Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Jazz, DIY, punk and me.

It's very rare to see the words jazz, DIY and punk all in the same sentence but I think that they're all closely related and have all played a very important part in my life. The majority of music I play these days is jazz and it's been at least 3 years since I've played a punk gig, but it is from my experience of being in both of those scenes that I have come to realise that there are a lot of similarities in the approach of both jazz and punk music.

For those of you who don't know, when I was 15 I was part of a punk band called The Spungos. We played west coast American style punk influenced by bands like NOFX and Strung Out. The band lasted for roughly 4 years and during that time we became heavily involved in the DIY aspect of punk music. All of us were part of a collective called the Basta! Youth Collective which was made up of about 25 people aged between 15-18. The collective put on gigs, organised tours, released compilation cd's and zines as well as taking over an abandoned parish hall in Greystones, Co.Wicklow. When I think about it now, it was amazing how we managed to be so organised and determined to do something different at such a young age and it is definitely something I'm extremely proud of being a part of. It is also something that inspired me to help start the PRIME collective.

Having been part of the Dublin Jazz scene for the last 2 years now, I haven't felt that far removed from the punk scene I used to be part of. Sure the music is totally different but there are a lot of aspects that are the same, namely that both jazz and punk are minority music. I'd even go as far to say that in general punk and hardcore gigs are better attended than most jazz gigs in Dublin, although maybe I'll keep the reasons why that is for another blog post. The majority of jazz musicians organise their own gigs and tours like most other punk/hardcore bands, fund their own records and some start there own labels. Door prices for gigs are extremely reasonable and currently a lot of jazz gigs are starting to adopt a policy of suggested donations rather than a fixed door price. This is something you don't see a lot of in the punk/harcore scene. Wheres the proof? Well lets start with Dublin first. ReDiviDeR, a band led by drummer Matt Jacobson are going to be releasing an album in November. The majority of the cost of recording, mixing, mastering and duplication is coming straight out of his pocket. The album is going to be released on Irish label Diatribe. Diatribe is a label  run by two musicians, Nick Roth and Daniel Jacobson, and music-enthusiast John Cosgrove. Singer Edel Meade runs The Jazz Kitchen, a weekly gig on Tuesday nights at The Grand Social. There is no cover charge for the gig and it is done in a totally not for profit way.  Bottlenote, another Dublin based collective have been organising a not for profit festival every year for the past number of years. These are just small examples of what's happening here in Dublin.

The DIY aesthetic also exists outside of Ireland. In London you have the Loop Collective and the F-ire Collective, in America you have collectives such as Search and Restore and not for  profit performance spaces like IBeam and The Stone. Some artists have also created their own labels such as Dave Binney's Mythology Records and Dave Douglas's Greenleaf Music. Once again these are only a handfull of examples.

It's hard to get rid of the elitist stigma that is applied to jazz musicians from other musical scenes. It's even harder when jazz music is virtually non existent in the media so this post is to show that the majority of jazz musicians have the same drive and passion for playing music as any other musicians in any other scene be it indie rock, punk, hardcore or metal. Jazz musicians will play gigs for little to no money because they love the music and enjoy playing. I think that if the jazz scene didn't have a DIY ethic I wouldn't be that attracted to the music at all. And now for some Kneebody to play us out.