Clara Basoni has travelled around the world pursuing her love of punk.
She is a character who could be seen as not just well travelled, but wondrously so. The 46 year old dedicated punk fell in love with the genre whilst growing up in 70s Paris, but it has shaped her journeys ever since- and her love of punk punctuated her travels– from time at The Sorbonne, to studying in ex-USSR and even a time at Old Trafford college.
She’s been collaborative and creative within punk culture – combining it with everything from philosophy to poetry.
Most recently Clara has been creating a series of punk-inspired collages under the title ‘Fury Noise Angry Voices’ – 40 in total, to celebrate 40 years since the release of The Sex Pistols’ iconic debut single ‘Anarchy in the UK’.
Under the title ‘Raw Cuts’ she creates artwork which incorporates imagery from the time and plenty of inspiration. Not only putting together original collages, Clara also creates limited edition Art Prints, T-Shirts and Unique Jewels.
Clara visited Manchester – one of many times she has been in the city – during November 2017 to attend a punk festival and visit the places that have inspired her, including The Star and Garter. Louder Than War’s Emily Oldfield managed to speak to her before her return to Paris…
1) At what time of life did you start listening to punk music – did it affect how you interpreted/interacted with where you were living and who were the punk artists who most stood out to you?
“I grew up as a kid in Paris suburbia in the early 70s. So that was a combination of coal, working class, music, coffee and cigarettes but also cultural diversity and political awareness at a very young age! There were tough and rebel people raising their voices; so when it came to music I naturally fell in love with Punk Rock music and have embraced its crazy stuff, energy and free thinking.
“I started to listen to punk music in my mid-teens in high-school. I studied foreign languages, literature and arts. We were a small group of students who stood out with our clothes, ideas and hair styles. We logically fell into punk, ska and reggae.
“The French Punk scene was very strong back in the mid-80s, and massive student strikes happened in 1986, just 18 years after the May-1968 events that deeply influenced our generation. Now it was our turn to stand up!
“We were all reading Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus: the fathers of Existentialism that influenced cinema and the French New Wave, literature and arts. For me Punk music is fully associated to writing, graphism and agit-prop too.
“I was also instantly attracted by Punk graphism… especially fascinated by the huge poster representing ‘Never Mind The Bollocks’ from the Sex Pistols. Fluorescent pink and yellow were absolute and disruptive new colours at a contrast with the grey Paris of the time.
“Out of high school, I also met my friends who were 10 years older and very much involved in politics. They were already studying at University. We were reshaping the world while listening to Bérurier Noir, a Paris Punk Band who had its debut in the Latin district where you can find the University of La Sorbonne. This district has always been traditionally the heart of resistance against police oppression since the Middle Ages.
“French Punk has always been quite elitist vs UK Punk but it also contributed to raise my political awareness and attitude… as against consumer society. We wanted to be unique by all means and act as individuals. Living in a block of flats in a “Red” city but studying in a quite posh area, I consider this now as a real chance to have been able to apprehend and embrace all scope of diversity since the early days. It radically shaped my musical tastes with cross influences from black music to more classical roots. “Kids unite” motto had a specific resonance in that context of self-accomplishment.
“Punk bands who most stood out to me straight away were Sex Pistols and The Clash – as the first UK bands I discovered. I bought my first tape of The Clash album in a London Market. It was like a treasure hunt. I played it to death!”
2) Why were you so interested in British punk and do you think that British punk is still alive and kicking? i.e. what have you been doing during your stay in Manchester in terms of punk?
“England has been part of my life since the mid-70s – I’ve been going there every year. I was quickly a fan of British punk as had studied English as a foreign language and culture at school… so I could catch the meaning of the lyrics. We had a wonderful and talented Black English teacher passionate about music and cinema. Instead of studying books, we were studying songs, films, press articles and she initiated us to Black Culture (Civic Rights movement, Martin Luther King, Apartheid, Notting Hill riots) as a pretext for our personal research.
“I also discovered Salinger’s novel “The Catcher in the Rye” and Jim Jarmush movies such as Stranger Than Paradise and Permanent Vacations. I later studied politics & economics at La Sorbonne in Paris after 2 years abroad in ex-USSR (1989-90) and Manchester area (1990-91) in Old Trafford College.
“The Manchester aura and experience has directly shaped the ideological basis of Soviet Union since the Industrial Revolution and they are inter-connected historically.To another extent, I also experienced these close interlinks between Manchester and Soviet Union as I had Mancunian friends studying there with me.
“We were listening to Occidental music captured on the foreign radio waves that were banned by the regime! We enjoyed Nina Hagen and Berlin punk sounds, even some precious tapes of Elvis Costello, Talking Heads, Joy Division, The The and The Fall. We also had our tickets to see the first Russian rock band Akvarium perform in 1989 in the soviet bloc, just at the same time as the fall of the Berlin Wall and Ceausescu regime in Romania!
