Friday, November 18, 2011
I used to skate with a bunch of girls, there were between four and six of us depending on different factors, we met up after school or at the weekends and went to various skate parks and parking lots around London. I started skating when I was a kid, I got a Vision Gonz board as a birthday present when I was eight, but I didn’t actually learn any tricks until I was in my teens and started skating with other girls. Initially I felt really self-conscious about the fact that you couldn’t instantly be the Bones Brigade, so would just skate around rather than risk embarrassing myself in front of the “dudes.” I got serious about skateboarding during the height of riot grrrl, my friends and I had formed a band when we were thirteen and would go hang out and flip through the 7” racks in the Rough Trade basement, conveniently located under a skate shop called Slam City Skates. We used to scurry through the store heads down, and rush down the stairs, assuming the skaters were all meathead hater bros. I started writing this girl Tulsie, we traded zines, and it turned out she worked at the “scary” skate shop, and she encouraged me to pick up skating again. She actually helped name my band too; I sent her a huge list of band name ideas, and she said Skinned Teen was the best one. This was the era of flip tricks and tiny wheels and huge pants; me and my friends were more into looking like mod girls mixed with the girls from Kleenex... But we were teenagers so we adapted. Learned to ollie, switched to Dickies so we looked like the rest, and so forth.
We skated in a pack, were very defensive and assumed all the other skaters thought we were “pro hoes” or posers so just didn’t talk to them for the most part. I remember one really humiliating incident where I tried to interview Ed Templeton for my zine at a skate contest. He blew me off and treated me like a piece of dirt, as if I was trying hit on him. Rather than being the goofy sixteen year old skater that I was, I was just some chick. These girls had told us that Deanna Templeton, his wife, ripped on vert, (which totally was not true), so I had expected him to sort of be on the side of girl skater dorks. At that point we had pretty much stopped trying to engage with the norm skate boys, we had a few male friends we skated with but there were endless similar incidents which for over-sensitive teenagers were too much. To the point where we camped out in these skaters’ backyard for one out of town contest, when they asked us if we wanted to sleep in the living room on the floor, we declined... My favorite place to skate was a vert ramp in a sort of underground walkway where a railway track used to be, it was on the other side of London and took three million years to get to, but because it was the era of tech flip trick ’90s, no one skated there. Plus it was out of the ears and eyes of squares, just below the street.
I was thinking about all of this because I still sort of have the same attitude, of not wanting to be a blind part of something. Wanting to do something on my own terms, separate from the “scene.” I remember going to a hardcore show where the singer asked the crowd, “do you wanna be part of the scene or part of the scenery...” I wanna be neither! I have been listening to punk since I was thirteen, starting out with Sham 69 and Patti Smith and moving through Huggy Bear and Bikini Kill, the Nation of Ulysses and Heroin onto His Hero is Gone and Capn Jazz (yes, at the same time), then Skull Kontrol and the Wrangler Brutes and then onto discoveries in the MRR library (Power of the Spoken Word! Rutto! Foams! So much more!) when I moved to the Bay Area in 2003. A million different shifts in perspective, mix tape fodder, going from only listening to punk tapes from Woolworths to only listening to Gravity, KRS and Dischord, then discovering old punk and hardcore that was not available on tapes for sale in the Woolworths music department, from Prag Vec to the Avengers. I have been an obsessive music nerd for my entire life, and until I reached my thirties have been stuck in relationships mostly with skaters, where I have had to listen to fucking Rancid and then onto turgid shit like the Hold Steady and have kept my mouth shut... One teenage paramour used a tape I made for him to impress another girl; his record collection was mostly sourced through Big Brother and nineties era Thrasher so was pretty much just shitty corporate punk and Slayer. I made fanzines to connect with punks in different places who felt the same way about skating, feminism and music that I did. Outside f my small group of friends, most of the kids in London when I grew up were totally alien to my idea of a good time. Either they just wanted to go to raves, or if they were hardcore kids they only wanted to play music that sounded like a fifty ninth rate Policy of 3, or some really generic NYHC.
The point to all of this self-indulgent rambling is what we do is secret, and uh, what we want is free. I do not wanna be part of a united front of punks who all listen to the same thing, who all wear the same outfit, not interested in “cool” or scene status, message board sausage parties. Not interested in “free” gifts from corporate entities, write ups in magazines that also run “cool hunting” departments for various corporations.
Punk has always appealed to me because of the beginning of the song “Explode” by Void, because of how the music transports a human out of the reality of walking to a shitty minimum wage job. The music that grabs me is the music that creates its own world, its own universe, the first Die Kreuzen LP, the Huggy Bear and Frumpies 7”s, Bobby Soxx, Germs, Electric Eels, Screamers and onwards to the end of time. Music that was created for other reasons than to sell beer and cars and get you laid at the bar. The fact that people are up in arms because MRR won’t cover their band if they start putting out records with car corporations is embarrassing. DIY punk is not ad fodder for corporations, end of story.