Work, family and a nice and long fall season in the Swiss mountains distracted me from writing this up. Actually, that was also the reason why 15 years ago I started to disengage step by step from the hardcore scene. It was great to play in ‘Sundowner’ [Swiss emo/screamo band], spend time with Marianne [Hofstetter; also ‘Profax’ bassist], Martin [Schaub] and Roman [Meier], practice and record songs, and play the occasional gig. But I lacked the time to do more and rather saved my vacation-days to join long trekking-expeditions in the Himalayas, then met my wife, … the usual for many of us.
So it was just shifts in interests and though I’m not buying records regularly any longer, and go to shows only once or twice a year, I often remember and am still grateful to all the growth I’ve experienced only thanks to the hardcore-scene – personal growth, growth in friendships, exposure to a world I wouldn’t have gotten to know otherwise, and being part of a community where it is (or especially was back then) OK not to eat meat, and not to drink, and not to enjoy the regular parties, and where personal anger and frustration were transformed into something productive, creative and healthy.
Growing up in the country-side, though only half an hour from Zürich, was all idyllic for me but not the real world (* Oh, fun fact: ‘Celtic Frost’ – their predecessor ‘Hellhammer’ – practiced in the basement of my sister’s kindergarten: I watched them when I was 11 or so years old, and remember the head-banging and how incredibly loud it was – but I was too young for it to have a lasting influence and turn me into a metalhead – I came to to hardcore relatively directly 😉 …). And music never interested me, it just seemed so shallow, so I still remember the first time I heard a hardcore song and was blown away by the intensity – I walked past a halfpipe where some skaters listened to ‘The Accüsed’ (but it’s been more than 30 years ago, so don’t hold it against) – I remembered that sound for days and couldn’t get it out of my head.
I was hooked, stumbled into the my first show in the late 80s – ‘R.K.L.’ – which was just incredible; all that raw energy! Somehow I bought my first fanzine there – Prawda – and that was the gateway into a world of records and zines that was just mindblowing. I ran into Peter [Bader] of Prawda soon afterwards at a ‘Profax’ show (the first Swiss band I’ve ever heard – I did miss the earlier Zürich punk days but probably wouldn’t have been drawn to it anyway) and realised that though the scene was small, there were pockets of like-minded people all over Switzerland. Another fun fact: Pascal [Claude] who sang for ‘Profax’ probably has the largest soccer vinyl-collection on this planet [also read: Knapp Daneben – Fussball und Alltag].
At one of these shows I met Marianne of Ape Must Not Kill Ape recs. She had lots of guts and was very energetic, so she motivated me to do a fanzine together, Silent Majorty and Lib. The holy grail of zines for me were No Answers and Exedra, they were like hardcore music transformed onto paper where content and form were one and the same, and all raw and tight and elegant at the same time. Luckily we never tried to copy those since we would have failed. 😉 I felt comfortable doing a zine, I have always liked the written word and was (and still am) musically untalented and not very motivated to learn it. 😉 We also organised shows, put out records of people and their music we liked (Mugglewump recs), which then lead to a distro to sell the records we’d traded with other labels. It opened new doors and it was great to contribute something back. Oh, we also had the chance to run a radio-show for a while which was fun, and though I think we had good shows and played great records, we never reached the level of Speed Air Play or Hardcore Hour, two previous shows on LoRa [local radio in Zürich] which played mind-blowing music and introduced me (and others as well I believe) to all the great bands out there in the late 80s. Actually Roli [Roland Brümmer] from Speed Air Play [together with Röbi Zollinger & Claudio] also ran No Way, a skateshop where he sold records, and that small store always felt like an oasis.
Marianne & Carsten
The scene was too small to be balkanized, everybody got along and it was fantastic to get exposed to all kind of music and ideas. The same bunch of people showed up at shows, no matter whether it was ‘Youth Of Today’, ‘Nausea’, ‘Fugazi’ or ‘Verbal Assault’. The early 90s were great – my network grew, trading sleeping-places led me to meet inspiring people and stays in Berlin and California, and there were all those great sXe, emo and ‘regular’ hardcore bands which put into words and tunes exactly how I felt.
