Slam Dance Corroboree ‘Life in the Loud Lane’ with Bevynn Wilkerson
Slam Dance Corroboree
‘Life in the Loud Lane’
with Bevynn Wilkerson
“To me, punk gave me a purposeful life to live.”
By Ian Browne Shamrock News
Blimey, I have been away from Sydney way too long, I just can’t keep up with what Bevynn Wilkerson has been into all these years! I have known Bev and his partner Nadja for the best part of 30 years, and we caught up for a reunion in Sydney’s Chinatown just after New Years. You can read about our crew in the first article I have posted here.
In the days when some of Sydney’s punk community sinfully morphed into Caligula, Def FX and Succotash- with the latter doing their speed metal-Rap thang, I roadied for them- sufferin succotash that it is. I also ‘acted’ in their film clips, did their light shows and inner-city poster runs. People would hit me up in the street recognizing me from the gigs, and the earlier punk days too, thinking I was in the band- heh. It was funny though, in the early 90’s I was on the light-deck in a pub in inner-city Brisvegus, when some young punks began jeering Succotash before they hit the stage. We had all been through the punk scene over the years ourselves but these young folk wouldn’t have known that. Trousers on drums, and Bev on guitar, shocked them all though when they churned out some double-kick and intense metal chords. “Nice one” I remember thinking as I hit the strobe light and the smoke machine into gear, trying to keep up with the noisy mayhem, and while polluting these young Brisbane punks with our angst!
My brother 1F sung in the first rehearsals for Throwdown, doing his best Mike Muir impersonations- before buggering off to join me travelling around this dusty old land. Anyway, Bev has left his fingerprint down through the ages in hardcore, punk and metal, on both sides of the continent and overseas. I asked him a few questions about his life in the ‘loud lane’ for the first of the punk series ‘Slam Dance Corroboree’:
Describe Perth’s 80’s punk scene and how you transcended through the genres, including your time in Cremator.
Growing up in the 80`s in Perth was great and very educational. I was a punk and lived in squats and share houses with uni students studying politics and the like. Perth had a lot of English immigrants so the Punk and Skinhead scene was very healthy, and that included a lot of crazy parties, with skins, punks, rockers, hippies, bikies - the lot all mixed in. I remember going to a Madness concert and seeing a seething wave of bombers jackets and studded leather jackets. So much great music came out of that era and tape trading and zines was the way to discover new music. I traded with people from other states in Australia, the US and Canada. Punk, Oi, Thrash and Metal was new and exciting for me and everyone was very open to different genres.
I started out playing bass in punk bands around 1985 (Pigs are Guilty, Momento Mori) and the music was very raw, in the vein of the 2nd wave of British punk. We recorded a few demos in a soft drink warehouse and played a few shows around Perth.
Then I bought a $20 guitar from a 2nd hand shop and practiced like crazy. As my playing got better I formed a thrash metal band, Cremator, with Rusty (whom I lived with and who has gone onto a successful music career playing drums in You Am I). The music was very fast and we covered the country song The Devil Went Down to Georgia as it was an uptempo ditty with a twist. Our bass player John was also a great violin player and his solo killed it when we played live. John was a true free spirit and had decided to hitch hike his way over to follow us after we had all moved to Sydney. Tragically, John was hit by a truck in the middle of the Nullabour. It really devastated us all.
Why did you move to Sydney? Describe Sydney’s hardcore/punk scene in comparison to Perth.
Perth is a long distance away and was very quiet for touring bands to visit. Apart from major international bands, the only band that toured regularly was the Hard Ons. We used to play cricket matches against them and put on a big spread of vege curries afterwards.
It was 1988 and my band at the time, Cremator, had just released an LP through Waterfront Records in Sydney, so we set off on an Australian tour for 5 weeks. We loaded up a Toyota van, squeezed everything and everyone inside and took off. Australia is a big place and driving continuously, it took 3 ½ days to get from one side to the other.
We played Adelaide, Melbourne, Geelong and Sydney and it was great! I fell in love with Sydney, the opportunities to be had, the great bands that toured were plentiful and local music was thriving. Perth was a cool city but Sydney seemed closer to the rest of the world and there was a chance of actually getting a job.
How did audiences take to the new fusion that Succotash created? What did you learn about the music industry from your time in Succotash?
