Punk is still alive and kicking!
"It's undeniable, the UK's political and social structure is in a state of flux and it's inspiring a whole new generation of punks and musical upstarts to rise up and challenge it."
What the hell man!
Years of austerity, wars, global recession, corporate tax avoidance, rising far right movements, and not to mention a continually outcast, undesired and disenchanted generation of working class guys and girls just looking to make a living amongst it all.
This sums up just some of the frustrations facing many across the UK and to be frank, we're pissed off.
Well fear not, despite what many believe about the modern music scene, Punk is very much alive and furiously kicking while being as abrasive and defiant as ever in these times of frustration.
Promising developments are happening all across the UK.
Hit the North headliners Slaves, for example, have conquered the country's music industry already with their hook filled choruses and grimy guitars laid nicely over a bed of important political and social themes.
And the results cannot be disputed, blasting onto BBC’s live lounge and having their Mercury Award nominated, debut album ‘Are you Satisfied’ reach number 8 in the UK album charts on the week of its release.
Clearly there is a hunger for this stuff and Slaves appeared just in time to get us off our arses and spur us into movement.
Closer to home though, us northerners have our own rebellious streak which deserves its time in the spotlight.
Another of the North East's big guns, Massa Confusa belt out their post punk style mixed with fuzzy electronics to bring something very interesting to the table.
As the masterminds behind the fantastic 'Massa Confusa Presents Compilation Volume 3' which showcases some of the best talent coming out of the North's music scene (several of whom you'll spot in this article), these guys clearly have their finger firmly on the pulse of what's awesome about the industry.
As if that wasn't enough, Massa Confusa also founded their own label Clarity Cat,which also home to the brilliant artists that make up Sleepwalk and Skull Puppies who are more than worth following in their own right, as well as the inspired side project Five Pence Game.
Ally, a member of Massa Confusa, said he was enthusiastic about the relationships that artists in the North East are able to build:
"There is a strong scene here, with many great bands and performers across a wide range of genres that are usually happy to play with one another, which is fantastic!"
However he says that it’s getting increasingly difficult for independent bands and promoters to exsist outside of the mainstream.
"Due to the rising costs of venue hire, some independent promoters, like myself, are struggling to break even in order to pay bands what they deserve. Furthermore, the starting point for bands to get bigger gigs is usually to apply for support slots at bigger venues like the O2 Academy. But bands often have to ‘pay to play’ or sell their own tickets in order to get paid at all."
It's not all doom and gloom though, as "these challenges have meant that people are looking to other spaces, even ‘non-venues’, to put on more exciting and interesting DIY events. Hopefully we’ll see good effects on the scene when the new Star and Shadow opens too."
Alongside these struggles, Ally also described how the current political climate makes it even more important for all music, not just the punk and DIY music scenes, to push their boundaries:
"The current political situation and the final Brexit negotiations will lead to a wave of music that reacts against it. I don’t mean just a wave in punk as I think it’ll resonate through pop as well. At least I hope it will anyway! At the very least I think there’ll be more bands operating with a political mind set, supporting and promoting campaigns like ‘Right To Remain’ and ‘Refugee Action’ through their music."
Newcastle based trio Casual Threats are another undeniable powerhouse within the region's emerging punk scene. Riotously catchy yet with a gritty edge,
In April alone these lads hit Meet the North, Stockton Calling and rounded off a tour with Massa Confusa and they ain't likely to stop any time soon.
Band member Bazz, said:
"There's never not an important time for punk, because there's always something going on in the world, but it just seems like right now there's no one really talking about anything in particular within that spectrum of chart music that you get bombarded with every day.
And there's no shortage of frustrations he wants addressed:
"We've got a Prime Minister and government who we didn't elect making power plays before one of the biggest changes in British political history takes place, and yet when you turn on the radio there's just a load of sugar-coated nothing-pop in the charts.
"People are almost being encouraged to be apathetic and that suits the government just fine, as evidenced by the Tees Valley Metro Mayoral election where they won with just 21% turnout - whether you care or not it will affect you so you may as well have some sort of say in the process."
However, he notes that the term 'punk' can be a bit of a turn off for some artists:
"I think sometimes people look at albums like Green Day's American Idiot, which was an overtly political album, and get turned off a little because they think it's preachy, but political music can be a lot subtler if you want it to be. That's something that we set out to do from the start, is create something that doesn't just shout 'THIS IS A PROBLEM' but announces itself more gently while also reminding you that life is still beautiful in a weird and broken way."
Among the reccuring themes in their music, Bazz notes that: "we're finding some of our newer stuff does take right-wing populism fairly head-on. This is because when we wrote the songs all you were seeing in the news was the wave of Trump, Brexit, Le Pen in France or the AfD in Germany. You can quite easily let it take a hold of you and just be really fucking angry.
"For us it's just about remembering that music is an art form and can be both brutal and beautiful. That's the music we set out to create on Life From Below and it's what we want to continue to do. No matter what happens over the coming months, the key message remains the same: don't let the bastards grind you down".
Header Image: Photo: Claire Jayne Allport