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Punk Not Bombs: Severed Head of State in Serbia


I started booking shows with my friends (or I should say “crew”) back in the beginning of the 2000’s. The name which we used was (and still is) Positive Youth (Pozitivna Omladina) as we were influenced by youth crew bands like Youth of Today, Gorilla Biscuits etc. Also the majority of the group were straight edge so it was more than normal to use that name. But of course that wasn’t the only reason. Positive Youth refers to unity, friendship and last but not the least, positive mental attitude. Those things were important for us and still are.

Anyway, in the late ‘90’s, just after NATO war against Serbia, we started our own bands, practicing in the basements, old houses and all other similar places. We were influenced not just by the youth crew bands from USA but also by the local hardcore punk heroes Hoću? Neću!, Totalni Promašaj, Smudos and others. For those who don’t know, Kraljevo (my hometown) had strong and really influential hardcore punk scene during ’90’s and their influence spread all over the ex–Yugoslavian area. Besides those bands there was the punk distro/label Kontrapunkt. It started as non music/political fanzine, various political groups and other interesting stuff. In the times when nationalism was mainstream and it was supported by the state and majority of people, those guys were on the frontline of antinationalism. They started, together with comrades from other ex–YU countries, several antinationalist campaigns under the name “Over the Walls of War and Nationalism” (Preko zidova nacionalizma i rata).

So, under the influence of both—straight edge youth crew and political hardcore punk, we started with our own thing. Among the first activities were organizing gigs—for our bands, but also for the touring bands from abroad. Although there were active bands, in the 90’s there were not so many gigs of touring bands since Serbia (or SR Yugoslavia) was under the sanctions and it wasn’t easy to get in or get out. And funny thing is that there were not so many bands playing from other cities. It was a little bit closed scene. After the collapse of Slobodan Milošević’s regime Serbia was open to the world and Kraljevo also opened their venues for the touring bands. That’s how the bands from all over the world came here and played their gigs. One of the gigs that we like to remember was Severed Head of State gig in 2003.

Severed Head of State wasn’t the first foreign band to play in Kraljevo. In 2002 two bands from Croatia, AK 47 & Intoxicate, played their first gigs in Serbia after the war. And one of their gigs was in Kraljevo. Although we were a little bit scared that some crazy Chetniks/right wing extremists will cause some trouble nothing actually happened. But the day before Kraljevo they were robbed. Someone stole their van which was actually borrowed from a friend of theirs who spent all of his savings to buy it. What was more problematic was their backline which was also in the van. So they were left with nothing, but they decided to come to Kraljevo and they played hell of a gig.

An year later we had another foreign band in the city. This time it was an American hardcore band, which of course, we didn’t care about at the time, but after the show we realized that it was important as they were probably first Americans who came to Kraljevo after the NATO bombing (if we don’t count the diplomatic personnel). Somehow we were informed that Severed Head of State got some problems with booking the show so we accepted the call from Belgrade punk veteran Andrea. She introduced us to the situation and we agreed to help with the show. As I remember, we were little bit euphoric because we’ll host a punk “superstar” band, but actually didn’t know too much about them.

Anyway, we found a venue, it was a nice underground place called “Opposite”. Located in the basement of an old house couple streets away from the city center. The owner was a pscyhobilly fan, really enthusiastic, who opened his place for our gigs, and never had any complaints. Only thing which he insisted was not to come too early to the place. But this time he had to do it because the gig was in the time of “Sablja” (Saber), a state organized action against the criminal groups. This “Sablja” thing started after the assassination of Zoran Djindjić, prime minister of Serbia, who was assassinated by the mafia. So the next couple of months we had something like a curfew while the state fought against mafia. This whole thing failed big time, but that’s another story. So actually the gig was supposed to be a matinée show, because we had to finish around 10 pm. And that’s the information that everybody got, except for Severed Head of State themselves.

Three other bands were also playing. These were locals OPD and Lifeless. Old school hardcore band Another One from Belgrade were also on the bill but they cancelled. On the day of the gig Severed Head of State were late and we were getting a little bit scared what had happened. The people started to gather and I saw a lot of familiar faces, but also some unknown. And then I realized how important this gig was. In one moment we couldn’t wait anymore so we started searching for the phone number of Žule from Banja Luka (Bosnia) who was their tour manager and driver.

In 2003 it wasn’t easy to find a mobile phone number. No one from the crew had mobile phone (yeah, we were poor punx from the province), so we asked our friend Mačak, another punk veteran. He gave us Žule’s number and when he told us that they’re in Niš, we were fucked. The situation was like this: the band is 146km away from the place where they should have been long ago, the gig was supposed to start an hour ago and we didn’t have a backline to start, since we were waiting for theirs.

