Sunday, October 04, 2015

Eight Years Too Late: UK Anarcho Punk 1988-1992

Like all musical genres, punk has existed in waves of bands influenced by the previous wave as well as sounds and cultural influences contemporary to the time of each successive era. Anarcho punk, of course, is no different, as the originators of the movement including bands such as Crass, Poison Girls, and Zounds, represented the first wave and went on to influence legions of followers in their wake.

By the late 1980s, anarcho punk had shifted from the original sound, influences, and topics. The musical and cultural influences of Crass were markedly different than those of the anarcho bands that came 10 years later. And how could they not have been? The Miner's Strike had been bitterly lost, the Falklands War was over, and Thatcher's reign came to an end in 1990. With those changes among a litany of others spanning over the course of a decade, the enthusiasm and urgency of the first wave anarchist bands had largely dissipated. Beyond the external factors, internal bickering and holier-than-thou attitudes had also caused derision within the movement.

This period was a transitional time for political punk in the UK, as it splintered with the rise of crust, grindcore, and other forms of more extreme hardcore. In fact, these offshoot forms of political punk became the predominant and more popular styles during the time period covered here. While the crust and grind genres operated in cohesive scenes during these years, the bands in this article did not make up a singular scene per se, and the goal here is not to rewrite history by aligning them together in a way misrepresents their association with one another. These bands here are grouped together based on their sound and style; nothing more, nothing less.

That style can best be described as having a more restrained affect to their sound, influenced by poppier elements, softer and more melodic punk, and a more personal and introspective approach to politics. In contrast to the sloganeering protest bash bands of the early 1980s, the 1988-1992 anarcho bands were much more subdued and refined. Gone was the political outrage shout of Conflict, the abrasiveness of Antisect, and the moodiness of The Mob. Instead more mellow and tempered influences came from goth, traditional folk music, melodic punk, and even some dub influence as much as it did from the originators of the anarcho sound.

As many of the recordings discussed in this article are no longer in print, we have made a digital download available at the end containing a song from each band. The complete track listing can also be found at the end of the post.

This article was undertaken in the spirit of cooperation not competition with Romain from the excellent blog Terminal Sound Nuisance. A big thanks to Romain for all his knowledge, work, and effort into getting this done with me. A massive thanks is also in order to Andrew Bayles who provided many photos and a ton of great information for this article, as well as Steve from the excellent Art of the State website and the bands and folks who replied with info and allowed us to use their photos and music.

So without further adieu, here is what can (loosely) be defined as the anarcho punk bands from 1988-1992...


Academy 23

Andy Martin was one of the strongest personalities to arise from the London anarchist punk movement in the early 1980s. His reputation for being outspoken and scathing in his criticism of the shortfalls of the punk scene yet altruistic made him a well known figure on the scene. As closely as he was linked to the anarcho scene, Andy was just as much a vocal opponent of it as well. Although best known for his time in the Apostles with long time collaborator Dave Fanning, Academy 23 sprang up a short time after the Apostles disbanded with their first tape coming out in 1991. Featuring both Andy Martin (vocals) and Dave Fanning (guitar) as well as Lawrence Burton (bass) and Pete Williams (drums), Academy 23 continued on in the direction where the Apostles had been headed.

While Academy 23 is still firmly rooted in punk, there's folk elements, some protest music, lots of minimalism, and the assorted eccentricities found in some Apostles material. If you're a fan of the Apostles, this really is the logical continuation in sound of where they were headed. Considered by Andy Martin to be "vastly superior" to his work in the Apostles, Academy 23 never garnered the relative popularity of the Apostles. They did manage to release an LP entitled "Relationships" in 1992 as well as several cassette only albums, a CD only album, and two 7"s ("Winning The Struggle" b/w "Double Standards" in 1992 and the "Cameo For Earth" 7" in 1993), along with multiple compilation appearances. If you're unable to find the original vinyl releases, there is a nice tape entitled "The Vinyl Documents" put out by AON Productions in Bulgaria that might be able to be tracked down as well.

While the Academy 23 material is quite strong and is similar in many ways to the Apostles, they remain obscure in comparison. On reflecting why the early '90s bands are regarded far less than the '80s forebears, Andy states "Perhaps the reason the 1990s is glossed over is because it was the decade where we all went bonkers - at least in Britain - replaced real instruments with computers, swapped our manuscript paper for cubase and blissed out on ecstacy. This may sound harsh but it's based on fact - I should know - because I was guilty of precisely this behaviour!"

Academy 23 would later morph into Andy Martin's current band, Unit, which is still going strong today and has many albums and CDs available.


Blyth Power

More often than not, us punks tend to put more value on the accuracy of the imitator more than the uniqueness of the creator. While there is nothing wrong with a properly done Discharge (or whichever punk legend you are into) tribute band, we struggle a bit with bands that are truly original. They challenge us. Blyth Power is one of those Marmite bands that you either goofily love or incredulously hate.

Blyth Power formed in 1983 in Somerset, with two former members of The Mob, Joseph (who also played in Zounds and, as the drummer/singer/songwriter/public relations manager, is the driving force behind the band) and Curtis. Now, it is always a bit tricky to start a band with the "ex-members of" brand. On the one hand, The Mob were one of the most popular and iconic anarcho bands from the early '80s, so a post-Mob band was bound to garner some attention. But on the other hand, it was difficult in the early years to get past this tag and to exist as a band in the shadow of The Mob. Fortunately for us, Joseph Porter is passionate and creative enough to truly create a band that is good enough to make one forget The Mob connection.

The years 1988-1992 were the time when Blyth Power really found their own identity artistically. The band's recordings between 1985 and 1986 (among which shone the amazing "Wicked Women" LP and the "Junction Signal" 12" for instance) were released on All the Madmen Records, a label closely connected to the early anarcho punk scene as it put out records from The Mob, The Astronauts, and Flowers in the Dustbin. But by 1988, and up until 1993, Blyth Power had a record deal with Midnight Music, a large independent label that specialized in post punk and experimental music. One can suppose that with the rather good reviews Blyth Power had gotten, perhaps along with the intent to go beyond the punk crowd, had made the band consider this deal in the first place. Although the relationship between the band and the label was not the friendliest, it is nonetheless on Midnight that Blyth Power released their best works (though it must be said that 1996's "Out From Under the King" and 2014's "Women and Horses, Power and War" are absolutely brilliant too).

Between 1988 and 1992, Blyth Power released three 12", "Up From the Country," "Goodbye to All That" and Better to Bat," as well as three albums "The Barman and Other Stories," "Alnwick and Tyne" and "The Guns of Castle Cary," and even one compilation LP that included most of their All the Madmen era recordings, "Pont Au-Dessus De La Brue." Of course, these four years saw the band at its most prolific and most inspired. Enhancing Joseph's inimitable writing skills, were Jamie Hince (who would later play in The Kills and marry bloody Kate Moss… I kid you not!) on guitar, Protag (who also played in Alternative TV at the time) on bass, Siân (formerly in Lost Cherrees) on harmony vocals for all the 1988 recordings and, after her departure, Julie (from Dan) up until 1991. Despite the semi-professional label they signed on, Blyth Power still played with fellow punk bands in those years, like Anrefhn, Sofa Head, Salad From Atlantis, Snuff and even The Levellers.

As I mentioned, Blyth Power was, and still is, a band that is difficult to categorize and describe properly. They borrow as much to the tradition of English jesters and minstrels as to punk rock and folk music. Deeply rooted in British history and storytelling, with songs about lords, battles, old countryside life but also about cricket (a recurring theme in the band's body of works), Blyth Power's music is highly theatrical, uplifting, dramatic, with a deluge of catchy, epic chorus, somewhere between the Monty Pythons, William Hogarth and the most sensitive and innovative brand of anarcho punk pioneered by All the Madmen. This is music to joust to.

Since 1993, Blyth Power have released their records on their own label, Downwarde Spiral and, apart from a few disappointing albums, they have kept the quality remarkably high and they remain one of the most unique bands in British punk history.


Cold Vietnam

This was an obscure band from the same area as Joyce McKinney Experience that only released one demo and appeared on a handful of compilations between 1988 and 1989: Cold Vietnam. Based in Redditch, the guitarist and singer, Andy Forward, had also played on Visions of Change's final LP, "My Mind's Eye" in 1989. Cold Vietnam formed in 1986 after the demise of several other local bands. They were apparently not too active for the first year but, in 1988, they managed to record a demo, "Blast Into Action" with "Hunt the Man," that should have taken them to much greater things. Despite a cover reminiscent of the cheapest crossover music, the demo tape is an incredible effort. Carried by the singer's powerful and tuneful voice, "Blast Into Action" is a unique collection of political punk hits (with a strong emphasis on animal rights) and displays a wide variety of genres, from moody anthemic post punk, to passionate melodic US hardcore, to mid-tempo anarcho punk, to melodic UK punk rock and even a punky reggae number. Perfectly produced, this demo is one of the most underrated recordings of this era. Two songs were lifted from it and landed on the brilliant "Spleurk" compilation LP in 1988. Released on Meantime Records, it saw Cold Vietnam rub shoulders with bands like Sofa Head, HDQ and Cowboy Killers. It was not however Cold Vietnam's first vinyl appearance. Indeed, earlier in 1988, their song "Rock Stars" was included on a compilation LP entitled "Vinyl Virgins" that was aimed at providing a first vinyl appearance to promising rock bands! It was released on Mighty Sheffield Records and Cold Vietnam even contributed another song on the label's second compilation LP, "Lemonade and Cyanide."

The band's last vinyl appearance was in 1989 with the inclusion of their song "New Patriot" on a compilation EP. It was the second issue of the "Panx Vinyl Zine" series. These were released by the French label Panx Productions and included lesser known international bands. This Cold Vietnam song however was not taken from the excellent demo but was recorded during a later session with, unfortunately, a weaker sound.

I bumped into an unofficial tape reissue of the demo last year from an Italian distro. It appears that the Kalashnikov Collective are big fans of Cold Vietnam!



Dan / Sofa Head

The band Dan was formed in Darlington (a small northeast town) by vocalist Andrew Bayles and bassist Ian Armstrong upon leaving school in 1983. That same year, they had their first gig in support of Conflict in Leeds.

