Discharge burst out of Stoke just as the first wave of Punk Rock was dying on its feet & the second wave were being sussed as fakers, one by one. Discharge led that third wave, the one that history would later label Anarcho Punk.
Alongside Crass, Discharge played their part in politicising the movement beyond the slightly contrived posturings of the first wavers. CND, RAR, ANL – all had become staple lapel badges for the Punk Rock generation – but it was the tedium of nascent Thatcherism & the threat of impending nuclear destruction that fired Discharge. Punk Rock had a conscience, after all.
Below, Jean Encoule talks to Garry Moloney about Punk Rock, the Leamington Spa axis, the Varukers & Discharge, and below that tells out all about Captain Oi’s selection of Discharge re-masters:
trakMARX – What was the first record you ever bought?
Garry – Wizard: “See My Baby Jive” – either that or a Slade 45 – one or the other – really can’t remember.
trakMARX – What was the first music periodical you bought regularly?
Gary – Sounds – they seemed to cover my areas of interest – that and Alternative Sounds – a fanzine from Coventry – they ran a review of an early group I was in – the Varukers – a gig review of us. I was already well into the local scene by 1978 – so, obviously, you support local endeavour.
trakMARX – When & how did you first discover Punk Rock?
Garry – The daily papers, to be honest - and the Pistols doing “Pretty Vacant” on TOTPs! That & seeing people dressed differently around town. Word of mouth – meeting other likeminded souls - & communicating, I guess.
trakMARX – When did you begin your love affair with the drum kit?
Garry – I remember being at school with my then close mate, Anthony (the Varukers – vocals), & we were already desperate to start our own group – but, not surprisingly, we couldn’t play a note. I started out on drums – but we struggled to find a bass player – so I played bass until we found a drummer. I played bass for about 3 of our early gigs – definitely one with you lot (Domestic Bliss) – which was at the Drill Hall at the top of Henley Street in SuponA. I remember being in the ‘backstage area’ sizing up Domestic Bliss! You have to remember that despite having this thing – this ‘movement’, for the sake of a better word – we were all quite competitive to be honest, weren’t we?
trakMARX – Yeah, I guess – I mean, to be fair, Domestic Bliss were already fragmenting by then – we were the death of the second wave, if anything - & you ‘kids’ – the Varukers – were actually the beginning of a new wave – one that would become known as Hardcore/Anarcho Punk.
Garry – When the Varukers started, we just wanted to get involved. I guess that we were a couple of years younger than the kids in Flack Off, The Shapes & School Meals. I remember seeing Gary MacManus (bass - School Meals – sadly no longer with us, RIP) – down the dole office, signing on - & you know, registering the fact that he was a punker – looked cool. I was definitely aware of local groups – aware that Punk was happening around us – in our town. We just embraced speed – the concept – not the drug – took it to it’s logical limit: harder, faster. Living what we felt was going off around us – that Punk Rock spirit.
trakMARX – You played on the Varukers’ debut 45 – “Protest & Survive” – what do you remember about the recording?
Garry – We did the single for Inferno Records of Birmingham – now known as Tempest Records – we recorded it Birmingham. The engineer at the studio thought we were doing a demo – at the end he said, “Oh shit, is this for a single? I thought it was only a dodgy demo. If I’d have known it was for Inferno, I’d of put a bit more effort into it”. We didn’t care though – we thought it was fucking brilliant. By this stage, of course, Anthony & I had been running with the idea – the Varukers – for about 18-months – line up changes, usual shit – having fun, experimenting, developing our ethos – that kinda bullshit. I guess it was an achievement to us to actually get a record out – very exciting. The first demos we did with Johnny Rivers were the ones – the first time, for me – I loved it. The whole process - & having something of our own to pester people’s ears with was a bonus.
trakMARX – This third wave – the one you were inadvertently starting – was a far more politically extreme entity than the Punk Rock that came before it – where did that ideological concern spring from.
Garry – Whether it was “Feeding Of The 5000” by Crass – or “Realities Of War” by Discharge – it doesn’t really matter. Both really changed the feeling – as well as the tempo. The first wave and second wave of bands were groundbreaking, for me, obviously, life changing – but the third wave seemed to take things a bit deeper. Plus, there was a local element – Discharge were from Stoke. Suddenly, & you have to remember here that in those days – to us – even Stratford was a long way away – the London scene was distant – our only access being the music papers – Crass & Discharge seemed more accessible, somehow. We seemed to be growing at the same speed - & so we felt part of that growth. Crass & Discharge seemed more accessible. By then, even The Clash & the Pistols were on a pedestal – no matter now gob splattered it may have been. You have to remember how important a couple of years in age difference actually is when you’re 16!
trakMARX – You left The Varukers after their debut 45 – how did you get involved with Discharge?
