by Greg Foisie — CSULA grad student and Change-Links/peace movement volunteer

50 years of counter culture and nothing to show for it? After fleeing suburbia for the hippie dream, being blessed with delayed adolescence and reincarnation as a peace punk for over a decade, and living communally for over 20 years in the process, I had become thoroughly disenchanted by our current state of affairs. It appeared that despite all efforts to the contrary, half a century of protest, alternative lifestyles, screaming, and ineffective organizing have done nothing to reverse this trend, or so it seemed to me.
In a state of despondence I crawled over to Silver Lake to take in the two days of (the British, not Canadian) Subhumans at Club Los Globos. I went to interview the bands about their artistic endeavors and their views concerning peace and the mainstream charge that punks are too angry, aggressive, and scary to support or nurture peace. A couple of bands agreed before hand to see me, so I took off anticipating good fortune in corralling the rest into answering my questions.

Two Days of Punk Rock

Over two days each of five bands allowed me time to speak with them. I was blown away by the power and idealism of their music and by their determination to carry on in support of the people despite the costs such struggle ensures deviants in today’s world. I kept waiting for comments revealing shallow engagement or a just in it for the kicks attitude, but that never happened.

Screen shot 2015-12-03 at 10.49.52 PMRarely does every back-up band have the capability to energize and inspire audiences in a manner akin to that of the headliner, but that’s what I found. These events reinvigorated me with renewed hope. This article explains how this came about.
Inside the club I was transfixed by the physical presence, energy, and intimate interaction between those listening and those performing. The music from all bands could be characterized as brutal. There was seldom nuance, often guttural screaming – a blistering, an all-out assault.

Each song was uncompromising in its use of volatile energy, scalpel-edged awareness, and denunciation of all that’s wrong in the world. The groups used the full force of their music to emphasize the insight of their lyrics on topics ranging from violence in personal relationships and neighborhoods to genocide.
There was a bond between bands and listeners that was unmistakable. Each party frequently engaged the other in call-and-response fashion, as to make their roles indistinguishable at points in time. The experience was adamant in its condemnations, as well as thoroughly good-natured. The interaction created a visceral and electrifying atmosphere for each band’s set, with increasing magnitude until the Subhumans finished their last song both evenings.

Punk’s extreme high energy can morph into altercation. Yet over 10 hours of non-stop punk rock, only one brief fight broke out on the dance floor during the second night. It was quickly dispelled when the lead singer (Rob Aston of Death March) mentioned as a casual aside from center stage, If you need to fight, go fight the cops. That ended that, perhaps due to the realization by the combatants that they weren’t up to taking on real oppression at that moment.

It may seem unlikely that a listener can be lifted to new heights by a song’s message. Yet this is the case for many music fans, and I found this same sensation is conveyed in conversation with these status quo-challenging artists. This happened to me in these interviews with all of the bands. That’s amazing! The experience revived my belief that there’s still tangible benefit from the idealism and kick-ass propensity of hardcore and punk rock.

Here are the bands and what they had to say – the first four being the bands supporting the Subhumans – just two of them playing each evening preceding the headliners: first evening: °LibÈrate!, Death March; second evening: Blazing Eye, Generacion Suicida.

Change-Links - Subhumans Article Graphic-Photo - !Liberate! Logo - 11-21-15°LibÈrate!

httpss://www.facebook.com/Lib%C3%A9rate-156776204384750
The Latin-influenced, all Spanish-speaking fastcore band began in LA County about 9 years ago, around 2006. They sang their songs in Spanish, but were very accommodating to me, answering my questions in English. We went to the patio, where they described their history and rationale for their style and songs.

Jaime/Jimmy (bacteria/drums) and Moses (guitara/guitar) created the group. After Moses asked Mario to play bajo/ bass and Jimmy suggested his friend Sergio be on gritos/vocals the band was formed. They have played on and off as their responsibilities to family and work ebbed and waned, and as opportunities to perform made themselves available. They have put out 2 7#s and a discography tape + CD + LP, and hope to have an album out soon.
One of their reasons for performing is that Latinos do not have voice, and that maybe if we are screaming then someone can hear us regarding things that affect us. They grew up on the punk bands before them, and feel that ìpunk is an international community of activists and musicians, and the voices of various parents and ancestors. They cite the capacity to motivate people and encourage change by living your own morals with no compromise as attributes of the punk movement.

The band points out that 70% of their lives are lived in the Latino community, some members having learnt English as a second language outside of the home in school. ìIt makes no sense that we have to speak English, they observed.

