Turn down the music? YouaEUR( tm) d better ask my punk parents

7 months, 3 days ago

Having hardcore punk musicians for parents has been a noisy pleasure for Holly MacHenry and an education

Its Tuesday evening. I am watching the posters in my bedroom, wondering if this time they will manage to cling to the vibrating walls. One peels free of its Blu-Tack shackles and falls to the floor. Again. Tuesday is my parents band-practice night and as my bedroom is positioned directly above the living room( their practice space ), I am reminded of the power of music on a weekly basis. Every Tuesday, I am acutely is conscious that my room has two chimneys operating up through it, which channel musical vibrations upward like a giant church organ.

My parents post-punk band is called Mwstard, and they like to practice at full volume. I will often hear Dad calling to Mum, trying to attain his voice heard above the noise of bass and snare drums, the high hat and the cowbell solos. But while shes physically still in the living room, her mind is far away. In most families, it is the parents hollering up the stairs telling the teenagers to turn their music down, but in our household the music is my mothers. It is non-optional and always very, very loud.

Some might say hardcore punk( and even the slightly more tuneful post-punk) is unsuitable for children, but I disagree. Both my mothers have been in punk bands since the 80 s; Ive grown up surrounded by punks and their political music. It has shaped my core values and notions, and Im grateful for its positive influence. While a lot of kids were becoming slowly immune to violence from watching too many cartoons, I was being kept fully alert by defiant lyrics.

This education began before I was born. My parents satisfied through the punk scene and began to get to know each other when Dad asked Mum to be the drummer in the band he was starting. Twenty-five years on, its own history as a couple and my history, too is interwoven with the bands they were in. Most of the time, they have played in separate bands while mutually supporting one another.

When Mum was pregnant with me, Dad drove her, five other feisty punk women and a cello around Europe on a Witchknot tour( Witchknot was one of her earlier punk bands ).

Holly MacHenrys parents Alec and Sarah, with( right) guitarist Geraint Hughes, practising for their band Mwstard at home. Photo: Dimitris Legakis for the Guardian

Witchknots lead singer was pregnant, too, but this didnt deter them from playing live. Mum could feel me kicking during gigs and interpreted this as me asking them to keep it down( I prefer to think of it as the first stirs of what my seven-year-old ego would call fancy footwork ). At eight months pregnant, Mum joined a scratching drumming band in the May Day procession in Bradford, pushing a kick drum along on buggy wheels. After the bumps was transformed into newborns, the Witchknot sister band Baba Yaga began to refer to themselves as post-natal, post-punk.

One of my earliest memories is visiting the practice space at the 1 in 12 club in Bradford , one of the only remaining venues in Britain that is run by its members. Its a four-storey building with a veggie/ vegan cafe, a library, bar, gig floor and rehearsal space. Painted in black on the outside wall are the club values: Liberty, Equality, Solidarity. Inside, it is cold because of the bare brick walls and specific floor; voice echoes up the winding staircases and the steps begin a little too high for my small legs. As a toddler, Im mostly here for the free chocolate raisins, but Im happy to see the familiar faces of the band members, too. Baba Yaga are taking a mid-practice break, a vegetarian buffet rests on top of the closing of the bass-guitar instance, and the room is hot with the leftover energy of their music. Conversation flows quickly between them and they often chuckle. There is a distinct sense of their contentment in being together.

I have a lot of fondness for the punk community that I have grown up in. Having spent a lot of time in venues like the 1 in 12 club when I was younger, whenever I consider any of the old faces now it feels like a family reunion. Theyre inspiring people.

A dear friend and central figure of this DIY punk scene, Protag, succumbed not long ago. He was the bass player for the anarcho punk band Zounds , among others, and was much loved. Friends gathered from all over the country and beyond to help with the funeral, and although his loss has been keenly felt, the amazing potential of people power was also felt as a mourning community pulled together to give our friend the send-off he deserved.

Protag was an empowering person; he made things happen. For Mums birthday party a few years ago, he brought a solar Pa that he constructed himself and mixed the sound for the bands that played. Afterwards, when I went to thank him, he recognise it with a nod, and that was all. Its very rare to meet people with so little ego that they are happy to be the backstage crew without wanting anything in return. Ive never respected person so much wholly based on one gesture. Thats what I learned from Protag: do good things that need to be done, simply because they are good. Run for the common good. Its beautiful.

Im now starting to build my own networks with the kids of people Mum and Dad played music with in the 80 s and 90 s. My friends Bratakus are a riot grrrl band, daughters of the singer of Sedition, Dads bands touring cronies. Our generation is working hard to keep the same spirit of DIY ethics alive. Its a strong family tree that maintains growing.

Watch the video for Jolt My Bones by Cat in a Drum( Holly MacHenry)

Ive started stimulating my own music as a guitarist and vocalist/ songwriter and have put some of it on YouTube. I wrote my first sung, Jolt My Bones, after going to the annual free Degeneration punk and ska festival last year. Im told that the organiser has so many bands wanting to play that he has a hard time constricting down the list to fit into three days. Its humbling to know there are so many skilled musicians who could easily get paid gigs, but are happy to play for free simply because the event has such a good atmosphere. Now myself( performing as Cat in a Drum) and Bratakus are in the process of planning some next-generation punk gigs for us and other young musicians from similar upbringings to play.

Mum is delighted that I am taking such an interest. New cats and old punkies! she shouts out excitedly one day. Mum “ve decided to” get me embroiled in her latest artistic project, and has had a flashing of inspiration. She wants the two of us to generate our own version of the famous Ian Dury and the Blockheads New Boots and Panties !! record sleeve. A few months later, and were outside a vintage clothes shop in Cardiff. I sink my hands into my pockets and try to look mildly confrontational my endeavor at a Baxter pose( Baxter is Ian Durys son, who features on the cover-up ). Next to me, Mum, looking particularly dapper in her mock Ian suit jacket, neck-tie and Doc Martens, stands with her arms behind her back, looking vaguely to the side. Dad, our cameraman, seems the most uncomfortable out of the three of us, but thats probably as they were quite a queue of people forming to his left who are impatient to get past but dont want to spoiling the picture.

The question I most often get asked when people at gigs was discovered that Im the daughter, is, Isnt it embarrassing ? I tend to contemplate the issues to when Mwstard are truly getting into their flowing: Dad has his eyes closed and is bobbing his head as though hes part of some shamanic rite; Mum looks down at her drum kit, her expression determinedly blank, like someone who has noticed a funny dance move out of the corner of her eye, and is trying really hard to focus on what shes doing rather than laughter. If theres ever a time to be embarrassed by your mothers band, this must be it, I find myself believing but I dont feel it. I sit behind the merch stall, smiling and tapping my toe. I can see they are happy and love gigging just as much as they always have. Of all the emotions, embarrassment does not come to mind.

Another Tuesday evening, Id say this one about 3.0 on the Richter scale. The kine in the field next door are peering over the fencing as though describe by the music and trying to work out its source. It would appear that my mothers have discovered the exact frequency that summons the animals. A few hours later, my room stops rattling as another rehearsal objective. Not long after, I rest my head on the soft pillow and fall into a peaceful sleep, only to be woken the following morning by a suspiciously Mwstard-esque herd of mooing cows.

Read more: www.theguardian.com