Although Andrew left Dan fairly early on ("for the bright lights of Leeds," as he says), he did manage to play on the debut Dan EP from 1986 called "Can You Dig It?," released by Meantime Records, as well as their debut LP "Where Have All The Children Gone?," released the following year also by Meantime Records. Andrew remained close with the band and his recollection on the history of it all is vivid and clear with a mind for the details.

He states "We went thru' various other singers including Helen and Jane, Dave S. and Joy and a couple of guitarists: Slob, Andrew Black. We also had a guy called Steely on drums and, after I’d left, they finally got their shit together with a guitarist called Wal and started taking the band more seriously."

"Female singers Jools and Georgie are singing on the albums and singles, although I think Jools was the longest serving and did the most gigs. Interestingly Jools (Julie Dalkin) went on to join Blyth Power and date their guitarist Jamie Hince who later formed Scarfo and his current band The Kills. Jamie's now married to supermodel Kate Moss... good grief!"

Dan live. Courtesy of Andrew Bayles.
Regarding the musical influences of Dan, Andrew says "At the time when I was in the band we were listening to a lot of Crass type stuff, and Armstrong was a big fan of rockabilly punk like The Meteors and King Kurt. Obviously we'd all grown up with the classic punk bands like the Pistols and the Clash, but we def' all loved The Rezillos. Other influences included The Swell Maps (we did a cover of their 'Full Moon In My Pocket'), Blood Robots, Flux of Pink Indians, and Antisect."

Aside from the aforementioned records, Dan also went on to release the "Here's The Story Of The Further Adventures Of... Dan" cassette on BBP Tapes (1987), "An Attitude Hits" 12" on All The Madmen Records (1987), "Mother With Child And Bunny!" LP on Workers Playtime (1988), and "Kicking Ass At T.J.'s" LP with flexi on Meantime Records (1989). Who would have thought a band that couldn't settle on a line up in the beginning would end up so prolific!

The Meantime Records label was actually run by Dan bassist Ian Armstrong, and along with labels like C.O.R., Manic Ears, and In Your Face Records, became one of the most respected labels of the late '80s UK scene with releases by such bands as the Instigators, Hellbastard, Leatherface, and more.

Andrew Bayles writes "Later Dan morphed into Sofa Head with vocalist Claire [Sykes], Wal [Ian Wallis], Ian Armstrong and also recruited drummer Andrew Laing. I do recall getting back together with Sofa Head for a couple of gigs when they played with the Next World and they were using a drum machine, but I'm sure this was just an interim while they were looking for a drummer."

Claire and Ian "Wal" Wallice of Sofa Head dancing. Courtesy of Andrew Bayles.
Continuing where Dan had left off Sofa Head played upbeat political punk with female vocals. The band quickly got their first vinyl exposure by being included on the 1988 benefit compilation LP "Spleurk!" put out by Meantime Records. Shortly after, a newly formed political punk label in the US wrote them in hopes of doing a Dan release. Upon finding out Dan had broken up, but that former members had started a new group under the name of Sofa Head, the "Pre Marital Yodelling (1127 Walnut Ave.)" LP became the first release on Profane Existence in 1989. A UK pressing on Meantime Records was also done.

The debut LP was quickly followed by the "What A Predicament" LP (Meantime Records, 1990) and "Invitation To Dinner" 7". Four versions of this 7" exist with one pressing by Meantime Records and Rugger Bugger Discs in England, a US pressing by Profane Existence, and two German pressings on Recordrom Records. Profane Existence described this release as "taking on a more dark and serious tone to their message on a thematic EP against rape and violence towards women."
Sofa Head at Fulham Greyhound in London. Courtesy of Steve at Art of the State.
The "Twat!" 12" EP came next (Workers Playtime, 1991) followed by "Acres Of Geeses" LP (SMR Records, 1992) and finally the "More Is Not A Word In Our Vocabulary" (Shazbat Records, 1992).

Sofa Head drummer Andrew Laing (also of H.D.Q.) would later go on to play for many years in Leatherface (appearing on all the early Leatherface material including the seminal "Mush" album). Laing and bassist Ian Armstrong would also reunite in the 1990s, forming the band Rugrat together. After releasing two 7"s under the Rugrat name, the Nickelodeon channel forced them to rename the band due to the likeness with their children's cartoon show Rugrats. A third 7" was released under the name Bulltaco.

Ian Armstrong now runs Hidden Talent booking agency, promoting gigs and bands such as The Stupids, Exploited, 7 Seconds, etc.

Sofa Head at Fulham Greyhound in London. Courtesy of Steve at Art of the State.


Decadent Few

Another band that was around between 1988 and 1992 and had deep connections with the early anarcho punk movement was Decadent Few, from London. Not unlike Blyth Power, they formed at the tail end of the original anarcho punk wave, in 1984, from the ashes of Youth In Asia, a band that had played with Poison Girls, Rubella Ballet and Omega Tribe in the early '80s but sadly never really released anything back then apart from a promising demo, "Sex Object" in 1982 and the one track on a "Bullshit Detector" compilation. Although Decadent Few were not as overly political as YIA – and indeed the band never really claimed to be "anarcho punk" – the songs they wrote still tackled political subjects like feminism ("Misogyny") or the events in Northern Ireland ("They Shoot Children"), along with more personal matters. Their first vinyl appearance was on a Mortarhate Records compilation in 1984, very early in the band's existence in fact, just after the demise of Youth In Asia, and one had to wait seven years (!) for another Decadent Few record.

This does not imply that the band were inactive for such a long period. Rather, the solid songs they had penned did not materialize into proper albums. In 1987, they recorded the auspicious "Kaputt" demo and the following year, a great full album that was meant to see the light of day on Real World Records, a Durham based label that had already released the excellent Heavy Discipline EP. Sadly, that was not to be, but Decadent Few eventually got an LP of their own in 1991, "Irrehuus," on Full Circle records, the label of Tez Turner from The Instigators and Xpozez. This was a remarkable album, an unsung classic of sort, blending seamlessly the moodiness of goth punk and the energy of the 1977 punk rock wave. In 1993, guitarist Mick released another Decadent Few record, the "They Shoot Children" EP, on his own Inflammable Material records that he had started a few years before with Jules from the mighty Substandard. It saw the band at its peak, with two memorable, emotional songs that stick effortlessly in the listener's psyche.

On the face of these pieces of information, Decadent Few could be seen as a rather anecdotal band that could have achieved more, an easy filler in our list. But then, there is Kay's voice. She has quite possibly the most powerful and intense voice in UK punk history. Hers is deep, warm, raucous at times, almost high pitched, but still always tuneful, it can convey the whole spectrum of human emotion and take simple, efficient punk songs to the next level. If you could blend the energy of X-Ray Spex, the catchiness of A-Heads, the moodiness of Siouxsie and spice it all up with the voice of the bear eating bastard child of Poly Styrene and Patti Smith, then you would be pretty close to the Decadent Few experience.

After Decadent Few, Kay briefly sang for Radical Dance Faction and Mick went on to release top notch records with his label. For those so inclined, you will be glad to hear that Decadent Few are playing again and that they have not lost an ounce of intensity with the years.


Indian Dream

From Scarborough, North Yorkshire, Indian Dream formed in the mid '80s.  The sound of Indian Dream takes the gothy anarcho punk sound similar to bands such as Karma Sutra, Crow People, and others while still adding in the more melodic sounds common in the late '80s and early '90s.

Indian Dream received their first vinyl exposure on the Mortarhate Records compilation "We Won't Be Your Fucking Poor" in 1985. Two years later their debut EP "Well! Are You Happy Now!" was released on hometown contemporaries Active Minds' imprint Loony Tunes Records. The band returned to the studio to record their only LP, "Orca," self released on their own Xingu Records, in 1989.

Moving in an even more melodic pop direction, "Orca" was dedicated to the plight of the Orca whale. The album contains a sparse production and some parts that can only be described as "hippyish" sounding as well as some points that be likened as similar to later era Lost Cherrees.

According to Bobs of Loony Tunes Records, many copies of the Indian Dream LP ended up in a rubbish bin in Scarborough: "Indian Dream had split up, but they still had a lot of unsold LPs and some unreleased recordings which they'd originally planned to put out as an EP. I offered to try to sell the LPs and then to use the money raised to help finance the pressing of 500 copies of the unreleased EP. I sold a lot of the albums, but eventually got to the stage where they just weren't selling any more. None of the band members wanted them back, so at least 100 copies ended up being thrown away, believe it or not."

Too bad, as copies of the "Orca" LP now regularly sell for over $30.

The final Indian Dream release was the aforementioned self titled 1992 7" EP also released on Xingu Records. The EP was pressed in an edition of 500 and distributed by Loony Tunes Records. Bobs explains more on this release:

"We knew this couple (Roland and Corinna) who organised a couple of gigs for us in Germany and who we sometimes travelled around with, I think. They were wanting to start a label/distro (Asekk). At some point I must have mentioned the Indian Dream EP we were going to organise (although I can't recall how that topic of conversation had arisen) because they offered to pay for, and distribute, 200 of the 500 copies. They did, and we sent the copies to them.

It took us a while, but we eventually sold and traded away all the 300 copies we'd taken. Then years later (I reckon at least 10 years, but maybe even longer) I got this package through the post from Roland saying that these EPs had just been sat around and he thought I could probably do more with them than him so he just gave them to us. I reckon there was 150-170 copies in there which means he'd hardly sold any. I don't believe his label released anything else, and organising trades with other labels when you've only got one item to trade is pretty impossible, so I guess after a while he'd just given up and they'd sat in a cupboard in his house or something for years."

Thanks to this, copies of the final Indian Dream EP are easily found at very affordable prices. In addition, Boss Tuneage from England released a discography CD (omitting compilation tracks) in 2013 that is still available. Members of Indian Dream would later go on to play in the band Better Than Life.



