At the bottom of this post is a special mixtape Chris Low made for the second anniversary of the Funeral Parade deathrock event in Austin, Texas.
Chris Low currently drums for the reunited UK goth-punk band Part 1, adding to a career that has already included drumming stints with anarcho-punk bands Apostles and Oi Polloi. In the late 80s and throughout the 90s, Chris began to DJ at various clubs in England and, ultimately, internationally. Getting back to his roots, last year Chris compiled an Anarcho-Punk mix for the Noisey imprint of Vice, which is available to listen to online.
Chris assembled a mixtape for CVLT Nation and Funeral Parade that explores the darker side of the postpunk and anarcho-punk spectrum, a mix made to help commemorate the second anniversary of Austin’s monthly Funeral Parade event. Chris will be DJing that event on September 19. (Along with some other dates in America, too!)
I asked Chris about his upcoming plans with Part 1 and how his drumming career has tied into his DJing, among other things.
Chris Low was interviewed by Oliver in August, 2014.
Q: How long have you been DJing, and how did you get started doing that in light of your former and current career drumming for different punk bands….?
Chris: I first started DJing in January 1989 when I opened a club in Edinburgh called SEX BEAT, playing EBM, New Beat, Acid House, Detroit Techno as well as post-punk tracks. Back then, in Scotland anyway, there simply weren’t that many clubs playing the sort of music I wanted to hear when I went out, so that was the main motivation. Quite a lot of people I knew from punk got into clubbing back then, and it was an wild time. I don’t know how things were in the USA, but in the UK in the late ’80s/early ’90s the acid house/rave scene was the nearest there was to the spirit of punk. I went on to run and DJ at a number of clubs for the following decade or so: Skidoo, SOMA, AHOY! (rave parties we held on a ferry-boat!), and in more recent times SENSORIA, COUP + THROBBING DISCO in London; a night called BENETTI & LOW back in Edinburgh with William Bennett of Whitehouse/Cut Hands, and lately I’ve been DJing punk sets at Earthdom & Anti-Knock in Tokyo. I love DJing and I have collected records since I was a kid. It’s always a pleasure to play my tunes out to other people.
Q: With the mix we have here, what were you going for in terms of the type of sound you wanted to represent with the songs? It seems like a mix of the darker side of anarcho-punk along with straight-up gothic rock and deathrock…..
Chris: Interesting you should say that and, yea, you could describe the general sound of the tracks and bands I featured on the mix as being on “the darker side” of the spectrum, though I’m not too sure which bands I would necessarily put into the categories you list. All the sub-genres that have emerged within music in recent years, whether gothic rock, deathrock or whatever, didn’t really exist when most of those bands were in existence. In the early to mid-eighties, you could have gone to see The Mob or Rudimentary Peni in the same week as Theatre of Hate or Bauhaus, and just as ‘anarcho punk’ wasn’t a genre term you heard back then, ‘gothic’ wasn’t really either – and I’d certainly never heard of ‘deathrock’. It was all just great, exciting music. If anything, the only collective identity of such bands was that they existed as an alternative to the Exploited/GBH – now called “UK82” – type bands who emerged round-a-bout the same time as a reaction to the poppy, commercial sound many of the 1977 bands were now embracing and attempt to return punk to a more aggressive, no-frills sound and approach, which to many seemed wilfully regressive. Though like everyone else back then, I’d go and see those bands too. Both camps had their roots in punk but expressed themselves in very different aesthetic and musical forms. I would say if I had to choose one umbrella to put the acts on the mix under it would have to be be “post punk” as they were all influenced by punk in one way or another but experimenting with the music they were making and often trying to escape what were at the time becoming the boundaries and confines of punk. Which, to me anyway, was what I always thought punk should be about: not conforming and breaking barriers.
That said, in the mix I tried to combine a broad cross-section of music from this pool, with both ‘classic’ tracks as well as some obscurities and seminal acts as well as their contemporary peers represented. Many of the older tracks are songs I used to dance about to when I first started going to clubs myself! I hope it works and people listening can hear the ‘bloodline’ running through it all. As with all DJ mixes I’ve done, I just went through my record collection and pulled out a selection of my favourite songs that I thought would fit together nicely.
If you Google “Chris Low Now that’s what I call anarcho-punk” or click http://noisey.vice.com/blog/now-thats-what-i-call-anarcho-punk-vol-1 you’ll find another mega-mix of anarcho-punk I recorded for Vice’s ‘Noisey’ music site.
