Originally pressed in 1996 PROFANE EXISTENCE is bringing this quintessential anarcho punk masterpiece back in circulation.
In 1996 AUS-ROTTEN released their first LP “The System Works For Them” on an unsuspecting punk scene. It spread like wildfire in a pre internet era within a genre that mostly depended on tape trading. (at least is was pre internet for us penniless punks) “The System Works For Them” was the perfect mix of anger and intelligence that the scene needed at the time (and still does today). It was like a wake up call that opened the eyes and ears to many punks the world over. The messages where crystal clear and most us were hooked as soon as the beginning shouts of “Boycott” bellowed over the speakers. I don’t believe any of us ever expected their message to resonate so well within the scene, but even more surprising is how the songs are just as relevant today as on they the day they were written. Which is why PROFANE EXISTENCE has decided to repress this record. We feel that that messages that AUS-ROTTEN brought to the table are to powerful to ignore. We feel that this LP is important and therefore should be highly available and priced affordably.
PROFANE EXISTENCE has worked out every last detail of this release with the members of AUS-ROTTEN whom have been involved from step one. All tracks have been re-masted by Jay Matherson at the Jamroom studios. To be 100% honest we didn’t want to do a complete re-master of what we already considered a good recording. However when we opened the tracks on protools we noticed a few balance issues that required fixing. These fixes resulted in a tremendous upgrade to the overall quality of the tracks. We painstakingly scanned, puzzled, and photoshopped the original artwork to make sure that it was as close to authentic as it could possible be. We then went for broke by pressing in three different vinyl color combinations! Overall to say that we are pumped to release this would be an understatement, we are absolutely ecstatic to bring you this LP on PROFANE EXISTENCE!
To top this all off we worked with AUS-ROTTEN vocalist Dave Trenga on redrawing the classic “What Good Is Money, When There Is No One Left To Buy” design for a T-Shirt to concede with the albums release. This is a fresh take on an old image to create a new and original design.
Vinyl options are…
1. Standard black vinyl
2. “The Battlefield is Still Red” Bloodsplatter vinyl.
3. See through “Smoke”. – Available at SKULLFEST only
Silence are a highly active post-punk/peace-punk band from Pittsburgh, PA. “The Deafening Sound of Absolutely Nothing” strives (and succeeds) to achieve the perfect balance between peace and post punk. By taking influences from The Mob, Bauhaus, Zounds, Killing Joke, Amebix, Crass, Conflict, Internal Autonomy and Joy Division SILENCE have created what can only be described a brilliant debut LP. At one moment this record is dark, heavy, and atmospheric and then the next moment it makes you want to dance and sing along. Lyrically SILENCE are much closer to the anarcho side of the previously listed influences. Lyrics focus on a variety of topics but often have a strong focus on the way punk and activist communities deal with political struggle in our current political climate.
“The Deafening Sound of Absolutely Nothing” comes with a 16 page magazine size zine containing lyrics, personal writings and song explanations. Designed, printed and assembled by the band themselves in true D.I.Y. fashion.
Silence will be having a record release show in their hometown of Pittsburgh PA at the Rock Room Friday April 22nd with SHADOW AGE and SKELETON HANDS. Then later this month SILENCE will embark on a full United States tour to support “The Deafening Sound of Absolutely Nothing”. Here is a list of dates. Be show to check in with the bands “bandcamp” or “Facebook” page for show updates.
When all that remains is a world in flames. Is that when they’ll say the wars are finally won? That wars are finally done?
They’re beating on the drums again, they’re fueling up the planes. The congressmen fall into line and sing the old refrain. In the name of peace they’ll burn the land and drop a thousand bombs.
Meanwhile we’ll just stay at home and go back to our sitcoms. It’s the same old song, we’ve heard it before. They’re beating the drums and they’re calling for war. What it’s supposed to accomplish, no one is sure But the victims are always the hungry and the poor.
Once the drums of war begin it’s hard to make them stop. The noise silences the dissidents once the bombs begin to drop. All those who call for peace will be mocked and pushed aside. In 10 years they’ll admit we were right after many thousands more have died.
Finally after many delays from the pressing plant the WARWOUND Demo’s LP “A Huge Black Cloud” is out and copies are moving fast!
Recorded in 1983, this record contains 15 songs from 3 sessions. With a few different takes you get a total of 25 blistering tracks. For those unfamiliar with WARWOUND, they are a UK band formed in 82. WARWOUND recorded 3 demos in 83 before disbanding and members went on to join THE VARUKERS and form SACRILEGE. These demos never received an official release… until now! Highly influenced by DISCHARGE, WARWOUND is one of the first bands ever to take D-Beat Punk to a raw and intense level. Recently reformed in 2015, original guitarist Damian is now joined by Ian Glasper on bass and Rat Varuker on vocals. After a few gigs in the UK word is spreading fast of the relentless onslaught of a live show these veterans put on. WARWOUND have also recently hit the studio to record for the first time in over 30 years. Needless to say WARWOUND is back with a vengeance!
For those of you who don’t know DEADLY REIGN, Its time to get with the program! DEADLY REIGN is a 3 piece D-BEAT killing machine with a legendary line up comprised of members from GLYICNE MAX, DOGMA MUNDISTA, SCARRED FOR LIFE, WORLD BURNS TO DEATH, KEGCHARGE, CENTURY OF WAR AND TILL DEATH. These guys have been at it for a long time and don’t fuck around when it comes to bringing you punk rock authentic and true to its sound and with their new single released on PE entitled SLAVE! These guys don’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. So let’s get to the brass tacks and see what these guys have been up to. (INTERVIEW BY DUTCH WELCH FROM KRIGBLAST)
PE: So what are your names, what do you play, and how did you guys come together?
