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Interview with Nervous Gender (2015)

Formed in 1978, Nervous Gender was a pioneering queer synth-punk band from Los Angeles. They’re easily identifiable by their aggressive punk sound played on all synths, as well as transgressive sexual subject matter and visual style–the latter which presaged the goth scene. While many post-punk and new wave bands adopted synths soon after, almost none continued in the punk vein that Nervous Gender and the Screamers had originally explored.

The band went through a number of permutations before breaking up after the death of founding member Gerardo Velazquez in 1992. In 2007 the band reformed with old and new members, and I caught up with them in December 2014 after their first-ever show in New York City. We talked about the evolution of the band over the years, as well as former members like Phranc; their relation to the LA “art-damaged” scene as well as to No Wave, industrial, and goth/death rock; the question of fascism, homophobia, and what it meant to be queer in the ’70s LA punk scene; and their mention on the 700 Club.

They have recently remixed their 1981 studio album, and released three live recordings, documenting  different periods of the band, including a 1979 show with Phranc and a 1986 show with Wall of Voodoo members. These can be purchased via their website http://nervousgender.com.

DISCOGRAPHY

Live at Target (Subterranean Records, 1980), compilation with Factrix, uns, and Flipper
Music from Hell (Subterranean Records, 1981)
Live at the Hong Kong Cafe 1979 (Nervous Gender Archives, 2006)
Live at the Whiskey A Go-Go 1980 (Nervous Gender Archives, 2006)
Live at the Roxy 1986 (Nervous Gender Archives, 2006)
Music From Hell, 2009 Remixed / Remastered (Nervous Gender Archives, 2009)
“Gestalt” / “Green Tile Floors” (Test Tube Records, 2011), 7″

This is an edited version of a December 7, 2014 interview at the Box Hotel in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

Band photos are from Evil Tracey. Please contact her for reprint permission: eviltracey at yahoo dot com.

SPENCER SUNSHINE: So I’m in Brooklyn with Nervous Gender. What’s the name of everyone in the band today and what’s everyone’s history with the band?

Edward Stapleton

Edward Stapleton

EDWARD STAPLETON: Me and Michael Ochoa are the original members. Joe and Tammy were friends from the very beginning, but they weren’t in the band. [Turns to Joe and Michael] How many years ago did you guys start it up again?

JOE ZINNATO: ‘89? I’ve been in the band since ’89, Tammy’s been in the band about…

TAMMY FRASER: I was just the manager and then I became the fill in…

JOE: Like two years ago?

Michael Ochoa

Michael Ochoa

MICHAEL OCHOA: I had a stroke four years ago.

TAMMY: Was it four?

MICHAEL: Yeah.

JOE: So she was in the band for four years

MICHAEL: So I wasn’t able to play, and they had a show, so they got Tammy sucked in.

Joe Zinnato

Joe Zinnato

JOE: Yeah and Tammy actually knows how to play keyboards…

MICHAEL: …which we don’t…

JOE: …and read music, so it was kinda no-brainer. We had a show lined up, so she became our pinch hitter.

SPENCER: So the band has an odd history. The original form was between ‘79 to ‘89, and then Gerardo—this is what I read online—had a trio from ‘90 to ‘92.

Tammy Fraser

Tammy Fraser

TAMMY: It was Joe, Michael and Gerardo.

JOE: The original lineup was from like ‘78 to ‘79. These two, and Phranc…

MICHAEL: …the lesbian folk-singer…

JOE: …and Gerardo. And Phranc left, and there was also a drummer, Don Bolles. That was the original lineup, which lasted about a year. And then after that, people rotated in and out. It was never—except for the first year—it was never a consistent lineup.

SPENCER: So that was one of my questions, there was so many members of the band, like Paul Roesseler, most of Wall of Voodoo, and an eight-and-a-half year-old boy named Sven, sometimes I wonder about bands—was it more like an arts collective then if people are just rotating in and out, or did it have the consistency?

Continue reading ‘Interview with Nervous Gender (2015)’

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Chumbawamba, the Pentagon, and the Bombing of Iraq (1998)

“Martial Music”

The tentative U.S. military campaign against Iraq already has its own unofficial theme song. Last week, senior Pentagon staffers privately circulated an audio-file E-mail with a pro-war parody of “Tubthumping,” a hit from the British band Chumbawamba. The blend of drinking song and rugby cheer (“I get knocked down, but I get up again”) has been transformed into a jingoistic war cry: “Let’s hunt him down and shoot him in the head, / Let’s beat the crap outta Saddam…. And if he won’t let us look for all his nerve gas / The U.S. Army is gonna kick him in the a–.” An ethereal voice chimes in with “Don’t screw with the U.S.A.”

