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In partnership with The Bitter Southerner
Images by Johnathon Kelso

When Randy Gue appeared at the security gate of Emory’s Robert W. Woodruff Library to escort me inside, nothing suggested he was curating an archive of Atlanta punk rock. Any torn clothes or raucous dance moves that may have once defined and set him apart had long darkened into memory, and were now replaced with the expected image of any other University employee: hair entirely gray, sensible eyewear and a blue oxford, buttoned to the wrists.

Thirty years ago, however, Gue served as roadie and friend to Atlanta hardcore punk band Neon Christ, a band that — although they were as close to being a major national act as any other Atlanta band in the genre — have mostly fallen out of living recollection and are now more of a blip for punk rock historians, people who allow such names to ring in the consciousness. The fact says more about punk cultures than it does about Neon Christ’s talent or relevance in their time. They were a very good band — one that mattered, for a while.

Atlanta punk rock collection, Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Emory University.

Atlanta punk rock collection, Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Emory University.

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Punk scenes have a way of blooming intensely, then receding without warning, and when a scene ebbs, it tends to take away a host of artifacts, personalities and active history. Punk rock has never seemed that occupied with posterity, and that attitude was particularly strong with hardcore, a subset of punk rock that found its roots in the work of a few late 1970s bands that were playing a particularly speedy and aggressive variety of punk rock, mostly hailing from southern California and the American Northeast — bands like Black Flag and Bad Brains — whose musical influence combined with a raw emotional streak that had taken hold among youths, mostly suburban, who, by 1980, had already jaundiced at the Reagan Era’s dawn.

We are the sons of Reagan…Heil!

We are the godforsaken…Heil!

–Reagan Youth, “Reagan Youth

These youths found little outlet for the prevailing sensation that their America wasn’t offering them any actual options — that the retro-1950s television ideal of a pleasant nuclear family and decent available work performed in a suit and tie was clearly an illusion that their elders were refusing to recognize, a point over which said youths grew inconsolable:

Try to make things work and gain something

It’s all no use. It’s all worth nothing.

…Nothing’s fucking ever gonna work for me.

Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.

– Negative Approach, “Nothing

Disappointment evolved into anger, and the feeling sparked a full withdrawal, a reaction that extended to (and in many cases began with) musical choices. They were appalled at the music that dominated radio and filled stadiums. Clearly aimed at an older, post-hippie crowd, it was never designed to resonate with a teenager caught in the intervening period between the slow evaporation of the hippie movement and the sudden arrival of the conservative, wealth-eyed ’80s. Those punks turned as hard as possible in the other direction.

Where the hippies were set on change, the hardcore punks wanted escape, and in turn carved a space of their own within the world. Steven Blush’s 2001 book American Hardcore — which is composed mostly of oral accounts from main characters in early hardcore scenes around the country — forms a keen characterization with its subtitle, A Tribal History. These punks signaled their withdrawal with their clothes, the crazed form of their dance and the overt contrariness of their music. Like any secession, it drew violence — mostly from other, unsympathetic youths, but also (especially in Los Angeles) from police, and for their part the punks were happy to fight back:

They hate us, we hate them.

–Black Flag, “Police Story”

 

That culture of hardcore erupted from a different impulse than what created punk rock at large. Punk initially sprouted from the rough-hewn, wild-voiced demeanor of a miscellany of so-called “garage rock” bands of the 1960s, later finding a more art-oriented expression in New York City, first with bands like The Velvet Underground and New York Dolls, followed soon by The Ramones and Television. They were bands that relied predominantly on misfit quirkiness to subvert the polish that was glazing mainstream rock ‘n’ roll, choosing dilapidated venues like Max’s Kansas City and CBGB in the Bowery over amphitheaters, taking Andy Warhol as patron saint. It didn’t take long for the style to mutate and find expression overseas, particularly in the U.K. with The Sex Pistols, The Clash and Sham 69. That mutation brought a political aspect to the genre, but punk rock had first been a musical movement. Hardcore was always a social one.

Photograph by Jonothan Kelso. Image courtesy the Bitter Southerner.

Photograph by Johnathon Kelso. Image courtesy The Bitter Southerner.

Punk Rock Goes Academic

Gue walked me through the library’s vestibule, which was recently emptied of students by the end-of-semester holiday break. “It’s always so weird how quickly they’re gone,” he said. We came to a quiet, wide hallway furbished with glass encasements that held items of various cultural associations, the hallway flanked by a row of large, glass-walled boardrooms. We took a left into the second one.

