“Most of the Eastern European countries have a punk history which is almost as old as those from the “Western Democracies.” Nevertheless, their realisations and development underwent very different paths than ours. One factor was isolation. Some of these countries were really cut off from the rest of the world. This led to the development of very specific and original scenes. Another factor was that due to the lack of freedom of expression, being punk there meant usually a daily fight against the different kinds of police forces (‘People’s Militia,’ Secret Police, Intelligence Services…), censorship and all authorities. That also meant that many punks were imprisoned for being labeled ‘social parasites,’ ‘drug-addicts,’ or ‘cultural agents of capitalism,’ or were simply sent to a psychiatric hospital (like many regular political opponents), and the state doctors diagnosed ‘schizophrenia’ or whatever would suit the political authorities.” (Lük Haas in his “Discography of Eastern European Punk Music 1977–1999”)
Back in 1977, the Socialist Republic of Czechoslovakia was living under the iron fist of the ruling Communist (although “state-capitalist” would be a better term) regime. This meant a lot of things hardly imaginable for people living in Western countries or for Easterners who hardly remember these times. Just briefly, for you to get at least a bit of the picture:
- “All the power belongs to the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia” was written in the constitution. The consequences of this little sentence included a ban on political opposition, “endless friendship” with Soviet Union (which ‘saved’ us back in 1968 from the ‘forces of counterrevolution’), and elections every four years with no possibility of choice)but compulsory participation.
- Police repression: although by the ‘70’s, there were no longer political trials quite like those in the 50’s (when the regime’s opponents ended up hanged or working in uranium mines), the opposition was constantly harassed. State Security (known in Czech mostly by the dreaded letters “StB”) did their job well-a part of those involved in dissent was forcibly expatriated from Czechoslovakia at the beginning of the 80’s, and the rest were often jailed. And also often ridiculed as agents of Western imperialism paid by money from foreign secret services.
- Censorship: in music, the area which is covered in this book, this meant that the bands could play only with the permission of state institutions. To highlight the fact that these didn’t like punk rock for its music alone and that the nonconformist lyrics were giving them headaches seems to be pointless. There were punk bands lucky enough to trick this system and there were bands that played without any legal “basis,” and their underground gigs often ended up dispersed by cops. Of course you could not find punk records in record shops, nor could you hear punk rock on the radio or television (until the very end of 80’s).
- Isolation: getting permission to travel to Western countries was a long and difficult process, because the regime feared that people would not come back. For the most part, you only could travel out to other Socialist countries. Or in from them: the only official gig of a Western punk band took place in September ‘87 when DIE TOTEN HOSEN played in the city of Plzen (Pilsen) at a peace festival for nuclear disarmament (and it still ended up in a police riot!).
- 1 The First Wave of Czechoslovak Punk-Rock
1980s: From Brutal Repression to Conditioned Tolerance
- 2.1 F.P.B. (‘80–‘87)
- 2.2 KEČUP (‘81–‘83)
- 2.3 A 64 (‘83–‘84)
- 2.4 VISACI ZAMEK (’82 – present)
- 2.5 ZASTÁVKA MILEČ (‘83–‘84)
- 2.6 PLEXIS (‘84–‘86, reformed in ‘88)
- 2.7 ZÓNA A (‘84 – present)
- 2.8 NOVODUR (‘84–‘86)
- 2.9 HRDINOVÉ NOVÉ FRONTY (‘85 – ‘88)
- 2.10 ZNOUZECTNOST (’86 – present)
- 2.11 ŠANOV I (’87 – present)
- 2.12 DO ŘADY! (’87 – present)
- 2.13 ZEMĚŽLUČ (’87 – present)
- 2.14 TELEX (‘88–‘90)
- 2.15 LORD ALEX (‘88–‘90)
- 2.16 MLADE ROZLETY (‘87–‘90)
- 3 The Birth of Hardcore
- 4 Various Issues Needed to be Dealt With
In general, it could be said that the system did not like it when people acted on their own, outside of its legal structures and its control. It hated punx’ nonconformist outlook and labeled punk as “a decadent life style smuggled to our country by Western agents as an ideological diversion with the aim of spoiling innocent socialist youth”. Needless to say, such a hostile environment produced a pretty unique and strong punk rock movement.
