Tag Archives: Attila the stockbroker

Undaunted (selected poems 2014-2016) by Attila The Stockbroker

Attila The Stockbroker - UndauntedFor over thirty years Attila The Stockbroker has stood as one of the primary forces in the movement of ranting poetry. Grown from the same place as the second wave of punk in the early 1980s, the ranters were often found on the same stages as their noisier contemporaries, but, like the bands, over the years most have fallen by the wayside in one way or another.

Not so Attila. Following his fascinating and frank autobiography last year comes a new set of his poems, his eighth since 1985, suitably titled Undaunted.

Coming from the same scene that gave us the likes of Crass it’s not surprising that much of Attila’s reputation comes from his rabble rousing rebel ranting, and that is firmly in evidence here.

As up to the minute as it’s possible to be he takes on the targets you’d expect, Trump, Brexit, Farage and May in particular, in his own scathing, satirical and down to earth way.

While the titular poem, one of the books longest, is a more serious affair than many, elsewhere it is Attila’s streak of (appropriately) crass humour that makes this more than an ‘angry old leftie’ having a go with Rock ‘n’ Roll Brexit, Farageland, Theresa The Appeaser and Corbyn Supporters From Hell (a play on one of his earlier works) as highlights.

Attila The Stockbroker on stage with Barnstormer

Attila on stage with Barnstormer at Vale Earth Fair 2014

Along with these though we get another side to Attila, one that has always been there but seems more poignant as he moves on with life, poems that, in many ways, feel they really be credited to John. In these he takes a look a life, death and football in a way that is genuinely poignant.

It would be easy for his words on these subjects to become a bit cliché or over-processed like so much bad food, but his manner and style of writing and description just makes them feel real as in Candid Camera, Auntie Rose and the hugely effecting My Ninth Birthday.

Throughout all of these Attila’s politics still feature whether it’s championing the NHS or highlighting how past Conservative governments have caused tragedy for working class communities but in a less direct way, so it’s My Doctor Martens that pulls the two sides together and exists as a macrocosm of the rest of the collection.

Attila The Stockbroker

Accompanied by some excellent illustrations by Dan Woods (guitarist with Attila’s band, Barnstormer) and (I guess i should admit my involvement) a rather nice photo by yours truly taken at the Vale Earth Fair a few years back, Undaunted see Attila The Stockbroker continue to do just what he’s always done; speak his truth loud, proud and clear with an honesty, wit and humour many he ridicules could do with learning a thing or two about.

Much like his great inspiration John Cooper Clarke, Attila’s work may be best experienced read live and loud by its author but none-the-less the written versions remain hugely effective and effecting and it doesn’t seem there’s any slowing down this undaunted veteran yet.

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Arguments Yard: My Autobiography by Attila The Stockbroker

Arguments Yard by Attila The StockbrokerThe lives of many punks from the late 70s and 80s have been rendered in text in recent years with varying results, I have in the past particularly enjoyed John Lydon’s first autobiography, but none I have read thus far have quite left me with the same feeling as this one.

Attila The Stockbroker, aka John Baine, has been something of a punk journeyman, starting out as a bass player before taking on mandolin, mandola (specifically one called Nelson), fiddle, medieval recorders and it seems anything else that comes his way. But it was his brand of ‘ranting’ performance poetry that made his name.

As well as the stories of gigs and tours, from Harlow in Essex to New Zealand, Canada and pretty much all over Europe, what really stands out in Attila’s story is how everything is related to his strong political beliefs and how these associate with his work.

From the start its clear (even if you didn’t know before, though chances are if you’re reading Arguments Yard you do) that Attila’s politics are, to say the least, to the left of things – I won’t go into detail as I know I’ll just get the specifics wrong. This informed a lot of the choices of gigs and tours he made and leads to us getting a very interesting insight into a side of the world in the 1980s the mainstream media tends not to discuss very much.

Particularly fascinating in this are the chapters on his tours of East Germany (and other Eastern Bloc countries), which paint a far more balanced picture than I’d ever heard. Certainly it wasn’t all wine and roses, and in some places things seem particularly bleak, but there is also a strong streak of free discussion and creativity evident – at least in East Germany.

Attila (seated) with fellow ranter Seething Wells

Attila (seated) with fellow ranter Seething Wells in the mid 1980s

What this serves to show, along with his discussion of his role in miners strike protests, is the level of truth Attila seems to imbue all his work with – again if you’re familiar with his oeuvre this won’t come as a surprise but its impressive to read none-the-less.

