**It’s New Zealand Music Month this May. **New Zealand’s **annual celebration of homegrown music. Generally, that involves a lot of mainstream media highlighting a lot of mainstream acts. So I’m here to try and redress the balance a bit. **I’ll be posting a link to some rowdy New Zealand music for you to check out every day over the next month. Some bands will no doubt be familiar; others I hope will be fresh to your ears.
New Zealand’s non-mainstream music scenes have always exhibited a strong sense of self-reliance. Obviously, a proportion of the DIY drive you’ll find is a direct result of living in a geographically isolated nation, with a limited number of underground musicians and fans. However, there’s also something else to be heard in the character of New Zealand’s underground music. Something that speaks of a strength of purpose combined with unruly music. Something that results in a tone and temperament that could be best described as punk as fuck.
A lot of New Zealand bands are punk as fuck, even if they’re not remotely punk rock bands at all. That’s, of course, because being punk as fuck is as much a stance as it is a sound. Given I really don’t know much about the commercial side of New Zealand rock anyway, every band I’ll be highlighting in these New Zealand Music Month posts is pretty much going to be an independent and underground band, and thus punk as fuck by default.
Today, I’m picking Wellington band Bonecruncher to spotlight. Mainly because Bonecruncher are 666% punk as fuck, they push all my crusty-punk-lovin’ buttons, and their self-titled debut released earlier this year is a hell of a lot of brain-battering fun and deserves far more attention than it’s received thus far.
I’m also picking Bonecruncher to write about because the band is from the stable of groups that have been recorded and mixed by Vanya at Scumbag College recording studios––and Vanya also plays lead guitar in the band. I appreciate that the happenings within New Zealand’s rungus punk sphere might not be on your radar, and you might be wondering who Vanya and Scumbag College are. Well, to answer that, Vanya is a Wellington-based producer and musician who happens to have recorded an increasingly long list of some of New Zealand’s very best punk rock. And I guess you could say that Scumbag College is not just a recording studio, but also something of a site of ideas and action.
Actually, I’m not entirely sure I’m capturing Scumbag College in exactly the right frame there. Maybe that sounds a bit grand. But when I buy an album recorded at Scumbag College I feel like I’m supporting something more than a commercial enterprise. I feel like I’m contributing to a larger idea. At least, that’s what Scumbag College means to me, as a grey bearded old fossil, who’s maybe spent a little too much time listening to Fugazi today.
Anyway, chances are, even if you’ve never heard of Scumbag College before, you’ve probably heard of the band that Scumbag College is most famed for recording: the toxic and hope-extinguishing sludge titan, Meth Drinker.
As with Meth Drinker, Bonecruncher also bring formidable tonnage to the table. But, in Bonecruncher’s case, that means plenty of thick-skinned punk riffs, with a hearty dose of thrashing metallic muscle. Much like the recent line-up on the brain-smashingly brilliant album from Downer Buzz (another Scumbag College recording), Bonecruncher’s self-titled debut also features a who’s who of local punk rockers in the ranks. That’s not an uncommon situation, given the size of Wellington’s cadre of active punk musicians. And that mix and match has often resulted (as it has on Bonecruncher) in a lot of fantastic music born from intense bursts of collaboration.
With eight songs firing on all cylinders, Bonecruncher certainly delivers 24 intense minutes of furious and steely punk rock. There are callbacks to the earliest years of filthy and frantic crossover crust; deluges of filthy and crushing riffs; wailing solos squirming through the mix; spat out, howled, and growled vocals; battering percussion; and nary a pause for breath anywhere on the album.
If you’re a fan of cruddy crossover punk, or thundering and tar-thick crust, then you can be assured that there’s some aptly grotty and grunty good times awaiting you on Bonecruncher.
On a side note, I’ll (hopefully) be making a mini-documentary about Scumbag College for the radio in a few months time. So stayed tuned for that. In the meantime, I urge you to check out the many bands that have recorded at Scumbag College.
I’d especially recommend recordings from the likes of Rogernomix, Johnny and the Felchers, and the downright twisted and heavyweight magnificence of both Meth Drinker and Downer Buzz. But if any of those bands spark your interest, then I also wholeheartedly recommend you check out Wellington’s wider punk scene via the excellent web portal Up The Punks.
Up The Punks run a hugely informative wiki covering Wellington’s contemporary and historical punk rock landscape. As well as also curating a fantastic YouTube page filled with short clips, multi-part documentaries, and interviews.
As mentioned, I’ll be covering a fair few New Zealand punk bands this month. But, until then, I highly recommend you check out Bonecruncher below, the rest of Scumbag College’s recording roster, and the excellent and dedicated work of Up The Punks.