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!
Yes! Finally, after what turned out to be a gigantic task of moving the PROFANE EXISTENCE distro from Minneapolis to Denver, transferring tons of data, and rebuilding the web store, we are finally set to open back up. To access the new store follow one of the many links from profaneexistence.com or access it directly at http://profaneexistence.storenvy.com
The first official PROFANE EXISTENCE title of 2015 is out and ready for order! We are proud to bring you the RIFLE DIET – “NO SOLACE”LP
Rifle Diet’s No Solace is a 12in 45 that combines the Classic Minneapolis crust sound with Swedish hardcore, D-beat and Epic crust (think somewhere between Servitude and Wolfbirgade, with hints of Tragedy and Fall of Efrafa). The beautiful cover art by Hannah Benoche sets a bleak mood for the dark music within, plus a cover of His Hero is a Gone – Chain of Command (ex-members of InDefence and Garmonbozia) This LP is a joint release between PROFANE EXISTENCE and BLOOD OF THE YOUNG RECORDS
To honor both the opening of the new store and our first release of 2015, we are giving a free copy of the RIFLE DIET – No Solace lp to everyone that spends more then $50 from Monday January 12th to Monday January 19th!!! This deal is for one week only. DO NOT MISS OUT!
*Note*Rifle Diet are playing a record release show 1/17/15 at the Dogplex in Minneapolis with Kontrasekt, Aziza, and Fucking. To coincide with that show all orders that contain the RIFLE DIET – No Solace lp will be shipped out on Monday January 12th.
The next release in the works is the new full length lp from APPALACHIAN TERROR UNIT – “We Don’t Need Them”.
We Don’t Need Them is the second full-length record from West Virginia punx Appalachian Terror Unit. ATU have become known throughout the years as being one of the most politically charged bands in the current punk scene. This new record is an all out attack on today’s society that takes ATU to a new level of intensity both lyrically and musically. The combination of the beautiful and thought provoking gatefold cover art designed by Stivart along with the brilliant recording and mastering job by Jay Matheson at the Jam Room take this record even further. Song subjects include the horrors of war, police brutality, destruction of the environment, rape culture, consumerism and much more. Expect a very heavy and much angrier approach from a band that has been around the block and matured their sound. Seven raging new tunes including the epic fourteen and a half minute track “We Don’t Need Them”, a song that will one day be ranked among similar greats as the SUBHUMANS “From the Cradle to the Grave” and AUS ROTTEN “And Now Back to Our Programming”.
APPALACHIAN TERROR UNIT – We Don’t Need Them will be pressed in the United States on PROFANE EXISTENCE & in Europe on SKULD /RUIN NATION
WARWOUND – “A Huge Black Cloud-The Demos 1983“
Another record we are very excited about is the upcoming WARWOUND – A Huge Black Cloud-The Demos 1983. Recorded in 1983, this record contains 15 songs from three 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, and released 2 demos in 83. Members went on to join THE VARUKERS and form the almighty SACRILEGE. Warwound are one of the first bands to take the politics and d-beat influence from DISCHARGE and combine it with the blown out sound of CHAOS UK to achieve total destructive raw d-beat ear bleeding chaos!
WARWOUND – A Huge Black Cloud-The Demos 1983 will be a split release between PROFANE EXISTENCE and ORGANIZE AND ARISE.
It will be available in the spring of 2015.
Other records and projects we have in the works for 2015 …
VASTATION (pdx formally night nurse) vs WAR//PLAGUE Split EP
KRANG are a new band birthed from Chicago’s DIY punk underbelly. They play a brutally powerful brand of thrashy riff-laden crustcore and have an intense live presence. They have recently recorded for a few vinyl projects, including PE’s own 7″ singles series. Check ’em out!
Interviewed by Brian Poulin (NEGLIGENCE). All photos by Adam DeGross.
PE Who’s in the band and what does each of you do?
