The long awaited debut LP from NYC’s FLOWER “Hardly A Dream” is finally set to arrive.
FLOWER’s tedious approach to writing/creating/drawing their debut LP was carefully thought out and the result is a monumental anarcho punk /crust record.
“Hardly A Dream” Takes us on a bleak journey through the dark side of society. As soon as you drop the needle a dark atmosphere is immediately created with a slow intro featuring arpeggio guitar work that builds into pummeling d-beat crust. The albums vocals then leave you with a feeling of being crushed by the ever-present weight of living through our modern world of late stage capitalism that was built on the falsehoods of the so called American dream, religious hypocrisy’s, nationalism, and the greed of humankind.
FLOWER take many cues from predecessors and are most often (and rightfully so) compared to NAUSEA but they also take a heavy influence from ANTISECT, SACRILEGE & other greats. The artwork has a very RUDIMENTARY PENI feel and the record comes with an amazing 24.5 X 34.75 CRASS style poster jacket. All art work was meticulously hand drawn and overseen by the guitarist Willow in true DIY style and spirit. Willow was also cool enough to draw up a special shirt for the record release featuring an alternative PROFANE EXISTENCE backprint!
Dark, heavy, galloping crust from the streets of London. AGNOSY is back to present us with a ferocious beast of an album that can only be forged by the anger and frustration of living in today’s world. “When Daylight Reveals The Torture” aggressively attacks evils such the current rise of fascism and animal abuse. It intelligently and passionately touches on the Afrin invasion and the revolution in Rojava and shows nothing but utter disgust toward the arrogance of humankind’s lust for greed and power that will inevitably lead us down paths of war and environmental devastation.
While lyrically AGNOSY are much more politicly straight forward this time around than on previous releases, musically they have expanded on their sound to create a dark and moody atmosphere while at the same time staying crust as fuck. To say they know what they are doing would be an understatement from this band of vets whose members have played in HIATUS, HEALTH HAZARD, and BEGINNING OF THE END.
Long galloping intros are followed up by traditional d-beat, fierce solo’s are then meet with vicious vocals and pulverizing bass in a brilliant recording captured by Lewis Johns at The Ranch Production House and was mastered by Brad Boatright at Portland’s legendary Audiosiege. We then pressed on deluxe heavyweight 150-gram vinyl, printed on reverse board jackets, and included an 11in x 22in gatefold insert to bring you a high quality and truly epic record.
The legendary crust classic is now available once again!
Authorized and released in cooperation with MISERY, S.D.S., & MCR Japan & Remastered by Jack Butcher at Enormous Door Studio we are beyond proud to make one one the most rare and sought after crust records available once again.
Fuck the scavengers charging punks exuberant amounts of cash on ebay and discogs. We worked meticulously with both bands and with Jack at Enormous door to bring you an updated version that kicks major audio ass while maintaining the original authenticity.
Released on deluxe 150 gram vinyl. With an 11×11 inner sleeve. Black Paper Jacket. Reverse Board Jacket.
Earlier this year we re-issued this legendary LP and sold over 950 copies in just 4 short months. For this second pressing we pressed 490 copies on Krystal Clear & 485 on Grey Vinyl with Black Mist.
Stench crust the way it was meant to be played!
The UK crust scene of the 1980’s inspired band after band but no other band has ever reincarnated the sound of that time as well as SWORDWIELDER. Quite simply if you like crust, then this the album you have waited decades for.
Review by Craig Hayes from “Your Last Rites”… Swordwielder – System Overlord Heavyweight punk fanatics take note: System Overlord is a fucking triumph. The long-awaited sophomore album from Gothenburg stenchcore band Swordwielder is a brooding behemoth, constructed from the filthiest and heftiest strains of punk and metal. System Overlord shimmers with apocalyptic visions, and it’s overflowing with all the grim atmospherics and intimidating intensity that defines consummate crushing crust.
