An interview with Punk Fans
Paula: Can you tell me a bit about how the first wave of punk ended and what it was like when Crass emerged?
Paul: The Sex Pistols signed to Virgin before splitting, The Clash signed to CBS and The Damned went their way, and it seemed like everyone was getting signed. Crass brought it back to what it should have been and that kicked off with their first release which was Feeding of the 5000.
It got more serious you know? For that age, for me being a rebel anyway I thought why not go full rebel and anarchist and that’s when I started being a vegetarian and I was very anti-government. And it did change everything totally but for me it got totally more political. It was anarchy and peace as Crass used to say but they were really politically motivated but they also had the hard-core music of punk it was the real hard core, which was 3 chords and not mega produced but it still sounded good.
Paula: What was Anarcho-Punk?
Paul: In short, AN-OK stood for Anarchy OK.
Paula: What was the movement that started vegetarianism and brought in the politics?
Paul: Basically it all stemmed from Crass because all the bands that followed Crass, there was Conflict and Zounds and Poison Girls, Flux of Pink Indians and it became a real political movement and it changed me because I became really anti government. I think punk originally, there was a shock aspect of everything and the bringing together of small bands and all the rest of it, small venues and groups but where Crass come in, it reinvigorated punk in fact it was probably what punk should have been in the first place – that’s the way we looked at it and it changed us as people, there was loads – especially from Crass – loads of statements, propaganda and it made you look at other things. You’d read a record sleeve from Crass, then you’d go get a book out and find out about something. That’s why I became a vegetarian because it made me investigate what happened to animals in laboratories, in the cosmetic industry, wearing leather shoes, wearing leather jackets – all that. I became a vegetarian because of it.
Paula: How long have you been a vegetarian and when did you become a vegetarian?
Paul: Now I’ve been a vegetarian for just over 35 years and I think I was about 18 when I turned vegetarian and that was because of Crass and Conflict. Because I knew Conflict in the early days and we did some protests for the Animal Liberation Front and it was politically motivated then.
Paula: Did you do a lot of campaigning then?
Paul: Yeh well we’d write to our MP’s, we’d distribute lots of literature about how we felt about things – it was all about being proactive then.
Paula: What do you think went wrong with first wave punk?
It became commercial. It became a money maker. Well The Clash had a line in a song ‘turning rebellion into money’ and you can’t get a more accurate description then that. Even The Clash signed to a major record label. Then you had all these other sort of punkish bands coming up the rear just trying to make money. It wasn’t about the kids anymore, even the clothes weren’t ‘Do It Yourself’, it was all being sold and manufactured. It just became manufactured music again. For the good of Crass that’s what changed it back again.
Paula: Can you name some bands who were alongside Crass?
Quite a few bands adopted Crass’ ethic with ‘don’t pay no more then’ record sleeves and record shops at that time used to rip people off and always charge over the odds, they always did. So Crass used to print the price on the sleeve so you couldn’t dispute the price or pay more then you should do. A load of bands afterwards did that.
Beany: I’m a big Crass fan and Conflict, but not a vegetarian. What you notice is that their fans will have stencilled logos sprayed on their jackets. I saw at Rebellion Festival the Nazis and Anti-Nazis shaking hands, I think there’s a lot of confusion in music as well. I’d say my favourite were Conflict. I’m more of a modern day punk so I’m still learning. But without Sex Pistols you wouldn’t have the rest. The Sex Pistols are the ones that kicked it right up the arse and got it into gear.
Do you think its changed things within politics?
Paul: (Sighs) In politics, no. But I think its made people more aware of what politicians get up to. I think without the punk movement then and without the questions that were raised – because Crass had questions raised in parliament and it got in the paper and everything over that. I think it gave people more of an insight into what to do or where to go – whereas people would just vote labour or vote conservative, or even question the people in charge. It was about questioning and that’s what punk brought about because we started questioning everything.
Have people moved away from trusting in religion and politics, higher powers and people?
I think the systems moved away from that, if you just look at society it’s all moved away from that anyway because of the mass entertainment we have now. But going back to the punk roots that’s what stemmed loads of independent record labels. At one time we didn’t have independent record labels it was all major and now any band can release something of their own accord. I think that only really came about because of the punk scene. It wasn’t there before. Punk, especially the youth of that generation who as people have got older, they continue to question things.
Crass didn’t want to make money they just wanted to cover costs and have enough to fund other bands and further projects. A lot of independent labels try to work to the same ethic today.
Paula: What does punk mean to you?
Paul: It was one of the best times of my life, it has stuck with me and will stick with me for the rest of my life.
Beany: I think if you have a lot of aggression marry punk rock you’ll never divorce it.
-End of Interview-