Today, we are sitting down with Luc from Bordeaux, rebaptized A Luc at Tomorrow for this occasion. If you have never heard of him, Luc is our renowned Discharge and käng expert on the national level. His resume speaks for itself: he is a two-time recipient of the D-beat Without Borders award, has coauthored the very successful self-help guide book Where there is a will, there is a waaaayyy and his former band Gasmask Terror represented France for the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest making it to the 37th position (the country's highest ranking to this date) and is currently the Head of the Department of Käng Studies at the Sorbonne. We will be talking about Discharge's Why, the 90's d-beat wave, Discharge worship, käng hardcore, the evolution of Discharge worship, Disclose and even more serious stuff like the impact of streaming on our perception of classic hardcore music or alarming concerns like the recent popularity of Grave New World.
A LUC AT TOMORROW
Terminal Sound Nuisance: Alright then, let’s get right into the heart of the matter and start with the prehistoric period of hardcore punk: Discharge. Common punk sense has long established that there are three main ways to discover Discharge. a. The metal way through the band’s influence on famous 80’s metal acts like Metallica; b. The UK punk way through famous bands like The Exploited or GBH who borrowed from Discharge; c. The hardcore way through the revered 80’s hardcore scene in the U$A where the name Discharge kinda floated around. What and when was yours?
A Luc At Tomorrow: Mine was a mix of A and B. I started to show interest in both punk and metal simultaneously, circa 1986 – possibly even 1985 (I was 12). I first had a very short Pistols / Clash phase but it didn't last long as I was soon introduced to louder sounds by a couple of school mates: GBH, Metallica, Slayer, Exodus, Chaos UK, Dead Kennedys… but also Eskorbuto and Kortatu since I grew up in Iparralde (the North/French side of the Basque Country) where "rock radical vasco" was all the rage. Anyway, 1986 was the year crossover and thrash metal hit big time and there was no way escaping it – with grindcore soon to follow. I immersed into both punk and metal at the same time, and have loved both "genres" ever since. Discharge came to my attention really quickly, they were an established household name by then and you'd see pictures of Metallica or Slayer members wearing their shirts. It was a name that popped up all the time as they were obviously very influential, but it took a little longer before I first heard them.
TSN: A first encounter with Discharge through "Massacre Divine" could be enough to deter the listener from the band for at least a decade. What was the first Discharge record or song you came across? What did you spontaneously think about it? Did you charge your hair?
ALAT: My initial interest in hardcore and punk started around the time Grave New World came out. Haha, bad timing, right? That was my first exposure even though I hadn't listened to it yet. I remember seeing the cover art in a metal magazine, reading a couple of really bad reviews, so for a while I didn't pay much attention. But in the corner of my mind I knew Discharge was more than that, since the name was mentioned pretty much everywhere, their shirts were worn by all the cool bands, etc. But information was hard to come by. No internet of course, I yet had to discover the world of fanzines and tape trading, I was super young, lived in a small town in rural Southwest France, had no connections in "the scene", so I had no idea what was up, how to acquire cool tapes and records. First I'd swap tapes with the other two guys in my school that liked louder music, but everyone had very small collections and limited knowledge at that point. Strangely enough, this older guy who lived in my street, literally one block away, was ALWAYS wearing a Discharge shirt. He probably only owned one band shirt because he had it on his back every time I'd cross his path. I never talked to him because I was this super shy skinny little boy and he was a couple years older (a huge gap when you're 13!) and looked intimidating. One day I walked past his apartment building and this super loud, super aggressive punk music was blaring out of the window. I KNEW it was Discharge, and it sounded fantastic. It reminded me of a more chaotic, noisier GBH, because that was my only point of comparison back then. Haha. Fast forward a few months, I'm not sure why but I remember getting tapes of Discharge-influenced Swedish bands (Anti-Cimex…) BEFORE I even heard a full Discharge record. The first Discharge record I heard was Why. It's still my favorite to this day.
TSN: It could be argued that "Why", released 40 years ago, is one of the most influential punk records of all time and the impact it had is overwhelming. Why do you think it still is the object of such fascination and how much of a game-changer do you think it was at the time of release? Many people don’t consider Discharge as a real « hardcore band ». Do you?
