Commercials generally suck, but keep in mind they are probably helping to finance your favorite TV show (if you have one). I personally love 60 Minutes, but could do without the annoying, cheezy, Viagra or Viagra equivalent commercials. I don’t want to be reminded that old, out of shape people have sex and I certainly don’t want to watch them get all worked up before hand at a fake concert or whatever. Those have to be the worst actors ever. What people do in their bedroom, that’s up to them, but put it on TV, well that is why God made DVRs.
The Advertising business is as unoriginal and inept as any these days. Yet within all this ineptness are some really morally good and talented people as well, who despite being worked like dogs for less and less money and even less time off (Thanks again Wall Street!), still manage to have pride in their work.
Why am I saying this? I have no idea. Perhaps mentally charging myself up for what I now must do… go present my recent life’s work to Madison Avenue. Do I still have it? Did I ever really have it? Time will tell.
Distribution didn’t kill me nor did it claim my soul, but it did give me pause, a big one. Corporate media owned by soulless corporations but run by very real people, some of them good, many of them not, just like in “real” life.
Can one keeps one’s integrity in tact and still be “successful”? Is making money and doing the right thing mutually exclusive? Do you have any idea what I’m talking about? Well, join the club. Me either.
Here is a :30 commercial that I plan to insert into “Raw Travel” just in case Corporate America doesn’t embrace my idea for a TV show that can be both entertaining and be socially responsible at the same time. More to follow.
Finally! Coming to the Americas (north and south) is the legendary punk band from Moscow Russia, who’ve been rocking their comrades since just before the end of the cold war. That my friends, was Ronald Reagan – Mikhail Gorbachev days.
I have always been fascinated by Reagan’s so called “Evil Empire” so I went over to Moscow & St. Petersburg (formerly Leningrad) in 201o (if you missed it, just type “Russia” in the search bar upper right hand corner to see the many videos and posts) and found something more akin to Sting’s “The Russians Love Their Children Too” lyrics. Good people trying to make a living. I mean I’m not sure what I expected, but I still have a place in my heart for the Russian people.
On that trip is when I met the guys from Tarakany! and taped them for “Punktology.. The Worldwide Influence of Punk” (AKA the documentary with the ever changing tag line). Not knowing Tarakany! was really that big, I noticed when they guys gave me some CDs it was like toting back an entire section of music from your local CD store (when you had local CD stores). It was a massive collection.
Then in 2012 when I moved to the west coast and hired a couple of Russian interns (Tim & Snik), and their jaws dropped a bit when I told them about my interview with Tarakany!. it was then that I realized just how big these guys are. They compared them to the “Offspring” of Russia.. and as you’ll see by the interview with the guys that we are debuting today, they compare themselves to “Green Day of Russia”.
Well, here is the thing.. I like Offspring and Green Day but I certainly like Tarakany! music better than Green Day. Notice I didn’t say Offspring… so this is not just hyperbole or anything…it’s the truth. After Tim & Snik told me about Tarakany! I began meticulously listening to ALL their material, and it’s a bunch, as I mentioned below. There were a good 20 or so tracks that I would simply listen to over and over and over.. and finally I said, you know what we gotta put their music out in North America & South America. And we are, coming in November an eclectic mix of English songs from Tarakany! featuring incredible guest artists ranging from Frank Turner, members of Anti-Flag and Useless I.D. plus some more talented mofos from Russia.
I’ve heard the rough cuts and let me tell you, November can’t get here soon enough!
We haven’t announced it yet, but we will but you my dear friends, are always the first to know. So here ya go.
Thanks to Tim & Snik for helping put this video together.
(Biography / English)
Tarakany! (Cockroaches!) is one of the most well known and longest running punk-rock bands in Russia, no small feat in the largest country in the world where western influenced music, media and fashion were outlawed up until just 2 years prior to the band’s formation in 1991.
Like Russia, this popular Moscow band has gone through some changes, but Tarakany! has stayed true to their roots, performing energetic punk and rock’n’ roll in the tradition of legendary bands like The Ramones, Social Distortion, Rancid, Motorhead and Bad Religion.
Tarakany’s lyrics run the gamut from political themes such as human rights, discrimination, inequality and corruption to lighter fare such as sex, partying and clueless music critics. No matter the topic, there is almost always a dose of irreverence and clever wordplay.
The band’s frontman Dmitry Spirin, proclaims their unique world view from stages scattered all over the world where Tarakany!’s fans are a mix of the expected and the unexpected. Their shows are popular among all levels of Russian society from the blue collar punk youth, upscale university students, internet geeks and football hooligans to respected authors, journalists and film laureates.
For over the last 20+ years Tarakany! has travelled all over Russia, Eastern and Western Europe and parts of Asia playing venues ranging from tiny hole-in-the- wall clubs to massive sold out stadiums and popular music festivals in front of tens of thousands of fans. They’ve shared the stage with legendary bands such as NOFX, Toy Dolls, Agnostic Front, Anti-Flag, Misfits, MxPx, Skatalites, MC5, Monster Magnet, Offspring, Exploited, Stranglers and many more. Tarakany! also had the honor of opening for the only Sex Pistols show in Moscow and in Europe they toured with legendary drummer Marky Ramone of The Ramones, first performing their own material and then playing a set of The Ramones’ immortal songs with Marky as drummer.
Tarakany! has released almost a dozen full length studio albums, numerous splits, concert albums, compilations and bootlegs and Tarakany! was Russia’s first punk-rock band to feature music videos shot by some of Russia’s top directors. Always careful to nurture up and coming punk & rock bands, Tarakany! works hard to help other bands from all over the world break into the huge Russian market.