More fascinating stories are told of Attila’s formative years on the punk circuit delivering his left-wing message in the face of the National Front and the British Movement, far right organisations that had a worryingly large following in the early 1980s (and sadly seem to be raising their ugly, likely shaved, heads again today – boneheads though, not skinheads).

Much like the East German passages, these shed a new light (for me) on a period I’d only really ever heard one side of.

All these stories could be rather heavy going, but, in the deft words of Attila, they are engaging and absorbing throughout – even when he’s talking about football!

Having seen Attila perform a few times (and I’m proud to say having supported him once as my musical alter-ego) its clear he writes very much as he speaks. Throughout his voice came across, making it almost like having the audio book playing in your head, or Attila there telling you these stories first hand.

Dropped in at appropriate times across the book are some of Attila’s poems and the lyrics to some of his songs that help in telling the stories and setting the scene. Many of these are out of print elsewhere and are no longer performed making Arguments Yard the only place you can easily find them and again, through Attila’s writing style, they really leap off the page if his voice is kept in mind while reading.

Attila The Stockbroker on stage with Barnstormer

Attila on stage with Barnstormer at Vale Earth Fair 2014

The final third of the book deals with much more personal matters but again these are rendered in fascinating and truly open style, and still run through with a (mostly) more relaxed string of gigs and tours. This all culminates in Attila’s most personal and emotionally effecting work, in many ways his masterpiece, The Long Goodbye.

As a fan of Attila already, and sharing some (if not all) of his political ideals – I think it was Fat Mike from NoFX who said if you agree with everything someone else says it’s deeply suspicious – I very much enjoyed Arguments Yard, but I think for anyone with an interest in punk rock, performance poetry, and life in Britain and Europe in the last half century there is a lot to enjoy, all told through the unique, honest and powerful voice of a true ranter.

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Vale Earth Fair 2014 – Vale Castle – 24/08/14

The Recks

The Recks on the Castle Stage

For what is being reported as the 39th year, the Vale Earth Fair once again took over the Vale Castle in Guerney for 12 hours of music on six stages spanning everything from acoustic traditional folk and psytrance to drum ‘n’ bass and punk rock on Sunday 24th August 2014.

I was on hand reviewing what I could of the festival, largely focussing on the main, Castle Stage, and the other live electric stage, The Stage Against The Machine.

You can see a full gallery of my photos from the Earth Fair on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page by clicking here and a condensed version of my review was published in the Guernsey Press on Saturday 30th August. (Scroll down to read my extended review)

Vale Earth Fair 2014 review scan - 30:08:14

Extended Review

The sky might have been a bit overcast but that didn’t seem to be dampening any spirits as the 2014 Vale Earth Fair got going just after midday on Sunday 24th August and The Crowman and the Fiddling Pixie stepped up onto the impressive new main stage inside the Vale Castle.

The Crowman

The Crowman and the Fiddling Pixie

Given the early hour (for a music festival) and relaxed atmosphere, The Crowman was on remarkably restrained form sticking, mostly, to his and the Pixie’s slower songs. In these more relaxed songs The Crowman’s songwriting comes to the fore and, with the benefit of the excellent sound on offer on this stage, really showed his songs in an excellent light. Of course there was still room for a few stompers and Mystery Train and The Robert Johnson Resurrection Blues got hands clapping, kicking off this varied festival in truly unique style.

Following the restrained start from The Crowman, there was no such subtlety from Subversion as they blasted through a set of their pop-rock originals which bring to mind Foo Fighters, Muse and The Red Hot Chilli Peppers, along with a few covers. Their many gigs at pubs around the island over recent months have seen the band come on considerably and they showed themselves to be very much deserving to bring the rock to the main stage and vocalist/guitarist Richard Mancini and bassist Marcus Tedde seemed remarkably at home on the bigger stage.

Robert J Hunter

Robert J Hunter

After something of a last-minute reshuffle Jawbone opened things up on the Stage Against The Machine, just outside the castle gates, with their set of punk rock. While the band seemed to be having fun on stage they were the first of several bands to suffer from a very messy sound mix out in the crowd that left their set feeling like something of a mess.

Following Jawbone came Robert J. Hunter, continuing something of a mini-tour of London and Guernsey venues, with his three-piece band. This line-up has allowed Robert a greater space for his original electric blues to really cut through and his guitar work and voice sounded immense today, even as he too battled a few sound issues. As the set went on the audience grew and they tended to stick around while Robert produced a highlight of the afternoon with an intense run through of his track See You In Hell.

