Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Anti-Scrunti Faction (A.S.F.) Part 1: A chat with Kat


I have to admit my first encounter seeing the members of Anti-Scrunti Faction (A.S.F.) amongst the audience at Kennedy’s Warehouse and on stage was quite conspicuous. In the context of 1984, sporting mohawks and wearing leather jackets with names of punk bands painted on them and mismatched thrift store clothes was indeed a bold statement. Mainstream Colorado culture wasn’t quite prepared for such fashion declarations. Witnessing the four teenaged girls of the band adorned in such attire reassured me that I was indeed hanging out with likeminded people. It was difficult not to be an instant fan and admire their commitment in challenging society’s predisposed perceptions of how young women should look and act.

Musically coupled with attitude, A.S.F. was Colorado’s version of a Crass-like band. They were the scene’s de facto voice of feminism years before other punk groups across America adopted a similar approach that branched off and created a sub genre within punk. In the scope of the national punk scene at the time, the band was an island. Collectively the members confronted issues related to the inequalities within both the scene and society as a whole sans apologies. With the help of appearing on a Flipside fanzine compilation album, their song ‘Big Women’ gained the group national attention. Their cut was a retort to the perceived sexism of a GBH song sharing the same title.   

While the band had no grand agenda in converting punks to feminism, their honest and raw emotions did evoke awareness. It could be argued that A.S.F. was ahead of its time in addressing gender inequalities that would be later give momentum to the Riot Grrrl movement and later the Queercore scene in the years ahead.

Kat Parker was one for the original members when the band formed in later part of 1983. Additionally, she documented the band’s beginning and the people at shows through her photographs and writing. She was kind enough to indulge me in a little A.S.F. history.    

Kat, Sarah, Tracie, and Leslie. Original photo by Roger Morgan. Brush and ink drawing by Bob Rob (Medina)
Friends, shows, and a camera?
I would take my camera when we'd go to shows to document that moment of time. I wanted to capture what people were doing and the spaces we were spending time in. It was mainly Kennedy's during that period.

Did you feel the need to capture the punk movement? 
Yeah, I did. Maybe, I didn't consider it a lot but it was what was going on in my life. When you’re a teenager, what you’re doing feels urgently important. It was important because there weren’t many of us. We just had a small group of friends who were interested in the same things. I think that was part of it.

How did Anti-Scrunti Faction come together?
Leslie had already started another band, a three piece with Janette playing guitar, Eric on drums and Leslie on bass and vocals. If I remember correctly it didn't work out because Janette was too busy with college or finishing high school and Leslie still wanted to be in a band. Tracie got pulled in at some point. When Janette left they still needed other members. We were sort of in the same social circle so Sarah Bibb and I got recruited; it was pretty sudden. Tracie and Leslie already came up with the name. I was about to get a guitar and Tracie and Leslie were like, you're in the band because you got own guitar. I think Sarah was brought in the same way because she had drums and knew how to play. I did not know how to play at all when we started.

Drawings from Kat's notebook.
Did everyone else in the band know how to play their instruments?
Leslie had not only done the project with the other two, she was doing some other stuff. I remember her playing and recording music by herself. She had a little more musicianship than the rest of us.

What was it like being punk in Boulder at that time, in a college town with frat boys and college kids?
It was pretty bad in Boulder. I know a lot of our guy friends got beat up and we were messed with as well. There was a lot of harassment from frat types on the The Hill. Most of the time people would yell, "Get a haircut!" from their cars. Sometimes there would be other comments. There was more menacing stuff such as being chased by someone in a car. If we were our driving we'd have to look out for other people that would follow and chase us. I was with a boyfriend one time when we were getting chased and I don't think we were that radical looking at the time. Maybe his car was recognizable, I think they were from Fairview High School or something, but we got chased all the way to his house. When we got to the house he laid on the horn until they left. The jocks at Fairview would be relentless picking on the punks. The administration didn't do anything about it. Things didn’t get better until after high school. Fairview was particularly awful, I went to Boulder High and it wasn't quite as bad. I didn't get harassed as much, but I was known as the girl with "the" mohawk because at that time I was the only girl with that haircut.