With their forthcoming release from U.S. based Punk Outlaw Records, Tarakany is re-recording several songs from their massive catalog specifically for the North & South American markets for the first time. Contributors on the new release includes members of the legendary U.S. bands Anti-Flag, Useless I.D., Frank Turner as well as Russian guest artists as well, making this a truly international, collaborative punk effort.
The label and band are planning a special effort to continue global awareness and outrage over the fate of the unjustly imprisoned members of the female Russian punk band “Pussy Riot”. Their To Be Titled debut release for Punk Outlaw Records is due out November 2013.
They asked me to name a few films that inspired my love of travel and I listed NOFX “Backstage Passport”and the “Transiberian”with Woody Harrelson (not a great or a classic but a really good, not too overly commercial film that really has me craving a Transiberian railway adventure real soon).
If you missed the article you can check it out HERE.
And if you are one of the 0.005% of the people on this blog that haven’t seen the segment we produced on NOFX way back in 2008, that did sort of kick things off for both the documentary and this blog, then here it is. As for me, I could just watch it over and over and relive the agony over and over and over. Stay tuned and as soon as I find some time I’ll chart our behind the scenes adventure with NOFX in producing this little piece of film history and you’ll understand what I mean.
Hard to believe that not that long ago I was in Paris, France… the city of love and it might be said, “of a not ridiculously small punk scene”, at least by today’s standards (though I admit that slogan probably won’t fit on a t-shirt or hat). In fact, I was pretty impressed by the level of musicianship and diversity going on in the Paris punk scene.
Of course, I was only there for a couple of days, but I plan to be back. I considered this first, sort of last minute trip, my Paris Punk Starter Kit if you will. I just wanted to get a taste of things so I could return and do it the right way some day soon.
Of course, you never know what the future may bring, so I tried to make the best of my time there and cover as much punk rock as possible in the 2 days I’d allotted, foregoing the touristy stuff most people do in Paris. Though I did peek the Eiffel Tower through some buildings just to remind myself I was in Paris and not in some French speaking, alternate universe version of NYC.
I had wanted to catch up with a few other punk bands, most notably Gasmask Terror and the Lipstick Vibrators, but time was too tight and in the Lipstick Vibrators’ case, the guys were on tour in the north of France when I was there.
But lucky for us all, Tom, one of the band members was kind enough to do a little online interview to give us all a bit more insight into the French punk scene. The interview is below and stay tuned for an exclusive video interview with Paris Punk Pioneers “Burning Heads” coming up real soon.
France’s Lipstick Vibrators
Punk Outlaw’s Interview with Paris’ Lipstick Vibrators
PO = Punk Outlaw, LV = Lipstick Vibrators (Duuuh!)
PO: Tell me about Lipstick Vibrators. How long have you guys been around?
LV: We are formed since 2006 …
PO: How do you describe your sound
LV: I think our sound is a kind of mix between garage rock and 77 punk rock. We listen many stuff like 60′ garage, soul, early punk rock …
PO: What are some of your musical influences
LV: Our influences are pretty large. But we are close to bands like New Bomb Turks, Devil Dogs, Stooges, The Heartbreakers, dead Boys … But we also like other stuff like blues or cold wave …
PO: Where have you guys toured?
LV: We’ve toured in France (of course), Italy (as we have a 45′ on an italian label), Spain, Belgium, Germany (twice) and UK. We are open to tour all over the wold.
PO: Do you sing in French or English? Why?
LV: We sing in English because we think that rock’n'roll sound much better in English than in French. French is a good language for poetry or for French folk songs, not for rock’n'roll. It’s just a question of sound. We can sometime hear French bands playing rock’n'roll and singing in French and I think it sounds awful hahahaha! And I think it’s much easier to play outside of France when you sing in English.
PO: What are some of the old French Punk bands who started the scene?
LV: The French punk scene has started in late 70′ with bands like Starshooter, Metal Urbain or the Dogs. They were influenced by bands from USA and UK as we didn’t have punk bands in the 70′. One of the biggest band who brought punk rock to a large audience in France was les Berrurier noir. They were really famous in France and they still are since 1980.
PO: What is the French Punk scene like today?
LV: The French punk scene is not so big in France. Sometimes you can see a very good and famous punk band playing in Paris and there are only 150 persons …
We have many bands, good or not … But not so many places to play. We met very good bands in France but not enough. We have more bad bands than good ones hahahaha! That’s too sad!
I think it’s like everywhere, there are some guys who seems to be punkrockers but they’re just during the week ends. I think rock’n'roll is a real way of life.” Be Rock’n'roll or be nothing”.
PO: Do you think French punk is influenced by North American or UK Punk? Which is more influential or is it neither?
LV: Yes sure! The punk rock is not born in France so we are influenced by our dads in USA or UK. Bands like Sex Pistols or Exploited has really influenced the french scene but also the Stooges or MC5 which are more rock’n'roll.
PO: What does the future hold for Lipstick Vibrators?
LV: We plan to record a second album in early 2013 and we need to find a good label as we want to tour a lot everywhere. We are actually on a Japanese label “Attitude record” and we are planning to go on tour in Japan in 2013. My friends from Guitar Wolf will book the tour for us. We want to make many tours and albums in the future !
PO: Anything else you want to add?
LV: Keep your soul free and Rock’n'roll Motherf@*ers!!!
I don’t like plugging random punk shows and events too often because there are so many and our readers are from so many different locations it isn’t useful to everyone. But considering such a large % of our readers are from Colombia and Latin America I thought it might interest people to know about this big festival coming up in Medellin. It’s also a good chance to hear our good buddies from Punk Outlaw Records,“Los Suziox”and other excellent local punk bands.
