Past and Present Influences in Alternative Music

Main image of Piss Kitti by Monique Humphrey 

Words by Rhys Davies - @allspells

In this article I write about Punk's effect on the alternative music that proceeded it and also the influence of all kinds of genres on current alternative artists, I spoke with some musicians from Manchester and surrounding areas about what got them into certain subgenres and subcultures, as well as current artists and scenes they are enjoying or involved with.

The following playlist is based around punk and the subgenres that followed, with tracks by the artists I've spoken to kicking us off, as well as tracks of all kinds chosen by these artists to finish, and a mix of past and present songs in between (I will add here that this playlist is NSFW).

When Punk happened, the late Genesis P-Orridge (of throbbing gristle and psychic TV) wasn't interested; "too traditional" they recalled feeling when asked about its beginnings in the late '70s. By all means, by this point in musical history technology was allowing musicians and artists to create sounds far more out there and unconventional than Punk's more extreme form of rock and roll. What made Punk so important however was how it took the tradition of rock and roll back to the initial raw energy of its '50s incarnation while pushing the overall attitude and lyrics to extremes the genre had not seen. This was also a time where women began to have more of a voice in music that could be described as "unconventional", bearing in mind as well that until the dawn of garage rock in the '60s (which by the early '70s had become much wilder), visceral and angry electric music was scarce and male-dominated. It was punk that finally gave women a voice in the world of visceral and angry music, of which this playlist contains lots of. In this article and playlist I've featured musicians from past and present existing on the more "fringe" side of Punk's spectrum; hardcore punk, noise rock, post-punk, riot grrrl, pop-punk. Like how punk pushed the boundaries and twisted the traditions of rock and roll, these genres did the same with punk. 

all girls arson club
All Girls Arson Club

I wanted to find out what genres and subcultures first inspired the artists I chatted with, and what turned them on to the more alternative side of music- I remember being enamoured as a child with the sound of ACDC's 'TNT', and Guns N Roses, so I asked away. Often it starts with mum or dad; Amy of Witch Fever recalls; "it was my Dad that got me into heavy music. One of the first bands he got me into was Billy Talent." He took her to see them live, with Cancer Bats supporting, "they were the first very heavy band I’d ever heard properly. Since then my love for heavy music grew and grew!" Bands like Evanescence, Alexisonfire and Paramore she also remembers loving. Esme of Piss Kitti remembers "Anything that’s intense and a little bit ugly always has my interest- when I was like 6 I used to sit in my room and listen to The Darkness on my Walkman". Amy Walpole also adds; "I grew up going to church- not a fun time, we won’t go there, and one of the only good things I got out of it was singing as part of the church band. My family and I left the church when I was sixteen, and from then on I was part of various rock/metal bands until I found Witch Fever four years ago. Witch Fever has been so cathartic and empowering." Like Amy, India and Alice of All Girls Arson Club and Beau Mec's Jade Mannion also mentioned the influence of their parents' alternative music collection, and Piss Kitti's bass player Clara spoke of her dad getting her a Smashing Pumpkins album when she was thirteen; "cause he thought I'd like it, I was like 'what the hell is this?' Then I listened to it again and had some sort of awakening". Like my own parents, Jade holds the music of PJ Harvey close to her heart; "PJ Harvey I’ve always loved because she does everything herself; amazing songwriter, player, singer and producer. The range of dynamics across her softer stuff to heavy stuff is really inspiring and genre-bending, and she does it so well. I always felt she has created an atmosphere that’s completely her own. I especially loved  'White Chalk' album phase where she wrote with the autoharp."

Locean by Robin Hill

I asked Lauren of Locean what got her into the darker and heavier side of music and she told me it's definitely nuanced for her as she senses the light side of heavier rhythms and lyrics. This I can see, as one comparison I personally have made to her own singing would be that of Jarboe's work in the band Swans; sometimes soft and fragile, sometimes strong and resonant - with the music it is both juxtaposed and concurring as the music builds. As for her introduction to styles of music that could be described as 'dark', Joy Division's debut made a mark; "The first time I felt uneasy listening to music was when I first heard Unknown Pleasures. I was seventeen and I remember thinking at the time - why is this man screaming?" The new scenes and styles that spawned from the initial wave of punk are some of my favourite genres, and these offshoots pushed punk stylistically while maintaining the incomparable rawness of the genre that started things off. 

The UK post-punk scene, US hardcore punk scene, noise rock and garage rock revival movement were quintessential in the '80s when a lot of punk bands gravitated towards the more radio-friendly new wave sound. To keep the spirit alive - as cheesy as that sounds - one must adapt and apply the energy to whatever the fuck one wants, and every day people are realising they've got something to say and something to do. I won't waste your time stating the obvious cause we all know what it's about. "Have you ever wanted to dance and fight at the same time? That’s
why we chose to get involved in the DIY scene, so we could have fun and be angry and silly and hang out with people and meet sexy people in bands all at once" say All Girls Arson Club, and they speak fondly of the present-day straight edge hardcore scene, and also mention the 80s DC hardcore scene as well as its development into emo; "not the most diverse scene, but the intensity and passion of it all is pretty lit! There’s [currently] a lot of hardcore bands with women/GNC people in that we have been listening to recently, that we’re kind of obsessed with because it’s always great to see representation in what often feels like such a masculine scene. Fuse from Singapore, Torso from California and Soakie from Melbourne are some of the bands that have been on repeat recently. It’s all textbook hardcore punk; exactly what you need to stomp around to but with more of a focus on feminism and gender identity."


