Always Never Fun Records is a Wellington, New Zealand-based label run by local punk stalwart Sam Thurston. Thurston’s been involved in raucous bands like Shortlived, Meth Drinker, Rogernomix, Corpse Rat and more, and Always Never Fun’s been releasing NZ punk, hardcore, and sludgier noise for close to a decade. I’d argue that a number of the label’s releases are classics of contemporary NZ punk. But it’s fair to say that Always Never Fun (and the overwhelming majority of the label’s supporters) wouldn't give a fuck about any critical applause.
That’s because Always Never Fun is a genuine studs ’n’ spikes underground label. The kind of increasingly rare and diehard DIY label that isn’t interested in hype or media hugs. That makes Always Never Fun refreshing, especially given the eyewatering number of ‘punk’ bands, labels, and journalists all guzzling each other’s shit nowadays.
In the past few months, I covered a couple of releases from Always Never Fun: see the savage 7” split from Corpse Rat and Feral Blood, and Stress Ghetto’s breakneck Material Hardship 7”. Always Never Fun’s also recently released a sick new 7” from Wellington band Rogernomix, which is definitely worth talking about. But I also thought, seeing as I’m here, you're here, and a tenth anniversary show has just been announced for Always Never Fun, that it seems like the perfect opportunity to chat about a few of the label’s other releases.
First up though, it’s Rogernomix’s incendiary broadsides.
Rogernomix: Punch a Nazi in the Face
Rogernomix are a high-speed crusty d-beat band that formed in 2009. The group features members who play in other notably noisy acts such as The All Seeing Hand, Unsanitary Napkin, and Freak Magnet, as well as late and lamented groups like Meth Drinker and Fantails. The cover of Rogernomix’s first 7” (from 2009) featured a couple of cartoon figures wearing Anti Cimex and Totalitär t-shirts, and that’s a rough-enough guide to Rogernomix’s Scandi-influenced sound.
Lyrically, Rogernomix are a markedly political band. The group’s moniker references the neoliberal ‘Rogernomics’ policies introduced by the Labour Party’s Roger Douglas in the 1980s, which controversially (as well as drastically) altered NZ’s social landscape. Rogernomix have had plenty to protest about over their career, and the cover art and rowdy innards of their 7” EPs have reflected their worldview with riotous intensity.
It’s much the same on Rogernomix’s fifth and latest 7”, Punch a Nazi in the Face, which is another unequivocal critique of the inexhaustibly awful epoch we find ourselves stuck in. Rogernomix’s members – vocalist Tanya, bassist Sarsha, drummer Ben, and vocalist and guitarist Sam – get to vent their anger and frustrations about the shitgeist we inhabit with aptly volatile music on Punch a Nazi in the Face. And all the vitriolic anthems therein deliver plenty of rage-fuelled catharsis.
You don’t have to take any of Rogernomix’s political or social commentary on board to enjoy their music though. I mean, untold nihilistic punks have favoured obliteration over dealing with reality for decades. For some, raging against the world means embracing chaos. And if that’s you, then rest assured that Rogernomix provide a skull-smashing soundtrack if all you want to do is thrash and destroy.
If you’re seeking a deeper conversation, Rogernomix don’t waste any time burying their observations in oblique metaphors. The band have fierce and forthright things to say. And on Punch a Nazi in the Face, Rogernomix take on duplicitous politicians and shallow, self-interested voters (“Grotty Policies”), conniving political and corporate entities (“White Male Corporate Oppression” and “Rich Americans”), climate change and environmental inaction (“B.C.C” and “Toxic Exposure”), and prejudice and hate (“Competing Freedoms”).
Recorded, mixed and mastered by Vanya at Scumbag College (RIP SC), Punch a Nazi in the Face is filled with frenzied d-beaten crust from its first storming second to its last blistering note. It’s all a jagged rampart of raw punk, where frenzied vocals are matched with equally aggressive music to deliver pointed missives. If you’re a fan of rabble-rousing punk that’s made by battlers who walk the walk, then Punch a Nazi in the Face is made to measure. But then, all of Rogernomix’s releases have seen the band speaking truth to power.
You could argue that confronting issues like inequality and bigotry head-on matters now more than ever. But you’d be right to also ask if punk rock is really going to tear down any walls of injustice. I mean, I’m not naive about people's fucking apathy. It’s one thing to listen, another to act. But one thing’s for certain, nothing will ever change if no one is prepared to actually stand up and shout.
All it takes is for the right individual to be inspired. And sometimes all it takes is for the right band – like Rogernomix, for example – to inspire someone to take action. That’s why independent, underground punk releases like Punch a Nazi in the Face are important. They’re not just a sign that subversive art is alive and well in NZ. They’re also loaded with potential as galvanizing communiqués, from well outside the mainstream.