The First Wave of Czechoslovak Punk-Rock
In the second half of 70’s, there were two important movements in Czechoslovak rock music. The first one, the so-called “alternative rock scene,” was half legal/half tolerated by the regime. It was eventually crushed, in ‘82–‘84 when most of its bands were officially banned, but back in the 70’s they still balanced on the edge. Musically it was influenced by jazz-rock, the “Rock in Opposition” movement, Velvet Underground, etc. The other one-the “underground rock scene” – was centered around the band THE PLASTIC PEOPLE OF THE UNIVERSE (P.P.U.). They, together with lesser known bands (DG 307, UMELA HMOTA etc.), created an authentic underground culture with its own illegal gigs, magazines, and recordings. Soon after that, the system went nuts and answered in the fashion true to it: a wave of police repression. Nevertheless, the underground survived despite the jailing of its most active members throughout the 80’s.
Both movements were open enough to spot the punk rock invasion back in ‘76/’77 in West and with the smuggling of first punk records through the borders punk rock sowed its seeds even in Czechoslovakia. The first bands were from Prague and operated around the Jazz Section organization (this seemingly strange connection is a result of the connection to the “alternative rock scene” with its jazz-rock influences and to the organization Jazz Section’s being both tolerated by the regime and, for its time, extremely open and daring in supporting bands), which hosted the “Prague Jazz Days Festival” in 1979.
The first Czechoslovak band to play punk rock live-although only cover songs by THE STRANGLERS, WIRE, MAGAZINE, and GENERATION X (but with their own Czech lyrics). Punk rock was just a part of their repertoire in ’79; other than that they played alternative rock. The only punk rock song of their own was one called “Libouchec,” named after a village in northern Czech. During this song, at the beginning of the show, the band’s leader Mikolas Chadima said the word “bullshit” – and the authorities tried to jail him for it.
A similar case as EXTEMPORE: they played the covers of THE SEX PISTOLS, THE DAMNED, THE RAMONES, the STRANGLERS, DEVO, and THE JAM with wild energy. They were quite talented musicians and had a few punk songs of their own as well. The rest of their set was filled with long jazz-rock improvisations. They split up after their bass player left them for the popular jazz rock/new wave band PRAZSKY VYBER.
ENERGIE G (‘79–‘81)
Punk rock in its own raw “teenage anger” way. The basic out-of-tune punk, played by 15- or 16-year-old high school students. The important thing was that they played almost exclusively their own songs (with the exception of a few covers of CHELSEA and SHAM 69). Their first gig ended up after 3 songs when the shocked venue organizer cut off the electricity. In ‘81 they were forced to stop playing because of secret police interference.
ANTITMA 16 (‘78–‘79)
A quite obscure band, a case similar to ENERGIE G – composed by 15-year-old students playing simple punk rock. The guitar player of MICHAEL’S UNCLE (a great hardcore band that played in ‘87–‘91) played here.
These bands (except for EXTEMPORE) had their first relatively large shows at the above-mentioned Prague Jazz Days in May and November ‘79. This festival was also the first public performance of punk rock in Czechoslovakia and influenced many people who later started their own bands.
Back then there were no punk rock bands outside of Prague – with one exception. There was a band called HLAVY 2000 in Havirov, which probably started as early as ‘77 (but hardly anybody remembers it). They had a few local gigs in ‘77 or ‘78 and then split up. Their guitar player later started RADEGAST.
