Categories
Music Education

Dub: The Genre That Built Goth

I’ve touched on the history of goth music on this platform before.

Considering the sheer volume of goth and goth-adjacent bands I cover on here, I think it’s safe to say that I’m fairly goth-focused. However, I’m far from an expert. When it comes to anything I’m passionate about, I consider myself perpetually learning and perpetually growing.

I’ve been long-familiar with the influence of punk music on the development of the goth subculture. Post-punk exists a staple of goth music (and my top genre of 2023).

Photo by blocks on Unsplash

What I wasn’t aware of, however, was the influence of black culture on early goth music. Once goth began to branch out from its deathrock roots, artists drew from numerous inspirations.

Among them, and arguably among the most important to the scene, was a genre I wasn’t even aware of until I started my research. This genre was not only important, but quite literally spearheaded the production of one of the most iconic goth songs of all time.

What is Dub?

Dub emerged from the reggae scene in the late ’60s and early ’70s. In its earliest iterations, dub tracks were simply instrumental versions of reggae songs.

According to an article by MasterClass, artists would strip a track — usually of the reggae, ska and rocksteady genres — of its leading vocals and highlight bass and drums, occasionally mixing in their own sound effects.

The “first” dub track was created in 1968 when the engineer for Treasure Isle studio accidentally pressed a copy of “On the Beach” by the Paragons without the accompanying vocal track. The mistake was a hit among Jamaican DJs, who improvisationally rapped (a practice called toasting) over the instrumentals.

Cover for “On the Beach” by The Paragons

Jamaican audio engineer Osbourne “King Tubby” Ruddock, roused by the track’s unexpected success, took to his mixing desk to experiment. Ruddock’s influence was instrumental in the growth of dub’s popularity and its spread overseas.

None of this would have been possible if not for the advent of multitrack recording, which allowed artists to strip down tracks in the first place. Other technological advancements in the recording industry would later prove instrumental in the development of the genre.

Cover of “Escape to the Asylum of Dub” by Mad Professor

In the 1980s, a dub scene emerged in the United Kingdom with artists such as Mad Professor, Scientist, Jah Shaka, Adrian Sherwood, UB40 and Mikey Dread, who inspired acts like the Clash and the Police.

This influence can be seen among tracks like “Police & Thieves” and “So Lonely.”

During this time, electronic elements also made their way into the scene, leading to subgenres like dubstep and dub techno. Contemporary dub is considered an electronic genre as a result, often played in clubs and dance halls.

What’s that got to do with goth music?

The list of genres influenced by dub is multitudinous, featuring rock, post-punk, pop, hip-hop, house, techno, edm and many others.

If you’ve made it this far, you might be thinking: oh, dub influenced the goth scene through its relationship to post-punk. And while you wouldn’t be wrong, there’s an even more overt example of dub’s impact on the goth scene.

Bela Lugosi’s Dead,” the debut single of Bauhaus, is widely considered to be the first gothic rock record. Released on Aug. 6, 1979, the 9-minute track served as a tongue-in-cheek tribute to the late Bela Lugosi, star of the 1931 film “Dracula.”

Cover for “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” by Bauhaus

According to bassist David J in a 2018 interview with Post-Punk.com, dub and reggae were major influences in the song’s production.

“I mean, basically Bela was our interpretation of dub,” J said.

The sprawling instrumental beats and deep, preternatural bass of the song’s first half certainly echo dub’s style.

“It’s all very intuited,” frontman Peter Murphy said in a 2019 interview with Kerrang! magazine. “Very dub.”

Additional Reading

For some more info on reggae, check out “Chef’s Quick Bite of Reggae.”

For some additional reading on dub, check out “The Roots of Dub” by Kirt Degiorgio.

Categories
Music Education

Niche Online Genre Time: Mineral Ambient

On the internet, it has been incredibly easy to find incredibly niche music if you know how to look for it, or even if you just accidentally stumble into it. One of my favorite recent instances of this has been a scene referred to as mineral ambient, or simply mineralism.

