Thursday, 29 June 2017

Top Tens: Josh from Hope In High Water and Anti-Vigilante's Top Ten Punk Rock Influences

Josh Chandler-Morris is one half of dark folk duo Hope In High Water (whose album I reviewed last week). You may also know him as the vocalist and saxophone player in ska punk band Anti-Vigilante. Here are his top ten punk rock influences.

1. Propagandhi

I think Propagandhi will always be the number one punk band for me. I don’t think any other band has managed to mix both huge riffs and the most eloquent lyrics quite so seamlessly as Propagandhi. 

They manage to educate with political lyrics that are both impassioned whilst also being incredibly well informed. When I was a teenager they put me on to authors like Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn and were fundamental in raising an awareness of issues I’d never thought about, whether it be gender, migration, or animal rights. At the same time, particularly on the later albums, they have an incredible way of mixing that with songs that discuss more personal topics in the most sincere and heartfelt ways. 

The song ‘Without Love’ will always be one of my favourite songs. I first heard it around the time I had lost one of my best friends to cancer and it described so much of what I was feeling so beautifully that for a long while I couldn’t listen to that song without crying. That’s when you know a song is special.

2. Sick Of It All

There’s going to have to be quite a few hardcore bands in this list. For me the godfathers of the genre will always be Sick Of It All. Anti Vigilante had the pleasure of playing on the same bill with them at Reading and Leeds in 2013 and I honestly don’t think there are any others bands that do what they do so well. The energy and enthusiasm for their craft consistently comes through and they are always able to put on a show of such intensity that it makes the younger, most energetic bands look idle.

That same power comes through in their music whether it be from their earlier recordings or later ones, their power is unmistakable. If you’re unsure of what I mean, go and listen to the song ‘Uprising Nation’ and prepare yourself to two step your way around your living room.

3. Justin Townes Earle

Punk Rock means lots of different things to different people and in musical terms Justin Townes Earle is definitely not a punk artist, but I think very few bands that I’ve seen over the years come close to his level of honesty, sincerity and uncompromising willingness to be exactly what he is. When starting Hope In High Water he was definitely my biggest influence, he showed me that country music when done right contains the same spirit and integrity as punk music. No-nonsense, honest and often pissed off. 

I think a lot of people have been confused by my move from a hardcore band to what I guess is folk/Americana but to me it makes me perfect sense, if you listen to artists such as Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark they had the same ethic. They toured constantly, living hard lives and sang sincerely about them.

Country music in Nashville has certainly become a pop industry with endless celebrity aspiring artists singing songs with little to no substance but Justin Townes Earle seems to sit in the middle of it as popular as ever laughing at the ridiculousness of it all. 

4. Hot Water Music

Who doesn’t love Chuck Ragan and Hot Water Music? I remember hearing Hot Water Music for the first time and those gruff voices and falling in love, whilst also being slightly worried for his vocal health at the same time (little did I know I’d have my own nodule induced Chuck growl later in life). I think like the other acts for me it’s all about sincerity, when you hear Chuck and Chris screaming out those songs over one of the best rhythm sections in punk there is no way you could doubt the sincerity of what they’re singing. I think the fact that they have continued to go on and do other projects whilst always returning to Hot Water Music shows the genuine love they all have for it. 

I had the pleasure of sharing the stage with Chuck Ragan playing under his own name and was enchanted by him as a man as well as an artist. There are countless stories on the internet of Chuck being the nicest man in music, giving away his boots to an admiring journalist and basically just being kind to everyone he comes across and my experience only confirms everything that is said in internet legend. I think this is really important. I have met bands throughout my time in music that are able to create amazing protest music endorsing a better world but on a basic one to one level have been disappointing as people. We all have our bad days and I know I’m capable of being miserable and bad company at times but I think when a band is truly living its message to the best of their ability then that’s a very special thing.  Hot Water Music have consistently done this.

5. Five Knuckle

There were a lot of bands from the British Punk scene that I wanted to put in: King Prawn, No Comply, Random Hand, The JB Conspiracy I love all those bands and all of them were a massive influence but I think Five Knuckle were the band that really showed me what was possible within the genre.