A few recordings of these prehistoric punk bands do exist. The punk rock repertoire of EXTEMPORE was released on tape by the Black Point label in ‘92 and their “Libouchec” song can be found on the “Velkomesto” double LP (Globus International Rec., 91). At the beginning of the 80’s, Mikolas Chadima compiled recordings of Czech unofficial rock bands for the compilation LP “Czech! Till Now You Were Alone,” which was released in ‘84 on the Italian “Old Europa Cafe” label. You can find here one ZIKKURAT punk track and one not-so-punk one by EXTEMPORE. ZIKKURAT had also a double LP released in ‘91 called “1979–´82.” A few of their punk rock songs are there; the rest are in an alternative rock vein. Their punk covers remain unreleased. All these recordings, from both bands, are live. There do exist live recordings of ENERGIE G as well, but they were never released.
1980s: From Brutal Repression to Conditioned Tolerance
The first half of the 80’s was a time when the system crusaded against the whole Czechoslovak rock scene. Lists of bands that were not be allowed to play legally were issued by the secret police and cultural institutions (and EXTEMPORE, ZIKKURAT and ENERGIE G found themselves on the most important one – which was also sometimes sarcastically called “the regime chart”), the media launched a heavy propaganda attack, and with the first punk rockers appearing on the streets in their typical fashion, cops started harassing them (they were the second biggest “enemy,” after longhairs). It seems that the regime realized that rock music always contains the potential for strengthening the opposition (after the first attack on P.P.U., the already established dissent called for their support), so at first they tried to eliminate it, and when saw that this was not possible, then at least to control it as much as they could.
Some later better known bands started back in the early 80’s, but this time not only in Prague – the punk rock virus had by now spread further.
They came from the culturally quite oppressive environment of North Bohemia (from the city of Teplice, to be exact) and being the first punk band in this area, they soon found out that they were not very popular over there. The members of local official rock bands drafted a petition against them, demanding that this “anti-cultural act” be banned, and the authorities successfully prevented F.P.B. from playing any gigs in this part of the country (so most of their gigs took place in Prague).
F.P.B. played tight anthemic punk rock with some pretty original parts. This trio was composed by some quite talented musicians and it showed in their music: a clean guitar sound, an unrelenting artillery of drums and cleanly sung unison refrains. They were influenced by THE DAMNED, DEVO and KILLING JOKE, but still managed to find an original approach to punk rock. Their lyrics were quite cool as well, most of the time even poetic. They attacked such issues as bureaucracy, hypocrisy, and conformity. They were written and sung by the band’s lead member Miroslav Wanek (bass, vocals).
F.P.B. played in their first line-up until ’86, did around 40 gigs, and clever negotiations by their manager (Peter Ruzicka) even gave them the chance to play at the infamous Jarocin rock fest in Poland, in front of eight thousand people. Shortly after this gig, in summer ’86, the two original members left the band for UZ JSME DOMA (who started the same year) and Ruzicka found a replacement in the form of two young punx from Teplice and, together with the only original member (the drummer) left, managed to maintain the band for one more year. In this period, F.P.B.’s style changed to a more raw and chaotic “out of tune” punk madness with the screaming vocals of 16-year-old Radek Uhlir.
In ’90, the original trio came back together for a while, recorded the LP “Kdo z koho, ten toho” (old songs re-recorded), which was released together with an enclosed 7” EP (cover songs from THE RESIDENTS and KILLING JOKE with original Czech lyrics recorded live in the middle of 80’s). Some original recordings from 80’s gigs do exist, released exclusively on tapes back then. The most known is probably the “Live in Praha” tape, released on Lük Haas’s Ukrutnost Tapes label in France back in ’86, which received quite good review in Maximum Rock’n’Roll magazine. F.P.B. are also one of the very few Czech bands to have appeared on vinyl before ’89. They had one short track on the “1984 The Third” double LP compilation released in ’85 on a French label called New Wave as well.
F.P.B. remain one of the most classic and influential of the old Czech punk bands—there’s no doubt about it. Wanek’s other band, UZ JSME DOMA has been going strong from ’85 to this day, and is perhaps the leading band of Czech alternative rock, with a large number of releases and U.S. tours under their belt.