“Here, we can look at this first,” Gue said. A broad table in the center of the room held an arrangement of papers, books, a bottle of wine. “That’s Ted Hughes’ bottle of Port,” he said. I inspected a nearby solitary sheet of stationery coated with neat lines in black handwritten script, the name W.B. YEATS squeezed at its bottom. “Over here is one of the spiral notebooks that Alice Walker wrote The Color Purple in,” Gue said, and I scanned the common ruled paper, it covered with looping green ink and erratic circling and arrows, an author’s coded instructions to herself. At the head of the table, on a stand, was a first edition of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, open to the title page, a daguerreotype of Whitman as a younger man peering up at me. “There aren’t very many of those,” Gue added.

We left that room and moved next door to another that was of equal size, but vacant. Gue appeared at the table with a folio, which he laid on the table and opened to a stack of papers of varying size. He brought out a series of posters and flyers for shows, most featuring Neon Christ and made by bassist Danny Lankford, who worked for a sign maker. The posters were heavy paper, their colors still bright. Most of the shows took place at a venue called the Metroplex, which had originally been on Luckie Street, but moved to Marietta Street. The only directions were “a few blocks from The Omni.”

Atlanta punk rock collection, Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Emory University.

Atlanta punk rock collection, Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Emory University.

Other shows happened at a club called 688 or the Celebrity Club, a gay bar on Ponce de Leon. “We would have shows wherever we could,” Gue said. “And there was a very similar DIY streak in both of those scenes,” he noted, and remembered famed drag queen RuPaul being a fixture at the shows, heckling the bands with the repeated admonition, “Take off your clothes! Take off your clothes!”

The earliest flyer in the stack was from 1983, a show that Gue claimed was one of the biggest at the time, attended by 50 people, featuring seminal L.A. band The Circle Jerks. It sold the show as SLAM ROCK ALL AGES, and had been signed by frontman Keith Morris and guitar player Greg Hetson. In the latter half of the 1970s, Morris was the original singer for Black Flag, and Hetson would go on to play in punk band Bad Religion for decades, and still does.

Folded into the papers were a number of so-called “fanzines” (zines, for short), publications that were pieced together by hand, Xeroxed, then handed out at shows. These are the true documents of that clan. One issue even had a phone directory of everyone active in the scene — over a hundred names — along with a short essay on where best to buy beer (it was Tower Package Store). Mostly, however, the zines share information about music — show and album reviews, photos of performing bands, their members caught mid-leap or screaming into a mic. Surprisingly, the notes often expand their range to music outside of hardcore, recommending albums by Bruce Springsteen, Prince and Nina Simone.

“There just weren’t enough punk albums around, so we listened to all kinds of things. Some of the best shows I saw were Ornette Coleman and Sun Ra,” Gue said. Gue’s scene didn’t shrug off the punk rock that came before them, either, even the stuff that went mainstream. “I have a Clash tattoo, actually.”

He unbuttoned the left sleeve of his oxford, revealing an arm full of tattoos.

Photograph by Jonothan Kelso. Image courtesy the Bitter Southerner.

Photograph by Johnathon Kelso. Image courtesy The Bitter Southerner.

Preservation Act 1

Leaving the library, I realized that just typing up a description of what Gue was hatching at Woodruff wouldn’t be nearly as satisfying as actually contributing. The decade after Gue’s era, I too had spent several years in the Atlanta hardcore scene, and although it was a whole different set of bands, venues and participants, the essential sensation and DIY ethic was the same. I also understood the feeling of now wanting to crystallize and document something that otherwise would only be preserved in the minds of those that experienced it firsthand, a decent proportion of whom may no longer even care to preserve it there, either.

In fact, there is a sense in which a permanent, academic collection seems antithetical to certain basic attitudes of punk rock. One punk sub-genre called grindcore gets its aesthetic energy from blazing fast, terribly short songs with few hooks or patterns. Odes to impermanence, they are usually unmemorable in any way other than the immediate experience of them. Like many hardcore scenes, the songs come and go, and if you weren’t there for them, perhaps they were never for you anyway. At least a couple key figures of Atlanta punk rock were uninterested in this project, and I suspect that maybe that sort of reaction was the root.

