Although it got off to a horrifying start, 2011 ended up treating us pretty well—good enough, in fact, that we're going to indulge in some uncharacteristic optimism. So in a few hours, with a glass of cheap champagne in hand and Dick Clark's slack, dead face on the television, we here at The Little Black Egg will resolve to wriggle like a fucking eel in 2012.
Now, I wanted to talk a little bit about the above 7", which after years of looking I finally scored for a reasonable price. I tend to shy away from collecting olden punk singles for the simple reasons that they are usually extraordinarily expensive, and I am not of the financial posture to drop over a hundred bucks on a piece of plastic. My copy of this thing is pretty ragged, however, and the previous owner appears to have added up a restaurant bill on the back in blue ballpoint pen; thusly, even a miser like me could throw down for it.
Pekinška Patka were one of the first punk bands in Serbia, and were fronted by a high school teacher named Nebojša Čonkić. Their early singles and first album are great—although like too many of their ilk, once money and recognition hit these guys they transformed into something else by their second album (in this case, palatable postpunks). Some people like their postpunk stuff, but as far as I'm concerned, the early singles and 1st LP are what count here. In their prime, Pekinška Patka were catchy playful without being annoying, and their songs are undeniably infectious—they're like the super-fun friend who everyone invites to their parties. Bila je Tako Lijepa was their third single, a cover of a smooth Euro crooner number rendered in frantic basso profundo glory by Čonkić, who has a ridiculous set of pipes. This masterpiece is backed with Buba Rumba, an ersatz-ska number with a weird spoken intro, multiple interjections of "olé," and a brief thrash breakdown. The whole affair is extraordinarily charming.
The thing I really like about this record—and the rest of the pre-81 Patka oeuvre—is how on it is for it's time and place. It's enough to wish that I was in a situation were someone was wondering aloud "Hey I wonder if first-wave Serbian punk was any good" so I could whip this puppy out and be like "Bang fucking bang, the mighty Pekinška Patka! Put this in your ear, son." No one, and I mean no one, did the thing they did any better.
This kind of perfection is part natural skill and craftiness, part cosmic alignment of interplanetary bodies, and while it can't be sustained we live in an age where anyone can get a copy of the document in one form or another. Everything goes downhill eventually, you know? If anything good remains, I think it's a victory over Vishnu in his many-armed universal form.
Man becomes aware of the sacred because it manifests itself, shows itself, as something wholly different from the profane. To designate the act of manifestation of the sacred, we have proposed the term hierophany. [ . . . ] By manifesting the sacred, any object becomes something else, yet it continues to remain itself . . . A sacred stone remains a stone; apparently (or more precisely, from the profane point of view), nothing distinguishes it from all other stones. But for those to whom a stone reveals itself as sacred, its immediate reality is transmuted into a supernatural reality. In other words, for those who have a religious experience all nature is capable off revealing itself as cosmic sacrality. The cosmos in its entirety can become a hierophany.—Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane
James Booker was a New Orleans piano prodigy who was difficult to work with, so he ended up playing solo piano gigs. There’s a recording of a solo gig he played realeased as the album Resurrection of the Bayou Maharajah, which is one of the best things ever captured by magnetic tape.
Over two sides, medleys of whatever comes into his head sprawl through a series of unbelievable piano acrobatics, stop for digressions into classical runs, and mutate into paranoid tunes about how the CIA is after everyone. It’s an insane, baroque mess spilling all over the place, an admixture of the history of New Orleans piano as presented by a hierophant whose connections have been swapped and resoldered. By all accounts, Booker was a genius—the liner notes of this album detail an incident when he tells a headlining musician that he’d hit a bum note in his solo, then proceeds to play the headliner’s entire solo from memory, and then play the whole thing again, backwards.
By the time I’d heard of James Booker he was dead and interred, and only crossed paths with his music because one Friday I was walking home from work and I stopped in the liquor store, where I ran into an acquaintance. Actually, that’s too generous a term—I’d met the guy once at a bar. We had mutual friends. He was a writer and from the South and was wearing a cream-colored blazer, which was enough to seem fairly exotic to me at that time. Bleary-eyed, two bottles of gin in hand, he didn’t recognize me when I said hi, but asked me to come back to his apartment and talk about writing—it turned out we lived about 2 blocks from each other.
His apartment was fantastic and there were these plots of dirt out back where he was doing gardening, supposedly, although nothing was growing there. He poured gin into a pint glass and added a splash of soda. I opted for whisky, and was given my own pint. “This is a sipping drink,” he explained.
There wasn’t really much in the apartment except for alcohol, some furniture, and CD racks lining the walls. The guy clearly had money coming in from somewhere, On closer inspection, it was all blues and jazz stuff—a really impressive collection. So we were talking about music for a while, and he knew everything. It was like talking to what’s his face, Alan Lomax. Like a gin-soaked Alan Lomax with a totally dead garden. Our conversation moved to writing, which is always more awkward for me (and I don’t know why, that’s probably something worth examining but who has the time). He was going to be reading some of his stuff later that night, and showed me a really good poem he’d written.
I finally had to go because I had to meet my lady, at which point my host began demanding to know about her. I told him a thing or two—she used to work for the circus, she like experimental theatre, she was from Oakland—and he began scrambling along the CDs, chuckling to himself. “Oh shit my friend, you are in luck, you are gonna get laid tonight friend, oh shit.”
