An Interview With Arturo Bassick (The Lurkers, 999) Punk Legend
As the face of Nottingham has changed over the years, Foremans Bar has remained consistent; an independently run punk bar keeping the spirit of punk alive. But it is only this year that it has made the leap into live venue status; with a capacity of around 50, the gigs will be intimate with a DIY feel. The Lurkers and 999’s Arturo Bassick is the first person to play there; before the gig he willingly offers me some interview time to ask him about the punk ethic which is such a big part of tonight’s gig.
Arthur, you’re the first person to play Foremans…its obvious that Jason (Foremans landlord) is trying to embody the original DIY ethic of punk by putting on these gigs…is that something you’ve always felt a part of?
Absolutely, everything with the Lurkers and 999 was DIY, the Lurkers did the first release for the independent label Beggars Banquet, which was especially formed around us. Everything I’ve ever done since has been on a small independent label.
Do you think the way people consume music has affected this culture, with the downloading age?
Absolutely. But then again I never likes CD’s either. There wasn’t really a shortage of vinyl like there was supposed to be; they were just trying to make the CD format take over. Vinyls a lovely thing.
History tries to make punk seem like a very cohesive scene, I don’t imagine it was really like that…
That’s true, festivals like Rebellion make punk seem like a right love-in compared to how it was!
(We somehow get from here to a small rant about the appropriation of punk and its aesthetic by the mainstream and the way the look has been adopted by people with no affiliation to the music…)
The mohawk and the like have been adopted as emblems, but the music itself is getting written out. Look at the way mainstream radio treats punk. They might play “Should I Stay Or Should I Go?” or “Rock The Casbah,” but they never play any Jam, any Sex Pistols…
It’s written out of cultural history, but romantacised as well. Its like how you can see the roots of punk in other forms of music, but people talk about a year zero…
Year Zero was a load of bollocks; you can hear the roots in glam for a start.
Even up to some of the postpunk that’s seen as completely original you can hear that – some of Wire and Magazine’s stuff, for example, sounds very Roxy Music-esque.
Exactly! I saw Roxy in ’71…
Also, the British punk scene would never have existed without the New York scene. The Ramones were the most important of all in starting it.
That reinforces the ideas that all musics successful progressions come from hybrids (Arthur agrees and we trace right back to the hybrids that spawned the blues) – which leads me onto what you’re doing now, “punktry and Western…”
Well I was into country before punk; my brother is 72 and he had all these country records, so really country was the first music I was really into. And I prefer the term “punktry and Western” to “country punk…”
AND SO ON TO THE GIG…
If the idea of “punktry and Western” is hard to imagine, then the best thing to do is simply try and catch one of Bassick’s stripped back solo shows. His voice lends itself to the country style naturally; but the punk attitude infuses it all. His sets opener “Punk Bought Us Together But Country Tore Us Apart,” is well representative, and he successfully brings the wry humour that is usually only ever really an undercurrent in both genres right to the front in his sharp lyricism. Anecdotes and banter give his material some added clarity – never in my life did I think I’d hear anybody say “this ones about a born again Christian fish and chip shop in Lincoln…” (introducing “God and Chips.”) The intimacy of the venue, in which most people know each other, certainly adds to the good humoured vibe which colours Bassick’s set. It’s not unusual for acts at a certain point in their career to start turning to another genre, but the success rate tends to be questionable as it can easily appear contrived. This is something Bassick has easily managed to avoid; the country sound fitting him perfectly not just because of his natural voice but because he clearly has a rich knowledge and passion for the genres history. Covering “Folsom Prison Blues” could so easily be sacrilegious, but in Bassick’s hands it is respectful to the point of being great –particularly with the encouraged audience participation on singing the guitar solo.
Like most of the original punks I’ve met over the past year, Arturo Bassick is incredibly warm and charismatic, and its these qualities that lend themselves to getting right back to basics in intimate venues such as this one; great anticipation has now been provided for the upcoming gigs scheduled at Foremans this year.
Long live DIY.