But, for all its tendencies toward exclusivity, in-the-know posturing and a sharp nose for what is legit, punk rock remains open to definition and adaptation. Perhaps it now makes sense for its original artifacts to be housed alongside handwritten works of Yeats and Alice Walker. I resolved to muster a handful of like-minded donors to add to this archive. Here they are, in chronological order of their involvement in various scenes, three decades of Atlanta hardcore: 

Brad Castlen, 40
Ten Two Four, Crisis Under Control, Ex Members Of

On his older sister, who got him into punk rock:

“She had some demo tape of Suicidal Tendencies, and she played that for me, but at the time I was big into Kiss. So, when I was 9, she took me to see their Asylum tour, and from there for me it was just, like, all things loud. After that, she started going to shows at the Metroplex, and she would tell my parents about all the skinheads throwing bricks off the balcony, and seeing people slam dance and balcony diving, and my parents were like, ‘No, you’re not going.’ So she ruined it for me.

“She became friends with Suicidal’s drum roadie, and when they came back through she asked our parents if she could take me and they said, ‘He can go meet the band, but he can’t go to the show.’ So — and this is how awesome my sister is — she drove me from my house in Lilburn to the ‘Plex, we got on the tour bus, met Suicidal Tendencies, hung out for a while and then she drove me back to Lilburn, after which she headed to the Metroplex see the show.”

On the connecting point between the Metroplex scene — which ended in 1989 — and the more suburban scene that followed, which was based in Duluth:

Atlanta punk rock collection, Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Emory University.

Atlanta punk rock collection, Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Emory University.

“When I was in fifth grade there was this guy that lived in Duluth — after Neon Christ and everything, that was where it started again, in Duluth — and he had an older brother who turned out to be involved in hardcore, and who had given him a mixtape that he passed along to me. And that — along with skateboarding and seeing bands and their t-shirts in Thrasher Magazine — really got me more into the punk thing.

“But, yeah, then bands started out in the Duluth area. A guitarist named Jonathan Dixon was in a band called The Crooks and they were playing at a place called Visions in Gwinnett and at The Pit in the West End. That was sometime in ’88. They sounded like fast early hardcore, but also sort of sing-songy and slightly melodic. That was kind of the beginning of it. The Crooks are the branch, and then it became Act Of Faith in ’89. They were the hometown heroes. Jonathan started as Act Of Faith’s guitar player, and then moved over to drums. He’s a police detective here now — narcotics, I think.”

On recording:
“There was a guy named Issa that had moved here from D.C., and he had a recording studio called Sleepless Nights in Candler Park, right there next to Full Moon Records and The Flying Biscuit. He was cheap and he knew hardcore, so he recorded my first band, Ten2Four, and then he recorded a lot of the other hardcore bands on Standfast Records [the record label started by Rob Fuller, singer of Act Of Faith]. It was only like $150 a day, and that included the tape.”

On the entrance of straight edge — a hardcore ethic that is drug and alcohol-free — along with baggier, athletic-themed clothing and veganism, all of which ran strong in the scene in the mid-1990s:

“It always took a long time for movements to make it here. Even though the New York hardcore bands like Gorilla Biscuits and Youth of Today had started wearing athletic wear in like 1987, it wasn’t until 1991 that Atlanta bands started wearing hoodies and Nike. I think the New York guys did that because they actually did work out. But a lot of that had to do with Ray [Cappo] of Youth of Today. It was because of him that a lot of people turned straight edge and vegan, and after he became Krishna a lot of people did that, too. That’s also when the beaded choker necklaces came into play.”

On the persistent problem of skinheads attending hardcore shows and leading to violence:

“I remember the first time I went to an Act Of Faith show. I was in eighth grade and I was smaller, and there were these huge skinheads with Klan shirts on — like showing Klansmen riding horses, not an undercover thing at all — and right after that there was a stabbing in Little Five Points, so some anti-hate groups pushed them out to Kennesaw. The SHARPS [non-racist skinheads] would still come to shows, though, and I remember an Avail show at the Somber Reptile where there were seven skinheads trying to start a fight with 250 hardcore kids just because we were straight-edge. So, of course, they got their asses kicked and the club threw them out. They went outside and slashed the tires of any car with straight-edge stickers on it, so I ended up with two flat tires and had to call my dad to come help me on Marietta Street in the middle of the night.”