The album balance had bits that were straight up experimental, discordant, shouty and yet still infectiously catchy. Lyrically it really spoke to me. I remember buying a household name records sampler that had the song Not In My Name on it, which comes straight in with the lyric ‘I shy away from your flag, hard to relate to it’ and it instantly grabbed me. As a teenager I never felt comfortable with patriotism but found it hard to pin point what it was about it that made me uneasy and this song perfectly expressed it. Yet despite rejecting patriotism as a philosophy they always managed to really sum up the experience of someone living in the UK, it wasn’t like listening to Anti Flag or someone like that who discussed universal ideas but were very much talking about Bush and American issues, Five Knuckle always felt grittier and more relevant.

It also gave me a real appreciation for unconventional and seemingly less melodic styles of music, before Sick Of It All, Have Heart and Gorilla Biscuits, Five Knuckle gave me my introduction.

6. Jeremy Corbyn

This week I watched a man who for 34 years has consistently stuck to his principles with a complete disregard for the corporate and career driven politics that seems to engulf so many once moral people. He has defied his own party and the media, who created scandalous lies about him every day, with no effort made to create anything like a fair and democratic debate. 

Yet despite all this he managed to create such an inspirational movement that he only lost the election by a tiny margin and managed to significantly reduce the Tories power in Parliament. He has inspired young people to get involved in politics and has brought leftist, morality driven politics back into the mainstream.  If that’s not punk rock I don’t know what is.

7. Have Heart

Another band not really conventionally punk but with an incredible work ethic and diy attitude. To the point that even when they were on their last tour which for many is a bit of a half-hearted affair, Have Heart did a literal World Tour which seemed to go on for about 6 months.

I always liked how although on the surface they produced music that sounded really tough and could be seen to an outsider as quite a macho form of music, lyrically they sang about abstaining from promiscuous sex and the effects that our culture has on the self-image of women. In a scene where at times it can feel like a bunch of blokes beating their chests, I always admire hardcore bands that emote and question what it means to be a man.

8. Capdown

Being from Milton Keynes and playing saxophone in a skacore band, I couldn’t really leave this band out. As a kid I probably saw Capdown 20 times plus and later had the fortune of being able to support them on one of their comeback tours and drive for them on a couple of occasions.

They were totally original, pioneered the mixture of hardcore and ska that went on to influence all the bands that followed in our scene and remain one of the most exciting bands to watch when they come back to play shows every now and then.  Top blokes and one of the best exports the UK punk scene has ever had.

9. Bad Religion

In all honesty I haven’t listened to too much Bad Religion in the last few years but I can honestly say that without that band I wouldn’t have fallen in love with the genre in the way that I did.  I remember sitting in science class with my friend Craig singing Bad Religion and Nofx songs from start to finish and that being the start of Anti Vigilante.  When we should have been learning the periodic table we were busy drawing band logos (which were pretty awful to be honest).  Looking back Greg Graffin (Bad Religion singer) would have been pretty disappointed in our lack of scientific interest considering his PHD in evolutionary biology but I always look back really fondly at that time. 

I also know that if I put Process of Belief or No Control on the CD player I would still mosh my way round the room.  

10. The Skints

I’m aware that quite a few of the bands on here aren’t really punk bands but The Skints have their foundations in the punk scene and even now that comes through at points in their music.

I first played with The Skints in The Loaded Dog I think it was called, in Leytonstone when we were both young and completely unknown and I had the pleasure of touring a lot with them just as they were beginning to break out of the Punk scene and beyond. I don’t think I have ever watched a bands success with as much joy as I have The Skints. From the moment people began discovering them there was always a common consensus that they were a ridiculously talented set of musicians with an ability to draw on so many genres and influences that they created something totally unique and totally representative of where they are from. With a band like that you don’t ever doubt that they will get recognition, it’s more a question of when.

They have gone on to be credit to the UK scene and I continue to take so much pleasure in watching them grow both musically and in their success. Lovely people with amazing music.

You can find Hope In High Water on Facebook here.