Thursday, 13 October 2016

NOVI ROCK 1986


Novi Rock 1986 Flyer by Novi Kolektivizem (NSK)

The Novi Rock festival was held every year throughout the 1980s and 1990s in Križanke, Ljubljana, and was the biggest 'alternative' cultural event in Slovenia at the time, attended by thousands of people. Despite this, I had never actually seen the flyer for the 1986 'hardcore' edition before I got hold of Igor Bašin's history of the festival. The amazing poster was designed by NSK, the politically incendiary art collective associated with Laibach, but seems to fail in terms of the key function of a festival poster- clearly communicating what's actually happening...

Many local punk, alternative and new wave bands had played the festival in previous years, including Quod Massacre (1985) and Niet (1984 & 1985), but the hardcore collective was less than enthusiastic about it as a whole. Robert from QM told me he viewed it as a good way to present the band to thousands of people using good equipment and also highlighted how playing the festival meant bands were given the chance to record in a proper studio as another attraction. Niet, who replaced UBR on the lineup in 1985 after UBR's singer Gigi was called up to the JNA, came in for special criticism as a result of their enthusiastic involvement in the festival which was taken as an indication of their 'rockstar' ambitions. As Igor from Niet remembers...

I think the biggest conflict (with the hardcore collective) was that we applied for Novi Rock. Now and then I think it was a very good festival. We applied for this, and they put out propaganda about how we sold our souls to the devil! 



Novi Rock '84 flyer, by Jane Štravs

Novi Rock '85 flyer (still advertising UBR on the first night), by Kostja Gatnik

However, 1986 was designated as the 'hardcore' year with many previously critical bands now performing. The story goes that in 1986 the organiser of the festival, Igor Vidmar, asked Tožibabe to perform, to which they refused unless the rest of the local hardcore scene was featured. David of 2227 told me that the 1986 festival essentially ended up being the 'farewell' gig for Hardcore Ljubljana, with many of the bands breaking up shortly after.  The apparent U-turn in regards to the festival is described as 'a difficult decision', with the general argument amongst the collective focusing upon whether the studio time and the chance to share their music with thousands of young people was worth compromising their stance on resisting established means of exposure, and what they viewed as an institutionalisation process that Vidmar and Novi Rock represented, that they felt much of the previously alternative and punk scenes before them had already engaged with. Indeed Irena of the Hardcore Collective remembers some bands on the Novi Rock stage making deliberate gestures to demonstrate their discomfort with the festival, such as turning their backs to the audience... 

How many people were actually at that gig?

David- Novi Rock was sold out, always. Whether it was hardcore or anything else. At that time you really only had one show with foreign bands a month, so a lot of people who weren't into punk still went to Novi Rock to see the new hardcore bands, or English bands that really took the darker side at that time like Amebix. What was also important, with Novi Rock, was that it was in connection with National Radio, so it got a really good response. I think most of the time it was live on air, or if it wasn't, it was played later.

So was it seen as a chance to get the music heard by people who would never encounter it otherwise?

David- Yeah, but it took Igor Vidmar some time to convince us to do it. We all had regrets later...

Did you discuss it all together?

David- Yeah of course, we were discussing it, all bands together, like 20 or 30 of us, sitting at Figovec with Igor Vidmar discussing what to do.

So he wanted to represent the whole scene?


David- Yeah, he wanted it, of course. Novi Rock had it's strange trips into unknown musical lands that were not really 'Novi' or 'Rock' or 'Punk'. So Igor Vidmar wanted us to do that show. It was also good for bands because playing Novi Rock meant National Radio paid for the first studio recordings.

Alongside Tožibabe, Ljubljana hardcore was represented by III. Kategorija, GUZ and 2227(who had formed the year before, comprising of members of UBR, KPJ, Epidemija and Odpadki Civilizacije). SOR from Idrija (just outside Ljubljana) and CZD from Trate also played, with Amebix headlining. 


Amebix, Novi Rock '86


Punk as Fuck... Božo, 2227 at Novi Rock '86
David, 2227 at Novi Rock '86

I've previously mentioned the tape FV Založba produced of Amebix set on this blog, which you can read here. I've also spoken to Stig from Amebix about his memories of the festival as part of my research, and the other gig Amebix played in Yugoslavia when they travelled over, in Sarajevo...

I'm interested to hear your memories of the gig and travelling to Yugoslavia. Do you remember the bands you played with? Were there any noticeable differences between the Yugoslavia/Slovene hardcore punk scene and other European scenes at that time?