The members of °LibÈrate! wanted a positive image for their band, one that empowered people. The word °LibÈrate! is a call ìfor people to free themselves. It is a command. It tells people to do something.
°LibÈrate! offers insightful, and meaningful content in their songs beyond the ups and downs of individual relationships so prominent in commercial rock. Their songs address topics such as immigration, institutional and systemic racism, religious institutions, and gay marriage and love, often expressing opinions in contrast to the status quo of their communities.

The following Q&As are not quotes, but convey the message in our conversation:

Band members headlining this event have been performing music denouncing war and oppression for the past 35 years. Do you share their support and commitment to peace and justice?
Yes.

What does your band do to promote an end to injustice and war aside from performing your songs? Do you feel it’s important to live a life that takes a stand against these wrongs?
We help change people. It’s important to be who you are and live your own morals. There should be no compromise in this. Change in incremental ñ it’s not immediate and happens over time. During these times there’s social media, and because of it more people are aware. All generations have their big issues, and it’s different for each generation.

Do you support working for peace and justice?
We need both peace and justice. We must have justice or death. It’s important to be pragmatic about peace. If your opinion is not respected, then peace is not the only option at your disposal. If one feels negative, it is hard to channel those feelings in a positive direction. If people are driven to anger, they canít be peaceful.

What is punk to you?
Punk is the perfect medium (for social change.) It’s communal, informative and awareness (generating). And it spreads.

I strongly recommend connecting with this band and learning from them. They really inspired me. °LibÈrate! can also be reached at https://liberatehc.bigcartel.com, https://www.twitter.com/liberate_hc, and https://liberatehc.tumblr.com/


 

blazing_eyeBlazing Eye

httpss://lavidaesunmus.bandcamp.com/album/s-t-7-5
Blazing Eye was a really intense band. I enjoyed the skill with which guitarist Sam Bosson sustained the energy of their set between songs with varied textures of feedback. Big Head is on bass and Ulysses on drums. I managed to catch a few words with vocalist Austin Delgalillo. He’s part of East 7th Punks that hosts shows, does recordings, and operates a punk resource center in central Los Angeles.

What is punk?
Punk is definitely based on your life experience. The experiences with your friends, addictions, life. The songs are about gentrification, gang injunctions, the police in your neighborhood. Our songs are personal ñ political but not preachy or judgmental. Our songs show love to the people
Punk is international and intergenerational. We don’t believe that there are veterans in the punk movement ñ we donít believe in the you weren’t there mentality. Punk is underground culture. Punk is not exclusive. We’re into punk for relationships more than money. We’re about real shit.

Band members headlining this event have been performing music denouncing war and oppression for the past 35 years. Do you share their support and commitment to peace and justice?
In regards to peace, punk is honest in a raw way. People are not black and white. Punk shows overwhelming feelings. The aggression of punk can be healing or it can eat you up. Punk can help friends overcome violence. ÖIt doesnít make sense to sing happy songs when you are upset. I listen to it all and its soul — face-to-face. Art is a real window into what the bands are about.

What does your band do to promote an end to injustice and war aside from performing your songs? Do you feel it is important to live a life that takes a stand against these wrongs?
We are in solidarity with Palestinians. We believe in self-determination.

Do you support working for peace and justice? What do you do to support these issues?
We are in support of prison abolition. We believe that there should be accountability in justice, but that it should be restorative, and that there should be an end to punishment as the main effort of the judicial system. Ö We are into keeping our friends out of prison. If one can transform and love oneís self, you can cause less hurt to others.

On the internet Blazing Eye is recognized internationally as being one of the best new punk/hardcore bands out of LA. Be sure to catch their next performance.


 

Change-Links – Subhumans at Los Globos – Subhumans Article Graphic-Photo - Death March Photo - 11–21--15Death March

httpss://www.facebook.com/Death-March-363458560393385/ and https://death-march.bandcamp.com/

Death March is Rob Aston – Lead Vocals; Freddy Zepeda – Guitar and Vocals; Jimmy Zepeda – Drums; and Martin Vasquez — Bass. These guys come from LA/Echo Park/South Central. I was able to catch the lead singer at their merch table, and he graciously granted me his time. Rob told me that their band had played before with one of my favorite punk bands, MDC.

Band members headlining this event have been performing music denouncing war and oppression for the past 35 years. Do you share their support and commitment to peace and justice?
Yes. A lot of our songs deal with war, politics, police brutality. I’m the only vegan in the band ñ that is my choice and we donít lay trips on others.