ALAT: I've come to realize over time that most people consider Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing as the quintessential Discharge record and I understand WHY. It's cleaner, tighter, has a huge guitar wall of sound that appeals to both punks and metalheads. But for me Why is their cornerstone. It takes the intensity of the early EPs to a next level, it's savage as hell, and the production is stellar! Every instrument sounds amazing and well-balanced on Why, the guitar and bass tones are perfect. A few years back I even played the drums in a one-off Discharge cover band named No Feeble Bastards with some friends, we only covered the Why record – all songs played in order. It was so much fun. Anyway, I understand why some people won't consider Discharge a real "hardcore band", especially since the term hardcore is a very American thing. But they totally are first wave hardcore pioneers, just like Black Flag were in the US. Rooted in early punk, but taking things to a whole new level sonically.
TSN: For a long time, post-1984 Discharge was something of a joke, banter and a subject loyal fans did not really want to get into (like the early Blitz fans actually). However, once deemed terrible albums like Grave New World seem to have taken a cult status recently and some people even claim to love the thing. What is your take on the taboo era of Discharge? Do you think that it is so bad that is ironically good? Did you enjoy it when your first heard it?
ALAT: Like you pointed it out, it's so bad it becomes ironically good. It is such an anomaly it becomes fascinating. But let's be honest, it's pretty unlistenable. I do own a copy but have never managed to listen to the full album in one sitting. Those vocals are insufferable. The music I can stomach though, and Dissober proved it wasn't THAT terrible by speeding up their cover of "Grave New World" and playing it in the 1982 style. That cover is actually pretty raging!
TSN: The Discharge influence in the 80’s quickly spread, notably in Sweden where armies of young punks embraced the band (and still do) creating a Discharge-inspired genre of their own. As a world-renowned expert in Swedish hardcore and head of the Department of Käng Studies at the Sorbonne, could you give us some sort of chronology and defining moments of the Discharge invasion of Sweden in the 80’s? How and when did you get drawn to the Swedish hardcore scene? And why are they so good at it? Is it because they are taller and better-looking than us?
ALAT: You'd better off ask a Swede about the chronology, I'm nowhere near the expert you assume I am, haha. I'd say a bunch of dorks in bands like Skitslickers and Anti-Cimex probably started it. My introduction to Scandinavian hardcore was the "1984 The Second" compilation on the French label New Wave Records (featuring tracks by Sound Of Disaster, Krunch, as well as Finland's own Mellakka), and I remember vividly getting a mixtape in the mail from Rak (of Sodan Tragedia band and zine) featuring full EPs by Anti-Cimex and Mob 47 amidst a few other international bands. They all left a lasting impression right away, the extra pinch of rawness and brutality appealed to me in a big way. In the late 80s I totally immersed myself in the up and coming death metal underground, trading tapes like a maniac, and the Swedish scene was fascinating… Unsurprisingly, the punk and death metal scenes in Sweden had strong ties – a lot of original dödsmetallers had a punk background. I have no idea why it caught on and spread like that in that particular neck of the woods though. Fuck the spoiled Swedish master race though, you bunch of handsome, tall, smart humanoids. Haha.
TSN: On the contrary, the massive U$ hardcore scene of the 80’s - which most would call the cradle of hardcore - did not seem to be that much into Discharge in the early 80’s, with some exceptions, although the Stoke-on-Trent lot could be said to have been « the hardest core » then as early as 1980. Do you have any theory as to why that is? Where, apart from Sweden, do you think were located the best early Discharge-loving bands in the 80’s?
ALAT: I find it intriguing how some bands had a huge impact on local scenes far away from their home turf. Discharge in Sweden, Disorder in Finland, Finnish hardcore in Brazil, Chaos UK in Japan, bad oi! in France… Sometimes it's due to bands touring and leaving an impression, but not always. Sometimes you can blame it on a handful of influential local scenesters pushing/promoting certain bands. Still happens these days, I guess. Discharge's imagery and obsession with war was prompted by the geopolitical context of the time – Thatcher had just been elected, the Falklands war was soon to follow, the Cold War was in full swing and the threat of nuclear annihilation was real, with the UK at the forefront: the US maintained a stockpile of nuclear weapons in the country throughout the cold war. US punks had other concerns, and wrote lyrics and music from a different point of view. But I'm just scratching the surface here, we could make a deeper analysis. Every country seemed to have at least one Discharge-like band in the 80s: MG-15 in Spain, Eu's Arse in Italy, Subversion in Belgium, The Iconoclast in the US, Crow in Japan, etc. But truth is nobody did it like the Swedes.
