PUNK 2.0

filed under -teenage years- are my memories of Punk, sweaty clubs, the Jubilees [the queens silver one] and Derek Jarman’s Punk movie.

The pleasure of the internet is that I only have to Google some key words like – Derek Jarman Jubilee- and up pops the full movie on youtube.

I haven’t watched it again, well not yet but I can download it and save it to my new toy- Nexus tablet- to watch in about 4months in Bangladesh when boredom kicks in and when the power cuts out. Yes, I’m off to Bangladesh for 2 years volunteering to save the planet, but more on that another time. But back to the movie, I am pretty sure it will be 100 minutes of crap or, at the very least, an entirely different experience to the first time round when my we went to see it in an independent cinema run by an ex-history lecturer who was always trying to get us to join the Socialist Workers Party.

Way back then I, like everyone else I knew loved music, I mean really loved it. Every Saturday would be a trip to the record shop and at least one album. And I would play a track until the vinyl was white and that was a real dilemma. Why? I wanted to travel and to see the world but what was I going to do about the hundreds of LPs [long playing vinyl records] I had and would have to take with me? My plan at 17 was to get my driving license, do extra shifts at the boat yard and work all the summer holidays, buy a VW van and figure out a way to wire up the record deck.

Thankfully I didn’t have to do that: Sony produced the Walkman and Freddie Laker with his Skytrain- London to New York- budget flights heralded the age of cheap international travel.

Technology had come to my rescue. A few years later a 2nd hand 8088 pc with a huge 20 megabyte hard disk drive helped me study and Word [for dos] with its spell checker help me overcome my dyslexia tendencies.

Technology was up to some very cool things in the 80s: Atari the non PC home computer added a midi port to its range and it became the choice of musicians who were a generation of enthusiasm that launched House music in the late 80s. Sony released the Recording Walkman in 1982 which I recall had a £400 price tag, it was well beyond my pocket but with its stereo mic it was good enough to record an album as Michelle Shocked had done in 1986 [although initially she hated it and it was only ‘officially’ released as the Texas Campfire Take in 2003]. At the time I liked the idea of a Recording Walkman not just as means to bootleg concert performances but to record ambient noise of my travels. The idea had lodged in my mind from a trip as a young teenager to the other Natural History Museum in London, the Museum of Mankind, that had an amazing exhibition where the rooms were turned into film sets of African villages and markets and street scenes from around the world complete with sounds and smells.

The history of music is as much about dance as tunes, a few hundred years ago musicians would play traditional tunes to a traditional dance. But with travellers bringing new fashions to Britain they introduced new dances styles, so a song like ‘skinning the squirrel’ would be modified from an English two step to the rhythm of a polka and be retitled ‘slinging the gerbil’. And so it went on as new dances came so new tunes emerged. Punk and House music represent a change but not in the same way the electric guitar shaped musical style: Punk and House came out of technological changes. In the 1970s the mainstay of recording studios was the 4 track recorder which was being replaced by the 8 track, when Sgt Pepper was being recorded in 8 track they used two 4 tracks. With studios upgrading, 4 tracks hit the second hand market which were picked up by independent entrepreneurs who offered cheap recording time. Bands no longer needed a signing from a record company to make there own single as they could afford to do it themselves. By the end of the 1980s you didn’t even need a studio, and instead record on your PC leading to house music.

What happened to music was to happen to desktop publishing that has moved from Letraset [ transfers of individual letters to make headlines- which is amazingly still on sale] and typewriters for the Punk Fanzines we published  and that were printed at the anarchist bookshop- to internet blogs and newspapers. But, for me, the most exciting development has been with video.

Sheepmusic Festival and Landscape Recording Company were brilliant in facilitating digital video equipment and expensive Mac desktops to record and edit documentaries of the festival back in 2002. Affordable video has been out since the 80s but editing and quality were never particularly good for the home user and the 00s [noughties] also came with tech savvy nerdy teenagers who were mostly happy to teach a grown up how to do editing on the Mac, how to write DVDs and develop their skills in being patronising. I am very happy for the experience and they have gone off to do great things in the film, entertainment and arts business.

I am preparing to volunteer with the E.U. Volunteer Corp in Bangladesh for two years and I am able to take my entire record collection on both my smart phone [it fits on a 32 gig micro sd card the size of finger nail- as opposed to 200 kg of vinyl] and lap top and tablet[as well as a set of loud micro speakers]. I am also taking my film studio and cinema which packs down into a 30 liter rucksack- which is my hand luggage allowance.

I’ve got a HD photo camera which shoots HD video, a 2nd hand digital recorder [£22 on ebay] by Olympus with mini shotgun mic which is ludicrously high quality and the size of 10 cigarettes. The laptop that runs Final Cut Pro and dozens of special effects and enough storage to put hours of footage on for editing and which is faster than the desktop Macs fro a decade ago. And the real pleasure is that sound and video is recorded on to SD cards or hard disk which means an hours footage doesn’t take an hour to upload but a few moments. I even have space for a digital film projector that cost less than £300 new which I will use for teaching and home cinema nights which will include a special showing of Jubilee.

Punk 2.0 is the professional home studio for anything you want to do. The question is what do you want to do.