Friday, July 29, 2011

Punk Rock made me a Buddhist (video)

P. MacPherson, D. Seven, A. Wells, CC Liu (Wisdom Quarterly)
A Japanese punk scene across the sea later created cyberpunk masterpieces that focused on punks and freaks of all kinds (

LOS ANGELES - Punk rock made me a Buddhist. A few hot spots in America (Boston, NYC, SF) gave rise to the American version of "punk," now devolved into pop-punk and bubblegum rock.

But it was once a rebellious act -- something that would get you arrested, beaten in Hollywood by riot police (LAPD/OCPD Gone Wild with a license to assault, jail, beat, and even shoot).

OC police now engage in brutality as bad as that of their brothers in blue next door -- killing for sport. RIP Kelly Thomas of Fullerton (

I always thought police hated punk rock. But it seems what they hate are kids, freedom, rebellion, youthful exuberance.

Police/paramilitary troops (many back from active duty in the military killing freely in Afghanistan and Iraq) stand stiffly wielding sticks, covering their badges, deploying all sorts of "toys" -- Tasers, concussion grenades, choke holds, mace, tear gas, non-metal projectiles (that cause serious injury and death while claiming to be nonlethal, but lethality completely depends on how they are used), horses, military assault rifles, shotguns, revolvers, mace, and secret stuff (using microwaves and infiltrating provocateurs).

What's it to do with Buddhism? Like the liberating Dharma itself, punk goes against the stream. I didn't join Noah Levine in his movement. I didn't wait for Keanu Reeves to make a movie about it. And I was no Brad Warner fan, nor even a student of "Zen," except as articulated by Alan Watts on KPFK, the city's only free speech radio outlet. Their were genius front men like Jello Biafra, the person with the most integrity, to be inspired by. There were the Buddha's own words to go by, particularly the Kalama Sutra.

Steven Blush has documented what the music was really like at the time:

American Hardcore: Steven Blush Interview
"Hardcore is a Complete, Legitimate California-born Music Form"
In his 2001 compendium, American Hardcore: A Tribal History, New York writer and former promoter Steven Blush all but dispensed with your dad's glamorized spit-scabs-and-safety-pin punk, instead focusing on hundreds of DIY, anarchic hardcore bands from the scene's peak between 1980 and 1986, proving that this was one genre of rock that wasn't fun and games, especially when the crowd is trying to light the singer on fire.

While Blush interviewed the music's usual suspects, including the Dead Kennedys, Misfits and Bad Brains, a substantial amount the book is not surprisingly dedicated to SoCal, from Hollywood to Orange County to the South Bay of Black Flag and SST.

Or, as Blush rightly identified, where "American hardcore was born..." (Bad Brains singer H.R.'s interview in the accompanying 2006 Sony Pictures Classics documentary took place at Griffith Park with a quinceanera in the background).

For the book's second edition, which includes more interviews, flyers, and a new chapter, Blush hosts a readings/discussion at Book Soup today, with Keith Morris (Black Flag, Circle Jerks), Tony Cadena (Adolescents), Lisa Fancher (Frontier Records), and photographer Edward Colver. Before he left the frigid cold for sunshine, we caught up with the author and talked local pride:

  • How did the book come about?

I started in the mid-'90s when the punk revival had happened with Green Day, Offspring, and Rancid. Everybody was talking about hardcore, but it had never really been documented. There was never any written lore other than fanzines, and some great ones, like Flipside in the L.A. area and Maximumrocknroll in San Francisco, notably. More