He thrust a copy of Bayou Maharajah in my hand and I crept out the door, shitfaced and happy. He made it clear that this was an important album, and I thanked him and promised to return it, which I never did. I never hung out with the guy again. I have no idea what happened to him.
I was weightless as I climbed up to my fourth-floor walkup. Sarah was eating a Mango and listening to Hot 97, which was the usual Friday routine. I put on the James Booker CD and it unfolded into the room, a weird angular buzzing cloud that that sparkled. We tried to talk about our plans but instead hunched around the apartment singing Boney Maroney. The world was rife with possibility, and we vowed to have great adventures together.
In the weeks to come, that album never left our stereo. We still listen to it all the time—it feels like the apotheosis of New Orleans R&B and about 13 other strains of American music. You can hear the audience on this recording, they’re loving it—Booker had a residency at this club, and I don’t know how this show stacks up to his other performances, but this is the one that got recorded and the one I listened to. It’s still around and still means things, and as long as humanity is still crawling along the face of the earth, it’s still going to resonate within a small circle from one generation to the next.
There are a lot of non-fiction books that trace the origins of cultural phenomena. The root of a certain religious practice, the evolution of political theories, technology. Music fanatics like to trace the pedigree of certain bands or artists. Someone could probably write a tome on James Booker, who seems to effortlessly channel the entire history of New Orleans music. It's hard to articulate what this means to me. I'm reduced to thrusting this album at other people and telling them that it's the real shit. I'm not sure why I can never say why this particular album is important, whenever I try I just feel like I'm somehow pointing my finger at centuries worth of music and saying "it's all that, because of all that."
Also he had an eyepatch with a star on it, which is nothing if not classy.
Labels: James Booker
Ah! I see you have returned, dear readers, to peruse part two of our exclusive interview with Rai Ko Ris! I shall forthwith dispense of the comma-littered editorial nonsense I am known for and get on with it...
The Little Black Egg: How important is the role of the various networks of independent labels, distributors and bands to you? Are they your only connection to the outside community?
Olivier: Yes, for the distribution all over the world of our music and lyrics, the anarcho-d.i.y.-punk network has been the main connection for us. But also zines and individuals we meet here through our gigs or the infoshop. It is the DIY thing.
Sareena: I think for distribution it’s great that we have the network for all the reasons stated before, that it is opposite to the mainstream way of doing things.
O: Yes, we are happy the way things are and feel that there are already enough things on our plate. In the DIY sense of it, I don’t think we would be able to deal with much more than we do at present.
S: We were always doing our band our way, despite everything, and other people got interested. That’s how things like releases and interviews happened. These days I can see it’s the opposite. Bands form and release demos in the hope that some foreign d.i.y label will pick 'em up or some western band will do a split with them to give them some kind of status in the international circuit. Isn’t that just the same as being in the mainstream world? That’s fucked up; I never consciously wanted that or pushed for it like I see bands compete for here today.
What I notice now in the younger punk kids is this underlying rivalry about these issues and it makes me sad. Our band, our anger, and our will to not be dictated to by the mass media were all one and the same. We never gave a crap about a record deal to make a name. Course it’s nice, but it shouldn’t be the aim. The aim is to play our hearts out, to keep making this music that we can’t live without because we'd feel lost in this world if we didn't have it. That’s what fuels me. Not the hope that some foreign band or label releases me. That’s just a little cherry on the cake...ha ha...a christmas present when you never celebrated it ever in yer life.
O: Yep! I love it all, because we meet very inspiring people and learn a lot about how to better organise our struggle from other people's contexts and experiences.
S: Touring can be dangerously addictive; the only thing is I don’t sleep enough on tour which means getting sick fast, and being sick is the one thing I hate the most in the world about being a humanoid in this weak shit body. Touring is extra special if you get along really well as a band and are equally motivated in the same way. That’s the hard part!
TLBE: If somehow you had the money and the time to tour the USA and Europe, would you even want to, or at this point in your lives are you content to avoid all the glitz of the western world? Even for a Yank like myself it’s pretty intense and often overwhelming.
O: Ahahahaha, good point.
S: Ha ha, touring in squats and community run punk collectives is not very glitzy at all! It’s like, vomit for breakfast a lot of times, beer smelling carpets to sleep on, bread and cheese meals everyday....most asian boys would be crying for their mama’s rice and meat. The girls, like me, couldn’t hack going to the toilet without a door on it. However, what we love the most is the total non rockstar way gigs are played, and how we all hang out with the other bands afterwards, sleep on the floor together and queue up for the toilet the next morning smiling shyly at one another. It’s the best, best, best way to do it.
O: It is a bit difficult sometimes in the west to adjust to the way of thinking and eating and dressing. But when we tour, we are always in the anarcho-hardcore-punk context so we feel very good with the people we meet. So, doing 30 gigs in 30 days, driving most of the time and not spending time with active people, I'm not interested in that; but playing music, sharing, taking time to understand where we are and who does what at places we go to, yes, I would tour anywhere.
O: We are a LIVE BAND! To make albums has never been a priority, it’s never been something I particularly enjoyed.
S: I hate recording 'cause I hate having to hear myself after. Musically it’s OK, but the vocals make me wince and i can’t sing to save my life. So I’m not into spending time or energy or money on doing recordings. I once read somebody had written on some discussion group about a song of ours: “the music is great, but I don’t like that guy’s voice”. It was me singing! Ha ha!
O: We just laugh at ourselves because it is something other than what we’ve always been doing (making songs, practicing and putting on d.i.y. shows). I find quite abstract the album thing anyway, I just like to play live, meet people and see other bands and talk together after shows.