TSN: The worship continues. Sometimes I am under the impression that Discharge have never been as popular and cult as they are today. Do you share that opinion? Do you see any meaningful differences with 90’s Discharge worship for example?
ALAT: I think Discharge has always been popular, since day one. What may have changed over time is the target audience. But I feel there's always been a solid core of Discharge lovers. It's more spread out today though. US hardcore kids are way more into Discharge than they were in the 90s, that's for damn sure.
TSN: Although there were certainly genuine Discharge-loving and mimicking in the 80’s (Discard being possibly the first?), the 90’s marked and codified the creation of Discharge love as a style and took it to its extreme and logical conclusion with the birth of the d-beat genre (with Sweden being unsurprisingly at the forefront of the movement). When did you become really aware of d-beat as a proper genre? How did you relate to the 90’s wave? Did you feel it was a natural evolution or a silly-but-enjoyable trend?
ALAT: It's hard to tell exactly when the "d-beat" thing really took off and became a "genre" per se. I remember the terms "Discore" or "Scandicore" being used loosely as early as the late 80s or very early 90s, then when the Swedes started coming up with the first Dis- bands, we used to call that "Dis-beat". The term "D-beat" (or D-Takt in Swedish) started sometime in the 90s and I suspect people like Jan Jutila in Sweden and Kawakami in Japan may have coined it, or at least helped make it popular. I'm just speculating here. When the 90s Dis-tsunami hit the shores, I ate it all up… It just popped up at the right time: I was growing out of my death metal phase at the time as the scene was oversaturating. Black metal was taking over and I couldn't relate to it politically and musically, so the whole Swedish / Distortion d-takt explosion provided a perfect alternative. It had a slightly similar vibe, a very dark/desperate imagery, and in hindsight I realize a lot of former dödsmetall kids were also involved (some members of Dischange, Skitsystem, Disfear, etc were in death metal bands prior.) It was like a gateway back into punk.
TSN: I remember reading in one of your old zines a rather nasty review of a Disfornicate Ep. Did you get bored of Dis-bands at some point? Almost 30 years after the first d-beat wave, how does it hold up according to you? How outdated is the Distortion empire?
ALAT: Haha yeah, Distortion releasing the Disfornicate / Disregard split 7" was a turning point for me, the Active Minds phrase "Dis is getting pathetic" really made sense at that point. That's when my interest in all things "Dis-" started fading a little bit.
TSN: Where and when do you locate the first proper, just-like Discharge hardcore punk bands (pre d-beat wave so to speak)?
ALAT: I believe there were a handful of bands in the UK trying to sound like Discharge very early on, but none of them actually achieved it. You can tell GBH or The Varukers were possibly heavily influenced by them. I'd say Discard in Sweden and Disattack in the UK were probably the first ones to actually mimick Discharge by ripping off the name, logo, layouts, and lyrics.
TSN: Were you aware of Disaster? And more largely, were many people familiar with Disaster at the time of "War Cry"? They are seen as a classic band today but what about then? Also, do you remember the first time you came across the phrase « d-beat »? Did the genre have other names before it settled on « d-beat »?
ALAT: Funnily I was aware of Disaster early on for the sole reason my friend Alexis, whom I used to skate with all the time back in the Basque country, started his own punk zine circa 1990 or 91 and he conducted an interview with Disaster by mail! I didn't get the 12" until a few years later though. Like I told you above, terms like "Discore", "Scandicore", and "Dis-beat" were all used randomly prior to "D-beat" taking over.
TSN: Alright, let’s tackle the most famous d-beat band ever: Disclose. You are also something of a Japanese hardcore punk nerd so I’m guessing you followed the band early. What was the first Disclose record you bought? What did you think then? Just another 90’s dis-band? Did you notice that there was something special about them? Today, they are seen as this legendary iconic band but was is always the case? I remember people being much less enthusiastic about them in the 00’s. And in the 90’s? And what is your favorite Disclose record?