A high-energy punk outfit from Prague, with EXTEMPORE’s ex-drummer Ali and the crazy vocalist Limburak. They did around 20 unofficial gigs during the era of the strongest repression for all rock music. Half of their repertoire was cover songs by UK SUBS, EXPLOITED, SHAM 69 and THE REZZILOS, and they executed them with punk-as-fuck urgency and attitude. Nothing released so far, but some live-show recordings do exist.
A 64 (‘83–‘84)
After KECUP’s demise, Limburak went on to drum for A 64, which were forming at the same time. A 64 (named after a hand cream) took up where KECUP left off – they were actually faster (sometimes they are even described as hardcore) and more raw. Their set had around 20 fast punk explosions with most famous being a cover of PETER AND THE TEST TUBE BABIES’ “Banned From The Pubs,” with original Czech lyrics. This song was later included on the “Czech: Till Now You Were Alone!” compilation LP and also on the mighty “World Class Punk” comp. tape compiled by MRR’s own Mykel Board for the NYC label Roir. Both were released in ’84. The “World Class Punk” compilation was definitely a big step in informing the rest of the world that something like “punk” does exist in communist Czechoslovakia – it had bands from all the parts of the globe (like DEZERTER, B.G.K., BASTARDS, C.C.M. and ZYKLOME A).
A 64 did around 10 gigs in ’84 and then split up. Later, most of its members immigrated to the West. Besides taking part in the two mentioned compilations (on both with the same song but recorded in separate gigs—the “World Class Punk” version sounds better—pretty noisy out of control punk rawness!), they released a few live songs on the “Hruby Punkovy Hlaska” tape comp. on Ukrutnost tapes as well.
VISACI ZAMEK (’82 – present)
This band’s name translates as “padlock,” and it was originally started as a joke when a bunch of Technical College students started the rumor that they were the best punk band in Prague. Later, they decided to actually form the band only for one gig and when it ended with great success, decided to carry on (and still are). In February ’84, they were already so popular that over 1000 people came for their gig in Prague (a pretty good live recording of this show exists).
VISACI ZAMEK, with a two-guitars line-up, blasted mostly short, loud and distorted basic punk songs, but they also had longer reggae-influenced songs. They had quite funny lyrics and were definitely not a very serious band. During their existence, they have had to play in several different line-ups because of mandatory army service, which was the biggest odd in their activity. Other than that, they were lucky enough to get official papers so they played mostly legally.
In ’88, when all the original members finally came back together, they recorded 2 songs for a 7” that was released later that year by one of the only three official record labels, called Panton. The band had to change its name to V.Z., but the first and only official punk rock vinyl in Czechoslovakia was finally released, in 10.000 copies (which sold out pretty fast). Both their songs on it sound quite good – it’s sharp punk rock without any new wave or other influences. Other than that, they had only few songs on compilation tapes here and there (including participation in “Hruby Punkovy Hlaska”) and some live tapes released. After ’89, they were one of the first punk bands to release a full LP (named simply “Visaci Zamek”), and more records followed, later also on the E.M.I. subsidiary. Today they have hardly anything in common with the punk scene.
ZASTÁVKA MILEČ (‘83–‘84)
Prague was not the only town with a fresh and active punk scene. Plzen (Pilsen), the regional seat of West Bohemia (the westernmost Czech region), had one as well. It there started after the local teenagers saw SEX PISTOLS on a German TV program back in ‘78 or ‘79 (in this Czech region, neighboring West Germany, it was possible to catch the German TV signal, normally heavily disrupted by the regime’s jammers). After a few attempts with a few bands, which never left the cellars, the most active people from the first punk explosion started ZASTAVKA MILEC (“Milec Train Stop”) band in ’83, which played tight punk rock, a bit similar to THE CLASH, but with less-serious lyrics. In ’84, they recorded a pretty good studio tape that was spread all around the country. This trio split up the same year, after problems with authorities and because of required military service. They managed to play only 3 or 4 gigs.