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U.S. News and World Report, March 2, 1998

Deleuze: Nietzsche is “the dawn of counterculture” (1973)

“Probably most of us fix the dawn of our modern culture in the trinity Nietzsche-Freud-Marx. And it is of little consequence that the world was unprepared for them in advance.  Now, Marx and Freud, perhaps, do represent the dawn of our culture, but Nietzsche is something entirely different: the dawn of counterculture.”

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Gilles Deleuze, “Nomad Thought,” in David B. Allison, ed., The New Nietzsche: Contemporary Styles of Interpretation (New York: Delta/Dell, 1977), page 142. Translated from the French by Allison; original is “Pensée nomade,” in Nietzsche aujourd’hui (Paris: Union Générale d’Editions, 1973).

Ian Bone: How Crass’s Penny Rimbaud Saved EP Thompson from Being Decapitated by Class War

[Ian Bone describes how Class War is being confrontational towards speakers at a CND rally in Hyde Park in October, 1983]

Next up is silver-mained EP Thompson, author of The Making of the English Working Class, a book we all hold in great esteem and whose mob traditions we even feel we’re part of. But no matter—[Class War’s] Doc Whelan’s limited patience threshold has well and truly been breached. He has a glass cider flagon which he was reserving for Kinnockio [Neil Kinnock] but decided ‘some fucking professor’ will do just as well for a target. He has a sighting heave with a piece of concrete which whistles past EP Thompson’s locks on a still rising trajectory. He starts to spin like a hammer thrower with the flagon as the hammer. EP Thompson’s health is seriously at risk, and I’m doing fuck all to protect one of my favorite writers from decapitation. Thankfully, others aren’t so paralyzed. A firm arm grabs Doc’s wrista move usually likely to incur the dreaded Whelan forehead crunching down on the bridge of your nose. Doc recognizes the owner of the arm as Penny Rimbaud. ‘He’s not the one that deserves that,’ says Penny, ‘save it for later.’ Wise words and Doc concurs.

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Ian Bone, Bash the Rich: True-Life Confessions of an Anarchist in the UK (Bath, UK: Tangent Books, 2006), pp 139-40.

Dorothy Healey on Angela Davis and Eastern European political prisoners

The Angela Davis defense campaign had been the biggest [U.S. Communist] Party-initiated movement of the entire decade, and it was the one occasion on which the Party was really attuned to the political mood of the younger Left. It had a big effect on the Party and brought in a number of young recruits. Indeed, whatever political credibility the Party had to draw upon from the early 1970s was largely a product of that campaign. Certainly nothing else it has done since compares with the importance of Angela’s defense campaign in terms of image and the ability to interest outsiders. Angela Davis, not Gus Hall, has been the most attractive public face the Party has had to offer. But one of the sadder aspects of the whole episode was the impact it had on Angela herself. She felt that it was the Party and the Soviet Union which saved her life. She became unwilling to consider any criticisms of those she regarded as her saviors. When she was released from prison, the first thing she did was embark upon a tour of the Soviet Union, eastern Europe, and Cuba to thank them for supporting her during the trial.

Miss Charlene Mitchell, a close friend of Angela Davis, the black militant, said today that Miss Davis would not be responding to the appeal for help from Mr. Jiri Pelikan, one of the leading figures in the “Prague Spring” now living in exile.

Miss Davis, she said, did not think that people should leave socialist countries to return to the capitalist system. This was a retrograde step, and even if such people said they were communists they were still acting in opposition to the “socialist system,” objectively speaking.

In his appeal, which was published in The Times today, Mr. Pelikan asked Miss Davis to call for the release of political prisoners in Eastern Europe as well as in capitalist countries.

Miss Mitchell, who said she was acting as a spokesperson for Miss Davis, took the line that people in Eastern Europe got into difficulties and ended in jail only if they were undermining the government. ­­­ —(Manchester) Guardian, July 29, 1972.