ALAT: I was heavily into Disfear et al when I came across a review of the first Disclose 7" (Once The War Started) in a great Swiss zine named No Sanctuary. Sounded right up my alley, so my friend and I stuffed a few dollars in an envelope and sent it to Overthrow Records. We were blown away by it. It was everything we loved about the Swedish bands, but I thought they were even better. That 7" actually didn't sound THAT distorted compared to a lot of their subsequent releases, and to this day it remains one of my favorite Disclose records. They were pretty popular in Europe, but I guess at some point they were so prolific that people paid less attention? But their popularity still grew and by the early '00s the US started paying attention and they suddenly got huge. Other than the first EP, some of my personal favorites include "A Mass Of Raw Sound Assault" 7", "Nightmare or Reality" 12", and "Apocalypse Continues" 7".
TSN: Looking on YouTube or bandcamp gives the impression that there never have been as many bands from all over the place flying the d-beat flag through the #d-beat. Do you share that impression? Why does the dis phenomenon never ends? What is its essential appeal? Could you define what is a good d-beat band and a bad d-beat band in terms of music and visuals? Do you have to actually play a Discharge beat on the drums to be a Discharge-loving band?
ALAT: I dunno, I guess d-beat punk can be related to some sort of primal trance. I'm sure theorists like Jan Jutila would possibly draw a parallel with ancient traditional African beats or something. There is something inherently primitive, organic, and driving about it. There's a bazillion bands flying the d-beat banner these days, and the good bands tend to be lost in a sea of mediocrity. The absolute worst d-beat move is obviously double bass drumming! Also I can't fucking stand all the generic artwork featuring bullet belts, winged skulls, or the Discharge typeface, it's all been played out to death… Worst of all is words like "D-BEAT", "RAW", "NOISE", etc. in record/song titles. This is a no-no! As for your last question, look at bands like Final Bombs (Japan) or Price Of Silence (Sweden), they don't necessarily do the d-beat thing yet they're some of the best Discharge impersonators around!
TSN: You played in an openly käng-inspired band and your current band Bombardement is even more Dischargish. Why do you think the Discharge wave never really took in France, be it in the 80’s or the 90’s (with some rare exceptions)? Did you see Gasmask Terror as a way to even the score with this sad cultural fact? What was your own first attempt at playing d-beat?
ALAT: The first true Dis- band in France was actually a -charge band, haha. It was a short-lived early 90s (or late 80s?) Parisian band known as Surcharge who didn't do much. Which is unfortunate because they were pretty awesome, and I know you can back my words. In the 90s, the South West seemed to be the hotspot for crust and d-beat sounds, with Enola Gay paving the way in the small rural town of Auch, followed by Disbeer and Sickness. Another highly overlooked band from the same region was Four Monstrous Nuclear Stockpiles, who started as a straight up HNSNSN cover band, but ended up writing original material by popular demand. Even though it has a few goofy lyrics, I consider their 10" as the best French d-beat record ever released. It sounds just as good as any of the Swedish bands that were coming out on Distortion at the time. But this was still pretty marginal. I didn't start playing music until my mid 20's. Gasmask Terrör initially started more or less as a joke (hence the stupid name, which was just generic punk words put together randomly), we were really into Totalitär at the time and wanted to start something along those lines since there were hardly any bands in France playing that style in 2003. We approached Shiran to play guitar because we knew he loved Discharge and Disgust even though he was primarily a doom metal musician, but I don't think we had actually planned to record more than a tongue-in-cheek, cliché Dis- demo or something at the time. The band ended up lasting 14 years, releasing many records, playing hundreds of shows on 3 different continents… definitely far beyond our initial plan, haha.
TSN: Let’s tackle some broader issues. The internet revolution has drastically changed our ways to relate to and listen to punk music. Once extremely obscure, mysterious and rather small local bands are now instantly accessible and hailed as 80's classics. On the one hand it is can be said to be the greatest democratic revolution making punk available to all, on the other many now take the free and instant access to every band ever for granted. What’s your take on this? Do you think the internet age has changed the way we relate to bands, even our own, and even how we write music?
