Sunday, December 4, 2016

Obituary - Micky Fitz

On Friday 2 December 2016, Michael Fitzsimons - better known as Micky Fitz - vocalist with UK Punk/ Oi! band THE BUSINESS passed away. The cause of death appears to be cancer of the Lymph Gland.
Born in 1959, Fitz was among the school friends who formed THE BUSINESS in Lewisham, South London in 1979. The band’s first appearance on record was via the ‘A Sudden Surge Of Sound’ compilation released in 1980 on VU Records. The classic ‘Harry May’ single followed in 1981 via Secret Records. The same label released the ‘Smash The Discos’ EP the following year and the debut album, ‘Suburban Rebels’ in 1983.
Although the band appeared to remain active ever since, releasing records on labels like Burning Heart, TKO, Taang! and Captain Oi!, there was the odd disruption. Soon after the ‘Harry May’ single, all of the original members left Micky high and dry as they went on to form Q-BOW, which morphed into SMACK. Then, following 1988’s ‘Welcome To The Real World’, the same occurred. Move on a few years and Micky reappeared in THE ELITE which performed several BUSINESS songs. From there, in one form or another, THE BUSINESS never let up. Their song ‘England 5 – Germany 1’, became a football anthem for England and appeared in the 2004 comedy movie Euro Trip. The band’s most recent release was the ‘Back In The Day’ single in 2014.
Fitz was diagnosed with cancer late in 2015 and underwent radiotherapy treatment. In January 2016, Fitz made a public update via Garry Bushell’s Facebook page. It states he had finished the ‘intense Radiology and Chemotherapy treatment’ which followed a throat operation to remove an aggressive tumour that was working its way through his neck. This was to be followed by dieticians and neck and throat specialists who were to get him eating again.
I have to confess I was never the biggest of BUSINESS fans. I never saw the band live and only have the debut album and a Complete Singles Compilation in my collection. That said, I know just how important the band has been and the sincerity with which it operated, and appreciate the vitality and energy that was in every track they recorded - and a lot of that vitality was down to those charismatic and formidable vocals of Fitz.
Fitz is survived by his partner, Kim and son, Jamie.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Show Time!

The Shit Talkers
SNFU - MODERN TERROR - THE SHIT TALKERS - The Venue, Vancouver, Canada - 20 August 2016
I literally heard about this gig the day before it happened, after only being in Canada for about three days. Considering The Venue was within walking distance of where I was staying (and thanks to the guys at the stellar Neptoon Records who gave me expert directions to the gig), it was a total no-brainer that seeing the legend that is SNFU in their home town was something I had to do.
Unfortunately, I’m writing this over a month after the actual event due to my successive travels after I left Canada. One thing I do recall is that The Venue is a great place to see bands. Probably holds about 700, has a great PA, a stage that could easily hold a seven-piece but without making a trio look lost and it has a bar on both sides of the room. SWANS was playing soon after I left unfortunately; I imagine they would be brutal in this kinda place.
Anyway, first on stage was THE SHIT TALKERS, a grungy Punk 5-piece made of four ladies and a dude in drag (at least, I hope it was a dude in drag!). I can’t recall song titles but remember a sound akin to an amped and Punked BREEDERS. The main singer had a few technical issues with her guitar but didn’t let it get the better of her. Was good to see a number of people had turned out to support the band too.
Modern Terror
A couple of beers down (there was some kinda Canuck beer on sale which was not only cheap, but pretty good too) and I was feeling that neat beer buzz that occurs just as the alcohol starts to kick in. Great timing too because on next came MODERN TERROR. The band is a trio and played a fusion of M.D.C.-style political Hardcore but with a Fat Wreck kinda twist. Throw a little THE ‘INBRED in there too and you’ve got it. Among titles I recall were the potent ‘Let America Burn’, ‘Boys In Blue’ and ‘First World Problems’. There was a bit of black humour too in ‘Junkie Punker Mom’ and the ode to blowing up Vancouver Island in ‘Let’s Bomb The Neighbours’. They had the heads of Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump on sticks (unfortunately, not the named persons real heads - THAT would’ve been fucking stunning!!) as part of the stage set and, best of all, the vocals were delivered with clarity - especially those of bassist Jamie Swann - which made the message of the songs that much more powerful. They were giving away CDs at the end of the gig too - yes I scored one and a review will be posted soon. A band that did everything right in my eyes... Looking forward to seeing what lays ahead for them.
SNFU vocalist Mr Chi Pig had been wandering around the crowd for much of the gig, shaking hands and conversing with those he knew. Surely looked like time (along with drugs and hard living) had taken a bit of a toll on the guy. That said, when the band hit the stage, the jams they cranked hit all the right places.
I have to admit, I lost interest in the band a bit after the ‘Better Than A Stick In The Eye’ album from 1988 and that probably explained the reason that there were a bunch of songs I didn’t know. That said, the band nailed it pivoting around a monster rhythm section and a couple of guitarists who slammed out the riffs with serious ferocity. Songs? ‘You Make Me Thick’, ‘What Good Hollywood’ and the trio of classics from the debut album, ‘Broken Toy’, ‘She’s Not On The Menu’ and ‘Cannibal Cafe’ all could claim to be highlights. A little bit of a scuffle broke out and after the main set one of the guitarists grabbed the mic from Chi Pig and threw it to the floor... Pretty standard events for an SNFU gig, as were the beaming, sweaty faces at the end of the gig.
I picked up the SNFU biography written by Chris Walter and received a kiss on the ear from Mr Chi Pig after he signed it. Oddly, that seemed a fitting end to a blazing night of Canuck Punk Rock. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Obituary - Brandon Ferrell