And in case you missed the article we put out on the Colombian Punk scene in Remezcla magazine, you can check it out HERE.
or I’ve posted the “un-edited” raw version just for you, our loyal readers. Enjoy!
LIKE A GOOD PUNK SONG, IT BEGINS WITH INJUSTICE
I remember it clearly, or as clearly as anyone of us can remember anything. I was at an outdoor café in Parque Lleras in the upscale neighborhood of Poblado in Medellin, Colombia. This was my first visit to Medellin and I had been there just long enough to realize how ridiculous of my irrational fears of being kidnapped or killed in a drug war shootout were.
Lleras was an appropriate spot for a semi-nervous turista to grab some food and people watch. It felt “muy tranquilo”. Most people looked as if they were lifted out of a scene from a hot nightclub in Miami or Los Angeles. The girls were dressed sexy and the guys were sizing them up unabashedly while drinking beer or shooting aguardiente, a Colombian liqueur sometimes called firewater.
Suddenly, I saw something I’d never seen in my travels to Latin America heretofore, a trio of hardcore looking young punks, two guys and a girl, walking around plying their handmade leather wristbands and jewelry to the visitors and upscale denizens of Medellin.
I don’t remember specifically what they were wearing but there was no doubt they were punks. They were of the mohawk wearing, tattooed and pierced variety, the kind you might see at an Exploited or Casualties show moshing it up and stagediving, not posers.
“There are punks in Latin America?” the naïve nature of my first thoughts would later be cause for much amusement. I would find that “por supuesto” (of course) there were indeed many punks in Latin America with a rich history at that.
WHERE AM I & HOW DID I GET HERE?
At this point in my life, I was a fairly new observer of the punk lifestyle not realizing that even though I was not of the Mohawk, tattooed, pierced variety, I can now confidently state that I was pure punk. Though always slightly rebellious and suspicious of authority, even in my native Tennessee, my theory is that I’ve been a punk since birth, but that my “punkness” had lain dormant. I was a punk and didn’t realize it until I’d lived in New York City for a few years and against some pretty heavy odds, tried my hand at becoming an entrepreneur and changing a small but ugly part of the media business.
“A punk-rock businessman?” you ask. Yes. They, like Colombian punks, also exist. At the time when I began my entrepreneurial pursuit of producing English language TV for young, American born Latinos, it seemed it was me (a white farm boy), my friends (almost all Latino) and our cause (representing Latinos in mainstream media) against a largely ignorant and biased media world run by large corporations and their just as hefty corporate sponsors.
At the beginning, my small, bootstrapped and grossly underfunded company was often on the verge of extinction but we found strength in our commitment to fight the status quo of corporate media giants and their sometimes willful ignorance. In my eyes at the time, they represented an intellectually lazy culture that was largely intent on keeping things the same. We represented a new, open minded culture that demanded change.
Money didn’t motivate me, (I viewed it more as a tool to stay alive and fight the good fight), as much as the cause, which felt more and more like the right thing as many people first ignored us, then laughed at us and finally attacked us ( the 3 stages of success).
It was at this time in my life when I mistakenly thought I would fail but had pledged I was going to go down swinging, blacking a few eyes along the way, that I also mistakenly bought Social Distortion’s “White Light, White Heat, White Trash” CD. This happy accident was a bridge to a genre and lifestyle that would take me on a journey to points the world over and would forever change my life.
At this point of the Colombian punk sighting, I was not an entirely seasoned, independent traveler just yet either. Most of my travels had thus far consisted of staying in chain hotels confined to the safety of tourist zones in places like the Dominican Republic or Costa Rica. I had a lot to learn about both the punk lifestyle and independent travel.
MY ACCIDENTAL JOURNEY
Watching these punked out Colombian teens, my curiosity was peaked. I wanted to speak to these guys and even though my Spanish was rudimentary, I wanted more information. Information like; “How did they become punks?”, “Was there a big scene in Colombia?”, “What bands influenced them most?”, etc.
I followed at a distance trying to catch up. The sight of a running gringo is rarely a sign of anything good in these parts, so I briskly walked to the corner of the main road where a bus was making its stop.
Bus routes or collectivos in Colombia and most of Latin America are run by private drivers and though they are subject to some government oversight, it feels a bit like the wild West at times. Each bus is often “hooked up” with chrome trimmings while brightly painted designs and nicknames on the front or side reflect the personality of the driver and even its destination.
The rides can sometimes be rough. Years later, when I actually lived in Colombia for a few months, I regularly took the bus and once witnessed a lady literally getting bounced out of her shoes. Had we not grabbed her she may have bounced right out of the open, back door of the bus!
Now this is the part I have replayed in my head many times since. As the punks attempted to gain entry, the bus driver, who looked like a decent guy but had the posture of a hardworking man who’s run this route 6 days a week, 12-15 hours a day for a while, shook his head vehemently “no”, refusing to open his doors and drove away trailing a smelly, cloudy diesel exhaust to a chorus of “puta madres” and “hijo de puta” protestations from the trio of young punks.
After witnessing this discouraging scene, alas, I lost my nerve to approach the now irritated punks. I had wandered off tourists’ reservation and felt the sudden need to head back to familiar territory.
But that incident with the punks and the bus in Medellin was firmly tattooed on my brain and inspired me to bring my video camera on what would become many subsequent trips. I would attempt to document the punk scene not only in Colombia but all of Latin America and even the world! I now had a host of other questions like “Are punks regularly discriminated against?”; “Do police harass them?”; “What do their families think?” “What’s it like being a punk in the developing world” etc.
