BACK STAGE AT PEPPERMINT IGUANA HQ: Gigs, Festivals, Parties, CDs, Books, Protests, travels, photography and Cardiff City FC

Sunday, June 25, 2006

ANARCHO PUNK CIRKUS COMES TO TOWN: Conflict and Varukars in Cardiff

I have been into punk almost since it was invented, back in the late 70s. I have leaned towards radical politics almost as long, and I always took a keen interest in bands with a political edge, but never really got into the ‘hardcore’ anarcho punk bands like Oi Poloi, Flux of Pink Indians, Icons of Filth, AOS3, Subhumans etc. I did buy much of the Crass stuff, but they really were out there on there own.

I was into the festival scene of the mid 80’s and loved crusty bands like RDF, 2000 Dirty Squatters, Culture Shock (off shoot from the aforementioned Subhumans), Gaye Bykers on Acid, Moonflowers, Ozric Tentacles, and Back to the Planet (not sure the last two realy fit into the category ‘crusty’). Then one day I came across P.A.I.N. supporting the Tofu Love Frogs, and I was totally blown away. I started to re-think my views on anarcho punk and started getting into a few of those bands, but always felt that the for many of those bands the music was a poor second place, or even a third place, to the anarchy. Many of them were just a noise.

The last 3 or 4 years I have found myself mixing with more and more anarchists… proper ones, not just punks with big ‘A’s on their back. A few of them are well into their anarcho punk and I have started listening to it again. Somehow, some of it makes more sense now than it did a few years ago. Through them I have come across bands that I might not have heard of otherwise, and have discovered a few bands that can actually play music.

After Crass, the grand daddies of anarcho punk were always Conflict. I had never really paid much attention to them until after I put on Inner Terrestrials, featuring ex-Conflict drummer Paco. I bought a few albums by them and sometimes I quite enjoy listening to them, but it has to be said there is a time and a place; you have to be in the mood for them. Inner Terrestrials are simply miles ahead of the musically.

When I found out Conflict (a reformed version) were playing Cardiff I just had to go down out of curiosity. The £10 door tax seemed a bit out of place to me, but I bit the bullet and off to Clwb Ifor Bach we headed.

Varukers fan gets interactive

The support was from the Varukers. They have been around forever, noisy hardcore anarcho punk. I must have seen a million Varukers t-shirts and posters, but I think this was the first time I had actually heard them. Despite the studs and mohicans combined with beer bellies, they were actually quite impressive, or should I make that.. not as crap as I thought they would be.

Conflict: Selling rebellion by the £10

When Conflict finally hit the stage I was actually pleased that they looked comparatively straight and had not got stuck in that 80’s punk uniform. Their set was ferocious, 90 mile an hour in your face sonic attack. I have always found it strange that bands with such a serious message to get across shout and scream so you cannot understand a word that they say.

Conflict were OK, The Varukars were OK (better than Conflict actually) and No Choice, the other support band, were OK, but combined they added up to three hours of loud shouty angry punk. I am getting too old for that; it all reminded me why I chose to put on gigs with a variety of styles on the bill.

If you want anarcho punk, you will not go far wrong with..

Inner terrestrials
This System kills
Cop Car pile Up
Smiling with Semtex

Then of course there are a lot of bands out there that are just dripping with anarchist attitude…. and have never played a punk note in their lives………..

Friday, June 23, 2006


The whole of this week was spent in sunny Bournemouth at the UNISON National Delegate Conference. I have been sat here trying to think of ways of making it sound exciting. I can’t. While I was there I was trying to keep a specific union blog, I did not really have enough time to do it justice and I aim to do some more work on it over the next few days to make it as comprehensive as possible, so if you are really interested, go here.

Me partner in grime Roy Dellow in the newsroom bright and early before the other teams arive.
I don’t go to conference as a delegate, I spend all day working on a regional newssheet, researching and writing stories about conference, laying them out and getting them to print so every morning and afternoon delegates have a news letter on their chair that gives them info about what is coming up and what has gone on relevant to the Wales region. It is much more fun than actually getting into all the bureaucracy of conference, it allows me to spend loads of time playing with computers, it allows me to write about politics and inform debate and it allows me to throw in some fun stuff. I am a firm believer in trade unions and some pretty interesting stuff can be debated at conferences, but I do have serious doubts about how much of an impact conference actually has on the real world, so working on the newssheets allows me to avoid getting bogged down in all the bullshite.
My mate Billy reminding conference that it is lay member led and the grass roots will not roll over for a compromise that will lead to a two tear pension.

The one thing that really did stand out for me was a speech made by a delegate from my branch that was very critical of the NEC, and in particular the national negotiators dealing with the pensions dispute. The hairs were standing up on the back of my neck when he made his speech. We got a roasting from national office for reprinting what he said in the newssheet, but fortunately our regional convenor and secretary had the bottle to tell national office to get lost.