The Instigators

Hailing from the West Yorkshire town of Dewsbury, the Instigators were holdovers from the earlier years of the anarcho punk movement. Having released their extremely well received "The Blood Is On Your Hands" 7" (Bluurg Records, 1984) and "Nobody Listens Anymore" LP (Bluurg Records in 1985), The Instigators were well established and highly respected. However, upheaval within the band led to line up changes and inevitably a change in sound.

Original guitarist Simon Mooney recruited former Xpozez vocalist Andy Turner (who had previously acted as a promoter for the Instigators) and pushed the band in a new, more melodic direction that can first be heard on the "Phoenix" LP (Bluurg Records, 1986). When asked about the change in sound, Simon states "There was no conscious decision to change sound from 'Nobody Listens Anymore' to 'Phoenix,' but three-quarters of the band left after the first record so the follow-up was always going to be different." The line up would continue to change throughout the tenure of the band, but Andy Turner and Simon Mooney remained constant and built the band into one of the most exciting live bands in Europe, regarded for energetic and powerful performances.
Intigators live at unknown date and location. Courtesy of Tez Turner.
In 1987, the Instigators released the "Full Circle" b/w "The Sleeper" 7" (Double A Records, 1987) which features one of their strongest melodic and rocking songs they recorded in "The Sleeper" and is highly recommended. In regards to their 1988 LP, Simon states "Personally, my favourite is 'Shockgun,' the third record, but I wish I'd stayed around for the mix as it's a bit thin…" As one old UK scene head describes it, "Shockgun" sounds like "Rush meets NWOBHM" adding that "in England in 1988, this was as good as it got."

The following year saw the band re-recording old songs as the "New Old Now" LP, ironically released on Peaceville Records which was run by original Instigators drummer, Hammy. The band carried on through the end of the decade and recorded a final two song EP in September of 1989, a collaboration with Japanese artist Toshiyuki Hiraoka, which was released by Deco Records in 1990.

Today, their material is largely still easy to find and at affordable prices as well. A large number of sealed dead stock copies of the Flipside Records US pressing of the "Shockgun" LP turned up in the early 2000s and can still be found for cheap money.
Instigators live at Greenhead Park, Huddersfield in August 1987. Courtesy of Tez Turner.

Instigators on tour in Belgium. Courtesy of Tez Turner.
For more info:
Instigators original line up official Facebook pag
Instigators later line up official Facebook page


Internal Autonomy

Internal Autonomy formed in late 1986 in Surrey, England with Al (drums) and Nikki (vocals) as core-members. Despite having released several top notch records, it took the post punk revival of the past few years for the band to get rediscovered. Truth be told, neither the rather meaningless "post punk" tag nor the "anarcho punk" one really fit Internal Autonomy (although the band certainly emerged from the anarcho punk scene and ideals). If anything, they can be seen as a free punk band, not only because they were not scared to experiment with music but also because of their passion for questioning and introspective inquiry reflected in their strong lyrics. Internal Autonomy questioned the ills and the vanity of the anarcho punk scene, but also the concept of ideology.

Their first demo was recorded in 1987. Entitled "Song and Speech," the tape, despite a thin production (assuming you could it that), was a promising collection of songs (and speeches!), deeply reminiscent of Lost Cherrees, The Apostles, The Mob and Smartpils with haunting, powerful vocals, tribal drums and catchy guitar leads. Because the band recorded everything themselves (Al had his own DIY studio), the band got to record demos regularly: "Capitalism on Sulfate" and "Cause of Liberty" in 1988 and a fourth demo for Bluurg Tapes in 1989 (which made sense since Internal Autonomy's music suited well Dick Lucas' catalogue in the late '80s) that had a brilliant Poison Girls cover.

The year 1990 marked the beginning of the band's association with Recordrom Records from Germany, a label that, for some reason, seemed to specialize in British anarcho bands with releases from Dan, Potential Threat and Inside Out. The "Monumental Inquiry" LP was released that year and displayed an impressive blend of vintage female-fronted anarcho punk bringing Rubella Ballet or Crass to mind, psychedelic music that would not have sounded out of place at a Stonehenge festival and tasteful gothic punk. It also included a new version of "Awayday to Auschwitz" a song that had been originally written by Cyanide Scenario, Al's former band, that was supposed to release something for Mortarhate and for Napalm Death Justin Broadrick's label that was never to be. In 1991, Internal Autonomy recorded a new EP for Recordrom, arguably their best moment, called "Love." The artwork for this one was made by none other than Gee Vaucher from Crass. The same year they took part in yet another Recordrom project, the "Tired of Sleeping" compilation EP that included art pieces as well as a record.

A second LP, entitled :Here in Our Hearts" was meant to be released on one of the strongest British DIY punk labels at the time, Words of Warning Records, but it sadly did not materialize, although one of their songs did land up on a Words of Warning compilation, "Mind Pollution," in 1992. Fortunately, seven songs from the recording session of the second LP were included much later on a CD discography. That year, the song "You Wonder Why" also appeared on the "Screaming for a Better Future" compilation LP released on Campary Records alongside Mushroom Attack, Verdun and Earth Citizens. Finally, Internal Autonomy did a last record, a rather impressive double EP for Profane Existence Records, albeit with Nikki having been replaced by Hog on vocals, that demonstrated the band's political bite.

In the late 2000's, the band more or less got back together and recorded a few songs that would eventually appear on a massive double CD discography in 2010. Released on Front Cover Productions, it contains songs from all their old recordings as well as a booklet retracing the band's history and underlying motivations. Finally, they reformed for good in 2013 and released a new, terrific album entitled "Ferox" that added some dub and electro sounds to the classic Internal Autonomy blend. They are still going under the name Ferox (or Feroxide) and release records regularly on their own Vanity Productions.



Joyce McKinney Experience

Joyce McKinney Experience were a breath of fresh, flowery air amid a fetid storm. Far from the slimy beats popular then, JME's colourful, upbeat music made them stand out and epitomized the diversity of the mid/late '80s UK punk scene. The band was part of the lively Leamington Spa punk scene that spawned bands like The Depraved/Visions of Change and Bad Beach (without mentioning the Varukers). At that time, the dynamism and enthusiasm of local punks had placed Leamington firmly on the punk map with a lot of gigs being organized at the Bath Place, a strong music collective that allowed bands to rehearse easily and many bands coming to play while on tour. The scene was close-knit, thriving and positive (Bolt Thrower being the obvious exception). It was in this particular context that JME were born.

The band started around 1986. At first, the idea behind it was to do an all-female hardcore punk band and although two males eventually joined, Gigs (drums) and Charlie (guitar) the original intent behind JME can explain why there were two female vocalists, a crucial element that made the band shine out. The first line-up was made up of Sharon and Yvonne on vocals, Robbie on bass, Gigs (who also drummed for Bad Beach and Visions of Change) and Charlie (who also happened to be Robbie's boyfriend). They recorded a demo in 1987 that appeared on a brilliant split LP entitled "Shall We Dance?" released the same year by Meantime Records. This wonderful record, also featuring Decadence Within, The Incest Brothers and Nox Mortis, showed the band's potential and 1988's "Joyce Offspring" LP spectacularly confirmed it. A collection of eleven songs of JME's spontaneous, dynamic and powerful music, this LP blends the energy and youthfulness of hardcore with the catchiest brand of tuneful British punk rock and positive anarcho politics that expressed themselves from a personal point of view. The upbeat dual female vocals bring to mind Lost Cherrees, Rubella Ballet, A-Heads, JME's contemporaries and label mates Dan and probably paved the way for several '90s anarcho punk acts like Harum-Scarum or Mankind?. The same year, JME recorded a solid session for John Peel.

The band released an equally strong E" in 1989, "Boring Rock" and from that point on, slowly started to write softer, poppier songs. 1990's 12" "Cuddle This!" pointed to that more melodic direction but remained rooted in energetic punk rock (the kid on the cover was actually the son of Sharon and Ian from Visions of Change). Following the release of this record, Robbie left and was replaced with Spencer, Sharon's brother, who had just left Visions of Change. The pop direction that JME was taking allowed them to play even more and attract larger audiences as well. Unfortunately, the line-up was beginning to crumble with Gigs becoming increasingly busy with work and Spencer leaving the band (Malcolm from Identity took his place). 1992 saw JME record their final two works, a demo for EMI (probably attracted by the mainstream appeal the band could have with their new direction) and the "Braemar" demo. They caught the band at their most melodic, their initial gritty punk rock influence giving room for rather subtle harmonies that aligned them with catchy, heartfelt British pop-rock music.

The great double-CD discography that Boss Tuneage released in 2006 contains all JME's recorded works, lyrics, pictures and liner notes and is highly recommended.


The Next World

Drum machines. In the realms of music, few things scream '80s more than them. While many think they are quite inappropriate in a punk band, there are places like France where "drum machine punk rock" is actually a recognized genre in itself. And closer to our field of investigation, bands like Cress or Burnt Cross have certainly proved that you can create great songs with a drum machine. Or indeed, The Next World.

Originally from Kettering, close to Northampton, The Next World were a punk duo, formed around 1986. With their politics deeply rooted in anarchism, they were involved with the 1in12 Club collective in Bradford and would often play at their famous venue on Albion Street, which has played a crucial role in the development of the DIY punk scene in the North. If you look closely, you will notice that the contact address on all The Next World recordings is a P.O. Box in Bradford that was also used by Flat Earth Records. 

The Next World courtesy of Andrew Bayles.
In 1986, The Next World self-released two demo tapes, "Peace Is Not Just the Absence of War" and "Imagination Seizing Power," that included early versions of songs that would end up on the band's vinyl outputs. In 1988, The Next World released its first record, the "Branded" EP, which was in support of the Campaign Against the Public Order Act of 1986, a piece of legislation that gave even more power to the police in the face of social unrest. The EP contained a text detailing the implications of the act and how the new measures had already been implemented during the Miner's Strike a few years earlier. Musically, "Branded" is an astonishing record that has few, if any, equivalents in the anarcho punk scene in 1988. While the songs themselves sound like a healthy mix of Hex, Southern Death Cult and Smartpils, the drum machine gives the music a cold, almost industrial feel. The same year, they played a benefit gig for the Stonehenge Festival with Political Asylum in Glasgow that was recorded and released as a tape, and they got to tour Ireland with Generic.

