Late ’81, and a buzz was going round. There was this band y’see, who played the most exciting, devilishly quirky punk that many people had ever heard, and who dressed in a way which the majority of those people had least expected them to: “Straight” was the most frequently used description. “Straight, but f***ing brilliant!”
Thing was, everyone knew somebody who’d seen Rudimentary Peni, but no one had actually been to one of their obscure little gigs themselves. A shroud of mystery was soon developing and I, along with many others, was fascinated.
Then in ’82 all was finally revealed. Two stunning EP’s were released (an untitled 12-track debut on Outer Himalayan records, along with the 11-track follow-up on Crass records, ‘Farce’) and at London’s Moonlight Club in September, Peni were finally ‘caught in the act’: the gig was one of the year’s very finest.
So here at last is the Rudimentary Peni feature. At the band’s request it takes the form of a postal, question and answer style interview, supplemented by some of their own written words, lyrics and artwork.
Firstly, why exactly do you have such suspicion of Sounds, and why the preference for a postal interview rather than a normal face-to-face conversation? (Bassist Grant Matthews writes the answers.)
“Sounds, like most other forms of media, thrives on the exploitation, exaggeration and sometimes creation of all the tribal, stereotyped fetishes that make up the conditioned, shit-filled minds of the masses. Its articles and advertising are a market place for the patronising, petty and exploitative shit that mainly young people are fed, often under the illusion that a certain band or product is synonymous with ‘rebellion’.
“The way in which bands such as Crass have been put through a mangle of lies and ignorant mockery does little to make us regard Sounds otherwise. A postal interview can be written in more depth, with waffle extracted.”
Is there a deliberate effort being made by you to retain some kind of anonymity or mystique?
“No – we prefer artwork or writing to the usual photographs of ego-tripping ‘rock stars’. On the contrary, artwork or writing can be far more revealing than a photograph.”
***
DUTCHMEN
1902 inside a British concentration camp/Where 20,000 Dutchmen including children die/Do you feel any pity for those murdered men and women who died at the hands of the British empire?/Victims they may be but innocent they weren”t/They were murderers just the same with their own code of hate/Those Dutchmen carried rifles, went out hunting on horseback/delighted in the slaughter of a bigger kind of prey/taking part in the latest wave of genocide/they found killing Zulus much more fun than any other game/Victims they may be but innocent they’re not/They were murderers just the same with their own code of hate/Those Zulu warriors felt so proud of all the suffering they had caused/driven to a frenzy by the death and hate of tribal wars/Bound up with their own morals, their own bigotry and lies and shit/It”s just the same in Northern Ireland, Poland and Afghanistan/they”re just fighting for the right to enforce their own oppression through the bigotry and blindness of their moral law.
***
What would you say to people who might feel you’re perhaps a bit arrogant, even egotistical? Some would point out that you’ll certainly attract more attention with an article such as this than you would through an ‘ordinary’ one.
“I don’t see what’s arrogant about wanting to have the opportunity to say what we want and how we want. Unless we can do this there’s no way we can break through all the lies and shit people create.
“OF COURSE we want people to take more notice of this than the latest pile of ignorant shit served up by Wattie or whoever in an ‘ordinary’, ie pathetic ‘interview’.”
Have your attitudes been developed in any way through listening to Crass? If so, were there any bands before Crass who made an impression on you?
“Yes, before Crass we liked the music-biz ‘punk’ bands – Pistols, Clash, SLF and all that shit. Nowadays we also like bands such as Part One, The Mob, Amebix, Neos, Gang Green, Necros, Minor Threat etc.”
When did Rudimentary Peni first manifest itself, and had you been operating together (or apart) in any way before forming as a band?
“June 1980. No.”
Why do you seem to play so few gigs, and why the total lack of communication with the audience at the Moonlight Club in September?
“Lack of facilities basically. No particular reason for the Moonlight gig – sometimes we do communicate.”
Do many people express surprise at your unusually non-conformist (I mean to ‘punk’s fashion rules), almost drab appearance after creating their own mental pictures of you from listening to the records; and is the Rudimentary Peni sartorial style contrived to make a certain point?
“Yes, quite a few people have been screwed up by fashion in the way in which they’ve viewed us – f***ing turds. However, our appearance is NOT contrived to make a certain point.”
You mentioned before that my review of the Moonlight gig was “fairly reasonable apart from the old music journalist cliches”. How exactly would you like to see reviews written; and while on the subject of the music press, are there any ways in which you’d like to see Sounds improved? Would you ever consider contributing yourselves?
“Reviews should be written in a far more questioning and demanding way, eg ‘Are this band really saying anything or are they just a pile of pretentious pop shit?’
“If a band are just arseholes they should be recognised as such. They should NOT be able to get away with it just because people like their music. It’s the same with interviews; GBH or whoever should not be able to just spout their sexist shit without being questioned on it.
