Jason Flower has been part of many different bands including Stick Farm, Third World Plant, and Mexican Power Authority. He is a legendary punk musician, obscure records collector and DIY punk music history archivist. Interview originally published in Bulgarian language in the third issue of Tigersuit Zine.
Hello, Jason! I think you’re one of the most interesting persons that I’m planning to interview for this issue of our zine, but I guess most of the people are not familiar with you. So, introduce yourself and tell us what kind of person you are.
I’ve played in a lot of bands, released a lot of records/tapes/cd’s, done radio shows and fanzines, and travelled a lot. I don’t feel motivated to say some big long egotistical rant about who I am or justify why you’re interviewing me.
OK, then… Jason was born in May 1973, grew up in a big old house, a 5 minute walk from the ocean, in a small town called Sidney, which is 15 minutes from the the city of Victoria, on Vancouver Island. At age of 11 he goes to punk-rock shows and at 14 he plays in bands. In the end of the 80’s he starts travelling all around the world to collect obscure underground records. After the fall of the Iron Curtain he moves to Poland where he meets his wife. In 2007 he returns back to Canada and he is still playing in bands and releasing records.
Can you give some background about how and when you first got interested with underground music? What drew you to punk music and subculture?
Growing up in the 70s-80s listening to my parents rock LP’s and what my teenage neighbours were listening to. I was about 7 or 8 years old when I became aware of punk and metal from their outrageous look and sound on the street and TV/radio. The local independent record shops and fanzines introduced me to many obscure groups. Instead of feeling isolated by what was an extraordinary fascination, I was able to correspond with people all around the world by exchanging music and stories, and open myself to culture which would eventually influence my desire to travel/explore. I was attracted to the escape and fantasy, the fact that it was not popular/mainstream, and was something that people with a different perspective were able to identify with.
I would be glad to hear if you could describe the scene in the mid to end of 80s a little, as you became more and more involved with it, was it there a feeling of community (organizing gigs, active bands, labels, zines etc.) You were involved from a very young age, so I guess it has been very exciting to be part of something like this?
I became aware of the local scene in 1984 when I was 11 years old, and in 1987 went to my first gig. Victoria always had a very strong hardcore, punk, and metal scene but in the late 80’s it was hard to be a fan of both styles, because the two social crowds disliked each other. When crossover and skaterock/thrash began to happen and then grindcore arrived, everything changed and the two scenes became more united. One thing very special about Victoria was our wonderful Nomeansno. After “Small Parts Isolated and Destroyed” and “Wrong” were released, a local scene of NMN-style groups began to emerge and became a phenomenon. Groups such as: Pigment Vehicle, Stick Farm, Fracas, Gadget, Apes, Shovlhed, Fidget, Uberjazz Quartet, Swellprod, and many more released amazing albums that were all inspired by the energy and progressive sounds of Nomeansno. It was a very prolific scene in the late 80s with many world class underground groups; concerts had 100 to 300 people at them.
A feeling of community? I would call it a dysfunctional family. Everyone had their circles of friends, everybody knew each other, but it didn’t mean everyone liked one another. Of course, the scene was filled with amazing people and great shows. There were many great fanzines in BC…we didn’t have an active label in the 80s, only a plethora of rare independent cassette releases by the bands. I did a fanzine starting in ’86 and then also a radio show in ’88 – and was already playing in bands at age 14. I collected all the local demos and records, even things that the bands didn’t release or something recorded live at gigs. It was very exciting, the punks and metal-heads treated me well, even though I was such a young kid.
Most important local groups of the late 80s: Nomeansno, Section 46, Monkey Juice, Resistance, Infect, Mission of Christ, Shovlhed, Red Tide, Armoros…many more!
Is it possible to list all the bands and projects that you have been involved with throughout the years and give us some information and interesting stories about them? I’m curious to hear more about your involvement in Black Kronstadt.
I’ve been in many groups/projects over the years. Abbreviations signify my role in the group: Vocals, Guitar, Bass, Drums, Percussion, Backing Vocals. (I put underline on the ones which should be considered notable/relevant and were active.)
B.A.T.T. (1984) – pre-teen noise influenced by Venom and W.A.S.P. V 2 rehearsal/play songs recorded. We were 11 years old, haha.
DEMENTIA (1987-88) – evil death metal. aka XANIMATION. V
Released: – “Rehearsal 1/24/88” demo tape. – “Reticulation” 7″ EP on NWN Productions.