While Angela was on her tour and not always available to western reporters, Charlene and other Communist leaders sometimes put words in her mouth, denying that there was any political repression within the Soviet bloc. Not that Angela was willing to do anything to challenge that view. In fact, within the next few years, she accommodated herself to the stalest clichés in the Party’s outlook. She remains to the present an important public figure, able to attract larger audiences than any other Party leader. But rarely if ever in her speeches and writings today will you see evidence of the kind of fresh thinking of which she was once capable. Whether she is capable of breaking free from the Party orthodoxy is a question still to be answered.

& & &

Dorothy Ray Healey and Maurice Isserman, California Red: A Life in the American Communist Party (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1990/1993), pages 220­–21.

Jason Adams, “Nonwestern Anarchisms: Rethinking the Global Context” (2001)

“The future of anarchism must be appraised within a global context; any attempt to localize it is bound to yield a distorted outcome. The obstacles to anarchism are, in the main, global; only their specifics are determined by local circumstances.”
– Sam Mbah

“To the reactionists of today we are revolutionists, but to the revolutionists of tomorrow our acts will have been those of conservatives”
– Ricardo Flores Magon

 

Introduction

The purpose of this paper is to help anarchist / anti-authoritarian movements active today to reconceptualize the history and theory of first-wave anarchism on the global level, and to reconsider its relevance to the continuing anarchist project. In order to truly understand the full complexity and interconnectedness of anarchism as a worldwide movement however, a specific focus on the uniqueness and agency of movements amongst the “people without history” is a deeply needed change. This is because the historiography of anarchism has focused almost entirely on these movements as they have pertained to the peoples of the West and the North, while movements amongst the peoples of the East and the South have been widely neglected. As a result, the appearance has been that anarchist movements have arisen primarily within the context of the more privileged countries. Ironically, the truth is that anarchism has primarily been a movement of the most exploited regions and peoples of the world. That most available anarchist literature does not tell this history speaks not to a necessarily malicious disregard of non-Western anarchist movements but rather to the fact that even in the context of radical publishing, centuries of engrained eurocentrism has not really been overcome. This has been changing to an extent however, as there here have been several attempts in just the past decade to re-examine this history in detail in specific non-Western countries and regions, with works such as Arif Dirlik’s Anarchism in the Chinese Revolution, Sam Mbah’s African Anarchism and Frank Fernandez’ Cuban Anarchism. It is within the footsteps of this recent tradition that this paper treads further into the relatively new ground of systematically assessing, comparing and synthesizing the findings of all of these studies combined with original investigation in order to develop a more wholly global understanding of anarchism and its history. To begin our inquiry we first must make clear what it is that is actually meant by the term “Western anarchism.” Going back to the debates within the First International, it quickly becomes apparent that this term is a misnomer, as it is actually the opposite case that is true; anarchism has always been derived more of the East / South than of the West / North. As Edward Krebs has noted “Marx (and Engels) saw Russianness in Bakunin’s ideas and behavior” while “Bakunin expressed his fears that the social revolution would become characterized by ‘pan-Germanism’ and ‘statism.’” This debate has led some to characterize it as largely between Western and Eastern versions of socialism; one marked by a fundamental commitment to order and the other marked by a fundamental commitment to freedom (1998, p. 19). So in this sense anarchism can be understood as an “Eastern” understanding of socialism, rather than as a fully Western tradition in the usual sense of the term. At the same time it should be remembered that there also developed an extremely contentious North / South split between the more highly developed nations of England and Germany and the less developed semi-peripheral nations of Spain, Italy and others. This split was based on differences of material reality but developed largely along ideological lines, with the northern Anglo-Saxon nations siding primarily with Karl Marx and the southern Latin nations siding with Mikhail Bakunin (Mbah, p. 20). So in both the East / West and the North / South sense, anarchism has often been the theory of choice for the most oppressed peoples; particularly in those societies whose primarily feudal nature writes them out of historical agency in the Marxist understanding of the world. This may explain a good deal of why anarchism became so popular throughout Latin America, and why immigrating anarchists from the Latin nations of Europe were so well received in country after country that they visited, attempting to spread the anarchist vision.

Continue reading ‘Jason Adams, “Nonwestern Anarchisms: Rethinking the Global Context” (2001)’

“Some Questions of Socialist Construction and of the Struggle Against Revisionism”

Some Questions of Socialist Construction and of the Struggle Against Revisionism: A C(ccp) Monster coloring book,” 2003.

Brilliant stuff. Click on link above to view as a single PDF.

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