Since that incident, my travels have taken me on several journeys throughout Latin America including Guatemala, Argentina, Uruguay, Honduras, Chile, Peru, Ecuador and even Cuba with plans to hit the meccas of Mexico and Brazil. I’ve also traveled to Trinidad & Tobago, Spain, Russia, Romania, Ukraine, Hungary and Serbia. My goal is to visit every continent, even Antarctica. .
So far I’ve conducted scores of interviews and watched dozens of punk bands perform. I’ve posted some of them on my video blog PunkOutlawBlog.com which also serves as a rough outline for the bigger project, a documentary film entitled “Punktology” with the ever-evolving tagline “The Power of a Punk Planet”. I began a digital record label called Punk Outlaw Records to bring some of this punk and underground music to audiences in North America and Europe.
So much has been documented about punk from the U.S. and U.K. perspective, but what of the rest of the world? I also attempt to cover not just punk but other related, underground genres like Rockabilly, Psychobilly, Ska, Reggae, etc. in an attempt to find out what makes the scenes tick and tied together.
These bands and scenes aren’t merely extensions of the U.S or U.K, but separate and divergent with their own uniqueness set in a larger global ecosystem that while unorganized somehow has a natural order, almost like a collective consciousness in a punk parallel universe.
It’s the same but different at the same time. Same enough to have this love of punk in common yet diverse enough with their own cultural idiosyncrasies to prove interesting.
That punk/bus incident in Colombia inspired me to look further and see what stories had been left untold about the music I love from the rest of our planet.
COLOMBIA – A PUNK SORPRESA
I like surprises, like the Social Distortion CD or punks in Colombia where I had done no prior research and had no idea what to make of it. Maybe that’s why years later even after all these other travels, I still find myself fascinated by the depth and passion of the punk movement in Colombia.
From Bogota’s rough and tumble scene (which often may feature an element of danger or a riot ending with the police firing tear gas) to the “usually” more peaceful but equally fuerte scenes in Medellin and surrounding coffee country lands of Manizales, Armenia and Pereira to the coastal areas of Cali & Cartagena and even the Amazon. Colombia’s punk scene is as diverse as the country itself.
BOGOTA FOR THE BRAVE – ROCKIN ROLOS!
Many start their journey to Colombia in the big, bustling, high altitude capital of Bogota. If you hit a punk show here it’s probably going to start off calm enough but stick around and it’s almost guaranteed to get crazy. At a Casualties show I covered in 2009 the police had a showdown complete with tanks and teargas with the punks in the street who were partying outside the venue. Thankfully the concert inside went on and was an utter blast.
Then of course, there is Rock Al Parque, a huge free outdoor music festival organized by the government that last for days, garners hundreds of thousands of attendees and features acts from all over the world. It showcases diverse styles of music including Rock, Metal, Reggae, Ska, World and some Punk.
While Punk is somewhat represented at Rock Al Parque, the selection process to play has become politicized and rife with controversy, so much so that many punk bands say “f*&k it” and play instead at simultaneous, smaller underground shows. .
In 2010 while covering Rock Al Parque, I left my press credentials behind and attended one such event and for a brief moment thought I might not make it out with my life, much less my camera. Unbeknownst to me at the time, there had been a stabbing outside. The police arrived and too many people rushed inside, resulting in serious overcrowding for a venue with only one rear entrance serving as the exit. I was thinking “fire trap” and unable to get the tragic “Great White” concert in Rhode Island out of my head. I found myself in the midst of some very drunk & rowdy punks and unable to navigate to the lone exit.
When I finally did make it out of the too small venue, it was around 2 AM and the big crowd outside had completely disappeared. It was just me, in a lonely and decidedly non-touristy part of Bogota toting around a fairly expensive camera with a few desperate souls lurking in the shadows. I never felt more like a target in my life. Eventually, I made it home safely with incredible footage but unclear if I’d truly been lucky or just another jittery Gringo.
If Psychobilly is your thing, well there is an emerging Psychobilly scene with bands Los Chiclosos Desmembrados and Salidos de la Cripta doing their part, but it’s clear that for most underground Rolos (nickname for Bogotanos), Punk rules.
MEDELLIN IS A MECCA – PUNK PAISAS
Maybe it was my emotional connection with the trio trying to catch that bus, but I think it goes deeper than that, whatever the reason I was immediately drawn to the punk scene in Medellin.
On subsequent trips, hanging out in Parque Poblado (a working class alternative to the nearby and higher priced Parque Lleras), I was able to get to know punks in Medellin first hand. I discovered, through interviews and web sites like ColombianPunk.comand Punk-Medallothat Medellin was a mecca and had been since the 1980s & 90s when the FARC, Narco Trafficos and Colombian government were in a bloody war that ripped the country apart. Each had demanded that punks take their side. Most didn’t and as such were targets from all sides. In the U.S. it was cool to wear a mohawk, in Colombia, it could be deadly.
Maybe it is the fact that the Paisas (a nickname for Medellin’s residents) survived such a devastating war (this was after all Pablo Escobar’s home turf) but you’d be hard pressed to find a friendlier, more hospitable bunch than the Paisa Punks of Medellin. More notably, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the depth of punk musicianship that I’ve encountered in Medellin anywhere in the world, including modern day Los Angeles or New York City.
In Medellin you have famous, legendary veterans like I.R.A., a co-ed trio of punks who over their nearly 30 year career are still putting out music and toured the U.S. and even CBGBs in 2004.
Then there are I.R.A.’s hardcore peers, Fertil Miseria fronted by Viki, her tatted bald head instantly recognizable to fans throughout the country. Viki, with the rest of her band mates and other friends in the tightknit scene, also run “Rock N Roll Tienda”, a store where you can get hooked up with punk & metal gear, patches and pins.