Stig- We arrived in a small plane. It was a strange kind of atmosphere , very very tense on the streets, we went to a bar with this guy called Gigi (UBR) who was looking after us, and got in some weird fight with guys from another area, as we didn’t speak the language we didn’t know what it was about, it just exploded in nasty violence for no reason, glasses flying all that shit, we left rather quickly. I remember the town being a very beautiful looking place, but people were tense and you could feel bad things were coming.

I can’t remember all the bands we played with, but i think there was a female band called Tozibabe. A guy dressed as Dracula came on and started introducing us... he took too long and the crowd pelted him with coins. By the time we came onstage it was pretty dark out there in the crowd and not everyone was there to see a band, so we just played as hard as we could and hoped for the best. I looked down and could see a lot of blood and broken faces, people getting either beaten up or crushed against the barriers, but no one seemed to mind a bit of blood, so we gave it fuck. I would say it was a very charged atmosphere, political and social tension, that always makes things really kick off. Just the right side of dangerous i reckon …..er “just’ this side.

Did you have any preconceptions of what it would be like to play in Yugoslavia before you went over? By that time a few UK bands had played in Slovenia but it wasn't that common  for bands to travel that way. Why do you think that was, and what set Amebix apart in that sense?

Stig- To be honest I have no idea what set us apart , but i think you are right i don’t think many UK bands had played there before Amebix. We did not have any preconceptions, that I can think of, we were just looking forward to playing a decent sized show!

Can you remember anything else about the gigs?

Stig- In Sarajevo me and Spider stayed up all night drinking, in the morning we wandered over to get our ride out of town, the sky was grey and you could feel something bad was coming, something very bad. I guess I was feeling War approaching. Not long after this Sarajevo was a war zone and terrible things happened there and all over the country. It was almost palpable really that feeling. I will never forget that, an approaching looming evil feeling.... We had a good time, but i felt bad for the people and country that we left behind. I am glad things are better now.

It's interesting to hear Stig mention feeling the tension on the streets in 1986 and link it to later wars. I've mentioned this to a couple of people from Ljubljana, they said they think it's more likely that whilst the feeling of tension he experienced might have been genuine, it probably didn't have that much to do with the wars that followed 4/5 years later. Stig has always struck me as a pretty perceptive person though so who knows! 

Gigi remembers a similar scene and describes how he worked with Igor to get Amebix to Ljubljana...

Gigi- 'Arise' was a popular record here and Igor agreed it would be fantastic to have a band like this as a guest, so I brought my favourite band to Ljubljana! We met them at the airport, brought them to the city and had four days partying. The fight might have been with some local skinheads, I don't remember. The day after Ljubljana we went to Sarajevo for a concert, that was fucking crazy, really crazy. Actually, the fight Stig mentioned was maybe there! I was at that time being their tour manager but I was too young and stupid to be one... but at least I brought them to Ljubljana! 

A photo of SOR playing the fest was recently used on the cover of their 'Sistem Oragnizirane Regresije' LP, released by Ne! Records, which you can find here.




Here's a video of GUZ playing the fest-

video

Monday, 10 October 2016

DALMATINOVA ULICA

I'm back in Ljubljana for possibly the last time whilst I'm working on my thesis, although I hope it's not the last time in general. I've been pretty busy so far meeting with various people, including Aldo from FV/Borghesia, Suzana, who was involved in the punk, lesbian and feminist movements (all  of which essentially existed within the umbrella of the countercultural alternative scene of Ljubljana in the 1980s), Dario Cortese, who wrote several Yugoslav scene reports for MRR and Marsa of Tožibabe, with this last meeting ending with us dancing in Metelkova to ska covers of Cock Sparrer. I have a lot of work ahead of me in terms of continuing to write everything up, but right now I'm feeling very lucky that I've been able to spend the last few years of my life immersed in this truly subversive culture and moment in history, and had so many great people share their memories and lives with me. The trust and warmth I've been shown has made me especially determined to represent these great people and this very cool scene as genuinely as possible.

I spent yesterday afternoon with Irena (Povśe) of Buba Booking, who (as i think i've mentioned here already) was originally part of the Hardcore Collective that booked shows in the mid to late 1980s. She has a load of albums filled with photos from Ljubljana and let me scan pretty much half of them. I'll be sharing them all later, but for now here's one of some punks on the street that I'm staying on right now, and where I lived for 3/4 months the first time I came out here. The building behind them on the right hand side is now an 'England Pub', run by a Slovene Manchester United fan who loves English football and culture for some reason.