What does your band do to promote an end to injustice and war aside from performing your songs? Do you feel it’s important to live a life that takes a stand against these wrongs?
We write about how much war sucks and humans suck. We destroy the earth and the animals. That has always been weird to me. People want to be in good places, but they just destroy and kill everything, including each other. Who are they going to brag to (about how great they are) when there is no one left to listen to them brag?

Do you support any groups working for peace and justice? What do you do to support them?
We play lots of benefit shows. Half of our gigs are benefits. Our last show was a benefit in Bakersfield for No Red Tape Healthcare [https://www.noredtapehealth.org/about2.html ]. This groups provides free health care to for people with mental problems, addictions, homelessness. It’s no cost and hassle-free. If you don’t do it (help others help) when you have the chance, it may not be there if you need such services one day.

Describe punk
To be in a punk band is to help others and to spread the word. If you can be a positive influence on just one person, then that is one more positive person than the day before. When I was younger I heard Conflict (the band), and that band changed me.

What would you like to share with the public regarding your feelings about peace?
Peace would be great if it was everywhere. Unfortunately thatís a pipe dream. We’re not all on the same page. Maybe there are some changes, but there’s only so far you can get with peace before it gets physical. For example, at peace protests it does not take a lot to set off cops, and people get tired of being pushed around.

A lot of bands profess to be good and to try and help others. Rob and his band do this, and he was exceedingly generous to me, sharing some of his merchandise for free. That’s no small deal when youíre in a punk band, and I’ll remember that.


 

generacion suicidaGeneracion Suicida

http://www.facebook.com/generacionsuicidaLA
I’d gotten in touch with lead singer and rhythm guitarist Tony the preceding week, and we’d agreed to meet early outside the club. It was there that I met the other band members: Kiwi the drummer/vocalist, Mario the guitarist, and Elias the bassist, and well as an additional friend with them. We decided to go down to CafÈ Tropicana on Sunset Blvd. to talk (in English with me).

Generacion Suicida is a Spanish-speaking/singing punk band from Watts. These musicians appeared young to me ñ respectfully referring to their eveningís counterpart °LibÈrate! as ìan old band. Generacion Suicida really opened up to me, and they let me tell them about my punk years and current efforts supporting peace and justice. I managed to ask a question or two of them.

The band described how they started about 5 years ago as four friends originally in other punk bands. Their work together was on a smaller scale at first and it grew. Now they have several recordings on audio tape, several vinyls, and a flexi disc, and they have toured internationally, performing in Peru, Columbia, Panama, and other countries.

Much of their music and attitudes has been shaped by growing up in South Central LA. Their songs are about their daily life, surrounding topics such as relationships, cop brutality, discrimination, and what they see in the community.

The band has observed that there’s not much going in South Central that people outside take notice of (the glorification of gangsta life and gangsta rap being an exception). Generacion Suicida says there are similarities to the hip-hop and punk rock scenes, as they have different ways of saying the same things, and there exists a degree of acceptance and friendly rivalry between them.

In addition, with this band writing all of their songs in Spanish, Tony mentioned the double jeopardy of having to battle uphill against the prejudice against both punks and Latinos, as racism marginalizes and disenfranchises those who aren’t Anglos or Anglified. They spoke of these phenomena both artistically and socially.

Tell me about punk
Punk can mean different things to a lot of different people. For us, it’s a way to express ourselves, be part of something bigger. We see punk as a culture that follows its own rules and ethics, and we strongly live by them. It’s also used as a way to expose certain truths to people who would otherwise not listen and to express the struggles we face everyday. Being Latinos and coming from low-income areas, there are battles that we face that others will never understand (the most predominant being the gentrification of our hoods and the evictions of our friends and families).

Do you support groups working for peace and justice? What do you do to support them?
No, but we wish we could. There are issues being addressed by community groups, but the community meetings are held during working hours. We feel this is done on purpose to discourage people from the lower class from participating. Missing a day at work could mean the difference between being able to pay the rent or not for a lot of people. On top of that, many meetings are often held just outside of the city.

