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Eight Tons of Punk (theoutline.com)
98 points by tintinnabula 22 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 73 comments

Sorry to loop in software/tech...but...

I remember once years ago explaining to a co-worker about how i felt that free and open source software (FOSS) in general - but linux (oh sorry, gnu linux) as a specific example - as being the punk equivalent but in tech. The person i explained it to was a techy at a large enterprise, and really understood it once i explained in those terms. My co-worker was your typical buttoned-up very nice guy, he had only been exposed to the conventional corporate ms windows platforms, etc...So, while he likely wouldn't go out and listen to punk nor go play with installing slackware or debian, etc...he really respected linux (and the rest of FOSS) BECAUSE of the context that i put them in as a comparison to punk. I haven't worked with him for years now...i wonder what he thinks now that linux and FOSS are everywhere - well everywhere but under blankets of corporations like google (android), and others, etc.? I wonder if he still thinks of linux as punk - as i had described to him long ago?

When I think of punks of the tech industry I think of the Homebrew Computer Club. I've tried looking for a similar community but these seem to be few and far between.

I lot of the tech communities around where I live seem to only be interested in "startupping", seed funding and networking rather than experimenting and pushing tech itself. Hackathons, where I used to find a few punks years ago, are now filled with people mildly interested in tech and big corporate sponsors.

Maybe it's the fact that technology keeps getting more complex and thus a few punk hackers are not enough to really disrupt it.

I don't think complexity is the reason. The abstraction levels also keep growing higher, and that keeps the ability to hack alive and well.

So much money has pushed into IT and 'innovation' that you are seeing Wall Street types in the field. We are now in a "PUNK IS DEAD LONG LIVE HAIR METAL" phase.

I grew up in the early 90s in the pre-Internet days, so my idea of "punk tech" came from the old greybeards who wanted to hack on hardware, software and everything along the way. I think that spirit still jumps around by curiosity and idealism, usually through some new technology (like Mastodon, or cryptocurrency in the early days) or is satisfied with goalless explorations of tech, like tilde.club or a lot of the early hackathons and maker trends (3D printing, drones, battle bots, etc.)

Yeah Linux wouldn't be the only "punk tech"; and fediverse, crypto currency, and the hardware stuff you referenced would certainly classify as punk tech in my book too! Thanks for that!

> Maybe it's the fact that technology keeps getting more complex

This is a component of it, but I believe the conclusion you draw is a faulty one. I can relate, though, because I once had the same lamentation.

Hackers, in the traditional sense, have just moved on to more specialized and niche communities because the technology space became more complex and specialized itself.

Generalized "hacker" communities are not going to draw in people with specialized skills and interests, unless they have an interest in content creation or pedagogy. You'll find them in other communities that interest them.

I think you're more likely to find the punks in cyber security these days.

Yeah I could see that!

You can have a Punk attitude in the software tech scene, many years ago, I was one of the first to write a blitter that could scale a QuickTime movie decompressing in real-time 320x240 to full-screen 640x480. To do that I had to use floating point math instructions to write on the screen. This was giving me double bandwidth.

This means you had to bypass the whole QuickDraw API and overwrite the screen yourself, that was a fun time!


He probably still thinks of linux as punk as he happily spends his days configuring Sales Force.

You're probably right!

I would more see Linux closer to hippies, too much peace and love there and not enough destroy attitude, don't you think?

I guess one could argue that. I sort of saw Linux as more of the anti-establishment angle.

“We don’t want to move [the record archive] to some museum, we want it to be accessible,” Curran told me.

If not in a museum, what does it mean for records to be accessible? If you keep it physical, only a select relative few will ever access it.

Start digitizing it, then, if needed, auction off the interesting records to fund the rest of the effort.

You are assuming that the music is the most important thing. It very well may be, but part of the culture around vinyl is, I think, the actual physical product, particularly the art that accompanies the vinyl. Add to that the DIY ethos that drives the punk scene, and those physical artifacts become even more important.

You are assuming that the music is the most important thing.

I'm not sure how you came to that conclusion.

...obviously, you can digitize album covers and liner notes. I thought that was clear. You're right, there's culture around that, but it's not important to physically touch it to experience it.