ALAT: Yeah, a lot of bands that once only had local exposure, sometimes only playing a handful of poorly attended local gigs, have blown out of proportion thanks to the internet. And I'm sure this is also partly why so many bands are getting back together after years/decades: a mix of midlife crisis, nostalgia, and old retired punks Googling the name of their old band only to find out a bunch of nerds across the planet consider them legends, when hardly anybody gave a fuck back then. It can be pretty deceiving, but the web pretty much rendered the notion of "underground" obsolete. Everybody has access to everything without much effort or time now. On the other hand, it's kinda cool that people pay attention to what happens beyond their home turf.
Of course, pre-internet, information and access to music wasn't as convenient as it is now, it required a lot more work and involvement. Another huge difference is that a young punk today has well over 4 decades of stuff to dig through. Punk had only be a thing for a decade when I got into it, so obviously there was much less material out there. But yeah, having access to much less music, you'd play what you had on a far more regular basis.
So yeah, of course it all has an impact on the way we write music. When hardcore started, there wasn't any hardcore to mimic. Members of early hardcore bands grew up on Led Zeppelin, or Stooges, or Cheap Trick or Kiss or whatever their older siblings were listening to at the time, and that probably had an influence on the way they played their instruments. Nowadays a hardcore band has over 40 years of hardcore music to digest so chances are they may play it by the numbers. Hardcore bands are influenced by… hardcore bands. Guess that's the fate of pretty much any aging musical subgenre, like a serpent biting its own tail.
TSN: The amount of information about new punk bands and new records feels overwhelming at times. Do we produce too much? Are you still as enthusiastic about new bands? Have social media exacerbated the impact of trendiness, fashion and ultimately equalized our culture? How do you personally proceed in order to get to the really good stuff?
ALAT: At 48 it's obviously hard to be as enthusiastic about new bands as when I was 15. I'm much pickier now. As much as I'm trying hard NOT to be this jaded old fuck who thinks "things used to be better", I know I am in a way, but I'm trying to keep an eye open on what's happening. Sometimes you get good surprises. But I feel like in the past 20 or so years, nostalgia and rehash have been a mainstay in the punk scene.
TSN: Let’s have fun now and rank some favourite of yours. Let’s say that you are talking to a beginner to the hardcore punk scene. What 5 records or tapes would you recommend if he or she would like to get into the following :
- Five 80’s Swedish hardcore bands that loved Discharge very much:
Anti-Cimex - Raped Ass 7"
Anti-Cimex - Wictims of a Bomb Raid 7"
Skitslickers - GBG 1982 a.k.a Cracked Cop Skulls 7"
Discard - Death From Above 7"
Avskum - Crucified by the System 7"
- 80’s non-Swedish hardcore bands that loved Discharge very much:
Diatribe (US) - Aftermath demo/7"
Eu's Arse (Italy) - split 7" w/ Impact
The Varukers (UK) - Another Religion Another War 12"
The Iconoclast (US) - Demo/comp tracks
Doom (UK) - the early stuff. Basically a UK band paying tribute to Scandinavian bands that were paying homage to Discharge in the first place, haha.
- Five 90’s d-beat bands:
Meanwhile - any
Disclose - any
Disfear - s/t 7"
Totalitär - they started in the 80s but reached their peak in the mid 90s in my opinion
Times Square Preachers - Don't Be Numb! 7". The whole Uppsala crust scene was pretty amazing (Harass, Cumbrage, etc.)
- Five 00’s d-beat bands:
Warcry - Demo, Deprogram LP, Nausea 7", Savage Machinery LP.
Bomberegn- s/t 7". Had to be seen live to fully appreciate.
Framtid - Under the Ashes LP
Kvoteringen - first couple of 7"s
Contrast Attitude - any record, but LIVE is where they really shine!
- 10’s d-beat bands:
Kylmä Sota - 10 Tracks 12"
Herätys - s/t LP
Bloodkrow Butcher - Anti War 7"
Rat Cage - Caged Like Rats 7"
Final Bombs - There is no Turning Back LP
- Five ace Discharge covers:
Dissober - Grave New World is #1 of course. Genius move.
Times Square Preachers - Maimed & Slaughtered, partly because the drumming is the closest you'll ever hear to Bambi's drumming.
Totalitär - Born to Die in the Gutter
Siege - It's no TV Sketch. I doubt there's a recorded version of it, but it was pretty awesome to witness live as they had this amazing guitar/saxophone trade-off solo going.