“I’d like to see Sounds REALLY start dealing in the truth, instead of lies and illusion.”
Do you consider the average fanzine to be an adequate alternative to the music press?
“The AVERAGE fanzine is a pile of dross. Why doesn’t someone out there set up a real, regular nationwide alternative?”
***
MURDERING ANIMALS FOR LUXURY
“When talking to people about why they feel that it’s OK to have animals killed for their benefit, they usually come up with the following arguments!
“1. Humans have to eat meat for a healthy diet. SHIT – if this was true, I and many others would not remain alive and ‘healthy’. If you drink alcohol or smoke you’re a prat to try and use this argument, ‘cos it’s obvious you’re not really concerned about being healthy, are you?
“2. Humans are naturally carnivores. This one’s PATHETIC. It’s ‘natural’ for people to die from smallpox etc, but they are prevented from doing so by modern medicine. This seems quite logical, so similarly it’s logical for humans to ‘manipulate’ nature by not eating animal flesh.
“3. If I don’t eat meat it won’t do any good ‘cos everyone else will still carry on eating meat anyway. If you were in Nazi Germany and you saw a crowd of people kicking a Jew would you join in just because you weren’t able to stop the rest of the crowd doing it?
“4. Isn’t it just as bad to kill plants? This one’s so stupid I’m not going to waste my time with it. Work it out for yourself.
“There is no way, ‘morally’ or practically, that you are justified in murdering animals for your luxury. SO WHY DON’T YOU F***ING STOP?”
***
In the sleeve-notes for ‘Defined By Age’ (from ‘Farce’) youth rebels come under attack for doing exactly what is expected from them. How much more than common-or-garden youth rebels are you?
“Well, we don’t dress the way ‘youth rebels’ are supposed to and we don’t throw ourselves at the feet of the nearest big record company or journalist either – get the picture?”
Does the lifestyle/attitude of the average latter-day punk (glue-sniffing, hostility towards certain ‘rival’ youth cults, following of fashion etc) cause you concern, and can you get through to them?
“Yes it does. Sometimes it’s really soul-destroying to see some of the pathetic arseholes that frequent our gigs. However, there’s always a certain amount of really good people who CAN be reached. It’s these people that make it worthwhile for me.”
Does Nick (guitarist/vocalist) spend a lot of time on artwork? The drawing in the middle of the ‘Farce’ sleeve must have taken weeks.
“Yes, months and months.”
What’s your reaction to the ‘hippy’ tag some people have stuck on you? The artwork (and sometimes the music) certainly does seem  to convey a very psychedelic, surreal, even ‘acid’ influenced mood. Is the hippy link there, or are your roots stemming more from science-fiction? (Just a theory I had while looking at your sleeves.)
“As far as I’m concerned just about any tag is a pile of shit. People who are obsessive about all this youth-cult crap make me want to vomit.
“Acid influenced? F*** that. If there’s one thing I really hate it’s drugs, mainly the ones that alter a person’s mental state (that includes alcohol of course).
“People try and spread myths about drugs being ‘alright’. But they’re NOT. I was one of the people involved with the Anarchy Centre (at Westbourne Park in London) and I saw how the strong presence of drugs helped to really f*** the place up.
“No ‘hippy’ or ‘science-fiction’ links as far as I know.”
***
BLISSFUL MYTH
It’s escapist shit of a feeble kind/A f***ed up institution for f***ed up minds/’Holy matrimony’ is a ‘blissful’ myth/Wholly based on tradition/Wholly based on bullshit/Think you love each other?/Think you’re so in touch?/But it’s the shit institution you love so much/Is your caring so stifled, so perverted and sick that you need vows and duties to make it stick?/You make your love secure but what of respect?/Does it only exist as another truth to forget?/’Holy matrimony’ is a ‘blissful’ myth/Wholly based on tradition/Wholly based on bullshit.
***
How much humour do you put into Rudimentary Peni?
“I don’t (not intentionally anyway). Nick does. Jon (drums) thinks we’re a scream.”
Do you think you’ve more to offer than other currently active bands, and can you actually achieve anything through what you’re doing?
“More? Less? It doesn’t matter, so long as other people are trying to say things as well.
“OF COURSE we can achieve something. To provide an alternative for people to have if they want is an achievement in itself.”
Why have you chosen the punk medium to express your ideas?
“Purely because we happen to like the sound of that particular music.”
Finally, just suppose if everything you thought wrong with the world was suddenly put to right; if everything was absolutely dandy, what do you think you’d do with yourselves?
“Spend the rest of my life pinching myself.”
***
ROTTEN TO THE CORE
Have you noticed that rock stars always seem to lie so much? John Lydon once said he cared but he never really gave a f***/Said he’d use the money he made so that people could “have somewhere to go”/but now he lives in the USA and snorts coke after the show/Have you realised that rock stars always seem to lie so much?/Joe Strummer once said he cared/but he never really gave a f***/Said he’d use the money he made to set up a radio station/to make the airwaves carry more than just bland shit/Joe Strummer I’m still waiting/You must realise that rock stars always seem to lie so much/they will always tell you that they care/when they don’t really give a f***/Still you suckers don’t ever learn/that rock stars deal in money, not truth/It’s good business to exploit you/Just look at Lydon or Strummer for proof.

