How Punk Rock can make you a better creative.
There is an often-quoted slogan from the early days of British punk that has informed my trajectory as a creative.
Originally printed alongside three-guitar chord diagrams on the front page of Sniffin’ Glue, an underground self-published zine the words “Here’s Three Chords, Now Go Start A Band” would be the rallying cry to a generation of musicians and artists ready to disrupt the status quo. It is this idea, that you don’t need technical virtuosity to change the world creatively, is one that I believe transcends the niche subcultural image of punk. You too can be the change you want to see, you just have to pick up your tools and do it yourself. Don’t wait around for it to fall in your lap, or make the excuse that you don’t have the skills, with a little ingenuity you have everything you need to shape culture in your wake.
It almost goes without saying at this point that punk is not “a uniform” or “a type of music” but rather an attitude. Some of the most punk-rock people I’ve known neither dressed punk nor listened to punk music. Equally some of the most superficial and conformist people I’ve encountered ticked every box in the look-book from mohawk to Docs. That being said, being around the alternative music scene informed my creative outlook more than can be taught in any book. Nothing beats lived experience and at SCA we learn through living and we live and create as a collective. That is essentially the backbone of much of the anarchist way of life. What I did learn from the punk rock scene is the incredible power of the art that is created without any financial incentive. Making music for no reason other than you want to make people dance, or you want them to scream or you want to start a riot. That will always be more powerful to me than music made to sell records. Something that can be learned from this, even for people who DO want to make money, is that freeing yourself to make art for its own sake will allow you to find a voice that is honest and vivacious… If you chose to you can let this inform the work you hope to earn from.
Punk Music has shown me the true power of community and community organising. Through activism and demonstrations, I’ve seen the community rally behind individuals who needed support. Mutual aid and solidarity were powerful tools. Today we have a powerful tool on the internet for building a community around whatever obscure interest or niche passion we have. Not just locally but globally. As creatives we need to be organising ourselves to get behind any/all of our peers’ ideas should they need it. We have a battalion of voices. If we wanted to get something trending it would not take long with the correct orchestration and the full cooperation of all our peers. For this to work, each of us only needs to raise the flag and ask for group co-operation for the right project.
We live in an exciting time, exciting and terrifying in equal measures. I see the culture that teenagers and 20 somethings are cultivating and I am both impressed and somewhat jealous. Why jealous? Because my generation was so apathetic politically at that age when we should have been organising far better than we did.
The alternative scene is far bigger now than it was when I was in my late teens and this is largely due to social media allowing for people with alternative interests to find each other and form their own counter-culture. We need to be examining people at the forefront of cultural progress and spearheading it further into the uncharted. That is the aim of the disruptive creative, the renegades, the punk… Whatever you want to call it.
Every generation has had different names for essentially the same thing, people who tore up the rule book and drew a line between all that came before them and all that came after.
For me, that’s Punk Rock.