March for the Homeless and the Occupation of City Hall

Karl Howarth covers the recent protests about homelessness in Norwich and the subsequent occupation of City Hall by Class War.

On 15th of April, there was a nationwide day of action for the homeless population to try and show solidarity, as well as raise awareness of their plight. The ConDem government have been victimising the most vulnerable members of our society during their reign, and their austerity has caused thousands to lose their homes.

The Norwich March for the Homeless was organised as an event on Facebook collaboratively by Elle Joanna Jacobs and Zoe Rayner-Terror, as well as local soup kitchen organisations the People’s Picnic and the Norwich Soup Movement. These are both independent, grass-roots organisations founded in 2013.

In a statement concerning the march, the People’s Picnic had this to say:
“We recently attended the March for Homeless, it was great to see so many forward thinking individuals unite together to show support and raise awareness to the prevalent issues surrounding homelessness across the country. The subject is one that is either not often addressed in modern politics or portrayed in a negative light by the media so it is sometimes easy to forget that it could happen to any one of us, in fact we are just one pay check away in many instances. Homelessness is a complex issue with a multitude of depths, we have often found that providing a roof over somebodies head is just hitting the tip of the iceberg, similar to putting a plaster over a gaping wound. It may provide temporary relief but extra support is needed to ensure people do not fall back into a vicious cycle. A cycle which is very much kept in motion by the Conservative government through its abhorrent welfare sanctions and withdrawal of vital services. So for us it goes a lot deeper than simply handing out food to the hungry or fighting for the right to housing, it’s about developing relationships, taking the time to truly listen to people, and through doing this it enables us to build a stronger more autonomous community, one where we can help support and value each other. Additionally, I would have to say the most important factor to us is that we are now proud to call many of those who come to The People’s Picnic our friends.”

The march itself was great, if not a bit pleasant. Starting at the war memorial, we looped around the city centre, going via Castle Meadow before returning. There were a few cringe-worthy chants, and we marched on the pavement rather than the road, but I firmly believe that we did raise awareness of the realities of homelessness to local politicians and voters. Only a few political figures attended the march, including a couple of members of the council and Norwich’s very own Sheriff, William Armstrong, who I’m told “turned up off his own back”. He didn’t, I noticed, forget to bring his ostentatious gold chains that signify his high status, however. Also attending was Class War’s Norwich South candidate, David Peel, with whom we formed the “Kett County Class War” bloc. It was interesting to hear the classic “we’ve got to get rid of the rich” chant originating from somewhere other than behind our banner.

Ultimately, the march didn’t last very long, and we saw the hundred or so people disperse fairly quickly, leaving only the organiser’s stands, the Class War bloc and a few protesters. After a brief discussion, Class War decided to take the protest to City Hall in order to get the march’s message out to the people of Norwich. They successfully occupied the balcony, displaying the Kett County Class War banner over the railing, demanding through a loudspeaker an end to homelessness and an end to the rich.

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Transcribed from a video of the occupation, Peel said: “Homelessness in Norwich is a crime. Stop homelessness now! There are too many people in this city sleeping rough: not able to get food, not able to get shelter. It’s time for homelessness to stop. Homelessness is a crime because the rich buy up houses all over the country and leave them empty. They leave them empty while people sleep rough in the streets. And it is a crime to do that! It’s time we stopped the rich. It’s time we got rid of the rich, because the rich are in the way. The rich are ruining this country and the homeless, we the homeless, have paid the price! It’s time to stop!

“Class War stands for squatting! We don’t think we should sit down and wait for Labour or the Tories to build more houses, my god, we’ll be waiting for ever! We’d be dead before we get them. We need housing now. People are dying on the streets of this country: tens of thousands of people…” [at which point they were escorted off by police and security to the chorus of Class War and anti-police chants].

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March for the Homeless and the Occupation of City Hall

No More Gigs speaks to The Number Ones

Irish power-pop punks The Number Ones have been gigging about for some time now, and have released an EP and an LP on Static Shock (and Deranged in the US) that have attracted a fair bit of attention, due, in all probability, to their capacity for writing absolute bangers. NMG’s Ned Samuel spoke to the band’s guitarist and vocalist Sean Goucher to learn about the band and what they’re up to at the moment. Photo by Cáit Fahey.

First off, who is in Number Ones, and what other bands are they in?

The Number Ones are Eddie, Cian, Conor and Seán. Eddie is in Strong Boys and The Pacifics, Cian is in Cian Nugent and The Cosmos and Cryboys, Conor is in Cian Nugent and The Cosmos and from this summer The Paul Collins Beat and I am in The Pacifics also.