Bands like Los Sornos (garage punk) and Neus (industrial punk), Estoy Puto, GP, Desaptadoz, Disastre Capital, Infeccion Sikosis, Lokekeda and many, many more have been performing excellent punk music in Medellin and surrounding areas for years now. International acts like the Casualties, the Addicts and Konflict roll through town on a semi regular basis. And while psychobilly is more of a Bogota thing there is an emerging rockabilly scene with the excellent Dorados Rockabilly Trio spreading their rockabilly rhythm with shows at tattoo conventions, motorcycle shops, etc.
But perhaps the headquarters for punk music in Colombia is Medellin’s northernmost neighborhood of Bello, a rough and tumble barrio 45 minutes away by car from the more comfy confines of Poblado. Bello is where the leader of Los Suziox (The Dirty Ones), Andres Ocampo lives, works and produces at his DIY recording studio and where on the streets of this decidedly working class barrio, he is a bona-fide celebrity.
In Bello punk almost feels main stream. It is just part of the culture and no one waves the Bello moniker more proudly than Los Suziox who have performed their infectious melodic punk for thousands of frenetic fans all over Colombia but strangely never at Rock Al Parque.
Why is punk so big in Colombia? David & Monica from I.R.A. say that it is because of the suffering Colombians have experienced over the years and that punk music’s popularity comes from “the hearts of the youth who are living with unemployment, violence and intolerance” on a daily basis.
In my travels, I have to agree. Misery is great fodder for a punk scene, but it doesn’t really explain the full story. Places like Guatemala, Honduras, Venezuela and Ecuador have also seen their share of misery yet have comparatively smaller scenes. Indeed the misery index is high in many places where the punk scene is a fraction of the size and depth of Colombia throughout Latin America (in Argentina punk was outlawed during the military dictatorship, Peru was ripped apart by terrorism and war in the 1980s as well and don’t get me started about Cuba).
But Andres of Los Suziox, who doesn’t shy away from heavy subjects like global politics in his lyrics, says that Colombia’s casual, good time culture also has a lot to do with it, matching up favorably with Punks DIY and democratic method of delivering a diverse message. Andres states that “Every punk in Medellin has a band. Even if two drunks are in a park strumming a guitar, they can be a (punk) band. This is real music, music from the gut. There are no rules. You don’t have to be a virtuoso. You don’t have to be pretty, look at me!”
Colombia has been known for many things; a brutal war that once made inter country travel almost impossible, thuggish drug cartels, government corruption, and crippling poverty in a capitalistic economic system that still too often leaves the weak to simply fend for themselves.
It’s also known for incredibly diverse ecology, cultures and geography, delicious food, cheap beer an emerging middle class and some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet. Oh and one more thing, now it can be known as a place with some of the best punk music you’ve ever heard.
I can hear the Colombian tourism bureau’s new tagline now “Colombia… the only risk is that you’ll get a mohawk”.
MADRID SPAIN: Back! Back in the U.S. on the east coast where I forced myself to stay up almost 24 hours straight and go to bed at 12 midnight NYC time. Big mistake. Now I’m up before the sun at 5AM or 1PM Spain/France time, so that is like sleeping in, except the math doesn’t add up to anywhere near 8 hours baby Rob likes to get. The older I get the more sleep I crave. The uglier, the more beauty sleep required to just look in the mirror.
I’ve calculated that I will have unpacked at least 8 different times on this journey. I haven’t worn clean underwear in days. Though I’ve tried to watch my budget by taking trains, metros and buses instead of taxis and using AIRBNB most of the time instead of hotels, I’ve spent quiet a bit of money.
Traveling is not as glamorous as you may thing sometimes, but totally worth it. And regardless of whether I ever return to France or Spain again (I certainly plan too, quickly, but you never know in this world, what surprises, good or bad, lurk around the corner), I will never think of those places the same. I am forever changed, as I always am after each journey, regardless of the destination.
Punk music invisible in downtown Madrid?
And lest your opinion of me be forever changed, that crack about the dirty underwear? Just kidding and making sure you were paying attention. Though I will admit there may have been a rare time I’ve gone a day or two without (commando I believe is the term) perhaps, because laundry did not get done. OK, we may need to rename this post TMI (Too Much Information… that’s English language slang amigos).
Lets get to the nitty gritty (also slang for the “real” stuff).
I was visiting Madrid, Spain for a grand total of 15 hours. Hardly time to get my pea sized brain wrapped around anything, much less the punk scene there. But I will say I packed a lot into my little bit of time there.
I hooked up with an old school chum I hadn’t seen since college and that my friends was a long time ago. His name is Hassan (yes, he is of Lebanese descent), he now lives in Dubai and he has relations in Madrid. He saw I was in town via Facebook and we got together and had some great food, good beer and rehashed some old times, but mostly talked world politics, travel and culture our now mutual interest.
It’s funny, when Hassan last knew me I hadn’t owned a passport and had never even been on a plane and had probably traveled to a grand total of 6 or 7 states, all in the general vicinity of Tennessee. I don’t remember ever being at a loss for words with Hassan in college, but we seemed to have plenty to speak of on this go around.Travel gives a person lots to talk about and certainly changes their world view. Hassan showed up wearing a Ramones shirt so music was also on the conversational agenda.
But before I met Hassan, I had fired up the camera and walked around downtown Madrid, poking around, seeing if I could get a sense of the city in the few waking hours I had. Not sure if I succeeded but I did meet a young punk rocker, Kevin from Boston, Mass (USA), just hanging out on a street corner.