Mineral ambient is a form of ambient that focuses on atmospherics based off of ambient dub and dub techno, which means lots of echo, layering, and a very nocturnal sound.

Unlike these, mineral ambient has a strong focus on creating an organic-yet-surreal atmosphere – I’ve personally described it as “primordial ooze music,” which I still feel is a good descriptor of the vibe.

The unusual name comes from the label West Mineral Ltd, which describes itself on its website as “an Audio-Mineral exploration company.” Founded by ambient artist Huerco S, the label is considered the originator of the sound.

That said, after development by artists outside of it, there’s now a wide range of albums that would be considered mineral ambient or adjacent to it. So let’s get into some!

Categories
Music Education

The Metal Minute: Progressive Metal

Welcome to the second installation of The Metal Minute. If you’re new to this series, I’m taking on the (impossible? delusional? moronic?) task of defining as many metal subgenres as I can.

Last time, I covered the basics of folk metal. This week, I’m shifting focus onto one of my personal favorite metal subgenres: prog.

Progressive Metal: The Foundation

To understand progressive metal, it’s important to first understand progressive rock. 

Prog rock blossomed in the late 60’s and early 70’s as a way to imbue rock with “artistic” sensibilities, thus “elevating” the craft. Pretentious British intellectualism aside, the genre served as a platform for artists to subvert and ape the “archetypal” structure of rock.

Cover for “Gentle Giant” by Gentle Giant

Groups played with musical structure, tempo, timbre and instrumentation. They also incorporated experimental, classical, jazz, folk and psychedelic influences. Irregularity, complexity and melody defined the genre, paving the way for some truly amazing art.

Progressive rock bands I personally enjoy include King Crimson, Porcupine Tree and Gentle Giant. 

The Fusion

Many sources state that progressive metal emerged in the late 80’s. What’s important to note here is the word “emerged.”

It would be inaccurate to claim that the genre “began” at a specific point in time, because prior to progressive metal’s “solidification,” the worlds of metal and prog rock had already melded several times.

In Jeff Wagner’s “Mean Deviation,” he mentions the influence of King Crimson’s 1974 album “Red,” which frontman Robert Fripp himself considered “a beautiful piece of heavy metal.”

Other groups like Led Zeppelin, Rush and Deep Purple experimented with sounds that could also be considered proto-progressive metal.

Cover for “The Verdict” by Queensrÿche

Music under the official title of “progressive metal” was spearheaded by bands like Queensrÿche, who fused the cerebral style of progressive rock with the characteristic aggression and heft of metal.

Though largely relegated to the realm of the underground well into the 90’s, progressive metal — like the genres that produced it — metamorphozed into a many-headed beast.

Rules and standards were continually established and surpassed as artists discovered new inspirations, furthered their experimentation and diverged from their peers.

As a result, it’s honestly kind of hard to lay out a concrete definition of progressive metal. But in this instance, is something concrete really necessary?

In the words of Wagner:

One thing prog metal certainly is, is metal. Hard and bold and brash, but refined, adulterated, and mutated; it is heavy metal taken somewhere illuminating and sometimes bizarre.

Jeff Wagner, “Mean Deviation: Four Decades of Progressive Heavy Metal,” pg. 19.

Progressive Metal Today

Today, the first band most people imagine when thinking of progressive metal is TOOL.

Formed in 1990, TOOL is lauded for its stylistic complexity. The band’s discography features uncommon time signatures, experimental sound and tonal effects, occultist themes and meticulous composition.

The band’s song “Lateralus” was so influential that it has its own Wikipedia page.

Cover for “Lateralus” by TOOL

Other prominent prog metal bands are Opeth, Soen, Polyphia, Dream Theater and many others.