That’s quite a diverse range of sounds – psychedelia, rhythm and blues, hardcore punk. What was it that drew you all to the sound The Number Ones play?

We’ve never really given that much thought and I can’t speak for the others, but it feels like we’re into a lot of the same music and are just playing whatever comes naturally. We have similar interests; eating chips and drinking Guinie until we’re laughing at the grass so the sound of the music just feels like an extension of that fun.

That sounds like a pretty good musical formula, to be honest. Although you’re a punk band – I think – you cover the Byrds live, which got me all excited when I saw it. I fucking love the Byrds, but even so, it’s a bold move in the punk and hardcore scene –  do you ever get any backlash? Would you say you draw on them in your own songs?

In the UK most of our gigs are to a punk and hardcore crowd and we’ve only ever had good experiences, including a memorable gig with Boston Strangler down The Lughole at which Cian wore very small denim shorts. We’ve covered that song on and off since our very first gig and really have never had any sort of backlash – more so the opposite, it seems to reel people because it maybe stands out a bit. I grew up listening to The Byrds and The Turtles at home so it probably does seep into our songs. There’s a few tracks with 12 string on the LP which is probably the most obvious Byrds influence on there.

I didn’t know that. I heard at Static Shock Weekend you were working on a new record; what’s it going to be like? Any changes happening? 

I suppose the biggest change is that all members of the band are brining in songs now. The first LP is comprised of tracks by Eddie and myself both together and separately with contributions from everyone on the arrangements or little tweaks. The songs Cian and Conor have are really great so it’s definitely raising the bar for Eddie and me which is exciting.

Cool! When’s that coming out?

All going well it should be out later on in 2015.

Nice. Recently you got a good review in Pitchfork, which is huge, and not a site that focuses on punk. Any thoughts on that? It doesn’t happen to that many punk bands.

It’s always nice to get good reviews, regardless of where they’re from. But it is just one person’s point of view, in this instance appearing somewhere that carries a little more gravitas. We’ve been able to get gigs a little bit easier since it came out, especially in the US, so it has been useful in that sense. The album was previewed on the site too which caught people’s attention. I’m a big fan of the Shake Appeal column on the site too, I’ve found some good new music through that.

What’s the process of writing lyrics for the Number Ones? You seem to cover similar ground to the Undertones, lots of stuff about boys being in love with girls. Is it autobiographical, fictional, or both?

There’s a mix of approaches, usually whoever has written the song will come in with the main chunk of lyrics and a few bits might get tweaked slightly as we play around with it. They’re a mixture of autobiographical and observational, Eddie has a few songs about people he knew growing up and I think they’re the most interesting lyrically. Sometimes a title will come first, for I Wish I Was Lonely Cian challenged Eddie to write a song with that title.

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I was actually wondering about that song; was the name taken from the Hannah Jane Walker show?

I had to Google Hannah Jane Walker – so no!

Finally, what are the Number Ones’ plans for the rest of 2015?
Conor is away on tour for a few more weeks but once he gets back we are going to begin recording what we hope will become our second LP. I’ve been collecting some old 60s mics over the last while and Cian got a new cassette 6 track recently so we’re going to try record ourselves in our new practise space which is exciting. We’re playing a handful of gigs in Madrid and London in June with two bands I really like; The King Khan & BBQ Show and Reigning Sound, and hopefully we’ll be out playing and flogging the new LP later on in the year.

[interview conducted by Ned Samuel, originally published in No More Gigs issue 5 in a slightly different form, April 2015]

No More Gigs speaks to The Number Ones

No More Gigs speaks to Joe Briggs

Joe Briggs (not to be confused with the lead singer of The Briggs) has been writing in about punk for some years now, thinking about what it is, reviewing individual releases, brilliantly taking the piss and most recently writing fiction. Ned Samuel asks him what it’s all about.
You can find Joe’s work on somedaysthethundergetsyou.blogspot.com, isthispunkrock.tumblr.com, and in his zine Brutalist Shimmy. He also does a podcast with his friend Tommy called Full Throttle Lazy, and has collaborated with cartoonist Mitch Clem on Nothing Nice to Say. 

First things first, how did you get into punk, and what keeps you interested?