PLEXIS (‘84–‘86, reformed in ‘88)
A classical crazy punk-as-fuck band from Prague; later turned into boring “GUNS’N’ROSES/THE CULT” copycats. Their first period was filled with police harassment (some of their gigs ended without even actually starting because of the cops) and interrogations, but also with an urgent punk lifestyle for the band’s members. PLEXIS had around 50 songs, mostly no longer than about a minute, played at blazing speed. Petr “Sid” Hosek played guitar and sang, and soon he became one of the leading and most famous figures of Czech punk. After no more than 15 gigs, the band was completely banned by the secret police, who accused them of promoting alcoholism and fascism and drawing “criminal elements” to their shows.
When PLEXIS reformed in autumn ’88 (in the meantime, some of their members had been playing in VISACI ZAMEK) they also changed their style completely, causing many jaw-drops at their first shows, when people expected them to sound more punk, like they had before.
The old PLEXIS had a few songs released on some compilation tapes, and there are some live-show recordings, but they remain unreleased.
ZÓNA A (‘84 – present)
Bratislava is the capital city of Slovakia (and was even before ’93, when Slovakia was only a part of Czechoslovakia). It was the main and almost only part of Slovakia where punk rock was played before ’89. Bands from Bratislava were known for sticking to the ’77 style punk rock formula and ZONA A were the most classic example of that. Born from the ashes of PARADOX and EXTIP (the very first two Slovak bands, playing in the early 80’s) in ’84, they are still playing today, with no drastic changes to their style. The influences of ADVERTS, CLASH and the SEX PISTOLS are pretty obvious from their music. Even though the band tried to get permission to play officially (which was the only way to play gigs – Slovakia had nothing like the underground network of illegal gigs that the Czech region had back then), they had permanent problems with the authorities. The worst incident took place in September ’87, when the singer Konyk tried to organize a gig on a college campus in Bratislava. Shortly after the start, it was broken up by cops, who arrested more than 30 punks, beat them up at the station, and cut off their mohawks.
ZONA A did four demo tapes before ’89, and all of them are in pretty fresh melodic ‘77 punk style. This band later became quite known in the West, especially after releasing some records in Germany and appearing on several oi! compilations there.
Coming from South Bohemia, an area with no noncommercial culture at all, this punk band decided to play covers songs only, with Czech lyrics, and to perform them live in village halls around their hometown, the small city of Strakonice. They covered all the classic bands such as THE EXPLOITED, G.B.H., THE CLASH, DEAD KENNEDYS, CHAOS U.K. or ABRASIVE WHEELS, and being good musicians, they did it quite well. Also their Czech lyrics give these songs an original feel. They played legally and most of their gigs took place in summer ’85. They were banned by the authorities a half a year later, when one of their gigs was the subject of well planned police action. Studio/live recordings do exist.
You could say that after ’85, the ruling regime realized that attempts to completely eliminate rock music would never be successful, so it decided to employ a new strategy. It allowed the Union of Socialist Youth to hold a big rock festival (similar to the Polish Jarocin one), called “Rockfest,” where the young nonprofessional rock bands were able to perform. Obviously (to those who know how the regime operated), a repression against illegal gigs also followed: Rockfest was mainly a propaganda tool to show that “we support young people’s activities too”. The main Rockfest took place once in a year in Prague – in the “Palace of Culture,” where the annual meetings of the Communist party normally took place (and also where the September 2000 WB/IMF meeting took place), but there were local Rockfests as well. Even punk bands were allowed to perform at the main one – only few of them at first, in ’86 and ’87 (F.P.B. and VISACI ZAMEK for example), while in ’88 there was a special punk scene arranged as the part of Rockfest.