Inside the castle Jersey outfit The Devil and The Deep were storming through a set of insistent indie that was the first to get a few on their feet and, while I’m not hugely familiar with their sound it seemed to missing some of their usual electronics, but the band weren’t missing a beat and kept the high energy feel of the afternoon’s music going.

Buffalo Huddleston

Buffalo Huddleston

Buffalo Huddleston rounded off what has been a huge summer for them next and they lived up to the hype, despite now being down a violin since the departure of Becky Hamilton. While Becky’s violin and vocals were missed the other five members of the band made up for it with their usual mix of great songs and a laid back vibe that can be enjoyed both relaxing on the grass or up and dancing and left people anticipating their upcoming album.

The Crazy Babies are always an unpredictable beast and their set on the Stage Against the Machine certainly backed this up as they were joined on stage today by Ramblin’ Nick Mann and his cigar box guitar (for the first couple of songs) as they staggered their way through a set of Ozzy Osbourne covers. While the band are at best sloppy their set was, as ever, delivered with a sense of fun and the feeling that many members of the band could actually really nail these songs if they wanted to.

Top Buzzer

Top Buzzer

Top Buzzer hit the Stage Against the Machine with a blast of up beat pop punk next. With a reputation following years of gigging in the UK, Jersey and over here there was an eager contingent in the crowd reveling in their mix of old and new material, and their excellent take on M’s Pop Muzik.

Frontman Dukey comes across as someone born to lead a band as he did his best to work the crowd and, when they weren’t that forthcoming, took his mic and bass off the stage and played from ground level right in their faces. Despite being another band to suffer less than suitable sonic conditions on this stage they stormed through without missing a beat and seemed to have a great time doing it while seeming to win over quite a few new fans in the process.

Meanwhile the laid back, positive, vibes continued on the main stage with Rentoclean who seem custom-built for the Vale Earth Fair. Their punky mix of reggae and ska sounds and irreverent lyrics got people good-naturedly skanking along as the castle hit its mid-afternoon busy point giving the local four-piece some great exposure.

Dead Sea Skulls

Dead Sea Skulls

The best thing about festivals, and something the Vale Earth Fair seems particularly good at, is putting on bands you may never have seen before but that you know are going to stick in your mind for a long time. Last year for me it was The Correspondents, and this year it was Dead Sea Skulls.

A garage rock trio led by a singing, stand-up drummer with a pure Detroit rock ‘n’ roll looking guitarist and bass player they kicked things up a notch on the main stage with some real Raw Power. Getting yet more on their feet they were the first band to really get control of the crowd and all this with a drummer with a broken foot!

Blakalaska brought their dub-step drenched dance-rock to the Stage Against The Machine as we headed into the evening and were treated to the best sound of the day so far, though it was still far from perfect. New vocalist Lee Rosette brings a new energy to the band that makes their music come to life and, while they may not have had the momentum they did for their headlining set last year, they have, if anything, stepped up their game even further.

The Recks

The Recks

Another band who’ve had an immense summer are Sark based five-piece The Recks. With a few challenges in the lead up to today’s set they didn’t miss a beat, even debuting some new songs that fit in right alongside their more familiar numbers and brought yet more of the crowd to their feet and showed why they have gained the reputation they have, and why they’ve been afforded the chance to spread their wings in the UK this summer.

A year after their last live show, right here in 2013, Of Empires took to the Stage Against the Machine with a new look and new sound. Still based in the classic rock tendencies they’ve always demonstrated, this is a more laid back version with cleaner, more reverb-y, guitars and more restrained vocals.

Of Empires

Of Empires

While this sound was different the band were still their usual selves with frontman Jack Fletcher working the crowd excellently and showing his years of experience on this stage. Even if the new sound did confound expectations somewhat and, at times, made the relatively short set feel like it was going a bit too slow, it was clear the band have confidence in their new material and it will be interesting to see them develop from here now they are back on the live scene.

While The Delegators soul drenched reggae was uplifting those inside the castle, Attila The Stockbroker brought his medieval folk-punk band Barnstormer to the now very appropriately named Stage Against The Machine.

Attila The Stockbroker with Barnstormer

Attila The Stockbroker with Barnstormer

Starting their set with an original medieval style composition including Attila on various, recorders, pipes and violin the set went on to take in punk rock, ska and more folk all delivered with a righteous ire that is laced through all the punk poet’s work. A highlight came in the form of Commandte Joe (dedicated to Joe Strummer) and it was good to hear Attila’s songs filled out with a full band that, by the end of the set, had plenty skanking and dancing along to the politically motivated music.