I got into punk in a fairly boring way. Through bands like Blink-182 and The Offspring. I heard those bands and I liked them a lot so I started looking for more stuff that was like that, stuff on the same label, stuff they mentioned as being influences, following up on the punk bangers on the Tony Hawk soundtracks. I started getting classic punk albums, Fat Wreck, Epitaph stuff and what-not. If there was one classically epiphanic moment it was getting a copy of Punk-O-Rama 6 from the local independent record shop (which sold only CDs, being 2001/2002) and hearing True Believers by the Bouncing Souls and thinking “Yes. This is it.” When I was 16/17 I found a punk webforum that opened up a whole world of stuff in every direction, Oi!, folk-punk, pop-punk, gruffpunk. I got massively into 80s hardcore, Bad Brains, The Dicks, C.I.A.. There’s a great Stewart Lee article where he talks about how the internet has destroyed many notions of canon so you stop getting into things slowly, in the accepted way or order, you just get into whatever. So alongside real classics like Black Flag, I was downloading Nunfuckers demos on Soulseek and all sorts of obscure shit, scouring Kill From the Heart’s 80s hardcore archive for bands that dropped one single and then disintegrated, F, Jackshit, stuff like that. The internet meant it also wasn’t a steady progress towards rawer harder stuff. I was also big into Plan-It-X folk-punk (thanks to AM! and Reinventing Axl Rose, a massive album for me and I know a lot of other people, another thing, like True Believers, that kind of laid a rough path in its lyrics as a sort of better way to go) spending a year blasting no-fi nihilistic Johnny Hobo songs about suicide and drugs I was cool enough to do. After that I spent a solid year or so burning Screeching Weasel’s discography into my skull along with plenty of other ramonescore pop-punk. From there it gets even messier, the final Paintbox album blew my mind and led me deep into Japanese hardcore and punk, Los Crudos got me into hispanophone stuff, New Bomb Turks into garage, I thought Charles Bronson’s Discocrappy was wild, blogs introduced me a million things. I’ve never really hung with just one kind of punk.

I think this desire to always find new shit is some weird compulsion, like a musical version of Sarah Winchester and her Mystery House, basically I don’t want to become static. Because you bump into the people you hung out with when you were 13 and they’re still blasting Blink-182, Linkin Park, Papa Roach, Sum 41, you realise that they, just like the people from 40 years ago still just listening to Pink Floyd, found one thing and never moved on, never developed in that respect, they turned into exactly what I really did not want to be when I was that age. So that compulsion is probably part of what keeps me invested in this culture, but mainly it’s just such an impossibly important part of my life in so many respects now, friends, relationships, philosophies. I’ve known so many great people through it, had amazing experiences. I have no idea who I would be without punk rock. The thing about True Believers, is that ultimately it’s a song about a journey undertaken, but one, if not completed, then with many miles on the clock. So when you here it at 15 you’re not actually relating to what the song’s singing about, you’re engaging with it in the hope that you can achieve it. As a teenager you don’t really have shit-all life experience most of the time, so a song that promises something ahead, that resonates with lived-in struggles can really fucking grab you. At the same age I used to listen to those late Johnny Cash albums a lot, things loaded down with a shit-ton of history, and really feel them, really feel the pain and years in them, even though my life was entirely removed from everything on there. There’s a grasping for epicness, or for a part of a bigger picture, definitely for belonging, that comes with the time when you first start to define yourself. And that belonging doesn’t come easy. A few months ago, shortly after Static Shock Weekend, True Believers bounced up on shuffle and I listened to it for the first time in probably a couple of years and had another holy shit moment, no longer feeling a pang of alienated wish-fulfilment, but realising that this dumb kinda bro-y pop-punk actually did speak honestly to a lot of stuff I’d been through, that I was part of. The hope living in this silly song tucked in the middle of a five quid label sampler from half my lifetime ago had coalesced into a shabby sort of reality, the promise, unspoken in so many punk songs of my youth: GIVE THIS PUNK SHIT EVERYTHING YOU’VE GOT AND YOU’LL BE ALRIGHT, that promise realised. I’ve actually become the wanker that can say hello to twenty people at a show, can have a long conversation with someone about my favourite Italian hardcore records. I’ve made it this far. I’m not gonna back out. Punk rock is what I’ve got. It’ll never be a religion but it might just be a faith. And faith requires work, engagement, struggle. So I can’t get out of it now. Plus I just got this Porno Cassettes 7″ and Your Face, A Fucking Disgrace downright kills. Another reason to stick with it for another day.