Too much hype? No way… And no apologies, either. Swordwielder deal in definitive stenchcore on System Overlord, and much like their full-length debut, 2013’s Grim Visions of Battle, the band’s latest release is a knockout. Swordwielder’s harsh, gruff and dark sound owes a significant debt to old school icons like Amebix, Axegrinder, Deviated Instinct, and Antisect, and they mix and mangle their influences and leave ’em to rot on the battlefield.
Plenty of hammering rage drives System Overlord tracks like “Violent Revolution,” “Savage Execution” and “Cyborgs,” and thundering epics like “Corrupt Future” and “Northern Lights” exhibit subtler strengths, mixing guttural growls and clean vocals with crashing percussion and dirge-laden riffs. Connoisseurs of corpse-dragging crust will love the brute-force belligerence of “Absolute Fear,” “Nuclear Winter,” and “Second Attack,” which rain down like merciless mortar barrages. As a rule, all of System Overlord‘s mammoth tracks chug and churn with grinding muscle, while reeking of squalor and decay.
Swordwielder exudes tightly coiled aggression from start to finish here—songs rise from the ashes of desolation, and resounding calls for action and resistance ring loud. If you’re a fan of heavy-hitters like Fatum, War//Plague, Carnage, Zygome, Cancer Spreading or (insert your favorite hefty crust crew here), System Overlord‘s trampling tempo and strapping sound are bound to appeal.
WILT combine old school metal and crust in a perfect hybrid that very few others have ever achieved. Prepare for a LP thats equal parts galloping d-beat crust reminiscent of bands like HELLSHOCK, and INSTINCT OF SURVIVAL, meets old school death metal in the vein of BOLT THROWER, MEMORIAM (old) SEPULTURA.
Here is a track from the upcoming LP
“Sermon for the Bootlickers”
Despite the inculcation of helplessness within each there remains great power. Ill at ease with such makes us ill. Learn to see the hand that feeds for what it is. You’ve been fooled if you think you’ve got no power. Refuse to be reduced to a consumer you’re a human being. Define yourself by more than wealth. Define yourself as a human. You don’t need what you’re being sold. Bend your knee to no authority but your own mind. You have the power to avoid the gilded trap. Avarice is what you’re conditioned for. Break the mold discover what’s really valuable to you.
Wed, July 12 Hanover / Germany / Confirmed Thu, July 13 Bremen Fri, July 14 Mulhem / Germany / Confirmed Sat, July 15 Gent, Belgium / CrustPicnic / Confirmed Sun, July 16 Paris / France or Amsterdam / Nederland July 18 North-East France or West Germany July 19 Freiburg / Germany TBC July 20 Winterthur / Switzerland Fri, July 21 Zurich / Switzerland Sat, July 22 Biel / Switzerland July 23 Lausanne or Geneva / Switzerland
July 24 Geneva / Switzerland or Grenoble france
July 25 Treviso (or Milano or Bologna or Verona) / Italy
July 26 Ljubljana Slovenia Confirmed
July 27 No Sanctuary chilling day
Fri, July 28 NoSanctuary Confirmed
Sat, July 29 NoSanctuary Confirmed
July 30 Ilirska Bistrica/Slovenia or Vienna/Austria or Budapest/Hungary.
July 31 Wiena / Austrai or Budapest or / Slovakia
August 1 Brno / Czech Republic.
August 2 Prague / Czech Republic
August 3 Finsterwalde / Germany TBC
Fri, August 4 Leipzig / Germany TBC
Sat, August 5 Berlin / Germany / confirmed
August 6 Dresden
August 7 Wroclaw / Poland
August 8 Warsaw / Poland
August 9 Poznan / Poland
August 10 Szczecin/Poland TBC
Fri, August 11 Rostock / confirmed
Sat, August 12 Hamburg TBC
With the rise in popularity of the ideas of urban gardening, deep ecology, and permaculture amongst activists, anarchists, and subcultures such as punk often questions of ethics seem to have become simplified to the equation of SUSTAINABLE = GOOD. Yet often all kinds of cruelty can be hidden behind the veneer of that buzzword sustainable.
The unfortunate reality is that simple fixes rarely offer much beyond false hope and easy ways out. Perhaps they help people to ease their personal guilt by assuming they are not part of the problem (everyone else is), but is this any more than a self serving delusion?