Madrid protesters… but not into punk
Kevin was unmistakably GBH Style punk with combat boots and a black leather jacket with punk band buttons from bands like Discharge and a few others. He was cool and has been living in Spain for a while, while his girlfriend studies in Madrid.
He had just returned from Barcelona where he said the punk scene was much bigger than Madrid. This surprised me but what do I know? I was in Barcelona in 2007 and met some psychobilly chaps who were quiet cool but all in all, I dig Madrid more than Barcelona as a travel destination. Kevin did say that Psychobilly was big in Madrid and gave me some names of some local bands to check out my next time in.
Next up I saw a group of 5 of the oddest, weirdest looking punks I think I’ve ever seen. They were impossible to miss. One of the old guys (probably 50 something, looked 60 something) was bald but had a long white ony tail and a confederate flag sewn into the back of his black leather jacket with Lynard Skynard patches all over and tight black jeans and boots. At first, I thought he was a redneck biker from the U.S.
One other guy looked like Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean and he talked a bit like him too. Most of the girls were younger but none of them were interested in speaking to me much about the punk scene. They were drunk, smoking and having a good time and I was some American tourist ruining it.
Jack Sparrow dude was indeed British, very, very British and the others seemed Spanish and I still never got the skinny on the literally very, very skinny Mr. Lynard Skynard. Maybe I should have told him I grew up in Southern Tennessee, just a few miles north and very near “Sweet Home Alabama”. To this day, I still don’t find Alabama so sweet.
I got the brush off and was too chicken to get photos of this motley crew. Damned zoom lens was at home too. But if I had, oh man, it would have been one for the ages.
I’ve never seen such a picturesque crew that just by the look of them, would inspire all kinds of fear, loathing and disgust from the masses walking by. For good or for bad, right or wrong (and we all know it’s wrong) they are the generic but colorful image that springs up in most people’s mind when they hear the words “punk music”.
Mariachi punk? Nah, but anyone can jump on stage & sing
And finally, as if to prove to you that I uncover all angles when I visit a new place, Madrid is full of protests, especially now. I ran into these young students who apparently were protesting Spain’s efforts to privatize education. But alas, they were not punk at all. Their music of choice, the dreaded “E” word, “Electronica” which has been the rage in Europe for at least 25-30 years now and has finally cursed the states. They told me most lovers of punk resided in the barrios outside of the city and that sounds pretty true to form in many places, where the downtown area is actually the nice area. As in most cities, there were Hip Hop wannabee thugs roaming the streets trying to look tough but coming off like cartoon copycats as always.
SIDE NOTE: In NYC I forgot about how many of these poor tasteless clowns exist, but in NYC you will listen to Hip Hop whether you like it or not. At least in Europe I have a choice to turn away. Alas a post for another day.
So not much to tell you about punk music in Madrid other than, of course, it’s there. And I really dug Madrid. So never fear, if things work out, I’ll for sure be back in Madrid and other parts of Spain to give a better report.
Rebel A**holes of Paris
Now in the meantime, I had promised you a bit more music from the Paris Punk show I attended. I, being a man of my word, have delivered.
Paris, France.. “City of Love”, the Eiffel Tower, great food and bla, bla, bla so many other things there is no use in listing them. Needless to say it’s one of the world’s most famous cities and for many good reasons.
Fresh from my time in Cannes where (no I was not lounging by the beach or out in my yacht in the French Riviera), I spent what little sleeping time I had in an overpriced but adequate studio apartment that was clean, had wi-fi and most importantly was within walking distance of my primary reason to be there in the first place, the MIPCOM TV convention where I was chasing down networks to meet with.
Meetings went well by the way. One way or another, no matter where you live, I think you can expect Raw Travelon a TV near you by 2013 or 2014 tops. When it does you can say “wow, that only took 3.5 years”. Tough being independent in a sea of media giants folks.
Cannes.. charming but not very punk rock
Cannes was cool. I liked it much better than I expected, given it’s reputation as a luxurious retreat catering to the world’s elite wealthy and famous. Cannes also had a real side, a nice and friendly side that was charming as well and that is the part I fell in love with. In hopes we’ll be back with the show, I shot some video for Raw Travel and photos that you can check outHERE
But the closest thing to punk I witnessed was a lone tourist, by the looks of things a bloke from Britain, strolling the Croisette in a Descendants T-shirt. Normally I’d have hopscotched over to the guy and asked him a few questions to see if I could get the 411 but in this case, I was busy chomping down on a cheap but delicious Quiche Lorraine and to be honest, knew it was a moot point. Too many faux hawks in Cannes for there to be anything but Hip Hop and Electronica.
Terez with Jules from Carnage Punk Records
For the punk scene in France, may as well just skip to the chase and get straight to Paris, where there is not only a rich punk history, but also a healthy scene currently as well.
I mean France makes complete sense for a thriving punk scene. Protests, revolutions, an independent way of doing things…. it all just kind of fits and it’s a city I liked within 10 minutes of landing.
When I finally arrived in Paris, being the budget traveler and having my budget pummeled ever so slightly in Cannes, I took the train ($10 Euros about $12.50 U.S.) to another adequately clean and furnished studio apartment that I heard is in the “red light district”, however have seen no evidence to back that up (nor have I been looking for any by the way).
What I have seen in this neighborhood are a ton of Gyro shops (I’ve had 2 already!) in what appears to be a very immigrant and diverse community, in other words, the type of place I dig. Last night as I dozed I heard some guy singing what sounded to be a tune from Africa. Lots of color here, like NYC, which is maybe why I like it so much.
Unlike Cannes which was unusually warm, it’s chilly and damp here and I’m under dressed, so first thing I did after arriving to the apartment was went out and bought a 5 Euro (about $7 U.S.) flannel shirt that will be worn the entire time here (only 2.5 days).
