PMX Interview #1: 20 Years of Skate-Punk History

Part 1: Scottish skate-punk legends PMX share their history – embarrassing haircuts, namedrops and hangovers ahoy!

Interview by Sarah Williams.

PMX are overwhelmingly good at what they do: they’ve got melodic mass appeal mixed with the technical aspects of hardcore, infused with a refreshing dose of Scottish humour. Watching them live in the past has left me a little bit awestruck.

I have not been able to take their most recent EP Dark Days off repeat (seriously, it’s getting embarrassing). The band add clever, technical guitar runs and drum fills into songs without overly showing off and, more importantly, without detracting from the accessible appeal of the vocals and song structures. It’s catchy as fuck.

That being said, PMX are somewhat of an enigma to me. Their live shows are like gold dust and it’s been over two years since their last release.

Their reclusive nature makes sense when you consider how long the band has been together. Looking at PMX now, it’s hard to believe that they have been going for over 20 years. They’re still young enough and their sound is vibrant, relevant and forever growing. I suppose that’s what happens when you get started at 14 years old; they have the experience of veteran musicians but they’re still very much in tune current releases.

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I was lucky enough to catch up with singer and guitarist John Harcus to learn more about this mysterious powerhouse of a band. In Part Two you can read about the new tunes they’re writing and the live dates they’ve got planned. Firstly, though, you can learn exactly how you manage to keep a band together for over 20 years…

PMX have been a band since 1997. How the hell have you managed that?

Hey Sarah! How’s it going? Good question! To answer that in full I’ll have to cast my mind back through countless clouds of purple haze and a copious amount of hangovers. I’ll give you some of our backstory/history to put it all into perspective. Matt, our bro Paul and I started Pmx back in high school. We originally called ourselves PMT (Pre-Musical-Tension. Shite, eh?) and recorded our first record as a 3-piece back in 1998.

It consisted of nine tracks that ripped off Kerplunk by Green Day with a hint of Nirvana‘s Nevermind. We didn’t know if we were grunge or punk so we did a bit of both!

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A year later, after countless shows around the Perth and Dundee area, our friend Danny joined on second guitar. Our influences were quickly changing as we started listening to bands such as NOFX, The Offspring and Lagwagon.

We recorded a four track E.P. in 1999 titled The Stroppy Bitch Project. It was the start of us experimenting with more technical and faster songs. Around that time we competed in numerous battles of the bands and started gigging further afield.

 

By 2000, our sound had become what is now considered skate-punk and we recorded our third EP titled Goodbye Normality. This was our first attempt at playing double-time punk rock that the Fat Wreck Chords influence had bestowed upon us.

Around 2001, we played our first mini tour down in London, started getting quality support slots at Glasgow’s metal/rock club, The Cathouse, with Household Name Records bands and international touring bands and generally playing as many gigs as possible.

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Our fourth E.P. was in the bag by 2002. It featured the very first version of our track PmxTV from our first album Rise and Shine and was the start of us trolling the internet far and wide, pushing our music on any guestbook or chat forum possible.

In 2003/2004 I started recording a twelve track demo of Rise and Shine from home. During that period we played alongside bands like as Captain Everything, Five Knuckle, Skirtbox, Route 215, King Prawn and loads more. These were bands that we very much looked up to. While playing a mini tour with Route 215 from London, their lead singer, Rod, told me how much he loved our track Rockstar and basically said, “I’m going to let our label boss hear this shit and get you guys signed.” Continue reading “PMX Interview #1: 20 Years of Skate-Punk History”

Darko: One Year on from Bonsai Mammoth [Interview]

We speak to Rob Piper of Darko / Lockjaw Records about their intentions for 2018 and their sterling album Bonsai Mammoth, ahead of its first anniversary.

Interview by Sarah Williams.

If you have haplessly stumbled across Shout Louder in the past, you may have heard us mention Darko once or twice. They were our Album of The Year 2017, one of the top acts at Punk Rock Holiday and a lot of other shows. Okay, so maybe we’re a little obsessed with them. Shuttup.

We love them enough that we have convinced them to play our birthday party (Feb 2nd at The Smokehouse in Ipswich) as a warm up for their album anniversary party on February 3rd. They are throwing a big shindig at The Boileroom in Guildford to celebrate a year since the release of their incredible melodic hardcore opus Bonsai Mammoth.

Darko have been around for quite a few years and have always struck me as one of the most talented, hardworking and savvy bands in the scene. Their recordings and their live shows are delivered with stark in-the-moment passion, but there’s an intellectual undercurrent that shines in many of their lyrics and their complex compositions.

To get to know them a bit better, I spoke to guitarist Rob Piper, who also looks after the infamous Lockjaw Records, home to some impressive punk and hardcore acts.