For me, a big thing about Conference is the networking. Away from the conference floor you can make lots of contacts and share ideas, hatch plans etc, which is where I think the real work gets done. It has to be said there are a lot of people that think networking means getting pissed with people from other branches, which is OK in moderation, but some people think that is the only reason to go to conference. Fortunately there are a lot of people who do actually take things seriously and some significant work can be done… which was particularly important this year given the way the NEC were trying to stifle debate on the conference floor.

For the official uniosn conference pages, go here

Sunday, June 18, 2006


The little box that collects the card votes for big decisions

I have been going to my union’s Local Government and National Delegate Conferences for a few years now. I know that sometimes a lot of hot air is expelled and motions are debated and passed that in reality will never put an end to world poverty, end discrimination or whatever, but they are well intentioned and do inform debate. There have often been decisions made though that can have a significant impact on improving the lot of union members.

This year the union is in the middle of the biggest industrial dispute the country has seen since the 1926 General Strike, over the Government’s attack on our pension scheme. So when a whole afternoon session was set aside to discuss pensions, I anticipated a vibrant healthy debate that would send shivers down the spine of the Government. Speakers skipped lunch to get in the queue to speak and the scene was set.

The main problem is, although we called off industrial action in March because there was an ‘offer’ on the table, in reality it was not actually an offer, just something to discuss and the employers side are trying to force a compromise that will lead to existing members of the pension scheme worse off and new joiners to be well and truly shafted.

If I recall rightly, two speakers got up and urged a return to industrial action to ‘sharpen the minds’ of the negotiators and two got up to urge patience and let the negotiators get on with it in their own time. Next to speak was a mate of mine from my branch who was in no doubt that we should get back to picketing as soon as possible, which was the feeling of the whole of the Welsh delegation.

Then out of no-where, up pops some guy to the ‘point of order’ microphone and states “I move that the question be put”. This is quite a valid tool when a debate has gone on for too long or if there is a huge line of speakers for a motion and no one against and the debate is just eating into time that could be used for other motions. But to move a point of order so early in the most important debate this union has ever seen was outrageous. As point of order guy went back to his seat, he looked at my mate in the queue and said, “F*ck off Trot”; Pete can be called many things, but Trotskyite is not one of them.

There was then a massive row over whether or not the debate should continue, it went to a vote and for me it was close enough to decide it should go on, but the President decided that the debate was over.

So it was time to vote, it was too close to call, so it went to a card vote, and the vote went in favour of continuing the suspension of action… by 19,000 votes. 19,000 is nothing, it is two or three branches, it is two or three people in the bog or having a cigarette outside. A lot of people were angry, especially those of us from the Wales region, we felt that the whole thing had been manipulated by the National Executive Council and it set the scene for the rest of the week.

Looking at it positively it has sent a message to the employers that there are a lot of members keen to go back on strike and they should not take us lightly; looking at it negatively there are an awful lot of branches out there without the bottle for a fight. Whichever way you look at it there was a disturbing new trend towards interference from the NEC.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

CARDIFF ANARCHIST NETWORK: Website finally back on line

There have been a few problems with the Cardiff Anarchist Network website, partly due to changes that have been afoot with the host, RISE UP, and partly with the 'Webarchist' getting his head around migrating to their new server. It is finally sorted, but this now means there is plenty of updating to do on the site.

The design/layout etc is now looking a bit tired, so there may be a redesign on the cards. It is worth a look though, Check out CARDIFF ANARCHIST NETWORK.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

OLD WINE IN NEW BOTTLES: Leafhound and Astralasia re-issues arrive at Iguana HQ

Two new CDs landed on me doormat this week. One is a re-release of old Astralasia stuff that has previously only been available of cassette, the other is a CD re-issue of the extremely rare cult album by Leafhound, originally issued in 1971

I am on a bit of a role of writing reviews for Peppermint Iguana at the moment, so I might as well tell you what I have said about them.

LEAFHOUND: Growers of Mushroom (Repertoire) 2005 (1st released 1971)

Originally released in 1971 this dose of 70s rock managed to deftly avoid the mainstream and swiftly became an underground cult legend. No doubt delays in its release till after the band split had something to do with this. The members of the band went their separate ways and were involved with other bands, most notably singer Peter French had a stint with Iguana favourites Atomic Rooster. Over the years though the album developed a mystique, mainly due to its rarity. In 2004 an original vinyl copy went for £2,000, making it one of the most valuable of all the 70s rock albums. In 2005 the album finally saw the light of day on CD, with two bonus tracks from the original band and a special bonus track from a newly reformed band. Yes, that’s right, all the hype and mystique around the band has persuaded French to reform the band and they are gigging again, although the gigs do appear to be at European festivals and other such places where flares are still legal.