I get what you’re saying about True Believers – which is a banger.
Getting into your writing that taught me a lot about bands outside the ‘it’s on Epitaph/Fat Wreck/Tony Hawk’ or ‘they’re in a book on punk’ canon. What are your influences as a writer on music? Sometimes it seems to draw on stuff outside music journalism, like modernist fiction.

Lester Bangs’ James Taylor Marked for Death and Ellen Willis’s Beginning to See the Light are probably my two favourite pieces of music writing (those two writers and Simon Reynolds are so good they’re the sort of people you can’t read too much cos I’d just get annoyed with myself for not coming close) and there are loads of fantastic music writers around today who also are constantly fascinating/enlightening/intimidatingly good in their writing: Jes Skolnik, Ayeesha A. Siddiqi, Maura Johnston, Bryony Beynon, Ann Powers, Maria Sherman, Zachary Lipez, Sam LeFebvre, Gary Suarez, Todd Taylor, Jia Tolentino, Jenn Pelly and more, but I don’t think anyone can become a good writer if they’re only looking at one type of writing. I don’t think any of those writers just read music journalism, I think someone would be a pretty bad writer (and also go fucking nuts) if they did. If you’re only inspired by one thing you’re probably gonna end-up as a pale copy of that thing, a victim of second-artist syndrome. This is particularly true in writing. In music, especially in punk, there are worship bands that turn their slavish dedication to one sound into a warped monastic virtue, Disaster sound like they didn’t know there were bands that were not Discharge when they recorded War Cry and I love War Cry so much I was drunkenly contemplating stealing an earthenware jar that had I.C.I. printed on it from a fancy pub last night.

But in writing I think you really need to read as widely as possible. I love good criticism of any form. TV writers like Jacob Clifton, Pilot Viruet, Grant Nebel, Emily Nussbaum, Sonia Saraiya film writers like Pauline Kael, Kier La Janesse, Sarah Horrocks, Sean Witzke, Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, comic critics, game critics, even if I’m not into something or I know nothing about, I love reading some lay it out and dissect it with expertise and passion and talent.
Most of my reading though is fiction with a bit of poetry and occasionally some theory mixed in. I’m not sure how much a lot of these writers influence me specifically but I’m sure there are bits and pieces of a lot of them, sometimes I might deliberately try and rip something off, a certain bit of phrasing, a technique or two, but I think generally its a slippery collage of various attitudes and rhythms (I think rhythm is probably the main thing I think about in my writing). So some of my favourites are JMG Le Clezio, John Berger, Richard Stark, Dambudzo Marechera’s Black Sunlight, Toni Morrison’s Jazz, Cormac McCarthy’s Suttree, Aaron Cometbus, William Burroughs’s Red Night Trilogy, Kathy Acker, George V. Higgins, James Joyce, Bob Hicok, Terry Pratchett, Zora Neale Thursten’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, Hal Duncan, Kurt Vonnegut, Raymond Chandler, Ross MacDonald, Ian McDonald, China Mieville, Thomas Pynchon, Laszlo Krasznahorkai, Warren Ellis, Alan Moore, the Hernandez brothers, Garth Ennis’s Hitman, Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, William T. Vollman’s You Bright and Risen Angels, Lucius Shepherd’s Life During Wartime, Jeff Noon’s The Needle in the Groove, David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King, Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, John Brunner, Will Christopher Baer’s Phineas Poe Trilogy, Primo Levi, Yukio Mishima, Grace Krilanovich’s The Orange Eats Creeps, Harry Crews, Samuel Delaney, Steve Aylett’s Accomplice Quartet. Louis-Ferdinand Celine, Velimir Khlebnikov, Daniil Khaarms, Jorge-Luis Borges, Roberto Bolano, Nalo Hopkinson. Qiu Miaojin, John Hawkes’s The Beetle Leg, Edward Whittemore’s Jerusalem Quartet, Alasdair Gray’s Lanark, James Lee Burke, Mark Richard, Fernando Pessoa, Iain Sinclair, Eduardo Galeano’s Memory of Fire, Samuel Beckett’s Company and a bunch more. I always try and read from lots of different literary traditions, in different genres, styles, from different countries, continents. Although a lot of the time I do just fuck it off and read a bunch of Warhammer 40K tie-in novels.