Hitting the stage to the sound of Motorhead’s The Game, To The Woods continued their year of top-notch shows as they barreled through all in their path, both figuratively and at one point literally, with their grunge rock force that seemed to find its home here tonight. While their whole set was one of their strongest the highlight came in their final track where they were joined on stage by Josh De Kooker on a fabulously distorted violin that just kicked things up another gear.

The Mouse Outfit

The Mouse Outfit

Having stormed The Fermain Tavern earlier in the year The Mouse Outfit did the same to the Vale Castle. The funk-hip-hop band were on fire throughout their set and had the castle crowd in the palm of their hands all the way as they attracted the biggest and most enthusiastic crowd of the day. I’d had big expectations of this set following previous hype and I’m very happy to say they more than exceeded these expectations and provided not only one of the highlights of the day, but of all the Earth Fair’s I’ve ever been to.

Outside the castle Tantale’s laid back but powerful indie-rock had its usual great sound but, coming as it did after the force of To The Woods and alongside the upbeat celebration of The Mouse Outfit it fell a bit flat for me tonight. That said the crowd that were there stuck around and seemed generally appreciative for the duration of the set.

The Freestylers

The Freestylers

The Freestylers blasted the crowd inside the castle with a wall of drum ‘n’ bass to round off the main stage line up and, while I found it impenetrable and found them disappointing after The Mouse Outfit, as it was near impossible to tell where the physical instruments ended and the electronics began, those who had stuck around, which was still a big crowd, were jumping and certainly the Castle Stage ended on a high.

I was back on more familiar ground with the Stage Against The Machine headliners, New York rockers, Jonny Lives! Back again after an earlier set on the main stage last year they seemed to be on much better form this time round and they attracted one of the bigger crowds I remember seeing at this time on the outside stage of the festival.

Jonny Lives!

Jonny Lives!

Frontman Jonny Dubowsky was a fabulous happy and engaging frontman tonight and drummer George Le Page really stood out as he stepped in for their usual drummer who is currently working with his own band back in the US.

Closing the 2014 Vale Earth Fair on a positive, rocking, note Jonny Lives! set did some up something of the mood of the day for me as it was positive and celebratory which is something the Vale Earth Fair always seems to be aiming for.

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Norman Watt-Roy, Attila The Stockbroker and support – Fermain Tavern – 19/10/13

Wilko Johnson and Norman Watt-Roy

Wilko Johnson and Norman Watt-Roy

There was a real sense of anticipation in the air as gig goers headed to The Fermain Tavern on Saturday 19th October 2013. Not only was this down to the return of punk-poet legend Attila The Stockbroker to the Tavern’s stage, but also because Blockheads‘ “faith and grace” legend Norman Watt-Roy was headlining with his new band… not to mention the fact that it looked like he might be joined on stage by a third legend in the form of Dr. Feelgood founding member Wilko Johnson.

Before any of that though two Guernsey acts had the privilege of opening the show, starting with The Phantom Cosmonaut. For obvious reasons I won’t say too much about his set other than I had a great time on stage and, from my point of view it was the best gig I’ve played, at least since opening for Wilko on his ‘Farewell Tour’ earlier in the year.

The Crowman

The Crowman

The Crowman (and the “Fiddling Pixie”) were up next and, in his own inimitable style, he managed to break a string on his acoustic guitar during the first song of the set. None-the-less the alter-ego of Thee Jenerators/The Risk/Speakeasy frontman Mark Le Gallez picked up his banjo and carried on regardless with his unique brand of garage-folk that takes in influences of everything from traditional music to The Cramps via down and dirty blues and Hank III style country.

The raw power of The Crowman’s music was backed up for the last few songs tonight by James Le Huray on a four string slide guitar that added something of a Seasick Steve sound to the ongoing racket and made for a set that may have started in an inauspicious fashion but ended on a high.

Attila The Stockbroker

Attila The Stockbroker

Attila The Stockbroker has followed in the footsteps of John Cooper Clarke in both making the phrase punk-poetry a respected genre and in being a favourite at The Fermain Tavern with three gigs here in three years, and tonight continued the trend as his set of spoken word and songs was greeted with warmth, laughter and applause from the start.