Anyway, what is the album like? Well, the terms 'underground' and 'cult classic' can often be euphemisms for shite; not in this case though. This is first grade psychedelic blues-rock with shades of contemporaries Zeppelin, The Groundhogs, Free and the Pink Fairies. If you are into that sort of thing and think you have heard it all before, relive your youth and check this out because it stands up against the best of anything around at the time. If you have all your old stuff filed neatly in alphabetical order, and you thought your collection was complete, you now need to make a space on your shelf between Laine, Ronnie and Led Zeppelin. Raw rootsy blues without all the pomp and bollocks that the later 70s brought us, if that guy in ‘Life On Mars’ discovers this he wont want to come back to the present! ESSENTIAL LISTENING

ASTRALASIA: Volumes 1&2 (Voiceprint) 2004 (originally released 1988 on cassette only)

Before becoming major players on the UK underground trance/rave scene, Astralasia were a side project for members of the Magic Mushroom Band. This disc is a collection of the first two cassette only releases, originally released back in 1988/89 when they played events alongside such artists as the Shamen and Mixmaster Morris. Volume One is laid back psychedelic hippyish stuff that would have come under the banner ‘Ambient House’; more chill out lounge than dance floor. Volume two picks up the pace a bit in places but the fact that it was recorded on an 8 track and the fact that all this sort of thing was still in it’s infancy makes it sound a little dated now and a far cry from the full on techno assault that was to come from them later when they split from the mushrooms to become a proper band in their own right. There are two previously unreleased tracks on here as a bonus, rough versions of things that mutated into proper tracks that would be released later in their career. This is a good taste of how the trance scene of today was born, but would probably only be of interest to those were there. For those of you that were not there, you would be better off spending your hard earned on their later releases.

.........................................Well, that was the review, but I will add something about Astralasia… I had loved this band for years, then I put them on in Blackwood. It was a case of never meet your heroes, I did not get on with them at all. I interviewed them back stage and they were generally arrogant and hostile to me bringing up the Magic Mushroom band, being quite dismissive of their own past. Matters were not helped by the fact that I had spoken to a mate who had worked with them in the past and had given me some dirt on them. They also had a go at me because the crowd was not as big as they would have liked; I was getting a bit annoyed by the time this happened and just told them that any lack of crowd said more about their popularity than my promotional skills. This is a little bit of a distraction really, ‘cos despite all this I quite like the band musically. I thought they were no more, but they released a new album ‘Away With The Fairies’ last month, which I will no doubt check out in the near future.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

SHUT THEM DOWN: Stories from the frontline of the 2005 G8

I highly recommend you get your mits on SHUT THEM DOWN, a collection of articles on the mobilisation against the 2005 G8 in Gleneagles, Scotland.

There is quite a mix here, from political essays to personal accounts. Needless to say the quality of the writing varies, but that is the beauty of it, it lets you know how 'real' people think, rather than the thoughts of one academic; it does mean however that you have to read it with a slightly critical eye to filter out the bits where some of the writers get carried away with themselves. On the whole, you get the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of the current UK anti-capitalist movement, and a good look at its underbelly.

One new phenomena in 2005 was the mass movement of ‘Make Poverty History’ and the ‘Live 8’ crowd, giving the G8 an un-natural coat of whitewash, which although possibly well intentioned, undoubtedly aggravated the situation for the poor in Africa and beyond.

Mistakes were made in 2005, but hopefully lessons learned. One of the biggest failings was to get the message out to the ‘public’ as to why the protests were happening, the message was somewhat lost with the media coverage of MPH and of course the London bombings on the Thursday. But despite these mistakes, there is no mistaking the fact that on the first day of the summit, EVERY road into Gleneagles was shut down; the empowerment that engendered in those present cannot be underestimated. We glimpsed for a few hours what we were capable of if we put our minds to it, we need to make sure that the work done building for the protest is not wasted and the networks that were established are maintained…. WHY? Read this book and find out.

Of course, the G8 has not gone away, there will be protests again this year in Russia. For more info visit dissent

If you do not have the time or energy to get your hands on the book, you can read it on line here

Saturday, June 03, 2006

MORE FREEBIES: Download sites that have come to me attention recently

Right, here is a list of some sites where I have found some tidy music to download over the last few weeks.

VERSIONIST: More dub downloads that you can shake a stick at.

COLLECTIVE DISCHARGE: lots of lovely mash-ups (thanks to SAT for sending us here)

MIMA RADIO: US based web radio station that puts mixes on line for ya to down load, mostly sweet sound of electro groove, downtempo and nu jazz

CRAZY RAY: Go to the bottom of the page and you will find some trancy party stuff to download, not checked out the ‘house’ stuff so cannot comment on what it’s like. Also check out his blog

GLOBAL BEATZ: Appears to be shed loads of stuff aimed at the dance floor on here; you can download mixes or individual tracks, and even listen to their radio station. US based.

