Thursday, 30 August 2018

Top Tens: John Holt from Fair Do's Top Ten Punk Rock Influences

There's no other band this list could possibly start with. It used to be that Capdown were seemingly in Manchester every 3rd week, and, to this day, they remain my most seen band. They were stalwarts of the the UK ska-core scene and, at the time, that scene was huge. They played upbeat, political ska-core tunes, and 18 year old me ate that shit right up. If I'm being honest, the first band I ever played in was a ska-core band and I owe a lot to the genre. I can still remember sitting down to learn the drums to "Kained But Able", which set me on the path to playing double time. So thanks, Capdown!

Good Riddance
The first proper CD I ever bought was "Ballads From The Revolution" by Good Riddance. "Fertile Fields" as the opening track was like opening the door to Narnia for me. Moody audio clip breaks straight into double time! The tune doesn't let up in its tempo, and that started a love affair with double time tunes that still hasn't ended. Now, Good Riddance aren't a solidly double time band, but to find them so early on in my journey of musical discovery was a great boon for me. They showed me that songs could communicate a serious subject matter, and be angry, whilst still keeping stuff catchy and melodic. Russ Rankin on vocals seemed to sway between love songs and social injustice, but it kept me entertained for my formative years and seriously influenced my outlook, politics, and playing. I still can't help but sing all the words when they're on the stereo.

Yes, believe it or not, I am a fan of NOFX. Commentary on recent events left aside, I absolutely battered NOFX when I was younger. Easily one of the smartest, most musically proficient bands in the punk scene at the time; their level of songwriting, playing (I heard they don't always suck live), scathing humour and social commentary are pretty much untouched to this day. They've been prolific in their output, but "So Long, And Thanks For All The Shoes" and "Pump Up The Valium" will always be their best stuff for me. Songs like "It's My Job..", "180 Degrees", "Falling In Love", "I'm Telling Tim", and "Herojuana" are all stand out tracks. They've been around since the early 80s, written an 18 minute song that's actually good, had more key changes than most people have had hot dinners, and still manage to have people talk about them now. Plus, if you have 3 or 4 musicians in room, odds are you'll get a rendition of "Linoleum" out of them, if needs be. It's punk's "Agadoo".

Thrice were in heavy rotation before I hit my 20s, and they were very interesting indeed. When I first discovered them, I hammered "Identity Crisis". It's a good mix of up tempo punk/hardcore, and what is essentially the beginnings of today's melodic hardcore/screamo scene. The vocals are clean and full of melody, but also shouty. This introduction to a strong, clean vocal melody, alongside some shouty goodness was nice to find. Their progression through their albums saw them drop the up tempo melodic punk style, and aim towards a more metalcore style. They still had the classic octave singalong parts, but they also introduced a clear metal influence in their playing. Heavy rhythms, harmonised guitars and aforementioned shouting. "The Artist In The Ambulance" was a clear direction change, and it's apparent during listening. They were heavier, angrier, and more technical, although they never lost the ability to hammer home a good hook. We soaked up their new direction, and put it to good use.

Captain Everything
Captain Everything were an absolute gem of a find. When I was 17 I went to see Lightyear in Manchester, and Captain Everything were then opening band. Easily one of the fastest bands I have ever seen play. Their guitarist looked like rabid dog, banging his head like he wanted to lose it, in between getting to and from the microphone. At first glance, they may come across as puerile, with lyrics about wanting to marry your mate's mum, but the greatness lies within endless catchy bangers, harmonies your choir leader would be proud of, and tempos not often below 190bpm. They showed me that fast punk did exist inside the UK, and I was ecstatic to find that out at the time.

"Twas Hell, Said Former Child" was pretty a pretty influential album for me. Every instrument and part really stood out at the time. Someone was playing the style I loved, and not half-arsing it! The songs are some of the catchiest ever written in that particular small subgenre of punk. Cellophane Coffin is everything to love about Belvedere smashed into 60 ticks. Shouty, fast, singy, heavy, and bouncy - it sort of became Fair Do's' modus operandi. Their drummer, Graham Churchill, really showed me how to step outside of the double time punk box. He's technical, whilst staying fit for purpose, and there's some absolutely blistering fills in his playing. 10/10 Whacker of the pans.