On Tuesday 31 May 2016, Brandon Ferrell, a member of such bands as GOVERNMENT WARNING, CAREER SUICIDE, DIRECT CONTROL, WASTED TIME and MUNICIPAL WASTE, passed away.
He was born on 28 April 1984 and at the time of writing, the cause of death is unknown.
In addition to being involved with the Hardcore bands above in a capacity as drummer, guitarist and/ or bassist, Ferrell ran No Way Records. He also opened, and was the original owner of, Vinyl Conflict records in Richmond, VA. Ferrell also had his own thrash project on Tankcrimes called OBSESSOR, where he played everything. It's worth noting Ferrell did the artwork to IRON REAGAN's 2012 demo.
He is survived by his wife Lauren and their twins, Darby and Zoe.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Obituary - John 'Stabb' Schroeder

On Saturday 7 May 2016, John ‘Stabb’ Schroeder, best known as the vocalist with GOVERNMENT ISSUE, passed away at a Hospice center in Rockville, Maryland after a battle with stomach cancer. He was aged 54.
Born John Dukes Schroeder in Washington on 12 July 1961, he grew up in Rockville and graduated from Magruder High School in 1979. His first marriage, to Mika Ackerman, ended in divorce. On St Patrick’s Day 2016, he married his long-term partner Mina Devadas.
Stabb formed GOVERNMENT ISSUE in 1980 (originally called THE STAB) and remained the band’s only constant member.
GOVERNMENT ISSUE’s history is well documented elsewhere, but the band released six studio albums and a myriad of EPs, morphing from the DC Hardcore sound of the 1981 debut, ‘Legless Bull’ EP released on Dischord Records, through wider experimentation with psychedelic tones and slower rhythms, culminating with the final studio album, ‘Crash’ in 1988 and the ‘Strange Wine’ EP the following year when the band split.
Following GOVERNMENT ISSUE’s demise, Stabb continued to front several DC bands including STAIN, EMMA PEEL, WEATHERHEAD, BETTY BLUE, THE FACTORY INCIDENT and, up until shortly before his passing, HISTORY REPEATED.
Over the years, GOVERNMENT ISSUE played a series of reunion shows including 2007, 2010 and most recently in 2015.
Stabb was renowned for bucking the trend of Hardcore Punk fashion by growing out his hair, wearing all sorts of flamboyant, bright clothing and leisure suits. This is emphasized in the Going Underground book where he states: "I didn’t care if it was a purple velour women’s pants outfit with a vest with pleats for breasts; I’d wear it."
In recent years he had been working on his memoirs, entitled Hear The Scream which chronicles his troubled childhood, his time in GOVERNMENT ISSUE and recent life events.
Following a series of hospital visits at the end of January 2016, Stabb was diagnosed with malignant stomach cancer. At a HISTORY REPEATED show on 19 January 2016, he announced to the audience that he had appendicitis and would need to go to the ER after their set. After a misdiagnosis, he was rushed back to the hospital on 29 January, where doctors performed emergency surgery to remove two tumors from his gastrointestinal tract. 
Stabb is survived by his wife, Mina and his two brothers and two sisters.