As Communist years go, the situation in ’88/’89 was definitely better than in the early ‘80s, with more official festivals where punk rock was played. But other than in Prague (or Brno and Bratislava – the three biggest Czechoslovak cities) it was still pretty difficult to perform. Here are some of the most interesting bands that played in this time-period:
HRDINOVÉ NOVÉ FRONTY (‘85 – ‘88)
This trio from the city of Jihlava leaded by Petr “Biafra” Stepan. Unlike many other bands, H.N.F. (“Heroes Of The New Front”) were not influenced by ’77 or ’82 punk, but by DEAD KENNEDYS (obviously) on the one hand, and DISCHARGE on the other. The result was crushing, raw punk with great parts filled with distorted guitar solos and hopeless screams. Some songs were performed at blazing speed; some other were slow, dark, hypnotic opuses. Most of the lyrics dealt with the horrors of war. The band members were pretty active in the gig, zine, and recording fronts: they organized several illegal shows in villages around their city, released the first punk zine over here, called Punk Maglajz (“Punk Brawl”; a pun on “mag”) and recorded and unofficially released four studio tapes. The most known one, called “Valka” (“War”), received a great response. In ’87/’88, the H.N.F. were often described as the best Czech punk band. In ’88, they recorded their last tape, “Dum na demolici” (“House for Demolition”), and then switched their style to gothic rock and name to XIII. STOLETI (13th CENTURY).
H.N.F. participated in a few compilation tapes, in ’91 there was the “Valecny uzemi” (“The War Zone”) LP released on the Monitor label. It consists of recordings from old tapes.
ZNOUZECTNOST (’86 – present)
When the members of ZASTAVKA MILEC came home from the army, they started ZNOUZECTNOST, a band in a similar style. Drawing influences from the CLASH, 50’s rock’n’roll, and folk music, they created a quite nice and “listenable” sort of punk with poetic lyrics. When the drummer committed suicide in ’87 after unsuccessful attempts to “legalize” the band, the line-up changed. The band also managed to play one of their shows in the church in Plzen in Christmas ’87, something pretty unusual over here, unlike for example in East Germany, where punk shows took place in churches quite often. ZNOUZECTNOST’s members released three tapes on their own S.I.R. label before ’89, and after that, the band become more popular and started to release records. They are still playing and sound quite similar to how they sounded in “old times.”
ŠANOV I (’87 – present)
After F.P.B.’s demise, their manager Ruzicka started working with a new young band called SANOV I (named after a quarter of Teplice). Later, Radek Uhlir from F.P.B. also joined them. SANOV played great anthemic punk rock in a pretty urgent and raw style, with Uhlir’s trademark screaming vocals. They were also one of the more radical punk bands, with lyrics directly speaking out against Russian troops based in Czechoslovakia and against the secret police. No wonder that they had to play mostly at illegal gigs. They had a few live tapes floating around, and after ’89 they released the “Konec sveta” (“The End Of The World”) LP, with mostly old stuff rerecorded. It starts with an original recording of a barkeeper shouting at punks to leave his pub, where they wanted to hold a gig officially camouflaged as a wedding.
DO ŘADY! (’87 – present)
Another band from the Teplice area, although mostly based in Prague because of its members’ attending college. Formed in ’87 on the ashes of the band V3S, they played hard-hitting distorted punk influenced by ANTI PASTI and ABRASIVE WHEELS. Like F.P.B. and V3S before them, DO ŘADY! also managed to unofficially sneak their way to the Polish Jarocin fest in ’88, and because they had great success there they got the invitation to record for a 7” in Poland. The recordings were made (with a drum machine), but the 7” was never released. The 3 recorded songs took their place on several compilation LP’s after ‘89.
ZEMĚŽLUČ (’87 – present)
ZEMĚŽLUČ came out of Brno and played basic three chord punk, but in a quite raw and distorted style. It should be noted that members of KRABATHOR – a later, quite famous Czech death metal outfit – INSANIA also played here. They played mostly in Brno’s youth club on Krenova street, simply called Krenka, which was the home of punk gigs in ’88/’89 in this part of the country. Two demo tapes were released, and in ’90 they self-released a full LP, “Fajn, bezva, prima.” ZEMĚŽLUČ is still active, with around a dozen vinyls and a few UK tours under their belt.
