Anarcho Punk Last Hours Feature
with Sean McGhee
Sean McGhee was the singer of Cumbrian Anarcho punk band Psycho Faction
throughout their time together (1979-84) along the way promoting
gigs for the likes of Crass, Flux Of Pink Indians, The System, the
Mob, Zounds, Conflict and many local bands. He also was a contributor
to various punk zines of the period and was responsible for one of
the first ‘bedroom distributors’, when he started Psycho
Fanzine Distribution in 1982. Since his own band’s demise he
has, amongst many other things, edited a national eclectic music
magazine (Rock’n’Reel), promoted occasional gigs with
everyone from Drunk in Public to Neck and a myriad of acts from folk
to punk, handled press for Maryport punk festival, Whitehaven Rezurrection
Punk Festival, and the North’s largest roots and World music
festival Solfest. Over the last few years he has worked extensively
on a series of compilations for Newcastle based re-issue label Overground
Records, covering the UK Anarcho punk scene from the 1980s.
Martyn Cockbain the guy behind punk fanzine and record label Scrobe
from the period, quizzed Sean recently about the series…
How did the Anarcho punk series come about?
The series really came about via John of Overground Records planting the
seed of an idea in my head around 5/6 years ago. The band I’d sang
for from 1979-84, Psycho Faction, had failed to leave a recorded legacy
apart from a couple or poorly recorded live tapes. John had suggested an
idea of an Anarcho punk compilation and I suggested a Psycho Faction track
appearing on it. John eventually agreed.
In February 2004 I rang John to ask if he was planning to do anything with
the Anarcho compilation idea that year, and with a hint of weariness in
his voice, he asked why didn’t I do the compilation?
The date was February 7th 2004, and within five minutes of the call I had
started on the Anarcho Punk project. What became painfully clear within
the first week was the fact that there was simply no way that all the bands
involved with the Anarcho punk scene from the 80s were ever going to fit
on one CD, or even two. In a matter of weeks the whole thing had become
a three cd series and then a couple of months later a four album series.
Getting the contacts, recordings, etc must have
been really difficult?
The initial problem was that around 90% of bands had been split up/defunct
for more than 20 years, the labels they recorded for (which were now
almost all defunct) had no contacts for many of the bands. A major problem
was the fact that as the Anarcho punk scene was so unashamedly anti-star
and anti-big business practically nobody had given their full or real
name on any records!
Of course management was anathema to the scene so that meant people literally
had to be found via; 20-year-old nicknames, addresses from 20 years ago
or phone numbers from 20-year-old fanzines.
With this is mind I set out to publicise what I was doing on the internet
via various punk sites with an overwhelming response. Punkoiuk was a
particularly good with responses and suggestions coming from all over
the UK. I used some of my own contacts from the 80s from my days as editor
and publisher of music magazine, Rock’n’Reel such as: Ramsey
of AK Press and formerly Scottish anarcho punk act Political Asylum,
Gerard Evans ex-Sounds journalist/writer and member of Flowers In The
Dustbin and Sean Forbes manager of Rough Trade records and member of
Later on I contacted Ian Glasper ex-member of Decadence Within and Stampin
Ground. Now with Suicide Watch and also journalist for Terrorizer mag
and author of the punk books ‘Burning Britain’ and ‘The
Day The Country Died’ (both published by Cherry Red Books).
Around half of each of the compilations are comprised of material previously
unreleased whilst the vast majority of the others are taken from long
deleted or very hard to get recordings.
Why the Anarcho punk scene?
Firstly, as someone heavily involved in the Anarcho punk scene, it was
always very close to my heart.
Secondly, the Anarcho punk scene was at times puritanical and may have
been plagued by infighting and scene jealousies and petty squabbles,
which are evident in all music scenes, but in my opinion its heart was
in the right place. When the main instigators of the Anarcho punk scene
Crass, appeared in late 78 early 79, punk rock in the UK was really dead
on its feet. An increasingly insipid new wave/power pop scene that made
little attempts to hide its pursuit of big bucks had overtaken the initial
life changing threat of punk. The 2-Tone trend was also becoming the
latest trendy bandwagon for many to jump aboard. For many the strength
of the Crass message and the associated all black image and powerful
sound/graphics stood as a refreshing change from the cartoon/peacock
punk prevalent at the time, and actually for myself put the pride back
Many bands and individuals were revitalized by this new energy and as
well as putting together their own bands, producing their own music and
fanzines the whole Anarcho punk movement filled the ranks of CND and
other Anti-War movements, revitalized the squatting scene, the radical
animal rights movement from the hunt saboteurs to the A.L.F, and encouraged
many many thousands to get involved in Direct Action.