Songs by these artists are entrancing and multifaceted, often with several “acts” and incorporating styles from jazz, folk, psychedelic and many others.

If you’re hesitant about diving headfirst into the metal scene, prog might be a good place to start.

Categories
Music Education

The Metal Minute: Folk Metal

As a metal-music-enjoyer, I find myself often daunted by the abject volume of metal subgenres that exist. This undertaking marks my (futile? misguided?) attempt to make sense of them.

Welcome to the Metal Minute.

What is Folk Metal?

Folk metal is probably one of the easier metal subgenres to parse, as it’s simply a marriage between the archetypal characteristics of metal and the style of European folk music.

There are several subgenres of folk metal (which only deepens the complexity of the metal iceberg), such as Celtic metal, Viking metal, medieval metal and pagan metal.

Cover for “Njord” by Leaves’ Eyes

The differences between these subgenres come from their distinct styles and influences, with Viking metal centering itself around Viking and Norse mythos while medieval metal draws its sound from the traditional folk instruments of the British Isles.

Instruments like the flute, lute and bagpipes abound.

When Did it Start?

According to MasterClass, folk metal developed in the 90s as different metal groups from Western and Central Europe began to experiment with their native folk music traditions.

Many groups were already experimenting with other metal subgenres, such as gothic metal, progressive metal, symphonic metal and melodic death metal. Thus, it was not a far jump for bands to integrate different folk styles into their work.

Cover for “Himmelfahrt” by Subway to Sally

Bands were not limited to the folk traditions of their native countries, either. Many groups, such as Subway to Sally, explored styles from other nations and integrated them into their own work. The band, hailing from Germany, was heavily inspired by Celtic traditions.

Eventually, folk metal influences traveled to Eastern Europe, leading groups to pop up in Russia, Hungary, Bulgaria and Latvia.

Today, folk metal groups can be found across the world.

Categories
Music Education

Appalachian Murder Ballads: An Overview

What is Appalachian Music, Anyway?

When I approached the subject of the Appalachian murder ballad, I first had to answer the question: what is Appalachian music? 

Believe it or not, I’m far from the first person to ask this. In fact, dozens (maybe even hundreds) of academics and historians have been trying to piece together an answer for decades. 

In Jane Becker’s book “Appalachia and the Construction of an American Folk,” she explores the “folk revival” of the 1930’s to 1940’s and the ways in which “the structures and ideals of a culture dedicated to industrialism, consumption, and rationality” ultimately recast and commodified the authenticity of Appalachian folk culture. 

This “iconization” of Appalachia ultimately makes it difficult to parse out the “true history” of Appalachian folk music, as it’s been primarily non-Appalachians (specifically, upper- and middle-class academics) who set about the task of defining and contextualizing Appalachian culture.

Photo by Thomas Bishop on Unsplash

John Alexander Williams’s book “Appalachia: A History” suggests that the popularized construct of Appalachian folk music – defined by its parallels to the music of the British Isles – was ultimately borne from the ignorance of “the contemporary and topical sounds of town dwellers, mine workers, and any others ‘spoiled’ by too much contact with non-British culture” whom scholars deemed “unfit for study.”

To rephrase all of this in plainer language: Appalachian folk music is hard to define because of its misrepresentation.

Perhaps this knowledge isn’t essential to understanding the Appalachian murder ballad specifically, but I feel that it’s obligatory to point out.

The Murder Ballad

As opposed to the scope of Appalachian folk music, the murder ballad is easy to define.

Modeled after the traditional ballad, murder ballads illustrate a narrative that hashes out the events of a murder.

Often inspired by real events (“Omie Wise”), these ballads typically involve the murder of a woman by her lover, often (though not always) as a result of unwanted pregnancy.

Murder ballads can be from the perspective of the murderer, the victim, or an unnamed third party. Occasionally, they can portray the murderer as sympathetic.