TOMORROWS HOSTILITY (1988-89) – classic Canuck style hardcore thrash/punk. V
“A New Kind of War” unreleased demo tape recorded during 3-4 sessions. Some masters lost, some remaining. Played live once in 1988 with Atrocity and Spermicide.
S.P.C. (1989) vulgar noisecore. G
Unreleased rehearsal recordings only; not sure if they still exist. Interviewed by Rotthenness ‘zine.
CON-FUSION (1989) crossover. G/V(?)
Short-lived group with both Stick Farm guitarists. Recorded 2 rehearsal songs.
GET GONE (1989) crossover. G/V
Original pre-Stick Farm trio, summer. Rehearsal recordings only.
DRAINPIPE (1989) crossover. G/V
Original name of Stick Farm quartet. Recorded: 1 song demo and rehearsal demos.
STICK FARM (1989-91) crossover group; hardcore & metal. G/BV
Released: s/t 4 song demo tape (1990) “Doors of Perception” split 7” EP (1991) Weed Records (Germany) “Gut…” 7” EP (1992) Flight 13 Records (Germany) 2 vinyl compilation appearances, etc. Played live many times – videos on youtube. Full length discography retrospective planned for 2011/12.
MENSTRUAL SPONGE (1990) feminist noise novelty group. G
Released: 1 demo tape without me. Played live together once or twice.
DAYWORLD (1990) my friends funk band that needed a singer, yikes! V/P
Released: 1 mildly embarrassing demo tape.
(UN-NAMED GROUP) (1991) short-lived post-Stick Farm group in a similar style.
Rehearsal recordings only; not sure if they still exist. Someone has a band photo.
PEZ (1990) fast melodic punk rock with 2 Stick Farm members. B/V/BV
Recorded: 1 unreleased demo tape. Played live a few times. Reformed as The Stupes without me.
CROTCH (1991) grindcore. G/BV
Rehearsal recordings only. Played live 1 or 2 times.
MEXICAN POWER AUTHORITY (1991-1997, 2007-present) underground mish-mash. aka MPA. V/P
Released: many tapes, vinyl, and cd’s; New album “Cold Natural “Facts” LP, will be released this year (2011).
BLACK KRONSTADT (199?) Anarcho-crust. D
Original line-up, played live in Vancouver; rehearsal recordings only.
ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT’S ME MARGARET (199?) early version of Enfa/lak. D/BV
Recorded: 1 horrible unreleased demo tape. Awful crap.
ENFA/LAK (199?) riot grrrl art-punk noise. D
Released: 1 horrible demo tape. Unsuccessful group and sound.
SEAT BELT (1993-94?) post-rock, post-punk, post-everything. G/V
Released: 2 demo tapes.
BOUNTY, THE HIGH TASTE OF ADVENTURE (199?) narcissistic stoner jam-rock. G
Recorded: 1 unreleased demo tape.
HERMIT (1994-99) organic & electric noise. D/P
Released: a few tapes and 7″ EP’s.
DROID (1995) continuation of Subgenius, pre-TWP. D/V
Played Subgenius songs.
THIRD WORLD PLANET (1995-99) nihilist black noise-hardcore. aka TWP. D/V
Released: many tapes and vinyl, and toured a lot. A great experience.
ATAK (2005) heavy Polish hardcore punk. G/V
Played live in Poland with Oi Polloi. Live recordings only.
AUTOMATON (2005-06) beat & new wave influenced Polish rock. D/V
Recorded: 1 demo, planned to be issued as a posthumous 7″ EP. Polish band.
COCONUT BULLDOZER (2006-07) Polish-Czech ‘tropical-strang’ extreme hardcore thrash. V/P
Recorded: two studio sessions, still hope to release them on vinyl.
STUTTERNAUT (2009-present) heavy stoner sludge & post punk. G/V/P
No recordings yet! Contains ex-members of Wire Bastard. Active.
If you have some other questions about the bands, just ask! I’ve also performed as a guest on numerous recordings over the years, including: Ninth Hour, Ultra Vires, Submission Hold, Oszibarack, Degueles Fermente, Zimno Zima, Distorted Influence, Czosnek, and many more.