In 1989, The Next World released a full LP entitled "Resurgence" and produced by Carl Stipetic, who has been responsible for the record production of bands like Doom, Health Hazard or Cress since. It showed the band at its best, alternating between danceable tuneful punk rock and moody, sensitive post punk. The cover showed their strong antifascist stance and if the lyrics demonstrated the band+'s rebellious politics, they also focused on the pain, despair and alienation that one feels. That year saw The Next World contributing one track to a 1in12 Club compilation, "Volnitza" and in 1990, they played at the legendary Vort 'n' Vis venue in Switzerland with Indian Dream. The Next World stopped playing in the early '90s, but a couple of years later the dynamic duo teamed up with Bri from Doom to form Virtual Reality (or VR), a Black Sabbath inspired band that would release one LP on Flat Earth Records in 1995.


Nox Mortis

With a name like this (it means "deadly night" in Latin), Nox Mortis were unlikely to be the most joyful band of the lot although there is no denying they had an incredible sense of tunefulness. With their potent, moody, vintage anarcho punk sound that brought to mind such greats as Omega Tribe, The Mob or Kulturkampf, Nox Mortis were quite literally five years too late. This unfortunate timing did not imply that they were not successful locally, quite the contrary in fact, as many people who were lucky enough to catch them live still rate them as one of the best punk bands ever to emerge from Southampton.

Nox Mortis formed in Southampton (aka Soton) in 1986 but the three members had previously played in a band called Suicide Pact (another cheerful moniker) that was around in 1984. The band recorded their first demo in 1987 which included five tracks of catchy and yet melancholy mid-tempo punk-rock with some memorable harmonies and great vocals. By 1987, the Southampton scene was burgeoning and the foundations of the infamous STE Collective, of which PJ from Nox Mortis was part, were laid. The STE Collective would go on putting on gigs until 2002 and a lot of its former members have remained committed to the Southampton scene to this day. NM's first demo would be centered around the recurring theme in the band’s work, in terms of visual aesthetics and content: WWI poems. The words of the songs
"In Memoriam," "Arms and the Boy" and "Flanders Field" were actually poems written during WWI, respectively by Ewart Alan Mackintosh, Wilfred Owen and John McCrae, that were put to music to great effect ("In Memoriam" epitomizes the very notion of moody punk-rock) by the band. In fact, the very name "Nox Mortis" was itself a reference to another war poem by Paul Bewsher.

The war poems theme was used again for Nox Mortis's next recording, also in 1987. It comprised four songs, two of them being superior versions of songs that already appeared on the first demo and two new ones. “The sentry” was yet another adaptation of a WWI poem written by Wilfred Owen. Three songs from this session were included on the "Shall We Dance?" LP released on Meantime Records in 1987. It was a four-way split LP that saw Nox Mortis alongside Decadence Within, The Incest Brothers and Joyce McKinney Experience. NM's side was entitled "The War Poets 1914-1918." The remaining song from that recording session, a new version of the glorious "In Memoriam," was included on another Meantime Records compilation LP, "Spleurk" in 1988. However, by the time the LP hit the distros, Nox Mortis were no more following the tragic death of singer/bassist Simon Gregory, a hemophiliac who contracted AIDS from imported factor 8 blood product (his girlfriend Tracy also died shortly after). The aforementioned LP was dedicated in his memory. In the '90s, guitarist PJ would play in Portiswood along with Tony from the mighty Suspect Device fanzine and Mike who would from Pilger in the 2000s.



Political Asylum

Political Asylum is one of these Marmite bands: you either love or hate them. Though it must be said that a liking to – or at least a high level of tolerance for – guitar solos may be seen as a prerequisite to really get into the band. Political Asylum were one of the most unique bands of the British anarcho punk wave. Not only did they manage to keep the band going from 1982 to 1992 (albeit not without almost constant line up changes), but their sound, blending many different genres throughout the years, made them highly original and instantly recognizable.

Political Asylum were originally from Stirling, Scotland, and, before they relocated to the livelier Edinburgh in 1984, they released their first demo, "Fresh Hate," in 1982. This demo was a rather promising first effort and already showcased Ramsey's great singing ability as well as the band's acute sense of tune. "Fresh Hate: is also infamously known for its unashamedly juvenile Black Flag rip off on "Trust In Me" which made Political Asylum an example of a British act overtly influenced by US hardcore, a recurring dimension in the band's history. Another, technically much superior, demo was recorded in 1984, "Valium For The Masses," and a fantastic EP, "Winter," was released on Children of the Revolution Records the following year for what is the label's most melodic adventure (and no, the title was not a tribute to Amebix). The next demo, "Walls Have Ears," recorded in 1986, would only confirm the potential of Political Asylum and cement their identity as a band obsessed with good tunes.

Political Asylum live in Dunfermline, Scotland. Courtesy of Andrew Bayles.
Equally influenced by the poppy and folky anarcho Zounds, the melodic hardcore songs of Hüsker Dü and Dag Nasty, the prog-rock guitar sound of Dire Straits or U2, the passionate traditional folk sound of Christy Moore, the catchiness of The Instigators or vintage hard rock, Political Asylum successfully managed to take elements from a wide array of genres and mold them into something distinctly of their own. Their 1987 mini-LP "Someday" has few – if any – equivalent in the punk world and Political Asylum even included a moving, epic ballad on it with "Standing Over Me." Political Asylum had always been a band that played a lot, all over Britain, which accounted for the amazing number of live songs that made their way to tape compilations during the '80s. After "Someday," the band started their first European tour where they met the band Pissed Boys from Lubeck, Germany, and which resulted in a split EP between both bands. They undertook a second European tour in 1988 and then a three week UK tour with Thatcher On Acid and Chumba's Danbert Nobacon. It was during that tour that the live side of the next LP was recorded. Entitled "Window on the World" and released in 1990 on Looney Tunes, the other side contained studio tracks that were basically cleaner, softer versions of the songs that appeared on "Someday." Prior to the LP's releases though, Political Asylum had the opportunity to do a small tour in the US with Dead Silence, from Colorado. That same year, Swiss label Off the Disk Records, released a live EP, "Solitary," that was a benefit for Rwandan mountain gorillas (Ramsey would later admit that the benefit was not the band's choice and that he'd rather have done a benefit to guerrillas…).

Although a life-changing event for all concerned, the US tour proved to be the beginning of the end for Political Asylum, with two members moving to Holland and Australia. This did not keep them releasing their last record in 1992, the 10" "How the West was Won," that again comprised a studio side with energetic melodic hardcore songs and a live one with top acoustic tracks that illustrated the band's protest folk sensibility.

Far more than most of the other anarcho punk bands of the period, Political Asylum were actually anarchists and had an articulate political message to offer that was more radical than most (not unlike The Apostles perhaps). Contrary to the often naïve liberal message of a lot of bands, Political Asylum's was rooted in class analysis and anarchist rhetoric. In 1994, Ramsey, the singer and lyricist of the band, left for the US and moved to Oakland. There, he turned the small mail order outlet distributing political pamphlets, that he had been running from his hometown Stirling since 1987, into a proper anarchist publisher. But he kept the same name: AK Press.

Ramsey of Political Asylum in Dunfermline, Scotland. Courtesy of Andrew Bayles.
Political Asylum is band that has been fairly well-documented and several worthy reissues have seen the light of day. In 1997, Broken Rekids released a "best of" CD called "Rock, You Sucker." As well as a good look into Political Asylum's discography, it provides the listener with great anecdotes about the band written by the always witty Ramsey, where you will learn that NOFX and Napalm Death opened for them in the late '80s and that they financed some of their touring with Mars Bars wrappers. In 2004, Passing Bells, the Finnish label run by 1981's singer (the only band to have ever covered Political Asylum to my knowledge), released a CD entitled "Winter" that includes the first EP as well as the three demos. In recent years, Passing Bells and Boss Tuneage conjointly repressed the "Winter" CD and reissued "Someday" on CD, adding a great 1987 live show recorded in Lubeck as well.



Revulsion came from Norwich, and, like Blyth Power and Decadent few, existed prior to our chosen time frame, but they reached maturity in the late '80s and released what was probably their best work, albeit a slightly disconcerting one given the context, in 1991.

Initially formed in 1983, Revulsion were, up until 1985 or so, a quite typical, though undeniably furious and effective, anarcho punk band. Their early years were marked with a strong friendship with the Disrupters which resulted in the release of the :Ever Get the Feeling of Utter… Revulsion?" 12" and the inclusion of one of their songs on the "Words Worth Shouting" compilation LP (a benefit for the Norwich hunt sabs) on Radical Change records, Disrupters' own label. At that time, Revulsion combined the snottiness of UK82 bands such as Instant Agony or Mayhem with the politically charged sound of Riot/Clone or Anthrax.

The departure of their singer Adie also marked a shift in the band's sound. Although speed was not left off, the incorporation of catchy and intricate guitar leads (that never fell in the metal trap) and more melodious vocals revealed an influence from the more tuneful side of American hardcore that proved to blend perfectly with their Mortarhate-type sound. By 1987, they were playing regularly alongside local crust heroes Deviated Instinct and fast thrash merchants Rhetoric, who even had a song dedicated to Revulsion's singer Simon Cooper… This proximity between the three bands was to put to vinyl with the release of the "Consolidation" three-way split EP that showcased the band's evolution and their peculiar, unique brand of tuneful yet angry hardcore punk. In 1987, they also had a track included on the "A Vile Peace" compilation LP, a pivotal album that demonstrated the rise of the crust genre (though it should be pointed out that Chumba were on it too).

In 1990, the band started their collaboration with the Belgian label Nabate Records through the inclusion of the song "World Without Hate" on the "Exclusion" compilation LP, a monumental record about sexism and the feminist answer to this issue with a thick, thought provoking booklet. One year later, Nabate released its second record, Revulsion's "The Only Revolution" EP. On that single, Revulsion had pretty much given up on their aggressive sound and instead offered much moodier, introspective, bitter even, melodies that reflected their disillusion with the anarcho punk movement. Reminiscent of Leatherface or Hex, this EP is pretty unique in the UK anarcho canon and, with its sensitive tone and its distinct anarcho punk aesthetics, is certainly at odds with most of its contemporaries.

