Thursday, 3 March 2016

Top Tens: Derrick Johnston from Make-That-A-Take Records Top Ten Punk Rock Influences

Dundee's Make-That-A-Take Records is one of my favourite labels in the world, consistently putting out fantastic punk rock records from bands all over the world. It is run by a wonderful man named Derrick Johnston who is also in the bands Shitgripper and Uniforms and performs acoustically as Tragical History Tour. This is his top ten punk rock influences. 

Jerry Lee Lewis
My Dad used to listen to classical music and it terrified me as a child. My mother played folk music so I was surrounded by it but it wasn't until my uncle gave me a slab of LPs that I discovered music for myself. The greatest hits of Jerry Lee Lewis was amongst that collection and the speed, energy and seeming anarchy of the whole thing spoke to me in ways that music never had before. It fitted perfectly with my childhood hyperactivity.

The Offspring
I've got an older sister and she was always into music so I heard a lot of great stuff through her as a kid. She also had slightly older pals, including the one skater dude in our town, and would always make her mixtapes that I would then steal. Again, it was the speed and obnoxiousness of "Smash" that drew me in and its anti-authority message kept me. It was the soundtrack to my early teenage summers when we'd partake in backyard wrestling and bike rides. They also sent me directly to...

Dead Kennedys
I fell in love with this band the first time I ever saw their name and before I heard a note of their music. I read a Kerrang interview with Dexter of The Offspring and saw that they were referenced in the liner notes of their album. I knew that I had to hear this band but couldn't find their music anywhere (pre-Internet) so saved up my paper round money and ordered the CD from Goldrush Records in Perth. Once I gave "Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables" its first spin, it blew my mind and it has stayed with me ever since, influencing me musically, politically, aesthetically and so much more. The greatest punk band of all time, to my mind.

Green Day
If The Offspring introduced me to speed and the Dead Kennedys to politics, it was Green Day that introduced me to simplicity, hooks and catchy melodies, which then pretty much directly led to me picking up a guitar and learning to write songs for myself. I had an old dubbed cassette tape with "Dookie" on one side and Nofx "Heavy Petting Zoo" on the other and I must've listened to that tape thousands of times before I wore it out. "Dookie" was my gateway record, but I think "Nimrod" is their overall best piece of work, "Insomniac" is my go-to album and my favourite song is on "Kerplunk" (2000 Light Years Away).

I, like everyone else, first heard Propagandhi on the Fat Wreck comps but it wasn't until Craig, guitarist in my old band 13 Broken Fingers (now in Get It Together) played me "Today's Empires, Tomorrow's Ashes" that I had to go and unpeel my brains from his bedroom walls. That record became an obsession and I had to read everything in the liner notes and followed up on all suggested resources; it informed my politics at the time of the second Iraq War when we were protesting and soundtracked our encounters with the G8 when they came to Gleneagles. Without question one of the most important bands alive and essentially peerless in modern punk.

Against Me!
"Reinventing Axl Rose" was a record that redefined what was possible with punk rock in my mind. It had never really occurred to me that punk could be played with an acoustic guitar and it was this record more than any other that convinced my that the songs I was writing solo were just as valid/worthy/punk as anything else played loud and with distortion. The Acoustic EP just blew my mind; so much pain, heart and soul in one place, by punks. I felt kinship and supported, like it was okay to follow your own path even if the only thing ye had was an acoustic guitar, which at times was literally the only thing I had.

It was probably reading interviews with Laura Jane Grace that led me back to Crass. I'd always been aware of them from my early days of getting into punk but the music was just so abrasive and out there that I had trouble understanding it in my youth, even though the message was strong and I was attracted to their politics. Once I was a little older, it made a lot more sense to me and I dived deeper into their catalogue and history, and I was deeply inspired by how committed they were to their ideals, how they did everything collectively and how they endlessly fucked with people. Anyone who's into DIY punk and isn't in some way influenced by Crass and everything they did and stood for is either in denial about it or straight up just doesn't yet know. They older I get, the crustier I become.

The "band as gang" image/mentality has always been attractive to me and our ragtag crew of small town cowpunk country roasters felt exactly like that, something that's carried over with me throughout my life. Rancid were the ultimate punks when I was a kid; gnarly yet cool and punk as fuck with just the best songs and an unfuckwithability. Their influence was undeniable with regards Uniforms; I think Jamie and I harboured some sort of Tim/Lars fantasy as the last guitar-slingers and town and we'd always bombard our American touring buddies with questions about Rancid. I once stole a Rancid hoodie from my pal (in plain sight) and wore it until it disintegrated.

Before the Tim/Lars dynamic, you had Frankie/Dickie. I didn't get into Leatherface in a big way until my early twenties but they were a band that I'd always been familiar with name-wise. The first record I actually owned was the Hot Water Music split, after that I had to devour everything. It was hearing Frankie Stubbs sing that offered me the assurance that I too could sing in a punk band, that my gravel voice was something to be embraced, not hidden and be ashamed of. Since then, putting on a Leatherface LP is like putting on an old warm jumper; they're pretty much the greatest band in the history of UK punk. My original pressing of "Mush" is framed atop my record collection and is one of my favourite records of all time. I feel deeply privileged that MTAT had the honour of hosting what was to be the last ever Scottish show from Leatherface at BYAF V. That will live with me forever.

Tim Barry
I have never witnessed a musician as captivating, enthralling and playing with as much power and passion as I have Tim Barry. I have long been a fan of Avail, having first read about them in a Kerrang feature about the Deconstruction tour and their roots-y gruff melodic punk bluster would be a massive influence in my own writing. However, seeing Tim Barry solo was something else entirely. Uniforms were on tour in the States with Loaded 45 and we'd flown out the day after my father's funeral. Suffice to say, I was an emotional mess. Our tour rolled into Tempe, Arizona and we shared a bill with Tim Barry and Kevin Seconds, a fact in itself which was enough to blow my tiny mind. I will never forget standing at the side of the stage with Jamie watching Tim holding the audience in the palm of his hand and elicit the most visceral emotional response from a crowd I've ever witnessed. I stood there with tears streaming down my face and knew I'd carry that moment in my heart forevermore.

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