(RAYGUNN) I MOVED TO AUSTIN AND RAN INTO GUERINOT AT HIS DAUGHTER’S BIRTHDAY PARTY. UNKNOWN TO ME, MY WIFE WAS AND STILL IS GOOD FRIENDS WITH HIS WIFE AT THE TIME AND HE AND I KNEW EACH OTHER FROM THE PAST WHEN OUR PREVIOUS BANDS HAD PLAYED TOGETHER. WE GOT TO TALKING AND DECIDED THAT WE SHOULD START A BAND. I SAID, WE JUST NEED A BASS PLAYER/SINGER, AND HE SAID HE HAD ONE. HE CALLED HIS FRIEND GUSHAMMER AND HE WAS INTO IT. THEY HAD BEEN WANTING TO START SOMETHING TOGETHER FOR A WHILE. AND EVENTUALLY WE GOT THE BALL ROLLING (OR SHOULD I SAY, THE BEERS FLOWING?).
PE: You guys have all been in some pretty kick ass bands in the past. who played in what?
RAYGUNN – GLYCINE MAX, DOGMA MUNDISTA, KONTRAKLASE, AND SCARRED FOR LIFE.
GUERINOT – WORLD BURNS TO DEATH, AND KEGCHARGE.
GUSHAMMER – CENTURY OF WAR, AND TILL DEATH.
PE: Who came up with the name Deadly Reign?
(RAYGUNN) I USED TO HANG OUT WITH A KICK ASS BAND IN THE EARLY 80’s CALLED BODY COUNT. THEY WERE AN EARLY D-BEAT STYLE OF BAND (BEFORE THE TERM D-BEAT WAS AROUND) AND THEY HAD A SONG CALLED DEADLY REIGN. SO I TOOK IT FROM THAT. (AND YES, I AM AWARE THAT THERE WAS A BAND CALLED DEADLY REIGN FROM NORTHERN CALIFORNIA BACK IN THE EARLY 80’s, BUT THAT IS NOT WHERE I GOT THE NAME FROM).
PE: The music of DR is furious, in your face politically and socially. Whats the motivation behind your song writing?
(RAYGUNN) MUSICALLY, WE JUST TRY TO WRITE MUSIC THAT WE LIKE. THE KIND OF STUFF WE WOULD LISTEN TO AT HOME. NOT SO MUCH TRYING TO BE ORIGINAL OR GROUND BREAKING. MORE OF JUST PLAYING THE HARD AGGRESIVE TYPE OF MUSIC THAT WE LIKE. WE GET IT ALL TOGETHER AND THEN GUSHAMMER WRITES SOME LYRICS.
(GUERINOT) I’VE ALWAYS SAID I CAN’T AND WON’T BE IN A BAND THAT I COULDN’T ALSO LISTEN TO. WHAT WOULD BE THE POINT OF PLAYING SHIT THAT YOU DON’T LIKE? WE AREN’T DOING THIS TO PLEASE OTHERS, JUST OURSELVES.
(GUS) SOME LYRICS HIT RIGHT TO THE POINT, RELIGION. IT’S FUCKING 2013 AND HERE WE ARE STILL DEALING WITH RELIGIOUS NONSENSE! PEOPLE THE WORLD OVER ARE BEING PERSECUTED, MISLEAD, AND OUT RIGHT SLAUGHTERED OVER RELIGION. RATHER IT’S CHRISTIANS, MUSLIMS, JEWS, OR WHATEVER FICTITIOUS BULLSHIT SECT THEY ARE IN. RELIGION IN ANY FORM IS UNCALLED FOR AND DANGEROUS! AND THIS COUNTRY USES IT TO PULL OFF SOME SERIOUSLY HEINOUS ACTS OF PURE AND UTTER VIOLENCE AND WAR. WE TOUCH ON THIS OF COURSE ON THIS RECORD, BUT MORE SPECIFICALLY IT’S DIRECTED TOWARD THE WORKING CLASS FOLKS AND THEIR DAILY STRUGGLE JUST TO PUT FOOD ON THE TABLE FOR THEIR FAMILIES. THE OLDER WE GET, THE SAME STRUGGLE REMAINS, EXCEPT NOW WE MUST NOT ONLY FIGHT TO FEED OURSELVES BUT FIRST FEED OUR CHILDREN AND LOVED ONES AND THEN WITH WHAT IS LEFT OVER, TAKE CARE OF OURSLEVES. SO WE CAN SLAVE ANOTHER DAY FOR A LESS THAN ACCEPTABLE WAGE. OVER THE YEARS I HAVE WATCHED OUR (PUNK) COMMUNITY OF FRIENDS WORK IN HORRIBLE CONDITIONS FOR SHIT WAGES WITH NO BENEFITS AND NO HOPE OF MOVING UPWARD IN THESE POSITIONS. AT THE END OF THE DAY THEY HAVE A SMALL CHECK THAT IS OVER TAXED AND A SORE ACHING BODY, THAT CONTINUES TO GET WORSE. “TELL ME IS THIS THE LIFE I’M FORCED TO LIVE TO PROVIDE FOR MY FAMILY?”…THE ANSWER IS NO! BUT NOT WITHOUT A FIGHT. WE HAVE TO CONTINUE TO POINT OUT THESE CONCERNS OVER AND OVER UNTIL THE POWERS THAT BE HAVE NO CHOICE BUT TO LISTEN.
PE: You guys did a split with HELLKRUSHER not to long ago entitled Continuous Warfare. How did this collaboration come about?
(RAYGUNN) I HAVE KNOWN SCOTTY (HELLKRUSHER) SINCE THE MID 80’s WHEN HE WAS IN HELLBASTARD, AND I WAS IN GLYCINE MAX. WE USED TO BE PEN PALS, AND WOULD SEND EACH OTHER TAPES OF OUR BANDS, AND OUR FRIENDS BANDS. WE EVENTUALLY LOST TOUCH WITH EACH OTHER AND THEN YEARS LATER FOUND EACHOTHER VIA THE INTERNET. I SENT HIM SOME DEADLY REIGN AND HE LIKED IT. AND WE DECIDED TO DO SOMETHING TOGETHER.
PE: You guys all have family’s now and continue to tour, play shows, practice, record and work. How has DIY punk changed in your lives and how do you make it work?
