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Punk/Noise Panel 5A

US Hardcore, Punk & Dissemination
The Boiler House

Daniel Makagon (DePaul University, Chicago)
‘Punk’s Decisive Moments: Seeing the Scene through Photozines’

In 1982 Glen E. Friedman published My Rules photozine. Although other photozines had been released prior to My Rules, the size of the print run (10,000) combined with the emergence of hardcore to mark My Rules as something special. The unique aesthetic of punk attracted photographers to this culture, but hardcore added another layer of action at the shows that created different photography options for documentary photographers. This presentation analyzes the historical development of punk photozines in the United States, with a primary focus on zines about hardcore bands and shows. I discuss the different types of photographic storytelling presented in photozines and how photozines changed over time. I pay special attention to the role of photozines in the current cultural context, where high quality photos are easily shared instantly through web sites and social media. There seem to be very few punk rock photozines published each year relative to other types of punk-identified zines (e.g., music zines, personal zines, and comix); however, the photozines that are published often go out of print quickly and generate a lot of buzz among punks.

Jessica Schwartz (University of California, Los Angeles)
‘Los Angeles Punk Through Noise & Nausea’

This paper traces LA punk aesthetic shifts and the policing of bodily difference through the filter of noise, particularly two interrelated concepts that play on an aesthetics of disturbance and the threat of being purged or expunged: noise and nausea, whereby the former derives from the latter.1 Noise is disturbance in a signal or communication; nausea occurs from perceptual unease or disease related to the gut and nose but also the ear through balance. For a signal to be perceived or nausea to subside, noise or the disturbance in the movement must be expunged. There is the threat that noise and nausea, left untreated, will becoming all consuming. With this preliminary relation of sound to body politics, I explore the significance of queer, feminine, and disabled punks and punks of color in the contemporary LA punk scene fusing nosiness into hardcore and articulating this nosiness to their political bodies and body politics, lyrically (and in ways that disturb lyrical communication, i.e. through noise). My work shows the artistry and provocative bricolage not as amateurism but rather as visceral disruption of the work of hardcore in policing certain punk(ed) bodies beginning in 1980s LA. I share a genealogy of punk musicians’ grappling with nausea through visceral cries that are heard as noise to be policed and silenced by controls placed on bodies (e.g. shaming).

Drawing on UCLA punk archives, political history, primary source materials, and the Decline of Western Civilization film (Spheeris, 1980), I read the stylistic contrast between early LA punk in the city and 1980s suburban hardcore. My readings offer insight into the work of hardcore as containment of noise and policing of bodies thought to be diseased and contagious. I situate such politics in Reagan conservatism and argue that in a move that mirrored white flight a generation earlier, hardcore participants traded the nosiness of the city for the quiet of the suburbs. In the 1980s, with the (in)visibility of HIV and AIDs, immigration issues, and the push-back following 1960s liberation movements, the 1970s punk scene became a target for purification through hardcore that adopted a straightforward sound and gatekeeping mechanisms, often through violence, that pushed out the artistic, experimental bands, such as X, the Germs, and the Bags. While they challenged Reagan’s political philosophies, hardcore bands clearly articulated their codified messages and endeavored a purging of punk’s nosiness: its queerness, femininity, disability, vociferous amblings (“gimme a beer”), and non-whiteness. Hardcore politics of the body often expunged difference, preferring the homosocial and ableist masculinity. Today, Trump plays up xenophobia and aligns boundary crossing with invisible threats. I reflect on punks’ corporeal and geographical mappings that have re-infused noisiness into hardcore to engender an aesthetics of nausea or disgust with the political environment to which it has been historically tied.

Craig Pollard (Newcastle University)
‘Exposing (and exploding) contradictions: particular trajectories of US hardcore’

This paper will suggest that punk and diy communities emerge in response to fundamental socio-political cracks and contradictions implicit within the world as it exists. The paper will think specifically about ‘american hardcore’ and some its more interesting offshoots, and will attempt to trace a lineage pairing Guy Debord and the situationists with groups such as Nation of Ulysses, Beat Happening and Bikini Kill.