Photo by James Park on Unsplash

Murder ballads are not localized to the Appalachian region. Rather, they originate from the British Isles — with the earliest iterations emerging in the 1500s — and made their way to the Americas in the mouths of Scottish and English immigrants.

Many American murder ballads are in fact directly inspired by songs from the Old World.

For example, “The Knoxville Girl,” comes from the 19th-century Irish ballad “The Wexford Girl,” which itself took inspiration from the English ballad “The Bloody Miller” detailing a murder that occurred in 1683.

Photo by Chen Mizrach on Unsplash

Famous Murder Ballads – The Formula

One of the most commercially successful ballads is “Tom Dooley,” inspired by the case of Tom Dula, who murdered his lover in 1866 after she became pregnant.

Hang down your head Tom Dooley
Hang down your head and cry
Killed poor Laura Foster
You know you’re bound to die

“Tom Dooley,” lyrics from here

Dula was executed in 1868 in Wilkes County, North Carolina. The song, popularized by the Kingston Trio in 1958, was a “breakthrough hit.”

Another well-known murder ballad is “Omie Wise,” which tells the story of a man who, upon discovering his lover’s pregnancy, lured her to a river and drowned her.

‘Little Omie, little Omie, I’ll tell you my mind.
My mind is to drown you and leave you behind.’

‘Have mercy on my baby and spare me my life,
I’ll go home as a beggar and never be your wife.’

He kissed her and hugged her and turned her around,
Then pushed her in deep waters where he knew that she would drown.

“Omie Wise,” lyrics by Doc Watson

Pretty Polly” is another widely popular song, depicting a young woman lured to her death by her lover. In some versions, Polly’s murder is the result of her pregnancy.

Oh Polly, Pretty Polly, your guess is about right
Polly, Pretty Polly, your guess is about right
I dug on your grave the biggest part of last night

Oh she knelt down before him and what did she spy
She knelt down before him and what did she spy
A knew dug grave with the spade lying by

“Pretty Polly,” lyrics by Ralph Stanley

Rewriting the Murder Ballad

Though many ballads ended with the execution of the murderer, they often presented their narratives with a sympathetic slant, as though the men were somehow victims in of themselves, forced to act out violence in order to preserve their reputations.

Themes of femicide and patriarchal honor abound throughout the murder ballad genre, with songs often posited as “warnings” for young women to lead “respectable” lives.

Photo by Wes McFee on Unsplash

The romanticization of these female figures and the sensationalism surrounding their deaths only further compounds the clash between 19th century modernism and conservatism, with female sexual agency synonimized with doom.

In the 1940s, women began to rewrite the murder ballad, excising the “Ophelia” archetype and replacing her with a cognizant (and more overtly dangerous) woman.

Some of these songs include Patsy Montana’s “I Didn’t Know the Gun Was Loaded,” which details the exploits of “Miss Effie,” a gunslinging “femme fatale.”

Now one night she had a date, 
With a wrestling heavyweight.
And he tried a brand new hold,
She did not appreciate.
So she whipped out her pistol,
And she shot him in the knee,
And quickly, she sang this plea.

“I Didn’t Know the Gun Was Loaded,” Patsy Montana

Wanda Jackson’s 1966 “The Box It Came In” was another major hit, telling the story of a woman’s resolution to exact revenge on her former lover.

He took everything with him that wasn’t nailed down,
Bet he’s got a new sweetheart to fill my wedding gown.
But somewhere I’ll find him then I’ll have peace of mind,
And the box he comes home in will be all satin-lined.

“The Box It Came In,” Wanda Jackson

I would be committing a travesty if I didn’t mention Dolly Parton’s influence. Not only has she covered numerous murder ballads, but she wrote her own in 1967.

Photo by Joe Beck on Unsplash

The Bridge” first appears to follow the classic murder ballad formula, featuring an unmarried woman who finds herself pregnant. However, rather than murder her, her lover flees.