Figuring out the Paris subway system was fairly easy. The ticket machines have an option in English and a ride is like $1.70 Euro (a little over $2 U.S.) Getting in the insanely overcrowded thing (on a Saturday night no less) was another. I thought NYC was bad? This felt like Moscow all over again.
Forget a taxi. Super expensive, I’m allergic to rip offs and as soon as I say “Parlez-Vous Anglais” (do you speak English, I have a feeling it would be all over). Besides, traffic was at a complete standstill (training back to the airport during Rush Hour Monday morning with luggage in tow should be interesting).
In the pit.
Finding the venue, Centro Muscial Barbarawas easier than I thought. I just asked a kind and local bartender near the metro stop. (It’s bizarre that opposite of what I’d always been told, most people are very, very accommodating and go out of their way to be kind to non French speakers. Perhaps it’s my puppy dog eyes that I flash that gets them?)
Happily I made it there in time to see the 2nd half of “The Decline” who were opening the show. I saw all three bands and was thoroughly impressed by each. The Decline reminded me of a bit of Irish influenced punk rock with an acoustic song or two punctuating their sets and their poetic lyrics. Maybe even a little Social Distortion?
“The Rebel Assholes” reminded me just a bit of the U.S. band The Queers or Pennywise, NOFX or even Anti-Flag with their melodic, fast paced songs and heavy, rockin’ bass solos.
Then the Burning Heads opened with a slow tempo reggae rhythm and I knew I wasn’t far from Clash territory (or at least 5,000 miles or so closer than I am in California). Burning Heads (and all the bands actually) sang in English while addressing the crowd in French. I think I even heard a “gracias” or two from Burning Heads.
When I asked Street Poison they said they too sing in English. So much for the “French Only” stereotype we North Americans have been told over and over since our youth. Either France has changed (multi-lingual announcements in the airport and subway), or we were told a big, fat lie. Probably a bit of both.
In between the sets, I was able to talk to a few of the Paris punk fans, which was a healthy mix of guys and gals of all ages and like Paris itself, ethnic groups. Jules from Street Poison was celebrating his birthday and in addition to band mate Samy, his mum and his younger brother were out, helping make the whole thing a nice family affair.
I met Terez, a young female lighting designer sporting an Adolescents patch (she did the lighting for tonight’s show as well as for the Adolescents when they were in town) and a sleeve full of tattoos. Her husband Benjo, a local tattoo artist at his store Benjo San Tattoo, chatted a bit about music and how tattoos are becoming more accepted in French society.
Benjo introduced me to one of his friends/clients who was heavily tatted up and shared my love for Social Distortion which Benjo and company had seen play when they visited Paris in 2010. If you visit Paris and you want to get a tat from a real, authentic punk then Benjo is your guy. Visit his shop’s websites HERE and HERE.
In the crowd I saw a pretty much average punk crowd that you’d see most anywhere. There were Black Flag, Bad Religion & Madball shirts, plenty of “Scally caps”but no real street punk mohawks or anything.
I did notice a chap (have you noticed my British style speak? Wait til you hear my new accent! Madonna’s gonna be pissed) sporting a scarf around his neck Hollywood Director style. That occasional sighting and the French most people were speaking was my only real reminder that I was in Paris and not NYC. The pit was not overly rowdy and I was able to sidle my way up front and take photos and videos pretty much without any worry of being creamed.
You ought to see all the photos form the Paris Punk Show so check them out HEREand be sure and tune back in later for video from all the bands from Saturday’s Paris Punk Show, our exclusive interview with Street Poison and our online interview with the Lipstick Vibrators who unfortunately were touring the north country and we were unable to hook up with in person.
In short, even though our stay in France is coming to an end, our coverage is just beginning (that’s the way it works), so be sure and check back often. Now, I’m off to get a Croissant, a Baguette or something French sounding to eat.
Try not to be jealous. It’s really not a good look on you.
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If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know I specialize in sort of “off the beaten path” travels. Places like Central & South America, Eastern Europe, Russia, Cuba, Trinidad, etc. Why? Well, you could say I’m cheap but you’d then be ignoring the fact that Moscow & St. Petersburg Russia are a lot of things, but cheap ain’t one of them.
Covering Rockabilly in Moscow, Russia
Perhaps I like the excitement of hitting up a place that few tourists have hit. Some of my lousiest trips have been where I’ve gone thousands of miles only to be surrounded by Americans from the U.S. (South American and Canadians are “Americans’ too ya’ll.. get it right).
My first trip down to Central America was Costa Rica. I chose CR because I was so stressed out and was trying desperately to forget my problems back home. I rented a car and drove all over the country even over the dreaded montaña de la muerte (mountain of death).
At one remote but popular national park, I ended up picking up a hitchhiking tourist (not uncommon down there) who was not only from New York City, but worked for one of the very people who I not only knew in the media industry but was hoping to forget about for a few days. My nervous twitch returned while she was in the car carrying on about the guy.
Then in Machu Picchu, Peru I was surrounded by English speaking, mostly Americans who were really nice but really not what I had been going for when I booked my quick, week long trip where the idea was to escape the rigors of running my own little “company that could” in the big, bad and too often too ugly media biz.
Interviewing a Peruvian punk in Bogota
But all in all, travel on my worst day was still better than being “home” on an average day. Not that I’m so miserable in the U.S. (“like it or leave it dude” – callate!), but I do love travel that much. Sometimes I’m more comfortable being uncomfortable. Don’t ask me why.
That is why I’ve been working for the past 24 months or so on a project called “Raw Travel”, which incorporates more than a little punk attitude in the way it approaches travel and other cultures and especially the TV biz.