While GOVERNMENT ISSUE never released a duff record, the two that always have most affect on me are ‘Joy Ride’ from 1984 and more specifically, ‘You’ from 1987. Dr. Strange Records released the band’s entire catalogue (bar the ‘Legless Bull’ EP which can be found easily on Dischord’s ‘The Year In Seven Inches’ comp) on two twin-CD packages in 2000, which remain a great place for the curious to start. 
Unfortunately I never got to see the band live, although I was aware of them playing in the UK. In fact, the insert of the ‘You’ album included a photo taken on Brighton Beach.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Show Time!

Grant Hart
GRANT HART CONSPIRACY - BLACK SCIENCE - LOUD GHOST - King’s Arms, Auckland, New Zealand - 19 February 2016
I’ve always thought those discussions about the preference over Bob Mould or Grant Hart’s post-HUSKER DU work a little frustrating. I mean, both individuals output has been impressive. I loved SUGAR but I also loved NOVA MOB. With regard to the solo albums, both have released a body of work that has been equally stunning and occasionally bewildering.
With that taken into consideration, I kinda surprised myself with the realization that this is the first time I had seen GRANT HART post HUSKER DU, compared with at least a dozen MOULD experiences. Would old ‘Golden Tonsils’ Hart live up to his former colleague and sparing partner in a live situation? Without a doubt, he did.
The night got off to a shit start though - and that is through no fault of any band. I travelled up to the gig on the Intercity Bus Service. It was due to arrive in Auckland at 7pm. Doors opened at 8pm. First band on probably around 9pm. That’d give me two hours to get from the bus station, grab some food and get to the gig. However Intercity fucked up royally!!
The bus left an hour late and somehow, the driver (that’s a broad statement - he seemed to have his handbrake on the entire way and actually apologised for his lack of pace as he, "had to get used to the gears - they're all a bit different you know!") managed to add yet another hour on the drive. So, I arrived at 9pm and by the time I got to the gig only caught the last five minutes or so of LOUD GHOST.