(GUERINOT) WELL, I HAVE TWO DAUGHTERS BUT HAVING AN UNDERSTANDING AND SUPPORTIVE PARTNER IS KEY. HAVING KIDS IS ONE OF THE BEST THINGS I CAN POSSIBLY IMAGINE SO IN MY OPINION, THEY COME FIRST. WORKING AROUND THEM AND WORK IS USALLY PRETTY EASY. LATELY IT HAS BEEN A BIT MORE DIFFICULT BUT TRYING TO WORK OUT THE KINKS IN A SITUATION AND PUT PIECES BACK TOGETHER IS PART OF THE PROCESS.
PE: The new single from Profane Existence entitled SLAVE, what can we expect and do you have any future releases coming out?
(RAYGUNN) IT’S A LITTLE DIFFERENT THAN OUR LAST TWO RECORDS, BUT STILL THE DEADLY REIGN STYLE. NEXT WE WILL BE WRITING FOR A SPLIT 12″ WITH OUR FRIENDS KONTRASEKT.
PE: Closing comments, any last words?
THANKS TO ALL OF OUR FRIENDS THE WORLD OVER. YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE. ALSO, THANKS FOR THE INTERVIEW. AND BE SURE TO PICK UP THE NEW DEADLY REIGN ‘SLAVE’ EP ON PROFANE EXISTENCE! AS WELL AS OUR LP AND THE SPLIT WITH HELLKRUSHER. ALSO, WE WOULD LOVE TO GO TO EUROPE SOMEDAY, IF ANYONE OVER THERE WOULD LIKE TO HELP OUR BROKE ASSES OUT. HAHA! CHEERS – DEADLY REIGN
WARTORN are a whirlwind of thrash punk goodness hailing from Wisconsin. Since 2004, they’ve been hitting the touring and record release circuit with no looking back. Here’s a quick interview I did to let people know about their two latest releases, Domestic Terrorist 7″ (Profane Existence) & Iconic Nightmare 12″ (Southern Lord). – Andy Leffer
(This interview also appears in CVLT NATION)
PE: You know the drill, just give us the basics on who’s who and what’s changed in the past, in regards to any line up changes, etc. Also, give us some insight on where WARTORN is going. We want to know tours, records, riots, protests, arrests….the whole back story on WARTORN’s origins.
Bitty: (Vocals) The band started in 2004, with Ryan, Hart (on drums) and myself as a three-piece. Within half a year I got a call with an offer for our first tour, which was with Municipal Waste. We did a mini tour with them and ever since then we have been able to go on tours with amazing bands each year such as Los Dolares, ATU, CYP, Krang, In Defence, Pyroklast, Hellshock, and up next Raw Power . We have been to 13 countries and have done lots of releases on many different labels.
Ryan: guitar / low vocals / whiskey enthusiast. Well we started as a 3-piece and over a span of over 8 years, have ended up with 6 members. With 3 of us being guitar players we are able to diversify our songs in ways that we could only do in a studio setting. This obviously makes a difference live as well.
Ela: I’ve been the bass player for over the last 6 years. Recently, we came out with an LP/CD on Southern Lord Records called “Iconic Nightmare” and a 7-inch, “Domestic Terrorist”, released on Profane Existence (which is part of their limited edition singles series).
Toban: (Guitar) I think I might have the most arrests out of anyone in the band. Not like its anything to brag about. I did narrowly avoid another arrest a few weeks ago.
Derek: Guitar as well. I’ve been in the band for a few months and have been on two tours so far.
PE: The music is dynamic, to say the least. You’re not getting any half-assed riffs or mindlessly thrown together lyrics or production with your music. Elaborate on the process and what is the driving force for doing such a band. Punk is a political movement, it’s always been a political movement. Are you a part of this fray as a whole, or is this more of a personal, therapeutic outlet?
Ryan: I definitely believe in the power of the riff. Heavy and raging. Punk is a political movement, but I also see it as a community (full of musicians, artists, writers, photographers, open thinkers etc). A lot of us live/ have lived in punk houses and have been booking DIY shows for years. It’s something we do to contribute to it as a whole.
Toban: Ryan is the riff-master general of the band. He does a great job of coming up with some of the most incredible riffs of anyone I’ve been in a band with. Adding Bitty’s smartly composed lyrics and Hart’s hard hitting/tight drum style makes a great concoction.
Bitty: As far as what I write lyrically, I mainly write about personal experiences or historical events. I don’t tell people what they need to think, that is for them to figure out on their own. Also, I could not label myself as more than a realist and a situationalist.
Ela: Well in my opinion, I would say that we are a part of this as a whole, but it also is a personal outlet for me. We have all contributed to the movement in one way or another, but I think of punk as more than just a political movement. For me it is also about a unified community… where people come together, whether it is for political reasons, to share a passion for music, a hobby, art, etc. … and we definitely have that in Appleton, which is awesome.
Hart: I honestly wouldn’t say punk’s always been a political movement at all. The fact that DK, Meatmen, and the Germs, for example, all existed during one heyday suggests more of a harsh musical and broad social changeover than anything to me. For me personally, punk rock, metal and hardcore have always been a therapeutic and vindicating way of life that has consistently solved a lot of my life’s most harrowing, fucked-up times. It had a total bottleneck effect on how I raised myself mentally and emotionally. It was a really great thing to find out about when I was trying to figure out how to express myself when everything just infuriated or bored the shit out of me. Later, after I was free as an adult, I quickly found out it came replete with its own sense of community, and a totally viscous following I was never aware existed at all. This band is fucking great, cause we never throw a blind rhetorical blanket over our lyrical ideals, or even necessarily our instrumentation for that matter. We have a rough format that we’ve stuck to, but we all come from slightly different scenes and upbringings, and I’ve always thought it showed at least a little in our styles. I honestly don’t think the excitement of being in this band has worn off for any of us. Sure, growing pains have slowed our progress a couple of times, but whenever the next lightbulb goes on over our heads, it’s all go no slow!
Derek: For me, this is definitely a personal outlet. That’s what music has always been for me. Being the young’n metalhead in the group, I’ve kind of just been exposed to the world of punk houses and DIY shows recently. From what I’ve gathered so far I can at least say that the sense of community is beautiful.
PE: Your latest singles release on Profane Existence “Domestic Terrorist”. There’s no beating around the bush on this subject matter. Once again, can you elaborate on this specific release and the intention behind the subject?