Left alone, the woman returns to the bridge — the site of their first rendezvous — and resolves to commit suicide.

While the story of “The Bridge” has a tragic end, Parton places agency in the hands of her female lead and implicity exposes the plight of women in a patriarchal society.

Final Thoughts

Though I’ve spent hours researching this subject, I’ve only just scratched the surface.

The history of the Appalachian murder ballad (and Appalachian music in general) is intensely rich and insanely complex.

While I’ve mentioned the innovations of female artists in the mid-twentieth century, twenty-first century artists continue to recontextualize the prototypal murder ballad and imbue the Appalachian folk genre with new, experimental sounds.

While I would probably consider myself a casual listener at best, I look forward to delving deeper into Appalachian folk music and uncovering more of its compelling history.

Categories
Miscellaneous Music Education

“We Are the Best!” – Swedish Punk Film

“We Are the Best!” is a movie set in the early 1980’s when traditional Swedish punk like KSMB started to decline in popularity. It centers around a trio of young girls making themselves seen through block-headed determination to have their uniqueness shine into the world around them.

Swedish punk music truly came alive in the 1970’s with bands like KSMB and Ebba Grön, and in the 1980’s hardcore punk became more mainstream in bands like Mob 47 and Anti Cimex (info from Discogs).

When I watched this movie, I had little knowledge of Swedish punk history. I hadn’t really listened to many old school punk bands not from the US or UK. While the movie doesn’t dive too much into niche punk bands and sounds, it supplies viewers with delightful, raw punk spirit through the three main characters, Bobo, Klara and Hedvig. 

The film is based on the director’s wife’s (Coco Moodysson) graphic novel, “Never Goodnight”. I haven’t read it myself but the art style encapsulates the DIY nature of punk energy and the movie’s story does so too (this article has a few snippets from the book). 

“We Are the Best!” was released in 2013. Director Lukas Moodysson, with the guidance of his partner Coco Moodysson, also created the screenplay for this film. If you want to watch this film, you can find it for free on YouTube with ads. 

The Plot:

I am going to get into some spoilers for this film, so if you don’t want to read them, stop reading here. 

Two besties, Klara and Bobo, are thirteen years old and tired of taking s**t for being young, girls, punk and different from everyone else. We see them compared to their stereotyped blond teen classmates and older boys and adults who constantly patronize them. 

On an absolute whim stemming from justified anger, Klara and Bobo start making music and writing songs. The two do everything together. They’re completely reliant on each other, but still have their tensions sparking fights throughout the film. Eventually, at a school talent show, they meet Hedvig, an outwardly appearing Christian conservative with real talent for music. 

Bobo and Klara recruit Hedvig to join their band and the three of them continuously get into trouble while opening Hedvig’s eyes to the world beyond Christianity.

After meeting up with other local punks and a few internal dramatic moments, Bobo, Klara and Hedvig have their first gig by the end of the film. They get raucous boo’s for being girls, but absolutely eat up the negative energy as fuel for their righteous performance on stage. The movie ends with the three of them being the best of friends and living up to their fullest punk potentials.

Why’s It So Good?

“We Are the Best!” does a phenomenal job at capturing and harnessing true punk spirit, realistic characters, history and tension. I love all the interactions between every side character, little gimmicks of getting free food, begging for money, just everything Bobo, Hedvig and Klara did together seemed whimsical and true to the nature of young teens trying to be themselves in a structured conforming society. 

The music was also amazing. The characters had great dialogue about the music of the times (which I think is accurate, not really sure because my music history knowledge is poor). Scenes with classic Swedish-punk tunes like “Schweden Schweden” by Ebba Grön and “Sex Noll Två” tied the dialogue and history together with the raw emotion you get from punk tracks. You can check out the whole soundtrack list on IMDb

The pacing of the film was also well done. Characters and events flowed smoothly from one triumph or failure to the next without losing my interest. Also, there were tons of hilarious and awkward interactions between children and adults that still occur today. I love it when a movie transcends time periods to show how actions between each other are still the same. 

