Wasteland of My Fathers is a new free exhibition documenting some of the bands, labels and fan zines that were part of the explosive Welsh punk scene from the late 70s to late 80s.
We spoke to David Taylor, curator of the exhibition and founder of Cardiff Music History about the scene and what makes it so unique. Plus – he’s even created a playlist of some of the new bands breaking through the punk scene in Wales as well as some old favourites.
Why and how did you set up Cardiff Music History?
Cardiff Music History is just an evening of nerdy music related Googling that escalated somewhat - from a Facebook page to a physical archive of items and now two exhibitions.
Cardiff Music History has been archiving everything relating to music from Cardiff since 2017. People have really embraced it and seem to have a lot of enthusiasm for it. I’m still amazed by some of the things that people continue to unearth and send my way and I’m sure there’s a lot more out there to discover.
What do you think is so unique about the punk scene in Wales specifically?
Probably the most unique aspect of the punk scene in Wales would be bands that sang in Welsh, bands like U Thant, Llygod Ffyrnig, Elfyn Presli and Anhrefn. Anhrefn toured all over Europe introducing people to the Welsh language who had most likely never heard songs sung in the language before. They also referenced unique aspects of Welsh history and politics in their songs like the flooding of Capel Celyn.
The band Foreign Legion formed in Merthyr Tydfil in 1984 when the town, in the heart of the mining industry, was an area that was fiercely in support of the miners strikes. This definitely shaped their lyrics and even their band merchandise which incorporated a miner’s hat with two pickaxes. RIP Marcus from Foreign Legion who sadly passed away recently.
Then there is Rectify from Blaina. Rectify had a strong anti-hunting message in their lyrics and lyrics against badger baiting which continues to take place illegally in the South Wales valleys.
What does punk mean to you?
Quite often I think that people's perception of punk has been of rebelliousness merely for the sake of it, which for the most part is pretty far removed from reality.
Personally, I don’t view punk as particularly rebellious. Questioning authority and speaking out against the government and its institutions should be the default position for everyone.
Within the exhibition there are punk bands that championed animal rights, bands with a strong feminist message, bands like The Oppressed that have been taking a stand against racism for over 40 years. The Partisans with lyrics speaking out against police violence that are as relevant now as they were when they were written in the eighties.
When I think of the punk scene, I think of a network of people that put out their own records, publish their own zines, put on benefit gigs, run record shops and music distros. All pretty positive and proactive for a load of supposedly antisocial feckless undesirables.
Tell us a little bit about the playlist you've curated for us.
The playlist starts with CCTV by Pizza Tramp from Caldicot. They are fast and are really good and always really silly live. I’ll never get fed up with seeing them.
Also included are Fatal Blow from Cardiff who started as a side project with members of The Oppressed. Class War has great street punk with lyrics that I can get behind but can’t quote here because they’re too sweary.
Then there’s Newport Hotel by Bad Sam from Newport. I’m not too familiar with Bad Sam but their singer Beddis sang for Cowboy Killers who were one of the best punk bands to come from Wales in my opinion.
And System of Slaves from Cardiff with Chaos and Order. I hadn’t heard of them until I stumbled across them recently. Very reminiscent of New York punks Nausea who I love.
Those are just a few. It's all good though, enjoy!
Wasteland of My Fathers is open now until 5 November and is free to attend. It’s curated by Cardiff Music History with support from Wales Millennium Centre as part of Llais.
The exhibition accompanies Battlescar: Punk was Invented by Girls, a virtual reality film about two teenage runaways immersed in the New York punk scene of the mid-70s. Book tickets.
Newport punk venue The Cab have also curated a night of punk bands at this year’s Llais. Join us for Anarchy in the Bay with Split Dogs, Pink Wellis and Ignitemares on 12 October. Book tickets.