As for other scenes the artists mention, a favourite of Lauren's is the Glasgow Noise scene, who as well states "I am also feeling that way about the musicians associated with New Rivers, in London. Then, I'd say, explore Max Fish and Ceremony in New York. If I could go back in time I would have liked to stay a night at the Hotel Chelsea, but probably alone." Esme spoke of their love for Liverpool's local scene outside of alternative music; "The grime and hip hop scene in Liverpool is inspiring, seeing artists like TARDAST and Rugz and MC Nelson create their own scene is a big Fuck You to the frankly over-saturated indie boys with a guitar scene that takes up too much space." Jade Mannion enjoyed Manchester's rave scene; "I think one of my favourites would definitely be the drum and bass scene, when I was a teenager there was loads of raves happening in Manchester - some of the main ones being from Gash Collective. At times they would have live music as well as DJs in these big abandoned warehouses - so as a teenager it was so good. Going to these definitely rooted a love for DnB and jungle scenes as those nights are some of my early memories of going out." All Girls Arson Club admire Kathleen Hanna a lot, "she has an incredible voice and is very talented musically, she's fronted loads of boss bands that have been successful but my favourite is The Julie Ruin which was developed from a solo album that she wrote/recorded/produced by herself in her bedroom!" And Amy Walpole cites Riot Grrrl as an inspiration; "I’ve never actually been massively into the music that came out of it but I admire how powerful the women were/are. They’re all very much a reason I’m doing what I do today and I think they made a huge, very much needed change to the alt music scene. I also grew up loving hardcore/post-hardcore bands like Title Fight, Basement, Broken Teeth, and La Dispute." For Clara Cicely; "I'm really into the CBGB's punk scene from New York in the '70s (long live Patti). And also just the current DIY punk scene in the UK because everyone is so lovely and supportive and helpful of each other."

That seems like a nice place to end things on, below are the tracks chosen by each of the artists I chatted to, and some extra notes on other bands they're listening to.

India and Alice, drummer and guitarist of Manchester-via-Sheffield garage punk minimalists All Girls Arson Club

Liar - CLAMM
True Killer - Sneaks
Bound - The Ponderosa Twins
Bellas Lullaby - Twilight 

Also: "Allison Wolfe, Kimya Dawson, Laurie Anderson, Amyl and the Sniffers, Tierra Whack, The GO! Team, Yaeji, Say Sue Me"

Jade Mannion, bass player in post-punk/no-wave group Beau Mec, and a solo artist as Ecru

PJ Harvey - The Glorious Land
Portishead - Sour Times
Flying Lotus - Tea Leaf Dancers
The Starlight Magic Hour - Song To Bethy

On Beth Gibbons of Portishead; "as a vocalist, because she is so gripping. Laying such a fragile voice over trip-hop would seem unrealistic you would think, but it’s perfect and you really feel the vulnerability. Her voice is amazing."

Lauren Bolger, singer of Noise group Locean

1. The Crystal Ship, The Doors
1. Discipline, Throbbing Gristle 
2. I Don't Care, Park Hye Jin 
3. Cop Killer, John Maus
4. State Trooper, Bruce Springsteen
5. Mark Ronson ft Miley Cyrus, Nothing Breaks Like a Heart
6. Cardi B, Money
7. Banana Split, Lio
8. Harlem, Suicide
9. No Comment, Serge Gainsbourg 
10. Kream, Iggy Azalea ft Tyga

Also: "Gal Costa, Harry Pussy, Cardi B, Drunks With Guns w Melissa, Stealing Sheep, Lana Del Rey, Aging and The Lounge Lizards."

Esme Grace Brown singer for Liverudlian Punks Piss Kitti

Touch Me I’m Sick - Sonic Youth
Sticky! - MC Nelson 
Uproar- Gouge Away 
SHUSH - TARDAST (SoundCloud & YouTube only) 
Mexican Seafood - Nirvana 
Fuck Yr. Fans - bratmobile

Also: "I love anyone that’s sure of themselves. Whatever genre. HO9909, Pissed Jeans, Gouge Away and Daniel Johnston especially. It doesn’t really matter if you can’t sing or play your guitar as long as don’t take yourself too seriously. I hate to say it because they’re terrible people but Yolandi’s voice from Die Antwoord has always been an inspiration to me coz it’s funny (don’t cancel me). [Also] Bratmobile and Kim Gordon from Sonic Youth."

Clara Cicely, bassist for Piss Kitti

The Julie Ruin - Aerobicide
The Smashing Pumpkins - Zero
The Paranoyds - Egg Salad
ShitKid - Oh Me I'm Never
Sewer Cats - Raw
Starcrawler - Pussy Tower

Also: "I haven't really been playing bass that long, I kind of just had to pick it up really fast. I really like gnarly basslines though and was listening to a lot of Bratmobile/The Replacements while I was learning."

Amy Hope Walpole, singer in Manchester-based dark punk/metal band WITCH FEVER

Picture by @wildblanketphotography

Show Me The Body – Forks and Knives 
Miserable – Loverboy
Ho99o9 – Knuckle Up

Also: "Amy Taylor and Dani Miller from Amyl and the Sniffers and Surfbort are two punk musicians that I discovered last year! Mullets, bikinis and body hair galore! They’re both absolute dreamboats and amazing performers/vocalists. Am I allowed to say my own band too? Alex, Alisha and Annabelle are some of the most talented musicians I’ve ever met, I’m constantly in awe of them."