Published by Gustav Thomas

Claws & Tongues was started in order to provide a visible yet fluid platform with which to try out ideas for writings by Gustav Thomas that may or may not lead elsewhere, as in articles, chapters, essays, papers zines or books. Gustav Thomas is my real name in so far as it comprises the two middle names included on my birth certificate, which, as a bona fide part of my ‘real’ name makes it only a half-alias. I’m not ashamed, especially, of what one would normally consider my ‘real name,’ but I don’t intend to use it on this blog or announce it here, in this ‘about’ text, or anywhere else on this blog. That’s not because I wish to keep it somehow hidden or secret – to find out what my framing monikers are would be very easy since I’ve never sought to keep them separate from Gustav Thomas. Rather it’s because that ‘real’ name is the one that teachers, headmasters, employers, medical receptionists, the Inland Revenue, medical staff, authorities of any kind, and so on, and on, has been so thoroughly used by, and thus inextricably tied to, such institutional protocols, that it leaves me, as an individual who, like any individual has the capacity to access their own agency, very little space or scope for developing the potential power and effectiveness of that agency. Gustav Thomas happens to also be my facebook name and as a musician I also chose it (actually the first time I used it) as the pseudonym I use whenever I produced 8-bit Techno on a Gameboy (I haven’t ruled out extending that use to any beat-based project should I pursue any in the future, in preference to either Virginia Pipe or Copydex, the latter being, for obvious reasons, a strictly plunderphonic collage vehicle, anyway). Gustav Thomas also conveniently encapsulates my two ethnic provenances as half Slovene and half Welsh; they are also the first names of both my grandfathers, one a fairly well known (in his time) Slovene writer, novelist and educationalist, the other a WW2 colonel among officers who led the Normandy landings, for whatever significance that, or any other part of their own rich histories, can have, here, or in anything else that I do. Above all, I have started this blog because in my professional life, which is academic, I have made the decision, officially, to have my research assessed (by the various state bodies that do that, through the RAE, REF etc.) as much through my thinking and writing as through my art practice, which it has been exclusively so far. The kind of writing I intend to do is the kind of writing I’ve always done, over the past 15 years mostly on internal departmental blogs meant as teaching support, and will almost completely draw on things I’ve been thinking and saying within an academic context during that time. My first extended pieces, then (those that are 10,000 words or more), are being extracted from my brain as a matter of almost pathological necessity, freeing up space before I can move on and at least learn new ideas, if not make them and articulate them formally. Given the context, and my stage in life (a 50-year-old whose two kids have left home), I fully intend not to start teaching myself to write in a recognizably formal-academic style; nor do I intend for my writing to be considered as such, albeit there are inevitable traces of academia in what I’m writing due to my having earned my living as an academic for – already - too long. Instead my intention is to improve, develop and extend the style I already have which will have probably begun somewhere in early childhood when I first scrawled some short stories with the vague idea that I wanted to be a ‘writer’ and, above all which has evolved through at least three decades of learning, loving to know about, talking about, and teaching about music, art and the ideas, impulses and inherent discourses that inhabit and surround them. I am aware that I have a propensity to criticize certain other artists and commentators harshly, often with extreme formulations, in a manner easily identifiable as arrogance or some such self-interested tendency. I’m not sure exactly where that emerged from; it could be the years of being fully committed (because I knew it was right) to a mode of expressive practice that operates very consciously, and critically, beyond the reductive ring-fencing of ordained culture, what most people think of as Music and Art - Culture; it may well be, though, that I learned such an approach from certain writers I’ve read over the years – it’s in Dostoyevsky, Bukowski and DeLillo in ways I can see in my own mannerisms, but also in someone like Ben Watson/Out To Lunch, whose writing on music and ideas not only had a big impact on me but certainly also encouraged me to be bold and direct about what I knew needed saying, not least because – and this is central to everything – the way in which music, popular music, popular arts and cultures are dealt with on the day-to-day ordinary level, as in what people consume, accept and ingest, how/why they do it, manages to circumscribe completely the immeasurable seriousness regarding how politically and ideologically penetrating all art is (and was always meant to be), but especially (and this is embarrassingly tautological in a way that’s generally ignored) that which is thrust upon a people at great expense by its state and the (almost entirely) corporate (read: oligarchal) interests the State serves. I’ve been accused by colleagues of being too polemical and by Ben Watson as not being a polemicist at all, in both cases meant as identifying a weakness; I would say that to consider anything I write as polemical would be to negate any capacity it may have to say something useful – too much is being said and done by modern humanity that is unfathomably (self-)destructive. My drive in all this comes from a need not necessarily to oppose and take up the position on any opposite pole; rather I just feel that someone (as many someones as possible, starting anywhere at all, including just ‘me’) needs to be engaging in a tendency to question, starting with the very simple interruption, ‘Hang on a second… that can’t be right.’ There are tens of thousands of writers and artists already doing that very well, of course. This blog is merely a workshop from which to start making my own contribution more discernible and, just possibly, useful.

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