When coming back from the US, I somehow got to meet Simon [Füllemann; co-founder of By Norse Music] from ‘Mine’ – we were both looking for a flat in Zürich and became roommates. ‘Mine’ was fantastic (especially their split with ‘Dawnbreed’) but also other friends’ bands like ‘Blue Water Boy’ were intense, especially live. In the late 90s Marianne, Martin and Roman (who played in many bands before) formed ‘Sundowner’ and somehow I got to sing/scream there – we recorded a bit, played a couple of shows and though all on a very small scale, it was something I couldn’t ever have imagined to happen when my journey into hardcore started in the late 80s. Though these days everybody has their own busy lives, we still meet occasionally and Martin and I go trail-running in the mountains.
So, after all I believe hardcore was and still is a major part of my life, and helped to shape, or at least strengthen my values. It’s soo easy to get distracted or taken over by all the hypocrisy, phoniness and shallowness out there. Sometimes I still wonder how the scene grew to such a level where (most) things just made sense, was smart, grounded in reality while being positively provocative on personal and political level – and music and content fit seamlessly together.
Call me an old fart, but the slowness of how way things worked made it easier to appreciate it: you heard of a record coming out or read a review in a zine, then ordered it by mail, ran to the mailbox for weeks and when the packet finally arrived, had the big revelation when the needle hit the vinyl. Don’t get me wrong, I love the instant availability these days but somehow it can lead to treating music as a commodity, which is exactly why I was never interested in it until the first chords of hardcore mesmerised me.
Silent Majority, our first fanzine, put together by Marianne, Sandro Dalla Corte (Later drifted into the skateboard scene and ran Phood Skateboards.) and me (Carsten) came out 1991 and I think we only put out 1 issue. At least I only found the first issue. Not knowing what to expect, I’m relieved there isn’t anything too embarrassing I wrote 30 years ago ;-). We must have sold around 300 copies at local shows and traded a few with German distros, it’s all in German because we mainly did it for the local scene. The themes of sXe, vegetarianism, animal-rights guided us when doing the zine. We were in our late teens and excited about hardcore, the scene, its ideas – anyone remember posi-core? It must have been the time when hard-edge started to emerge, so there were a couple of drawings and notes making fun of that. Though we were all sXe at that time and the band-interview selection reflects that, we were very non-dogmatic about it (I mean we were seriously sXe ourselves but didn’t mind if others weren’t – as long as they behaved decently at shows and half-drunks didn’t bring their beer-bottle into the pit.) – so, the zine wasn’t targeted exclusively at the sXe crowd so I hope everybody got something out of it. In a sense it was a classical fanzine, with interviews of bands we liked like ‘Profax’, ‘Face Value’, ‘Charley’s War’, ‘Hammerhead’, and reviews of zines and records. But we also tried to make it a bit more creative, with Sandro drawing some comics, bands sharing their favourite veggie recipes, excerpts from Rollins’ book, and there were columns on topics dear to us. I don’t quite remember why we didn’t continue after #1, it was a nice collaborative effort and I don’t recall any problems, probably we were just busy doing other stuff.
A year of two after Silent Majorty, I guess around 1992 or 1993 (?), Marianne asked me to contribute to her second project Lib. [Hopefully more on that later.] I did a couple of rather personal micro-zines afterwards with linoleum carvings and stuff, but none of that survived, and the world won’t miss it I presume.
‘Profax’ (from Stans; near Luzern) started in the late 80s with ‘Pasci’ Pascal Claude (vocals), Reto Burrell (guitar), Mario Schranz (bass) & Jesco (drums). When Reto left, Marianne Hofstetter started playing bass… I planned on printing an interview with the band for Tilt! #10 but the disk crashed. Here’s a report of the “blind-date” where the S.M. people played them some songs and the band just said what came to their mind…
BLIND-DATE near the lake
On a warm summer-evening, myself (Marianne) and Carsten, armed with 2 cassetterecorders, went to the ‘Moving Targets’ concert, which was to take place in open air near the Rote Fabrik [music venue & cultural centre in Zürich]. We got hold of Pasci and Mario from ‘Profax’, sat down with them on the lake-shore and we were ready to go. On this blind-date, we were primarily concerned with hearing the opinion of the ‘Profax’ers and we were only secondarily interested in how quickly they guessed the songs. All in all, they didn’t do badly. Well, anyway let’s get started…
Public Enemy: Fight the Power
(The lyrics are far too long for me to type out. Which power is meant here, is probably clear anyway…)
M: (immediately) I don’t know anything about this.