Soulfly - The Possibility of Life's Destruction. Laugh all you want but I'd rather hear a shitty mainstream band cover Discharge than an umpteenth generic d-beat band these days. I had never listened to Soulfly before my work mate played this for me a few years back. It's a pretty raging cover, gotta love the bouncy drumming on it.
TSN: To wrap it up and I want honest answers.
What is your favorite dis-name?
Recharge was a good move when all the bands were going Dis-, but I can't think of any really good Dis-name to be honest. Disclose was probably the best, in retrospect. Four Monstrous Nuclear Stockpiles was a pretty nice one too.
What is your least favorite dis-name?
There's so many bad ones. Disfornicate was mentioned earlier and it's hard to find worse. Disfear and Dissober were bad enough monickers, Disbeer too obviously but they were friends and didn't take themselves too seriously so they get a pass. In recent times, Disturd is a pretty embarrassing monicker, but we all know we can blame it on poor English skills from this otherwise excellent and friendly Japanese crust band.
What is your favourite Discharge song and why, why, why, why, why?
There's no way I can pick a single favorite song, but I have a soft spot for "Ain't no Feeble Bastard", which ironically doesn't even have a d-beat. Haha. (Side note: it's "Why why why BUT why", not "Why why why why why", no idea WHY so many people hear it wrong.) (TSN edit: very true that, shame on me, I'll NEVER AGAIN make the mistake).
What is your favourite, most precious piece of Discharge paraphernalia?
I don't really own crazy paraphernalia. But I do cherish some of my rare vinyl bootlegs, like the "Live in Philadelphia" LP (raging set!) or the "Live in Preston" 7" (mostly for the artwork/packaging… and unreleased track of course!) Oh, and does my retarded Discharge tattoo count? I designed it myself so it's pretty unique, haha.
"Troops of Tomorrow" or "Leather, Bristles, Studs and Acne"?
GBH hands down because the band had such a strong impact in my teen years, but I gotta admit Troops of Tomorrow is an excellent record – Exploited's best by a long shot, if you ask me, even though I hate Wattie's racist ass.
"Wind of Pain" or "Wasted Dream"?
Wind Of Pain, no question. I remember exactly the day when I first heard it, back in 1994 or something. Chris of Urban Alert Records played it for me and I became obsessed instantly and ordered it straight from the Finn Records mailorder list in Sweden. When my band toured Japan in 2011, we covered "Misery" (we had been covering it on and off since the band inception) and at a gig in Yokohama – coincidentally booked by Koba-san who used to drum in Bastard – we were approached by a very drunk Tokurow-san (former Bastard singer) who asked if he could join us on stage to sing "Misery" with us. How could we turn down such an offer? It was a beautiful moment, I felt like a spoiled kid on Christmas day! PS: Wasted Dream isn't even my favorite Death Side record by the way.
Bombanfall or Svart Parad?
Fuck you and your impossible to answer questions, Romain! I'll say Bombanfall because they almost sound like proto death metal, and I LOVE death metal!
Meanwhile or Disclose?
What the hell (on earth)? Come on, they're the best 2 Discharge worship bands ever. Maybe Disclose by a small margin?
Eskorbuto or RIP?
I was into Eskorbuto long before I heard RIP, actually they were one of the very first punk bands I heard, so they have a very special place in my heart. But they got a bit derivative as years went on. RIP had a smaller but better discography. I'll still pick Eskorbuto because they were a formative band for me.
Kaaos or Riistetyt?
Love both, but once again I heard Riistetyt first so they resonate with me more, especially the Valtion Vankina LP.
EU’s Arse or Underage?
Eu's Arse. Those unhinged vocals are the best.
"Massacre Divine" or "Shootin’ up the World"?
Neither, but Massacre Divine has better artwork… as well as "Sexplosion", featuring slap bass.
PS: Wait, no Broken Bones vs English Dogs? Ripcord vs Heresy? Priest vs Maiden? ZZ Top vs Thin Lizzy?
This is THE END of the interview. Massive thank to (A) Luc (At Tomorrow) for taking the time and playing the game. Hopefully it was a pleasant read for men, women and children too. Cheers mate and see you after the gigs!