TLBE: Please indulge all of us here in radioland who practice home recording; how do you go about putting your records together?
O: We move our equipment from the tiny practice room into the kitchen/living room because it is slightly bigger; we play live exactly like a practice and just turn on whichever recording device we have at the time.
For the 1st and 2nd albums we used a minidisc player with a little stereo condenser mic. For the 4th and 5th, the same mic and our laptop, and whatever simple program we could find 'cause we suck at computers. We usually do 1 to 3 takes of each song and then choose the better version and that’s all.
For song writing, Sareena or I will come up with some rough lyrics about something that we saw or went through, or sometimes heard about, then Sareena will get some chords together. Then we work on everything in the practice room, like arrangements, more lyrics, backing vox, new parts, sound and all.
|Sareena mingles with young fans.|
TLBE: As a politically active band, you must be very sensitive to the changes that have been sweeping Nepal over the last twenty or so years. Has there been a noticeable increase in the prevalence of foreign (particularly western) corporations in Nepal in recent years?
S: There has been a huge increase in all aspects of life, mainly the crap we’re told to buy.
S: People eat more instant noodles and have tooth decay from sweets and coca cola up in the mid hills. The problem is they don’t have access to health care or money to get rid of the problems that come with such consumption. There are no mechanisms in place for post shock care. That’s just one illustration of this multinational corporation crap.
On another level, there’s this cream called Fair and Lovely for women or Fair and Handsome for men that helps us brown people to become white. It is bleach and probably has cancer as a side effect. Multinational partnership corporations sell this stuff. The same goes for bad (GMO) seeds, pornography, and "rapid development".
TLBE: Is the younger generation buying into what the West is trying to sell? Are there kids all decked out in Nike, eating Kentucky Fried Chicken?
O: Yes, pretty much but it is not only nike or kfc, it is a lot of alcohol and dope and fashion punks; so-called artists, democracy people, peace people, nationalists; thinking well and talking well like in the west but in actuality doing jack shit.
S: Olivier summed it up well. "Democracy = partying = turn your back on the poor = punk = artist = peace = fashion = cops = army".
O: Not really, because we don’t think in terms of a message. We just do things in a certain way; we practice, set up d.i.y. shows, run a small infoshop with activities in our community, and we enjoy all that. Other people can take it or leave it. But it sucks when we do a show and a bunch of dope heads come and think that it is punk to be macho, violent and non political, read “not responsible”.
S: All the bullshit is coming along with all the bullshit. We have to remain positive or we’ll do group suicide. Aghhhhhhhhhhh.
TLBE: While we're on the subject of irresponsibility: I have heard that the World Bank has recently been involved with Nepali affairs. What is your opinion about similar bureaucratic organizations and multinational corporations having such a huge amount of power and influence, but not being accountable in any way for their highly questionable practices?
O: These kinds of organizations seem to be from, by, and for the upper classes, just like governments, armies, banks, and so on. The whole point of making laws, rules and constitutions is only to protect these organizations and ensure that they are not accountable to the masses. So it is like the upper class' safety web: armies protect the money makers and laws protect the armies and then army commanders and law makers get a little share of the cake. We are very pro-association, but not so much pro-Organization.
S: The people are an easy target, because a lot of us don’t know the repercussions of making quick dirty deals. Money is a simple way to make any politician sign a document to rape his own country. That’s the world bank’s talent, the IMF, all profiteers.
|Did nobody at World Bank HQ |
realize that their logo looks
just like the fucking Death Star?
O: Yes. The upper class people are very, very paranoid and they are the only ones who really know why. Basically, people who want to be rich materially should be free to do it, and those of us who want to do something else with their life should be able to do that as well. But things don’t work this way, based on our experiences and knowledge and what we've seen here during the 11 years of conflict.
S: The multinationals are enemy number one. They are in the food we eat – that’s scary.
O: They are a constant threat to people like us, but we know their weaknesses and can organize accordingly. We waste lot of energy on that but that’s the way it is now. If you live apart from the circle of earning and spending, and you are well and happy, other people get new ideas and start to reinvent themselves. It has a snowball effect where people start to get more together and associate with each other. They form active communities and realise that they don't need to spend 80% of their time earning money.
The problem is that people who want to be rich and stay rich (understand here: to have the power to do what you want when you want) cannot do so without workers: servants, policemen, soldiers, pilots, drivers, cooks, miners, the list is long. So when they start to lose workers they freak out and try by all means to stop the hemorrhaging, forcefully and aggressively if they feel it necessary. They have been doing that for a long time and they know it very well, so well that they have become completely paranoid. They have killed, tortured, exploited and imprisoned so many people for so long that they are shit scared, because they know that they are a tiny minority.
|See something, say something. I say mind your own fucking business, pal.|
TLBE: Here in Boston, as in all major American cities, our subway has signs and announcements advertising the Department of Homeland Security's “see something, say something” campaign. It basically instructs you to turn anyone you might find suspicious in to the police. And of course, it's totally anonymous...that seems to send a message that is particularly insidious because it exploits people's fears and encourages a constant feeling of distrust. Do you think those in power are intentionally trying to divide communities in order to keep people feeling helpless?
O: These “see something, say something” signs remind me of what was happening here during the conflict, and in a way I find it pathetic and almost funny how desperate, paranoid and aggressive the upper class can be. Now if they were actually so successful, powerful and sure of themselves they wouldn't need all that, so I kind of think that they are themselves in the shit. But really, instead of being divisive, I think they try to get more people on their side by compulsory capitalism: you play the money game or you are a terrorist.
