If there was any music that articulated the feelings of hatred towards Margaret Thatcher in the early 80s, it was anarcho-punk. Fiercely underground and independent from the rest of the music business, the genre was a grass roots movement that delivered on punk's original promise to actually be politically threatening.
Over thirty years on, it's stronger than ever, with more bands taking up the torch and citing anarcho-punk as an influence. Chris Low was there at the beginning, drumming for a number of the seminal acts while barely into his teens, with his current band, PART1, scheduled to make their first reformation show at Rebellion, the world's largest punk festival, this summer. Following a year playing anarcho-punk DJ sets in Tokyo, Low's compiled a monster mix of his favorite tunes and answered a few questions about the whole thing. Scroll to the bottom for the tracklist too.
Noisey: So how does anarcho punk differ from the gazillion other variations of punk that have come along since 1977?
Chris Low: I think the characteristics that separate it from the other sub-genres of punk is that punk usually has 'rock' appended to it. With anarcho, that element was removed. Crass's "Feeding of the 5000" was the first record I ever heard that sounded from start to finish like I had always imagined punk would, and should, sound. No pub rock riffs, fifties R'n'B scales or wanky guitar solos. It was angry, brutal, uncompromising and a total aural and ideological attack on the senses. Listening to that LP and reading the lyrics at the age of nine or ten felt like a bomb going off in my head. Even though there's loads of different music I've been into since the 80s, there's still something about the raw energy and sheer diversity of anarcho punk that no other sub-genre of punk can equal. Even though the majority of the tracks come from 1980 to 1984, the 'golden age' of anarcho punk, I hope that comes across in the mix.
You really, really wanted us to publish this mix. Why is it so important to you to publish right now?
I spent the late 1980s and 90s DJing at techno and house clubs and as no one had ever really done an anarcho-punk mix before I thought I'd just go for it. It was recorded in my bedroom with a few bottles of wine and a mate pulling out the records from my racks so it might be a bit rough around the edges but I think that keeps it in the spirit of the music. "DIY not EMI," as we used to say.
Chris DJing an anarcho-punk night in Tokyo last year.
How did you become involved in the scene yourself?
I started playing drums when I was eleven and had already played two gigs before the drummer of another band pointed out that my kit should have a kick-drum and that you didn't just crash the hi-hat like a cymbal. Also, around that time Crass played my local town hall and after picking up a couple of fanzines that night I did my own one, conducting postal interviews with all these bands who you could send questions to and would actually write back replying to them. There was a strong element of communication and exchange of ideas and music unique to the scene. Every week I'd receive letters and packages of records or tapes from America, Poland, Finland…. some places I'd never even heard of but somehow they'd got hold of my 'zine or heard my band. It was an incredibly exciting secret world and alternative reality for a kid stuck in a small Scottish town to be part of. As years went on I got more involved with the scene, playing in bands, publishing my fanzine. At the age of 14 joined the Apostles, drumming on their first few singles and spending half my time staying in squats in London when I should have been studying for exams at school. They were one of the bands who were involved with the running of the original Anarchy Center, which was founded from the proceeds of Crass' "Bloody Revolutions" single. That was where anarcho-punk originated from: it was the term given to the anarchist punk bands that played at the Anarchy Centre.
Why do you think there's all the interest in anarchy-punk today?
While you could argue it was a music and subculture that was a part of it's time, anarcho-punk has great parallels today. Anarcho-punk and much of its aesthetic form referenced post-cold war anxieties, where-as recent generations have had Iraq and Afghanistan; it emerged out of the depression of the late 1970s and our economy isn't much better today, plus then and now Britain has been under Conservative government. Right up to her death, Thatcher remained the consummate symbol of hatred for the anarcho-punk movement, which is why there have been so many of the songs in my mix posted up on Facebook over the past few days.
Was anarcho-punk ever commercially successful?
There were more commercially popular sub-genres that came in the wake of anarcho punk, like certain strands of hardcore and crust. Anarcho-punk may be raw and basic but there's an integrity to it you won't find in many other styles of music. Above all else, it's in opposition to mainstream culture and anti-establishment. There's a clear and direct blood-line from the anarcho-punk movement of the early 80s to the anti-globalization movement that sees people rioting against their governments and leaders throughout the world today. If that's the legacy of anarcho punk I'm pleased to have been part of it then, and I'm pleased to be part of it now.
Antisect – "Four Minutes Past Midnight"
Flux Of Pink Indians – "Take Heed"
Rudimentary Peni – "Farce "
The Mob – "Witchhunt"
Honey Bane – "Girl On The Run"
The System – "Dogs of War"
Discharge – "Decontrol"
The Apostles – "Mob Violence"
Zounds – "Can't Cheat Karma"
The Ex – "The Sky Is Blue Again"
Six Minute War - "Nurses"
Part 1 – "The Corpse"
Sinyx – "Animal"
Dirt – "Unemployment"
Conflict – "Berkshire Cunt"
Oi Polloi – "Hands Off Nicaragua"
Ad Nauseam – "Crazy World"
Flux Of Pink Indians – "Neu Smell"
Flux Of Pink Indians – "Tube Disasters"
Crass – "Banned From The Roxy"
Anthrax – "Capitalism Is Cannibalism"
Antisect – "Tortured and Abused"
Discharge – "State Violence, State Control"
Rudimentary Peni – "Rotten The The Core"
Fallout – "Tell Me About It"
Crass – "Shaved Women"
Amebix – "Belief"
Exit-stance – "Mankind's Hand"
Born BC – "Dear Jesus"
Discharge – "Ain't No Feeble Bastard"
[Martin Wright speaking at 1985 class war rally]
The Apostles – "Pigs For Slaughter"
Oi Polloi – "Lowest Of The Low"
The Rondos – "A Black and White Statement"
The Intestines – "New Recruit"
Fallout – "Democracy"
S-Haters – "Research"
Lack Of Knowledge – "The Uninvited"
Soldiers Of Fortune – "Stars"
The Clefts – "Red White and Blue"
The Ex – "Weapons for El Salvador"
7th Plague – "Rubber Bullets"
Counter Attack – "Don't Wanna Fight For You"
The Apostles – "Stoke Newington Eight"
Amebix – "Curfew"
Discharge – "Realities of War"
Crass – "Big A Little A"
The Mob – "Another Day, Another Death"
Crisis – "Holocaust"
The Mob – "No Does Fly Here"
Poison Girls – "Persons Unknown"
Do yourself a favor and listen to Chris' band, PART1.