James Joyce, 40
Car vs. Driver, The Midget Farmers, the Driver Dome venue, Beyond Failure blog

On the emergence of DIY show culture and his house, the Driver Dome:

“I started out by going to the shows at Ozone and Visions [which were in Gwinnett], and also down near Perimeter Mall at a place called Milo’s, then later in the city at Somber Reptile and the Wreck Room. Those were all-ages venues, which was a really important dividing line because we were all underage. But I graduated high school in 1993, and went to college, and that’s when we really started having house shows. All of us from Car vs. Driver got a house in Grant Park. It was [singer] Matt Mauldin’s brother’s house, and he gave it to us for $750 a month, so we each paid $250. We never had any problems, like we never got shut down by the police, and we had shows there three or four nights a week for about four years. It wasn’t really a big party atmosphere or anything, though. It was just a little venue in the basement with its own side entrance, so it wasn’t like we had all these people in our house all the time. We had a thing where it was $1 per out of town band, and local bands would play for free. The average show would have about 30 people, and that was really all you needed. Around the same time, Gavin Frederick [a DJ at WREK who would set up and sell records at nearly every show] got a house, and that was the I Defy, in Home Park. That was probably ’94 until like ’98. I Defy kept going until ’99, I think. Then, a few years later someone else moved into that house and started I Defy up again, which was kind of surreal.

“We stopped pretty much around the time that we graduated college, and that was a generational shift to some new houses, which seemed to move more into a garage rock or maybe an indie rock sort of thing. They weren’t really coming from the hardcore background. Around that same time, Under the Couch [a space on the Georgia Tech campus] became really important, because that was a place with a decent sound system that anyone could go to.”

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Photograph by Johnathon Kelso. Image courtesy The Bitter Southerner.

Matt Miller, 37
One Way, Most Precious Blood (NYC)

On the role skateboarding played in introducing him to hardcore:

“In sixth grade there was a guy that brought a skateboard to school, and on it, in white-out, he’d written SEX PISTOLS. I asked him what Sex Pistols meant, and he said it was punk rock. I asked what that was, and he said it was the musical version of skateboarding. I was like, ‘Rad.’

“My first skateboard was a Mike Vallely Barnyard board. When I picked it out, I was just sort of like, ‘Okay, that one,’ but the top of the board had a cow with DON’T EAT MY FRIENDS on it. And as a kid, I was like whatever, but now I’m 37 years old, and I’ve been vegan for 17 years, so it was weird to have that impact me but not even realize it at the time.”

On his first show experiences:

“I lived in Gwinnett, so I would see fliers for Act Of Faith shows and Crisis Under Control shows, but I always thought, ‘Ah, I can’t go to that. Some skinhead will punch me in the face.’ So my first concert ever was Metallica at The Omni, and I was literally up on the very last row, and I had no connection to the band whatsoever. It was like, ‘What do I even do? Do I air-drum up here?’

“But some guys I would skate with had given me Act Of Faith and Crisis Under Control tapes, so I knew those guys, and the next concert I went to was GBH with both those bands at The Masquerade. And during Crisis Under Control all these fights kept breaking out — any show I went to for like the first five years was just so many fights all the time — and Rob from Act Of Faith got on the microphone and tried to get everybody to stop, which confused me because it was my first show and I thought that was just what you did at punk shows. When me and my brother left the show, a massive brawl happened right in front of The Masquerade, and it was all these skinheads versus the Atlanta hardcore guys — guys I eventually became good friends with. It looked like The Outsiders, two walls of people running into each other. And I was just standing there watching it. I must have been like 13 or 14. But it didn’t deter me. I feel like I went to every Act Of Faith show after that.”

On the changes that took place in the Atlanta scene after he moved to New York in 2000:

“I was in New York for about seven years, and when I moved back it was a real culture shock. I played in a touring hardcore band the whole time I was in New York, but when I came back — which was ’07 — I didn’t even feel like a hardcore kid any more. Before I left, there were these younger kids that would hang out and were the brunt of all of our jokes. Then I moved away and all the older kids stopped coming around, so the people we’d picked on became the older guys in the scene. They sort of created their own new thing, and it was vastly different. Before I left, everyone was vegan, everyone was straight-edge, everyone skated. It was grabass-y. It was fun. I came back and suddenly everyone was acting super tough. Also, that scene had become really sexual. I went to a show right when I came back, and there were like 10 girls on stage right behind the drummer in short shorts smoking cigarettes. And everybody had, like, baskets of chicken wings. I felt zero connection to anybody. I was like, ‘Where’s my people?’