I grew up on a small family run farm in Alberta, 10 miles north of a town you have likely never heard of, with a population under 700. My mother grew up on that same farm with her two brothers. Her dad and his family lived there for many years, they had immigrated up from Nebraska where the family had farmed for a few generations since their original migration from Scotland, where again they had been farmers. It would be fair to say that farming is in my blood, so to speak (or perhaps I have just been reading too many Vampire The Masquerade books as of late?) Either way, I feel at least semi-competent to write about some of the ‘sustainable’ realities of small scale farming, drawing on my personal experiences.
I have many memories from growing up on the farm, from playing in the garden and eating carrots straight out of the ground with the dirt still on them, to collecting eggs from the chicken house, or chasing the turkeys for fun, being chased by the turkeys (which wasn’t so fun), or moving cattle from one pasture to another by horse back. There were some great memories too; picking saskatoon berries, wild raspberries that grew in the coolie, or building forts and campfires in the bush by the ravine. However, there were also just as many memories that were not so wonderful to look back on. Branding cattle with a hot iron as they screamed, or castrating steers — many city folks don’t realize you do not eat cows, and you do not eat bulls, you eat a male who had it’s nuts cut off so the flesh will taste better. All of which could be argued as sustainable.
Now I recognize that not all this is relevant to the popular trends I see amongst self styled alternative people over here on the west coast, as most of the folk punks are more into having pet goats and living on boats rather than farming beef or dairy cattle for auction. So I will try to keep more focused on the aspects of small scale farming that would be more of interest to the DIY crowd with their fantasies of farming and sustainable farming.
One of the more popular trends amongst the urban radicals is having back yard chickens, to collect and eat their eggs. Where I live, in the Cascadian bioregion, it has become almost as cliché to have 6-10 birds pecking around your back yard of your community house as it has to wear Carhardts, have a large dog, and all black clothing, or to play banjo. Unfortunately, I also live in an area where one thing that is not popular is sticking around. The radical community here tends to be quite transient in nature, with lots of college kids, traveler punks, and others folks who often didn’t come from here and even more often don’t have much intention of putting down roots. This is a common frustration to those who are part of long term projects propelled by volunteers, but none the less, it has its pros and cons. However for the chickens pecking the dirt and laying those golden eggs, it is a much bigger problem. An average chicken may live up to 8 years, which is far longer than the school term, or even a bachelors degree. A quick peruse of Craigslist at the right times of year will give you a good indication of just how expendable these animals are to many of the people who are excited in September (at the beginning of the school term) to build a chicken coop for their back yard. But even for those who don’t intend to go traveling or tree planting soon as the summer hits, few want to care for a chicken until it dies naturally of old age. You see, chickens only lay a lot of eggs when they are still fairly young, as they get older they will produce less and less. For many of the urban agriculture enthusiasts, a chicken that doesn’t lay eggs is just work with no pay off.
But the plight of the urban chicken doesn’t end there — or more accurately; it doesn’t begin there. You see, chickens don’t just appear, and they are not brought by the stork to deserving families, they come from somewhere – or in other words, someone breeds them. Few of the breeds of chickens people farm have any resemblance to wild breeds, and wild chickens are pretty rare these days due to our destruction of wildlife habitat for cities and farm land; never mind that there was chickens, like Europeans, are an invasive species to this part of the world. So most of the domesticated birds come from a hatchery; either directly – or indirectly.
I remember how exciting it was for me as a kid to order chicks. We would get a catalog in the mail, with pictures of the full grown birds, and you would select them by recording the order number of which breeds you wanted to buy. A few weeks later, you would get a large cardboard box in the mail which would be chirping. Upon opening it, you would see it packed full of fluffy yellow chicks, divided and layered with cardboard dividers so they could fit more into each box. Every so often a couple would die while in the mail, so you would get a few dead ones in every box.Kinda like two scoops of raisins, right?
