I like to keep this blog separate from my personal zine column because a) I don't put as much time in research, b) I do it for fun and c) I like to relate it to AP.net.
That being said, this blog entry is influenced by the favorite Hardcore singers thread in which at least 90% of people seemed to think people like Johnny Craig, Anthony Green or bands like Chiodos, Underoath etc were Hardcore bands or singers.
Throwing a little history into this, punk began as most of us know in a cross ocean late 70s progression from proto-punk/garage rock into punk rock by bands dismissing the 60s and 70s music of Led Zep, The Who, The Rolling Stones and all these bands that were looked at as basically the Hip-Hop of our generation. Basically actors writing songs without any originality about societal factors that no longer had any relevance to the youth of the day. (mind you that's a two sided coin as Hip Hop of the late 80s/early 90s was similar to Punk Rock in its social integrity pre-bling/money/racist etc propaganda).
The first punk bands will forever be debated, whether its the Damned release Damned Damned Damned, The Sex Pistols, The Velvet Underground, The Ramones or even Zappa! the important factor is where did hardcore start?
Hardcore, for most, is considered to have started with legendary band "7 Seconds" when they were the first of all bands to refer to thiemselves as "Hardcore". This in and of itself started a wave of new bands both highly influenced by the energy, lyrics and lifestyle of 7 Seconds Vegan Hardcore Lifestyle lead to the eventual development of the genre as the Vegan and DIY movement known and coincided with the upcoming bands that formed the backbone of hardcore as it progressed in the 1980s with Minor Threat for one. However without having to stay within the boundaries of the Vegan label the bands that are the undisputed gran-daddies of Hardcore Punk are without a doubt acts like FEAR, The Germs, Black Flag, Minor Threat, Iron Cross, Jerry's Kids, Gang Green, Bad Brains, Reagan Youth and many many more. Their homes spread across the country in places like the CBGBS and other monumental California locations, some owned by bands like Black Flag and turned into house/venues while others were donated by those involved in the love of the movement.
The most important cities in the beginning cannot be dismissed as L.A, San Fran, Boston, Washington DC, New York City all contributed some of the first venues to tolerate this lifestyle and movement. However it was the DIY of the bands, proving their ability to maintain their lifestyle within their ethics that made it possible for bands in places like Billings Montana to get together in a basement with an 8-track and throw together a demo, and live a life that didn't require conformity to an organized religion, but rather an unorganized religion of anarchy and chaos filtered through morality and common sense. Bands nobody knew could head in a van and show up in Salt Lake City asking to open. With a scene very much supportive in and of itself it wasn't as hard to get a set time as it is today as the ethics of the scene were in a different time period, it was all for one and one for all (unless you were a total poser). The thought of a Gold or Platinum recordings were not on anyone's mind, let alone radio play or the thought that 30 years later people would still be writing about or bands would still be influenced by their music.
Moving forward out of the 1980s Hardcore was kept alive by bands that had to evolve the music with more harmonic melodies without straying too far from the main point. Basically; Get your point across in 40 seconds at 225 bpm with no bullshit. This methodology changed unfortunately but only to a certain degree. The musicianship certainly evolved in the 90s, the songs were longer and the singing more melodic, turn 40 seconds to 2 minutes and add a second guitar into the mix. Perhaps instead of forming a band by grabbing your friends and buying your first instruments members already knew how to play before hand. So Hardcore was kept alive by bands like The Circle Jerks, The Descendants, Hatebreed, Snapcase, Agnostic Front, H20, Earth Crisis, 88 Fingers Louie, Against All Authority and so on. By the time you hit the 2000s it was still a lot of the bands from the 80s and 90s keeping together but metal had creeped itself in and stuch you had the purists and the new styles emerging.
So while purists would be listening to Bane, Comeback Kid, Agnostic Front, Madball, H20, and the originals. The new school breed was not Screamo. Screamo was the logical evolution of Ian Mackays Fugazi child Emo meeting a friend named Metal at the music store. An entirely different article in and of itself.
However Hardccore for more or less had in a way met with Alternative/POP-Punk and become for more or less Post Hardcore to the bands that didnt maintain the original format of getting your point across in 30-40 seconds. There was now longer breakdowns, much more talented musicians, much better singers and much better guitar playing however the core of Hardcore had always been music with meaning, music meant to inspire change and progress in the human race. The fight against oppression and the sharing of ideals meant to help liberate those who have been born with original sin and never known of another reality. Not songs concerning relationships and breakups.
This was kept alive with Comeback Kid, Bane, to a lesser degree Saves The Day (can't slow down), and bands like Marylins Vitamines, Hatebreed, Early AFI, H20, Agnostic Front and even bands evolving and transcending their own roots.
Hardcore though, is a genre by and far local to each city, with a different take across each realm, and by and far non commercial enough to maintain a large fan base outside the zine world. However the most important thing is that Hardcore is not in any way shape or form related to the genre of Screamo and to suggest Johnny Craig is one of the best hardcore singers of all time made me choke on my fair-trade Brazilian [insert something funny]. It made me feel compelled to write a blog entry to try and inform at least and convert one person to explore this genre and understand the movement it created and the sincerity behind the lyrics, the meaning of Anarchy or at least questioning your Guv, the ideals of the treating each other with respect and understanding the dangers of drugs and violence.
Don't get me wrong, I love good music, and I love many of the Screamo bands and punk/metal crossovers which have come from the evolution of Emo, Post Hardcore and Metal, however through the thread of Hardcore Singers I realized the degree of separation that exists between the general punk community and true Hardcore. Hardcore is as important to the movement as the guitar. I hope that someone reading this is turned onto a band that changes their life the way Minor Threat changed mine.