“But then I met a couple people at that show, and they knew my band from New York, and it was the guys from Foundation. I ended up playing bass for them for a little while … Tomas [Pearson, singer of Foundation] was one of those people that sort of took the ideas that we were doing and tried to keep that going, rather than let the meatheads take over.”

On the continued efforts to make Atlanta hardcore less violent:

“We had always tried really hard to stop people from having fights at shows. If somebody was getting violent we would just grab them and haul them out and be like, ‘Dude, what are you doing? We’re trying to watch this band.’ We made these patches that had a clip-art of a karate guy with a buster over it, and they said KEEP IT IN THE DOJO.”

Photograph by Johnathon Kelso. Image courtesy the Bitter Southerner.

Photograph by Johnathon Kelso. Image courtesy The Bitter Southerner.

Jesse Smith, 35
The Kossabone Red, Some Soviet Station, The Carbonas, Gentleman Jesse, COPS

On the era of the Die Slaughterhaus venue, which in the mid-2000s was a house on 10th Street run by Atlanta band The Black Lips:

“That was when the hardcore and garage rock scenes started to collide. Carbonas were starting to play shows, The Black Lips hadn’t quite broken yet, and there was this big, carefree, dangerous, drug-doing party punk scene. The hardcore kids that were drinking were privy to it, so the hardcore started to go a little more to the early ’80s sound. But, yeah, at that point, hardcore wasn’t really run by straight-edge anymore.

“Production values started to change, too, because Dave [Rahn, of Carbonas] started recording the hardcore, so instead of that super slick, tight snare sound, it was more of the blown-out, in-the-red sound that was rougher and not really that much different-sounding than first-generation American hardcore. Since he was a drummer that was recording stuff, everybody liked his drum sound, so everybody wanted him to record their band.”

On the rise of throwback styles and the role of genre reference in style-making, which took hold in that period and remains a strong aspect of Atlanta punk today:

“I mean, if you think about Atlanta in the early ’90s, Act Of Faith was the band that was the big deal for everybody, so that’s what people had to draw from. But information travels faster now, so your palette is bigger. It’s a lot easier now to pull from things that aren’t just local bands as reference points. That makes it easier to create an artistic persona that doesn’t necessarily represent a lifestyle.

“In terms of genre, you’re harder pressed now to find people who are this and therefore make this, because everyone has more styles to pick and choose from. By the middle 2000s, you would have a hardcore band, a street punk band and a power pop band, at one house show. And it was all very referential.”

Ryan Bell, 30
Scavenger of Death, Bukkake Boys, GG King, COPS, Predator

On his foray into the scene:

“I started going to shows in 2000, when I was 15, pretty much as soon as anyone would take me. So, I would go see shows at 513 Club and the Somber Reptile [when they briefly started doing shows again]. I moved down here from Marietta when I was 18, and I started going to I Defy. In 2005 I saw Frantic there — who sounded like The Adolescents, I guess — and Cold Stare. Cold Stare was Jesse Lipper with a guy named Knife and two straight-edge guys who would later go on to start Foundation.”

On whether or not the straight-edge scene had taken an over-serious, tough-guy turn in the middle 2000s:

“If you want to look at the tent-pole bands of the straight-edge scene at that time, it was Paid In Blood, Instilled and later Foundation. I was never straight-edge, but I lived with some of those guys, and they always seemed like they had fun at shows. I feel like every generation looks at the one that comes after them and sees them as a failure, so any comments otherwise may sort of smack of that.”

On whether there was a prevailing ethos or message that drove or was delivered by he and Lipper’s band Bukkake Boys, other than just wanting to play that style of music:

“No.”

On the two very different ways that style and genre are now sparked in hardcore:

“If you take a class in folklore, they tell you that what makes something count as folk music isn’t what it sounds like, it’s how it gets transmitted, and folk transmission happens person to person. So, an example of folk transmission would be Atlanta bands that drew on Act Of Faith. I would argue that this still happens a lot because of various bands playing together.

“On the other hand, you might look at someone like Josh Feigert [of current bands Uniform and Wymyns Prysyn], who has an idea like, ‘I’m going to make funeral oi,’ and borrows those styles, and that’s more like conscious a work of art.”

