It's punk's 25th anniversary in New Zealand. To celebrate, SCOTT KARA introduced a Scavenger to a Bleeder to compare notes on the punk rock life between the days of AK79 and now.




It took guts to support a band like the Scavengers back in the late 70s. Police and the gangs hated them, and so did the general public.



Maybe that's why they were New Zealand's classic punk band. They might have sneered but their best-known song, True Love, started "Outside the IGA" while their other, Mysterex, is now thought just edgy enough to feature in a telecommunications ad featuring fashion designer Karen Walker.



This was a group - along with others such as the Enemy, Proud Scum, and the Suburban Reptiles - who shouted, fought, and kicked out against the conservatism of New Zealand in the 1970s.

Advertisement


The Scavengers, and the crowd that supported them, "stood out like dogs' balls", says drummer, Des Truction who, with fellow Scav' Johnny Volume and ring-in Dion Palmer from the D4, is playing a one-off reunion show.



Starting in mid-1977, the Scavengers played hundreds of gigs at venues such as Zwines and the Windsor Castle in Auckland. But the band didn't make it on to record until AK79 - the first New Zealand punk album, which we've counted our anniversary from - was released in December 1979.



Since then punk has retained many of its core convictions - it's about rebellion, a way of life, and, even if you can't play your instrument, it's all about the music.



But, as the following conversation reveals, punk has been well and truly absorbed into the mainstream and with it comes less hate, and more acceptance. Just don't expect less noise.



Herald: Describe a typical Scavengers gig at the Windsor, and describe a typical Bleeders gig these days.


Des Truction: On Saturday afternoons the Enemy and the Scavengers used to sometimes split the afternoon 50c a head and make a couple of hundred dollars. So it was a very close-knit, tight little scene back then.



As you can imagine they stood out like dogs' balls because of the look of everybody. They were just odd-bods from the suburbs who took their life in their own hands by looking the way they did.



It seems, these days everybody from bank managers to policemen to news readers looks like punk rockers with their spiky hair. I don't know what it's like now, because everything's across the board ...



Angelo Munro (the Bleeders): It's commercialised now. At a typical Bleeders gig you still get your people who are really into the sub-culture of punk rock, and listen to all the smaller bands, and get into it, but basically because these days bands get a lot more attention and radio play, you do get your more normal kids and your regular kids off the street.



Bands like Good Charlotte have brought in that kind of accessible pop sort of thing. It's a little unfortunate in ways, but they have brought the whole mainstream thing into punk rock. From what I can see there would've been more of a threat back in your day, and it would've been a little bit more edgy than it is now.



Des: Anybody who stood out was a bit of a target for people - be it from the gangs or the general population who looked upon the punk scene as a bunch of freaks.



And, as I say, the kids who came from the suburbs really showed a lot of guts in having a different attitude to what was going on at the time, by dressing the way they did, and coloured hair and stuff like that.



Herald: What was the Scavengers' background? How did you make a living?


Des: We came from an art school background and unemployment, benefits, and what we could make from gigs was our staple livelihood.



The other thing, too, is that we actually played quite a lot, sometimes we'd do up to three gigs a day. We'd do a school lunchtime gig, then we'd play at a pub in the evening, and then play at a club later that night. So there was quite a bit of work.



We came to Australia thinking the grass would be greener, but when we got here we only did about two gigs in a year, it was absolutely shocking. It was healthier in New Zealand than it was here.



Herald: How does that compare to now with the Bleeders?


Angelo: The Bleeders all still work jobs and we're from a working-class background out in West Auckland.



So it's kinda still similar now to back then, you know, getting involved in music, there's not a lot of money in New Zealand, especially in the punk rock scene.



Des: So pubs don't pay a lot?



Angelo: A lot of it is still about doing it on the door, and nowadays the pub will take the bar and the promoter, which is quite often the band itself, will put on the show and take the money off the door. If you play a gig you can get $800 to $1000, which is nice ... at least you're working.



Herald: Punk was a true counter-culture back in the Scavengers' day but now it has been truly absorbed into the rock mainstream.


Des: It's just become saturation nowadays. The shock value has gone as far as coloured hair, or weird clothes go because in the late 70s it was the radical thing to look and act that way. But now, every Tom, Dick and Harry, has that look. It's just become soaked up with the masses.



Angelo: I'm young, I'm 25, and the 12 or so years I've been into punk rock I've seen that happen in my small time being involved in the scene. When I got involved in it, it was very much underground, but in the past five to 10 years it's really grown and got into the mainstream.



There's still the DIY scenes ... there seems to be like two punk scenes: the real punk scene and the mainstream punk scene but a lot of bands partake in both.



Herald: Back when punk started many bands couldn't play their instruments, now the players are more proficient. Do you agree?


Des: When we started we weren't proficient at all. We were pretty rough really, but it was more an attitude thing rather than musical ability that got you through. And I suppose if people thought it was great, then great, but if people thought it was crap then you'd say, 'Well, you don't really understand what we're trying to do in the first place'.



Most of the people I hung around with were pretty lacking in musical ability but their attitude was what pulled them through. These days everybody can play fairly proficiently. I suppose that was a thing in the late 70s when punk started, if you played in a covers band you had to be pretty good with your instrument to cover songs, especially considering what was going on with music at the time, they were fairly complicated songs [with] lots of different parts and key changes.



