November 03 2008

Local music fans, including this one, are getting pretty excited about this month’s AK79 reunion shows (November 21-22, Toto Monte Cristo Room, with Proud Scum, The Scavengers, Terrorways, Spelling Mistakes and The X-Features). The Saturday show is already sold out and tickets for the Friday show are also going fast. But for members of the bands involved, it’s an incredible event that they could never have foreseen as young Auckland punks back in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Many bands from that era legged it to Australia, hoping for bigger crowds and a more active recording industry. Some never returned, like Jonathan “Jamrag” Griffiths, vocalist for Proud Scum, who now lives in Melbourne. Jamrag has been living in Australia for over two decades now and he’s still quite blown away by the impact that AK79 has had.

“I thought it was all dead and gone by 1981,” says Jamrag, “I thought it had all disappeared. John Baker (local promoter and music historian) contacted me close to ten years ago and they started reissuing CDs. I was amazed then that people were still interested, but no, there still seems to be a whole lot of interest.”

Jamrag says he’s really excited and confirms that it’s been a long time since he rocked and rolled: “We did a Proud Scum reunion in around 1983 with Sid the guitarist and Bruce [Hoffman] and another guy playing bass. I also played in a band around 1982 called the Dry Horrors with Sid, so we did a bit back then but nothing in recent times. I’ve actually had a couple of other bands as concepts, but they never really got off the ground. I also did a bit of musical theatre in the late 80s, early 90s, and wrote some songs for that — but I haven’t done any performance for 15 years or so.”

“We left for Sydney in early 1980, played for a while but we sort of fizzled out by the end of the year. I think we did our last gig on New Years Day 1981. We never really got anywhere in Australia.”

Proud Scum’s final shows were at the Edinburgh Castle in Auckland, which still stands at the corner of Symonds St and Newton Rd. “It was mainly young punks,” says Jamrag, “but I mean, it was our last gig so a lot of people came out of the woodwork. A lot of friends, friends of friends who weren’t really involved in the scene came for a look. People who had been involved in the scene earlier but had dropped out came back. It was huge; we generally found that we would play to pretty much the same people every gig and we might get maybe 100 people each time. Those gigs at the Edinburgh Castle we had 300 to 400 people. We just thought it was amazing, we got that crowd and thought ‘why are we going to Australia?’ – but they were one-off shows.”

So was the punk scene in Auckland, which centred on a few venues like Zwines, as dangerous as stories from the time suggest? “It probably was, in terms of violence. It was pretty full on, but at the time you just accepted that as normal. That was just the way things were, there was a lot of violence and self-abuse but that was just part of our normal world at the time.”

Jamrag says he’s only sporadically been in touch with other punk musicians from the era. One musician he’s recently reconnected with is Graham “Hoodie” Hood, from Wellington punk band The Normals, who went on to found country-punk band The Johnnys. “When he was in the Johnnys I was in regular contact but I lost touch with him for about 20 years. He’s one of the guys I’ve been rehearsing with in Sydney. And I bumped into Des from The Scavengers in Sydney, must be 15 or 20 years ago when there was a surrealist exhibition on at the art gallery there. But I haven’t really kept in contact with those guys.”

Proud Scum’s “almost famous” story is one that many people already know — early in the career of the Lemonheads, they covered Proud Scum’s “I Am A Rabbit”, from AK79, a tune penned by Alisdair “Rabbit” Duguid. “That was pretty cool,” says Jamrag, “Alisdair wrote the song, and when I found out about it I wondered if he’d had any contact with them. He hadn’t at the time, but he caught up with the Lemonheads years later, told them it was his song and they were really proud to meet him. He was really blown away by that.”

For the upcoming shows, Jamrag confirms that they don’t have any ring-ins. “The original guitarist was John Atrocity who left us in the early days and was then replaced by Sid. We’ve got the full lineup. We weren’t sure at first if we could get Sid, but he’s in and Alisdair is over in the US, but he’s coming, we’ve got everyone. We’re getting together a week before, we’ve got a few days to rehearse together. Sid lives in Sydney so I’ve been up to Sydney a few times and had some rehearsals with him. We actually recorded a track last Sunday, one we had never recorded and we wanted to put it down, so that was a real buzz.”

Note: The Saturday show is sold out: tickets for the Friday show are still available from Under the Radar and Real Groovy, but you better be quick.

Music, The Lounge,

4 Responses to “Proud Scum’s Jonathan Jamrag”

  • SMITH says:

    Hey there. I am Sids little bro and cant wait to see proud scum live. I was 12 when he was in the band I have a copy of that new song Jamrag and I like it. Look forward to meeting you in November George

  • Jamrag says:

    Apparently you need to be 50 to get into these gigs. You’ll need to come up with false ID. Isn’t Sid running hot!

  • Little SMITH says:

    Sids my uncle! I can’t wait to see him either! I’m not fifty but I’ll fight my way in there!!!

  • Rachel says:

    Hope the gig went well , Jonathan.
    I emailed Alaistair a few months ago and he was really excited about it !
    I haven’t seen any reviews or Youtubes of the concert- are there any about ?

    I’m in London , so a bit out of the loop !!


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