Wellington, New Zealand DIY label Zero Style is celebrating its 5th anniversary on the 13th and 14th of October with an all-ages party entitled: DRIPPING. The two-day event sees a bunch of bands performing, including Zero Style groups Poverty & Spit, Total Ruin, and Huge Mutant playing alongside underground allies like Sere, Girls Pissing on Girls Pissing, and Log Horn Breed. DRIPPING also features a large number of exhibiting artists and stallholders. All of whom are either 100% punk as fuck or clearly driven by a palpable DIY attitude.
Everyone involved with DRIPPING is obviously gathering to mark Zero Style’s birthday, and the label is much loved and highly respected. But DRIPPING also represents a wider celebration of truly independent and often idiosyncratic music makers and artists.
Zero Style’s humble founder, John Dimery, is the perfect example of a dedicated DIYer. He's put a mountain of time and effort into Zero Style's releases and the punk community over the years. The label's issued plenty of filthy punk, garage rock, toxic sludge, and icy synth, and most is now available on Zero Style's Bandcamp page. Dimery's balanced Zero Style’s output with working, playing in multiple bands, crafting monstrous toys and artworks, and screen-printing kick-ass t-shirts and posters. And I’ve always found underground musicians and artists who are driven to just get on and do things to be inspiring.
In fact, I owe Dimery and likeminded DIYers the world over a huge debt of thanks for encouraging me to just keep on keepin’ on – especially in my dotage.
Cheers to Dimery for taking time out of his no doubt hectic schedule to chat about DRIPPING and Zero Style's past and future.
CH: It’s Zero Style’s 5th anniversary, and I count about 31 releases from the label so far. Can you point your finger at what inspired you (or what was the catalyst) to make that leap from listening to music to making your own music and then to helping others to release their music?
JD: Music was the core of my teenage escapism in class via a hand-me-down Discman. I'd hide out back of the art room and research punk literally all day if I could get away with it. Don't tell Mum. I was introduced to the Ramones by a friend in art class. Skateboarding and its soundtrack played a big role in the punk mania, as well as discovering The Velvet Underground via an older acquaintance, Tim (who eventually formed Opposite Sex and Ov Pain).
After leaving high school in 6th form and moving into a dank shed with a friend, I messed about doing vocals in a noisy hardcore group in my spare time. I guess the two were always infused - listening and playing naturally became one lifestyle over the years. Upon moving into 13 Lorne Street, Te Aro, Wellington (now a carpark that fits two cars), that really became evident. Four of the most mutant years of my life.
As for releasing music for others and myself - I guess I was inspired by Rhydian (Action Man Records) and Sam (Always Never Fun Records) as they were the two prominent labels releasing punk and hardcore during my formative years. The first thing I put together was a Numbskull demo tape, limited edition of 10, all of which I gave away during the first ever Meth Drinker set at Punkfest 2010.
I started on the back foot and have never really made any profit from Zero Style because of this exact behaviour. I release music to help my friends get their art out there. I guess it's also an obsession... one that is slowly fading as more labels pop up and take the ropes. I'm focusing more on my own music these days.
I guess the answer is somewhat self-evident, but I’m gonna ask the question anyway: just how important is that underground DIY ethic to the music you make and the music you release via Zero Style?
Without the DIY community there'd be nobody to play to, nobody to help, nobody to share the music with, nobody to support... yeah. Self-evident.
I first encountered Zero Style via Numbskull's turbocharged punk 'n’ thrash. But the last release from the label featured ice-cold synth from duo Ov Pain. I can see a link between both releases. But has your vision for Zero Style changed since you started the label?
Nope. Nothing has changed. The very first ZS release was also somewhat colder in the form of the demo from Chicagoan goth-punks Cemetery. I've always had a tender spot for music with a darker atmosphere.
A lot of people seem set on signalling the death of small indie labels. But I don’t agree with that notion at all, especially when I see a label like yours with such hardcore fans. Do you see any significant threats to DIY culture nowadays?