Gary – Our Leamo Punk clique used to go to see them regularly - & we eventually stumped up the courage to bug them for a support slot. When I gave Cal a demo & he said, “Sure, you can support us – you can play drums for us too, if you want”. The gig was at the Victoria Hall in Stoke - & Cal had posed the question to me just before we went on. We’d become reasonably good mates by then – you know, following them from gig to gig, & all that – I hit the stage that night – the rest of the group had no idea I was about to be poached – I played that gig with the decision rattling around my brain: should I go with Discharge & leave the mates I had built the Varukers with – almost a case of “Should I Stay, Or Should I Go”. It was a tough call – even tougher because we were all so tight as mates – at the end of the day, I shouldn’t have worried – they knew I loved the Discharge hardcore sound – it was our major influence, after all. They were so cool – all of them – they just wished me luck & off I went. We all remained the best of mates, so it felt cool on all fronts, really. I continued to hang with them for the next few months – until I was eventually dragged Stoke-wards for Discharge duties. The Varukers soon found a guy from Leicester – now sadly deceased, can’t recall his name, sorry – but they found Brains anyway, & the rest is history . . . or in Brains case, his story!
trakMARX – The first Discharge 45 you drummed on was “Never Again” – what you recall from the sessions?
Garry – We did it at Cargo, Rochdale. I’d been spending a lot of time in Stoke. Living in Leamo, driving all over the Midlands, & further, for hours – always tried to make it home when I could. I remember getting my first car – a Wartburg Knight! The kit was a struggle to fit in. I eventually got a Ford Escort Estate. My parents used to worry about me bombing around in the Wartburg. I was still very naïve back then, of course – it was a period of adjustment to being out there in the big wide world on my own.
trakMARX – What can you remember about your first Discharge gig?
Garry – It was at the Mayflower in Manchester. Only 8-months earlier I’d been at the same venue as a punter. Now I was back, on stage, it was incredibly nerve-wracking, to be fair. I dropped a few beats – but no one seemed to notice. Cal told me it had been a goon one – that we’d get better – but I was just so fucking excited. So glad to be a part of it.
trakMARX – What were the audiences like on those early Discharge tours?
Garry – It was like a plague of Punks. Every city you rolled up in - a gang was waiting. It was like a family reunion – every gig.
trakMARX – By this stage, the Punk look was changing – more studs, more leather, more Anarchy signs. Was this reflected in your audience of the time?
Garry – Yeah, definitely, everything was constantly changing. Progressing somehow - no matter how it may have seemed to anyone watching from the outside. The world seemed a dangerous place to us. We reflected that danger to our audience - & through their look, their style, their attitude - they reflected those concerns right back at us. The threat of nuclear war was omnipresent back then. We all thought the world could end in mutually assured destruction at any time. Cal reflected those concerns - & the force of our music backed up the angst in his lyrics perfectly.
trakMARX – Did you believe at the time that music could affect social change?
Gary – I believed the Pistols & The Clash could change things - & had – but I didn’t really think for one moment that we could change anything at the time. Of course, in retrospect, it’s all relative - the power of what we were doing at the time didn’t really register with me until some years later. That’s the way of youth, isn’t it – you only really recognise what you’ve achieved once you are a safe enough distance way from it?
trakMARX – OK, with the benefit of that hindsight now on board – do you still think that music is capable of effecting social change today?
Garry – I do still believe music is a valid medium. It conveys emotion & information, that’s for sure. I’m a very lyrically observant listener – so, for me – that’s always a major factor. “Stay Free” by The Clash, for example – will always remind me of growing up. Moving on. The emotional content of that song obviously struck a chord with many of us old punkers because every time you sit around discussing the great songs from that era, “Stay Free” is always there or thereabouts – but, to answer your question, I’m not sure anything can change anything anymore. In some ways, I think it’s all too late for that!
trakMARX – You toured the US with Bad Brains, Black Flag & DOA – amongst others, back in 1981 - & again later – what do you recall from those dates?