Black Kronstadt erupted out of the ashes of Contempt; a Black Flag-type punk group from an isolated fishing village named Ucluelet. I met the band immediately when they moved to Victoria. Ex-Contempt guitarist Wolf and his then closest friend Dean wanted to form a heavy Anarcho-crust group influenced by groups like Amebix and Nausea. We were already friends and I was just beginning to play drums. Wolf and I jammed a few times when we lived together. They were jamming with a guy named Shelby or Kelby (?) but it wasn’t working, they were desperate. At that time I was working a fulltime job, playing in 2 or 3 other groups, and recording bands in my studio every weekend. I was the first official Black Kronstadt drummer, had an equal role in arranging their early compositions such as “Cyber”, “Low Intensity Conflict”, etc and played the first live show in Vancouver with Peanut Gallery (pre-Submission Hold). I remember we played a Filth cover, and were encored to play our 6 songs again. Back then, all other members of BK were unemployed or on welfare – they’d arrive at my work at 10 or 11 at night and still want me to rehearse with them. It was exhausting and ridiculous and they weren’t respecting my lifestyle so I chose to resign. I have a rehearsal tape of us. They eventually got Dan Wehr from the Clusterfux to join, who was a great drummer and person, but had a lot of problems with alcohol. The group had many different line- ups…but in my opinion the best was the final line-up with Cliff and Nicki on vocals, Dez on drums, Wolf and Danny (from Deadset) on guitar, and Dean on bass. Dean was an equally creative force as Wolf was, and he should not be shadowed any longer.
How did you get interested into Eastern European punk and what brought you to Poland? What was your opinion on communism in Eastern Europe during the 80’s and how did you react when you’ve heard that the regime was over?
I first heard Polish punk through a cassette tape made by a Portland label titled “Underground Poland”. It had songs from Jak Punk to Punk LP and the Corpse demo. I began to correspond with some Polish metalheads and grind freaks in ’88 like Vader, Slashing Death, Stigmatizer, Separator, etc. After that I heard the “World Class Punk” compilation by Roir Cassettes and then began to actively collect Eastern European punk, metal, hardcore, etc on vinyl, tape, and CD. I’ve always been a fan of rock in non-Anglo languages and particularly love the Slavic language amongst a few other favourites.
I travelled extensively in Europe and after a few years met a group of Polish people from Wroclaw, decided to move there and later met my wife. My opinion of Eastern Europe during the 80s was that all those countries were filled with interesting and very creative people that were living under an oppressive system that often had poor conditions, and that you had to work much harder to only be rewarded with very little. We had US propaganda on television, even in cartoons, but I do not recall any Canadian anti-communist slogans. I was happy for the Eastern block when I heard of the wall falling, but I could not predict how chaotic the proceeding 10 or 20 years would be for each of those countries. After economic boom, some countries are stabilized and growing, but some are much worse than before. Belarus, Chechnya, Moldova, and so many more great lands of great people living under corruption and poverty…
Have you been in Bulgaria and when did you hear Bulgarian underground music for a first time? I’ve heard that the people in Bulgaria were trading vodka and homemade rakia for records and zines from people abroad. You have released the Bulgarian Punk Archives with Ivailo Tonchev, tell us more about this. Was is it easy to contact people from Bulgaria? What were your impressions from the Bulgarian underground, comparing to the other ex-communist countries?
Yes I’ve been to Bulgaria at least 3 or 4 times – I love the mountains and valleys near Plovdiv, the hot region around Melnik (good vino!), and nice costal towns like Ravda. The first time I heard Bulgarian underground was very early 90s from my old friend in the Varna grindcore band T.E.K., and then Ivailo Tonchev and I traded some cassettes. It was not easy contacting people in Bulgaria because there only few people who knew English, and underground music was not promoted by Balkanton until the very end of the 80s. Ivailo and I chose the songs to be on “Bulgarian Archives” but it was without proper authorization from the groups. Later Ivailo managed to contact most of the musicians, and apparently it has been accepted by most of the musicians. Bulgaria has its own legends and its own sound, just like any other ex-Socialist block country. The only comparison I would care to make would be with other Slavic-Balkan countries; the societal atmosphere in Bulgaria must have been very different and presumably more conservative than in Yugoslavia, which had an incredibly large vibrant pop culture during its Socialist era.
Which are the most interesting bands that have ever existed in the former socialist countries?
I’m not only listing punk bands, it’s too narrow a perspective. Just a few favourites…
- Poland: Nurt, Rejestracja, Jerzy Milian, Novi Singers, Siekiera.
- Czechoslovakia: PPOTU, Zikkurat, Jazz Q, etc.
- Bulgaria: Sreburnite Grivni, Kontrol, etc.