Famous for his polemic, ranting style Attila The Stockbroker took on political issues up front, from the off with no subject seemingly taboo with particular highlights of this being a poem about Maggie Thatcher’s recent descent into hell and a song about media coverage of one of Prince Harry’s more public indiscretions. These come alongside all out comedic stories from the road such as Punk Night At The Duck’s Nuts which had everyone in the Tavern laughing and cheering along.

What sets Attila apart from many others in the punk-poetry arena is the way he counterpoints the comedic and the polemic with the heartfelt and the personal. While every word he utters is as genuine as they come, it is when he begins reciting poetry about his family that the real honesty of all his work hits home – tonight this came in the form of a poem about his step father and a story about reminders of his childhood in his late mother’s house.

Following these though he left things on an up note with a solo  version of his band Barnstormer’s song Bye Bye Banker! which may be a slightly uneasy subject for some in Guernsey but went down a storm tonight.

Norman Watt-Roy and Gilad Atzmon

Norman Watt-Roy and Gilad Atzmon

After a short break four musicians took to the stage who, over the course of the following hour, would put on one of the tightest and most impressive performances I’ve ever seen.

Led by Norman Watt-Roy the band ran through a set taking in jazz-fusion numbers alongside their own versions of Ian Dury and the Blockheads’ classics and a few originals as well.

While Norman was undeniably the centre of attention and the leader of his band as he played his custom Fender bass in a way that no other can, seemingly being one with his instrument as his fingers danced on the strings and frets, the other three members all shone as well.

Norman Watt-Roy

Norman Watt-Roy

Particularly impressive were saxophone and accordion player, as well as occasional vocalist, Gilad Atzmon and drummer Asaf Sirkis.

Atzmon used effects to give an extra tone to the already fantastic sax playing and worked most closely with Norman in putting on the show and really making a strong connection with the audience in a way few musicians at any level manage.

Sirkis meanwhile was a technical drumming marvel as he switched from the pseudo-funk of the Blockheads numbers, through frankly amazing jazz-fusion work, to solid and R’n’B style beats with seemingly effortless ease and a huge smile, though he wasn’t alone as all four members seemed to be enjoying the gig hugely.

They weren’t alone in that though as the crowd was packed to the front throughout Norman’s set with many moving, how anyone could stand still to such insistent rhythms is unknown to me, and for those in the crowd who were fellow musicians we could only look on in wonder at the playing on stage.

Wilko Johnson

Wilko Johnson

If the atmosphere was high during the set it shot up even further as Norman Watt-Roy welcomed long time collaborator Wilko Johnson to the stage. With his unique guitar playing added to the mix the band’s sound developed further, taking on a more R’n’B vibe but still with a hint of the jazz and funk from earlier in the set so a couple of Wilko’s own tunes were given the Norman Watt-Roy treatment before the band ended their set.

They weren’t off stage long though before they were called back for an encore which rook the form of an extended version of Dr. Feelgood classic Roxette that reached a crescendo for an already amazing night.

The band left the stage with the promise that they would be back soon and with the crowd calling for more – much like Wilko’s gig here earlier in the year there was a bittersweet feeling that this might be the last time we get to see him in the flesh on a Guernsey stage but, if it was, what a way to go, and it feels like he’s passed his torch to Norman Watt-Roy, a man with an already formidable reputation, playing with one of the best bands I have ever had the pleasure to see in such intimate surroundings.

And all that’s not forgetting Attila The Stockbroker – I’m not sure a better night of varied musical entertainment could ever be had whether by happenstance or by design as this one.

You can see a full gallery of my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page.

And here is a video clip from the night thanks to Guernsey drumming veteran Sav Russo:

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Music and poetry at the Guernsey Literary Festival

Linton Kwesi Johnson

The second Guernsey Literary Festival took place over the weekend of 14th, 15th and 16th of September 2012 and as well as a bunch of stuff about writing, books and poetry also featured some live music and poetry performance.

The Friday night of the festival saw a low-key night of music take place at the Hub (an inflatable tent next to Guernsey’s Market Building), featuring Oliver Daldry and The Space Pirates of Rocquaine.

The Saturday night saw live music go head to head with live poetry all with a flavour of reggae and punk at The Fermain Tavern with Linton Kwesi Johnson and Attila The Stockbroker performing at the same gig as punk veterans Ruts DC.

Here’s my review of the show which appeared in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 22nd September 2012:

Here are some photos and a couple of videos from the festival (all from my iPhone so varied quality):

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