Conclusions:

I loved “We Are the Best!”. Lukas and Coco Moodysson created a wonderful homage to that awkward punk spirit I wish I had when I was younger, and they’ve made a piece of art that shows us why rebellious kids and adults will never die out as a fad ever again. People will continue to be marginalized for something they can’t control, so the only option to counter that is to be loud, stand tall, and join with your friends to fight for individuality. 

I definitely recommend taking some time to watch this film with homies, besties, buds, friends, companions, really anyone that you’re close to because it will make you all smile without fail.

Categories
Music Education

Egg Punk – A Genre Field Guide

Sometimes when I talk about genres, I’m accused of making them up. I think this is fair, especially when it comes to egg punk.

I’ve been listening to egg punk since 2019, though I never knew that there was a name for the “weird punk stuff” I’d play while filing through backstock at my old retail job.

Anti-Genre

Egg punk is, for all intents and purposes, a satirical genre born from internet chatrooms.

Apparently inspired by the works and aesthetic of DEVO, egg punk is mild, colorful and imbued with a new wave influence that sets it apart from other punk genres.

Cover for “DOG” by Snooper

While some sources claim the genre got its start in 2013 as a response to the abject overseriousness of “chain punks,” there isn’t anything scholarly (that I could find, at least) to support this.

This distinction isn’t to be taken too seriously, either. The egg-chain dichotomy is, at its core, mere meme fuel.

The Sound and Style

All the same, it’s pretty easy to identify.

Egg punk music is inherently unserious, energetic and ironic. With firm roots in punk’s DIY style, egg punk bands use minimal recording and mixing and cheap synths.

Cover for “Grass” by Powerplant

The result is music that sounds transfused by static, but in a strangely good way.

The genre can also be distinguished by its art style, which draws from both DIY and experimentalism. Egg punk band album covers often appear hand-drawn or collaged.

Egg Punk Artists

Notable egg punk groups that served to bolster the genre’s hold include Uranium Club, Lumpy and The Dumpers, The Coneheads and many others.

Other egg punk bands include:

Categories
Blog Music Education

Short Dip into Japanese Hardcore Punk

Okay, hello, hi. How are we doin’? I’ve been doing a little digging around in my free time this past week to find some cool bands and sounds for my future DJ sets here at WKNC, and I stumbled upon a little bit of treasure for myself. 

I’ve taken a dive into the Japanese Hardcore punk scene. With a little bit of background research “sponsored” by Google translate, Wikipedia and Discogs, we can explore some of the limited (on my end) originations of this genre and see some of the directions it has spread until today’s time.

History Time:

Wikipedia says Japanese Hardcore started in the 1980’s to protest social reforms that were occuring at the time in Japan. With these musical protests came what is regarded as the first band on the Japanese Hardcore scene: SS.

Unfortunately, SS does not have any of their music released onto streaming services like Spotify or Bandcamp, but you can take a listen to this YouTube recording to get a taste of their sound. They have a similar style to renowned punk bands like Bad Brains and Black Flag’s earlier vibes.

SS’s sound was a perfect platform for the explosion of noises that have taken off from this point on in Japan. 

Recent Times:

One of my favorite websites I like to use for exploring genres is Every Noise at Once (shoutout to the previous GM of WKNC for teaching me about it). I was able to find tons of new, classic and stale sounds from Japanese Hardcore music here.

One of the drawbacks is that it only lists artists and bands that can be found on Spotify, so I had to do a little more research through Bandcamp (great article covering neat bands from this genre) and YouTube to discover the unique sounds that I knew were out there. 

Here a few of my favorites and links to their work:

Sicilian Blood – I loved their flashy play style, the quick vocals, rapid-fire drums and the noise level. They’ve got a mix of English curse words and Japanese lyrics, so anyone listening can have a fun time thrashing.