Death By Stereo
I can clearly remember the moment I first heard Death By Stereo. I was 17, knocking about in my mates living room, and he'd found an Indecision Records sampler on Kazaa, or some other such ruination of the music industry. The song was "Looking Out For #1" from their first album, "If Looks Could Kill, I'd Watch You Die" and if you care to listen to it, you will note the truly slapping drum fill to start proceedings. I had never heard anything that sounded like them before. The drums immediately grabbed me, the guitars quickly followed. At the time, it was a perfect mix of punk tempos, and melodies, with the heavier, and more intricate rhythm section of metal. Again, shouted talk of social injustice, and government failings had 17 year old me gritting my teeth, and the tunes had me banging my head, and trying to figure out how to play them. I had discovered good Crossover/Melodic Hardcore/ Whatever you want to call it, and i had shit the bed. I couldn't get enough and quickly ate up their second album, just as their third came out. Their first album will always be my personal favourite, as it showed me that you can throw a huge mix of stylistic ingredients into a pot, and come out with a vicious and powerful cake. Their drummer on their first album, Jarrod Alexander, gave me the biggest musical kick up the arse I think I've ever had. "Just throw in a samba. It's not gonna hurt anyone."

Fireapple Red
Fireapple Red will always have a special place in my mind. After finding brief glimpses of the style I loved, without actually knowing what it was, Fireapple Red entered my field of vision. They were huge beacon of hope for me, as they were tangible and accessible, and pretty fucking good too. They were from the UK, and an old band I played in actually got the chance to play with them! (An outdoor gig in a park in Blackburn. The Cheeky Girls also played. I shit you not.) I had heard their first release and it was stupidly good listening. People in our part of the world making the music we wanted to see more of. They were, fast, angry, melodic and technical (I'm sure you're sensing a theme here). Hugely political and talking about issues we could relate to, they pedalled their own brand of melodic hardcore. I remember seeing a review that read "Like the lovechild of NOFX and Metallica" which was total bollocks, because they were much better than that amalgamation could ever be. It's that never ending question: what do you call tunes that are too metal for the punx, and too punk for the metal heads? The lovechild of NOFX and Metallica, apparently.

Strung Out
The first time I ever heard Strung Out was on an old Fat Wreck Chords sampler, and the song was "The Exhumation of Virginia Madison." It's a fairly pacey number and the melodies stick with you forever. That's what Strung Out are good at. They write punk tunes that you whistle for a month on end, whilst still being fast, and metal edged. "Suburban Teenage Wasteland Blues" and "Twisted By Design" are 2 albums that I discovered in my late teens and I don't think I will ever tire of them. At the time, their sound was hugely defined, and clearly separate from their fellow label mates. Jordan Burns is another drummer that really spoke to me when I was young. His pace, style and huge library of fills seemingly shat on anyone near them at the time, and seeing them live always ended up in a "stare at the drummer all night" affair. A lot of people called them a metal band at the time, but what the fuck do people know? That was something that made them stand out for me, too. That "metal stick in the punk mud" place that they seemed to fill really pleased me. "You want to like it, but your punk points quota for this month is dangerously low."

My love for Propagandhi is undying, and I will say terrible things on the internet about anyone who cares to besmirch their good name. From discovering their early stuff, up to now, they have been an influence not only on my playing, but also on my personal perspectives. They have become the ever changing band and I love them all the more for it. "How To Clean Everything" is about as snotty as left-wing, speedy ska punk-rock gets. "Less Talk, More Rock" followed in much the same vein, but with "Anchorless" on there. (Don't ask me.) Then, one of, if not the greatest collection of songs ever written and played by mere mortals is bestowed upon us. "Today's Empires, Tomorrow's Ashes" is a piece of fucking history, and it soundtracked most of my adult life. It is that good. It never leaves the rotation.

From that release, their growth in song writing and playing, has travelled in a hugely different direction from their humble beginnings, but I cannot fault them for it. I love each one. They have their own style that many attempt to imitate, but never quite succeed. If you fancy some Propagandhi style stuff, you listen to Propagandhi. Each album has it's own charm, but they are never without their intelligent, funny, scathing, tear-jerking, and terrifying lyrical contents. Shouts to Propagandhi for consistently moving forward, challenging the status quo, and giving us the music the beautiful music they have, so far.

John Holt plays drums in Fair Do's. Check them out here. Fair Do's recently released their debut album Leopards through Lockjaw Records. You should definitely check it out here.

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