What made you want to get a mohawk?
I don't remember. (Laughter) I had been playing around with my hair: cutting it, spiking it, dying it and I think the mowawk was just more of a bold statement. Having a baldhead was something unambiguous.

What did your parents think about it?
Well, I asked for permission to get the mohawk. My mom said, "Okay." She was fine with all of that. She wasn't happy when I shaved the rest of it off. Well, I didn't shave everything off, I left just a little bit of the tail part and the bangs. For some reason that bothered her.

Yeah, I get it. My parents were fairly conservative; they weren't down with me getting a mohawk. About the best I could get away with was having short hair and maybe spiking it with Knox gelatin.
You can do that and then wash it out. Right.

The band's debut show. Flier courtesy of S. Slater.
A.S.F.'s first show?
We played a show with four other new bands at Kennedy's in early 1984. I had only been playing for about a month and it was pretty mortifying. I wasn't embracing the not being good part, I wanted to be good, but I wasn't there yet. I was terrible. There was this thing we used to do where we'd switch instruments. I would sing, and I could sing and I was comfortable doing that. Sarah would play my guitar, Tracie played Sarah's drums and Leslie stayed on the bass.

When you switched instruments, were you improvising?
We did. We had the drum kit at my house and we practiced there, that's sort of a loose term. But we hung out a lot together and sometimes we'd play around with different songs and that is when we came up with those other songs that were non-official A.S.F. songs. We might have been playing around with them before I even had the guitar. There were songs I had written and I think those were the ones I was singing. Leslie was laying down a bass line that went with it.

I don't remember if I saw A.S.F. on your debut night, I might have. My friend Jimmy, Ken (Spike), and I were excited to see an all-girl band. I know for sure I saw A.S.F. at Kennedy’s at least once. I remember it being sort of a spectacle; the band looked and sounded punk as fuck on stage just going for it. The band definitely made a splash. I liked the spirit for sure. So after the debut show you weren't in the band anymore, did you leave?
I think I stopped playing with them. When the summer arrived I did my thing, I think Sarah went to Alabama for the summer and Tracie and Leslie wanted to do the Flipside tour. Sarah continued to play on the recordings but didn't want to play live. That was around that time we recorded a few songs for the Flipside compilation. They used our song Big Women. As for that song, we recorded the Flipside tracks around the same time as the show at Kennedy’s, maybe in March.  Sarah played on A Sure Fuck EP that was released later.

The band's debut EP. Image courtesy of Roger Morgan
I had sent questions to Tracy and Leslie and I don't think they wanted to answer them. I would have liked to get a better perspective on some ways they were influential on the Riot Grrrl and Queercore scene that later developed. I know that Leslie was in Tribe 8 later on.
With A.S.F. there wasn't any intent on that. Leslie got involved in that later. The band was more about feminism. Not necessarily in an overt way, but in the sense that we were female and we thought that our opinions mattered. Sometimes we were frustrated when we felt dismissed by people on the basis of our gender.  In some circles, that is still considered a radical point of view.