Saying "you just had to be there", "you have to listen to this pressing of the record", "you must hold this in your hand", etc. is playing gatekeeper, which is antithetical to punk and DIY.

> it's not important to physically touch it to experience it

Why not?

Yep, reach out to this guy... jason@textfiles.com.

who is this guy?

Jason Scott, he works for Internet Archive now but previously did (and still does) a ton of work preserving old tech garbage, from weird-format disks, shareware CDs, manuals, old magazines, flyers, ads and everything else.

Anybody interested in the zone https://archive.org/details/maximumrnr

Slightly off topic: Going to take a moment to shoutout Sunny Singh and his hate5six project, archiving punk live performances! Awesome project. You can be a techie and still be punk!

Somebody here has enough money to help this out and contribute back to SF + culture!

I hope it is preserved. MRR was key to DIY music scenes across the US and other countries. The internet dispatched the need for it. At the time (I'm referencing the mid-late 80's), the crappy newsprint that came off on my fingers was the only way to find out what bands or cities were doing in really independent music. It's pretty difficult to put it in context in a world post-blogs, twitter, and bandcamp etc.

I just can't articulate it yet but saving this archive feels anti-punk...

When you figure out how to articulate it, you'll have the perfect description for what it feels like to watch a Henry Rollins comedy set on YouTube.

I can't say for certain, it's early, but I'm pretty sure this is going to be the single most insightful comment I will read this month.

I feel like there should be a slo-mo gif of Henry Rollins putting on his reading glasses to instantly and dramatically turn from punk legend to Volvo driver.

Why? I think many people have somewhat misguided notions about the punk scene.

I did a quick search and it seems there are multiple branches of punk ideologies. I was never in the punk scene but I had friends who did (some are probably still are). I just remember them mostly focusing on the current and do not care much for posterity.

That's not my experience (I've loved punk for decades, have played in punk bands, etc.).

There is a pretty strong reverence for the roots and evolution of punk among, at least, the musicians who make the music. I recommend reading Our Band Could Be Your Life for a really wonderful biographical snapshot of some of America's most important punk bands (it spans late 70s to early 90s, through the stories of a handful of the most influential/interesting bands), and the ties that bind them to earlier and later punks.

There may be a subset of fans that don't care about the historical context, but it's not what defines "punk". Collecting (45s, stickers, patches, zines, posters, etc.) has always a big part of punk culture.

And, the fact that punk bands can reform after a couple of decades and tour and even make new records and have some success even among younger audiences seems to indicate there's people valuing that history. e.g. The Pixies, Mission of Burma, Black Flag, The Stooges, have all had success in recent years, after being dormant for decades. Of the shows I've seen in this category, there's always a pretty good mix of old-timers like me, who are there partly out of nostalgia, and younger folks who weren't even alive when those bands were first doing their thing.

Who gives a crap what they think?

I found the punk rocker.

They'll collect it all then burn it in a huge dumpster fire!

Nah, gotta burn it on a barge[0]

[0] - https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-38120496

Its the nature of these things, that the original ethos gets lost, for example, Green Day is classed as a punk band.

There's something very punk about innocently asking "oh you're a punk fan? Do you enjoy the 'The Greendays'?" and then stand back as they either ooze contempt or explode... :P

You can throw Avril Lavigne in there are a curveball but they'll probably know you're taking the piss if you do.

This shouldn't be seen as an attack on punks ...it's more like a Minor Threat.

(Damn it, I've become my father.)

Nah_ dude. You're dad didn't listen to Minor Threat. You're still cool. (If you're not, then I'm not and I refuse to accept that and I have the bad tattoos to back me up.)

Punk's original ethos was "I don't like my parents' music and culture and I don't know how to play an instrument but I still wanna express myself". Tons of crap falls into that category, music that doesn't even classify itself as punk.

I find it almost impossible to classify bands as a single specific genre. They're almost always in a spectrum of multiple genres. You can try to say "X band is more punk than Y band", or "X band is more Y genre than Z genre", but to say "Agnostic Front is punk" would be problematic; Is it hardcore punk? Is it just plain hardcore? Crossover thrash? Who cares? It is more punk than Adelle, though.