They started 2 years after NOVODUR’s demise and followed the tradition of covering famous punk bands, but this time also the more hardcore ones and also a healthy dose of their own original songs in their repertoire. Among other covers, they covered “Isto E Olho Seco” by OLHO SECO, with their own lyrics about the Temelin nuclear power plant being built near their city. TELEX employed their solid 2-guitars line-up successfully and played pretty tight and aggressive ’82 punk with tough vocals. In ’89 they recorded a demo, officially released in ’90. It has around one hour of music, with lots of intros. In autumn ’90 they split up and some of their members founded the L.D. TOTENKOPF band, which had a more crossover (D.R.I., ATTITUDE ADJUSTMENT) direction.
LORD ALEX (‘88–‘90)
From Bratislava. They played classic punk rock in a CLASH/EATER/ADVERTS style, fresh and melodic. Several tapes released before ’89, then they changed the style to a more “CRASS oriented” direction, and shortly afterwards, they split up because of the guitar player’s drug problems.
MLADE ROZLETY (‘87–‘90)
Sharing a bass player with LORD ALEX and also playing most of their gigs together, at first more ’77 focused, later pretty good DEAD KENNEDYS and BLACK FLAG influenced punk with pretty strong musicianship. Two tapes released, split up in ’90 as well.
These were dozens bands who played in Czechoslovakia before ’89. These above mentioned were the most known, but there are many more. There should be mentioned also e.g. MRTVY MIMINKA (“Dead Babies,” a Prague band that played back in ’84/’85 and covered SKITLICKERS’s “War System”), VZOR 60 (‘88/’89 from Brno, crazy punk-as-fuck with a good studio tape, split up when two members immigrated to the West, also friends of Goran Lind from Swedish S.O.D. who joined them on one gig when he was here and sang a few songs with them), SMRT MLADÉHO SEBEVRAHA (“The Death Of a Young Suicide” who played in ’87–’89, sharp and tight punk a bit similar to old Italian bands like PEGGIO PUNX or 5° BRACCIO) or TŘI SESTRY (“Three Sisters” from Prague – accordion driven pub punk from Prague).
The Birth of Hardcore
The very first hardcore band in Czechoslovakia started in early ‘80s in Havirov – a “concrete city” in the devastated area of the Ostrava mines (near the Polish and Slovak borders). They were called RADEGAST, and they were clearly influenced by old US hardcore bands such as MINOR THREAT, YOUTH BRIGADE, BATTALION OF SAINTS and POISON IDEA. In ’84, they started playing their first unofficial gigs, and in ’86 recorded their first demo tape. Theirs is pretty cool thrashing hardcore with machine-gun-like drumming and harsh female vocals. Another tape was recorded in summer ’89, this time with another line-up (without fem. voc), but still in the early US HC vein. In ’92, RADEGAST self-released an LP, “Otravena Generace” (“Poisoned/Sick and Tired Generation”), with their old songs re-recorded. Shortly after this, they split up.
In Prague, several hardcore bands started between ’86 and ’88, the first were P.S., who played more in the punk vein, but with some short, fast and loud tunes as well. During ’87 they split into two bands (after managing to record a demo tape): KRITICKÁ SITUACE (“Critical Situation”) and SUICIDAL COMMANDO. While the former played fast melodic hardcore with lots of guitar solos and pacifist lyrics (influenced by CRASS, M.D.C. or VARUKERS), the other one blasted pretty tight and aggressive hardcore/thrash. SUICIDAL COMMANDO cited bands like LÄRM, BRIGADA DO ODIO or SUICIDAL TENDENCIES as their influences, but at the same time had some pretty racist lyrics, which is something sadly not all that rare in old Czechoslovak punk. Both bands released tapes (KRITICKA SITUACE in ’88 and ’89, and SUICIDAL COMMANDO in ’88). KRITICKA SITUACE continued until ’96, its leading member Robert “Jimmy” Vlcek was pretty well-known internationally for organizing foreign bands’ hardcore shows from the early 90’s onwards. SUICIDAL COMMANDO split up in ’88; some members then continued in KRITICKA SITUACE. The guitar player went on to play with the reformed PLEXIS.