An important thing to note is, that they also were separated not just by breed, but also gender. See chicks are born about half females and half males, but most people don’t want to order males. Roosters don’t lay eggs for one, and for two, if you have more than one (or maybe two) roosters, they will kill each other. So the chicks are bred, the females are sold through mail order and the males are killed. Yup, right into the wood chipper. When people get back yard chickens, they often order from a breeder or hatchery. I know some get “second hand” or even call them “rescues”, but where do you think those birds came from before you got them? Buying chickens is putting money into the industry that breeds them for profit. This is the industry of commercial chicken breeders, and they are often the same places that supply big farms, as well as small farms and your average urban gardener with their new found interest in permaculture. And I didn’t even talk about the forced insemination.
The study of words can reveal a lot. If you look at the etymology of the word Garden, we discover it is related to the German word for guard, and to words for walled, or closed lot. It doesn’t take a lot of thought to begin to see the relationship between these terms. As anthropologist Layla AbdelRahim explained in Wild Children – Domesticated Dreams, domestication requires the domesticator to control access to food and land. When you begin to garden a space, you must control what other species have access to that land or you will likely not have much of a crop to harvest. Whether we are talking about other non-human animals that might desire and easy lunch, or even competing plant species, insects, or other humans – gardening requires us to control what species are able to access the space. On an even more basic level, gardening usually begins with removing undesired plant species to prepare the land so we can plant seeds of the species we desire.
It has always amazed me how uncritically many Green Anarchists, Vegans, and Primitivists seem to embrace and support permaculture. Yet permaculture is in its essence another system of domestication rooted in anthropocentric desires. In other words, permaculture might be presented by its proponents as being sustainable (and therefore ethical) and based in local ecology, but in fact it is once again about human wants and needs. As well revered permaculturist Erik Ohlson explained in his interview in the book Tangled Roots: Dialogues Exploring Ecological Justice, Healing, and Decolonization, “Permaculture, which could be permanent—agriculture or permanentcultureis about designing human culture that is beneficial to both the land and to human at the same time.” That might sound great on the surface, but look at it a bit more closely and it follows all the same old patterns; humans are in control, Erik posits us as the managers and designers, and in the end it is about human needs first and foremost. Animals are not even acknowledged in this relationship, even though you would be hard pressed to find a permaculturist who doesn’t argue that domesticated animals are needed in order to maintain a healthy closed circuit. The implicit goal of permaculture is to make this human domination of wildlife spaces, plants and animals – sustainable and thus permanent.
I am fully aware that not every radical out there agrees with the anarcho-primitivist critiques of domestication, which sees domestication as not only the control of the wild, but also as the root of many other systems of domination such as patriarchy. It took me a long time myself to come to a place where I was open to those conclusions and the difficult questions they lead to. However there are many lenses to view the question of ‘sustainable farming’ through. From an animal liberation lens, another set of problems presents itself in that permaculture like other forms of gardening for human consumption involves turning wildlife habitat into farm lands that are exclusionary to certain wildlife, and even further permaculture also uses domesticated animals.
This is where it really becomes a problem for me, as it perpetuates the use and domestication of non-human animals for human benefit. But due to the SUSTAINABLE=GOOD formula, we choose to not see its implications for animals: both wildlife and domesticated. Often when I have presented these arguments to proponents of permaculture design, the response I get is akin to the lesser of two evils. The same argument often used to justify voting for shitty, racist, business friendly politicians.
I am by no means arguing that permaculture is worse for the land than monocropping, factory farming, or industrial agriculture, rather I am arguing that it is not the be all end all simple fix that many seem to desire it to be. Permaculture still means wildlife habitat is destroyed and used for human benefit that does not allow wild species full access and use of the spaces. Permaculture still involves captive breeding and continued domestication of animals for human consumption, whether it be chickens to scratch and turn the soil, or goats, pigs, or other species. Many of those animals will be from commercial breeders, and the care of those animals will continue to support industries that profit off of animal agriculture. Many of those animals will also still be killed in the end either so humans can consume their flesh and bodies, or because they have quit producing at the rates desired by the domesticators. Most of those animals will also be of breeds that simply did not exist in the wild, did not exist until humans interfered with their reproductive strategies to cause them to develop traits deemed more desirable. Did you know that wild pigs were never pink skinned, that sheep didn’t produce a harvestable amount of wool for hundreds of years after domestication, or that cattle bred for meat are different breeds than the cattle bred for dairy production? Wild cattle don’t produce as much milk, the animals we farm today are the product of thousands of years of selective breeding.