> Punk's original ethos was "I don't like my parents' music and culture and I don't know how to play an instrument but I still wanna express myself".

This isn't even close to the reality. You might enjoy reading a book entitled, "Please Kill Me: The Unauthorized Oral History of Punk Rock", by Legs McNeill (he coined the term Punk).

The Ramones were kids who had an intense love of post-war Americana. Inspired by late '60s/ early '70s glam-rock & proto-punk scenes, they wanted to bring back to the garage which had been lost to 10 minute soloing prog-rock bands and soulless disco music. I feel like "We Want The Airwaves" is the "Why?" section of /ramones/README.md.

The Clash? Mick Jones and Topper Hedon were very well-versed musicians. Joe Strummer was a passable rhythm guitarist, but was an amazing lyricist.

Sex Pistols? They were the boy band of the MacLaren empire.

None of that seems to have anything to do with their ethos. Yes, The Ramones, the shittiest punk band that ever existed, was basically making bad 50s music. The Clash and the Sex Pistols were absolutely fed up with their parents' generation. Who gives a shit if they were taking advantage of pop idols and trying to make themselves "bad boys"? Clothing and the ability to shred isn't an ethos.

I think this tension is fundamental to the concept of genres across all mediums of art and entertainment.

Just because some people say that doesn't make it true. Green Day fans are like the flat Earthers of punk.

Glad to see that the superiority complex of the scene is still alive and well...

Everyone needs an onramp to discovery. There are WAY worse things to be into than Green Day. But please, don't let me stop you from telling Hacker News how you're too punk for Green Day...

green day dookie was the first CD I owned. It was the first thing I found on the street (read: garbage), and inspired my interest in free and used things. I owe them a lot. But man do they suck.

I don't know, I've always been more of an Offspring fan, but I don't think it's fair to say that Green Day "suck". They've obviously achieved an impressive level of success and people still pay attention and listen to their new releases decades after they were truly relevant.

I never was a big fan of Dookie but their next album, Insomniac, is still an immensely enjoyable album to this day. Whether it's technically not 'punk' and is instead 'pop-punk' or just 'rock' makes no difference to me. The fact that their music isn't overtly anti-establishment doesn't affect the quality of the music.

In fact, and this may get me into trouble here, I like the Dead Kennedy's 'Plastic Surgery Disasters' just as much as I like Green Day's 'Insomniac'. Is one punk and one not? Who cares? I quite dislike the purity tests in some genres of music (like punk and metal). That's something I've always appreciated about pop music - it doesn't have to adhere to some nebulous framework to qualify for the genre, it simply has to be popular (e.g. Beatles were pop, Madonna was pop, and Arianna Grande is pop - very different styles of music)

You like the music you like and that itself is as punk rock as you can get.

The difference between "Lookout! Green Day" and "Warner Green Day" is one of DIY vs Payola. These days, it's much easier and potentially more profitable to go the DIY route, but back then, you needed a sugar daddy to "make it big" fast. Taking the easy route meant Green Day were shunned by their original fan base (somewhat justifiably so,) but they had more energy, raw talent, and Buzzcocks hooks than anything else on top 40 radio with the exception of Nirvana (which is why Warner was trolling for talent in the first place.)

It's hard to call any "punk" bands sellouts after Nevermind. Were Hüsker Dü sellouts? They signed to Warner in '85 (almost a decade before Green Day.)

The music business is harsh. If you're in a band and into it for the long haul, own your masters and go the DIY route. Your fans will find you and are more likely to pay directly when they do. If you're in a band and want to make it big fast, consider this often cited article from Steve "Mr. Gold Bracelet" Albini on cashflow:


There's a reason you're seeing a lot of live music. Streaming doesn't pay the bills.

I ignored Green Day when I first got into punk because they seemed like radio-rock music. But years later, when I was in grad school and stopped caring so much about how I classified bands, I was blown away by "American Idiot." That album was brilliant.

I listened to Offspring's album "Smash" a bunch in middle school, which made for an interesting revelation when I devoured Bad Religion's entire catalogue in high school.