9 COMMENTS

  1. Ienjoyed reading the Peni interview as I remember them quite vividly. I bought their first single and saw them the same night supporting Flux of Pink Indians
    at The Red Lion in Leytonstone. I used to write to them in the 80’s. One comment about the Anarchy Centre, it was actually in Wapping, I saw them there, when that place shut down, it moved to Westbourne Park.

  2. I Love the Peni interview for many reasons, not least of which because I have been banging on about the same things since 1977 specifically and since 1967 in relation to my own teenage experience of having a “revolution” stolen from me by a corrupt music industry , through controlling the means of production/distribution/and the media they were able to define the parameters of what an artist is. If you are not prepared to sell your soul on THEIR carefully constructed Altar Of Rock And Roll then you are consigned to the “underground” playing to two men and a dog in Belgium with the dog providing the handclaps !! L.O.L…
    By the time of the Peni interview, he must have been so heartliy sickened, especially as a non drug taker he did not have recourse to the classic rock and roll solution of self – medicating with drink/drugs/and increasingly deviant sex oscillating in and out of rehab and ever closer brushes with death…oh yes death/overdose.. the Perfect Final Solution for the Record Company….The hero preserved , forever young in aspic , to be marketed at the whim of the Label/re-released every ten years/re-packaged/airbrushed…. forever James Dean …Live fast/sign a deal/die young/ and live forever in a musical cryogenic superstore..Such synchronicity.. it is ALMOST beautiful, but only on a molecular level..On a truly romantic artistic level it STINKS of pop putrefaction , a sickening stench that chokes the life out of real artists/poets/storytellers
    So congratulations to the Peni man for making a stand then… Incidentally I formed my first band The Rejects in 1976 and di my first ever gig at The Roxy in 1977/Jan supporting The Damned/The Adverts/The Vibrators and in a very short space of time went on to support Wire/999/Eater/The Jam/generation X/Chelsea/Sham 69 and The Damned again a few times. I was both amazed and digusted with what I call ” the new conformity of Punk” and everyone’s apparent desperation to get a “deal” and sell their souls to business men who obviously knew nothing of creativity or art for the sake of art.To this intent I broke up The Rejects and changed the name of the band to The Homosexuals and started opening up art squats in various parts of London and putting out my own D.I.Y records..There were some loose confederations of “artists that came together under different banners and we found ourselves playing in a de-consecrated church with Crass, amongst others.. so everything in the Peni interview strikes a chord with me and it is exhilarating and uplifting to see that we were not alone and that someone was witched on enough to tell it like “it is” There is so much more to be said and done, and we now have the medium of the internet and all kinds of technology at our disposal to effect change..We have NO excuse anymore..This interview is an example to us all but for the moment I will let it resonate in it’s own truth and illumination… There is nothing new under the sun, but at the same time everything changes… and change is FOREVER baby..In the same way you can not stop an idea whose time has come, you can not make an idea come before it’s time. That time was then for the interview with Monsieur Pena… the time is NOW for all of us.. what are you waiting for..stop reading my bullshit and get out there L.O.L

  3. Ah, good old Peni. When I first heard them in the early ’80s I was completely blown away. Despite the relative simplicity of their music it was nothing I’d ever seen or heard before. I was captivated by the intricate album covers, Grant’s unique bass, the brutally honest and intelligent (sometimes!) lyrics. It was like being transported into another world – of dark places and raw emotion.
    I still think that the work to Cacophony is outstanding, and they retain an undeniably unique place in the ‘anarcho-punk’ family.
    Good stuff!
    Nick

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