Monday, April 20, 2015

Vex Interview

Over the the next few weeks, I will be adding interviews and possibly some articles from the aborted anarcho punk/goth issue of Negative Insight. Originally slated to be Issue #2 and feature bands such as Vex, Part 1, The Mob, Southern Death Cult, and many more, we ultimately decided to abandon the issue. The first part is a Vex interview that is included below.

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For some bands, a lack of output relegates them to the land of forgotten obscurity where their legacy and quality are represented by permanent residence in the dollar bin. For others, a lack of output elevates them to a level of obscurity obsessively sought out by a dedicated few intrigued by greatness that came and went with such little documentation. Vex can safely be placed in the latter category, far and above dollar bin fodder. In fact, Vex may be the perfect example of the adage "less is more." Having left behind only one official vinyl release of their own (the four song "Sanctuary" 12" on the Mortarhate Records offshoot Fight Back Records, 1984), along with a prior demo, a few comp tracks, and some live tapes, they seemingly vanished from existence, gaining themselves quite an allure and mystique. This became even more true due to their one and only 12" being a flawless staple, if not the pinnacle, of the genre. Vex's lack of further output leaves their legacy untarnished by lesser subsequent release, but it also leaves one salivating over how great of an LP they could have written.

Vex took the best elements of several precursors and combined them to create their own sound. This included the anthemic protest charge of anarcho punk, the jagged guitar work of Killing Joke, the harmonic and impassioned vocals of Southern Death Cult, and hypnotic tribal drum rhythms of Siouxie And The Banshees. Vex released a three song demo in 1983, of which the track "It's No Crime" would be re-recorded for inclusion on their "Sanctuary" 12" a year later. Another song from the demo, "Pressure," would be included on the "Not Waving But Drowning" compilation LP (Little Sister Enterprises, 1983). And the version of "It's No Crime" from the "Sanctuary" 12" also appears on the "Who What? Why? When? Where?" LP (Mortarhate Records, 1984). But the most interesting of their comp tracks is their final submission, "Rushing To Hide," from the "We Don't Want Your Fucking Law!" LP (Fight Back Records, 1985), as this song is clearly taken from a different studio session than those that produced their other tracks. Were more songs recorded at the time of "Rushing To Hide"? If so, how many and what happened to them? I would love to know. "Rushing To Hide" shows the band with a bit more tense sound. The vocals are slightly less melodic and instead border on shouted. Perhaps this is closer to how a follow up release would have sounded. I can only hope that some day additional songs from that session will be released.

In addition to the demo and studio recordings, there are at least three known live bootlegs floating around. The first is raw in quality and was recorded live in Norwich, England on July 22, 1983. The second was recorded on March 3, 1984 at the Electric Ballroom in Camden, England. It contains six songs from the demo and 12" and is of pretty good quality. The third is from an unknown date and venue and features nine songs of less than great quality as well. All three sets feature songs that were not on any official Vex releases such as "Tonight," "Passion Wall," "Shadow Of Beauty," and a cover of T. Rex's "20th Century Boy."

The lack of information regarding the band is rarely seen in today's age of instant communication and limitless resources to track people down. The days of record collectors calling everyone across the country with the same name of the band members they are trying to hunt down are over. Internet search engines and social networking sites have made it so you can find virtually anyone as quickly as you can type. Still, the former members of Vex remained elusive. Even folks who personally knew the band had no idea what happened to them. Rumors regarding the ex-members whereabouts made their story that much more intriguing. So it was with great surprise after much searching that I was able to come across a former member of this enigmatic group. Scrote, Vex's vocalist who now goes by the name Yanu, was kind enough to reply to my emails about the band's history. Unfortunately, his memory was not the best on the details sadly due to a struggle with drug abuse for many years. But Yanu is now clean and recounted as much as he could in this bio in his own words.

All words by Yanu, taken from several email conversations over the first half of 2011 and broken up into two separate parts.



Part 1:

You're right, I haven't been directly involved in the punk scene for a long time now. I think if you were bought up in that era then it never really leaves you. I'm still an anarchist at heart just not interested in the punk scene or music anymore.

It's pretty surprising to me that people are still interested in Vex considering the limited amount of music that we managed to record, but I'm glad people are still enjoying it.

The best track we recorded was "Rushing To Hid," which was put out on Mortarhate's "We Don't Want Your Fucking War" LP, but I haven't been able to find it anywhere as I don't have a recording of it myself.

I've checked out Vex online once or twice and am pretty amazed that there are people still discussing our 12" EP, "Sanctuary," and putting up YouTube videos, etc.

When punk first happened in the late '70s, it was so liberating. There was a real vibe on the street, a real feeling that we could smash the status quo and create something better. The first time I heard Johnny Rotten from the Pistols tell some radio reporter to "Fuck off," I was in the kitchen at my home with my mother. She was totally shocked and turned the radio off. It was amazing. It somehow gave me permission to say fuck off as well. I was only 15 or something at the time and all my resentments from parental pressure to school, etc. was just bubbling up inside me. I soon as I heard him say them words it lit a fuze in me; it allowed me to say it and mean it too. I wanted freedom, real freedom, fuck all their laws, rules, inhibitions, etc. I think it was that week I dyed my hair with blue food colouring, tore up my trousers and t-shirts and there was no going back...