In the end, we decided to bring our own backline, which was some 200m away from the venue, so we asked our friends to help us. In one moment, you could see groups of punx carrying drum set, amps and other stuff from the basement to the venue. We set up the backline and started with the gig. After a while, Severed Head of State appeared in the club, so then we started changing the backline. Again, punx gave us a hand and we unloaded our equipment and changed it with theirs. I remember that their backline was huge, compared to our small shitty amps. And we had a lot of problems moving it through the crowd.

Finally we made it. They set up their backline and started. “Woooow! What the fuck!” That was the first impression. They killed it. It was soooo hot (the gig was in June). It felt like we were in Hell. The crowd was crazy, moshpits all the time—we thought the venue will be destroyed. And suddenly, some “silueta” appeared on the doors. Those were members of a special police group who came here to stop the show, because it was too loud and too crowded. We tried to talk with them but there was not way to negotiate. One of them said: “What? They bombed us, I was at war for three months because of them. Shut the music or else!” And that was the end.

Unfortunately, the band didn’t stay for a night since they were in hurry, that’s why Žule doesn’t remember anything from Kraljevo. They didn’t eat anything, because the crowd eat their food, someone left the plate with the pie in the venue, so people thought it was for free. But despite that everyone who was at this gig (we sold 95 passes) remembers the power of Severed Head of State.

By Vojkan Trifunović, a Serbian hardcore punk veteran who still plays in the band The Truth.



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Serbian synth-wave duo Sixth June premiere the video for ‘Night Before’ off of their upcoming album ‘Virgo Rising’


The first time I met the Belgrade natives Lidija and Laslo in a cafe in Berlin—somehow the conversation drifted into astrology and the tarot—so I can’t help but smile to see that their project Sixth June’s upcoming album Virgo Rising is due out February 17th on aufnahme + wiedergabe

It’s been more than 3 years since 2013’s Pleasure, and the sound our two Serbians has created has evolved—perhaps due to Laslo’s exploration into the 80’s via his project Cult Club with Sally Dige. This is definitely evident in the saxophone, fretless bass, and horns accompanying the precipitous synths in the track Night Before, whose video is an electric dream that is an abstraction of new-wave romance.

If you are in Berlin on March 2nd, be sure to attend Sixth June’s release party at Berghain—featuring Tropic of Cancer.

RSVP HERE



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Balkan Noise: A Brief Intro to the Ex-Yugo Underground Music Compilations


For those who missed last 25-30 years or skipped history classes, Yugoslavia was a socialist and communist country in the Balkans. But unlike the similar countries of Eastern Europe “behind the Iron Curtain”, Yugoslavia was out of any blocs. In fact, the country was a founder of Non-Aligned Movement, but still had a good influence on Western culture.

That was the reason why all subcultures were present and started developing few years after their beginnings in Western countries. We had R’n’R, punk, post-punk, hardcore, disco, pop, comics, art etc. scene, you name it. The “Ljubljana-Zagreb-Belgrade axis” (capital cities of the republics) was very strong, connections were made, people traveled a lot, exchanged ideas, played and you can tell that was “the Golden age” of our underground scene.

The year of 1992 was the end of Yugoslavia. We’ve split into six countries: Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia. I am sure some of you have heard about the civil wars that ended in 1995. Most of the contacts were broken or hard to maintain, a lot of artists moved to some other countries, or stopped being active, however, there were some new generations that grew up in between.

After the war, the connections between ex-Yugoslavian republics were slowly restored, mostly by fanzines. The Internet came few years after, and fanzines were moving slowly to their demise. Here and there you will find some punk, art, sci-fi or other fanzine, but by now they are more of “by accident” than a regular thing.

Video Killed The Radio Star…

Internet Killed The Fanzine

Webzines are now dominating underground media scene, and every few months there is some new portal, blog or something like that popping up. Like fanzines, most of them last just for a year or two. Though, there are few of them that last for more than a decade-decade and a half.

Labels? Physical labels are disappearing as well. There are few indie labels in Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia, and I think they are doing pretty well. But most of new labels are starting as net-labels. There are all kind of them that support punk, metal, noise, industrial, electronic, D’n’B, and many more.

Fortunately, we have younger generations that are active, and that’s a pretty good start.

Since it is hard to cover all of underground genres, maybe the best way to scratch the surface is to check some of the labels and compilations they prepared throughout the last few years. You’ll see how diverse the scene is, from obscure bedroom projects to artists who have a commercial potential.

LIBRARION

librarion-zine

So, let’s start with LIBRARION, which is basically art fanzine, but almost every issue was followed with release. Sometimes it was a single track, but through time the net label became a parallel part of Librarion project. So far three compilations were made:

“Strah” (Fear) as part of issue #3 of the zine, as well as “Opasna ženska muzika” (Fearsome female music) with #2 issue. This compilation is quite interesting since only girl bands and acts were gathered there. It was made to highlight the Balkan women of the underground.

