M.A. Presents: Machine-Gun Drums
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Machine-Gun Drums Transcript
[Title music: slow, bluesy jazz.]
Monstrous Agonies presents, Machine-Gun Drums.
[The music fades out, replaced by the sound of a radio being tuned. It scrolls through music, a voice saying “-very romantic, I think-”, a voice saying “-and the volley is long-” and pop music before cutting off abruptly as it reaches the correct station.]
-clear communication now will save you a great deal heartache in the long run.
Next on the Nightfolk Network, we explore how the punk rock movement of the 1970s swept the liminal world and gave rise to a subculture all its own.
We talked to poet, photographer, film-maker and activist, John Elizabeth Parker, who documented much of the early monster punk movement.
John Elizabeth Parker
Obviously, there were monsters on the punk scene from the beginning, playing in groups or coming to the shows or whatever. And a couple of groups wrote songs about it, you know, On the Brink by The Ambassadors or Joy Ride by Coup D’Etat. Not that most people got that that's what Joy Ride was about! Always made me laugh that people thought it was about having a crush on a girl at school – it's about body-hopping, for Chrissake!
Then, in ’79, Parasite brought out Blood On The Mattress, and it was like this electric shock through the-- I suppose now you'd say, 'through the creature community'. I don't know about that. But I know every monster I knew bought that record.
It was like someone had just reached into your head and taken all the thoughts and all the anger you had growing up monstrous, you know. And set it to these-- these machine-gun drums! And the guitar howling like it's full moon.
It felt like a kind of secret you didn't know you'd been keeping, that you never wanted to be told in the first place, and suddenly someone had pulled it out and thrown it up in the open air. The relief and the... the exhilaration.
From then, it was like all these groups started cropping up. Whatever their style, they all had that same stance – that fierce, unapologetic monstrosity.
If Parasite and their debut album, War of Attrition, were the catalyst that started the movement, a number of popular, though short-lived, zines gave creaturecore fans a sense of shared identity.
Meanwhile, the Horned Raven, a long-time watering hole for creatures of all genuses, became a locus for the scene in London, presided over by the indomitable Mellor twins, the pub's proprietors.
With the Mellors' keen eyes – and ears – for new acts, playing at the Raven became something of a rite of passage, and launched the careers of groups like the Creeping Things, the Jenny Hanivers, and the Honey Buckets.
But for proponents of the movement, there was more to monstrous anarchy than the music.
John Elizabeth Parker
Obviously, there's the fashion – the safety pins and steel-tipped horns and whatever else. And you can buy that. You can buy your leather jacket, you can buy your jeans pre-ripped, you can buy a t-shirt with the monstrous anarchy symbol on it and call it a day.
You can't buy the ideas, though – the politics, and the... The philosophy, I suppose, that “[bleep] you, I won't do what you tell me”, DIY kind of attitude. But there's this other side of it as well – the political side.
I mean, not every punk band is political, you know? They might sing about, I don't know, [bleep] the police and whatever, but they don't understand liberation, or solidarity, or anarchy. They just like the clothes and stomping their feet, feeling like the big man. Look at the Sex Pistols. I'm not convinced John Lydon can read, let alone formulate a coherent political stance.
When it comes to monster punk though, it's different. I mean, you can't be a monster and not be political. You can't exist in the world-- You certainly can't exist shamelessly, vocally, proudly in the world without that being a rebellion. Because the world's built to shame us.
So, monster punk – a movement based, first and foremost on the principle that creatures deserve to be loud and in your face and to take up space and have their voices heard. It's inherently a political movement, you know?
As the 1980s wore on, the creature community started to become increasingly visible in mainstream – sapio – society. But increased visibility did not, necessarily, lead to increased acceptance.
In 1983, the Wildeblood Report offered some hope for creature activists of the era. But the report's recommendations were ultimately ignored by the incumbent Tory government, leaving the community without legal recourse in a decade marked by rising violence and hostility towards people of the night.
There were fractures too within the community itself. Cross-genus relations strained under the collapse of the Sanguinet Accords, and the assassination of Bertram Posey in 1985 threw the limacoid community into turmoil as political factions vied to fill the power vacuum left in Posey's wake.
In this tumultuous social and political climate, one might have expected monstrous anarchy to grow in popularity. But instead, the opposite seemed to hold. The movement dwindled, and it seemed that monster punk had died not with a bang, but a whimper.
But for John Elizabeth, reports of the movement's death were greatly exaggerated.
John Elizabeth Parker
People have been saying punk is dead since the beginning. Since 1977 – “punk died when the Clash signed CBS” – get a grip!
It all comes back to what I was saying earlier – the stuff you can buy, and therefore sell, and the stuff you can't. Creaturecore stopped being profitable. That’s all. You could only sell so many t-shirts, so many gig tickets – especially when you had groups like Parasite letting their fans in through the windows backstage!
People were still playing their gigs, making their music, of course they were. But nobody was making much money off it. Then, in ’87, Weyland Smith had the first UK Number One for a person of the night with Scrapin’ the Barrel – the blandest, most asinine doggerel ever set to music. And people hailed it as a breakthrough, a milestone for the community! And maybe it is, if all you care about is getting the biggest slice of pie possible.
But there’s still plenty of groups out there who know there’s more to monstrous liberation than cashing in. The style moved away from what you'd sort of recognise as that punk aesthetic, but it’s still-- Those ideas, you know? The philosophy and politics are still there.
You hear it in everything from hip hop, with Gorgo Militia and Deep6, to indie bands like Cry Havok, Boston Low, Dashed On The Rocks – even the ballsier pop groups. Hi Blood Sugar hide a lot a bite behind those Instagram filters, you know.
And it goes well beyond music, too. Poetry, film, theatre, art – there's monstrous anarchy wherever you want to look for it. And that's the thing about creaturecore, that's why it'll never die. Because its message is still relevant – the world is still trying to shame us into silence. And as long as that's true, we'll have monstrous punk telling us loud and clear – [bleep] that!
John Elizabeth Parker is an artist and activist working to promote the rights of the creature community. If you'd like to learn more, visit www.jeparkerpoetry.com or follow @LegitimateJEP on Twitter.
Time now for the news.
[Speech fades into static as the radio is retuned. It scrolls through a voice saying “-a proper tomboy-”, trad music, and pop music before fading out.
Title music: slow, bluesy jazz. It plays throughout the closing credits.]
Machine-Gun Drums was written by H.R. Owen and performed by H.R. Owen and Rae Lundberg, who plays Val in the Night Post.
The Night Post is a weekly supernatural podcast made by an all-LGBT team. It follows Val, Clementine, and Milo, three of the conscripted couriers of Gilt City, as they search for answers at the heart of the ancient organisation that chose them. Find out more at nightpostpod.com, or listen on your podcatcher of choice.
Hello and thank you to our latest supporter on Patreon, Ashley! Join them at patreon.com/monstrousagonies. For more monstrous content, follow us on Tumblr @MonstrousAgonies and on Twitter @Monstrous_Pod.
This podcast is distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. The theme tune is Dakota by Unheard Music Concepts.
Thanks for listening, and remember - the real monsters are the friends we made on the way.
[Fade to silence]