It is indisputable that modern industrial agriculture is anything but sustainable as it depletes the infrastructure of the landbase for higher temporary crop yields. Such a system by definition is incapable to sustaining itself indefinitely and would eventually lead to a collapse as once fertile croplands become less and less able to produce, due to nutrients in the soil being depleted. Technological fixes such as fertilizers may increase yields in the short run, but only work to deplete the health of the land in the long term. Permaculture on the other hand aims to be sustainable, which may be its most insidious trait. It seeks to make permanent the ability of humans to dominate the wild, and thus maintain industrial civilization. Advocates often argue that permaculture can allow us to use less land in order to grow crops to feed our populace (which is a population of not just humans, but also of the animals we domesticate for our use). However, promises of abundance aside, we live in a society of exponential growth. Capitalism is an economic system that requires such growth, both in profits and in populace which will consume the products of the capitalists. Permaculture does nothing to challenge or disrupt this growth, and in fact may allow it to continue far beyond the limits of industrial agriculture in its current form.
Capitalism kills animals. Industrialism kills animals. Civilization as we know it is based on the domestication of animals and destruction of the wild. I have no doubt that permaculture may live up to its promise of sustainability, I would even go further and suggest that many older practices of agriculture (such as crop rotation and choosing crops based on soil conditions) can also allow long term sustainability, yet like permaculture these techniques do nothing to challenge the relationship of human dominance, capitalism, growth, or cruelty to animals. The system always seeks to recuperate easy reforms in order to maintain itself. If we do not actively work to disrupt these power relations and include questions of ethics, sustainability will just become another way of hiding our violence and rationalizing our domination of other species.
At the very root of agriculture is the domination of other living beings by humans. At the very core of ethics is the question of domination and hierarchy. For me, any system that perpetuates these historical patterns is a system based on violence. I am always reminding myself that agriculture is a relatively new invention in the timeline of human existence. The world I would like to work towards in one that encourages and fosters the growth of wild species and habitats, not the subjugation of them.
I don’t know what the solution to all of this is, but I do know that if we hope for total liberation it can not perpetuate the oppression of others.
For those of interested in finding alternatives to these oppressive systems we need to consider more than simple solutions. Directness of our relationship to our food, and sustainability of our practices is only one part of the question we need to be asking. Another key question is, what is the outcome for non-human animals and for other species? Do the ‘alternatives’ we are promoting make any difference to the chicken in the cage? How about to the Wolf? the Trout? The Orca? Or Mycelium? Are they better off because of our actions? Or does our liberation continue to come at their expense? How can we begin to foster relationships that benefit wildlife? And how can we imagine our relationships to other species in ways that have the potential to be liberating and symbiotic?
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.
In this interview my mother and I discuss the joys and pains in the struggle to build sustainable autonomous communities. They were pretty hardcore back in the day, melting down cars to make apple cider presses! It’s interesting to see the cyclical pattern of civilization on the edge of collapse making people want to get close to the land, but then when the system has a “false recovery” and comes out with some new shiny object, people end up running back into the hamster wheel/rat race.
In a recent podcast the managing director of the Permaculture Research Institute in Australia, Geoff Lawton, spoke about how a lot of intentional communities didn’t know how to site select the optimal location for a sustainable eco-village. I thought this was a very interesting point. I mean, I’ve heard the stat that over 90% of intentional communities have failed. And the anecdotal ethnographic reports that what typically happens is the last asshole standing wins the farm and drives away all the people who can’t stand him. Now after Geoff’s comments, I wonder how much of the social stress, drama, power struggles, etc. had to do with poor design, sub-optimal solar orientation, soil issues, water rights, etc.