Black Science
And that’s a shame as they seemed to be cranking out some seriously damaged sounds fusing something like the rock ‘n’ roll drenched sound of (early) GUN CLUB with the intensity of BIG BLACK. Given I only saw a fragment, that could be way off the mark but it was an impressive quagmire of noise for a few minutes.
Auckland’s own BLACK SCIENCE was up next and cranked the jams with some seriously fuzzed guitar lines, catchy songs and some disjointed, splintered beats. Big comparison has to be MUDHONEY with a bit of LEMONHEADS, SONIC YOUTH and MC5. No idea about song titles but the trio put on an enjoyable set, even if some of the guitar histrionics went a bit overboard at times.
Somewhere during the interval following the BLACK SCIENCE set, Grant Hart appeared at the left of the stage dressed in a brightly flowered shirt, wide braces, hobo jeans and stunning red shoes. Somehow, he looked cool as fuck too.
Grant Hart Conspiracy
His latest band, THE GRANT HART CONSPIRACY, is a four-piece consisting of what appears to be pretty seasoned musicians and, from the opening, ‘Back From Somewhere’, it was clear that Hart had amassed some solid players around him. It was also clear that this was gonna be a ‘Best Of Hart’ type set with the following songs being ‘2541’ and a spine-tinglingly magical ‘Diane’ - which proved he still has those Golden Tonsils albeit ones that broke occasionally.
From there, the set spanned HART’s entire career with particular highlights being ‘Pink Turns To Blue’, a set-stealing ‘You’re The Reflection Of The Moon On The Water’, ‘Now That You Know Me’ and a ringing version of ‘The Last Days Of Pompeii’. A number of songs from his recent album, ‘The Argument’, were featured too, with ‘Morningstar’ being particularly effective.
Grant Hart
It was good to hear he remains outspoken. One point toward the end of the set saw him state that we should, "remember to tip the bar staff." A rather bellicose member of the audience shouted, "FUCK OFF," - Grant then chastised him and it appeared the gig maybe over. On another occasion, he requested that cat owners ‘meow’, followed by dog owners ‘barking’. The analogy was that if ‘some musician’ from Minneapolis could get a crowd on the other side of the planet to make animal noises that easily, imagine what Donald Trump could do en masse. Yes, it was rather simplistic - but so are those that follow Trumpton.
Another notable point was that HART possessed the ability to stop the band a few bars into a song and with a matter of three words, lifted the song to another height. That usually indicates an egotistical rock star; here it showed someone who actually knew how these songs work best. I have say the guitarist was particularly good too - he could do the droning tone of HUSKER, add some subtle lead work that appeared simplistic but created added depth, and enhanced the songs with some understated backing vocals.
After 90 minutes or so, the band finished. The house music came on - only for HART to return and do another half-hour with just his magical voice and guitar. Highlights?? Have to say - every song performed this evening left me in awe but this solo set saw some jaw-droppingly magnificent takes on ‘Admiral Of The Sea’, a set-closing ‘The Main’ and ‘Don’t Want To Know If You Are Lonely’.
And then it was over. For the first time in many years, my ears were ringing viciously. That was compounded by the fact that the sound was the best I’ve ever heard at the Kings Arms. I had a very amicable chat with the man and his guitarist before walking back on a massive high, grinning like some kinda long-haired, Punk Rock clown.
So - did HART match MOULD live? Ohhh yes.... I probably have to say that this gig transcended Mould’s bluster and I sensed that with the set of songs performed here, I’d witnessed a genuine songwriting maverick - someone on par with Dylan even.
Yeah, that’s a massive statement but, three plus weeks since the gig, one I still believe.
NB: If anyone has a song-by-song set list, please let me know

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Year-end Recommendations 2015

Another year has gone, never to be seen again. It’s lingering memory, at least for us music loving Punks, is in a batch of what could already be seen as classic records and some dizzyingly impressive live gigs.
Biggest ‘notable’ for me was a negative - missing RUTS DC on the band’s New Zealand tour. As it was due to matters beyond my control, I was gutted beyond belief. When I heard how good the gigs were, and saw the live footage, that gutted feeling became ten-fold. It doesn’t matter that I have been seeing bands for over thirty years; missing one that I really wanted to go to is still a major source of disappointment - depression even!
From my isolated locale though, I did manage to catch a few crackers. CJ RAMONE brought the string section from the ADOLESCENTS over and played a blinder. NZ’s own (and possibly best) PCP EAGLES supported and would’ve blown away any other headliner I reckon. DICKIES came over and played to unbelievably small crowds and were supported by NOWHERE - a stunning NZ band that could’ve turned in the best performance I caught this year. Then there was GORILLA BISCUITS - how odd that was seeing these old timers playing these Youth Core anthems. Still, they just about pulled it off I have to say - and another NZ band, Garage Punks WIZZ KIDS supported blowing away the other two Metalcore support acts.
It’s also been a notable year for a couple of beloved musicians who have passed away. Dickie Hammond, he of HDQ and LEATHERFACE fame was the first real shocker. I saw the man many times, especially with LEATHERFACE and a true guitar gargantuan he was. The second was a little-known fella named Lemmy - the very definition of what a rock ‘n’ roller should be. You might know him - he played in HAWKWIND and was the man behind a little skiffle band called MOTORHEAD. The band’s seminal live album, ‘No Sleep Til Hammersmith’ was among the very first albums I bought and it, along with ‘It’s Alive’ by another little skiffle band called THE RAMONES, will remain perfect examples of what a live album should be. You’ll both be missed, fellas.
So - my Top Sounds for 2015. Obviously loads I haven’t got to hear - including the new NIGHTBIRDS and LEFTOVER CRACK albums. So, here goes - the toppest tunes that have rung out from the House Of Scanner during the past 12 months:

1. PARANOID VISIONS - Cryptic Crosswords {Overground}
2. POISON IDEA - Confuse And Conquer {Southern Lord}
3. D.O.A. - Hard Rain Falling {Sudden Death}
4. NO MORE ART - Sorrows Of Youth {Rockstar}
5. NOWHERE - Cancer {DIY}
6. JONNY MANAK AND THE DEPRESSIVES - Cold Pizza And Warm Beer {Self Destructo}
8. GOOD RIDDANCE - Peace In Our Time {Fat Wreck}
9. VIOLENT ARREST - Life Inside The Western Bloc {Boss Tuneage}
10. STEVE DREWETT - Ku Jenga Society {Cruel Binary}
Honorary Albums: THE BRISTLES - Last Days Of Capitalism {Heptown}, CASTRO - The River Need, SPOILERS - Stay Afloat, THIRTY SIX STRATEGIES - Strategy Three {Boss Tuneage}, FAT MIKE AND FRIENDS - Home Street Home, TOY GUITAR - In This Mess {Fat Wreck}, POINTED STICKS - Northern Electric {Sudden Death}, STARVING MILLIONS - III {Good Times}, SHEHEHE - Rock ‘n’ Roll Queen {Fall Break}, SCREECHING WEASEL - Baby Fat Act I {Recess}, STEAKKNIFE - One Eyed Bom {Rookie}, DARK AGES - Vapor {Sorry State}

1. YOUNG CONSERVATIVES - The End Of Socialism {Obscene Baby Auction}
2. VANILLA POD - Swing Out The Sunrise {TNS Records}
3. THE BOMB - Axis Of Awesome {No Idea}
4. PARANOID VISIONS - Two Black Eyes {Overground}
5. CITIZEN FISH - Manmade {Bluurg}
6. NO PROBLEM - Kid Killer {Deranged} 
7. FLIES ON YOU - Fan-Based Repellent {DIY}
8. POISON IDEA/ ROVSVETT - Split {Just4Fun}
9. WORTHY VICTIMS - A Bitter Future {DIY}
10. DWARVES - Gentleman Blag {Fat Wreck}
Honorary Singles: JOYCE MANOR/ TOYS THAT KILL - Split {Recess}, PEARS - Letters To Memaw {Fat Wreck}

1. INSTIGATORS - Phoenix {Boss Tuneage}
2. ATV - Viva La Rock ‘n’ Roll: The Complete Deptford Fun City Recordings {Cherry Red}
3. REALLY RED - Complete Collection 1979-1985 {Alternative Tentacles}
4. DWARVES - Are Younger And Even Better Looking {Recess}
5. DOCTOR BISON - The Bloated Vegas Years/ Dewhursts: The Musical {Boss Tuneage}
6. MEAN JEANS - Singles {Dirtnap}
7. THE JONES - Gravity Blues {Boss Tuneage}
8. NEWTOWN NEUROTICS - Triumph Over Adversity {Cruel Binary}
9. YOUTH BRIGADE - Complete First Demo {Dischord}
10. NUCLEAR SOCKETTS - Complete Singles {Overground}
Honorary Reissues: ADVERSARY - s/t, ELMERHASSEL - Self Analysis/ Entertainment Value, EPIC PROBLEM - ‘11-‘14, HEX - Poison In The System: The Demos {Boss Tuneage}, THE LICKS - 1970s, {Overground}, NO IDEA - Jag Hatar Punk {Just4Fun}, IRON BOOTS - Complete Discography {Grave Mistake}