I remember when [The Scavengers] worked out songs, if we didn't know how a certain bit went we'd just leave it out. If we were doing a cover and that bit sounded a bit too difficult then you just dropped that bit out - play through it.



Angelo: Today the bands are pretty proficient, but you still get a lot of the younger bands coming through that can't play their instruments, and that's really fun. Some of the better bands I've seen in the past five years are the kids who just play straight-up music, they're not trying to do too much, just three chords, and keeping it simple.



The part of the punk scene that has the most DIY [attitude], where people don't know how to play, and people just start up a band, is the hardcore punk scene. Like [it was] back in the Scavengers' days. I know bands today that play that kind of punk rock where the bass player has only been playing for two months but you chuck him in the band because it's all fun, and it doesn't really matter.



Des: The attitude was more important than the ability because like-minded souls in those days were few and far between, but I kinda liked it the way it was with a small gang of people; it made it special.



Herald: The Scavengers' song True Love was a classic pop song and the Bleeders' track So Lonely is doing well in the singles charts. Essentially, both bands like good tunes while staying true to their punk roots.


Angelo: Our song is a melodic sort of punk number, it's quite hard in the verses but a real melodic chorus, similar to some of these bands coming through like AFI, but it's got that harder edge. What about True Love, did that do really well when it came out?



Des: Nope, we never got any radio play.



Angelo: What, not even on the b-net stations [student radio]? What about Mysterex [another classic Scavengers song]?



Des: Nope. But we got on TV, which I thought was quite surprising. Radio was very tight in those days. You had Radio Hauraki playing a bit more progressive stuff, that was when it was a pirate radio station, but all other radio stations were very conservative and they wouldn't play anything [like the Scavengers]. Local content was left right out unless you were Split Enz or something. We never really got any radio play with those songs.



Herald: How important was fashion, style, and everything that goes with that - including haircuts, dress sense and accessories?


Angelo: Fashion in punk rock is not even something that the Bleeders really care about. It's not meant to be a fashion thing.



Des: I mean, you go to the Big Day Out and you see a million alternative kids. And that's great but it must make it a lot harder for a band starting out these days.



That was the thing back then, we kind of stood out because there weren't many people doing that style of music. But now, one in four kids plays in a band. So it makes it a lot harder to cut through, I suppose.



Angelo: These days so many people are taking up that traditional punk rock look and you actually have to see through that, by talking to people, to see who's really into the music.



Who is really into it seriously? Because these days, if you look the part you're probably not the part, it's probably the regular kid with the regular jumper, with a Blitz patch on it who's really into it.



Des: Back then it was a small scene and you stuck together like a little gang because you were up against it from all sides - the police didn't like you, the gangs didn't like you, the general population didn't like you. In the late 70s the New Zealand music scene was a bit depressing and punk was a little spark of hope, and it carried on.



Herald: The Scavengers finally made it on to a recording, the compilation AK79, which was released in December 1979 ... happy silver anniversary.


Angelo: I think you'd agree Des, every kid that's into punk these days should own a copy of AK79?



Des: Yeah.



LOWDOWN


WHO: The Bleeders



FORMED: West Auckland, November 2002



MEMBERS: Angelo Munro (vocals), Ian King (guitar), Hadleigh Donald (guitar), Gareth Stack (bass), King George Clark (drums)



SHORT HISTORY: Members played in other hardcore/punk acts including, Evil Priest, DSM, Malcontent, A. O. V., Kid Nuisance and Smooth Jimmie. First gig as Bleeders in February 2003



RELEASES: A Bleeding Heart EP (October 2003), All That Glitters single (May 2004), So Lonely single (September 2004) ON TOUR: (with Sommerset) Kings Arms, Auckland, Friday November 19; Meteor, Hamilton, Saturday November 20; Indigo, Wellington, Friday November 26; Brewers Bar, Mt Maunganui, Saturday November 27; Whakatane Racecourse, Whakatane, Sunday November 28



WHO: The Scavengers


FORMED: Central Auckland, mid-70s



MEMBERS: Johnny Volume (guitar/backing vocals), Des Truction (drums, real name Simon Monroe), Mal Licious (bass, real name Marlon Hart), Mike Lezbian (vocals, real name Michael Simons); Ronnie Recent (Brendan Perry, bass/vocals (replaced Mal Licious in 1977). Recent took over vocals when Mike Lezbian left the band to go into advertising SHORT HISTORY: The four original members were Auckland tech students. Playing gigs throughout 1977, in April 1978 the Scavengers become resident band at punk club Zwines. In 1978 they record two songs at Parnell's Mandrill Studios and 1ZM radio station. None are released until Mysterex and True Love (from the ZM sessions) appear on AK79 in December 1979.



Shift to Melbourne at the end of 1978 and change their name to the Marching Girls. In 1981 Recent leaves to form Dead Can Dance, still releasing albums of a soothing mix of electronic pop, folk and world music today



ALBUMS: Various - AK79 (1979); The Scavengers - The Scavengers (2003)



ON TOUR: Rising Sun, 373 K Rd, Auckland, Saturday November 13, with the AK79s