Bitty: There have been a few times where I had local law enforcement “protect and serve” the shit out of me. As a kid in the 80’s from a small hometown, I’ve had guns in my face from the cops, hammers pulled back and screaming in my face. I have also had an off-duty cop put a gun in my face and ask me if I thought it was funny while he was wasted. You know of all the times I was ever robbed or assaulted, at least I knew if I fought back I stood a chance; I even survived an attempted homicide! But, it’s not so easy when you have to fight back against law enforcement. They just beat your ass and lock you up, even if they are totally in the wrong. I’ve witnessed so much personal corruption; to me it seems to be an extension of an abuse of absolute power. Now that, to me, strikes terror in any citizen.
PE: Bitty, you’re straight edge…maybe not self-proclaimed, but you don’t consume drugs or alcohol. Considering the genre of punk and it’s history of abuse with these elements, has this hindered your views on the movement?
Hart: Total interjection here! Dude, Bitty’s optimism actually astounds me. He’s seen more friends either die or completely lose their vitality as humans due to drug and alcohol use than I’d like to ponder. He’s remained pretty fucking pragmatic in his attitude toward his friends’ choices in that sense. I myself get pretty fed-up at times about my own friend’s use of drugs, especially certain ones. I’ve had plenty problems controlling my drinking in the past. I do believe I have a fairly good idea these days of when to dry out, but it can pull me into a real bad place. I start questioning what even matters anymore, and I start fighting everything that means the most to me. However, that’s where that community comes in again! I’m learning to seek out the right punks or no one at all when the time feels right, and I’ve been keeping up on it for a while now.
Bitty: Not at all. You don’t need to be like me in order for me to like you. The real moment that reinforced my decision was when I came home to a friend that lived with me and I found him in a pool of his own blood. He had tried to cut his hand off with a butcher knife while he was completely wasted and ended up with more stiches then an average shark attack. It really put a bad taste in my mouth about how substances can amplify bad decision-making skills. Although I am aware that most just use it to have a good time, truth be told, I just didn’t like it. It wasn’t my thing. But as long as you’re not hurting me or others in any way shape or form it’s your deal not mine. This is just a suggestion, have fun and do what you need to do to deal with things or get by, but try not to destroy yourself in the process. You might end up missing out on some good things in life.
PE: WARTORN is a great band, so with that….does WARTORN have anything they’d like to say to the world, it’s listeners or the masses in general?
Toban: In the words of country music legend Kris Kristofferson “Don’t let the bastards get you down”. Ryan: Thanks for the interview.
Ela: Thanks for all the support. We can’t wait to hit the road and tear it up again in a couple months!
Derek: May the force be with you. But seriously, I can’t wait to hit the road and I hope to see everyone reading this there.
Hart: As always, start 4 bands tomorrow and eat your fiber!
Bitty: Thanks for the interview Andy and everyone that helped us out and we’ll see you on the road. If you’d like to help us out with booking or have any questions, feel free to write us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Punk rock cultures are rife with radical potential, aesthetic shock, and a diversity of visuals, sounds, ideas, spaces, and people. As is often the case with interesting cultural scenes, aesthetic movements, and political ideas, punk is also rife with contradiction. On such perplexing contradiction is the incredible diversity of people and places that punk occurs in. In my participation in various punk scenes in the U.S. and U.K., I usually inhabit a plethora of the putrid, damp, overcrowded basements, abandoned, dilapidated, and repurposed warehouses, the many hidden scabies-infested squats, and the piss-covered floors of pubs usually associated with punk’s underground. Yet, punk exists other types of spaces as well, and Dial House is one such example. I visited Dial House this summer because it is one of the most central, iconic sites of the anarcho-punk scene in England. For the benefit of anyone who may not know, a group of radical artists and writers has lived in this Victorian cottage in Essex on the edge of Epping Forest for over forty years, but Dial House is undoubtedly most widely known as the headquarters and home of the anarcho-punk group Crass, which existed from 1977 until 1984, and their record label which still does. They have also maintained what they call an ‘open house’ policy, inviting all travelers in need of shelter and food for a night to their home. This is the story of my first trip to Dial House and the wonderful reception I received there.
I set out from London early in the morning after a breakfast of soggy toast, a banana, and some horridly stale instant coffee. By mid-morning, I had become thoroughly lost, and I thought to myself that I couldn’t be in the right place. I had spent all morning trying to find this place, beginning with a walk from my hostel bed to the nearest Underground station at Bayswater, two transfers, a central line train to its northernmost stop in Epping, and a bus to the King’s Head. I walked through the door of the plain white building under the wooden sign labeled “Library,” a happy accident, and found myself in a dimly lit room half full of chest high bookshelves. There was someone that I couldn’t see seated in an office around the rear corner and conversing with a portly middle-aged man standing in the office doorway. “Yessah? Can I help you?” he said as he noticed me walking in.
“Uh, yeah, I’m looking for Dial House. Do you know where that is?” I answered, somewhat reservedly, keeping my figurative fingers crossed.
“Right,” he said, leaning back into the office with his torso to address whoever was inside, “there was another chap earlier looking for Dial House, yeah? That’s back uh…” His voiced trailed off and I couldn’t make out the rest. He emerged confidently a moment later, and pointing his hand said, “You go down this street here, take a right, and when the street ends there’s a little path between the gardens. Then you’ll get to the highway that it’s on.”
“Thanks,” I said with a nod.
“Cheers,” he responded as I left.
I walked outside and eventually found my way to an old road, comprised of a compacted dirt and gravel clearing between two tree lines, about two car widths wide. There was no one else on the road in either direction. All I could see as I walked along this hidden road were empty fields covered in meter-high beige/yellow grass underneath an ashen grey sky. Luckily it wasn’t raining that morning, but in England dryness is only a temporary condition. Looking up, I saw the sky was so full of clouds that they all seemed to run together, creating one giant smear of grey across the canvas of the sky, as if the natural color of the sky were not blue at all. The occasional bird chirps added to my sense of isolation, as not a single car or other sign of people could be heard.