AUSTIN: guitars / backing vocals / song writing (synth & keyboard on 12″)
ADAM: bass / backing vocals / song writing
BRENDAN: lead vocals / lyrical content
DEVAN: drums & percussion / backing vocals
PE: What’s a brief history of the band and how did you guys form?
Austin: We started circa 2009. We had an additional guitarist: Louis C. He went on to start a blackened crust band called Welkin Dusk, based in Chicago that he plays drums & lead vocals for. We used to have an additional lead singer as well: Hannah B. Hannah was a part of our first two releases: the out of print “Onward Desolation” demo tape, and also the out of print “Bog of Eternal Stenchcore” 7″. Hannah is now the front-woman in a band called Despise, based out of Minneapolis. Our original drummer, Brett, is on the two recordings I mentioned before, as well as our “Sounds of Death” 12″. Brett now drums for a Chicago / northwest Indiana band called Asphixiate. Devan is now our permanent drummer and he will have his first appearance on the “Broken Waves” 7″, released by Profane Existence, which is coming out in June. Devan will also be on our next 12″: “Bad Moon”, which we are writing right now. I, as well as Krang, are totally stoked on Devan and really happy to have them. Devan is active outside of percussion as well with assisting in writing, assistance in lyrical content & structure, and the internet stuff. This line up has been solidified for over a year and is totally fucking Krang! It just works perfectly.
PE: You guys are based out of Chicago. What are your favorite parts of the scene there? What are your least favorite things about Chicago’s scene?
Devan: Chicago’s an interesting place. I feel like the pros and cons are often directly related to one-another. For example, the mere size of the city. There are so many people – new to here, young, old, whatever – that there is basically always something going on and a handful of solid DIY spaces at all times, regardless of whether people leave or places get busted or whatever. The downside is that the physical structure of the city makes it difficult and/or terribly time-consuming to navigate. Especially if you don’t have a car. And even if you do, parking sucks. Anyway, as a result of the city being as segregated as it is, people are often inclined to just stick to what’s going on in their neighborhood and it results in a lack of exposure or attention paid to some really cool things. It’s unfortunate. But then there are some events like the annual Black and Brown Punk Show (shout-out to Monika!) or other fest-type shows where the attendance is crazy and bullshit is minimal. It’s rad.
Austin: I used to live in CHI. I reside in northwest Indiana (NWI). It’s really close. You can compare it to how close Jersey is to NYC. The rest of the band does live in CHI. My favorite things about Chicago is the “don’t take shit” attitude that at least me and the scene we’re involved with has. We’ll kick you out if your a piece of shit human or kick your ass if we have to. I also like The Void Haus in NWI for gigs. My personal least favorite things are cliques, hype, division, etc… the things that you see in every rather large city, I suppose.
Adam: I love Chicago’s unspoken rule of everyone being down to get down when shit hits the fan and nobody lets bogus comments or derogatory gestures fly. My complaint for the longest time was how there is the same hierarchy that we all hate in daily life at a lot of the gigs. It seems like those “in crowd” wanks have come and gone though, or maybe I just don’t surround myself with such fools anymore. My main complaint, and I know I am sounding super negative, but for such a large city there is a lack of bands playing what I am into personally. There are a lot of great bands doing great things…but that doesn’t necessarily mean I am into them musically. Haha! I have a particular taste and its not being fulfilled. I usually go to shows to hang out and have a good time and just show support but its rare that I actually shit over a band that I see locally. I do really, really get down to Population though. White boy can’t dance but when I see this band I start doing shit I didn’t know I was capable of.
Brendan: Chicago is simultaneously the best & worst place to live; which I’d imagine is a critique most other big-city dwellers share. There is no shortage of great folks, bands, eats, cool nerd-haunts (comic & record collectors rejoice!), and beautiful neighborhoods/communities in which to live. The same is true for all of the awful yuppies, gold cost bourgeois, & assholes who get your friends hooked on hard drugs. A lot of the time I wish that I lived in a vast expanse of lush nature with no human presence save myself. When I’m not wishing for seclusion, I’m loving how hard of a time I have sorting out which of the 5 awesome punk shows I get to go see any given night. Chicago has everything I love & hate at once; most of the time its worth it.
