7. Unwarranted Trust – Johnny Learns to Cook
8. Moral Lepers – Land of the Insane
9. Barely Human – ?
10. Pre-Metal Syndrome – Unemployment
play side A here:

Matrax compilation tape side B
1. The Raunchettes – Slaughter the Pig
2. Barely Human – ?
3. Unwarranted Trust – Pay
4. Topless Answer and the Frilly ?s – Leningitis
5. Anti Scrunti Faction – Writhe Like Worms
6. Past Layers – Aftermath
7. Industrial Waste Banned – Look at the Laundry
8. Cracked Maria – Old Woman
9. Pre-Metal Syndrome – Rally Round the Fire
10. Ruggedy Annes – Casual Design
11. Topless Answer and the Frilly ?s – Desiderata
12. Iconoclasts – Radio Commercial
play side B here:



From the Vaults: Tim Yo and Martin Sprouse photos


February 4th, 2010 by

This week we’ve got a different type of From the Vaults post. These photos were loaned to the magazine by former coordinator Martin Sprouse, to be printed along with an interview we ran for the 25th Anniversary issue in 2007 (MRR #291, available in Back Issues). I found them in a folder on my old computer last week as I was clearing everything off before leaving it on the sidewalk. Now you get to see ’em in color! (Well, except for the black and white one…)

Martin Sprouse and Tim Yohannan at the MRR House, 1987

Martin and two unidentified people, building 924 Gilman St., 1986

Martin interviewing Tim for Leading Edge fanzine, 1984

Martin and Bones (of 76% Uncertain), 1984



From the Vaults: Mega City Four


January 21st, 2010 by
Play

No particular reason why I chose this 1988 single from the UK’s Mega City Four for this weeks’ From The Vaults post, aside from the fact that it’s a great melodic punk record — and while not necessarily obscure, the band might be unknown to some readers of MRR. In fact, I’m not all that familiar with the Mega City Four myself. I do know this is their first proper release, and there were a lot more to follow; from what I’ve heard of their later stuff, it’s even more in a pop direction.

Anyway, Miles Apart/Running in Darkness is a very cool little single, and any fan of late-’80s melodic punk bands from the UK should give it a listen. To my ears, it’s got more of a Stiff Little Fingers feel than, say, Leatherface, who were heavily influenced by Hüsker Dü. But what do I know? Check it out for yourself:

1. Miles Apart
2. Running in Darkness

Sadly, frontman Darren “Wiz” Brown passed away in 2006. Here’s a link to an unofficial (but very comprehensive) Mega City Four webpage: www.megacityfour.co.uk



From the Vaults: Why Are We Here?


January 7th, 2010 by
Play

Here’s a great EP that I first heard when I pulled it off the shelves at MRR. As a rule, compilations are a risky proposition: too many sub-par bands can ruin an otherwise good comp — or, if the different groups’ styles don’t mesh, you end up with an uneven listen. Neither is the case with Why Are We Here?, a regional comp from North Carolina released by No Core Records (get it? No Core) in 1983.

Bloodmobile opens with three SoCal-punk-influenced songs (check the awesome melodic bridge in “Drug-Related Death”!). Sadly, this band never recorded anything else — not even a demo — but I did run across some live tracks several years back that were OK. The almighty Corrosion of Conformity follows with two tracks that would later appear on their debut LP Eye for an Eye (same versions), plus one (“Too Cool”) that’s exclusive to this record.

Stillborn Christians deliver three more HC tunes with an interesting angular post-punk influence. These guys were definitely a cut above your typical paint-by-numbers thrash band, and it’s no surprise that the bass player went on to become a jazz musician. I believe at one point Stillborn Christians were supposed to release something else on No Core (an EP maybe? or cassette album?) and while unfortunately they never had anything else on vinyl, there does exist a great-sounding studio demo from around the same period with different versions of some of their tracks from Why Are We Here? plus a bunch more. Finally, No Labels closes out side B with two more exceptional songs. This band featured two members of C.O.C., though they’ve got more of a straightforward classic DC hardcore style. No Labels also has a ton of songs on the No Core tape (the Why Are We Here? precursor) plus a demo of their own, but these tracks are their best-sounding stuff. The breakdown to “Compromises” is killer!!

Listen below (and apologies for the surface noise — sounds like this particular record has seen many spins).

1. Bloodmobile – Drug-Related Death
2. Bloodmobile – Little Boy Blue
3. Bloodmobile – The Smiths
4. C.O.C. – Poison Planet
5. C.O.C. – Indifferent
6. C.O.C. – Too Cool
7. Stillborn Christians – New Right
8. Stillborn Christians – Fred
9. Stillborn Christians – Aggression
10. No Labels – Changes
11. No Labels – Compromises

To end this post, here’s some awesome live C.O.C. footage from 1983 (though I wish the audio and video were synched) — enjoy!