P: Well I don’t know the band but I think it’s good. Is it Don’t Believe The Hype?
?: No, but is from the same band.
M: ‘Public Enemy’! This is from Do The Right Thing! [movie directed by Spike Lee, 1989]
P: Well, to me, black power is not the same as white power. Especially not in America, because blacks have somehow been robbed of all their dignity. In a way they have…no, not the right, but I understand that they want to regain their dignity. Although the way ‘P.E.’ go about, so militant, is totally shit I think.
M: Black power might seem a little more harmless to us because we never encounter it around here. We always just see white power.
P: I simply think if there was no white power there would be no black power either. That’s an answer to white power in my opinion. It’s a reply to racism and the constant humiliation of blacks, but when it gets militant, I think it sucks.
M: It is, I think, already pretty militant, the black power thing in the hip-hop scene.
?: Have you seen Do The Right Thing?
P: I haven’t.
M: I saw it.
M: I didn’t like the film too much. (There wasn’t more to squeeze out of him…)
Minor Threat: Straight Edge
P: (laughs and sings along with the first few lines) Cult song!
?: The tiresome question…
P: This is still good. Out Of Step, when ‘Minor Threat’ came up – as far as I can understand – was something really new and extraordinary. SxE was really something provocative. The whole punk-scene that was totally rotten…full of self-destruction and so on. But today; there’s nothing more socially conformist than SxE these days, I think; that’s not the anti-drug thing, but all the SxE stuff, and everything that has to do with it nowadays.
?: The American government surely is happy about it.
M: I don’t know what to say. You already said everything.
?: All the bands now are totally conservative, or what do you think?
P: I think not taking drugs is much more subversive than taking drugs. But what is considered to be SxE nowadays …that’s drifting back into the negative.
M: It could be really cool nowadays. If it didn’t always have to follow a certain pattern.
Judge: New York Crew
P: (laughs and again sings along the first few lines) One of the most embarrassing songs there is! I once heard that Mike ‘Judge’ [Ferraro], who sings this, was about 12 years old in 1982. That actually says it all. It would be the same if I was to write a song about Woodstock and the feelings I had there. I was about 2 years old… No, I think the song is ultra embarrassing and also glorifies violence… Boston Came Round…
M: In the beginning I thought it was really bad, the lyrics and such. But now I don’t believe them anymore.
P: But ‘Judge’ mean that, I seriously think so. I’s also a completely negative band somehow. Although this song is extreme, of course.
M: I don’t necessarily mean this song, but the whole 7”.
?: Even if he had experienced that… Let’s say he was 18 at the time. I always find these damn crews in the USA so extreme. Boston, NY, etc.
M: Above all, that they’re still proud of that. About their brawls and so…
P: Local patriotism… Yeah, of course I think it’s totally crap that they still thought it was good.
?: It’s also totally childish somehow.
P: The NY Brotherhood, Where Did It Go … It’s like in puberty, where you look for a connection somewhere and still don’t know what to do with yourself. You need a scene like this where you can submerge in. So it seems to me.
Louis Armstrong: What A wonderful World
(The absolute tearjerker lyrics à la Don’t Worry Be Happy. By the way, the song runs in the background in Barry Lovinson’s Good Morning Vietnam [movie, 1988] while you can see Vietnamese farming-villages being bombed.)
P: I know that! This is a black man.
M: Is that from a movie?
?: Hmm, yes aswell. (In Good Morning Vietnam, the song is played while peasant villages are being bombed.)
P: I don’t know what the guy’s name is…
?: Well known! He also plays the trumpet…
P: Louis Armstrong!
?: What do you think of the lyrics? I also could’ve brought Don’t Worry Be Happy.
P: What A wonderful World, nice if he thinks that. Well (looks out over the lake), up to a certain point. In any case, I think Don’t Worry Be Happy is the ultimate garbage.
M: I don’t think the music is that bad.
P: Yeah, the music is OK, but the lyrics…
M: Yes, I think one shouldn’t make them all that way. In the HC scene people tend to take everything seriously. I think that’s a good thing, there are enough bands that loosen things up a bit.
?: For example?