It’s nearly a year since you released Bonsai Mammoth. I’m sure I’m not the only one to put it in my top picks of 2017. How have you found the reaction to it?

Well firstly, thanks loads for your support and kind words about the record; it means alot to know people are enjoying the album. This year has flown past. We’ve had a lot of fun touring the new tracks, hearing people’s reactions and seeing people sing or scream along with us.

Darko had been together for a long time before Bonsai Mammoth, so it feels like success has been a slow burn for you. Do you think there was a particular turning point for the band?

For me I think the biggest success with Darko was finding four other members that can put up with each others shit and share the same ‘can do’ attitude to just go for it, unphased by how popular the genre is, just doing it because we love playing our music live. When we first started the band I had no idea we would be touring Japan and touring to Greece and back. Since releasing our very first EP in 2010, we have hit lots of milestones which I would class as successes. I think myself fortunate for the experiences we have shared and hopefully will share in the future.

 

 

 

 

 

Where did the title Bonsai Mammoth come from?

From what I remember, the original phrase was coined on one of the many long van journeys across mainland europe, most probably scooting the autobahn. A plethora of seemingly random phrases and noises are produced from the cabin on these journeys. A lot of it is bollocks but some is thought provoking and meaningful… In some opinions.

With Sea of Trees, Bonsai Mammoth and a lot of the lyrical content in a lot of your songs, there seems to be an underlying nature theme. Is that a deliberate choice? If not, why do you think that theme comes across?

From Trust to Conformity and the Sea of Trees EP both follow a concept which involves nature versus machine, so I’d say it was more intentional in those two records than the full length. Nature is a such an epic spectrum; it encompasses the reasons why we are alive and how we interact with the earth. I think it’s important for all of us in the band to recognise this and, when writing, it makes sense to use nature to help describe scenes and relay emotions with metaphors. I think each of our personal ecosystems can be compared to the planet and being aware to treat ourselves with respect, as we need to do to the world, to try and avoid the heavy pressures causing poor health. Continue reading “Darko: One Year on from Bonsai Mammoth [Interview]”

Gig Review: Consumed @ Maguires [13/01/2018]

90’s skate-punk heroes Consumed ignite Liverpool’s coolest pizza bar, with help from Down & Outs and The Hunx.

Review by Sarah Williams. Photos by Richie Yates.

Before this show had even begun, I was brimming with excitement. It’s my first gig of 2018, my first time in Liverpool and (this is a totally irrelevant personal achievement) the first time I’d ever driven to a gig. On top of all that, I got to start my year off right with a trip to see Consumed.

For years I’ve heard my Northern punk pals raving about Maguires and it’s easy to see why. At the front it’s a tiny, colourful bar that boasts an impressive menu of vegan and vegetarian pizza options. Knowing that I can’t miss this opportunity to sample some proper cruelty-free fast food, we plump for a vegan garlic mushroom/pesto combination that turns out to be a masterpiece in greasy joy. I savour it while enjoying the crude animation in Jason & The Argonauts that is being projected onto the bar wall.

Once we are well and truly stuffed we venture past a bookshelf-doorway into the venue itself. Before the entertainment’s kicked off, it is easy to see this is the ideal punk venue. It’s a small black box with a bouncy wooden floor and an array of gig posters plastered to the roof. It looks like the sort of gaff where sweat would drip from the rafters if you got the right act in here.

The Hunx Consumed at Maguires cred Richie Yates 1

Opening the show are local Liverpool punks, ironically named The Hunx. They play straight up fast-punk with clear 90’s skate-punk influences, best illustrated in their extremely popular cover of Bad Religion’s American Jesus. It’s a very well-chosen tune that gets the crowd’s fists in the air as they sing along. Their edge is in their frequent self-deprecating jibes, slagging themselves off to a Johnny Vegas standard, which gets a great reaction from the local crowd who are clearly in on the joke. Although I enjoy a bit of droll humility at the best of times, it feels like the band are doing themselves a disservice; they might have more success if they injected some enthusiasm into their act.

Admirably, they announce at the beginning of their set that they are donating their merch sales for the evening directly to homeless people on the nearby streets. They deliver an enjoyable show, although the vocal sound quality leaves a lot to be desired – the combination of gruff and fuzz made the words a hard to decipher. Overall they’re a solid opener who kick off the evening well. Continue reading “Gig Review: Consumed @ Maguires [13/01/2018]”

Random Hand: Can’t Stop Changing Plans [Interview]

Joe Tilston discusses Random Hand’s hiatus, their return to the stage and what they’ve been plotting in the meantime!