Jeremiah McCleary, 29
Me And Him Call It Us, God’s Balls, Hologram

On the range of DIY venues throughout the mid-to-late 2000s:

“I worked at The Earl, but I was mostly involved in a whole bunch of houses, really. There was the I Defy, which I was going to around 2004, and then we started a house called I Can Fly, and I think that was 2006 and 2007. After that, there was I Can Fly II, which became known as The Yellow House. Creative Loafing did a thing about that house before it was bulldozed. We [he and Amanda Mills] now do shows at Murmur [their downtown space that serves the DIY community]. From around 2008 to 2010, there was the Wells Street Warehouse, where somebody had rented out a warehouse space and pretty much every punk and hardcore show was out there, for like two years.

Photograph by Johnathon Kelso. Image courtesy the Bitter Southerner.

Photograph by Johnathon Kelso. Image courtesy the Bitter Southerner.

Amanda Mills, 28
Big Blonde Records, Murmur, Atlanta Zine Library

On why she started her record label, which only releases on cassette and is duplicated and packaged entirely by her hand:

“I started Big Blonde Records because every band I saw in Atlanta that I was consistently blown away by on a nightly basis were always breaking up and forming new bands, and it bummed me out that there wasn’t any relic left over.”

On the rapid development of various band styles and coexistence of many sub-genres in the scene:

“Around 2010, I started going to shows every night, and it was all kinds of music. I tend to be involved with punk and hardcore stuff, but I really like everything. Sometimes I would put out an electro record, or like folk-punk or something, and Creative Loafing would be like, ‘What are you doing? Why are you changing it up?’ And I wasn’t trying to be affiliated with a certain sound or anything. I was just trying to capture what was happening because it probably wouldn’t be happening in two months.”

On the dominant feeling that ran through the styles of bands at that time:

“I mean, there was Manic, and they were just sort of standard punk, and I loved them because it was really fun to see a rehashing of that. But most everything else was just kind of sloppy and very Atlanta. It was coming from a place of drinking a lot and having a lot going on, and worrying about money, being dirty and that being your life. So if you went to a show, even if it wasn’t a hardcore or punk band, the energy would be like that. So, it would still be beer slinging and moshing, but it would be, like, Red Sea [who are more of an art rock band]. Living in Atlanta is just really hard, and I think kids want to get it out.”

On women and minorities participating in a scene that had traditionally been overwhelmingly male and white:

“It is certainly more diverse than it used to be. But I’m not going to pretend it’s a huge happy story being a woman in the punk scene … Most of the reason why I’m less involved now than I used to be is because of certain experiences with abuse. It’s certainly not something that is exclusive to punk, but I wish it was talked about more. It’s something I’m very conscious of with putting on shows and having a venue space. Like, how do I run this venue in a feminist way? I actually think that some of the punkest shit that’s happening out there right now is people sitting cross-legged on the floor with a bunch of pedals and their iPhone, and doing really weird shit. There are a lot of women doing that. There’s a new house called DownHouse Collective, and it’s a very feminine punk space. It’s not the scene of four dudes playing guitar and beer slinging, but it still feels very punk and it’s incredibly DIY.”

Photograph by Jonothan Kelso. Image courtesy the Bitter Southerner.

Photograph by Johnathon Kelso. Image courtesy The Bitter Southerner.

Josh Feigert, 31
Uniform, Wymyns Prysyn

On his listening history:

“I got into punk in 1994, and it was Green Day. I was 10. Then there was a period in the early 2000s where I kind of lost interest, and that was when there was a lot of garage stuff going on. I then got really into noise music and industrial, and stuff like that and, after that, coming back to punk, it was exciting to be putting in other influences of those new things. Mostly, I guess I just like really dark stuff. I feel like what we do is probably the result of listening to a lot of both [’80s L.A. proto-goth rock band] Christian Death and early hardcore.”

On whether there’s any connection between their group of bands — which seem fairly art-minded — and the more aesthetically conservative branch of straight-edge hardcore that dominated the 2000s:

“I mean, there is still that scene, and it’s huge, but it’s totally separate from us. For Atlanta, there’s Criminal Instinct and Foundation. Foundation is probably the biggest, even though they’re quitting. There are some bands that are bridging the gap between our scene and those bands, though, like PDC, which is one of the guys from Foundation. That’s making a little bit of crossover, but still, not really.”

Photograph by Jonothan Kelso. Image courtesy the Bitter Southerner.

Photograph by Johnathon Kelso. Image courtesy The Bitter Southerner.