Basically, when people start to have more than what they need, they don’t want to have anything to do with a community because they have more than enough without it, and consequently side with the upper class. So if you are not after profit you are potentially dangerous and/or different.
But the more of them there are the more wealth they need (because these people don’t like to share, that’s basic), so they have to kill, colonize, steal, conquer, exploit and torture. But that makes their enemies (us) more angry and organized, and because they are a tiny minority on the scale of the planet, they are doomed, and the richest ones kind of know that. When I say “enemies” here, it's not because I consider myself as one, but they do so I practice “self defence”.
S: Olivier is very optimistic. I sometimes panic at the thought of ‘doomsday, doomsday’. These people are tearing the world down and taking us down with them. We can only hope to teach our kids self defense, which means ‘don’t buy into this worldview, there’s always another way’. I liked that movie Avatar because it was a simple way to understand the shit that’s happening today for people in the west. I hope people (the masses!) didn’t think it was some fantasy story. It already happened. It’s still happening.
TLBE: What is your advice for all of us who think that shit is fucked up, but there’s nothing they can do to change it?
O: You're not gonna change things on a large scale, but you can change the way you think and act, change youself and realise there are plenty of people like you all around the planet. Don’t fight a ghost with negativity; build something better with positivity and with people who think alike, they are everywhere. And if all the people in your area are really fucked up, move to another place. The world is big and I don’t think there is such a thing as “the place where I belong/my culture/my home/my people/my country; go where you can use yourself best and most positively.
S: There’s nothing wrong with not wanting to live in this present day scenario, it's terrifying! But that’s why the west got it wrong, and they still get it wrong with their statistics and data (e.g about how many millions of people use internet and who’s connected, etc). Balls. There are many different ways to live your life, and many places and different people, and yes, there are people who don’t use the internet. Don’t be afraid to reach out and be with different people, to change yourself. Home is where the heart is; it's about quality of life, not quantity.
O: Eh eh eh. Well I think that parents suck, you know, this "blood relation" stuff, like people try their best for their family members but they don’t give a damn if somebody is in shit next door. I just hope for everybody to be normal so that everybody can take care of each other without the need to dominate or exploit.
S: I just want them to be strong for what's to come, but to be sensitive so as to appreciate love so that they can share all the positive stuff they have in them.
O: If anything I wish for my kids not to take more than what they need, for their own good.
TLBE: Thank you both so much for taking the time to do this interview. Are there any final thoughts you would like to leave our fine readers with?
O: Whatever I write is only words put together to try and explain things, but I am very crap with thinking and writing...In the end it is really about common sense.
S: I think I’d have been miserable without music, and being able to play it has been pure joy. It’s also an armour that has saved me from being in that rat race. One of our Infoshop activities is that we give free music lessons to some girls from our village (who are considered ‘low caste’ in the fucked up hindu caste system). Music’s been such a nice way to communicate and get to know these young women, and it’s a great joy to see them have a space for themselves to create. For me, that’s challenging the system; that’s punk.
So, friends and well-wishers, while we drink beer in our hip urban pads and accumulate more and more stuff, as we sit on our stylish couches and chat about how much we disagree with the very lifestyle we are living, people like Sareena and Olivier actually get out there and try to do something about it, no matter how minute the returns. This sort of dedication is sorely lacking these days, and it warms my heart to know that there are still real warriors out there, kicking ass and not giving a fuck what you or anyone else thinks.
"Punk rock terrorists are here to stay,
We're gonna blast your heads off with our noise today!"
Rai Ko Ris' band/Infoshop site.
A great old interview, in German. Worth it to translate, almost as good as ours.
Another informative interview from 2003.
Nothing like this in Massachusetts...
The Himalayan country of Nepal, squeezed between the rapidly developing nations of China and India, home of Everest and the Yeti, was until recently completely cut off from the rest of the world. But hey now, that doesn't mean that it's an uneventful place. Witness the Nepali Royal Family Massacre of 2001, a Hamlet-esque orgy of violence that culminated with the deaths of the King and Queen and seven other relatives at the heavily armed hands of the Prince; experience the horror of the bloody and contentious civil war of '96-'06, which resulted in thousands of deaths, displacements, and general bad feelings; and taste the fury of agrarian society fighting a battle for survival against the dreaded juggernaut of Progress.
Fortunately, the ups and downs of this dizzying upheaval have been placed into clear context by the one-hit-kills gut-punching rock unit of Rai Ko Ris. Full time parents, as well as face melting post-anarcho-motorikpunk revolutionaries, Sareena Rai and Olivier Bertin are kind of like the Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore of Asia, but without the hipster smugness or top ten college rock hits.
It's a hit in my house, anyway.
Sareena spent her formative years in the U.K. during the Thatcher years, where she was versed equally in punk rock and late 20th century Western consumer culture and its persistent overtones of racism and sexism ("Where do you think you are now? Oh little brown girl so out of town" --On the Bus in the U.K.). In high school, she formed Skinhead Barbie; later, the "canto-punk" duo Bruce Lee.