Interview by Sarah Williams. Photos nicked from Bev, from RH’s ‘last’ Manchester show.

It is hard to measure the impact that Random Hand have had on my life. They’ve been going since 2002, but I think I stumbled across them in 2007 when I first heard Scum Triumphant. They were one of the first small bands that I became properly obsessed with, so therefore they became my gateway into DIY. Literally, this website would not exist if Random Hand hadn’t been there to kick-start my gig addiction. I also wouldn’t own half as many sweat-encrusted band t-shirts.

For many years, Random Hand were one of the most explosive bands in UK ska-punk. Back in 2015 they announced that they were going on hiatus for a couple of years. Although they never used the words ‘break-up’ themselves, there was uproar in the punk community and many promoters billed their farewell tour as their last ever gigs. The news was especially shocking coming from a band who were a mainstay of the live circuit. No matter how many gigs they played, they always gave 110%, guaranteeing the best loud, sweaty and raucous performances you could wish for.

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The news of the hiatus was delivered alongside a crowd-funding campaign for a self-released album as a farewell gift to their fans. Hit Reset dropped on 13th September 2015, just as they came off stage at their final, incendiary gig at The Camden Underworld. The album was an unusual parting gift (particularly as they weren’t playing it live) and an opportunity to record with the final iteration of their line-up.

Robin Leitch (vocals/trombone), Joe Tilston (bass), Dan Walsh (guitar) and Sean Howe (drums) recently announced that they would be reuniting in 2018. Their first gig back is in their home town of Leeds, followed quickly by Manchester Punk Festival. They are also releasing their first album Change of Plan on vinyl via TNS Records. It’s a gorgeous red record, encased in an updated version of Si Mitchell’s classic artwork, due for release on February 9th.

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I sat down with Joe Tilston to discuss their plans for the new year and to get some insight into why they left us in the first place.

Random Hand are back! Why now?

We were very honest about it being a hiatus. I know some promoters weren’t quite as honest and said it was our last gig on occasions, but on our social media statuses and at every gig we always said it was a hiatus. It’s a break. If anyone asked anything beyond that we said, “We need two years off.” That was the watershed; having two years off and seeing where that took us.

It literally ticked over two years. I was on the phone to Robin just after he’d finished one of the projects he was working on and we said, “Shall we have a practice then?” That was it, really! It was one week less than two years that we had our first practice back. I think we all just needed the head space. We needed to let it go, not think about it and become our own people. Continue reading “Random Hand: Can’t Stop Changing Plans [Interview]”

Top 5 Predictions For 2018

We cast our minds to the future to predict the trends in UK DIY punk for 2018.

Article by Sarah Williams.

Warning: this article is 70% ambitious, 20% self-indulgent and 10% late. Also, trigger warning: some mention of sexual assault.

The beginning of the year is the perfect time for big, sweeping generalisations. How many times have you recently heard that ‘2017 has been a great year for music’?

In 2016 the big news in the entertainment industry was the unprecedented number of celebrity deaths. Last year focussed more on the aftermath of two disappointing votes: in wake of Brexit, Trump and the disappointing UK general election I found my ever-dwindling faith in humanity diminishing further, and I’m sure I’m not alone in that.

The world of DIY punk was even more uplifting than usual in the context of the depressing political climate. The creativity, talent and camaraderie present in our insular music haven is what gives me hope for society as a whole, and it has flourished in response to the shitstorm around us. I think that creative growth is likely to continue in the new year, which made me consider what else might be on the horizon for 2018.

Through a process of extreme guesswork and mild narcissism, below I’ve compiled my top predictions for 2018. I would love to know whether you agree and what your predictions would be.

#5: We’ll see some weird and wacky merchandising ideas

I encountered a plethora esoteric merch in 2017: miniature vinyl, hats based on obscure in-jokes, a band-branded jars of vegan honey…. There is a tradition within DIY punk to offer something other than the mainstream, but the rise of digital formats and pay-what-you-want releases pushes bands to invent new ways of staying afloat financially.

I’m sure I’m not alone in having more band t-shirts that will actually fit in my wardrobe (I recently spent 30 minutes debating whether to organise them by genre, alphabetically or by size – suggestions welcome). Although I want to financially support small bands at every opportunity, there are only so many shirts I can handle. Patches and badges are obvious; lighters and hats aren’t uncommon; Pizzatramp and Wonk Unit have baby-grows but I don’t think they’ll fit.

Colourful vinyl variants are now standard issue, satisfying the need for a physical product to accompany an album release however, with legions of DIY bands out there vying for our attention, there’s a demand for more unusual products.

