“Sonik Lobotomy” 7"
A bootleg of Genocide Association caught me by surprise. From the shit-fi perspective, this “band” was one of the most notable of the 1980s hardcore scene in England. While Genocide Association existed, the band was a joke and played live only once, unlike their brethren in musical destruction, Skumdribblurz, who seem to have played nearly every show for a while. Genocide Association were Digby Pearson, who later ran Earache Records, and Dave Smith, of the band Verbal Warning, fooling around as a studio-only project. (G.A.’s one gig was a major one at Leeds Bier Keller, on May 19, 1984, with Kalv from Heresy on bass, Tim from Skumdribblurz on guitar, and Dave and Dig on vocals, all of them together making random noise. The line-up of that gig was—get this—Black Flag, Hagar The Womb, Mau Maus, Newtown Neurotics, Rattus, Cult Maniax, Nig Heist, The Bleed, 13 Horses Legs, Chronic, Crucified By Christians, Stagnant Era, The Abused, Obesa, Genocide Association. Not that Abused, but what a gig! There’s a DVD available of the Black Flag set, mistakenly listed on the case as having been in Bradford. Also, I recall Rollins saying that the Newtown Neurotics were one of the best bands they played with in the UK.)
I first obtained a dub of their 105-song “Sonik Lobotomy” demo several years ago from a tape (err, CD-R) trader who sent it to me out of the blue. Immediately, the “music” struck me as odd. There was something familiar, and when it hit me, man, was I astonished. Genocide Association’s demo was basically a recording of what could be considered a cross between karaoke and tape-loop experimental music: they used classic hardcore tunes that had been released recently (up to October 1983) and chaotically shouted their own lyrics and nonsense over them. Terveet Kädet, Crude SS, Urban Waste, Kansan Uutiset, Impact Unit, Riistetyt, and other bands make appearances on the demo, only with crazed British dole-queue punx doing their own vocals.
Here is what Dig told my friend when I had him inquire about Genocide Association a few months ago:
Genocide Association was definitely not a real band. Your friend is one of the few who has it sussed—quite correctly—it was an amalgam of riffs from many other bands' demos, hand sampled on a tape-to-tape boombox and then shouted over with our own political lyrics, by me and Dave (Verbal Warning, local Nottingham anarcho band). It was hard work as samplers did not exist then! It was kinda a practical joke/hoax on a local friend who ran a zine, but it also served a purpose, cos it was a forerunner of exactly the kind of noise I wanted to hear—and would eventually years later release on my label.
In another e-mail, Dig explained exactly how it is that the unlikely notion of sampled, tape-loop raw hardcore managed to become something worth listening to:
Listening back I think the only reason it even worked was I had such a shitty, cheap, run-down tape-to-tape player. Every time I recorded anything it got unintentionally sped up and had extra hiss and shit added. It kinda made the edits blurry and meshed the sampled riffs together in a wall of hiss, which made it passable to listen to. . . [It] took forever to stitch each riff together to form each song simply using a shitty tape-to-tape deck. It was time-consuming as fuck, a real labour of love.
This is a letter/interview by Dig that has been
circulating on Soulseek. Oddly, some portions of
it have been blanked out. Thanks to Zach for the
I’ve never seen an original copy of “Sonik Lobotomy,” but the CD-R dub I got years ago did not include a tracklist. I found one later in a fanzine, which was included in an advertisement for the demo. This ad provides the artwork on one side of the bootleg 7" sleeve. Needless to say, it is virtually impossible to follow the tracklist while listening to the madness on the demo. Still, one wishes the bootlegger, who ostensibly cares about the music, had made some effort to identify the songs on the record, or at least distinguish them from those not included. It seems to me the songs on the record are mostly from the first quarter of the demo. Unlike as reported in some distro listings for this EP, the entire demo does not appear on the vinyl. But some of the songs recur with different lyrics, which is unsurprising, as the sessions that produced the demo spanned several months.
I won’t ruin the fun of playing “name that tune” by identifying every original song on this bootleg (actually, several stumped me). But I must point out a few noteworthy songs. Unfortunately, the blank labels and useless tracklisting aren’t helping us in this endeavor. One side of the record, let’s say it’s side B (the matrices are obliterated, natch), begins with a Crude SS riff. The other side is the one to follow closely because it has the best tracks, five of which just blaze. I’m providing these for download here: Prostituted By The System, Grim Brutality, War Machine, Sonic Lobotomy, They'll Do It Again.
I believe it's worth looking at the notion of reusing already released songs. It certainly shares common characteristics with rap, a form of music that was achieving widespread recognition by 1983, as well as many avant-garde artistic practices, but I have doubts that Dig intentionally made such connections. It would be a mistake to ascribe conscious radical aesthetic intention to Genocide Assocation. Rather, they were poor punx living on the dole who could not afford to buy instruments, so they used their DIY ingenuity instead. G.A.’s use of already available music, the band's choice to deconstruct the music and reassemble it into a new piece proves wrong stereotypes about the aesthetic conservativism of hardcore. In fact, it seems to me that G.A.’s practice was deployed directly against such stereotypes. By October 1983, it was rather pervasively believed that all fast hardcore was beginning to sound the same and was increasingly unoriginal. G.A. lampooned this very notion by intentionally making generic thrash that was unoriginal and sounded the same as other bands’ songs. Over 20 years later, the “karaoke” versions are not necessarily “better” songs than the originals. Most would probably prefer to listen to Crude SS directly, but the ideas behind G.A.’s music are actually much more fresh than those behind the original tunes, which have by now been repeated endlessly (with good reason). Who would have thought that such “experimental” hardcore could actually have adhered so closely to the roots of the hardcore sound? The idea of taking something old and making it new persists across music, film, architecture, literature, and other artistic practices because it catches our attention by reminding us of the past (for better or worse) and then maintains our attention by leading us to a novel conclusion that is familiar but original. I personally am always on the lookout for punk rock that dispels familiar notions about punk history, and this G.A. bootleg fits this category quite nicely. It may sound like shit, but after all these years, it’s a fresh shit indeed.
The fact that members of the current European bootleg cartel would put the band on vinyl today shows how much times—or, rather, tastes—have changed. Just a few years ago, this bootleg would have been considered by most to be a waste of vinyl. Maybe that will be its reception today, but I do believe it shows that what listeners are seeking in old punk rock is evolving. Incidentally, Dig told my friend that he considers the G.A. demo to be in the public domain, and, anyway, the original songs used to create G.A.’s “songs” were themselves stolen. So don’t feel bad about supporting a bootlegger this time around. As if…