Releases like Punch a Nazi in the Face tell the truth of it all – fearlessly.
Best you tune in, before it’s too late.
Fancy some more abrasive noise? Below are a few other strident Always Never Fun releases to sample. Some have been co-released with other labels, and a few of them are limited edition LPs. I included links for most releases so you can listen to them regardless of whether you can find them in the racks of any record store. Enjoy!
Meth Drinker: S/T
Sludge punk spirit-crushers Meth Drinker are arguably Always Never Fun’s most well-known band overseas, even if they’ve been inactive for a number of years now. The band’s ultra-heavy cacophony features plenty of nihilistic gravity – à la Grief or Noothgrush – and Meth Drinker’s 2011 self-titled debut was packed with tar-thick dirges, decimating feedback, filthy riffs, and throat-slit howls. (As are the band’s split, 7”, and 12” releases too.) If ten tonnes of nastiness and negativity sounds appealing, then Meth Drinker’s low-gauge murk and misery awaits. (See also Meth Drinker’s 2014 album, Oil, on Always Never Fun.)
Smashed out in a single session on 22 September, 2012, Powderslave is the sole 7” release from turbo-speed crossover band Numbskull. The thrashin’, grindin’ and possessed-to-skate Wellington band also released a split LP via Always Never Fun with Electric Mayhem – which I have to admit that I’ve never heard – but I can absolutely vouch for the velocity and viciousness of Powderslave. Numbskull sound like D.R.I or the Crumbsuckers mainlining Napalm Death on Powderslave, and the 7” was/is a rip-roaring addition to NZ’s underground music canon. (See also Vomit Storm’s Mudge or Be Mudged album on Always Never Fun.)
Downer Buzz: S/T
Noise punks Downer Buzz dealt in rungas-as-rungas-gets hardcore on their 2015 self-titled debut. The band blitzed through seven feedbacking tracks on the album, and plenty of gutter punk sneers and glares were delivered along the way. But what made Downer Buzz so much fun was that the band dropped a heavy-ass slab of weirdness and off-the-chain creativity into all the pandemonium. (See also High Risk Maneuver’s 7” on Always Never Fun.)
Unsanitary Napkin: Patriotic Grooves
Artist and zine-maker Hannah Salmon (aka Daily Secretion) fronts the sharp and skewering Unsanitary Napkin. Salmon’s feminist perspective sees Patriotic Grooves explore a political and cultural climate that’s “polluted with hyper-capitalist bigots pretending to be the voice of the people”. Patriotic Grooves attacks “narcissistic self-aggrandising media demagogues”, and Unsanitary Napkin tackles misogyny, sexism, and cissexism too. But while Patriotic Grooves makes for a strong call for “collective resistance”, it’s also a hook-filled, uplifting album that celebrates the freedom that music brings. (See also Shortlived’s Mindrot EP on Always Never Fun.)
I’m not a diehard collector of any record label, but there’s a whole bunch of Always Never Fun LP releases that I’m sad I missed out on. Case in point, Scab’s 2009 LP, Infected. Scab only stuck around for a few short years, but the band featured members who went on to form a number of gnarly noise-makers (see Rogernomix, Drug Problem, Meth Drinker and more). While they existed, Scab delivered a heavyweight mix of hardcore and burly crust, and you should check Infected out if the hammering racket of Tragedy and their kith and kin appeals. (See also Bonecruncher’s self-titled album on Always Never Fun.)Various: Welcome to the Arse-end of the World
The majority of the bands on Always Never Fun’s 2011 (and stone-cold classic) compilation, Welcome to the Arse-end of the World, have been dead and buried for some time now. But the compilation still serves as a lawless illustration (and an even better timestamp) of NZ punk and punk-fuelled metal. Welcome to the Arse-end of the World features a host of harsh groups making even more ear-piercing noise, including misanthropes like Open Tomb and Meth Drinker, who both found a measure of success/acclaim offshore. (See also Open Tomb and Meth Drinker’s split LP on Always Never Fun.) Shortlived: S/T
Shortlived were... well, fairly short-lived. But in a few short years the band recorded a couple of 7” EPs for German label Idoneum Bello Records, toured Australia and Europe, and released their self-titled 12” via Always Never Fun in 2009. The band’s primitive fastcore was super-scrappy and super-speedy, and their songs were all blink-and-you’ll-miss-em blasts of sawtooth hardcore. Shortlived’s vocalist Sam and bassist Sarsha certainly sound like they took a slice of the band’s mayhemic musical muscle with them when they formed Rogernomix. FYI the embed below is for Shortlived's demo not their self-titled 12". I can't find that online anywhere. Punk as fuck, eh.
(See also Rogernomix and Bonecruncher's split on Always Never Fun.)