I really like the notion of craft being more important than art though. Repetition and drive being more than inspiration. Those pulp writers like Michael Moorcock or Theodore Sturgeon or Donald Westlake who just cranked stuff out. Films makers like Takashi Miike, Sam Fuller, Johnnie To, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, where each film is a part of what they can do, another section of their palette, not putting everything into one massive thing, the great stuff arriving just as another slice in their oeuvre, not with the blaring fanfare of masterpiece. The idea of making art for your dinner as much as writing for your muse is what I really get down with. I think New Bomb Turks’ Born Toulouse Lautrec probably has a greater single influence on my writing philosophy than anything else. “All work is honorable/Yet art is just a job/Let me spend my paycheck on a beer/No heroes, no leaders, no artists, no gods/I’m a worker, you’re a worker/Wouldn’t you like to be a worker too?”

Also, inevitably, I think a lot of direct spurs to writing are from bad writing. Many of the things I’ve written (there’s a great Stephen King quote about how realising that some published writers are shit is really important for developing as a writer) have been out of spite. Nothing pisses me off more than a positive review of an album I like which entirely misses what I think the point of why the album is good. There’s a lot of terrible writing out there, and I have a certain list of words or clichés that I always try to avoid when writing: musical recipes, ‘the bastard lovechild of’, the word ‘honest’ being used as a synonym for ‘I agree with the politics on show’, the word ‘poetic’ used to describe lyrics. The one that’s been pissing me off lately is the phrase ‘step forward’ as if music is some kind of linear progression to one point of bland critical consensus.

And then obviously, all the other shit that happens to you. Other interests, friends, twitter, work, TV, the news. It’s impossible to put everything into everything, but something goes into everything and everything goes into something.

You recently contributed a short story to punkPunk! which is an anthology of short fiction based around (perhaps obviously) punk. How did the writing process differ from music journalism? Are you drawing on the same writers? And also, what’s it about?

With criticism you’ve always got something to latch on to, for things to revolve around, no matter how digressive you get, with fiction that doesn’t really exist, you’re freer, which is cool but also scarier. I’d be drawing on the same writers and things that inspire me but some more than others. George V. Higgins doesn’t really come into play so much if you’re writing music criticism, because his novels are 90% dialogue, but in fiction he’s someone who I think is essential to have in the back of your mind. I wrote fiction first. A few short stories, several abortive attempts at novels, the first of which when I was 14 or so which was an inevitably embarrassingly terrible bildungsroman inspired equally by Rancid songs and American Pie where the barely-veiled version of me was supposed to get laid at the end of the story. Thankfully it is lost in a dead computer. The furthest I got into any novel was 35000 words or so into a post-apocalyptic thing which did have some nice stuff in it I think but didn’t really hang together at all and was pretty structurally sexist in a lot of ways. I’ve cannibalised bits from that that I thought were worth saving into other stuff. I really started writing music criticism out of frustration that albums I liked and bands I loved weren’t being written about it the way I felt they deserved to be written about. Then the Is This Punk Rock? blog basically began as a joke that got out of hand and I ended up writing 150,000 on it. I did get kind of disillusioned with writing fiction for a while mainly cos I just decided that real shit was more important, knowing real people and having genuine experiences seemed more worthwhile than flattening encounters into caricatures, stuffing the tough entanglement of life into plots and paragraphs just felt trite. I realised that in some ways I’d been using it as a crutch to distract from the fact that I was not in a great place in my life in a lot of ways. I still feel that in some ways. I want to get back into to writing more fiction, but hopefully I’m better situated to craft something that doesn’t ring as false as a lot of the stuff I penned felt.

The punkPunk! thing happened cos I’d already started kinda thinking of that as a good descriptor for my writing and I googled it to see if anyone else had thought of it and I found the call for submissions so I punched up one of my older pieces and the guy liked it. The story’s kind of just a punk rock vignette, not much really happens. It’s inspired by a bunch of things people have said to me that have stuck with me all spliced together, a couple of situations I’ve been in. A weird thing is that there’s one part of the story, about people singing along to Doug Mulray’s fakepunk classic I’m a Punk, which was not based on my personal experience, but a few months after I submitted the story and it got accepted, I was in a bar after a show where that happened and I felt like I was living in a Goosebumps story about a magic typewriter. Maybe I really should’ve persevered with that terrible novel at 14.

Alright, to wrap up, let’s pretend you sang in a classic 80s hardcore band. ‘So finally, Joe, what do you have to say to the kids?’

I can’t think of much that wouldn’t be incredibly patronising, so I guess just: try not to act like a prick, don’t be too hard on yourself when you inevitably end up acting like a prick. And up the punx, whatever that means for you.

[interview conducted by Ned Samuel, originally published in No More Gigs issue 5 in a slightly different form, April 2015]

No More Gigs speaks to Joe Briggs