My love of travel is also at least 50% why I do this blog (the other 50% being my love of punk) and the other 50% evenly split between the documentary “Punktology”and “Punk Outlaw Records”.
Hey, I never said math was my strong suite.
And now my friends, it’s time.
I’ve been robbed (Argentina), mugged, well attempted at least (Brazil & Ecuador) and cheated (Rich Vreede/Black Cat)…I’ve been criticized, flamed, harassed, stalked and most damning of all… ignored. And for what, you might ask?
Money? Ha, ha, ha…. What short term memory problems you have. Please see above about being robbed, mugged and cheated. And besides, excuse me, everyone knows there IS a lot of money exchanging hands in punk music…. and all of it flows one way… out.. rarely in.
Recognition? Nahhh…. rarely does anyone give a shit enough for more than a few folks to even say a kind word or two (much appreciated by the way though). I’ve been “recognized” before and I can tell you it’s overrated. Like easy sex (is there such a thing?), it feels good at the moment but afterwards it’s like, did that even actually happen?
Dorados Rockabilly Trio – Both good & gracious… a tough combo to find
Appreciation? ha, ha… double, triple ha. I don’t know if you are aware of this but musicians can be the most narcissistic bunch in the world (second only to actors and professional athletes). Even punk musicians.
Many are like “spend your $ on me, poor musician, with no resources”, make a music video, put the music out, tell the world about them, build em a website… and get….. well on a rare occasion, like my buddy Felipe from Dorados Rockabilly Trio, I’ll get an international phone call just to say “Thank you”. Man.. that means a lot because most of the artists, whether on Punk Outlaw Records or whether we just do a little profile here with a segment, don’t even bother to grunt “thanks” when it’s all said and done and they’ve gotten what they wanted. Short term thinkers get short term rewards.
OK, maybe that’s a little overly pessimistic and exaggerated, but this Southern farm boy was taught to be gracious, to everyone for almost every possible kind thing.. and I’m amazed that at least 50% of the musicians we profile here, rarely if ever say the words “Thank you”. Many having begged me for the exposure and after the post goes up, poof! they disappear without a word. Disheartening.
So why would I do it? you ask… good question and I think the answer lies somewhere in the 50% who do show some gratitude, the 25% to the readers who show appreciation and the other 50% is my love of travel/punk aforementioned. (Once again, not good at math, I said!).
But I’ve digressed. What exactly is it time for?
It’s time, my friends, for me, the 3rd world punk rock traveler to cheap locations to do the unthinkable. To hit, one of the most expensive, oft referenced touristy places on the planet. You may have guessed it by our headline as nothing escapes your attention…. oui, oui (snicker, snicker, I said “wee, wee”).. France.
Yes, France. The city of love, wine, cheese, supposedly anti-American or anti-any non French speaking, French Fry (joking!) loving France.
“Why France? Why now?” you ask.
Do I love being condescended upon for lack of native lingual ability? Do I really want to see if croissants are better there than in Santa Monica? Do I think the U.S. media has probably done such a good job of stereotyping the French so I need to check them out for myself? Well, yes actually.
But also for two other important reasons, one relates to Raw Travel and the other Punk Music.
1) Cannes – There is a big TV Festival there twice a year called MIPCOM, which is the must go to spot for buying and selling international TV. In addition to working on a U.S. outlet for Raw Travel, we’ve had some good interest internationally (evidently there are people who like to travel more than us in the U.S. of A.), so I’m saying to hell with the jet lag, sleep deprivation and expense. I’m going. (plus a good buddy hooked me up with a pass!).
2) Paris – Who could visit France and not visit the famous “city of love”. or based on all the research I (meaning the Russian interns) could gather, where the only punk scene of note in France exist.
The French Riviera…. not very “punk rock” at all
Am I right? Am I wrong? Do you know?
Drop me a note. I only have 2.5 days counting travel to check out Paris and as much as I love Punk music, I still would like to check out the tourist traps of Paris as I’m not sure I’ll ever be back. And just an observation after all my travels, the punk scene is rarely, ever even remotely around the nice parts of any city. Always in the shitty part of town no tourist would be caught dead in, that’s where I specialize I guess.
So I’m thinking I have 1 or maybe 2 interviews or 1 punk show at most to hit (I will be there next weekend). All in all, I prefer a good punk, or psychobilly or rockabilly show. Nothing gives insight more broadly in a short period of time than a good show.
But barring that, interviewing a couple of the bands or key fans is also on the agenda. The Russians did put together some really good research for me and I’ve got a few of the bands listed below. I’ve got to decide who to hit up soon, so I thought I might ask you, loyal reader(s) to help me choose. I’ve posted band names and links below. Got some spare time? take a listen.. tell me who you dig the most. Know someone in France? Send ‘em my way (tell them I’m Canadian if you must).
Paris here we come
But don’t dilly dally… I’ll be in Paris 10/13-10/15 only and need to start reaching out soon.
Oh and lest I forget, “merci” in advance.
Here are the bands. Click on them to go to their respective sites/pages.
If you live in California, it’s 9pm Pacific Time and feel free to come on down and join the fun. If you are on the East coast (NYC/Miami) it’s 12 Midnight Eastern Standard Time and if you are somewhere in between or international, then here is this new-fangledy thing called the “Internet” that Al Gore invented (your using it now believe it or not) that will tell you what time to tune in HERE.
I use it all the time.
You can watch the live video streaming or just listen to the audio. I recommend the live streaming video of course. The guys from Pigz are seriously funny guys, so I think it will be a fun night. Come on down, call in, tune on in or all of the above. Sleep when you’re dead.