After a while of being on the scene, i realized the real hardcore Anarchists were the bands like Crass, Conflict etc, although by the time i was old enough to play music was the early 80's with bands like Southern Death Cult and Bauhaus were on the rise.

I agreed with the sentiment of the anarchist bands but enjoyed the music more of the early goth bands and i guess that's how Vex started, with our feet in both those worlds..

It was funny when we first did shows, we weren't like any other bands on the venue. The first times we played in support of Conflict the crowds just either watched or hurled abuse at us, in there minds we weren't hardcore enough musically but after a while they caught on to our vibe. One of our best shows was at the 100 Club in London when we blew Broken Bones { the guitarist from Discharges band } away, getting so many encores that by the time the headline act came on there was hardly anyone left in the audience.

You have to understand that most of that period of my life I was on a cocktail of solvents, speed, alcohol, marijuana and a varied assortment of pills, haha. Most of the connections to our recordings and most of the gigs I can't remember, as I was out of my head most of the time, as was most of the audience.

What I do remember was why we finally split up just as it was about to take off for us. We had the possibility of a signing to a major label that meant we would have to subdue some of our styling and lyrics, etc. Me and the drummer, Mark Russell, stuck to our anarchistic guns and told the label where to go and the guitarist and the bass player wanted us to compromise in order to get more airplay. (They, both being more form the goth background than the hardcore anarchist roots than me and the drummer held to.) From what I can remember, the arguing inside the band on this fundamental point of differences in direction split the band up eventually...

By this time, I was using heroin and really can't remember too much about it as the drug was starting to consume my life.

After Vex, I basically lost myself completely to my addiction to heroin, all my values of freedom and anarchistic revolution went out the window as I became more and more addicted, eventually ODing multiple times, ending up in and out of insane asylums and drug rehabs...

As for me now, miraculously I've been clean from drink and drugs for over 17 years now, half of my friends from the punk days are either dead, in prison or suffering from addiction problems themselves. The only people I know who are still carrying the banner strong are Conflict, although I don't have any contact with the band members.

Punk and anarchism for me was fine as an initial ideology of rebellion, but beyond smashing everything up (and believe me, if you knew any of us back then, we smashed a lot of shit up), as a way of living and generating an alternative future, it failed in my opinion.

It's worn now more as a fashion statement than as a way of life, and in my opinion, has no real power...

As for me, I've been an outlaw my whole life... I've never voted, I've never paid a dime in tax, I even now use a pseudonym so no government can track my where abouts. I'm FREE: I do what I want, where I want, with who ever I want, whenever I want and have worked out a way to live pretty self sustaining and self supporting.

I don't listen to punk nor do i dress like one anymore, but I live more the life of a true anarchist than most people I know...

Viva La Revolution


Part 2:

Like I said before, I was pretty high most of the time, but I think it was A&M that wanted to sign us up for a record deal. We were supposed to do a punk cover of "Twentieth Century Boy" by T Rex, and we wanted the cover art to be a picture of a punk kicking in a TV screen with Margaret Thatcher's face on it, but they wouldn't let us use that. So like I said before, we had an internal fight within the band. Me and Mark the drummer not wanting to comprimise, and it ended up splitting the band up.

To do with Conflict, we were all from pretty much the same area South East London. I can't remember exactly how we managed to end up on the road with them but we did. It was a lot of fun, we all got along pretty cool. "Sanctuary" was made and, yes, I think that was made before any other compilations we were on and stuff. We owed a lot to Conflict; they got our name on the map in whatever small way we were recognized at the time. As for Colin and Conflict, I ain't got a bad word to say about 'em, had some great times with Big John and Paco. Of course we're all hypocrites in our own way, but Conflict are still going strong and inspiring people to personal liberty.

I guess Conflict were the closest band we were into and played with, other bands like Dirt, Flux, etc. were around, but we kept ourselves to ourselves. Like I said before, being more inspired musically by Southern Death Cult, UK Decay, Joy Division, etc.

As for the "Rushing To Hide" recordings, yes, there were different takes of that that were recorded. As for are there any other recordings of other songs, god knows. We didn't do that much recording really, mostly just lotsa gigs... I think Mortarhate probably own the rights to our music, I've got no fucking idea, ha.

After the band split, we all went our different ways, and I only keep in contact with Mark the drummer occasionally. As for Duncan and Dave, the bass player and guitarist, who knows where they are at now and what there doing...

As for the days of Vex and the scene back then, it was fucking amazing: full of vitality, power and the feeling of constant revolution. When you could go to the Lyceum in London and see eight of the top punk bands for £4, it was great. You have to remember the punks were at war, literally, with the skinheads and fascist movement at the time. I had a huge spiked chain that I would wrap around the mike stand and when the skinheads would bust in, as they inevitably did to try and disrupt the gig, I would pull that chain off the stand and be cracking skulls at the edge of the stage to keep them at bay...

I go to gigs now occasionally, where they stat at 9 PM sharp and end at 11 PM with loud music and a bunch of posers and generally come away disappointed. Wishing that there was the vibe we had back in the day, the feeling of anarchy and destruction and total fucking mayhem most of the time, haha...

That's all ya getting from me bro, hope it works for ya.

Peace

Yanu

1 comment:

rayss said...

great interview!