This seems to be turning into a thing so let me explain. My comment is obviously satirical, but with any satire there's a grain of truth. Personally I never got into them but when they 1st came out I didn't have a negative opinion about them either. It's more about what they turned into. They found a formula and just stuck with it because it pays. Now I'm not saying that punk bands can't be successful but there's a difference between just making good music and making something that just generates sales. Billy Jo is almost 50 years old now. I was born in 75 and he's older than me but Green Day is still making the same played out, radio frindly, teen angst driven music after 20 years. They've just become a sad parody of themselves.

Well TFA is about MRR, so playing punker than thou is par for the course.

Great point. So true.

I don't know when "dookie" came out I was like 12 and this album was pretty much the starting point for me and my friends. Don't know who much people got into punk via ZSD, but for us this came later. Maybe like VisualBasic for programming, started with it but wouldn't touch it today. Well at least I'm a True Believer ;)

Waxing nostalgic about Visual Basic like that, one might imagine you're also a hopeless romantic.

What else have we got other than some people saying it? Some people say the Sex Pistols are punk, there isn't really an objective measure we can measure this against.

What do you mean, "some people"? Is there anyone saying that the Sex Pistols WEREN'T punk?? I can't truck with any taxonomy of punk rock that excludes the Sex Pistols, the Ramones, or the Clash. There were later waves of punk rock (bands like the Dead Kennedys, Minutemen, Circle Jerks) and there were not-strictly-punk spinoffs especially in the NYC art scene (Talking Heads, Television, Patti Smith)... but come on, anything written up in "Punk" was clearly at ground zero of the scene.

I mean I can disprove the flat earth theory by walking around the world, orbiting around the earth in space, or use something that relies on that, like say GPS. Whether Green Day is punk or not is a matter of peoples opinions. We can discuss what punk meant in the 70s, what it means today, whether its still relevant, how Green Day fits into that, it's pretty much someone's opinion whether they classify them as Punk.

Apparently The Monkees were also written up in Punk, are we calling them punk now?

Whether Green Day is punk is debatable... probably mostly centering around whether you think punk is a musical style or a philosophy.. but I'm really just saying that it's not really debatable that the Sex Pistols were punk, since the term "punk rock" was pretty much coined to describe what they were doing.

I don't think Green Day counts as punk rock, because actual punk rock was about a lot more than the music... so Survival Research Labs, f'rinstance, was definitely punk in my book... and so were Nazi skinheads, although they sucked. But as you say, opinions vary.

If you've read the Monkees writeup in "Punk", it's a snide hit piece the thrust of which is "these guys represent everything we're not". Punks hated hippies, and fake Madison-Avenue canned hippies were considered about the lowest of the low.

Personally I'd rate the Monkees a bit better than that, once they started dropping acid... anybody who gave me Head surely can't be all bad!

> and so were Nazi skinheads, although they sucked. But as you say, opinions vary.

Nazi skinheads are alcoholic sociopaths who dream of an authoritarian, fascist world dictatorship. I'm not sure how that fits the punk ethos?

I think it's a problem of specificity. Green Day's music do or did sound like punk, but do they (still) live the punk lifestyle/ideology? Did they ever?

I remember that question being hotly debated even before Dookie came out. Hard to believe this is still something people quibble over. Let’s get back to tabs vs spaces ;)

Still? No. Did they ever? Yes. I would never touch Nimrod, but I'm not at all embarrassed to still listen to Kerplunk.

And why shouldn't they be?

What throws them into the "not punk" category? Making money? Growing older?

Pretty much. Malcom McLaren's svengali ambitions notwithstanding, commercialism ain't punk.

The real germ of punk rock was pretty close to "Fuck Thatcher's England and Reagan's America, and all they stand for".

Here's some actual punk rockers participating in the music industry...


Wouldn't that literally mean that as soon as you're successful/make money you're not a punk anymore? I guess you could give it away, but assuming you're not entirely pursuing the cash, what does it matter?

I mean Jello's done ok, right? And I don't think anyone would argue Ian MacKaye or Brett Gurewitz weren't punk and they've got old and made a fair amount of cash...