In ’87, another band called MICHAEL’S UNCLE started in Prague. It started out with an early 70’s NYC punk/underground style, but later became quite fast and distorted. In ’89 they recorded a great tape called “Svine!” (“Pigs!” released on LP as well in ’92) and in ’90, they self-released an LP called “The End Of Dark Psychedelia.” Their approach to hardcore was original: they had a few blasting harsh tunes, but also slower and heavier psychedelic compositions as well, with madman screaming. This is one of the bands that got good attention even in the West, where they played a good number of gigs in ’90 and ’91 before they split up.
Other interesting hardcore bands were NASROT (a quite raw and brutal demo recorded in ’88, LP in ’91, still playing but now in FAITH NO MORE/RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE style), and two bands from Brno: INSANIA (later – after a Secret Police intervention – SKIMMED) and S.R.K. The first played thrashcore at blazing speed, and the second played chaotic punk at first, and later grind/noisecore in the A.C. or BRIGADA DO ODIO vein. Both bands started in ’87. S.R.K. split up in ’92; INSANIA is still playing.
Various Issues Needed to be Dealt With
The tricky issue of racism in several texts from some old bands from over here shouldn’t be left out. Some bands with these dubious lyrics or attitudes were SUICIDAL COMMANDO, OI OI HUBERT MACHANE, H.N.F., and ZONA A. But it should be understood that back then, when the loudly proclaimed “anti-racism” was the official regime’s policy (which used it mostly as a propaganda tool to criticize Western countries), the reaction of some people who were against the regime was to adopt the exactly opposite attitudes than the regime’s own. There were no racist attacks until the regime fell in November ’89, and the first skinheads, who appeared around ‘86/’87 and were mostly in Prague, restricted their attacks to punks exclusively, as they knew quite well that racist attacks on Gypsies or dark-skinned foreign students would be harshly punished. This of course doesn’t mean that racism in any form should be tolerated or excused!
As you probably already noted, Czechoslovak punk bands released almost no records before 1989. There is only one 7” (VISACI ZAMEK) and 2 compilation LP’s (“Czech: Till Now You Were Alone!” with A 64 and ZIKKURAT) and “1984 – The Third” (with F.P.B.). That’s all (if you don’t count the UZ JSME DOMA 7” from ’89, which could be labeled more precisely as “alternative rock”). The real and authentic documentation of old punk and hardcore from this era lies in the tapes.
If you are looking for punk records released after ’89 (when there was a flood of punk releases, mostly in the form of comp. LP’s and full LP’s on newly formed commercial labels such as Monitor, Multisonic or AG Kult) then the “Discography of Eastern European Punk Music 1977–1999” by Lük Haas is strongly recommended. He released it on his Tian An Men Records label, and you can contact him at www.geocities.com/tam89rds. Lük is also a person to whom the old Czechoslovak punk rock scene owes a lot. He visited Czechoslovakia several times and wrote scene reports about its punk scene for MRR. He also ran the Ukrutnost (Mercilessness) Tapes label and published the Mala Ewolucja zine, both focused on the Eastern European punk scene. He did a lot to promote Czechoslovakia’s unknown punk scene back in the 80’s, at a time when 99 % of the other punks were only interested in their UK or U.S. punk idols. Respect should be given to Maximum Rock’n’Roll as well for printing the scene reports from communist Czechoslovakia and for reviewing the recordings of punk bands from over here back then, firmly sticking to their international cooperation approach to the punk and hardcore scene.
That’s all – hopefully this short summary gave you at least a bit of insight into the pre-1989 Czechoslovak punk scene.
As you can see, there is no author’s name given (for various reasons), but if you want you can try to write me at: [email protected]
Written by our friend Filip Fuchs who sadly passed out on 10.01.2016 after a hard battle with cancer. Rest in peace!