P: Love Is Good Until It Isn’t, a ‘Stikky’ song. I think it’s good when you have an attitude towards life. But every time you think about the future you have to consider: “Oh come on, don’t worry be happy. Basically, you can enjoy life.”…
M: That’s most people’s pattern.
(Some song from their demo. I don’t know what the title is…)
P: Don’t know it.
?: A demo…
P: Maybe when he sings… Ray! Right, krshna and so is actually totally against everything what HC, in my opinion, stands for. Blind obedience, following an unwritten law and pursuing a goal that doesn’t exist – maybe doesn’t exist. What I hate most about sects is their claim to truth. Nobody who is krshna bothers me as long as they don’t try to force it on someone. I mean, it’s a question of belief, a matter of opinion. I think it’s shit, because Ray surely knows how much responsibility he has and how many kids there are who think he’s a god. And now he really completely goes for the krshna thing. I don’t know… A couple of kids are sure gonna love it. I think that’s pretty crappy.
M: That’s what I find dangerous about it. Everyone can believe what they want. But in this particular case with Ray pulling people in, I think it sucks too.
?: Do you think ‘Shelter’ will sell?
P: I believe for sure.
M: There are sure to be people who buy this. The biggest part of them probably. Even though they probably don’t care whether they’re krshna or not.
P: However I don’t think one should boycot that now. I’ll probably buy the 7” too.
Dead Silence: Can You?
P: I know that…
?: ‘Dead Silence’.
M: I just know this one song from them…
P: I only have a 7” of them: For Your Ego’s Sake. Is that the one?
P: Then I should actually know it. I knew that I had heard it before… ‘Dead Silence’ is a really good band and especially Hippycore is one of the most positive things there is at the moment. It’s way too undervalued.
?: Most SxE people probably won’t buy that at all.
P: That’s another problem. These bands can be so good; from the lyrics to the attitude, to the music. But in some way they’re not commercial enough. I certainly don’t mean that negatively. I actually think it’s good, but it’s a shame. For me that’s kind of the ideal picture of a scene, the way Hippycore does. Simply totally fair and consistent.
P+M: Already recognised after a hundredth of a second. (Roman [Amstutz; guitarist], this is not a joke!)
P: They should finally put out a 7”.
M: They don’t want to!
?: Do not want???
P: They have far too little self-confidence. They think they’re totally bad… While they’re totally cool, especially this song. This is my favourite song.
M: Mine too. I think their music is totally cool, totally rough, the way it should be; original…
P: They’re totally sweet guys, but don’t have enough self-confidence. You can tell them: “Go for it now! Lots of people think you’re great!”. But they don’t believe it.
?: From the scene in Stans?
P: Yes, they’re our local heroes…
?: It’s booming a bit, isn’t it?
P: Yes, it’s booming. It’s really cool right now. I got to know a lot of people because of all that, through our band and so on. And I also think – yes, that might sound crappy – it’s extreme when you see what has come about now after we started. That up to 300 people come to the concerts now, there’s another band that is totally good; just as ‘X-Large’. It’s totally nice to see.
?: Do you think the same would have happened in Zürich?
M: I think it’s totally different here (Central Switzerland) than in Zürich.
P: There’s also a certain over-saturation there when it comes to concerts and so on.
M: The bands in Zürich also tend more towards punk.
Majority Of One: Three Songs
(A very quiet acoustic song from their LP.)
M+P: (perplexed faces)
?: It’s an SxE band. ‘Majority Of One’.
P: Oh, that’s from the LP!
M: I don’t like them at all…
P: I think this is good! I have the 7”. But I never liked it so much, that’s why I didn’t buy the LP. But apparently I should have…
?: That’s a really slow, acoustic piece. What do you think of it, regarding the HC scene?
P: Yes, I’ld like to do that too… Also ‘Kina’ and so I think are really good. The acoustic ‘Kina’ songs are some of the greatest. Also the ‘Sink’ songs. I also like melodic stuff no matter what.
?: It seems as if most of the bands had the HC image and then “you can’t” write a slow or “nice” piece…
P: Yeah. But I think that’s good. ‘Ugly Food’ also have a great song like that.
M: Yes, that’s also good live. That adds some variation.
P: It’s totally cool. I also listen to a lot of other music, not HC stuff. I always think it’s good when bands try to “slip out of their own skin”.
Negative Approach: Ready To Fight
?: You cover the song, right…
P: Yes we did.
