Punk Rock. Alternative Music, or whatever else you want to call it, has long been my refuge.
I was into music from a very young age. The main reason I support Liverpool FC (please don’t stop reading) was simply because I knew The Beatles came from there. Then, when I was 8 years old my Mum taught me how to play a few chords on the guitar after she picked me up from Primary School in Portstewart, County Derry, NI. I’d been flatly rejected from getting violin lessons (real Punk Rock, I know) and a chance to play in the School Orchestra as I was apparently tone deaf (more Punk Rock now, you could say).
As I got a little older I started to listen to my brothers Guns N Roses cassettes, and then bought my first album, Public Enemy, It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back. That album informed, at the best of times, my drive and, personally, the power of a strong and defiant statement.
It, essentialy, more than anything I had really paid attention to previously, showed me how powerful words could be.
Words when coupled with an idea, I still believe if executed correctly, are the single most powerful force we have as a species.
Unfortunately, these forces can do just as much harm as they can good. So in these times especially, we need good words and good ideas.
As I fell head over heels in love with Public Enemy, Guns N Roses ceaseless posturing grew ever more weary on my young inquisitive mind, plus there was no way I could master those riffs on my crappy little guitar!
One day, when visiting my cooler, older cousins in Derry, they played me Bleach by Nirvana, and I thought it rocked like nothing I’d ever heard, and most importantly, it sounded like I could play it.
I was 10.
A 10 year old Punk in waiting had been born.
Bleach had already been out a few years at this stage. Shortly after that, Smells Like Teen Spirit was released to an unsuspecting world and if legacy is to be believed an even more unsuspecting Nirvana. I liked Teen Spirit, but it wasn’t until I was 11 and first heard Lithium that something really clicked.
That was it.
Life changed forever.
The sheer simplicity of it. There’s only two different chord progressions in the song but I had never heard anything as dynamic, maudlin, humorous* and downright amazing sounding in one 4 minute package.
From Nirvana I got into all the Seattle bands and those who were lumped in with it and from there I started exploring the roots of Nirvana. Sonic Youth, The Melvins, Tad, Shonen Knife, etc.
Then I started delving in further to some more obvious choices to some less obvious ones. The Sex Pistols to Naked Raygun. The Clash to Fugazi and so on.
Fugazi became my new Nirvana. Almost literally! They, to me, were like Nirvana and Public Enemy in one glorious ensemble. The rage, the melody, the riffs, the dynamism. So bombastic they could change your life on a daily basis. An ethos I wished to install in each of the bands I formed ever since. Bands in school, to PepperBook to AsiMyfaNESIA* (asiwyfa).
I had the idea of doing this EP just before I went to London to start work on my debut solo record.
When I was left with little choice from my last band but to go out on my own, I began to embrace where my musical journey had begun. All the way back to my mother teaching me those Denver, Dylan and Baez songs. I took an acoustic guitar and hopped back on that path I had started out on all those years ago, except now with nearly two decades of a punk rock/alternative education under my belt.
People thought I’d lost my mind, some people still do. In fact, people have told me that, almost every time I leave the house for a gig, or a cycle, or to buy magic beans*.
All because my parents told me if you don’t have something nice to say about somebody don’t say anything at all. If you get what I mean.
For the record if following your muse is being crazy, I guess I’m certifiable*.
I was labeled folk at an early stage of my VerseChorusVerse guise, and in a lot of ways I embraced it and in a lot of ways I was confused by it. Thinking it lazy. I just wanted to write songs, hence the name. Anyway, the more I thought of it, I realised that there is very little difference in Folk and Punk.
Both are very simple forms of expression that strike a chord, pun intended, with a lot of people. Myself clearly included.
Both are names for people.
So then I decided to take some of the songs that had help shape me musically, and re-imagine them into a manner in which the production was stripped to some guitars, vocals, harmonica, handclaps and, most importantly, the sentiment. Because THAT is what Folk and Punk share.
Raw, honest, sentiment. Sometimes angry, sometimes wistful, sometimes funny, always true.
I decided to record these at home, or in-between album sessions, exploring what I could do sonically, sounding separate from the previously mentioned album, hence the fairly Lo-Fi recordings (hey, it just adds to the sentiment!) and to put them on Bandcamp at a pay whatever you want to pay price and donate every single penny/cent/bean equally to two charities I hold very dear to my heart.
First Fortnight is a Mental Health Charity that works passionately with the Creative Arts that I have worked with closely in the past, and will in the future, if they’ll have me.
I first publicly admitted my own problems with depression on Irish National Radio whilst working with them and since some people have done nothing to play down the notion that I lost my mind, I figure I best help these guys out*.
Action Cancer (Coleraine) was an organisation my Mother, who started me out on this path in every single way, was Chairperson of for a few years before she lost her own battle with Cancer 12 years ago today on the 25th July.
She was Diagnosed on one of their mobile units.
A Big Red (and white) Van I believe.
I miss her dearly and thank her every day for the gifts she bestowed upon me and the things she taught me.
Please give what you can, and listen to people music.
The * denotes the first *
Important for the humourless*.
1. 100% - Sonic Youth
The lead track off the,”Dirty”, album. My first real band, PepperBook used to cover it. A classic.
2. Margin Walker - Fugazi
The lead track off the EP of the same name. My favourite Fugazi song.
3. Get Over You - The Undertones
The first of two NI covers. Always loved the song, in particular the version on the DOE ad.
Can you tell?
4. Wasted Life - Stiff Little Fingers
The second NI cover, I always loved how discordant and out of tune the original was, here I’ve
tried to take that and make a texture outta it. Maybe.
5. Territorial Pissings - Nirvana
Off the Nevermind album and some would say this track is the band at their most Punk Rock.
Probably not the band though. I fancied exploring the melody, which I always felt was so strong.
6. Bankrobber - The Clash
Joe Strummer used to call himself Woody. I thought it’d be cool to delve into that.