To be honest, I live in a box. I haven't read about these threats nor have I seen anything to signal this, bar the obvious state of financial affairs in our own country and beyond. I'm not a business person. ZS has never been about making money - I do it because I love the community I feel I belong to, and see it as one of the only ways I can contribute to keeping it alive. We are the only ones who can preserve this. I think there are plenty of dedicated souls around to make sure this bomb keeps ticking.
Although! Now I think of it, there aren't so many younger people coming through. DIY culture is still youth-strong in other areas of alternative music here in Wellington, but I guess punk itself isn't such a popular thing to get into these days, and I understand... a lot of people's first experiences at a show can be majorly hostile, with some of the aggression they witness not really being desirable.
I guess it takes a certain kind of person to want to get into that. Though... it's a really beautiful thing to be a part of, underneath the seemingly ugly exterior, and can really give one's life a little meaning and direction if that's what is sought. I know it has helped me immensely - it gave me a family away from home and somewhere to direct both my positive and negative energy. I've gone off on another tangent here, sorry. I guess this is my best answer.
DRIPPING isn’t just a celebration of Zero Style’s birthday. It’s also an all-ages party, show, and exhibition showcasing a wide range of underground art and music. Can put into words what the all-encompassing nature of the event means to you personally?
I wanted to organise a really eclectic event which gathered all those special to me, as well as it being a great opportunity to see some bands I haven't seen but that I feel suit the DRIPPING theme of being disgusting or endearing. To bring together some of my favourite people and acts and artists at a local, all-ages spot just a few doors down from my house here in Newtown.
I guess I'm also trying to fill a void that Punkfest left but at the same time represent all kinds of sound and imagery that's not strictly punk but was born of a DIY ethos. Also, any event with vegan pies is really, really awesome and I actually don't care about anything else.
DRIPPING is collecting funds for Lifeline Aotearoa, which is a very worthy cause. That sense of community that underground music provides is often crucial to people finding support in the world. Zero Style provides that. Do you ever stop and think about how much your work means to others? (FYI: This is just a very shy way of me saying, “Thanks for helping me and others get through life, man.”)
Aw damn. We all deserve a few wee treats as we trudge through life. I'm happy to help.
Maybe you can’t play favourites when it comes to Zero Styles’ releases, but I can. The compilation of Wipers covers the label released (Wiped Out: A Tribute to the Wipers from Aotearoa and Beyond) is flat-out amazing. Unsanitary Napkin’s debut is perfect. And you can add Numbskull, Raw Panic, Meth Drinker, Rogernomix and Open Tomb! and more into the mix as well. Is there anything you’re a little more proud of releasing? Or are they all your equal sweethearts?
Equal sweethearts, eh. I liked that compilation, though. Maybe I was proud of that. Stoked me out hearing bands still playing their versions across Aotearoa at various festivals over the last two weeks. I'm really looking forward to releasing the first recordings from Huge Mutant imminently. Like, as soon as I finish typing these answers. Total Ruin tapes are out next week too. FREE PLUG!
Zero Style seems to be fuelled by the emotional investment in what you’re releasing rather than any calculated goals. But do you have any set plans (vague or otherwise) for Zero Styles' future now that you’ve hit the five-year mark?
Hmm, I just take it day by day. My brain is haywire and I always have at least 10 projects that I want to nut out, whether it be art, music, writing etc. I want to slow down and get things done properly, one at a time. I've been a bit hectic in the past and I sometimes implode, and it all collapses beneath me. My friends always help keep me from sliding off the edge.
The ZS world is relatively calm right now. Unsanitary Napkin just confirmed a third release that's being recorded today, and I have vague plans for another covers compilation tape, but for now I have enough on my plate with organising DRIPPING alone. In fact, my eyes were bigger than my belly and I'm struggling to swallow it all.
Zero Style isn’t just a one-man show. People help out. People support the label. People contribute their time, effort and energy. How important has the wider underground music community’s support been to the label’s continued existence?
Cheers for answering these questions, man. I always (super) appreciate it when someone takes the time to stop and chat to an old man like me. Is there anything you’d like to add in closing?
Nah. Thanks Craig!