Talk about gangs and the police
Gangs have been a huge part of our life since we were all kids. The violence in our community has cooled down quite a bit actually. There could be many reasons for this, such as the legalization of certain drugs or the fact that everyone gets wrapped into social media and takes their beef there instead of the streets. Cops are definitely not the reason for lower violence. In our experience, cops tend to make situations worse and often antagonize the people in our community to make us look like the bad guys.
Another thing, is the exaggeration of the violence in our area. There was a rumor going around that gangs had a “100 kills in 100 days” challenge or something like that. There’s no such thing. Not everyone is out to kill you in South Central. But, I do believe that that rumor was started in order to justify an increase in police presence in our neighborhoods. The more cops in an area, the quicker they can get rid of us all to gentrify and “revitalize” our community.

What would you like to share with the public regarding your feelings about peace?
It would be great if peace could be achieved within the hood and the city. For the most part, we do live in peace though. It depends on how you perceive “peace.” Peace and violence mean different things to different people. For example, we will often be loud and rowdy, but that is a way of expressing ourselves (joyfully). Where we live that is considered normal, but if we go to another side of town and act like that, other people get upset or call the cops. It makes some people feel uncomfortable.

When we finished talking, we went back to the club where Generacion Suicida literally kicked out the jams. I really enjoyed this band’s performance. The crowd at Los Globos really liked them too. In a relatively short period of time they have accomplished a lot both as individual musicians and as a band. I’d hope to hear them play again soon.


 

Subhumans

I have rarely seen audience responses so intense and intimate as those the Subhumans sets solicited despite the onslaught from preceding bands. The band consists of Dick Lucas – lead vocals, piano (1980ñpresent); Bruce Treasure – guitar, backing vocals – (1980ñpresent); Phil Bryant- bass – (1983ñpresent); and Trotsky – drums – (1980ñpresent).

For those of you who may not be fully informed, the Subhumans are one of the seminal English anarcho-pacifist punk bands responsible for creating unique genres of music. Alongside legends like Crass, Discharge, Poison Girls, and Rudimentary Peni, the Subhumans embodied the creation of a new bold call for truth, witness, and social sanity in forthright terms. In contrast to the convictions of these bands, the Sex Pistols appear as misguided adolescents coming of age, The Clash as corporate sell-outs.

Certainly too hot to handle for corporate tastes, the Subhumans have stayed afloat over a 35-year period. Lead singer Dick Lucas stayed active through his work with the Subhumans label Bluurg Records and the ska/punk bands Culture Shock and Citizen Fish. This dedication has resulted in the cultivation of an underground fan following that demonstrated an authentic commitment to the band that rivals any other human endeavor.
The Subhumans are known for their long-standing opposition to all forms of abusive authorituy. As examples, Dick Lucas spoke about opposition to war and violence during a scannerzine interview:
[read it all at https://www.scannerzine.com/subhumansinterview.htm]
… waiting for the State to change or solve the problems it itself creates is a waste of time; it’s better to take matters into your own hands, even if your hands are tied by social/ moral restrictions, eg: being a pacifist, or feeling alone in your situation, or just not knowing HOW. Anything is better than ending up, by default, relying on those in power or with the money to help you out, cos they won’t. The subtext is that the only way to change is through co-ordinating or communicating with like-minded people, which may not seem to change the physical realities of existence, but will change the mental realities away from subservience and the depression/ frustration that evokes.

It was – is – a time of war, which it always is, but this time it was personal! That’s the only word for it, I mean ‘my’ country [and I’m so-o-o not patriotic] was involved in a theorectical ‘war’, ‘against Terror’ [like terror had boundaries and an army] which was overtly illegal, unjust, and forced upon us by US political/ economic strategists with their craving for global dominance and resources [mainly oil] using 9-11 [which was totally arranged and implemented by the US government, in order to justify everything that followed – these people have no soul – get to the bookstore and read any of several books cataloging the facts re 9-11] to coerce wannabe ‘friends’, eg Blair, to join in, which he did, against the massive public demand not to… It was all so wrong …

People in countries that Bush can’t find on a map are influenced by Western overseas policies and lifestyle importation, as well as being shot at. How the links between business and government ride over local priorities, destroying social environments and culture, and create westernized leaders whose people are then exploited for the ‘free market’ at the expense of local infrastructure, all to keep in with the USA, a country with an ever-shifting ‘axis of evil’ list you don’t want to end up on. The corporate mentality that rationalizes the production of war profits; two aspects of human outlook so far apart yet completely linked by war, greed and global exploitation. …

To fight terrorism we need to stop terrorising other countries with imperialist aggression and self-serving resource grabbing, pull out the armies and do a major course in reconstruction after all the damage we’ve done. Stop selling arms to anyone.