Sekiri – This band’s name translated to English is “dysentery”; they’re an all female group who formed in 1983 and disbanded in 1995 by 14 to 15 year olds according to Discogs. Who has more punk spirit than the youth? Sekiri’s got mellow, husky vocals, loud drums and a quiet but efficient guitar. I love listening to their track “4649, but I’m excited to explore their limited discography in depth. 

One more band I got for y’all is THE CONTINENTAL KIDS. I’ve really only listened to a few of their tracks (because I haven’t been able to find more of their content) and it’s got the energy that I was looking for. In “BANZAI ATTACK” the band unleashes a barrage of noise with some classic metal influenced guitar riffs, throaty and evil vocals and some fast paced drums which add to the nostalgic feel THE CONTINENTAL KIDS produces. 

Conclusions:

I really enjoyed perusing this genre of music and I can’t wait to create a future set out of the artists and bands I’ve taken a liking to. I hope some of this has been informative or even an interesting perspective on this genre. There’s tons more of these sounds and variations out there.

As a treat, if you made it this far, here’s a cool “Holy Diver” cover of Dio’s legendary track.

Categories
Music Education

What is Ska? A Genre Field Guide

When I finally sat down to watch the 2023 Universal Pictures film “Renfield,” I did so with an open mind.

It may not be surprising, but I tend to be the kind of person who takes films too seriously.

I think the fact that I refer to movies as “films” is evidence enough that I need to spend more time outdoors and less time analyzing the microexpressions of dewy-eyed male actors.

So going into “Renfield,” I tried to manage my expectations. I’d already heard that the film wasn’t anything groundbreaking — I mean, how could it be? — but that it was, at face value, an extremely fun watch.

And it was.

The shlocky cartoon violence and Mortal Kombat-style body horror was beautifully camp when paired with the MCR-sad-kitten-guyliner realness of Nicholas Hoult.

But what I couldn’t have possibly prepared myself for was the integration of ska — a genre I barely understood — into the film’s plotline.

So, What’s Ska?

Ska’s origins can be traced back to the 1950s in Jamaica, born of an early form of American-inspired rhythm and blues.

Jamaica’s first indigenous urban pop style, ska developed from the “shuffling rhythm” of American blues singer Rosco Gordon and different aspects of Caribbean folk music.

Due to Jamaica’s largely orally-transferred musical history, the identity of the so-called “author” of the ska genre remains contested.

Photo by Juan Di Nella on Unsplash

However, Jamaican guitarist and composer Ernest Ranglin is often named as the “godfather of ska” and a major player in the development of reggae.

The Skatalites

Following Jamaica’s 1962 indepencence from British rule, ska enjoyed a sort of renaissance.

Photo by Bill Fairs on Unsplash

Don Drummond, Roland Alphonso, Dizzy Johnny Moore, Tommy McCook, Lester Sterling, Jackie Mittoo, Lloyd Brevette, Jah Jerry and Lloyd Knibbs joined together to become the Skatalites in 1963, strengthening the foundation of the genre by making several seminal recordings for leading producers and offering support to prominent singers.

Among these individuals, Don Drummond distinguished himself as a prominent pioneer of the genre until his confinement in 1966.

What Does it Sound Like?

Unlike other genres, ska’s sound comes from very specific characteristics.

Ska music typically has a fast tempo, a 4/4 timescale, prominent horns and strongly accented offbeat guitar chords (also known as a “skank”).

Photo by Ana Grave on Unsplash

Typical ska bands feature guitars, bass, drums, saxophone, trumpet, trombone and vocals with melodic tradeoffs between singers and the horn section.

As ska developed further as a genre and pervaded into the musical conciousnesses of other worldly regions, it underwent several “waves” and branched off into fusion genres, such as ska punk.

Final Thoughts

Though often the subject of comedic derision (and normal derision), ska is a deeply influential and important genre, especially in relation to the punk subculture.