Up a little ahead I heard a rustle in the bushes, like a badger or a deer that I had startled. Instead, I saw another backpacker, dressed in black jeans, an old tattered hoodie, and disheveled asphalt-black, curly hair, in some places matted and pressed, and in front hanging down to just above his eyebrows. The matted, clumped hair suggested that he hadn’t washed in a while. His pack looked even heavier than mine (no small feat to be sure), packed full of who-knows-what, bursting at the seams, and creating a noticeable amount of stretching tension on the shoulder straps. The rustle I heard was his struggle to put it back on after having a rest. His aesthetic immediately messaged to me that he was an ally.
I noticed on his right forearm, just below the rolled up black jacket sleeve, what appeared to be an anarchist tattoo. I peered a bit closer and saw that it was indeed a circle “A”, a peace sign, and a circle “E”, the trifecta common among anarcho-punks, i.e. standing for anarchy, peace, and equality. From what I could see, his tattoos looked old and sun-faded, a sort of charcoal color of splotchy grey rather than bold black, and the colors were shaded in a more disconnected fashion than smooth black. When I looked at his face, I could see a glistening flash of metal from his nose, a thin silver ring in the left nostril. His Anglo-white skin was thoroughly tanned, like the golden brown of a well-oiled baseball glove, the color of which blended into the lines on his forehead, suggesting a lifetime in the sunlight. I called to him, “Hey, uh…are you looking for Dial House?” I was simultaneously hoping that he spoke English, and that he too was going where I was going, and perhaps even knew the way.
“Yeah, you are too?” he replied with a cough, and in an U.S. English accent, “I think it’s just up that way,” and gestured to his right. As it turns out, we had been spending our morning the same way, including stopping in at the same library to ask for directions, not ten minutes apart. He introduced himself to me as Tom, an anarchist punk from Baltimore, and a musician like me. He had even played bass in A.P.P.L.E. a few years back! On the one hand, it may seem strange that two Americans would run into each other thousands of miles from home, in the middle of a country road in Essex (imagine how the librarian must have felt that morning!), but here we were, fellow travelers on what you could call a punk pilgrimage.
“You been in England long?” Tom asked me, keeping his eyes ahead on the road, but glancing out of the corner of his right eye at me.
“About a month. You?”
“Just a couple of days, I was staying in a squat in London, but it got evicted.”
“Shit, so you really need a place to stay, huh?”
“Yeah,” Tom answered, “I got a tent, but it’d be nice to stay for a least a few nights.”
“Do you know if it’s still an open house? Will it be weird, us showing up?” I asked Tom, as now the stakes had been raised.
“I don’t know, but I think so. Even if its not, it’s kinda a bucket list thing for me, you know? Have you read The Story of Crass?” Tom asked quizzically.
“Yeah, it’s really good,” I said, wondering how much might have changed at Dial House since the book was written.
“Yeah, I just re-read it, sort of get ready, you know? What about Shibboleth?” he asked, referring to the autobiography of Penny Rimbaud, co-founder of Crass and Dial House.
“No, I’d really like to though. I can’t find it. I think it’s out of print.”
“Really?” he asked with a surprised tone, a sort of verbal octave change, seeming to suggest that he had no problem finding a copy. As we walked discussing Crass, I began to wonder what Dial House would actually be like, compared to how it is discussed, understood, and symbolized in punk cultures. Stories around their open house policy, answering all fan mail, refusal to play commercial venues, dedication to underground distribution channels for their records and maintaining low prices (i.e. they consistently listed prices on their record covers, always far lower than was typical), coupled with their espoused anarchism has lent them an air of authenticity within punk circles. Beyond the establishment of Crass’s authenticity, they have also become a metric for comparison, the gold standard for how other punks’ authenticity is often measured. With all this in mind, I was teeming with anticipation to see if their home and their lives matched both their ideals, their visual and sonic aesthetic, and perhaps most importantly, their reputation. Seeking some reassurance, I asked Tom, “I wonder if a lot of punks still come here. Do you know what’s been going on here for the last 30 years? I haven’t really kept up with their music after Crass, I don’t really know much about Last Amendment.”
“I bet people still come, I mean, look at us!” Tom answered confidently.
Looking beyond a vast open field, we could see a line of trees in one direction, but couldn’t make out what was behind them. In the opposite direction, we could see a few buildings past a rusted brown and auburn sign that read “Private Road, No Pedestrians” in scrawled, sloppy white letters, not the most promising of signs when seeking an anarchist house. Neither direction looked inviting, and my feet throbbed with each step. Along the road we passed a tall, bald man standing next to an overgrown fence. He was easily thirty years our senior, and was more expensively dressed in clean khaki slacks and a flannel grey coat. He had a backpack at his feet, and was carefully avoiding the snags of the fence that some vines were wrapped around to pick blackberries, tossing a few into his mouth every few seconds. I averted my eyes and lowered my voice when he paused briefly from his berry picking, in the event that he owned this land and would not be welcoming to two crusty travelers. We kept walking towards the cluster of buildings, hunched over from the weight of our packs, as if there was an invisible cord connecting our foreheads to our feet. With each step, we could not only hear the crunch underneath our boots, but also the sounds of stretching fibers in our shoulder straps.
“Which way? Does this look right to you?” Tom asked.
“I’m not sure. I don’t really think it’s close to any other buildings though, do you? I’ve only seen pictures of it from the back. I guess I always thought it was pretty isolated,” I replied, as I pointed to a cluster of tall farm buildings fifty feet ahead. I had started to wonder silently if this was such a good idea to come here.
“No, I don’t think that’s it,” he replied with a slight, dejected sigh.
Now a smell of dampened air joined the cloudy sky and increasing wind; yes, rain would be upon us shortly. And we were in the middle of nowhere. We were looking for a place neither one of us knew how to find, and I’m not even sure I could find my way back to the King’s Head bus stop. We turned back the other way, followed the road back to the fork, and went the other direction past the trees. Roughly thirty minutes later we decided we had made a mistake. We stood in the middle of the road, looking at each other with blank, disappointed faces.
“What about that guy we passed earlier?” Tom asked, “Maybe he knows.”
“Good call,” I replied, “worth a shot.” We turned back down the way we came, and in a few minutes, saw the older man walking towards us.