I hope I also did the genre some justice in my early morning rant. But thats besides the point. I leave you with this, old meets new.
Walking down Rideau street, 1997 the street posts are full of postings. Word of mouth hits faster, and an answering service that lists off bands names and shows 613-234-PUNX listed off the months listings for all the underground fanatics. It was the times. Skateboarding, shredding, going to shows and partying with your favorite bands in between playing your own shows. Probably the best time of my life.
It was St Andrews Church, one of if not the first or second Sno Jam before Molson bought it and ruined it, I'm in the basement. Having a conversation with the lead singer of Anti-Flag. He smells bad, probably hasn't showered in a month and hands me what was Die For Your government on Cassette. 88 fingers Louie are fighting on stage and don't even finish the set (fighting). It was just another night. I can't believe I didn't pay more attention not realizing they were going to break up and I was going to never see them again, but I wasn't there to see Misconduct from Sweden, nor was I there to see The Bouncing Souls. Looking back, a pretty boss line-up. However I WAS there to see Gob. Little did I know these were the dying days of these kinds of lineups we took for granted in the capital.
At the time it felt like Canadian Punk Rock was ruling the game. With bands (give or take a few years) like Gob, Another Joe, Moneen, Choke, Layaway Plan, Grade, Marylins Vitamis, The Chelseas, Bertha Does Moosejaw, Propagandhi, Guy Smiley, Miles Between Us, Seven Layers, Unemployed, The Riptides, I could keep going and going and going.
It wasn't like we didn't get our share of the big names before they were big or after. The Misfits to The Ataris, you could have your fill. However we seemed to have something really unique and ahead of it's time compared to the Hardcore/Melodic Hardcore/Pop-Punk dominating the stuff we got from down south. From Propagahis 45 minute speeches between 3 minute songs to the math-rock/metal of Choke's latest release 'Forward' leading itself to a record of complete insanity within time signatures and complexity just not found in "Punk" of the day. Moneen was hitting the seen with their own take on Atmospheric Emo Core with its own take on complex time signatures and 15 minute songs with improvisations. I distinctly remember Kenny Bridges breaking a Strat right in half at the neck during a BREAKDOWN of melodic interchanges of clean, undistorted harmonies. It was feeling like our time and years later with the demise of almost every band listed it's hard to understand why it is that Canadian music has as hard a time breaking into the states as a border jumper getting a job with the Department of Defense.
Moving forward it wouldn't be until Alexisonfire would breakthrough, 20 some years since DOA or SNFU laid their stamps on American Punk. Why was this? We may never know as all bands had the talent and toured relentlessly. In fact, one of the most iconic songs of touring in my own opinion is Chokes - Concrete Timeline off There's a Story To This Moral.
To give you an idea of what I'm on about think of the fact that these are songs from the 1990s or year 2000 at the latest (year 2000 would of been recorded in 99 anyways).
However it's bad times in Canada, what we had is gone and for the slack I might say from my companions up North we just don't have the caliber of Musicians that we had back then. We still had some great releases in the 2000s, bands like Ghosts of Modern Man, Passenger Action, The Fullblast, The Reason, Alexisonfire, Cunter, Seas and more. However still, most American's I imagine (for the most part, and this isn't meant to be a stab) probably only know Alexisonfire from the lot.
So I ask, if I may that you take a look up north at the amazing musicians we have left from these great bands that dominated our scene. Cunter, Seas, Moneen and Comeback Kid being the best of the lot in my opinion. The die-hards obviously know Comeback Kid and that's great. However I strongly encourage fans of bands like Say Anything to explore Moneen, fans of Bane to explore Cunter, fans of the Get Up Kids to explore Seas and promoters to look to the North for some talent to help the dying breeds spread their love across the border with our southern brothers.
Bands like Cunter
The dying breeds with the leftovers of those who are trying to keep the dream alive. Canada's scene is dying, it's on life support. Support your northern brothers and feel the love. Or I swear, no more bacon, Tim Hortons or drinking for 18 year olds. This is a Standoff, Moneen, Cunter, Seas, Passenger Action, Black Mastiff.. just some of the amazing bands I have on my favorites these days. So show your support if you get a chance to see them.
I still remember the first time I heard Grade play, it was probably 1998? Small venue, Toronto Canada. There was a few other local hardcore bands playing as well. Grade had just released a mountain of recordings in basically 3 years of recording and little did us, the fans know, that this band was recording music that would influence the next generation of Punk.
Skipping forward to the mid 00's with bands like Alexisonfire, Underoath, Protest The Hero, As I Lay Dying, Every Time I Die, many of the people in love with this genre don't realize it was born out of a single record recorded in 1996, released in 1997 and part of the Punk sound encompassing the Canadian landscape of the 1990s. Grade - And Such is Progress, and such it was.
From the very first song, Weave, the emotional and melting guitar playing leads you into thinking of something along the lines of Sunny Day Real Estates - Seven until it all explodes in an almost lofi soundscape with the emotional screaming of Kyle Bishop throwing all of his heart out into the mic and into your ears with lyrics like:
our strategies lend themselves to confusion
our inhibitions spoil everything
where should i begin
where do i stop , where do i start
we don't inherit we just borrow from the future
lend me the future and i'll build
my social disdain is apart of an evolution
to deactivate the selfinfliction of incapability
lend me the future and i'll build
i'll shut out from commercial intercourse
but with this
where i stop, where do i start
lend me the future
and i'll build.
Years later they would release the iconic album Under The Radar which many Post Hardcore and Screamo bands consider one of the most influential record of the 1990s in the Punk Rock Realm, and to the progression. However I believe it started earlier, I think it all started with Weave, because as they said; Lend me the future, and I'll build.