The band split up in 1991. Two former members formed the Kaotixx in recent years and Steve also plays in the reformed Disrupters. In 2013, the ever-reliable Boss Tuneage released a retrospective Revulsion CD that includes their best songs from 1987 to 1991 and it is exactly where you should start if you have passed on this wonderful band.



If the 1988-1992 period is not exactly the most popular in terms of tuneful anarcho punk, it nevertheless saw a few bands reaching their apex and turning into unique entities that defy categorization. Like Blyth Power or Decadent Few, Terminus formed in the first half of the '80s (in 1983) but only played their first gig in 1985 and released their first EP in 1987. Nothing should be done in haste but gripping a flea. Between 1988 and 1992, however, the band released no less than two LPs and three EPs, which temporarily made them one of the most prolific UK punk bands.

Terminus were from Scunthorpe, in the Northwest. Throughout its existence and the many line-up changes (it sometimes feel like all the Scunthorpe punks played in Terminus at some point), the band remained the brainchild of the talented vocalist/guitarist, Mark Richardson. Terminus have been plagued with a peculiar curse. They sound almost familiar to any experienced punk listener but they have always had this specific, unique feel so that it is extremely difficult to find points of comparison. They have been said to sound like The Damned, The Stranglers, Motörhead, but also like The Mob, Leatherface, Anti-Nowhere League, Amebix or Bad Religion (this list is in no way exhaustive). For the sake of clarity, let's say that Terminus were a hearty, beefy, moving, punk-rock band with a soft heaviness, carried by top guitar leads and dark and deep vocals.

Terminus self-released their two first EP, "Star Born Thing" and "Dance With The Dead" in 1987 and 1989, respectively. These promising records paved the way for the band's collaboration with Words of Warning Records which materialized with their first LP, "Going Nowhere Fast." Because of various substance abuse and a shaky line up, the album did not exactly fulfill the band's expectations, although it showcased the folk sensibility with songs like "Going Nowhere Fast" and "Propaganda War" (in fact, Mark Richardson recorded some acoustic demos by himself in the late '80s). The following WoW Records release, the "What Kind of World?" 1991 EP and "Back Among the Blind" 1992 LP, sounded fortunately much better and are probably the best Terminus ever recorded. They also had one track, "We're Dreaming?," on the Mind Pollution 1991 compilation LP that was a reply to a Cowboy Killers song entitled "You're Dreaming," that had appeared on the "Spleurk" compilation LP. Although there was no rivalry of any kind between both bands, the Cowboy Killers song was a criticism of the perceived naivety of the anarcho punk scene to which Terminus felt the need to answer with a song about hope for a better future. Although Terminus' lyrics were not deprived of pessimism and a sense of hopelessness sometimes, they remained highly political and combative, rooted in anarchism.

In late 1992, Terminus released their third EP, Into the flames, on Campary Records, the label of the Schwazen Schaffe's singer, that would also put out their last EP, New from nowhere, in 1996. In the meantime, they contributed a track in 1995 to the massive 1in12 Club double LP international compilation "Endless Struggle" that included some of Britain's best bands at the time (One by One, Disaffect, Doom or Oi Polloi). Terminus stopped playing shortly after the release of their last EP although they have been threatening to reform, if only to record their third LP. In recent years, Boss Tuneage has reissued all the band's EPs on one CD, entitled "Graveyard of Dreams," as well as their two albums. Unique, heartfelt, potent anarcho punk that deserves to be (re)discovered.


Thatcher On Acid

Formed in Somerset in 1983, Thatcher On Acid already had two releases ("The Moondance" 12" and "Curdled" LP) out on the well known All The Madmen label by the time the years covered in this article rolled around. While not your typical 'humorless anarchists,' the band were still avowed Leftists, covering many of the typical antiestablishment punk themes. Founding member and vocalist/guitarist Ben Corrigan has said that many of the lyrics were written while he himself was tripping on LSD. Musically Thatcher On Acid was very and poppy compared to the protest and outrage bands of the earlier anarcho scene.

In 1988, the band released a live album entitled "Garlic" on Rugger Bugger Discs. The band embarked on a short European tour the same year as well, but it went disastrously with poor shows, homesick band members, and general dysfunction. The band persevered undeterred and doubled down their focus. They took aim at the hypocritical nature of the punk scene by releasing the three song 12" "The Illusion Of Being Together" on Meantime Records in 1990. Led by the A side track "Outwardly We're Lying, Inwardly We're Crying," the release called into question the punk scene's own integrity and false pretenses.

A new album was recorded and released in 1990 as well. "Frank" came out on Chumbawamba's own label Agit Prop in 1990. It also featured two Chumbas members playing on the record and showed the band continuing with their pop oriented melodic punk sound.

Several more singles were undertaken as well as a split LP with Wat Tyler on Allied Recordings in 1992. This was followed by one last tour of Scandinavia before the band dissolved due to outside commitments. A partial discography release on US label Desperate Attempt entitled "Pressing: 84-91" was released in 1995.

Some members of Thatcher On Acid would later form the '90s political punk band Schwartzeneggar as well as the greatest Oi! swindle band ever, Hard Skin.


Time To Think

Sharing members from the same family tree as Academy 23, Time To Think was the project of Academy 23 drummer, Pete Williams that was actually started prior to him joining Academy 23. Based in London and aiming for a more US hardcore sound influenced by 7 Seconds and Minor Threat ("Ian MacKaye's mob, whatever they were called" -Andy Martin), Pete Williams writes "The idea of the band came from the first meeting between myself and Andy in late 1990. We both wanted to play/record hardcore punk songs so we decided to get together ourselves and later in that year, with the first recording sessions, Time To Think was formed."

Pete goes on to explain "The songs were put together fairly spontaneously but despite this, the tracks on the first cassette, 'Be Yourself,' came out pretty well. We also decided to make the packaging a little more interesting than some I had seen in the past with a colour cover as well as lyric sheet. Using a list of distros scraped from various fanzines, we managed to sell quite a few copies, especially within continental Europe which was very pleasing for an unknown group playing, at times, very non-conventional music. From this cassette nine hardcore tracks were taken and put onto the first Time To Think E.P. entitled 'Where The Hell Is Andrew?' This was self financed, being released on Thinking Time Records. This was also received well and even got some airplay on Radio Bristol." Further recording sessions were undertaken resulting in an inclusion on the Rape Crisis Benefit compilation LP, "You've Heard It All Before" (Ruptured Ambitions, 1993), which was a double album of Crass cover tunes.

Time To Think was dealt a significant blow in 1994 when Hackney Council decided to reclaim the row house in which Time To Think practiced and recorded. Pete Williams states in regards to losing their band home "Not only was it home to Andy and Dave, but it was a great creative space (a couple of Academy 23 cassettes were also recorded there) and it seems like, in hindsight, losing the house was key point for when Time To Think lost its dynamic." The loss of a practice space coupled with the increasing time consumed by Academy 23 resulted in the project coming to an end. Three final songs were recorded but remain unreleased to this day ("Antinazi," "Violence Is Fun," and "More Violence").

For those interested, the original Time To Think and Thinking Time Records (Angelfire hosted!!) website is still up for viewing online, though it has not been updated since 11/11/2001. But for those interested in checking it out, here is the link:


Mix Tape

And for those interested in a small (but hopefully relevant) look at what all these top bands sounded like, here is a compilation with 16 songs, one from each band we have reviewed, all on one track so that it keeps a mix tape feel. Enjoy!

1. Academy 23 "For Imogen Boorman", from "Relationships" LP, 1992.
2. Blyth Power "Better to Bat", from "Better to bat" 12'', 1989.
3. Cold Vietnam "Winds of Change", from "Blast Into Action With Hunt The Man" tape, 1988.
4. Decadent Few "Heaven to Hell", from "They Shoot Children..." EP, 1992.
5. Indian Dream "Discarded", from "Walk Across America for Mother Earth" compilation EP, 1992.
6. The Instigators "The Blood Is On Your Hands", from "New Old Now" LP, 1989.
7. Internal Autonomy "Love", from "Love" EP, 1991.
8. Joyce McKinney Experience "Faceless", from "Cuddle This" 12'', 1990.
9. The Next World "Branded", from "Branded" EP, 1988.
10. Nox Mortis "In Memoriam", from "Spleurk" compilation LP, 1988.
11. Political Asylum "Fown Amongst the Olive Groves", from "Window on the World" LP, 1990.
12. Revulsion "Another Bloody War", from "A Vile Peace" compilation LP, 1987.
13. Sofa Head "It Doesn't Work", from "What a Predicament" LP, 1990.
14. Terminus "You're Dreaming", from "Mind Pollution: the First Installment" compilation LP, 1991.
15. Thatcher On Acid "Our Gods are Falling Down", from "Frank" LP, 1990.
16. Time To Think "Gay Plague", from "Where the Hell is Andrew?" EP, 1992.

*Please note that the following bands gave permission to be included on here: Academy 23, Decadent Few, The Instigators, Internal Autonomy, Sofa Head, and Time To Think. Thank you very much to those bands for allowing us to post their songs here. If any of the other bands do not want their songs listed, please contact us, and we will remove them.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Blood Sucker Records interview

Thanks to Guy of Blood Sucker Records for being kind enough to answer these questions. I think most fans of Japanese hardcore are familiar with Blood Sucker Records. Their releases by the likes of Nightmare, Bastard, Death Side, Disclose, and a host of others have kept the label at the forefront of the Japanese hardcore scene for many years. I think those reading will find the answers to be interesting as well as make them salivate at a couple of the replies. Thanks to Guy for his participation and kindness!!

Interview conducted in June of 2015 with some questions contributed by Tom of General Speech fanzine and Andrew Underwood of Maximum RockNRoll. Thanks to them for their help.

Website: Blood Sucker Records

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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Riot City Records/Simon Edwards interview

Riot City Records existed from 1980-1984, releasing some of the best bands and records of the UK82 era. Along with No Future Records, Riot City dominated the independent charts and left a lasting mark on punk. The bulk of this interview was conducted in 2008 with all questions answered candidly by the most gracious Simon Edwards, who is truly an absolute pleasure. Huge thanks to Simon for partaking in this interview.