PE: Musically what are you guys going for?
Devan: I’d say sincerity, first and foremost. In sound, words, and delivery. And the connections we can and have made with people based on that. My musician’s answer would be just to write the best songs we can and perform them at the highest level at all times.
Austin: I just want to stick out and be a little different sounding. I still want to have that essential formula for great punk. I personally believe we found the introduction to our sound with the “Sounds of Death” 12″. We have two formulas: triumphant, galloping crust metal and simplified, pissed off, to-the-point stuff.
Brendan: Initially we formed with the idea of writing over the top odes to crust circa late 80’s/early 90’s; stuff you could flail your overgrown dreadlocks around to. We all fell into a groove with each other over time, where we don’t really need to define what we’re gonna write before we do. We approach releases with general outlines (theme,length, format etc.), but when writing songs I’d say we aim for mean, earnest & impactful.
Adam: I think naturally all being into different types of musical backgrounds, our finished product ends up being a thing of its own, but we all have similar enough interests to where we end up with the result that we initially were trying to go for. I personally am really into trying to sound like the bands I am into. It doesn’t end up exactly that way which is good but I love when bands obsess over old school sounds/bands/records and try to make their contemporary music sound as authentic as possible whether it be tone or style or whatever. At the end of the day we are trying to sound pissed, like we worship the 80s and have our music sound anarchy as fuck!
PE: What bands inspire you the most?
Austin: I listen to EVERYTHING. I don’t know where to begin but musically, keeping personal interest aside, I think we’re inspired by 80’s UK crust and a lot of Japanese stuff as far as writing collectively. This is something me and you will have to nerd out on when we’re in Boston next. Haha!
Adam: For Krang, bands that influence the writing process for me are Masskontroll, Deathraid, Sacrilege, Hellshock, Deviated Instinct, Sodom, Axegrinder and Amebix as well as Instinct of Survival. Personally I am all over the water but my all time 2 favorite punk bands have always and will always be Discharge and the Dead Boys.
Devan: I could go on a long rant about every band I’ve ever loved and how they’ve all stuck with and influence me to this day and blah blah blah, but I’ll spare you the cost of ink and just say Sacrilege, Crude, Amebix and Discharge. That said, we are quite the eclectic bunch.
Brendan: Musically, anything running the gamut from Paintbox to Elliot Smith. I enjoy a lot of soaring Japanese hardcore with that Burning Spirits feel, 90’s screamo, early black metal & hip hop. Any band that has a way with words gets me going, but mostly I enjoy music that you can’t help but feel.
PE: What are most of your songs about? What inspires the lyrics?
Brendan: Lemme preface by saying that Discharge is rad & “The More I See…” could be the soundtrack to my daily tedium… but i think punk rock has much more potential than to rehash our dogmatic & oftentimes simplistic politics. Having been a few places where the punk scene eats itself inside out with depression, addiction, & apathy towards the struggles of those around us, I think its real important to allow ourselves to be more open in the way we express all of the things exploding in our minds. I am not blowing my own horn, or any horn for that matter, but I really enjoy taking the personal route when it comes to writing & am constantly attempting to better address the common threads that run through all of our lives. Our first wave of songs covered some of our political leanings in regards to vivisection, arms manufacturing, rape culture & the willful destruction of our Earth. The “Bog of Eternal Stenchcore” 7″ reflects on the weight of stagnation on the “politically motivated”. “Sounds of Death” is the result of an obsession with death and a years worth of hurt; friends making irreversible decisions in regards to their lives & some of us falling into those spirals ourselves. There is absolution in acceptance though & I think a glint of hope in such dark subject matter. Our upcoming 7″ deals with cycles of change in our lives, moments of mania & madness; a counterpoint to our last 7″. The songs we are writing & playing now are an extension of that, focusing on moments of change in our lives, wanderlust & really just form one big, loud, pissed love letter to the DIY community, punk rock & time spent on the road. Inspiration comes from any human I’ve met that has dared to be open, honest & shameless about it.