However, its influence remains largely obfuscated in discourse. While this article specifically offers a (very brief) overview of the ska genre’s origins and aspects of its style, I encourage anyone interested to delve deeper into the complex relationship between ska and its ethos and the punk rock subculture.

Understanding the intersectionality of these two spheres (which, perhaps, are not as distinct from one another as one may think) adds important context to the racial, social and cultural dynamics that shape, and have shaped, music subculture as we understand it today.

Additional Reading

  • Kauppila, Paul. “‘FROM MEMPHIS TO KINGSTON’: AN INVESTIGATION INTO THE ORIGIN OF JAMAICAN SKA.” Social and Economic Studies, vol. 55, no. 1/2, 2006, pp. 75–91. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/27866458. Accessed 22 Sept. 2023.
  • Hutton, Clinton, and Garth White. “The Social and Aesthetic Roots and Identity Of Ska.” Caribbean Quarterly, vol. 53, no. 4, 2007, pp. 81–95. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/40655000. Accessed 22 Sept. 2023.
Categories
Music Education

Sniffin’ Glue: The Origins and Influence of the First Punk Fanzine

Perhaps the title of this post is a rhetorical question.

If you’re interested enough in WKNC to peruse our website, then you probably know what a zine is.

If you don’t, that’s fine.

A lot of people, including those who make zines, find them difficult to define.

It’s part of what makes them cool.

Selection of British and American punk zines, 1994-2004, uploaded to Wikimedia Commons by Burn_the_asylum, licensed CC BY-SA 3.0

Zines are essentially handmade publications — zine is short for fanzine — created and disseminated by members of an underground subculture.

Despite their lack of official publication, zines were — and still are — vital tools within subcultural spaces.

Expressions of creativity, ethos and ideology, zines strengthen the foundations of resistance and community amid broader sociopolitical contexts.

The History

Zines can be traced to the early ’60s, where their subject matter centered on social and political activism.

By the ’70s, however, zines took on a starkly punk slant.

Zines from the Colorado College Tutt Library, licensed CC BY 2.0

“Sniffin’ Glue”

Mark Perry’s zine, “Sniffin’ Glue,” was released July 1976.

Inspired by the Ramones song “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue,” Perry devised and released the zine just days after seeing the band live in London.

Created with simple on-hand tools, “Sniffin’ Glue” embodied punk’s D.I.Y. ethos.

The zine’s cut-and-paste graphics, rugged handwriting and unpolished doodles left every page imbued with youthful vigor and punk-rock passion.

Perry’s achievement was to unite for a brief time all the tensions — between art and commerce, between avant-garde aesthetics and social realist politics — that eventually tore punk apart, and write them out in a sharp mix of emotion and intention that still makes his words fresh

J. Savage, “Sniffin’ Glue: The Essential Punk Accessory,” Mojo No. 81 August, 2000, p. 129.

Soon after the zine’s release, droves of inspired punks took to their photocopiers to take advantage of an exciting new mode of self-expression.

The resulting metamorphosis of the fanzine medium facilitated a massive creative movement.

Chainsaw” zine, produced by Charlie Chainsaw, arose from his personal desire to distinguish his work from the “‘Sniffin’ Glue’ ‘look-a-likes’.”

Other creatives followed suit, experimenting with different materials and styles.

Zine-making as a practice transformed.

Final Thoughts

Zines are still an important part of subculture today.

Walk into any record store or trendy downtown shop and you’ll likely see zines for sale in a multitude of colors and styles.

“Zine guys,” uploaded to Wikimedia Commons by college.library, licensed CC BY 2.0

The best thing about zines, and perhaps what zine-makers find most rewarding about the practice, is its freedom from stricture.

Essentially, the only rule is that there aren’t any rules.

If you’re interested in exploring some contemporary zines, consider browsing WKNC’s collection here.

Additional Reading