This is the sort of article that would probably change if I wrote it again in a weeks time, but it was also an enjoyable reminisce through my musical experience. Obviously I am massively influenced by things outside of music too, but I decided to stick to bands for this. Cheers to Colin for asking me to write it and I hope it’s not too wordy. I get carried away…
It’s also in historical order rather than importance, as I don’t really want to rank music.
Nirvana are an obvious place to start for me. They must feature in so many of these lists, but as clichéd as it is to say this, hearing Nirvana in your early teens really was life changing. Before I heard Nirvana I’d listened to the likes of Guns N’ Roses and Metallica and had a taste for loud angry music, but it was Nirvana who were the gateway band for me. Nirvana just had so much energy and I’d never heard anything like it. I still listen to them fairly regularly now. I don’t think I would ever have picked up a guitar without hearing this band. They made playing in a band seem accessible to me. The music they played seemed more achievable for someone like me, who had never had a music lesson in their life to be able to play. Yet at the same time it sounded so good.
I remember buying the single of ‘Self Esteem’ by The Offspring from a supermarket in France when I was on holiday with my parents. I think I must have been about 14. We were camping and I was an awkward teenager who wasn’t particularly sociable. I just listened to the single on repeat for hours on my Discman. It Had ‘Burn It Up’ and ‘Jennifer Lost The War’ as the B-sides. I saved my paper-round money and bought ‘Smash’ and their back catalogue as soon as I could afford it. I went away with some friends for the first time very soon after buying this and it was the soundtrack of that holiday, so it holds sentimental value, but I also think hearing ‘Smash’ and perhaps even more so, ‘Ignition’ that took me from liking grunge to a more ‘punk’ sound.
Terrorvision were the first band I saw live in about 1995. Actually, that’s not strictly true - I saw Mr Blobby and The Bee Gees at the Radio 1 Road Show on Exmouth Beach, which is probably infinitely cooler.
I remember seeing their music video for ‘Oblivion’ (Terrorvision - not Mr Blobby) on the Chart Show and ordering ‘How To Make Friends…’ from Lotus Records in my home town of Stafford the following week. First gigs always seem to stick with people. It was great and I went on to see them again many, many times.
I saw The Prodigy live two or three times in 1997. The most memorable for me was at Glastonbury. These were the band that made me realise that punk didn’t really have to sound like conventional punk. The Prodigy’s live show and music has all the energy and delivery that you would want from a punk band, whilst sounding much closer to dance music, particularly on my favourite Prodigy album, ‘Experience’. I still listen to them a lot now. I’ve always had a soft spot for this dancey sound and a couple of years ago this influenced us getting a couple of dance remixes made of Revenge songs, which ended up on our Ten Year Anniversary 7”.
NoFX are such an obvious choice, but clearly their sound is a natural progression from something like Offspring, so in my late teens they were pretty much my favourite band. But I think the big influence from NoFX came from what Fat Mike did with Fat Wreck Chords rather than just the music. It was this link that really hammered home to me the importance of getting involved in music outside of just playing in a band and was a huge influence in me starting my own gigs, eventually starting TNSrecords and all the stuff that has subsequently developed from that.
Kid Dynamite are a band that I simply couldn’t leave out of this list. ‘Shorter, Faster, Louder’ is one of my favourite albums ever, because those things are basically what I want in music. Kid Dynamite do it perfectly. As do Zeke, who are somehow not in this list, so this is their honorary mention.
Mighty Midgets are a band I found whilst doing the TNS fanzine. They sent me ‘Raising Ruins For The Future’ to review and I absolutely loved it. And it turned out that as well as being in an incredible band, they also ran the fantastic 5FeetUnder Records in Denmark. 5FeetUnder were/are exactly on the same wavelength as TNS and we’ve worked together many times since meeting them. We are really happy to be great friends now and were very happy to recently re-release ‘Raising Ruins…’ on vinyl for the first time, through TNS and a collective of other independent labels. It’s awesome to see like-minded people working together to make exciting projects (and some awesome piss-ups) happen.
I first saw The Bronx, supporting The Distillers in 2003 and they quickly became one of my favourite bands, both live and on record. Years later through my love of The Bronx, I discovered Mariachi El Bronx and was equally as blown away by them. It’s amazing seeing these people producing two such diverse bands and challenging themselves musically. I think it was The Bronx/Mariachi El Bronx that sowed the seed for Revenge Of… doing a split with Bootscraper, where we covered each other's tunes.
I first heard The Restarts in All Ages Records in London many years ago. They are another band who I have since become friends with after numerous gigs. I absolutely love all their albums, but I also love how they have become such an important and relevant part of the world punk scene, whilst being very much committed to the DIY ethos. It’s amazing to see that this route can work out so successfully for bands.
I’m reserving my last slot for the whole of the UK punk scene. I know a lot of my earlier picks are huge bands and I’m totally happy to have found my way to the underground punk scene through these gateway bands, but the thing that inspires me to keep going is seeing our incredible thriving scene. I’m writing this after going to/playing Wonkfest, which absolutely highlighted what a wonderful community we have. It was such a happy atmosphere. And it wasn’t just about the bands, everyone got involved and helped out and it was beautiful to see. Obviously I am part of the Manchester Punk Festival Collective too. Seeing the bands we all know and love translating to the bigger stage at these sorts of events is pretty special. Wonk Unit did an amazing job with Wonkfest and they inspire me all the time through their drive and community attitude. Every single one of the bands I get to work with through TNS inspires me too. I deliberately left TNS bands out of the main list as it would be like picking between family haha. But to give an example, Faintest Idea have been with TNS since our first compilation and have just released an amazing new album and filled big rooms at both MPF and Wonkfest. It’s great to see bands we’ve known for years becoming so established. And it goes much further than this. At Wonkfest I was absolutely blown away by the Nova Twins, who I’d never seen before. And I’ve also only just got into Pizza Tramp who are outstanding. There are so many innovative and exciting bands and incredible promoters and labels around at the moment. It’s a very exciting time to be involved in this scene and although sometimes doing all this can be hard work, seeing all these bands going from strength to strength and constantly discovering new bands makes me realise why we all put so much into this. As cheesy as this sounds, I really believe that the ethics and community that we have in the DIY scene can be a microcosm of what a better society could be. Maybe I’m wrong, but even if I am we’ll have a lot of fun finding out.
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