Stating the obvious, your version of the song Big Women was a retort to GBH's song with the same title, but was it also geared towards anybody else? I had a suspicion that it was a comment on some of the testosterone within the Denver scene.
Leslie wrote the words to that song, if she had specific people in mind, I don’t remember who they were. Really, I think she was addressing inequities that still exist in how women are perceived and in general and how they are included and/or marginalized in social movements.  It was around that time when some of the Denver punks were really getting thuggish and it wasn't really fun going to shows anymore. For me, I didn’t really want to go to shows after I wasn't in the band because the violence was becoming more active. I think because we were living in Boulder and there was an excess of testosterone in the frats. You grow up in that environment and you see these crazy-ass pledge things going on. And you see that extreme versions of masculinity or femininity. We were in a town where we saw lots of “mating rituals” of college students such as guys strutting around, shoving, being noisy and girls strutting and preening and doing the coquettish thing. But you also saw some of that at the shows. In contrast, we were opinionated, loud, and foul-mouthed. We often wore boys’ clothes, drank too much, acted rude, and we had haircuts that people felt they had to comment on. We/I often felt additional jabs at our “failure” to fit into some tidy package of femininity, at not putting ourselves on display for male approval.  The song ‘Slave to my Estrogen’ was sort of about that pressure on women to doll-up and dumb down with lyrics like; “Vanity vanity, I'm losing my sanity. “I’m so pretty, I’m so dumb, come on baby, let’s have some fun.”

We saw a lot of weird rituals fraternity and sorority had their new pledges do. There was plenty of underage drinking and male posturing. There was a frat house with a red door and according to the stories, if a woman walked out of a party at that house and was still a virgin then the door would have to be whitewashed. Pledge week often involved public humiliation as people tried to prove their worth to the house. I once saw a group of girls walking around The Hill wearing diapers and chanting something about their sorority.

Leslie and Sarah at Kennedy's. Original photo from Katherine Parker's collection. Brush and ink drawing by Bob Rob (Medina)  
I thought the song ‘Slave to my Estrogen’ complimented the Canadian Subhumans song ‘Slave To My Dick.’
That was part of it. I'm looking at this book that people in the band wrote comments in during that time so there are lyrics in there, cartoons...I got it out this morning. A lot of the songs weren’t developed, we were just farting around and maybe I had a poem and I was singing along to it or we would say something and sometimes I would get that stuff on tape.

Since you still have that you must have felt at the time it was pretty important to document.
A.S.F. was my social unit for that period of time; we spent a lot of time together including all of our weekends and some of our weeknights. We were together constantly.

EP insert. Image courtesy of Roger Morgan.
What was it like in Denver compared with Boulder: shows and the scene in general seemed more centralized in Denver.
It was the Lepers and us, maybe one or two other projects people were doing or developing that weren’t on our radar. There were almost no shows in Boulder; we all pretty much went to Denver. It would be a big deal if there were a show in Boulder County. We had our own little group of people in our hangout houses. Mostly we would hang out at the house where Leslie and later Tracie lived. Or the four of us would be at my house. At the time Boulder was small enough where you knew a lot of people in the scene. If you went to The Hill you'd probably run into people who were a part of the scene. It was easy to run into somebody we’d all knew in common.

You mentioned that you had become disillusioned with the punk scene in Denver?
I think the violence was part of it. I first started going to shows at 15 and we'd slam dance. It wasn't called moshing. It was like riding a wave. There was physical contact, but it wasn't painful. I remember at some point I didn't even want to go out into the pit because people were using their elbows and I was really short. I guess the energy changed and became more violent. Early on the slamming felt like more of a release and you felt safe within your community, It started to turn into these people with uncontrollable energy and they didn't really care if they hurt people. I remember the Lords of The New Church at the Rainbow Music Hall, at the show something was going on near the front of the stage. Stiv Bators stopped singing and pulled a girl up on to the stage. I think she got her face smashed. He started yelling at people, "What the hell are you doing?" There was that mood for a lot of us, we felt like misfits, we didn't fit in with any particular group and here was this safe space where we didn't have to be cookie-cutter. When the violence was going on it felt like the scene has been infiltrated by people who didn't get what punk was supposed to be about.

Collection of the author.
Special thanks to Ana Medina for proofreading.

4 comments:

  1. Another great interview! How can someone get in touch with Kat? Or Leslie from ASF/Tribe 8? Anyone know?

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    1. Leslie has stage 4 cancer, but is up and around. She had a tattoo shop called Diving Swallow in Oakland for many years...not sure if the shop is still open...I played drums with ASF on their "midwest tour" in 86

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