I'm not totally sure that follows. In reference to Malcom McLaren, he specifically put together a band, and named it the Sex Pistols and dressed them to market his clothing store (called Sex). The band was formed to sell the NY punk scene to London. Take from that what you may.

Outside of a music genre, punk existed as a counter culture for a number of people who couldn't fit in or thrive in the monocultralism of the late 70s-80s. Punk isn't about a level of money or success. It's about contributing to counter culture rather than the monoculture! When that monoculture ceased to exist, the counter culture that was punk slowly splintered and evolved as well (but I think that's another topic altogether).

Anyway, to relate this back to Green Day, shortly after leaving their indie record label, they changed their sound (so they were no longer punk as a genre - compare them and how they evolved to another Berkeley band like Fifteen) and played for the mainstream crowd (so they were no longer punk as a counter culture).

Now, to relate this to MRR, and possibly explain why people care about the "punk" label, Tim Yo's attitude around once punk bands going mainstream certainly wasn't the best, and he did a lot to put forward this "punker than thou" type of image/attitude that (I think) hurt the punk counter culture in the long run. Most people really didn't (or wouldn't) care, but Tim did and was popular as the tastemaker of punk.

Fifteen! The album "Lucky" was a revelation to me.

"Wouldn't that literally mean that as soon as you're successful/make money you're not a punk anymore?"

That school of thought was definitely well-represented in the punk scene, although I don't subscribe to it. There was a strong streak of self-destructiveness in punk.

The money itself isn't really the point, it's more like what you do to get it. Punk was about DIY, staying raw & real. Graduating from independent labels & playing for the scene into major labels, college radio, and playing for the masses is pretty much the opposite of that. That's when Green Day moved on from their roots.

I'm not hating on them; I'd very likely have done the same thing in their shoes. It's just not punk.

OTOH, DKs, Minor Threat, Bad Religion... their members continued to make their way singing that Sinatra song (although happily not ODing on smack). They're a good example of how to do it.

Haha, I think we're going to end up arguing the same point and I'd strongly guess that the whole scene has / had an much of an impact on your life as it has on mine...

I'm pretty much with you. I've got very little time for the punker than thou crowd, but I think it's a pretty interesting area to discuss. I mean, if you're doing something unpopular and it becomes popular and you keep doing it - are you not 'punk' anymore? Equally, if you're doing exactly what the hell you want without worrying about it being a commercial success or not, isn't that about as raw and real as it gets?

"Equally, if you're doing exactly what the hell you want without worrying about it being a commercial success or not, isn't that about as raw and real as it gets?"

Punk had specific ideas about what qualified as raw/real, and it was a lot closer to "shock the bourgeousie" than to "raising capital to create web apps". We can't claim everything we like under the banner of punk, strictly speaking. If you're not within spitting distance of someone disrespecting an authority figure, how is it punk?

But sure, the core ideas underlying punk are far more universal than punk rock itself. I've known people who claim Jesus as a punk. There's an argument to be made!

Just to draw some semantic boundaries as I see it:

Meat Puppets I - straight punk Meat Puppets II - getting tired of the limitations of hardcore. Half punk, half not. Up On the Sun - not punk. Closer in spirit to R.W. Emerson than "Jesus Entering from the Rear".

Same guys, same attitude, kept it real, grew out of punk.

Modern Lovers - punk before punk was even a thing (like, say, the Undertones). Jonathan Richman - not punk. Same guy, pretty much the same attitude, grew out of punk.

In fact Jonathan's got a very charming bit about growing out of punk:


Fun to reminisce. Anyway, back to the 21st century and the bourgeouis concerns that occupy my sellout life (having failed to live fast and die young).

I saw Jello spinning recently at a fetish party at a gay bar. Punk enough for me.

To me, punk rock is more about "do it simple, give no shits" than anything else. Making money isn't a problem, but caring more about the money is a problem. Growing old isn't a problem, but worrying about growing old is a problem. If you want to see some old rich punk rock, check out this video of Mick Jones playing at his local library: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UcL91CKyivE

Can't get more punk than that.

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