The Wire

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Wire Playlist: Stephanie Phillips

December 2018

The lead vocalist of black feminist punk band Big Joanie selects 14 tracks showcasing the best of the current UK punk scene

We all know the select handful of names of iconic black and brown punk bands. The ones memorised by the gatekeepers of the punk scene and repeated whenever accusations of racism arise. Poly Styrene, Bad Brains, Dead Kennedys and Death all fall into those categories but while their contribution to the punk scene has been immense, the true contribution of punks of colour to the scene goes beyond these few bands. When I think about what punk means to me (to rebel against the norm, to follow your own path and power ahead in the face of enormous prejudice), I think of the struggle of ethnic minorities around the world. If you follow those basics of punk then it’s obvious that people of colour are inherently punk. It’s part of our daily lives. To get up and walk into a world you know hates you (usually as one of the few brown people at your work, school or uni) is a punk act.

I believe the art we make will follow the same path as well. This was my belief when I started Big Joanie five years ago to create a black feminist punk band. It was also my thinking when I joined together with a group of punks of colour to create Decolonise Fest, a London festival celebrating the contributions of people of colour to the punk scene. We started Big Joanie to help shine a light on the beauty, creativity and spirit of the punks of colour scene so here are just a few of my favourite acts right now who’re pushing the movement forward.

Big Joanie
From Sistahs
I nearly finished this mixtape before realising I should probably put my own band on here. “Token” is from our debut album and it’s one of my favourites to play live as I love playing with the Pixies-esque loud-quiet-loud dynamic. The song is about middle class white people who all have the same type of friends except for one lone black person who they then tokenise.

From Tits And Nails
Don’t be fooled by their upbeat music and jolting sax lines, London’s GUTTFULL can rip you a new one when they feel like it. “Arsehole” is a great example of their honey-coated barbs that’s also a great one to dance to at parties or alone in your room.

“Sisters Of The Yam”
From Demo
The London band Nekra make livewire hardcore that will keep you bouncing off the walls for days. Their back catalogue is sparse, their sets are short, but hey it’s punk. “Sisters Of The Yam” is a pummelling, venom-tinged number about the performative wokeness of white punks and the strength in being an angry woman of colour.

“Suddenly Gone”
From The Official Body
As the leaders in their brand of sparse dance punk Shopping continue to hypnotise unsuspecting listeners with their pulsating bass lines. This song tackles guitarist Rachel Aggs’s (also of Trash Kit and Sacred Paws) feelings of being "used and undervalued as a queer and/or person of colour making music or art”.

“They Don’t Want Me To Be Happy, They Just Want Me To Be Quiet”
From They Don’t Want Me To Be Happy, They Just Want Me To Be Quiet
Opening with a jagged guitar line that rips through the song, Cecilia make emotional queer thrash metal for all the times you just don’t feel like staying silent. The repeated spoken word ending only adds to its emo leanings, which I hope we’ll hear more of.

From Demo
Stanfield brew up treacle thick sludgy doom punk filled with razor sharp riffs and a swaying rhythm section. This song changes direction halfway through, rushing ahead at marching pace before returning to its steady sludge origins.

From C Sides
Though Dubais is usually the solo project of artist and cultural activist Nadia Buyse, her latest efforts saw her teaming up on tour with Allison Wolfe of Bratmobile fame. This track is a garage rock stomp with cutesy wolf howls and girl group vocals.

Art Of Burning Water
“Prime Example Of A Lonely Child”
From Between Life And Nowhere
Since their first release over a decade ago, Art Of Burning Water have continued to make frantic, high energy metal that pummels at your eardrums and tugs at your limbs. Close your eyes, listen closely and you’ll find yourself transported to the sweatiest mosh pit you can imagine.

Screaming Toenail
“Ad Nauseum”
From Territorealities
Big Joanie have played with Screaming Toenail a few times and they’re one of our favourite bands. They describe themselves as anti colonial queer punks and make radical, synth-laden post-punk. This song ponders on the loss of stolen artefacts from around the world that are kept behind lock and key in Western museums.

Nova Twins
“Hit Girl”
From Hit Girl
Nova Twins are part of the new crop of afropunk artists, inspired as much by DIY punk as they are by grime and hiphop. Through chainsaw guitars and pounding drums, Nova Twins snarl and wail about their most violent fantasies.

Skinny Girl Diet
“Eyes That Paralyse”
From Heavy Flow
When I first started playing in bands on the punk scene Skinny Girl Diet were the youthful veterans who had already seen and done everything before they were out of their teens. The band has released two albums but this jolting version of “Eyes That Paralyse” is still one of my favourites and a perfect example of what makes the band so special.

“The Language Of Injury”
From The Language Of Injury
Full of bile and fury, Ithaca know how to burst through the speakers and make themselves known. “The Language Of Injury”, from their upcoming album, is a torrent of melodic guitars and pulsating drums. Emotional hardcore at its finest.

Ms Mohammed
From Alibi
Ms Mohammed’s island punk takes her beyond this small island we’re on now. Fusing her Trinidadian heritage with South Asian percussion and blues garage punk, her music is as dark as PJ Harvey, but with an added Caribbean lilt. Here she sings about imperialism and overthrowing systems of oppression.

Read The Wire's Big Joanie piece in issue 419. Subscribers can access the article via the online archive.


Super nice! tnX


This is what I expect from The Wire - very good quality. Stephanie Phillips' selections are magnificent - in spite of her criterion. It's a tenuous stretch to claim this collection as punk and it's a different issue as to the quality of music verses it's societal/political background.

In the article she cites "Poly Styrene, Bad Brains, Dead Kennedys and Death" as usual mentions of "true contribution of punks of colour"

I like two of them and have playlisted and never thought once about what race they were - irrelevant.

Songs about issues are not irrelevant - JD MEatyard for example - and herein is an exceptional track by Screaming Toenail. However I fear that the UK is going the way of the USA where identity politics creates the ideal platform for divisiveness and ushers in facist-leaning politics. The BIG issues are poverty v wealth, social structure verses capital gain and livable earth and water verses explotation and ignorance

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