- Romania: Progresiv TM, Phoenix.
- Siberia: Grazdanskaya Oborona, Yanka.
- Russia: Alexander Gradsky.
- Yugo: Sarlo Akrobata, Pekinska Patka, Elektricni Orgazam.
- Hungary: Spions, Beatrice, A. E. Bizottság.
- Georgia: Retsepti, Iveria.
- Turkmenistan: Firyuza, Gunesh.
- Estonia: Magnetic Bend, Propeller.
What is like to be a record collector or an archivist of obscure punk records? What’s the point of releasing or re-issuing old records that sound really bad?
What is like to be a record collector or an archivist of obscure punk records? It’s a lot of crazy, dirty, and dangerous digging – the best is done in junk markets when travelling. Discovering or restoring a long lost cassette or unknown vinyl is a lot of fun. My favourite part is seeing the look in the musicians’ eyes, and their facial expression when they see the final reissue product, documenting their creativity. They’re thrilled!
What’s the point of releasing or re-issuing old records that sound really bad? It’s a documentation representing a time and place in music history, and low-fidelity can be justified, if the circumstances of the group have made them extraordinary. It’s also better if a restoration of the audio and images can be done properly to optimize the sound and appearance – this depends on each label, some do high quality work but others are awful.
How many people like you or Ivailo Tonchev are out there, who are digging and exploring rare and unknown underground bands and records?
Collectors interested in “exotic underground” were very few until about 10 years ago when the internet began to interconnect people on a deeper level and an explosion of reissues began. Now we can buy psych rock from Zambia, punk from Philippines, metal from the Greenland and there are a lot of collectors everywhere because these rare items can be valuable and sought after.
Have you been interested in zines as much as records and music? What’s the importance of zines today?
I was always more interested in music than zines, but used zines as a porthole to discover everything. Music has always been the reason I became interested in anything, I did a fanzine called Dethrip, from 1987 to 1990. For me, doing a zine was a way to vent my obsession for music, meet like minded freaks and get some free music from around the world. Later it became a good way to discover non-mainstream news and shape a very different opinion.
The importance of zines today? It gives you an opportunity to be creative, share your thoughts, maybe influence someone’s life / inspire someone.
Which are your favorite bands from 90s and 00s? Are there any new bands that you think are doing great stuff?
I prefer the 60s, 70s and 80s, I don’t listen to new bands unless I’m in them.
What do you think of the recent reunions of so many old bands? Steve Ignorant is touring and singing Crass songs, even Amebix did a reunion.
If they’re having fun and enjoying it – it’s great. If they make some money for themselves instead of working a regular job – it’s great. Sometimes reunions can sound/look amazing and other times they can be a disaster. I wish any musicians getting back together many laughs and a lot of determination.
What are the things that occupy your time at the moment? Where are you living now, do you have a day job, do you have kids? Are you interested in politics?
Playing guitar/vocals in a group called Stutternaut. It has members of Dumpstar/King Salmon, Monkey Juice/Wire Bastard. We’re heavy and slow, double vocals, double drums. M.P.A. my well known group since 1991, recorded a new album in 2010 and we plan to release it sometime in 2011. I still do archival vinyl releases, my latest LP is Jerk Ward “Too Young to Thrash” LP 1982-84, very fast teenage hardcore. It’s $10 plus postage, or for Bulgarians I offer to trade it against old BG vinyl LP’s of Kontrol, Milena “Haha”, Axat LP, or Romanian/ Yugoslavian rock, punk, metal LP’s.
Just send offers: [email protected]
Now I am back in my hometown of Victoria since 2007, but I don’t plan to stay here forever. Probably I will return to Europe, it’s a better place to live. I work days and nights as a Residential Support Worker in buildings for people with drug addiction, diseases, and mental illness. It’s a cool job where I get to be myself. No kids.
Politics? I’m concerned with human rights and injustices around the world. We live in a world full or corruption and hypocrisy which is unfortunately the nature of human greed. I think the best we can do is to be kind and sincere to people, regardless of their race, sexual orientation, physical appearances, etc.
What does punk and DIY still mean to you? Is it something more than a hobby in this period of your life?
It means the same thing to me as always, and it’s different for everyone. It has always been both a hobby and a lifestyle.
Anything you want to add? Something you want to impart in the end of the interview?
Thanks for your interest. If anyone wants to trade old vinyl from Bulgaria, Romania, Yugoslavia with me please write!