Finding her way back home to Nepal, she and French expat Olivier created a musical project which was known as Juto, Magic Scooter, Jajarcot Massacre, and finally (kind of) Rai Ko Ris. In addition to self-recording and releasing a multitude of albums under the RKR moniker, they have performed and recorded as the post-riot-grrl thrash punk outfit Tank Girl and reggae/ska saboteurs Naya Faya. They organize and play regular gigs, raise a family, run an infoshop & bookstore, in addition to getting involved with their community in ways that are incomprehensible to the rest of us cowboys and yahoos. So put down your iPad, set your fucking g.p.s. camera phone to silent, get your thumbs out of your ears and pay attention.
|Rai Ko Ris is a really fucking good band.|
The Little Black Egg will begin with the most cliched of all music interview questions: What are some bands that have influenced you over the years, both musically and politically?
Olivier: Many, but to name few: the Minutemen, Fugazi, Crass, Inner Terrestrials, Kasi Sayang, Inferno, Kortatu, Frank Zappa, the Krays, Harum Scarum, Ya Basta, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Itsukas Over Disneyland.
Sareena: Politically and socially wise, the consistency of the DC bands and Ian Mckaye and friends’ ethic helps us not to feel on an island alone. Anti Product, Bikini Kill/Le Tigre and all the female bands and musicians that ever blasted away all those long haired metal dudes that i thought were gods when i was a kid – when i discovered The Slits, Thee Headcoats, The Raincoats, Throwing Muses, Babes in Toyland, I was a little bit feeling crap for idolising only male bands for so long. Musically, after my pre-teen metal phase in the 80’s, I liked the grunge era as well as Sonic Youth’s sonic sounds; early R.E.M, all that...Pavement, The Breeders...I love all that stuff and STILL listen to them all...even tho half the tapes are mouldy and squeaking. I have too many bands to mention after this phase...but basically those politically active, anti sexist d.i.y bands put music and politics into perspective for me later. Better late than never.
|Himalayan Frostbite 7" back cover|
O: Lots of different stuff. But nothing beats when I listen to the bands we’ve been sharing the stage with while on tours. One band we haven’t met yet, Itsukas over Disneyland, a band from the Philippines who we have not had the pleasure. Just email pals.
S: Right now I’m listening to Dinosaur Jr. Oops, don’t think they need wider attention! The French band Ya Basta totally gets me going....militant lefty ska punk...inspires me to continue our ska band Naya Faya. I love the guitar playing of Sleater-Kinney...they do twin guitars better than Iron Maiden, so how come they didn’t get as much attention world wide? Steel Pulse. Mmm. Good band. So many bands. When this question comes up i always forget the list that I’ve been making in my head. A guy called Marc who calls himself One Man Nation from Singapore who does noisescapes...he is frightening, he is good. The guitarist of Vialka, Eric is like a guitar/bass hero for me. The drummers of Bhaktapur (medieval town outside Kathmandu)...my drum teachers there are all rockers. Black Sabbath would feel embarrassed in front of them. We both love the bands we met on tour though – Inferno from Rome, Mossuraya are so good – from Switzerland; women in Ze Revengers from France; I’m getting old and I forget everything.
|Tank Girl CD Insert.|
O: Yes, very much. But also the fact that for us the armed struggle of the farmers here from 1996-2007 was something very, very intense which the band sort of grew up with; a situation where we had to take a stand, especially being in the capital where almost everybody was either against the farmers (who were challenging their capitalists’ heaven) or at best didn’t give a damn about all the atrocities going on all over the country...
S: ...or didn’t go out of their way to find out. Hey, i'm not sure about the 'highly developed musical project' part....ha ha! In the early years we really did try (maybe too hard) to talk a lot about d.i.y and doing things collectively with other bands here, to try to get them doing things on a more socially responsible level, but it backfired on us and other bands thought it all too serious and almost hated us for it. Understandable, because it's alien for young middle class and rich city kids in Kathmandu (or anywhere. kids today...-ed) to want to really take any responsibility. So in that way, we had no scene and felt alone, and despite being alone, we just continued our thing, just the two of us. As a result we might have gained a lot of respect from it in the long run, for sticking to our guns for so long and maybe being the only band in this regard in Nepal.
|The first vinyl record ever made in Nepal?|
S: It’s hardly attention! One punk or activist person emailing us every three months, one visitor every so often travelling through. It seems, though, that there are more punks travelling than before, and more opportunities to connect because of internet. It's more a case of developing interesting new friendships with similar politics. People are mainly surprised that we exist and do what we do despite our ages! (we’re getting older but scarily more into what we do as it goes).
O: We were invited last year to play in a “sub-culture” festival in Denmark with plane tickets and all expenses paid plus money for the gigs we did. That was quite a surprise, until we found out that one or two people involved in the artistic direction happened to be in the punk scene. We had some internal discussion between both of us whether to do it or not, because it was not really a politically motivated event; but we decided to do it because the people seemed genuine and it gave us a chance to tour rest of Europe after the festival as well. We even had to go on a mainstream tv news program and be interviewed by a leftist newspaper in Denmark...that was weird. Later we went on to tour part of Europe playing in squats and community centres and we were surprised to be so well received and seemed like people kind of appreciate our music and lyrics. They were just as surprised as we were.