Q: How long have you drummed and what took you to that particular instrument? Is there anything you learned from it – paying attention to beats, etc. – that you’ve been able to parlay into DJing?
Chris: I’ve been drumming – on and off – for over thirty years now. I suspect I was drawn to drums just so I could bash things and make a lot of noise! Even though there have been long periods of time I haven’t sat behind a drum kit, it’s something I’ve always loved and knew I’d always return to. Yea, I suppose playing drums made it easier to DJ, as both are about keeping a beat, generally in 4/4 time, and when I got into DJing it was all about beat-mixing, so I’d practice for hours in my bedroom so I could mix fluently, just as I had practiced drumming years before. In the past few years when it’s punk records I’ve been playing in clubs, I don’t have to bother about all that, which I must say is very liberating. And a lot more fun!
Q: You’re drumming with the reunited Part 1. How’s that been so far? Has it been much different compared to your time in the Apostles and Oi Polloi?
Chris: Part1 had always been one of my favourite bands since I got their tapes in the early 80s, and I kept in touch with Mark (Ferelli, guitarist and founder) following a chance meeting with him at a Crass event, offering my services as drummer should he ever reform the band. In late 2013, we started rehearsing together, and I’m pleased to say it’s all gone from strength to strength since then, especially since David (my flatmate & PART1 bassist) has joined. At the time, I was in The Apostles, we only recorded records as Andy wasn’t into playing live at the time. I joined when I was 14 and was staying in squats in London, and getting up to no good when I should have been going to school and studying for my exams! When I was playing for Oi Polloi I was sharing a flat with Deek in Edinburgh and was drummer on their ‘Unite & Win‘ LP, the ‘Punk Aid’ 7″ and drummed on the first Oi Polloi European tour, which was a great laugh! With PART1 we’ve played some amazing gigs already, and as far as I’m concerned, gigging is the life-blood that makes a band, so that’s what I enjoy most.
Q: Also, I know of the three bands you’re best known for – Part 1, Apostles, and Oi Polloi, but what other bands have you played in, current and past, that we might not know about?
Chris: My first proper band, when I was 12, was DISTRAUGHT, who played a few gigs and had couple of tracks on the 1982 ‘Twisted Nervous Breakdown’ compilation put out by Miles of Napalm Death. The band later changed their name to POLITICAL ASYLUM who I recorded the ‘FRESH HATE’ demo with, and who released a number of records after I had left. Check out: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=political+asylum+fresh+hate
After my time in The Apostles and Oi Polloi, I had a break from drumming for over ten years, before I moved to London in 1999 and soon hooked up with a crazy Portugese punk band called The Parkinsons, who were briefly successful in the UK. We played all the big rock festivals (Reading, Glastonbury etc) and toured the USA and Japan, which was quite an experience and very different to what I was used to from the underground punk scene of my past!
Following my departure from The Parkinsons I had another decade or so off from drumming before forming QUANGO with a few drinking mates who shared the same tastes in music (Warsaw, Crisis, Six Minute War etc) and recording the “FATALITY” EP which was a surprising success and lead to some live shows. David, PART1 bassist, now plays guitar for Quango as well and we’ve played a few really great gigs lately with more to come.
Chris: Also around the time Quango got together myself and the original guitarist were recruited by New York punk legend Billy Rath of Johnny Thunders & the Heartbreakers and the Iggy Pop band fame who we played one highly memorable gig with before he had to return to America. Very sadly Billy died earlier this month. He was an amazing character; fantastic company and someone who can be truly described as a “legend”.
Q: Do you have any thoughts on the sort of renaissance or resurgence a lot of the darker styles of punk or deathrock are having in the punk scene now? Why do you think it’s happening, or has it always been there, and maybe it’s just now getting more attention for some reason? I know some of it has led to bands like Amebix and even Part 1 getting back together, I think? Any thoughts on this?