“Are you looking for the same place we are?” I inquired, somewhat reservedly.
“Probably,” replied the older man.
“Dial House?” Tom added.
The man responded with an affirmative groan, “Mmmm.”
“Us too,” said Tom, “What’s your name?”
“Andrew,” I added.
“You’re American, yeah? Where you from?” Bill asked.
“I’m from Baltimore,” Tom said.
“California for me,” I interjected to answer Bill’s questioning gaze.
“So,” he paused his speech and slowed his stride a bit, “you don’t know each other?”
“No,” I said with a muted laugh, “we just met.”
“What about you, where are you from?” asked Tom.
“Well, I’m English, but I live in Morocco,” Bill answered.
“Have you been here before?” I asked, secretly hoping that he knew where the hell he was going.
He raised an eyebrow, gave a quick cluck of a laugh, and said, “hmmm…I’ve been coming here for forty years.”
Our luck seemed to have picked up, and we had now inadvertently found a guide to follow! He could tell we were exchanging surprised looks and Tom said, “Wow.”
“I was with Gee at art school,” Bill explained, referring to Gee Vaucher, a Dial House resident and co-founder.
“I’m gonna shit if it’s right behind where we just were,” I whispered to Tom.
“I know, right?” he replied.
As it turned out, just beyond the cluster of buildings we had turned away from, Bill led us to our destination. We arrived at an old, lop-sided and unpainted wooden gate gate adorned with what appeared to be a 19th century gear spray painted red (though with a rough and wrinkled texture underneath the recent coat of paint that suggested rust), emblazoned underneath with the cherry-red stenciled words “Dial House.” We had arrived. I had seen dozens of pictures in books and zines, but always from the back garden. I suppose my affinity for Crass and my knowledge of how many people had lived here had colored my mental image of Dial House, and I’d always pictured this house as much bigger in my imagination. Bill just walked in like he owned the place and barked, “Close the gate!” to me. He walked in the door with a quizzical, “Hello?”
I couldn’t hear any response, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to simply barge in. I know this is an open house (or, I should say, I’ve read as much), but it’s still not my home, and I suppose the confining categories of private property are inescapably imprinted in my mind. Perhaps this feeling was also a product of the very isolation of the house, and I began to question just how ‘open’ a house could be when it was so difficult to find. I waited to be invited. While waiting for an invitation, I peaked around to the plush rear garden, full of characteristically English green shrubbery and trees, and there was also an explosion of reds, purples, whites, and yellows in the blooming flowers. At first glance, I noticed that many plants were overgrown, ascending the side of the brick building, and the grass was knee high. The more I looked, however, the more the signs of intense labor jumped out, in the cleared path between the tall grass, potted plants, neat rows of veggies and herbs, and the arrangement of a dark wooden picnic table, a reddish rusted fire pit, and various other rusty benches and chairs.
The house itself was an old yet sturdy Victorian cottage of brick construction with a shingled roof of various dark burgundy reds and browns, wood framed windows each slightly ajar for ventilation, and brick chimney with an orange clay top. The house had clearly been subject to various repairs, as none of the windows matched, and there were areas of brick that stood out as more brightly orange than the surrounding older, blood maroon wall. The house stood in jarring tension with the avant-garde and post-modern paintings and sculptures that populated the garden and the walls of the property’s buildings. Nude dolls covered in mold and green moss nailed to tree stumps, painted ocean waves of turquoise and white on a side of a dilapidated shed, and a sphere made from broken tiles interrupted the otherwise bourgeois country visual of the garden. Some of these pieces were faded and rusty, while others were freshly painted. The past and the present blended into each other in these clashes.
Inside the house I could hear approaching voices, and then a woman that I instantly recognized from photos as Gee Vaucher walked to the door. She had long, flowing hair of solid, almost metallic grey, and deep-set, piercing eyes softened only by the gently protruding bags of freckled white skin underneath them. We entered through the low door after being invited in, engaged in a somewhat awkward round of introductory pleasantries in the narrow, unlit kitchen.
“Should I make some tea? Coffee? Or…” Gee asked and her voiced trailed off. The offer of tea seemed to be an automatic response to the appearance of visitors, as Gee had asked without any hesitation. There was clearly a ritual for how people were welcomed into this house.
“Tea’s great for me,” answered Tom.
“Yeah, I’m good with tea, thank you,” I added.
“Sure,” Gee answered.
We went outside to the garden and set up the seat covers on the picnic benches that Gee had indicated. The sky still threatened rain, so if we were going to enjoy the garden it would be while we had this tea. I definitely wanted to spend a bit of time in the garden, and it seemed like the place most conducive to talking. The house was laid out in such a way that if we all went inside, we might lose track of each other. Winding, twisting hallways, unlit rooms, and multiple floors and stairways sprawled out from the doorway. If we went inside for the rest of the afternoon, I worried how isolated my visit might become. In a few moments, Bill appeared in the doorway, slightly hunched over, and carrying a tray loaded down with a kettle, four mugs, spoons, and a few small milk cartons. We all sat down, fixed our tea, and began to talk.
“What have been up to today?” Bill asked Gee.
“Oh, I’ve just been working in the studio. I was rather hoping no one would come today,” Gee replied, “been working on a new book about knots,” and she paused to place her hand softly on Bill’s forearm, “I’ve got a few pages you can read if you’d like.”
Bill nodded a reply while sipping some tea with a slight slurping sound.
I, on the other hand, gulped down a large mouthful, and felt the hot tea burn all the way down my throat. I suddenly felt invasive and uninvited (which, I suppose I totally was), so I rushed to tell Gee, “Well, I can finish this tea and move on. I certainly don’t want to impose.”
“Oh no, it’s fine, don’t worry. The house is open, so we’ve got to always be ready for visitors,” she replied, “we have lots of empty beds, no one else is here now, though we are expecting a few people tomorrow. A workshop for kids’ art. But you can stay for one night.”
“Well, ok,” I answered somewhat sheepishly, “do you still get visitors often?”
“Nearly everyday, yeah,” Gee answered, nodding her head slightly.
“What about fan mail?” Tom asked.