“Punk rock music, lyrics and engagement are, for me, fully associated to the risk taking, the fight for freedom and social justice, individual empowerment against totalitarian control. It mirrors the society we live in and adopts situationism and realism with an extra touch of sarcasm, humour and a kind of surrealist dandy glam directly inspired from the Surrealist and Dadaist movements in a glib but deconstructive way. Kill your idols!
“I think that British punk is still alive and kicking because it is still innovative musically with strictly the most basic means. It is about total empowerment, and even more for women, plus the shock effect : never be where/how people expect you to be. I still listen to Punk, go to festivals and gigs.
“So being back in Manchester in early November after 27 years meant a lot to me. I went to the Midlands Calling Festival in Wolverhampton on 4 November 2017 where I could see fabulous gigs such as Steve Ignorant & His Paranoid Visions, The Ruts DC, The Angelic Upstarts, GBH and The Cockney Rejects.
“I met there my Punk family and crowd from Rebellion Festival Blackpool, including my good friend Stephen Doyle – a true Punk at heart and wonderful DJ at Salford City Radio. On 8 November 2017 we put together a 2-hour free talk show on Punk Rock heritage – Sonic Diary Show 373”
“On 9 November 2017, I went to the Star and Garter… today’s Home for Punk music in Manchester. Performing there were Litterbug from Blackpool and the legendary Dictators from NYC who supported the Ramones in the early days of CBGB music club (opened in 1973 by Hilly Kristal). I had the pleasure to talk to Ross the Boss about the French Rock band Trust and their song “Antisocial” that coincidently featured in the Sonic Diary show just the day before! It was a case of rock family united at its best from metal and bikers to punk rockers.
“Not to mention all what I missed the Louder Than Word Festival – I really wanted to go! There was Penetration and Blondie! Manchester is the city that vibrates all day and all of the night! British Punk has something very special and vivid. From tiny scruffy venues to bigger scenes, the artists and crowd always mix in a great mass… as offering a permanent kind of youth. Original bands are still performing and touring with the same energy and commitment.”
3) Why is punk important and how does it influence your everyday life?
“Punk is vital for me and has influenced my everyday life: clothes, home deco, DIY, attitude, educational and democratic values (tolerance, doubt, questioning, autonomy, self-accomplishment, freedom of speech, curiosity etc). Plus it provides a high-level empowerment drive for women and minorities with its raw energy to defend our rights (I am also part of the Health, Safety & Working Conditions Committee at work).
“It inspired me so much that I decided in 2015 to launch a series of 40 collages to celebrate the 40 years of Punk music. This series is called “Fury Noise Angry Voices”. My Raw Cuts® have all been done by hand with all sorts of magazines and newspapers exclusively fully recycled into Punk Art. I immensely treasure the Punk Rock heritage in all its dimensions and tried to give a multi-generational dimension. It took me one year to do all these collages.
“I have exhibited my art work since 2016 mainly in Blackpool (Rebellion Festival Punk Art) and London (The Underdog Gallery Punk’N’Roll Art Show and The Doomed Gallery – Brave New World Anti-Fascist Exhibition) to question all the recent events we have witnessed every single day in global politics and their direct impacts on our daily lives. The idea was to transpose visually 40 Punk emblematic songs and lyrics to open an inter-generational dialogue in a fast- changing era to tackle our knowledge in a context of digital but fading memory.
“I also consider Punk as Total Art. For me, today is more than ever a fantastic opportunity to denounce with panache the social and political dilemmas we face and that have exponentially inflated. This is why British Punk is so inspiring and belongs to all those who listen to it. It is also very flexible and open-minded because it has adapted/adopted all sorts of cross-influences including Eastern Europe sounds (like Pussy Riot).”
4) What are your aims?
“Via punk art I want to:
(i) express visually the inner vision of punk to push our own limits via self-questioning, to drive all our energies to think and act as individuals
(ii) to share an engaged perception of our society across generations in order to mix our respective tempos – past, present and future -plus make Art to be as pertinent and attractive as needed
(iii) to mix our emotions and intellect in interaction with new technologies, to cross-fertilise our individual and/or collective free thinking and destinies
(iv) to make it very clear that Punk and Art are first of all about individuality, as a paramount testimony of our inner exuberance
(v) to extend Punk and Art engagement to all the media and reconciliate communities to save our planet and our universal heritage, but also to save our own particularisms. My project is by essence anti-totalitarian as it denounces the language uniformity, processing, the ruling by fear and the shock doctrine effects on the masses
(vii) to be ourselves. Keep unique and enjoy Life. Carpe Diem.
To find out more about Clara and her work, you can visit her Facebook page here.