For all its faults, and there were many, the Anarcho punk scene produced
some really great people, that I’m proud to call my friends, who
have continued along a similar ‘political’ path, and with
it’s DIY attitude and underground ethic Anarcho Punk continues
to inspire many still working within the punk scene. It demonstrated
that working co-operatively and collectively was equally as effective
and with its anarchist roots proved that self-management could work.
For so long now the weighty tomes on punk rock produced by the dozen
to mark the 20th or 25th anniversary of punk have either completely ignored,
dismissed or overlooked the contribution Anarcho punk made to punk, and
how without it the punk scene would have died completely within a few
years. I thought, and still do, that the Anarcho scene deserved better,
not particularly plaudits or awards but credit where credit is due.
The Anarcho punk cd series goes a little way to re-addressing the balance,
which is why I’ve taken such care over the choice of material (I
listened to over 3000 tracks for possible inclusion) and laboured over
the accompanying 24 page booklets that include photos, reminiscences,
updates, contact details etc etc on all bands/artists involved. Even
the choice of cover has seen myself a John arguing the pros and cons ‘til
early in the morning.
What can those who aren’t really aware of
Anarcho Punk expect from the series?
Many reviewers, who weren’t particularly enamoured
by Anarcho punk at the time, have expressed surprise at how effective
and diverse the bands are musically who appear on the compilations. A
lot of bands admittedly did try to emulate the fuzzed out, drum fuelled
charge of Crass, but a lot more took the whole DIY thing seriously enough
to produce something that sounded exactly like no one else and introduced
other ideas into their live sets. In their earlier days Chumbawamba utilized
four piece harmonies and theatre amid their manic live sound, whilst
the delightful hectoring punk poetry of Andy T inspired a whole new wave
of punk poets. The diversity and inventiveness of the Anarcho punk scene
is displayed throughout the series.
What’s been the response so far to the cds?
The response so far has surprised me. I expected a little interest in the
series but as I mentioned before, reviewers who weren’t particularly
into the Anarcho scene or actually even disliked Crass have, without begrudging,
said really decent things about the series.. All the series have had amazing
reviews in everything from websites like Punk Information Directory and
zines like: Trust, Maximum Rock’n’Roll, AMP, Profane Existence
and other general music magazines like; Rock Sound, Terrorizer, Record
Collector, Big Cheese and more. There’s even talk of features on
the Anarcho series in the glossy weekly papers! The whole series has been
selling really well, and picking up distributors all over the world. The
response from those actually going out buying the cds has been superb.
I’ve been inundated with great responses and emails from people who
can remember the bands the first time around and especially in America
a second and third generation of kids are fascinated and inspired by the
Anarcho punk scene.
What does the future hold for the series,
any other plans?
The last cd is ‘Anti-Capitalism’ which was released a few
weeks ago and as with the previous cds the whole package comes complete
with a chunky 24-page booklet, that content wise, seems to grow with
each release. The booklet as well as photos contains around 10,000 words!!
The final installment ‘Anti-Capitalism’ had an exciting extra
bonus: featuring the first unreleased Crass track in two decades, with
a booklet foreword by Penny Rimbaud, drummer and lyricist of Crass. This
has particularly pleased me as it feels like a seal of approval from
the mentors. Also featured are tracks from Conflict, Rudimentary Peni,
Living Legends, Antisect, D&V, The Epileptics, Culture Shock, Atomic
Filth and many more.
The bands included on the comps to date include: Dirt, Zounds, The System,
Lost Cherrees, Anti-System, A-Heads, Anthrax, Instigators, Snipers, The
Mob, Flux Of Pink Indians, Amebix, Subhumans, Poison Girls, Disrupters,
Chumbawamba, Civilized Society, Icons Of Filth, Sears, A.O.A., Liberty,
Icon AD, Thatcher On Acid, Andy T, Oi Polloi, Exit Stance, Alternative,
Liberty, The Cravats and many many others. I think we’ve managed
to cover practically every act from the 80s anarcho punk scene, close
on a hundred bands in total! Already there have been offshoots of the
series with cds by Wigan Anarcho punk band The System, which includes
both singles they recorded as well as loads of demos, all remastered
and as ever it comes in a booklet, (all released with full involvement
and in conjunction with the band) and full albums from the Norwich based
band The Disrupters ‘Gas The Punx’, Icon AD ‘Lest We
Forget’, The Cravats ‘Land Of The Giants’ a lovingly
packaged double set and coming soon an album by cult anarcho punks Naked ‘One
Step Backwards’. There’s also a CD in the pipeline from The
Mob. All the releases are given a full remastering and include unreleased
and rare material on CD for the first time and all are released with
full cooperation from members of the bands.
Anyone who wants to sample tracks from the compilations can listen to
them via the myspace site www.myspace.com/anarchopunkcdseries
Otherwise visit www.overgroundrecords.co.uk
Please note that the opinions expressed
by band members does not necessarily reflect the views of this website.
Punk & Oi in the UK Limited are in no way liable for comments made
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