S: I’m not so interested in westerners who are just fascinated by brown dudes with Mohicans regurgitating Dead Kennedys or Casualties – brown dudes who don’t really give two shits about the girl raped in their neighborhood. Sometimes the ‘orientalist’ perspective in punk is just a cool photo story to tell fellow western punks back home: ‘hey I went and got trashed with some punks in Kathmandu and heard three different bands in one gig play the same Rancid song over & over’. It's like a postcard of brown people imitating western subculture, like when they see coca cola written in Arabic and want to take the can home as a souvenir. So I’m not surprised by the attention in that touristic way. I’m surprised when people are genuinely liking the music of Rai Ko Ris. That totally surprises me. There are so many good bands in the world.....Punks are everywhere now, like coca cola. But they're different types than us. We aren’t one thing, as you know, just like back home. There are so many assholes in the punk scene, even in Asia, even in Nepal.
|"The Relevance of Anarchism"|
O: Yes, like “let's get trashed, fuck everything and have fun”. But we don’t really get carried away thinking about it, we are pretty busy at doing things that matter to us, so we don’t have energy to spend on thinking or criticizing people that are insignificant in their actions. It just gives a bad name to “punk” here, no big deal.
S: I think it’s ok, as long as I’m not there! Ha ha! I think it’s kind of sad that some bands mistake our distance from this aspect of punk as us being elitist or mainstream or something. I just want to say once and for all, getting totally shit faced and swearing really loudly and pushing everyone really hard ‘til they hurt themselves just does not relate to my own personal feelings about what it means for me when I say ‘fuck you, I’m punk and that’s what I am’. But as Olivier kind of states above, there are bigger fish to fry out there in this fucked up world than chaos punks! I wish they’d realize the same when they attack us for avoiding such punk gatherings.
|Nepal Ko Katha Haru Lyric Sheet|
Internationally, though, we definitely do belong to ‘a scene’ – any old band from anywhere in the world can’t just go touring the punk circuit as you know, unless your politics are halfway right. If they’re not, people in our d.i.y conspiracy pretty quickly will find out that you are just macho or fascist or just spoilt rich brats using this network for a stepping stone to go major. I mean, people ultimately can do what they want and it's fine, but we personally feel comfortable in the underground socio-political music scene as opposed to the other options, and in so doing, we make a lot of like minded friends all across the world through this ‘scene’.
|Back of Nepal Ko Katha Haru CD sleeve.|
S: We (there were two other Nepali girls with me in the school) thought that white people’s crap never smelled bad like ours did, and that their excrement was white in color too. Ha ha!! Oh capitalism is so widespread, I encountered it way before boarding school – i was actually born in Hong Kong because my father was serving as a mercenary in the British army for many years.
The shocks were more about how people behaved – the culture thing. I stayed with some (white) friends and i saw their parents walk around naked going from one room to another. I was like, yikes, these people don’t know i’m here. But they did. And kids behaved so badly towards elders...no regard. Talked to them like shit. I thought that was weird and scary. People didn’t share their chocolates or chips so easily as we did...i don’t know. We shared answers during exams; cheating was like, no big deal. My white friends never wanted to share info during these times, like they took that stuff so seriously. We didn’t have the attitude, but learnt it as soon as we realised ‘we are on our own in this crazy life’ (that’s what they teach you in school in the west. Not so much here.)
|Sareena & fog.|
I was lucky, in my teens i went often to meet a cousin brother who was older than me, who was already squatting round London and was an anti war activist in the anarchist circle. (He later wrote books on the Iraq war and about Noam Chomsky’s politics). I went to some demonstrations, saw the activist life in action, saw another life that was hidden from my upright, bourgeois British education: equality of sexes, living alternative to the dictated system. I must have been 16 when my brother blasted Crass’ ‘Beg Your Pardon’ on his LP player. Something shook deep inside of me when i saw him pogo round the tiny squatted living room on his own, jumping wildly while I just sat and nodded my head to the music, thinking what is that? That affected me years later. There was another way to live.
Thus concludes part one of our exclusive Rai Ko Ris interview. Please return soon for part two, fellows, and you will be informed about all the things that you need to be informed about, forever and ever.
Dear Reader, as you all know, we here at The Little Black Egg think that punk rock (and other music) from the ex-Yugoslavia is among best stuff ever made. Starting out in 1987, Croatian record label Slusaj Najglasnije! (or Listen Loudest!) documented many of Croatia’s greatest bands, including Madjke, Hali Gali Halid, Satan Panonski, Bambi Molestors, and many others.
Hi Zdenko. What are you up to these days?
I just got back from Vinkovci and Novi Sad where I’ve been with my stall with books and my digital records. In Novi Sad we (“Iggy Onemanband and his Harp Explosion” and me as Lutajuci JD Zdena, or “Wanderin’ DJ Zdena) did a show in Nublu cafe/bookstore. Also, I’m preparing a little tour of east and south Serbia and Macedonia and I will play at “InMusic” biggest Croatian festival with my band Babilonci (The Babylonians).
When did you start DJing?
How did you get into singing on top of other songs?
I was reading interviews with you and you mentioned that what got you into music was this guy in your town who dressed all in black and wandered around with a violin, and the neighborhood kids all yelled stuff at him. Is this true? It sounds like Fiddler on the Roof.
How did you end up gravitating towards rock and punk?
What led up to your starting a record label in 1987? Were there a lot of independent labels in Croatia at the time, or was it like just Jugoton, Dallas Records, and you?
Do you find that people keep on discovering the bands on Listen Loudest! year after year? For instance, I know that Satan Panonski and Hali Gali Halid continue to have a cult fanbase in the USA—everyone I play that HGH record for loves it.
Satan Panonski and Hali Gali Halid are just the tip of the iceberg because here we have a lot more to offer, not just punk and rock bands, there’re also more progressive and different and great bands and artists.