Garry – Bad Brains used to do a Punk set & a reggae set. They were really sound. Their tour bus left a vapour trail of ganja smoke everywhere they went. Black Flag sound-checked before us one show – did 10-songs – I was blown away. Rollins was walking around backstage on his hands with his feet in the air. He was proper hardcore – what it was all about at the time. All I can remember about DOA are the singer’s white cowboy boots – with red stars! You have to remember the size of the States. We’d do shows with the happening bands from every region we hit: bands like DRI, stuff like that. I’ve still got tons of flyers & stuff – why don’t I dig them out & you can run a Discharge memorabilia page in a future issue?
trakMARX – Yeah, that’s a date – you’d better get that scanner fired up. Right, moving along - & I am aware that we’re jumping all over the place, time-line-wise here, but . . . eventually, your mate & mine, Pooch Purtle, joined on second guitar – what do you remember about Pooch’s time with Discharge?
Garry – I remember that Pooch always owed me petrol money – he’d always pay up in the end – but I always seemed to be driving – stuck behind the wheel. I suppose that with “Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing” we’d pretty much defined the hardcore sound, at the time. Our musicianship was improving, the intensity kept increasing. Motorhead played a big part in the metal element that began to work it’s way into our sound. Pooch came from a more traditional pre-punk-rock school of guitar playing – you know – little solo licks. He was a brilliant rhythm guitarist – but Bones was some act to follow, in my opinion. I guess Pooch did bring a touch of metal to the mix – but we would have gone down that route anyway, to be fair.
trakMARX – You eventually left Discharge in around 1984 – how did it all come to an end?
Garry – The pressure of constant touring & living out of the back of a van became arduous. The excitement began to wane, it was time to move on – simple as that. I’ve got a suitcase full of great memories – as well as that swag I mentioned earlier.
trakMARX – You established your own retail business – Kong CV1 – back in 1987 - & now run outlets in both Coventry & Leamington Spa. How’s it going?
Garry – Back in the Sates on tour, loads of skateboarders would turn up for gigs – mainly on the West Coast. Skate fashion was a development that came directly from the old school hardcore look. At the time, people like Mick Jones (The Clash) were wearing Stussy – I reckoned if it was good enough for Mick! I checked out who was distributing this gear in the UK – folks like Slam City Skates – very important dudes - & Stussy UK – very valid. You couldn’t really make a skate shop work without their support, so massive kudos to them. I’d like to think the business is sound. It’s given me an enormous amount of gratification over the years. When I first got into the fashion world it was almost an extension of the music scene to me – a scene I’d already begun to feel too old for. It’s weird, but back then, for our generation, so to speak, getting old & past it seemed to happen around the age of 30. Obviously, things have changed – as you can now be cool well into your 40s (ha ha!). These days I almost feel I knocked music on the head too soon. Almost grew up before my time, in many ways.
trakMARX – So, do you still buy many LPs these days? Who are you listening to?
Garry – I haven’t bought an LP for ages, the last group I really bought into was The Libertines. I thought they were great. Equal to anything from our generation. To be fair, I usually download stuff, you know? There isn’t that much that turns my head these days. I do still listen to a lot of old school stuff, though. In many ways, to my mind: it’s time for a new musical revolution!
As if by magic, Captain Oi Records appears, laden to the gills with Discharge re-issues:
The first in our deluxe digi-pak round up of the Discharge albums that really matter is this 24-track collection of their Indie Chart topping "Why?" 12" to which we've added the seminal "Realities Of War", "Fight Back" and "Decontrol" singles and a couple of tracks recorded on the legendary "Apocalypse Punk Tour" of 1981. Punk Rock does not get rawer than this!
Claimed by the influential Terroriser magazine to be 'the Greatest Punk Rock Album of all time', this is an LP that no serious collection of Punk Rock can be without. Now featuring the "Never Again", "Warning" and "State Violence State Control" singles, as well as stunning re-mastering by Tim Turan to give the definitive version of this 'must have' release.
Basically a 'Best Of' the band’s heyday, this is 21-slices of the rawest, most brutal Punk Rock ever committed to tape. The likes of Metallica, Anthrax and Sepultura have all covered Discharge songs and their influence can never be over estimated. As with all of our digis of the bands releases this comes with lyrics to all the songs, pictures of all the bands records and sleeve notes by Ian Glasper ("Burning Britain", "The Day The Country Died"). Buy them all!
Jean Encoule – tMx 29 – 04/07