Chris: It’s an interesting time for music and I think there are a number of factors at play which have lead to the “renaissance or resurgence a lot of the darker styles of punk or deathrock”. With punk, again, I think it’s a reaction to how ‘cartoon-y’ much of punk has become, whilst at the other end of the spectrum how dogmatic, austere and downright boring a lot of the more anarcho side has gone. The ‘darker’ side has always had a more hedonistic and sexual element to it, which has certainly always been much of the attraction. Also, it’s natural for people who get into a form of music to want to explore it’s hidden recesses. I’d imagine there are people getting into PART1 now who fifteen years ago might have gotten into music through the more commercial punk or goth acts. In many ways, this can be put down to the internet simply making such journeys of discovery easier. For instance, if you’re a fan of ‘deathrock’ or ‘anarcho punk,’ a whole world of music is just a few mouse clicks away if you type those terms into Google or Youtube. That said, this fine-tuned ‘specialisation’ can also work in a negative way, in that it may mean people don’t get exposed to other bands/types of music which, back in the day, you might be led to explore from reading fanzines or tape-trading. You could buy a zine or receive a comp tape from someone that would feature acts as diverse as Zoundz, Amebix, Crisis or Chrome; now, you’d probably have to refine your searches to ‘anarcho punk’, ‘crust’, ‘neo-folk’ or ‘acid rock’ to alight on those bands if you didn’t know them already.
Q: Can you let us in on what any plan are for the future of Part 1 as far as touring or reissues?
Chris: Frustratingly, we recently had to abort the scheduled re-release of the 1982 ‘Funeral Parade‘ EP due to an insurmountable sequence of delays and problems, but we are presently negotiating it’s re-mastered release on 12″ format. The 1985 ‘Pictures of Pain‘ LP (released after the band had originally split up, but in fact recorded in 1981) will also be re-released and is being remastered at this very moment. All going well, both should be out before the end of the year. Other than that, we will shortly be going into the studio to record a single featuring unreleased track “Claws,” plus reworkings of a couple of old favourites. Our next live shows are a short tour of Finland with the wonderful Silent Scream in October, plus gigs before the end of the year with Alternative TV, Anthrax and others to be confirmed. Hopefully we will make it over to tour America in 2015 so any interested promoters please contact us so we can put you in touch with those we already know.
Q: If there’s anything you’d like to add that I didn’t ask, you can promote or plug it or say it here! Thank you!
Chris: Firstly, on behalf of all of PART1, I would like to thank you, Oliver, for everything you have done to promote our band over the years and the audience you have opened up to us. I would also like to thank you for inviting me to play at the second birthday of your club, and hope it continues for many more successful years. I can’t say how much I’m looking forward to DJing there and meeting everyone. Finally, For all PART1 news and info please see: www.facebook.com/PART.1.OFFICIAL where I can also be found skulking about occasionally. Thanks for this interview, it’s been a pleasure.
“GRAVEYARD SONGS FOR THE FUNERAL PARADE”
DJ MIX BY CHRIS LOW (PART1) for the 2nd birthday of the Funeral parade club, Austin, Texas.
PART1 – Black Mass (unreleased, rough 2013 demo version, exclusive to this mix)
S-HATERS – The Deepest of Reds
SKI PATROL – Agent Orange
COLD WAR – The Machinist
CHROME – Eyes on Mars
DEATH NOTES – In The Spider’s Web
RUBELLA BALLET – Arctic Flowers
TWISTED NERVE – Never Say Goodbye
BELGRADO – Åšwiat Jest Nasz
SILENT SCREAM – Last Living Witness
KILLING JOKE – Feast of Blaze
LACK OF KNOWLEDGE – We’re Looking For People
RAKTA – Welcome to the Forest/Repetition
RUDIMENTARY PENI – Pig In A Blanket
SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES – Monitor
ALTERED IMAGES – Dead Pop Stars
THE VISITORS – Electric Heat
YOUTH IN ASIA – The Power & The Glory
VIRGIN PRUNES – Walls of Jericho
TOYAH – Victims of The Riddle
POSITIVE NOISE – Refugees
HAGAR THE WOMB – Once Proud, Now Dead
MALARIA – Kaltes Klares Wasser
GRAUZONE – Eisbaer
CCCP – Live In Pankow
UK DECAY – Shake ‘em Up
HYSTERIA WARD – Vendetta
THE FLOWERS – After Dark
THE MOB – Cry of A Morning
THE CRAVATS – You’re Driving Me
CLOCK DVA – 4 Hours
CAMBERWELL NOW – Working Nights
MAGAZINE – Motorcade
PUBLIC IMAGE LTD – No Birds Do Sing
THEATRE OF HATE – Legion
CRISPY AMBULANCE – Deaf
BLOOD & ROSES – Love Under Will
GUN CLUB – Sex Beat
BAUHAUS – Dark Entries
DAF – Der Rauber Und Der Prinz
REMA REMA –Feedback Song
THIS MORTAL COIL – Late Night
HTRK – Fascinator