Dick started off the Thursday night’s song sets with the suggestion that the audience put away their cell phones and dance. What followed was loving, full-out angry, energized pandemonium. Fists raised and audience-shouted lyrics for entire songs with bodies continually thrown and surfed across the full dance floor were for the Subhumans par for the course.

The Subhumans sets at Los Globos were commentary and teaching on everything from the need for human respect in the scene to the realities of government corruption, tv mind fuck, the crimes of war, pollution of the environment, numerous shortcomings of capitalism, and the imperative for upholding animal rights. Such wisdom forms the foundation of punk and serves as one of its most important gifts to humanity. The Subhumans remain champions of this important form if education.

I asked the following questions to Dick and got these replies:

Your bands have dedicated themselves to denouncing war and oppression during their 35 year odd history. Do you feel your efforts have helped to reduce violence in the world?
Individuals have told me that lyrics have changed their lives. (Perhaps) I’m waking things up that are there in the first place. Violent images are part of this effort – all violence is wrong. A united punk scene is needed to reduce violence.

The content of your songs speaks out against injustice and injury. Yet your music is loud and aggressive, and many people would think that your angry posture does not help to generate peace in the world. If you were to address their perception, what would you say?
People used to express anger (in advance of feeling peace) Why? Anger was expressed to avoid violence. So people express violence to avoid (employing) violence. People like to realize they’re not alone in their anger against the system.

People need to hear loud and harsh music. It captures their attention away from advertising (and all the bullshit in the media). Punk captures your attention. Punkís message is understood later on. There is an undercurrent in the scene — fanzines back it up. If you play slow peace songs people wonít hear it.
People have to know why they’re angry. Peace is a collective action. It’s opposed to wars, laws, and other repressions of societies.

Anger is a natural feeling, and anger is a dangerous feeling. Are you content with the way things are around you? If you don’t feel anger, that’s a problem.

What comments would you have to share with up and coming punk bands of today?
To the young bands: Don’t play for the money. To really enjoy yourselves is #1. Play what you want. Don’t play to fit in (in the face of peer pressure). Play what you want anyway. Be true to yourself. People like variety and people like sincerity. Sing about what you want. People like you for yourself. Be yourself.
I was amazed at the capacity crowd’s reaction to the Subhumans. Over the course of their two night sets, the band’s intensity was fully matched by their audience, in collective demonstrations Dick described when onstage as mental. In the final songs each evening, including the four song encores, it was clear that the gathered punks were giving as much as they were getting from the relentless drive of the Subhumans musical energy and whistle-blowing lyricism. Often shouting the words to entire songs, the crowd was not to be overshadowed by their favored artists. It was as if the shared consciousness and conviction of band members and audience participants was made manifest as tangible energy that could be seen, felt, and experienced as physical presence. It seemed that Dick was transformed by the songs, becoming the music that had taken over his human capacity to exercise self-control over his mental, emotional, and physical actions.


New Found Hope
As a self-described peace activist with punk affinities, I have seen a lot of my friends crash and burn over the years due to the overwhelming odds of combating the forces of evil that seem to control all aspects of society. What I have come to realize is that the idealism of punk bands like the Subhumans – originators and vanguard of a genre and scene ñ have succeeded in planting a desire to live free and uncompromising lives that create awareness and demand change through their art in much younger bands who are often located halfway around the world. That is no small feat and it serves as a testament to the human spirit that people can be so opposed to greed and murder that stand in opposition to such practices.
Los Globos and promoters like Thee Static Age and Azael Hernandezís Concrete Jungle Entertainment are to be commended for supporting such scenes, holding all-ages shows when possible, and keeping ticket prices as reasonable as possible. This enables young punks of little means to take in such important insight and inspiration. I encourage everyone to support these efforts, in order to help keep the spirit of resistance alive and well in LA.
Something has been done to reverse the trend of total control and destruction globalization is perfecting. Some of these bands may have come to their conviction through other means or influences. But the fact that bands like the Subhumans can inspire and sustain the lives of these newer, local punks/hardcore bands halfway around the world is testament to the power and transformative nature of their artistry and musicians and spokespersons for a counter culture well-lived and demonstrated. Defiance and resistance to complacency and complicity remains alive and well. That may not be a solution hiding around the corner, but it is a significant accomplishment and a necessary component of desired change.
Humanity is a work in progress, it is taking a long time, and as often stated, the night is darkest before the dawn. These bands keep a revelatory light burning bright, and we owe them both thanks and support.

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