Most photos come care of the Bristol Archives Records site. For additional photos of the Riot City Era and Bristol punk photos, please go to Simon Edwards photos, Manic Ears photos, and Bristol punk photos.

Simon Edwards hard at work

How and when did you get involved with working for record labels? Were you the owner of Heartbeat Records?

Yes to the question, I was the owner of Heartbeat Records. Basically my background was I used to play in bands. I then started managing bands and just looking after them and recording them. And then when the independent label thing started in 1976-77, I thought that I could do that as well. So I started Heartbeat Records. I just basically asked a lot of silly questions, "How'd you do this? How'd you do that?" And then I did it, and it worked. And I just went on from there.

How did you first hook up with Vice Squad? I know they were first on the "Avon Calling" compilation on Heartbeat.

That's right. Well, when I was doing Heartbeat Records, Heartbeat Records was essentially just for sort of local bands around the Bristol area. And there were so many bands around at the time that I couldn't put out enough records to satisfy the demand and all the stuff that was going on. So I did "Avon Calling" because that was the obvious thing to do to to try and get a lot of the bands on a record so they could get onto the radio and get people to hear it. And Vice Squad were one of the bands that gave me a demo tape. They were also playing around the area as well, and I was quite impressed with them. So, yeah, they got a place on the album.

"Avon Calling" compilation LP on Heartbeat Records (1979)

How did Riot City come to be formed, and why not just release the Vice Squad EP on Heartbeat Records?

Because Heartbeat was a label that was essentially for a broad spectrum of music. If you've heard all the Heartbeat releases, a lot of them are quite different than the others. There's some quite sort of folky things, and there's some quite hard rocky things, and there's some punky things. So it tended to sort of encompass a pretty broad spectrum of music. But with the Vice Squad thing, after "Avon Calling" was released, Vice Squad brought me a demo with four tracks that they wanted to put on an EP. And at the time with Heartbeat Records, I had a label link like a licensing deal with Cherry Red Records up in London and they did a lot of my distribution. I used to take all the stuff up, and I used to play demo tapes to the guy at Cherry Red, Iain McNay. Well, I took the Vice Squad tape up there, and i said "Look, hey, we've got this new band that's come along. They're on 'Avon Calling,' and now they've done their own EP and it sounds great." You know, and I played it to him and he said it was horrible. (Laughter) He didn't like it at all. And he said "Well, I don't really want Cherry Red Records to be involved in that at all, even on a distribution basis." So I said "OK, OK." So in the back of my head I thought "Well fuck you, I should do it myself," which is what I did. I made 1500 copies of it for the first pressing and never looked back shall we say. Before we did it though, Vice Squad did decide that they would also like to form a label that they would manage because there was a lot of new punk bands starting up with the second wave of punk. And they wanted to put a lot of these bands out on this record label. They wanted to call it Riot City Records because at the time, in this city of ours, Bristol, there were a lot of race riots in the poorer areas of Bristol. And of course a lot of the kids in Bristol were a bit sort of frightened and a bit worried of what was going on. So we really considered Bristol to be a "riot city." It just seemed the right thing to call the label Riot City Records, which is what we did. But obviously because Vice Squad, after they released their first EP, it sold so well and it got to number 1 in the Independent Charts and they started doing tours and they really became too busy to worry about doing the label. So they basically left it up to me to manage the label.

With the first press of "Last Rockers" only being 1,500, could you have imagined it going on to do so well with 22,000 copies sold and 40 weeks total on the chart?

Well, no because when we did the Heartbeat Records releases, we were sort of selling 2,000, 3,000 copies of each single, which to me was great. It was a really good thing to get those sort of sales. When the Vice Squad single sold, the "Last Rockers" sold 1,500 copies in about three or four days, and I just couldn't believe that. I thought "Why, what's going on here?" And so I then pressed up another 1,500 copies 'cause I thought that might, you know, just about fulfill the sales expectation. But then that, again, sold in about three or four days, and I thought "Shit, I'm going to have to rethink this thing." So I then pressed 10,000 copies and just away it went. It was just crazy, and I never ever expected it would go like that. But at that time, the second wave of punk was really taking off and there were bands like Chron Gen and the Exploited and everything just took off and went crazy.

With all the success for Vice Squad, what were your feelings when they signed on with EMI's Zonophone label and why? Did their signing with EMI gain greater exposure for Riot City or hurt the label?

Well, I didn't actually agree with them signing to EMI. I didn't think it would do them any good at all because I thought "Well, surely if there's enough demand for Vice Squad material, we can meet that demand through Riot City independently." And I still believe we could've done. And I actually know that I sold more Vice Squad records than EMI did, but that's another story. (Laughter) They had a management team, well, not team, but they had a couple of guys working for them who were really sort of set on them signing to EMI. And there was not a lot I could do about it. I was the guy that was publishing their music. So I did think in a way "Well, so long as I can keep the publishing, if they want to go and record for EMI, that doesn't really matter because then at least my Riot City publishing side of it will benefit from their EMI sales. And then I can still put out new singles by other bands." So that's the way I thought about it. But, no, I wasn't happy about them doing it. I think it probably got them out to a different type of audience because a lot of independent record shops that were selling punk rock at the time didn't want to stock EMI records. Even though the Sex Pistols were on EMI, the Sex Pistols were probably like a... I mean they were a bit of a one off in as much as yes, they signed to a major, but the second wave of punk really was a bit more independently minded. I think they would have sold a lot more had they stayed with me, really, for that reason.

Would you say this caused some confusion and resentment, when they did sign, from the more "hardcore" punks concerning the label?

Riot City Records label logo
Yes. Yes, it did because Dave and Shane from Vice Squad were the people that came up with the name Riot City. They were partially intending on using that for their EMI releases. Now I was happy with that because, I didn't mind, because I just wanted the name Riot City to be out there. So I was using it on my releases, they were using it on theirs. Now, we did get a bit of flack from the hardcore element, like I told you before. Particularly the Crass people were not happy with it, and they thought I was the back door to EMI. And they obviously didn't like EMI because of their corporate leanings, shall we say. I didn't have any connection whatsoever with EMI. The only connection I had with EMI was that they were paying me money for the publishing of Vice Squad music.

Would you say that you staunchly felt that punk should be independent and exist outside of the mainstream music industry? Did you identify with the DIY ethos of hardcore punk?

I do identify with the DIY and independent aspect of it, but I don't think that any genre of music has the right to stay in one place. If corporates want to do it, so long as they do it well and they do it right, I'm quite happy for them to do it. Basically it's all about the music isn't it really at the end of the day? If you can put out good music then I will back you as a record buyer no matter what label it's on.

I know you had a full time day job back then, but did you ever consider trying to live off the label?

Many times... But I've never been good at taking risks. (Laughter) I'm probably one of the world's worst businessmen. I do all the hard work and all the running around and all the craziness of it, but as far as putting in my hard earned gains like my house and that type of thing against doing that, then the answer would be no. My family would always come first.

How old were you at the time, and, since you weren't coming from the same angle as the new wave of punks, did you have any difficulty in relating at all?

I was in my 30s when I started it off, so I was a lot older than a lot of the guys that were in the bands. When I was younger, I was into the Small Faces and the Rolling Stones and the Who. You know, bands like that. I've always been into what I call the punk rock side of the music. I've always liked the anger, the angst, and I could always relate to kids who've got that feeling and that sort of ethos. So I didn't ever feel like an alien with these guys. I got on really well with them. And I always wanted to try and be a fifth member or sixth member of the band. I wanted to help them get through everything they had to do.

After the first two Vice Squad EPs, next up was the Insane and Abrasive Wheels singles...

Well, no, it wasn't actually. We did the first two Vice Squad EPs. And we had the third tour by the "Resurrection" EP, and I did a 12" single which was putting the first two 7" EPs, one on either of this 12" single, which was like a tour release. That was the third one.

The Insane

So did Vice Squad choose the Insane and Abrasive Wheels, and when did you take over complete control of all the label decisions?

When we were on tour, we did a few gigs with the Insane. So the Insane became sort of friends of Vice Squad, and they were obviously a preferred release by Vice Squad, yeah. Abrasive Wheels were obviously known to Vice Squad and they were known to me, but I really wanted to find the band because I'd heard their own release of "Army Song," and I thought it was really, really good. And I thought the band would be good on the label. So that was really my own first release on the label, yeah.

Were you disappointed with the Insane and Abrasive Wheels moving onto No Future and Clay, respectively?

No, no. The way I approach these things is I'm a fan, alright. I buy music as well as make it, and I still do. I was buying loads of records in those days by other bands, so I had more of an affiliation with other labels, and I had a lot of love of what they were doing. So if the bands wanted to go somewhere else, I wasn't going to stand in their way. I wasn't that type of operation. I didn't sign the bands up for three years to make so many singles and albums with me. It was a very relaxed kind of relationship. The Abrasive Wheels more than the Insane, I mean I loved the Wheels, and we got on really well and I thought their music was great. Sure, it'd be nice to keep them, but I didn't really mind when they went, ya know. Probably of all of the bands that did go, they were probably the ones that I was sadder to see leave, but I was still supportive of them.

Well, let's face it, their releases on Riot City are much better than their releases on Clay...

Well, you said that, and I'm going to agree with you. (Laughter)

Abrasive Wheels

How were you distributing the records through Rough Trade and the Cartel? Could people also mailorder a copy from you? Did you have any U.S. or international distribution?

We did it through Caroline. Caroline Exports from the UK put all the stuff out from Rough Trade. And also Rough Trade had the Rough Trade America, didn't they, as well. So the Cartel went out through that direction. The Rough Trade and the Cartel was a really good little operation because I believe there were six separate outlets around the country in various cities like Bristol, York, Birmingham, Edinburgh... And they all had their own shops that were acting as little parts of this distribution network. It just meant that I could just go down the road and just take in the records to the shop and say "Here's another thousand of these." You could really see what was happening, and you could see the sales going, you could see all the sales slips coming in and the order forms. It was just quite an exciting time.

When and how did the "Riotous Assembly" compilation idea come about?