?: Don’t you want to play it anymore?
P: No, we play covers a maximum of 3 times anyway, no more.
M: what do you mean? Because of the lyrics and such?
?: Well, in general actually. What does the song mean to you?
P: I was also wondering what that was about when I was singing that. We mostly covered it because it’s simple. We had to rehearse something quickly and so we decided on that.
M: The lyric is pretty extreme…
?: Well, fighting doesn’t have to mean using your fists…
M: I think the whole thing is also like ‘Minor Threat’. It’s just from the past, when it started.
P: For me it kind of means: “So, now let’s talk! We have been put down long enough!” When I sang that, it never felt like this: Yes, damn it, I’m taking it serious now and so now we’re gearing up… It was just always great fun to play that song. I think the music is totally awesome. ‘Negative Approach’ is one of the coolest bands. But anyway, I addressed it more from relaxed point of view.
Rise Above: What It Is!
?: What’s this? (I already forgot it myself…)
M: That’s ‘Rise Above’.
?: Oh yeah, Unity Is Bullshit.
P: Yes, I thought that was totally cool… They say unity is good, but today that means uniformity, also that everyone is the same and so on. And below (on the lyrics-sheet) you can see 4 photos with just the hands of the band-members, all with an X on it. I thought that was really funny. They must have thought that over a lot when they did it! (general laughter)
M: I think the 7” isn’t that bad at all.
P: No, that’s right, the music is really not bad. And the lyrics too, except this one.
M: I guess I’ve never heard a good word about the band.
P: Me neither. Anyway, this song is really delicious! Still with the photos below. But yeah, the statement is still good. It’s kind of true; unity nowadays means wearing a hoodie.
(Comment is probably superfluous…)
M: I was just thinking it had to come. I’ve sold all of my records from them. I should have burned them…
P: (Sings along again.)
M: They’re trying to come across extremely funny somehow, à la ‘Project X’ or something. But I think it sucks how they put down vegetarianism and all that.
P: ‘Choke’ [vocalist Jack Kelly] is definitely sick.
M: It sucks and I don’t find anything funny about it either.
P: Yeah, I have this record. I shouldn’t have that if I were consistent. This is one of the few… What just totally annoys me is that they are discussing topics where you have to seriously ask yourself whether there’s nothing more important. In half of their interviews, they talk about the rules of straight-edge. When SxE came up, it had other rules, about meat and so. This is so embarrassing! That’s the biggest joke! Have they got nothing better to do, I wonder, than to talk about things like that. I’ve Had Enough and stuff. SxE Kids Drinking Behind My Back (reaches for his head). So please… An embarrassing band!
?: Stars and Stripes?
P: I have nothing to say about it. I’ve never held it in my hands.
M: Well, I really don’t know what they want with these miserable lyrics.
P: I just don’t trust ‘Choke’ is intelligent enough to be able to attack patriotism etc. That’s why I think it’s meant to be serious.
M: I might find Stars + Stripes really funny…
P: If one didn’t know who’s behind it.
M: You can’t take these lyrics seriously, they are so stupid.
Profax: We’ll Make The Difference (‘Insted’). Live in Sarnen
M: This had to happen! (both laugh) Why did we play that?
P: why? I do not know either. At least that wasn’t my idea. I also said “Well, I don’t think the lyrics are that bright, but what the heck.”. If you look at the video-recording closely, you can see Mario and me as we get into it. (both laugh)
M: I still think it’s good.
P: Yes, ‘Insted’ is a good band…
M: One of the good bands in the SxE scene.
P: Well, the lyrics are just a bit…you couldn’t write one that well. That’s why I didn’t take it so seriously. During rehearsals we always sang it in German: “Du Und Ich, Wir Machen Den Unterschied“ – You and I, we make the difference… Now when I hear it, it reminds me of a really good concert. It was awesome!
?: With many SxE bands the embarrassment comes about when you literally translate them into German.
M: I don’t think that simple lyrics are bad now…
P: Yeah, but some really don’t have a message.
M: I also find disguised lyrics a little better that perhaps deal with the same topic.
P: Me too. You have to think about things.
?: Do you have any final words?
- (submissive) Yeah, how were we?
?: Well so-and-so…
M: It’s still a good change from interviews. (Thanks for the flowers.) We have to do that in the Rebound [Mario’s zine] too some day.