Words: Rachel Aitken
Punk is a word synonymous with rebellion.
The punk movement was a subculture formed around the idea of individual, creative freedom, and this freedom was personified in the ideologies, fashion and music of the ‘70s. The UK punk rock scene was led by legends such as The Sex Pistols and The Clash, with women like Vivienne Westwood creating an entire fashion empire from her punk roots. Traditionally left-wing politically geared music, the punk rock movement was a beacon for anti-establishment prone individuals.
In Scotland, the scene was perhaps quieter than other parts of the UK, due to lack of venue space and an often intolerant public. Nowadays, with Glasgow as the hub, punk is going strong. Just in April, a massive one day festival, Scotland Calling, took place at the O2 ABC in Glasgow. Hundreds of Scots turned up to celebrate, both the diehard punks who have been a part of the culture since the ‘70s, and the new kids, like myself, who weren’t even alive then. Together, they filled the cavernous room and celebrated like friends – something I can’t quite emphasise enough. From those helping find my glasses when I knocked them off in the mosh pit (they were returned completely unscathed!), to the people looking out for you if you fell over in the ‘pit’; from the long chats with complete strangers when the only common factor is your love of the music, to the friendly man who helped me find my friends after I lost them (being ridiculously short at a gig is the worst). The scene nowadays is about so much more than the politics associated with the rebellious attitude of the ‘70s, it’s about freedom and friends, and just having a damn good time.Despite the popularity of punk in Scotland, as proven by the turnout here in Glasgow, just two of the many bands playing that day were Scottish. Luckily though, Buzz got to interview both of them about their experience of the punk scene in Scotland, as well as finding out a few hilarious stories from the past..
Fire Exit have been playing together, around the world, since 1977, towards the start of the punk rock movement. Buzz spoke with frontman Gerry Attrick, who remains as popular as ever (his table was constantly overrun with fans!) Gerry says he started the band in order to create something a little bit different.
“I was a bit p**ed off with the scene. There were good bands, but they weren’t very exciting – we wanted to do something different.”
The band moved to London in ‘78 and used to ‘appear’ at pubs when other bands were playing, pretending to have arranged to support them. To this day, Gerry tells me, they’ve never made a penny. Down in London, they were paid in beer money only. But this, he says, isn’t as bad as it sounds. “Try to keep it natural,” he says, “don’t pretend to be what you’re not and have a wee chat and a drink!” That’s what punk is about in 2016 it seems. When asked what his favourite thing about the punk rock scene in Scotland was, he agrees with me; “I love playing and meeting new people. These days, it’s [the scene] more of a family.” He notes how crazy it’s all gotten as well. “Its f**king mental! Apparently the kids wanted something different, so we brought something different – dolls! And all 20 Fire Exit dolls are sold!” I then ask Gerry if he has any funny stories from his time in Fire Exit. He tells me one, not his, but of his band mate. When they left for London in ‘78, the bandmate just told his wife he was going out to get a curry. “Of course, 9 months later he did eventually take her back her curry! But now they’re divorced!”
Dundee based The Cundeez were the other group I was lucky enough to speak to, this time online before the gig. Fact of the day? The word Cundee is the Dunondian word for drain (so you definitely learn something new in every interview!) Gary, one of the members, is actually a poet (The Dundee Street Poet to be exact) and the group of friends came together when they decided to mix up the words and music. When asked their favourite/funniest story of their career, Stevie comes up with a belter about bandmate Trotsky.
“Here’s a beltir for yi.. A couple of years ago we had a busy weekend of gigs and after the Friday gig we got back to Dundee in the early hours of Saturday morning with a return pick up at 9am for a gig in Glasgow. When Trotsky got home he decided to go to the toilet before bed. Of course he went to the toilet and not for a pee and then he realised there was wasn’t any splash in the water… It was then he realised his kilt had slipped under his arse catching as we say in Dundee the sh**e! So he had ti whip it off and wash it in the bath before his missus found out! This is now known as the morning “Trotsky Sh*t Eez Kilt”! Always gets a good laugh.”
And finally, when asked what their favourite thing about the punk rock scene in Scotland was? Like myself, and Fire Exit, the people definitely win. Both the old and the new, says Stevie. “It’s a thriving community and very loyal. Long may it continue growing from strength to strength.”
The punk scene in Scotland is definitely growing. What’s clear from speaking to bands, and the people in the punk community, is that punk is more than the political subculture it was in the ‘70s; it’s a like-minded family.