Again, that was a bit like, if you go back to what I explained about "Avon Calling," I was getting hundreds and hundreds of demo tapes from bands all over the country. You just feel, well I felt, that I wanted to try and help some of them. Just get a release of one of their songs on a record. "Riotous Assembly" was really an amalgamation of all those demo tapes that I thought deserved a chance to be heard. Some were a good idea, some maybe not so much a good idea. (Laughter) I'd say the album was alright, it was good. A bit of fun.

How did you advertise for submissions for it? How many demo tapes would you say you received from bands interested in being featured?

There was a little piece put in Sounds magazine. I think I spoke to one of the journalists and said "Look, I've got this idea. I'm going to do this compilation album. Bands that want to send me demos can." But before that really happened, I was getting demos anyway, so I already had a small number of bands that I could choose from.

I know this was your first encounter with "Chaotik Dischord", but was this also how you first got in contact with bands such as Court Martial, Undead, Expelled, and Chaos UK?

Those were all local bands, and so I live in the same town they live in. You tend to sort of run into them at gigs and pubs and things like that. And they just give you a cassette and say "Here listen to this. What do you think of this?" I see them playing live, and if I'm impressed with them I'd have said "Come on guys, let's do a single."

Court Martial

Were any of the other bands on the compilation ever offered to further record material for Riot City?

I don't think so, no. A lot of those bands were very, very small bands that weren't doing a lot. I just felt that one song that they'd done was really good, and they needed a chance. It wasn't really sort of a stepping stone to a Riot City EP. It was really a stepping stone for them to get off their arses. "Here's an opportunity for you to be heard. Now use it for yourselves and go out there and do something."

Original Chaotik Dischord demo tape

Can you please recount the Chaotik Dischord demo submission story and your feelings upon finding out it was members of Vice Squad?

(Laughter) What a jerk! Ya know? Well, let's put it this way: Because of the nature of how I used to receive demo tapes, people would give me demo tapes in pubs, people would send them to me in brown envelopes, and you know, you don't know who these guys are. They could be bloody anybody. But I was at a pub one evening, and the Vice Squad guys were all there. And the Vice Squad guys told me that they had had a tape sent to them by a band from Swindon called Chaotic Dischord. They asked them to give it to me because they didn't want to speak to a guy from a record label. I mean something as silly as that. And I bought into it. I thought "Well, yeah, some people are like that, some people aren't. Some people may be a bit nervous about meeting such an industry mogul as myself." (Laughter) So I thought "Fuck it, yeah. I'd give it a listen." So I played it, and I thought it was really good. After, I had no idea it that it was those guys, no idea at all. But the other thing was, I don't know how, but do you know a band called the Amebix?

Yes, I do, yeah.

Yeah, well, one of the guys from the Amebix told me. He said "Simon, you've been hoodwinked here. I'm sure this is fucking Vice Squad." I thought "Don't be fucking stupid, does that sound like Vice Squad to you?" I think he'd probably heard, you know. (Laughter) He knew, yeah. But I mean fuck it, it was the rock 'n roll swindle, wasn't it? (Laughter)

Rob "The Baron" Miller of Amebix (1983)

Were there other Vice Squad side projects besides Chaotic Dischord, Sex Aids, and Dead Katss?

There was, but they formed their own label, Resurrection Records. They put out one single.

What single was that?

I'm trying to think of the bloody name of the band now. You've got me. I'm an old man now! I can't think of things like this.
Downtown Bristol (1980)

Is it Lunatic Fringe by any chance?

It is Lunatic Fringe, yes, that's correct. And Lunatic Fringe were also on "Riotous Assembly."

Right, right, and then they went on to do that EP later on for COR, I believe.

They did, yeah. Yup, Children Of The Revolution.

Do you know offhand, is there more Sex Aids or Dead Katss material because there's just those three songs for Sex Aids on the EP and then the one Dead Katss song on the comp... So is there more than that total?

So far as I know there are no more tracks, but, you know, I've been hoodwinked before. It wouldn't surprise me if they came to my door tomorrow with an album. "Hey, we recorded an album back in 1981, are you gonna release it?" I don't know. I don't think so, no. I would be very surprised. I wouldn't think they would have enough material. (Laughter)

Why was a new label, Not Very Nice Records, formed to release Chaotic Dischord's "Now! That's What I Call A Fuckin' Racket (Vol. 1)" LP?

Precisely because of that. Again, that was Shane's idea, the Vice Squad's drummer. He thought it would be a big laugh to actually put it on a different label name. I mean it was all done through Riot City, but we just changed the name of the label and just put Not Very Nice Records because it wasn't really a very nice record. (Laughter) And in fact, later on in years, we did get into trouble with EMI America for using that title.

Can you please comment on the "trouble" you're referring to? I'm going to wager that it's in reference to Punkcore's (U.S.) reissuing of that album and EMI's "Now" series, but i'm just wondering, if that's true, can elaborate, and was EMI successful in their pursuance of the name?

Yeah, the old "Now Thats What I Call" thing became a problem when it was reissued in America. EMI saw it and put an injunction on it and threatened me with all sorts of legal niceties.  I did try and argue the toss with them over all the "sanctioned" foreign bootlegs of EMI stuff openly on sale in the Middle East and seemiingly uncontested whereas me selling a few thousand copies gets jumped on.  Needless to say they didn't like me saying that either so I gracefully gave in. Thats it!
Disorder's "Perdition" (1982) line up: (L to R) Boobs, Steve Allen, Virus, Taf

What was the reason for the formation of Disorder Records instead of just including them on the Riot City roster, especially when you were already releasing material by Chaos UK?

Because Disorder didn't want to go on Riot City. Disorder thought they were too hardcore to be on Riot City and Vice Squad were too poppy.


Simple as that. I love Taf dearly from Disorder. And because he was in a band that I did on Heartbeat Records as well. Did you know that?

No, what band was that?

He was in the X-Certs. Oh yeah, good shit.

Oh, I didn't know that. Was he older than the rest of those people?

No, I don't think so. To be honest, I ain't got a fucking clue how old Taf is now. Taf is ageless. (Laughter) But that's the story. They thought they should have their own identity because they were a lot sort of more hardcore curbed than Chaos UK, I guess at that time. And they just felt that they didn't want to be part of the Riot City thing, and I was happy with that. Like I said, I'm a fan too, and I can see where they're coming from. So we decided to form a label for their band, yeah.
Ultra Violent
While records by Vice Squad, Abrasive Wheels, and the Ejected were selling pretty large numbers, what about releases like the Ultra Violent, Emergency, No Choice, and Underdogs? How many were pressed of records like those?

They did about 5,000. 3,000-5,000. The Ultra Violent was always one of my favorite releases on my Riot City. I thought that was a great release. And I like the Emergency one as well. Emergency were essentially part of Blitz. Did you know that?

No, I did not know that.

Yeah, yeah.

Do you know the connection there offhand by any chance?

They were all friends together basically. We did a gig with Blitz, and one of the guys said "We've got this song, but it's not like what we did. It's a slightly different thing." And I thought "Alright, let's hear it." They sent it to me and it was really good. And, yeah, that's what that's all about.

When you did the Ultra Violent, was that from a demo?


So had you heard them live or...?

They sent me a demo cassette of stuff, and those two songs were the ones I liked. But I think they recorded for someone else. I'm pretty sure they did something for someone else.

I was reading Ian Glasper's Burning Britain, and in regards to the Ultra Violent, it says that there were four songs recorded for the 7", three of which made it to the record. The fourth song was called "Sign Of The Times." Can you tell me why this song would have been left off?

Two reasons, it made the EP too long for a good loud cut, and we wanted a single track A side.

How did you go about finding out about new bands or asking a band to do a record? Did you worry about quality control and your label's reputation?

I always put out releases that I like. Some people might be surprised by that, but everything I release I like as a piece of music, otherwise I couldn't get myself behind it and want to work with it unless I was enjoying what I was hearing. So the things that I released on Riot City were things that I liked. Simple as that.

And what about finding out about new bands or asking a band to do a record?

Well, like I said before, I was getting heaps of demo tapes. I used to sift through them, and I used to choose. I used to see bands live and if something made me think "Well, this band's got something worth capturing," then I would say "Look, hey, that song you did three songs in was really good. Do you want to do that as a single?" It was honestly as loose as that. There was no master plan. It was just pick and choose what you find as you go along.

Were you intentionally diverse with the bands on your label? Because bands like the Varukers, Chaos UK, and Ultra Violent sound nothing like say No Choice for instance.
Varukers "Another Religion Another War" (1984) line up: (L to R) Andy Baker, Rat, Damian Thompson, Tony May
No, well, again you see, I've always had a very diverse taste in music, but I don't think you'd find much difference of the beliefs of the guy's of the bands in Chaos UK and No Choice. They were coming from the same angle, but they just delivered it in a different way.

Did you ever consider crossing over with a band from the anarcho scene like Exit-Stance or Flux Of Pink Indians or a post punk/goth band? No Future experimented a bit with Screaming Dead for example.

Sure, at one time, I was going to do something with SST. Yeah, I was in talks with the Black Flag people, and I was going to put out some American hardcore. Well, in fact, I did an album called "Hell Comes To Your House". That's where that came from. I was thinking of spreading my wings and doing something different. But I decided against it because I didn't think I would have enough time to do both. Because I've always done everything on my own. I've never had a partner, never had anyone to help me do it. Everything I've ever done on Riot City has been done purely by me alone. I did it that way, not because I don't trust people, but because I just wanted to make the attempt to make my own mistakes and make my own successes. I just enjoyed doing it that way.

Were there any bands that turned down offers from you or that broke up prior to recording? How about any bands that you turned down and regret or others you wish you'd asked?



Yup, I turned down Onslaught.

Onslaught early years photo

For the "Power From Hell" LP or for something...

Everything. They came to me in a pub with a demo, and they said "Hey, can you listen to this?" I said "Alright." So I took it home and listened to it. I looked at the work I had to do with other releases, and I loved what I heard, but I just couldn't have the time to do it. So I turned them down.

So was that toward the end of Riot City then?

It was, yeah. Yes, it was.

