Warsaw Uprising: Kortatu’s incendiary visit to 1980s Poland

Western punk bands didn’t get to play the People’s Republic of Poland too often back in the 80s, not to mention bands linked to skinhead culture. In August 1987, however, Kortatu from Basque Country were invited to play at Róbrege, a 3-day festival in Warsaw largely featuring native punk, reggae and new wave acts. Although a Basque independentist band with radical left-wing leanings, Kortatu thus appeared at a festival that was generally perceived as a kind of cultural opposition against the socialist government. And even though Kortatu were something of a skinhead group – cropped hair, Harringtons and DMs visually accompanied their punk, ska, and reggae hybrid – many say that the Polish skinheads who came to Róbrege were more interested in disrupting the festival than they were in dancing. Some even go as far as to imply that the skins were operating in cahoots with the state security services…

These are just some of the contradictions that made it seem like an interesting event to explore. Although this article should be seen as no more than an attempt to reconstruct what happened, based on a mere handful of sources, I still hope it’s an engaging account that doesn’t draw on too many ‘when punk brough freedom behind the Iron Curtain’ cliches… 

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Classic albums: ‘We’ve Got the Power’ by Red Alert (1983)

If you were assembling a track by track feature on classic Oi/punk albums, then Red Alert’s We’ve Got The Power (No Future) would be high on anyone’s shortlist.  A literal document of life in the North East in the early 80s, living up to their label’s name for sure, the LP packs an urgent vocal delivery and wall of sound production feats.  

The dole, Soviet missiles, police brutality, even the influence of hairy rockers UFO, it’s all on there as lyrical content. Still belting them out live after the band’s 40th anniversary in 2019, vocalist Steve ‘Cast Iron’ Smith was on hand to dust off his slab of vinyl and talk us through each of the tracks.

Andrew Stevens

You were something of a singles band after you signed to No Future, how long did it take to write the album?

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‘Skinheads’ by Davide Skin from Genoa, 1988

This is a short article by Davide ‘Skin’ that originally appeared in Italian Gradinata Nord, a zine providing “culture and free information for the Fossa dei Grifoni”, the ultras of Genoa CFC, in 1988. We would like to thank Guendalina Buonavita for sending us this little gem.

Photo by Fabrizio Barile
Translation by Francesca Chiari

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Skinheads of Chicago (SHOC): an interview with Corky ‘Boxcutter’

There are some varieties of skinhead that we prefer to others – but overall, we enjoy the culture’s different facets. We like that aspects of skinhead change over time and vary from country to country, reflecting their environment while still retaining that basic essence that is hard to pin down. We like the fact that such a broad range of different music styles has somehow become associated with skinhead over the years.

And we like that the skinhead world can be as surprising and contradictory as life itself. You wouldn’t expect a bunch of skins, for instance, to head to the Nation of Islam headquarters to watch Public Enemy (the hip-hop one) – especially if some of them were white and Jewish. But that’s just one of the things that Corky’s mates got up to back in the 80s.

Corky is bit of a legendary character from the Chicago scene. Back in the day, he ran with SHOC (Skinheads of Chicago), a multi-ethnic crew that stood on the opposite side of Christian Picciolini’s nazi skins, CASH (Chicago Area Skinheads – we interviewed Christian about them here)
. Our own Girth first came across Corky on Instagram under @BoxcutterBrigade, where he documents his memories of characters with photos and interesting stories – and he decided to interview the bloke.

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Cosenza in our hearts: an interview with Lumpen

South Italy is a beautiful place, even if living there can be difficult for many who leave in search of a better life. But there are those who decide to stay to create something different, which then becomes a source of pride, and they decide to export it to other places – for example, by recording a new album. Just like Lumpen, an Oi band from Calabria that has been active in the skinhead scene for more than 20 years. Francesca Chiari spoke to Silverio Tucci, the band’s original guitarist from Cosenza.

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Classic albums: ‘Voice of a Generation’ by Blitz

It’s my great pleasure to discuss Voice of a Generation with Neil ‘Mackie’ McLennan, the man who played the bass on one of history’s most legendary Oi/punk albums – perhaps the most legendary one, and a strong influence on everyone from Templars and Criminal Damage to the more recent Mess.

When I was 17-18, I played a cassette tape of Voice of a Generation every day until it died (from memory, From Chaos to 1984 by the 4-Skins was on the other side – my two new favourite albums after years of G.B.H, Discharge and Daily Terror). But that’s just on a personal sidenote… Over to Neil ‘Mackie’ Mc Lennan!

Matt Crombieboy

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Classic albums: ‘L’âge de glace’ by Paris Violence

Paris Violence has never exactly played standard-issue Oi, but 20 years ago, Flav took things to the next level when releasing L’âge de glace – an album informed by his earlier ‘Chaos en France on a rainy Monday’ sound, but also by the eminently continental ‘cold wave’ genre and NWOBEM (New Wave of British ‘Eavy Metal). The result was arguably one of the coldest and strangest albums linked to the Oi genre, fully living up to its title: ice age.

L’âge de glace has just been rereleased by Common People Records. Matt Crombieboy sat Flav down for a song-by-song account. For an older interview we did with Flav, click HERE. Or else, just read on.

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HOXBLOOD: THE REDSKINS OF 80s WEST BERLIN

If you’ve watched Chasseurs des skins you’ll remember the so-called redskins from Paris, who liked to sport hammers and sickles, but whose vaguely libertarian politics didn’t really extend beyond anti-fascism. Elsewhere, though, there were those who took the ‘red’ in redskin a great deal more seriously. For instance, Ugly – co-founder of the Red Guards, a hardline Hoxhaite (pro-Albania Marxist-Leninist) skinhead youth league in 1980s West Berlin. 

Matt Crombieboy spoke to the chap who also co-founded the legendary Skintonic zine.

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Rimini skingirl: an interview with Betty Reazione

Ah, Rimini – one of Europe’s major tourist destinations, home to a sandy beach and over 1,000 hotels. But also the birthplace of important Italian Oi bands such as Dioxina, who were active from 1981–1986, and Reazione, who have carried on the flame since the 90s. Francesca Chiari interviewed Betty Reazione, founding member and long-standing bassist of the latter band.

Part of our Skingirls Italia series (click here for part 1 and part 2)

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Until the bitter end: The story of Daily Terror and Pedder Teumer

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Few readers, aside from fans of old-school European punk, will have heard of Daily Terror. Yet in the 1980s they were an important West German punk group – and later, they arguably turned into the best skinhead band the country had produced, even if the likes of Böhse Onkelz were more popular.

Truth be told, it’s hard for me to be objective because the matter is to a certain extent personal.  Continue reading