Was there a reason why Bare didn’t continue with HGH?
Did you get to see Anti-Nowhere League when they recorded their Live in Yugoslavia album? I’ve heard some funny stories about those guys.
What was it like organizing a two-day festival during the war?
There are a lot of stories about Satan Panonski: that he killed a guy, he was in the institution, he cut himself when he played shows, he died mysteriously. But when I talk to my friend from Rijeka, who is a writer, he never mentions any of that stuff. Instead, he’s always talking about what great lyrics Satan wrote, and how important they were to him and his friends. Was Satan Pannonian an inspirational figure in Croatia at that time, or was he just seen as a madman, or both?
For me Ivica was a great artist, a renaissance man I can add. He was a painter, a poet, a performer, an actor, he made even his clothes and everything he did with a great perfection.
The songs he did with the band are not his best. His best poems can be found in his book called Prijatelj (A Friend).
Ivica was an inspirational figure for me and a lot of my friends in Croatia and wider. Some saw him as a madman and were afraid of him, and when I sell my stuff at my stall everybody has something to say about him.
Was it hard to get him out to play shows?
How did people take Satan Panonski’s Kako Je Panker Branio Hrvatsku album? Were people offended by the more nationalist songs, or did it capture the spirit of the times?
Did Satan have a steady band over time, or was it more just random people? I’d read that a couple of his bandmates were killed in the fighting, but I don’t know if that is true or not.
How did you begin corresponding with John Trubee? He’s infamous for his song Blind Man’s Penis, and for generally just being a fascinating human.
You’ve got loads of Bombardiranje New Yorka compilations. The first is obviously a super-famous punk compilation that sort of introduced people outside of Croatia to Satan Panonski, Majke, etc. You’ve kept doing them, however, going from vinyl to mp3, and the comps feature more international artists. What kind of stuff are you excited about nowadays?
Now I’m on Volume 14. The 13th Volume was on a DVD in mp3 format, both audio and video. Over 55 hours of music. Artists from all over the world. I don’t know that anybody ever did such a deed. It is a compilation to listen for a years to come. There was just one review of that compilation by Vladimir Horvat Horvi on Terapija Magazine on the net. I send my stuff to Roctober zine and KZSU radio, and some others, and they review and play my stuff, but nobody noticed or recognized that compilation.
What question do you never get asked during interviews that you wish people asked?
Anything else that you want to say to the people, sir?
All my releases can be downloaded through Soulseek. User name: franticz
So there you have it, readers. Slusaj Najglasnije! is still very much alive and kicking, and you can contact Zdenko directly to order any of the amazing records and books he puts out. There's shirts for sale, there's all kinds of stuff. Go there, fer chrissakes, and get some stuff. You won't be disappointed—there are a million record labels out there, but few present such a solid, unified body of work. It's worth your time.
Give the people contests they win by remembering the words to more popular songs or the names of state capitals or how much corn Iowa grew last year. Cram them full of non-combustible data, chock them so damned full of "facts" they feel stuffed, but absolutely "brilliant" with information. Then they'll feel they're thinking, they'll get a sense of motion without moving. And they'll be happy, because facts of that sort don't change. Don't give them any slippery stuff like philosophy or sociology to tie things up with. That way lies melancholy. —Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
The object of desire, the object which stokes one’s passions and ignites the senses; that which lay at the center of the best time in one’s life. The subject of sighs of regret, memories of one’s halcyon days. The thing you didn’t try hard enough to keep, you fucked up, and now you’re left to contemplate a life of solitude, breathing in and out in a gray and exhausting world that grows dimmer and dimmer until you lay down and die.
In my case, the one that got away was a copy of the soundtrack to the movie Rollerball; it happened last week, and I’m still thinking about it.
One thing you should know about me, Dear Reader, is that I have a somewhat difficult time connecting with people. I’m good at being friendly—but secretly, I’m just doing a modified impersonation of David Letterman. I have funny things I say, I prompt people to talk about themselves, and I keep the conversation moving along. But really, it’s all learned behavior. I spent a good chunk of my childhood catching snakes and frogs in the middle of nowhere; with human relations, I am usually vague and distant. I tend to go to shows alone, not socialize, and then just leave, which seems reasonable enough. What am I gonna do, talk to a bunch of people? Jesus.
The point is, I’m good at travel. If I could figure out some way to be mobile and have a tiny income, I’d just go all over the place and never ever stick around anywhere, never have to see the same people and do the same things.
The hotel I was staying in was in the middle of town and was seriously underbooked, with old ornate elevators and the odd Mainer stumbling around. It occurred to me that, just like H.P. Lovecraft sez, you can’t escape your biology. I was soon among my people, drinking beer and listening to my nephew tell a pretty great story, which went like this:
So I was at this fuckin party at this house and the fuckin cops came and I was like oh fuck so I jumped out a second story window and just ate shit and when I stood up and some fuckin kid lands on me, and this fuckin cop shines his, uh, his flashlight at us and was like stand still but I was like fuck that and I fuckin took off into the woods and ran into this tree, but then I got up and no one was around so I went back to see what the fuck was goin on and the cop saw me and was like don’t fuckin move so I started bookin into the woods, runnin into trees, fuckin running through brambles, eatin shit right and left, I lost my fuckin shoes, and the cop was behind me but I jumped a stone wall and tripped and fell into an electrified cow fence which fuckin wrapped all around me and was stuck to my skin and shit so I couldn’t get free, and I was shoeless and gettin fuckin electrocuted, but I heard this fuckin cop and got free and took the fuck off and got home. Then I remembered fuck, I need to find my fuckin shoes.