The "Power From Hell" LP is amazing obviously.

I know, I know. It was a combination of sales had probably started to drop off from Riot City. And probably my heart wasn't in it enough to want to do that.

There was a band called Genocide Association that involved the guy who went on to form Earache Records, and there's a letter online of theirs from the time stating they had a record offer from Riot City. I was wondering if this is true or bullshit.

The only link with Genocide Association is just that really. The band sent in a demo and I was impressed by it, etc. Not sure why we never did the release.

Genocide Association interview mentioning a Riot City offer

When you asked a band to do a single and they provided you with three songs, would the band go into the studio, record a bunch of songs, and then you or the band would choose what you felt to be the best three or how did that work?

No, they would go into the studio and record the three songs that we agreed prior to them going into the studio. Otherwise, they'd be in the bloody studio all week, and that'd cost a fortune. For instance, a good example of that is Mayhem, a band from Liverpool. We did a few gigs with them, and I really liked what they did. I said "Look, choose four songs that you want to do for your first EP." And they chose the four songs that they liked. "Good, love 'em. Go into the studio and record those four songs." That's what they did. Twice they did that.

How much unreleased material is there from the Riot City era? I know that the Underdogs for instance have two unreleased sessions, Chaos UK had that song "Police Protection", and there was the Expelled 12" that had been unreleased...

That's probably it actually. There are some live things which are floating around, but that really is probably it. Obviously bands like Mayhem may have recorded more themselves. But as far as my sessions go, nope, I think everything that's probably out there now is it.

I've always wondered about the likelihood that newly unearthed Riot City era stuff could be released.

Well, I've got loads of demos from bands that I don't know what to do with. And I often wonder whether it's worth doing a CD of all these demos, but I really don't know. It's not something I've made a conscious decision to do. But there really isn't any material that I know of that we haven't exhausted.

Put that Onslaught demo out on vinyl.

Well, yeah, yeah, definitely that's a good idea. (Laughter) I could even sell the cassette on eBay, I guess. (Laughter)

When "signing" a band, did you use contracts or just verbal agreements? Did the bands retain the rights to their songs and publishing?

I used a contract for Vice Squad because that was a bigger deal, and they also had a management team as well that required that. For all my publishing, I used not contracts, but what we call assignment forms. And you just assign that song to the Heartbeat Publishing Company and that's it. But the bands all own the rights to what they did, yeah.

So when labels like Anagram, Captain Oi, or Step 1 Music reissues them, do the bands receive royalties from that stuff?

Yes, they do. Oh yes. Basically how it works is the recording they do for me, I own that recording. And so that version of that song is mine or Captain Oi's or whoever. The band can go and record it again, and I have no say in it. That's how the system works.

Does Cherry Red currently own all of those then?

Captain Oi bought up the rights to Riot City Records.

When did they purchase that?

Probably five years ago maybe?

What was your reaction to Gary Bushell referring to Riot City as the "dustbin of punk"? Did that have any impact on sales?

(Laughter) People can say whatever the hell they like. He's just one guy, a journalist. A lot of people read his words, but they can read between the lines. He was always into the more sort of Blitz-ier side of punk, which is fine, not a problem. And if he didn't like me or the stuff I was putting out, then no problem. But he did like some. He liked Emergency and the Ejected and that sort of stuff.

Besides your issuing of the "Hell Comes To Your House" LP and the Channel 3 EP and DKs stuff, there were very few American releases on British labels. What do you think was the reason for this, and how did you come to release "Hell Comes To Your House?"

When I was talking about doing this deal, that was offered to me as a precursor to doing something more. And I listened to the album and I thought some of the tracks were really good. I thought maybe this is a stepping stone to see what the market was like and to see if it was an easy thing to work in Europe. It was quite difficult to be honest. I think that really sort of told me that if I wanted to go down that road as well, it would be a lot more work. I would have to get someone else to come in and give me a hand, maybe move to London. And I really wasn't up for that, so that's really what put the kibosh on that.

Did you have a relationship at all with Chris Berry or Richard Jones of No Future Records, Mike Stone from Clay, or anyone from Pax, Rot, Secret, or other labels?

Yeah, I knew Mike Stone you know obviously because the Wheels went to Clay. We spent a lot of time, we hung out together. He wanted to do it as amicably as he could, and I was quite happy with that. So we got to know each other. I knew Chris Berry and Richard Jones because they were both from Malvern, which is just north of Bristol geographically. So we were quite close, and I went to some of the gigs that they used to put on. It was all good stuff. I think there was some sort of pleasant rivalry between No Future and Riot City because we were dominating the top of the independent charts for about two years. They probably pipped it for the most releases over us. They had Blitz who always sold well anyway, so you know.

Looking back, what was your favorite release and who was your favorite band to work with?

Favorite band, I loved working with the Ejected. They were great guys. We had a lot of fun with them. But I also loved working people like Chaos UK 'cause they were just fucking crazy, and it was always fun being around them. Like I said to you before, I was a fan of the music, I loved doing the stuff, and I look back at it all with great affection. I said before that one of my favorite releases was Ultra Violent. I just thought that was a really strong single. I like the No Choice one. Obviously I like Vice Squad because Vice Squad were like my babies. I sort of grew up with them, they grew up with me, and it was good to see them do the sort of stuff they came out with. So yeah, I just enjoyed doing it all. Some of the gigs we did, I'd go with a lot of the bands, we did merchandise, and some of the gigs were just fantastically crazy times. It was just a really good thing to be part of, and I think I had a great life doing it.
Chaos UK photo in Punk Lives issue No. 5 (1982)
The Ejected - "A Touch Of Class" LP (1982)
What made you decide to call it quits with the label?

It was just a combination of falling sales and, with falling sales, there wasn't so much good music being offered. I just thought maybe it's time to quit while you're nearly ahead. (Laughter)

All in all you sold 154,413 7" singles, 28,203 12" EPs, and 50,220 LPs. Those numbers are quite staggering, wouldn't you say?

Well, they're not staggering if you did some of the things on No Future, it would be bigger figures. It was a staggering amount for me to sell as one guy doing a record label. I was pretty impressed with it looking back on it. It's even more impressive when you compare it with what people sell these days. I mean obviously the way you buy music these days is a lot different, but to be able to sell one type of media in that quantity, it was terrific, really exciting stuff.

Once Riot City was done, did you continue to follow the hardcore scene in Bristol with labels like COR and Manic Ears?

Yeah, I was aware of them. I kind of thought that because they were doing their own thing and I wasn't really sort of part of it enough to be involved in it. So they just go on with it, and I guess I thought "Well, I've done my bit. Now it's time for them to take over the helm, and they can take it to whatever level they can. Good luck to them all."

Are you still in contact with anyone from back then today?

A lot of people, yeah. Yeah, because people see things we released and they get in touch. "Hey, you've released such and such. Brilliant. Here it comes again." They're all really pleased that it's still out there. Because look, I mean let's face it, no one really thought 30 years later people would still be wanting to buy stuff that we did back then. That's a crazy thing. You do these things and you make the records, and you make them for the time. OK? It's a very sort of instantaneous thing. You do the record and in sort of six or seven weeks it's gone. You go onto the next one. Who would ever think "I'm doing this record and in 30 years time, people are going to be wanting to hear it again." You don't think like that, so it's an amazing thing to happen. I never dreamt that someone from America would want to phone me up 30 years after doing my first record wanting to talk about what I did. I'm flattered, which is what I said to you. I'm flattered and honored to talk to you about it.

[Post interview material]

Is there any chance you can just talk for a second about Mayhem or your experiences working with them?

They were a nice bunch of blokes. We did a couple of gigs with them. They seemed good, and the music was good. I always hoped they would do bigger things, really, because they were quite a strong band. I really did see them going places. I think they fell apart shortly after the second EP was released.

[Simon talking again:]

Going back to what you said about Chaos UK [pre-interview], if I had to have a favorite image of what I did back in those days, it's the picture I took of Chaos UK staying outside the hair salon.

Oh, you took that.

I took that. Still today, that is my favorite image of that time. I think it just captures everything, and they just look great. Going back to the "Riotous Assembly" thing as well, I took all those photographs for that as well. We arranged one Saturday morning for all the Bristol punks to come down to the center of Bristol. I was going to do this big photoshoot outside Virgin Records. We arranged this through the pubs and clubs, you know. "Be there, be there." And I went down there, and there were about 500-1000 punks down there. And we had the police and everything. It was a really fun day. (Laughter) But it's things like that that stick in your mind and they were just really, really good little periods of the time.
"Riotous Assembly" photo shoot, Bristol (1980)
When you look at Chaotic Dischord pictures and they're wearing "I Hate Chaos UK" shirts and had lyrics against them in their songs, what was the reason for all that?

There was always a bit of animosity between Chaos UK and Vice Squad because, you see, what you've got to realize is Vice Squad weren't hardcore at all. They didn't have any hardcore ethics. They liked punk rock, but they were more Buzzcocks than they were Disorder, shall we say. There was always like a little bit of rivalry going on, so they just used to say they used to hate each other, which was fun for me. I quite enjoyed all that.

Controversy sells, right.

Yeah, and of course on the Chaotic Dischord 12", when Captain Sensible was singing he of course got into that and started singing "I fucking hate Chaos UK. Who the fuck are Chaos UK anyway?" (Laughter)
Beki Bondage of Vice Squad

Does the "Fuck Off You Cunt, What A Load Of Bollocks" by Chaotic Dischord have Beki singing do you know?

What happened was Chaotic Dischord, they were essentially the Vice Squad road crew. And the Vice Squad road crew split. (Laughter) Essentially what happened was Igor moved up to London. Bambi, who was guy who was the main instigator, stayed in Bristol. And so Igor decided to record an album up there with different people and call it Chaotic Dischord.

I understand. So it's only sort of Chaotic Dischord.

It's only sort of Chaotic Dischord, yeah. It's not the real Chaotic Dischord.

Is there other Chaotic Dischord material that's unreleased?

There always might be because they did a lot of stuff that even I probably don't know about. I don't know. There always could be, who knows. Leave it open.


Additional information:

The Riot City Records Story - Simon Edwards