“Ah…” Gee’s voice grew soft, “some, yeah. I’ve been writing recently to this American in prison about Crass, and he just got out, so I’m going to send him some stuff. But nothing like the old days when we’d get bags and bags. We used to have a whole day once a month when we’d all sit in the kitchen and answer it all.”
“Well, I mean, that what it’s all about isn’t it? I mean, that showed that Crass was for real,” Tom said.
“I just think it’s rude not to answered a letter. It’s different with email when you get loads of nonsense, but letters are different,” Gee answered, sounding more pedagogical than radical.
“Does anyone mind if I smoke?” Tom asked as he removed some crinkling loose papers and a small bag of tobacco from his pack.
“Sure, as long as it’s not drugs,” Gee answered, “we don’t allow drugs here.”
“No, no, just a cigarette,” Tom said as he opened the bag to display the golden tobacco inside, and began rolling a cigarette.
Gee explained further, “Yeah, we don’t allow drugs here because we’re really sitting targets, always have been. If we’d had drugs here during the Crass days they would’ve shut us down in five minutes.” The imposition of rules at a proclaimed anarchist space is striking in its contradictory oddness, yet she did have a point. Crass had been the subject of state surveillance and meetings of British Parliament in the 1980s.
“Do you still have anything from the Crass years?” I asked hopefully, for this was why I’d come.
“Not much, except the paintings. I’ve never sought commercial success, and I can’t bear to sell any of my work, so I’ve got it all. Would you like to see them?”
“I love the painting for the Feeding of the 5,000 album cover. It’s a painting right? For years I thought it was a collage.” I said, growing more eager about the chance to see the original art for the replicated images I’ve seen thousands of times.
“Yeah, yeah, it’s a painting,” Gee said, “Oh wait, I don’t actually have that one right now, it’s loaned to an exhibit on Crass’s influence on, oh what’s it called? Not punk, but another music sort that’s just fast and loud, well noise really…what’s it called?”
“Grindcore?” I offered.
“Grindcore,” Gee affirmed with a laugh, “Yeah, that’s it. Anyway, that’s where the Feeding cover is. But I’ve got Bloody Revolutions if you’d like to see it later.”
“Of course! I’d love that.” I replied.
We sat enjoying our tea and the conversation switched to mundane consumer politics as Bill, relaying his recently travel woes stated “these bastard airline companies charge you a fortune, and now they not only make you pay for bags, I heard they won’t even allow bags much longer.”
“No bags?! How will people travel then,” I asked.
“Just carry-ons, that’s what we’ve heard,” Gee answered, getting up from her chair, “I’ve got to let the chickens out.” She walked around to the coup, opened the door, and with a burst of youthful energy ran out into the garden, flapping her arms, and saying, “Come on girls.” The chickens clucked happily as they followed her, seeking all of our attention by running underneath our legs. Again I was overwhelmed with more farm vibes than punk vibes.
“Can you watch the chickens, I’d like to go work in the studio a bit?” she asked me.
“Sure.” And so I sat there, reading Dostoyevsky, occasionally looking up at the hens. What, if anything, could I comfortably call ‘punk’ in this setting? Was there any similarity I could draw with the punk spaces I typically inhabit? Could I even imagine the thousands of crust punks, street punks, and anarchists I had seen wearing the Crass logo on their stud jackets, jean vests, and tattooed skin in this scene? Perhaps I had unintentionally been engaged in problematic and uncomfortable essentialism, flattening out my own understanding of what punk was and could be.
“This is luxury with a capital L,” Bill said as he reclined further in his lawn chair.
“Yeah, it’s really nice here,” said Tom, “exactly like I imagined.” I didn’t respond, but started to remember all that I had read of the place, the people who live here, and the politics represented. I couldn’t say that what I found was entirely surprising, yet there was opulence I hadn’t expected. Aside from Gee’s paintings that she had dug out of crates to show me, there was no visual indication of punk. Crass seemed to be a distant memory at Dial House. Nor was there any signs of radical politics aside from the words that dripped out of the residents’ mouths. I was mistaken to expect them to be wearing their politics on their sleeves.
“How do you know about this place? Just from Crass?” Bill asked.
“Yeah,” Tom answered, “when I was a kid I was listening to a lot of punk stuff, but I had really bad taste in music, like the Casualties and stuff. Then some older punks started showing me some better stuff, and introduced my to Crass, Christ: The Album actually. Since then I’ve been a big fan of Crass.”
“How old are you?” Bill asked, raising his eyebrows and leaning forward as if to tell a joke.
“25,” Tom answered.
“Well…” Bill said, but then his voice failed for a moment due to laughter, “they stopped playing in ’84, before you were born.”
“Yeah, me too,” I said, “but they’ve influence so much within punk.”
“They did so much, changed so much, I don’t think there will ever be a band that influential again,” Tom added.
We sat chatting for a while about punk, prisons, and Angela Davis, when suddenly Gee reemerged from the house, asking “Would anyone like to wash some spuds?” Tom and I washed fist size potatoes from the garden while Bill snapped green beans.
“There’s far too much bean being wasted here!” Gee exclaimed as she picked up the discarded ends, “Waste not, want not.” Bill must have been surprised at Gee’s use of this cliché.
“What?” Bill asked in a high tone.
“You don’t need to do the bottom, just the top,” Gee answered, demonstrating on a couple beans for Bill’s benefit.
“Mmmm, alright,” Bill replied in agreement, seeming more surprised than annoyed.
Once the beans and spuds were prepared, Gee put these all into the oven, and lead us back outside to assemble firewood. While Bill, Tom, and I were finishing the assembly of the fire, Gee appeared sheepishly in the doorway, “Andrew, would you like to see these paintings?”
“Aw yeah, that would be great!” I exclaimed.
She led me into a large room with a bare, exposed concrete floor. Overtaking one entire wall of the room were two large wooden desks, covered with miscellaneous sketches, papers, and open books. The rest of the room was open, with only scattered easels and a few filing cabinets. Cans of paint and brushes were scattered in disarray on the floor. There was no lighting in the room aside from the faint yellow beams of sunlight that snuck through the windows.