DAVE GOODMAN’S JUKE BOX Home of producer Dave Goodman, everything from New Age Radio to the UK Subs, including a techno remix of Splodge’s “Two pint of Lager”

AURGASM: mixed bag of promo stuff to download here, a bit hit and miss but some nice stuff can be found

AND: A couple of bands with downloads worth checking….

RABBIT IN THE MOON: Laid back chilled out drum ‘n bass, a couple of nice tracks to download from their erm… download page (obvious really)

DEAD SILENCE: slightly more in ya face drum ‘n bass, only a couple of tracks but worth checking out

OH… and if you want to work out how to add cue sheets for the long mixes, go to Wikipedia (Fanx Al)

CELTIC BLUE ROCK FESTIVAL: Another date for the diary

Last night I found out about a FREE festival in West Wales at which Powersteppers will be playing on 5th August 2006.

Have looked up the website and it looks quite nice, not many big names, mostly local bands, but there are one or two bands from down that way worth checking out. Needless to say Nik Turner will be there.

Check out my previous post with a list of festivals for this summer HERE

Friday, June 02, 2006

POWERSTEPPERS: Peace, love and dub vibrations in West Wales

The original plan had been to meet up with the Power Steppers prior to their gig in Theatre Mwldan, Cardigan. We got somewhat distracted though by nipping into what turned out to be one of the friendliest pubs I have ever been in, the Hope and Anchor.

All the locals made a point of coming up to talk to us and one of them (I am sure he said his name was Poxy, but it might have been Foxy) spent ages talking to us and even bought us a round of Tequila Slammers.

By the time we got to the gig, the Power Steppers were already on stage (bit annoying because apart from the interview, we wanted to catch Sendelica, the support band).

The Power Steppers were around in the 1990’s, a mysterious digital dub outfit that released stuff on the Universal Egg label. New life has been breathed into the Steppers project recently, Colin and Molara, both ex-Zion Train, have been using it as a platform for jam sessions and have involved friends and family from the old Zion Train network.

As we walked into the venue, Molara was laying some beautiful vocals over the top of Colin’s dubwise knob twiddling true sound system stylee, pumping out vibrations that must have been causing ripples across the Irish Sea. Deep and dubby enough to rattle the walls, but lively enough to shake the dance floor. Zion Train comparisons are unavoidable, given that between them these pair wrote most of the Zion Train tunes, but this is all fresh and new, like discovering The Train all over again.

There was brief interlude while Colin spun a few dub plates and the stage was set for the full band to join in. The sight of members of Dubmerge on stage got me quite excited, I had thought that they had disappeared in a puff of smoke, but it seems they are alive and well and will be releasing an album with Molara in the near future.

Once everything was set, Molara took the time to introduce everyone, and it was skank time for the hippies, dreads, ravers and punks gathered in this beautiful little venue. Crispy managed to show off his dancing style which has now become famous thanks to England strikers Peter Crouch’s goal celebrations.

This is where they took it a step beyond Zion Train, the full band adding depth and an organic feel to the groove, but never loosing the power of the dub. There was even a hint of hip hop thrown in with some DJ scratchyness added for good measure.

A nice touch was Molara holding her daughter in her arms on stage bringing a nice mellow family vibe into proceedings.

At the end of the gig we had a chat with Colin and a few of Dubmerge, but it was late and I was wrecked, so the Peppermint Iguana interview will have to wait… something to look forward to then!

Being so close we had to go and look at the sea, so we drove up to Mwnt and had a walk along the moonlit sand before heading back to the valleys with Molara Meets Dubmerge and Powersteppers sampler CDs to keep us company (cheers Colin).

I have had too many good days out to remember them all, but I am sure today must be somewhere in my top twenty. Well cool, BRING ON THE FESTIVALS!

Check out me previous post on the departure of Molara from Zion Train
Check out Colin and Molara's digital home dubport

CCOL TIME IN HOT CAR: A trip to Cardigan in the sun

Steely Knight keeping a watchful eye of Llandovrey
I do not normally relish the thought of spending really hot days in a car, but this afternoon we had an amazing drive up through mid/west Wales to get to Cardigan.

As the sun gave us her best appearance so far this year, we hurtled through the country lanes with a nice mix of Willie Williams, Horace Andy, Alton Ellis and various other reggae classics helping heap on the summer vibes.

We stopped off a few times for a look around and to take some photographs, first stop was Llandovery to have a look at the castle and this fantastic steel sculpture of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd ruler of Wales, 1039-63 (above).

We stopped in Newcastle Emlyn for chips.

At Cenarth, famous for it's coracles, we stopped to have a look at the water falls and a chat with the guys fishing before the final couple of miles to Cardigan.