On the main way that being involved in a punk scene really matters:

“I think it’s more like, when you’re young, and you get into punk, you’re aiming for the top, like, ‘Anarchy, tear the system down!’ but then you learn that it’s really more about creating that community for yourself — giving yourself a life, giving yourself something to do with your time. Like, teaching yourself how to draw or teaching yourself how to record. It’s like school, but it’s a school that actually teaches you something useful in your life.”

On why they choose to release on cassette tape:

“It’s cheap and quick. I mean, to put a vinyl record out now it takes over a year. And if you just do it digital you miss the intimacy of people actually having something. For me, I mean, the same reason I love flyers is the same reason I love tapes. It’s how so much of this music was disseminated in the ’80s. For me, making handbills is really the most important thing. Half of them get thrown away by the end of the show, but sometimes it brings somebody new out.”

On the current venues for their scene:

“House shows kind of come and go now. We’d been booking at 529 and The Earl because there weren’t any all-ages venues. But now there’s Eyedrum Gallery and Amanda’s [Mills] spot at Murmur.”

Photograph by Jonothan Kelso. Image courtesy the Bitter Southerner.

Photograph by Johnathon Kelso. Image courtesy The Bitter Southerner.

Bryan Scherer, 28
Nurse, Ritual Knife, God Fossil

On whether their scene shares the same audience with the straight-edge scene:

“Not really. There are kids who used to go to those shows and felt alienated from them, and looked at us and were like ‘these guys are nicer…’ and became some of our good friends. Or, like, once they have their first beer or whatever.”

Matt Hatcher, 26
Uniform, Slugga

On whether it’s harder to have house shows now, at a time of widespread gentrification:

“Yeah, like, the Hill Street house [which is currently the main location for punk house shows] has shows pretty often and I’ll go outside sometimes and their neighbors will just be screaming at them. But they keep on doing it. And that’s actually pretty far south. If you wanted to do that in East Atlanta it would be pretty impossible.”

Kayla Hendrick, 22
hardcore fan

On what got her into hardcore:

“I grew up in Elberton, Georgia. My parents were both conservative Christians, but I had a punk uncle — a punkle. He taught me to play poker and we’d watch music documentaries together. My dad got really set on me not having anything to do with that, so I guess as an act of rebellion I started trying to find whatever punk and hardcore I could get. My first in was Christian metal and punk, and when I was 14, I started going to this venue called The Pivot in North Georgia — I try to block out this part — which had a lot of pop punk involved. I realized pretty soon that I wasn’t into that whole thing anymore, so I moved to Athens, where I met Jason Griffin of American Cheeseburger and this group of kids in a grindcore band called Gripe. My first show in Atlanta was a Foundation show, but I wasn’t really into it, so I didn’t come to Atlanta for any more shows until, I saw Cheap Art [who are from Atlanta] in Athens and met Matt Hatcher and Bryan Scherer. I came across the Scavenger of Death stuff when I moved here in 2014, and started going to see Slugga and Predator. Still kinda doing that.”

On how she finds out about shows:

“Just Facebook, really. That’s the only reason we all still have one.”

Photograph by Jonothan Kelso. Image courtesy the Bitter Southerner.

Photograph by Johnathon Kelso. Image courtesy The Bitter Southerner.

Randy Gue, 49
Curator of Modern Political and Historical Collections, Emory University

On what sparked the idea of this collection:

“When I came on board, a lot of our collections died out in the 1970s. It was only, like, dead white men. I wondered how I could put my stamp on the collection, so one goal was expanding the chronology of it — moving it from the 1970s and into the 21st century — and then diversifying the holdings, getting it away from just captains of industry and all that. I grew up in the hardcore scene here in Atlanta. It made me who I am. I was born to my family, but I was raised by my friends, and my friends were in Neon Christ. And that shaped who I am and what I do. So, one of the things I now want to do is document DIY culture in Atlanta.”

On the functional goal of the collection:

“One of our goals is to provide long-term public access to these things. And by long-term, I don’t mean 50 or 100 years. I mean a 1,000 years. The person I collect for is some graduate student 150 years from now that wants to find out what the punk scene was like in the mid-1990s. So, I have to think about what they have to have to be able to make those connections. All these scenes and people — y’all know it, but in 20 years all those connections will be gone. What if somebody wants to reconstruct that? What do they need?”

The Rose Library archive at Emory’s Robert W. Woodruff Library is free and open to the public, and it is always accepting relevant donations. To donate, contact Randy Gue at randy.gue@emory.edu.

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