I like to think that Andy Davies of Revenge of The Psychotronic Man is ahead of the curve in terms of creative and utterly ridiculous merchandising. In 2017 they’ve brought out an EP on cassette only, created a lift-up and reveal Mr Blobby themed t-shirt (below left) and produced two lines of baseball caps based on a drinking in-joke (below right). That’s on top of their epic ‘it’s fucking booze time’ clock.

Andy’s not alone in his endeavours. In 2014 Darko included ‘essential’ beard oil in some US releases of Sea of Trees, although I’m still waiting to be sold a Bonsai Mammoth plant. In 2015 Random Hand proved that punks love mugs, and yet I haven’t seen a DIY band selling mugs since (Mug are seriously missing a trick on that one).

Some things will be cost prohibitive but we can dream big. Matilda’s Scoundrels branded inflatable dinghy, for all your crowd-sailing needs? A plastic bobble-head version of Faintest Idea’s trombonist, Robin ‘Bobble’ Smith? Grand Collapse could have the monopoly on Jenga knock-offs. On the other hand, perhaps bands like Shit Present should stick to t-shirts… Continue reading “Top 5 Predictions For 2018”

Gig Alert: Wotsit Called Festival 2018

Inner Terrestrials, Faintest Idea and Revenge announced as first bands for Wotsit Called Fest!

Regular readers will know that last year’s Wotsit Called Fest was one of our top 5 punk festivals of 2017. Well, to brighten this dreary January morning, Toxic Wotsit have announced the first bands for this year’s incarnation of the festival!

Wotsit Called Festival First Announcement

For  the uninitiated among you, Wotsit Called is Hasting’s premier punk festival. This will be its third year and, following all the smashing feedback on their last shindig, it’s growing a hell of a lot in 2018.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Dates: September 28th – 30th 2017
  • Venue:  The Palace, Hastings
  • The gigs will be starting earlier on Friday and Saturday so that more awesome bands can be crammed onto the line-up
  • The promoters have also added a hangover-friendly acoustic line-up on the Sunday

Only three bands have been announced and it’s already looking incredible. Mighty ska-punk veterans Inner Terrestrials will be headlining the Saturday night, and they will be joined over the weekend by my personal faves Faintest Idea and fast-punk hooligans Revenge of The Psychotronic Man. I’ve caught Inner Terrestrials quite a few times in the past and they always turn out a lively show that’s guaranteed to get you skanking. I can only begin to imagine how great they’re going to be in a venue this small! Continue reading “Gig Alert: Wotsit Called Festival 2018”

Album Review: Jake & The Jellyfish – Long In Winters

The new upbeat release from Leeds’ favourite DIY folk-punks is a witty, energetic stomper of a record. FFO: Ducking Punches, Matilda’s Scoundrels and Levellers.

Review by Sarah Williams.

I was very excited to hear that Jake & The Jellyfish were releasing a new album. Their last full-length, Dead Weight, was a splendid slice of upbeat folk punk; each song they deliver is foot-tapping, head-nodding, sing-along perfection. They’re also a band that guarantee a raucous live show, which they successfully replicate in the energy of their recorded material.

Their new record Long In Winters is due out on January 26th, with a shiny green vinyl version coming from Invisible Llama Music. At the base of all the songs is a solid unplugged guy-and-guitar ethos that is given a more expansive sound by the full band and the crystal-clear big-room production. Jake & The Jellyfish clearly take influence from traditional folk and riotous bands like the Levellers, but they modernise the sound with poppier ‘whoa-oh’ harmonies and a consistently fast, stomping tempo. The combination of electric guitar, fiddle, plaintive singing and relatable lyrics is irresistable.

Jake & The Jellyfish Long in Winters Album Review
Photo by David Peltan

The album kicks into action with bright electro-acoustic strumming on the opener Spokesdog. From the first bars we are introduced to Jake McAllister’s witty way with words and gritty, infectious vocal style. The song is uplifting with a sense of urgency behind it: performed solo-acoustic it could be a tearjerker, but instead it floods your stereo with emotive force, not dissimilar to the rousing feel Ducking Punches achieve with a full-band.

Second track, Reading List is more of a singalong opus, with an appealing little fiddle line woven into the mix. The words, “I need background noise so I can sleep, just turn on the radio and leave me be,” is an an ingeniously mundane statement. It’s aptly phrased insights like that which grant Jake & The Jellyfish such mass appeal. Similarly the opening lines to Graveyard (“We used to drink in the graveyard in town…”) encapsulate the experiences of every British teenager with enchanting simplicity. Graveyard is an uptempo stomper of a song, guaranteed to get you dancing whether it be in your bedroom, at your office desk or in sweaty basement venues around the country. Continue reading “Album Review: Jake & The Jellyfish – Long In Winters”