I see that ET has posted his responses to the C86 questionnaire on his blog, so I thought maybe I should do the same. The questions were posed by a nice Swedish chap who is writing a dissertation or some other academic piece about the whole shebang. Reminds me of the quite dreadful dissertation I wrote in 1988 about fanzine culture. And no, I DON’T still have a copy. Anyway, I forgot to answer the first question, which was about the most important earlier bands leading up to C-86, so my answers kick in on question 2.
If I were to pick ten bands from the C-86 era to write more about – which should I choose?
Wolfhounds, McCarthy, The Claim, Emily, Orchids, Sea Urchins, June Brides, Hellfire Sermons, Jasmine Minks, Felt, Hurrah!. None of those should be termed ‘C86 bands’ though, even though a couple were on the tape.
Are there are any bands that surfaced after the tape but are still considered to be C-86?
Loads, probably, but it’s not something that ever interested me. I hated the tag.
What do you think were the reasons for creating the C-86 compilation, compared to earlier tapes such as C-81 (which seams like a more accurate sum up of the year)?
It was part of the hip-hop wars, wans't it? The ‘guitar’ journalists of the NME wanted to make their own little scene. It wasn’t a scene per-se, a lot of the groups really had nothing in common apart from the fact that some journalists happened to like them.
What other musical events (gigs, record releases etc) except for the tape made the year 1986 stand out?
I honestly don’t really remember. I do recall the Smiths touring the Queen Is Dead with the second guitarist, and it seemed to me that they had lost the plot, which in hindsight was quite significant in that it marked, for me, a change in points of interest. The support act at that show were Stockholm Monsters, a group who have given me immeasurably more pleasure in the last 19 years.
I guess you could say the NME were largely responsible for creating the C-86 phenomenon. Why did they turn on it and start using the term in a scornful manner?
Mainly because they created a monster. The majority of the glut of bands that latched onto the idea of a ‘C86’ sound/look just sounded and looked horrible. They totally lacked any individuality or interest. The only problem was that they didn’t differentiate enough over who to pour that scorn on and who in fact were more than an insipid copy of a flawed blueprint. For example, the whole way most of the Sarah releases were treated was largely dreadful. People just didn’t listen to the records.
You have expressed discontent about the C-86 tape and the ‘interference’ of NME before. What was it you didn’t like about it and was it a common view among indie hipsters? Were there no positive effects?
I just didn’t like the way that it purported to know what was going on in the independent ‘underground’ arena, and how it lumped lots of disparate things together into a sludge of a ‘scene’. There wasn’t a stereotypically ‘indie’ look before C86, just genuinely independent and quite eclectically minded souls and very small inter-connected scenes. After 1986 though, it all started on the route to becoming a mainstream fashion sub-set, and ‘C-86’ seemed to me to be to be one of the first attempts at media attempting to force convergence upon a hitherto quite eclectic sub-culture. In hindsight it doesn’t really matter that much that it was C86 that seemed to start this ‘industry’ in motion; it was going to happen regardless. At the time I thought people would have been better off ignoring the mainstream music press and reading fanzines. I still think this: except these days it’s largely ezines and blogs. As for indie hipsters, I didn’t know any of those back in the day, and I still don’t. The genuinely interesting people involved in the ‘indie’ scene are not concerned with ‘hipness’.
Where did C-86 go? Did it merge with other genres or did it all turn into twee?
Are you talking about the groups on the tape? Wedding Present went Rock and got with the whole US pre-grunge thing, so yeah, they merged with other genres. And as I say, a lot of the groups on the tape were quite dissimilar really, so of course they developed into other ‘genres’. As for Twee, that was one of the most misunderstood things. It was meant as a political, sexual and cultural revolt but so many just saw the façade and we ended up with all these lollipop sucking idiots giving out sweets at shows. It was really depressing.
Was C-86 ever a ‘scene’ in the sense that shoegaze was, or were the NME trying to make up connections that weren’t there?
Think I’ve answered this one.
Was there a ‘C-86 sound’ in the begging? Was there one in the end?
No, and yes. The one in the end was insipid and vile.
Was C-86 in general political – lyrically or musically? Or was it just shaped by the politics of the time? And was it working-class or middle-class?
Lots of groups were very politically minded at the time, in the ‘underground’ and even the mainstream. In the UK at least this was a very politically literate time, especially for the youth. The problem was that a lot of people misunderstood the way that some of the independents were beginning to voice that; they saw only the façade of ‘twee’ for example and missed the value of what lay behind it (punk rock, DIY, socialist ethics). As for class, I don’t really know… I would say that it was mainly middle class kids consuming it, but quite a few working class kids making the music. This isn’t uncommon in the history of Pop.
I’ve heard that there wasn’t a homogenous indiepop sub-culture before C-86. What were the markers of anoraks, both on the surface and ideologically?
The ‘anorak’ thing was a VERY small sub-cultural group who grew out of post-punk things like Postcard. Remember it was only a few years since Postcard had finished, and even the Punk heyday was still fresh in a lot of people’s minds. It was very much a rejection of society’s demands for money/work-obsessed clones, a ‘revolt into childhood’ as I think Simon Reynolds called it. It was ideologically driven, but as I say, people picked up on how it looked and missed the underlying point.
I’ve figured that Subway, Sha-la-la, 53rd & 3rd and Creation were the most important labels. Is this correct or were there others as well/instead?
There was a multitude of small labels, but yes, I’d say those were the main ones. Maybe also Dreamworld, which was Dan Treacy’s label which grew out of Whaaam! He did the Mighty Lemondrops first records, and 1000 Violins, as well as the TV Personalities of course. I’d also mention Esurient, which was important to me, though it was definitely NOT ‘C86’ in affiliation.
Which were the most read fanzines and what distinguished them?
For me? ‘Are You Scared To Get Happy’, ‘Baby Lemonade’, ‘It All Sounded The Same’, ‘Searching For The Young Soul Rebels’, ‘Simply Thrilled’, ‘The Same Sky’, the ‘Pantry’ series, ‘Caff’, and going back just a few years before ’86, there was ‘Juniper Beri Beri’ and the brilliant ‘Hungry Beat’.
Were there any venues or clubs that were central to C-86?
In Glasgow there were a few that I knew about, like Splash 1, the Kes Club… lots more that I don’t remember.
What’s your definition of C-86 today?
I don’t use the term if I can possibly help it. It doesn’t really mean anything valuable to me at all.