My niece, meanwhile, has been making hundreds of tiny florescent trees out of paper, and they are fantastic. The motivation behind her art is fantastic. People were bugging out looking at her stuff in the gallery.
The secret plan the whole time I was there, was for me and my brother to go record shopping. Portland has three record stores, and my mind was swimming with the unlimited treasures that might be found. “There’s no way that these lumberjack schmucks understand the potential of the sick-ass vinyl in this town,” I was thinking to myself.
Quietly, my brother and I formulated a plan to sneak away at every opportunity to check out the record stores. It was pouring rain and we had no umbrellas, so we ran giggling from one place to another. He picked up a shitload of Allman brother records, I got the Shangri-Las and a sound effects record. And at one store, which we snuck into 5 minutes before closing. My brother began making a pile of Kansas records, I found a pretty good copy of Metallic K.O. for $4, passed on a totally fucked Bo Diddley record, and out of boredom (while my brother examined the grooves of a Little Feat LP), I started perusing the soundtracks section, and came across the soundtrack to the movie Rollerball.
And I’ll say this right off—if you don’t like this movie, you don't deserve to be human.
James Caan plays the Michael Jordan of a mega-violent futuristic sport designed to control the masses. [GROOVY, right?] The fascist government of this world decides that James Caan is too revolutionary and wields a dangerous amount of power, so they attempt to bring about his demise.
It should be mentioned that the sport of Rollerball is basically a lethal version of roller derby, with motorcycles, and this weird chrome ball that the participants have to throw into a tiny goal.
There is all this really intense classical music, crummy computer fonts from the olden-timey days of Atari and that kind of thing. James Caan revolts, however, and kills everyone else in the game to stick it to the man, a lone gladiator, his future uncertain: will he be liquidated, or will he stride out into the world, triumphant in a pair of tight polyester slacks? You never really know whether Caan will don slacks again at the end, because them’s the brakes when it comes to these kinds of movies, movies where grown men do karate on rollerskates. Why is he fighting? Mostly it seems that it’s because he misses his family, who were forcibly removed or killed or something by the overlords of Rollerball.
There’s no resolution to this; there’s just a bunch of death, which although dramatically unsatisfying is true to life. Individually we’re just these bags of cells and fluid that run down and die.
So I was in the store, looking at this copy of the Rollerball soundtrack, priced at $5, it was pouring rain, and for some reason I didn’t want to get it. I really should have; granted, I was a little low on cash, but I’d set aside some folding money for the trip. I was either going to get this record, or later, get drinks in the lounge on the roof of the hotel, which looked creepy and isolated.
I said to Scott, “I want to buy this record, but I also want to have drinks in the hotel lounge because it will be like the Shining.”
“There’s some beer in our dad’s room,” he said.
“Stealing beer from dad is not like the Shining AT ALL,” I said.
“Dude, get the Rollerball soundtrack. That movie is awesome.”
I should mention that my brother gave me all sorts of music on tape as a kid, lots of mixes or just tapes of Beatles albums. His beat-to-shit copy of the Rollin Stones’ Get Your Ya-Yas Out was one of my favorite tapes when I was a little kid; it played too slow and was muddy and stretchy and distorted, like it was coming from a reversed magnetic death planet far off in the cosmos. I was disappointed when I heard how the record was supposed to sound. My brother once built me a bicycle from spare parts (he’s amazing at building and fixing bikes), when I could barely walk I watched him make a giant rabbit out of snow. He trained his dog to fetch anything. He can basically conjure wonder out of random materials; I took a very different path in life, where I am always hunched over paragraphs of text both at work and at home, worrying about copyediting and proofreading, making sure that paragraphs are kerned correctly, poring over typesetting specs, and in general just destroying my vision. I think about fonts. There was a time, though, when I was a little kid, watching a wobbly video of Rollerball in my parents’ living room, and thinking about how the future was doomed. It was just going to be ominous electronic music and people in spiked gloves smashing each other in the face, or something. My future was definitely doomed. I was always sure of this.
“Forget it, man. Do I really need the Rollerball soundtrack? I have so much stuff I don’t need.”
We had to get back to the hotel. The rest of the day passed. There was graduation, I shot the shit with my parents, hung out with my niece and nephew, and ate horrible pizza. Back at the hotel, by myself, I packed my luggage and sat on the bed, exhausted.
I’m terrible at going to sleep anywhere which isn't a moving vehicle. Once I’m asleep, I’ll sleep forever, but getting there is impossible. Anxieties eat at me all the time. I worry about death. Sometimes I read about totalitarianism when I need to sleep, and I had a Victor Serge novel with me for just that purpose, but I felt disgusted by looking at all the letters all lined up. I know that language is supposed to be the force that gives me meaning, but sometimes it just gives me a headache and makes me nervous. The words don’t always cooperate. The room had a TV, but I'm not really a huge TV fan.
I crept upstairs to the bar and got a drink and sat at a table near the window so I could look over the city, which spread out indeterminately below. Somehow, it was still raining, so everything was blurry. I had to get up in four hours to fly back to NYC and go right back to work, and then I had other writing projects, and I was supposed to edit something. I'd barely slept. I wish I’d gotten that Rollerball soundtrack so I could go home and put it on the turntable and turn it up, really loud, and maybe then I could drift off to sleep. I was exhausted.
Labels: Rollerball OST