Gee dug for a moment in a dusty box, pulled out a framed painting, and set it on a counter for me to see. I leaned over the familiar image of Bloody Revolutions to look closely at the brush strokes, and see all of the contextual details that were cut out of the reproduction of this image on the 7” record that was released. It was a black and white painting that from a distant had the realistic quality of a photograph. Queen Elizabeth, the Pope, Lady Justice (from the Old Bailey in London) and Margaret Thatcher stood in street clothes on a graffitied street corner. The building they were leaning on had a graffiti stencil painted on it that had the Crass logo and said, “Who do they think they’re fooling, you?” This stencil was distributed in some of their earlier LPs, and the band encouraged fans to paint them over advertisement. I pictured the album art to Stations of the Crass, which was a photo from a London Underground station that had several Crass graffiti tags on it. The image in Bloody Revolutions, however, was not only political and playfully disrespectful of institutional figureheads, but also turned a critical eye toward punk itself. The four figures are positioned and clothed in reproduction of a famous Sex Pistols band photo from the time, only with the heads changed to the political figures. The song itself was an indictment of the totalitarian left, a bold stance for punk at the time, but a stance that Crass took in conjunction with their attack on the conservative right.
“Wow, the detail…” was the most intelligent comment I could offer, and with a laugh, “I’ve always liked the dog here.”
“Ah, the Queen’s corgi?” Gee asked and joined in my laughter. “I also have this one,” she continued as she pulled out her Oh, America painting. This image was a small painting, no larger than a sheet of notebook paper, and was of the famous Statue of Liberty in New York. Only, in this painting, Lady Liberty has her hands covering her face in sorrow while destruction and disarray signified by black, blue, and pink smoke and clouds surround her. It was the cover art for a Crass record that was never released, a recording of a poem imploring the U.S. to cease their warmongering and engage in actual politics of peace. I stood admiring the paintings a bit longer, and finally Gee asked, “Do you do much with art?”
“Uhh,” my voice went up as I hesitated, “I play music, that’s it really. As far as painting and drawing go, I mean, I’ve tried it, I’m just not very good at it.” I had said these words through uncomfortable chuckling, and when I was finished, Gee laughed at my response.
Eventually, our dinner of beans, potatoes, and vegetarian pies was ready, and we sat in front of the fire eating. Aside from the peaceful deep, relaxing breath of the rustling of the leaves blown in the trees, the hissing and popping of the firewood, and the gentle buzzing of bees, there was an occasional sonic interruption that violently imposed itself upon our conversation. Loud bangs rang out in a short sequence, and each time they did I expected to see a bird fall into the garden, or morbidly into my lap.
“Now that it’s dark, I’m not walking back to the bus stop. With all these damn hunters, I don’t wanna get shot!” I said.
“Oh, they’re not hunters, those are bird-scarers. When you hear one, wait just a minute more and you’ll hear another. Yeah, the farmer puts them out there.” Gee explained.
I breathed a sigh of relief that we weren’t actually surrounded by guns. It also provided an interesting metaphor for thinking through aesthetic experience, i.e. the visual splendor of the unspoiled fields brought about in part because of the sonic violence of these devices.
“What is it you’re writing, about anarchist music?” Gee asked me, to which I responded that week’s version of my project, some amalgamation of Nietzsche, Foucault, Marx, aesthetics, authenticity, resistance to normative power relations, etc. She told me she didn’t know Foucault, but had read some of the other writers I mention, but with some reluctance.
“I don’t like just believing any writer. Not entirely anyway. Just like history, I don’t believe in history,” she told us. “For if you look at accepted history, it’s all bollocks. Just like I don’t believe in revolutions, because, well, they always go wrong don’t they? They aren’t about the people when it’s all said and done.”
“As far as I’m concerned, you have to start with your own life,” I replied, “but when I read Kropotkin, I have to admit I still get excited about revolution.”
“Sure, yeah, you do have to start with yourself, but then you have to look to the people,” Gee answered, getting up to discard her plate on the far end of the table.
Bill had fallen asleep on his chair, but jerked awake as Gee walked by.
“Oh, sorry love,” Gee said, “didn’t mean to wake you.”
“It’s alright,” Bill answered, “I think I’ll turn in.”
“Would you like to stay in the caravan, or would you like a room inside?” Gee asked.
“I’ll have a room inside thanks,” Bill answered, “is my old room available?”
“Yeah, and there’s some books in there if you want,” Gee said.
“I do have some trouble sleeping sometimes. I usually only sleep three-four hours a night,” Bill said, “but I brought some books as well. Goodnight.”
“Goodnight,” was the chorus that Gee, Tom, and I answered.
Bill went inside while Tom and I began to gather soiled dishes and carry them inside the house. We washed the dishes and turned in, and the rain never did come.
In a way, my visit seemed very similar to seeing old friends or distant relatives. I was welcomed, given a meal and a bed, and had some chores to do (voluntarily of course). Yet, this was not the home of people I knew, but only knew of. I had been welcomed just as the reputation of the place had promised. I felt hopeful, if perplexed, upon leaving. It seemed like a sort of sanctuary more than a radical space. I certainly could not see any societal changes coming out of here. The residents of Dial House had certainly changed their own lifestyles, though they weren’t as ‘off the grid’ as I had imagined. They still had utility payments, which I was made aware of when Tom asked to bathe and was told that hot water was too expensive. But, they had avoided the corporate world as much as anyone I had met. They seemed to live on their own terms, even if these terms were offensive to others or inconsistent with what more hardline anarchists might accept. I began to wonder how many countless other visitors had come here and felt similarly, and I wonder how many anonymous lives may have been changed by the simplest of country pleasures at Dial House.
Yet, as I was riding the train back into London, I also considered what a privileged space it was, for Dial House was owned by the residents. This was no small house, nor small tract of land. Authentic living as defined by these folks would be limited to those with access to an incredible amount of resources, support, and let’s face it, money. How available would this type of lifestyle resistance be to anyone that doesn’t come from a privileged, wealthier background? I sat in the Tube pondering Murray Bookchin’s critique of lifestyle anarchism, and tried to figure out ways to reconcile such anarchist withdrawal with the goals of revolutionary societal change.