Succotash started out as a Voivod style band with dissonant chords and weird time signatures. I started it with Kev, the bass player from Massappeal. It changed members and style and audiences seemed to like it a lot. We got signed to a major label, Mushroom Records, and that's when it all went to shit. Mushroom Records wanted control over the songs and what went on the record. We recorded 20 songs at a studio for an album and Mushroom only liked one song- which we didn’t like, so the recording never saw the light of day. I think they did this to control the market - offer advances then refuse to release your stuff so you end up stuck. We escaped out of our contract with Mushroom eventually but it left a bad taste in your mouth, so ever since I decided independent labels or a DIY approach is a better way to do things.
Describe the grand days with Throwdown and your association with Suicidal Tendencies.
Throwdown was a band that formed in 1995 and is still going 20 years later. It started as a bunch of mates, Kyle, Trouser, Adam and I covering our favourite Suicidal Tendencies songs and progressed to writing our own songs. It was/is a great band to be in and we had a lot of fun touring Australia, supporting major US bands and recording numerous albums. We toured the east coast of Australia with Suicidal Tendencies - twice, almost got kicked off the tour, but it all was an incredible experience.
Throwdown had a quiet period a couple of years ago until we were asked to play a benefit show for a good cause. We reunited, and it was so much fun that now we keep playing shows when we can, and recently did a quick tour down to Melbourne and Adelaide.
What does ‘punk’ mean to you today? Has it changed in comparison to the 80’s (fashion/attitude/numbers)?
Oh boy. I see endless forums arguing what punk is.
To me, punk gave me a purposeful life to live. I got interested in different music, art, different views, a different lifestyle - away from the mainstream. I protested, skateboarded through supermarkets, hung out with like minded people and became vegan. I’m still doing most of this today.
The fashion side was never a huge part of punk for me, I’ve always been a jeans and t-shirt type person, but I love an impressive mohawk or chelsea cut. The 80`s was very different as there were no mobile phones or internet to discover new music and it was more word of mouth. It was more DIY. The music has been through many changes and there are so many genres, so it probably is more accessible now and a little less dangerous, although every now and then a new band comes out and blows you away. It’s better that the hardcore scene- be it punk, skin or metal- has never really become overly commercialised as money destroys stuff.
Describe what you are doing in Black Ball and where it’s all headed?
Black Ball is a solo project that started when I had some downtime from the other bands I play in, Rust, The Corps and Throwdown. I decided to get my guitar chops happening and I started taking lessons from Dai Pritchard from Rose Tattoo. Well, that started an outpouring of songs from which I started doing some home recordings, playing all the instruments, singing and writing the lyrics - which was a challenge as I’d always had the singers in my bands doing that bit. I rang around a few friends from bands and they were most generous to help out with singing a verse, playing a solo here and there, and providing encouragement.
The music would be described as a combination of Oi, Punk and Aussie pub rock. The first EP “Coward's Punch” was released on an overseas label, Rebellion Records in the Netherlands, and Longshot Music in the US last year, and sold out! The full length album “Never Regret” has just been released through the same record labels and a box of vinyl is waiting on my doorstep as we speak.
Over the years what are some of the bigger bands that you have gigged with?
Black Ball is more a solo project but it's been received pretty well, so I might be hitting up some talented muso`s to get it happening live.
The other bands have done well too. The Corps have toured Europe twice, supported The Dropkick Murphys a few times in Sydney and have many releases. RUST are about to go back to the UK and Europe this year and recently supported GBH, The Exploited and Stiff Little Fingers. RUST have a new EP ready to go and another full length later in the year. Throwdown are still going and have supported many great touring bands, Suicidal Tendencies, Madball, Bad Religion, Buzzcocks and The Damned to name a few.
How did you land up being part of the punk reunions in Black Pool, UK etc? What is it like hangen with Punk’s Godfathers?
RUST have been invited to play at Rebellion Festival quite a few times. It is an amazing four days of every punk band I listened to as a punk growing up, and I got to meet a lot of my teenage heroes. Backstage there are no egos, everyone is very friendly and up for a chat and a laugh. One weird thing is the drummer from GBH, Scott, is my doppelganger and everyone wanted photos of us standing together, whilst laughing their heads off at our similarities. It happened again when GBH toured Australia recently.