Their freshest compilation is published under minimalistic title “~”, released just few days ago. Unlike previous comps, this one has a totally free-form in its subject. You’ll find some noise, harsh noise, electro, metal, post punk and punk acts from Serbia, Croatia, and Bosnia blended together. This last Librarion release is notable since it brings a bunch of new names, and also digs through the past. These are the contributors from ‘~’:

  • Dangerous Beat (Croatian techno/IDM producer, this time in noise outfit)
  • The Bane (two-piece ad-hoc band from Serbia, from military days)
  • Olja Wagner (solo project from prominent musician and poetess from Niš)
  • Summer Deaths (one of the rare Vaporwave/chill acts from Serbia)
  • Psihokratija (cult goth/dark cabaret band from Belgrade, they are active these days)
  • No No Instigator (fresh post-punk/no wave duo from Croatia)
  • Litanije Čaranja (one of the rare funeral doom projects, from Croatia)
  • Bitchslap (experimental act from Serbia, by owner of the Deathfuckarmageddon Records)
  • Monosiped (weird, melodic musical act from Serbia)
  • Acoustic Torture Chamber (experimental/noise from BiH, by owner of the Human Cross Records)
  • BxOxKx (digital punk/ska/hip-hop act from Kraljevo, by the editor-in-chief of AkuPUNKtura zine)
  • King Ubu (reactivated alt. rock sensation from Zagreb)
  • Antitalent (harshnoise/minimalistic project from Brus, Serbia, by owner of the underground label Jesboligakurac Records)
  • The Ant (minimalistic instrumental rock from Majdanpek, Serbia)
  • :dARM (one more experimental project from the owner of the Human Cross Records)
  • Nekro Batica (noisican from Serbia, owner of the Deathfuckarmaeddon Records and editor-in-chief of Ciklonizacija blog)
  • Eva Ras (post-screamo project from Serbia, by owner of the Confusion Specialist net-label)
  • Misha Mashina & Mashtrakala (very noisy and weird alt. rock act from Serbia)
  • KSEA (mysterious ambient/minimalistic project from Serbia)
  • Dosis Letalis (ANW/HNW artist from Serbia)
  • Ex You (experimental no-jazz ensemble from Serbia)
  • .vernacvlaar destrvction. (HNW/static noise artist from Serbia)

This label released some other weird releases, no fancy shit, just pure underground for the underground geeks like you.

Crime:Scene

crimescene-records

Now, let’s move to the Crime:Scene Records. One of the oldest and most productive net labels from the front man of massacre industrial act dreDDup, that released more than 150 releases in 10 years or so. CSR is more oriented to some dark sounds, industrial, noise, post punk, goth, EBM etc. They organized some festivals and radio shows in the past.

Among releases there are some of nice compilations that will give you nice insight into this kind of sound.

Dark Balkan Music Vol.1 & Vol.2

Alchemy, VA release with ex-Yu bands doing covers

Also, there is a series of CSR regular compilations. For now, there are 14 volumes.

Black Planet Records

black-planet-records

Black Planet Records is also active in connecting bands and producers in ex-Yu. They are most known by their series of compilations entitled “Balkan Under The Radar”. The name is self-explanatory. Every issue is like double or even triple CD edition. They do physical copies as well, in limited number. Style? You name it, they have it.

Vol 1 The Invisible Scene

Vol 2 The Black Wave

Vol 3 Black Generation

Vol 4 Antisocial Network

Underground Alliance

underground-alliance-records

Underground Alliance has 60 releases under their belt, but I think this label is on hiatus right now. Check the compilations they made (similar idea like BPR above) two trilogies.

Ubivae

ubivae-records

Ubivae is the youngest label/collective. So far they released two compilations, check it out if you are into electronic, D’n’B, experimental.

Panda Jesus

panda-jesus

In the end, I’d like to mention a label from my hometown, Ćuprija, that just started as well.

Panda Jessus is dedicated to some alternative electronic genres: witch house, vaporwave, down-tempo/chill, etc. They have three releases so far, but you can check the first compilation they made, first one that gathered the next generation of artists that produce genres mentioned above.

I think this would be enough for now. I am sure that even just these few labels mentioned above will be enough to give you hours and weeks of new music and insight that music from Balkan is still alive.

There are more labels and bands to present but feel free to explore them yourself. This is just something to scratch the surface. I am sure you’ll find something exotic and I’ll be glad to hear your comments below.

About the author: Nenad Popović is editor-in-chief of HELLYCHERRY webzine.



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