Devan: Passion in all its forms and extremities is what inspires us. Totally.
PE: You guys have done a few extensive tours. What’s your favorite city you guys haveplayed in? What’s your least favorite?
Austin: I love Boston. Detroit, New Orleans, and the Twin Cities (Minneapolis) are up there too. I don’t really have a least favorite. We have had some bad experiences, though. I will give them the benefit of the doubt and not mention them. Hopefully things will be better when we return.
Devan: New Orleans is my favorite city ever, and our most recent gig in Boston totally ruled. I’d have to say, though, that many of my favorite shows have been in non-major cities. Birmingham AL was awesome, Asheville NC, Cincinatti OH, Grand Rapids MI…basically anywhere with a really tight-knit but wide-ranging DIY scene in terms of age, music, spaces, projects, etc. It’s always super encouraging to see.
Brendan: I’ll echo the others in saying that NOLA, Asheville, Cincy, Birmingham, Boston & Baltimore all kick ass. I’m usually super appreciative of all the towns we’ve been lucky enough to play in, though of course we’ve played in towns that seemed to embrace the anti-PC attitude/sense of humor that I am so fucking sick of. Some cities are really 50/50 because you’ll either play an amazing show with bad-ass folks & have the time of your life, or you might end up wanting to eviscerate some fuckhead who only listens to GG Allin & doesn’t get why a confederate flag hanging at a show space might ruffle some feathers.
Austin: We as a band aren’t about making sure we are politically correct all the time, but we definitely are hellbent on showing one another respect and are willing to give respect back to those who are legit. No single city is bad. Like I said before, sometimes there are some bad experiences. Fuckheads are everywhere.
Adam: Yes, Cincinnati, Birmingham, Boston, but most of all NOLA and Minneapolis. New Orleans and Minneapolis…no other city can live up to the debauchery that is expected to happen when we arrive in these two places. We need a week of recovery after being in either place for just a day. Also I love playing Madison a lot. Fuck, I love touring. So many amazing friends are being missed right now as we speak.
PE: What are some of your favorite bands you guys have played with?
Lord Krang: Scum from Detroit, Appalachian Terror Unit, Antisect, In Defense, Nu-kle-ar Blast Suntan, Kontrasekt, Cognitive Dissonance, The Skuds, Coelacanth, WrathCobra, Wartorn, Negligence, In Ruins, and definitely D-Clone; but honestly, it’s great to play with anyone and everyone who aren’t assholes and give a shit about “punk rock”.
PE: What are some of your favorite local bands from Chicago?
Lord Krang: Asphyxiate, Decay After Death (Decay A.D.), Cemetery (RIP), Culo, Die Time, Slag, Escalofrio, Sex Bunker (RIP), Birth Deformities, Gas Rag, Welkin Dusk, Daylight Robbery, Dirty Surgeon Insurgency, The Breathing Light, La Armada, Black September, Kontaminat, Ooze, Tensions, The Busy Sugnals, Population, More that we’re forgetting to mention….
PE: What does the future hold for Krang?
Devan: As Austin mentioned earlier, we have our “Broken Waves” 7″ being released in June, at which point we’ll be doing a small tour with Coelacanth. Also, as previously stated, we are well along in the writing process for our next full-length LP. Look for us around the Mid-west this summer and keep up-to-date and get in touch via the following:
crustardpunx[AT]gmail.com – krangcrustards.bandcamp.com – krangcrustards.blogspot.com
Austin: More touring, more albums, more blood spit nights, more everything! We’ll do a more extensive tour when the new LP comes out.
Brendan: “Bad Moon” 12″ – Skull Fest – Split(s?) – Self-Destruction With A Gusto
Lord Krang: Record labels that are interested in helping us with our next 12″ (which is more than half way written) get in touch with us!!! It will be even more galloping, pist, and triumphant than our still available “Sounds of Death” 12″!
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.