On 13th October, legendary Notting Hill venue and cultural landmark The Tabernacle plays host to a special gathering celebrating 40 years of punk and reggae with a party of seismic proportions that will be marked in the annals.
Spill Art gratefully presents a Joe Strummer Foundation fundraiser event. With art on display from Shepard Fairey and Ras Daniel Heartman, film screening from Grammy award winning director Don Letts, and live painting from another Grammy winner £ee $cratch Perry creating a work of art on the night in a rare live painting session with Jill Fressinier - the event is truly fit to commemorate punk and reggae’s impact and influence on mainstream music, fashion and popular culture.
The event is a benefit for the Joe Strummer Foundation, the not-for-profit music charity setup by family and close friends a year after Joe’s passing that continues to give empowering opportunities and support to musicians and projects around the world. With Don Letts and DJ Mad Professor on the decks and with friends, family and ambassadors of the Foundation including Mick Jones of The Clash, Alice Dellal, Dr Martens and Clash Magazine in attendance the night is set to be a true celebration of dread and punk culture and how it has infused all walks of life. Ticket and event details can be found at the bottom of this article for those eager to book. There is also a special contest running to win tickets to the event and a Super Ape t-shirt signed by £ee $cratch Perry himself here hosted by the good folks over at the Joe Strummer Foundation.
Ahead of the event we managed to grab a few moments with one of our favourite artists Shepard Fairey to talk recent about his art, the creation process and getting his hands on records growing up in Cali.
Can you narrow down several of the key moments for you hearing punk records growing up and the first tracks from The Clash and others that caught your ear?
The first time I heard “Nevermind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols” was a big moment. The first track, “Holidays in the Sun” opens with boots marching in time to a pulsing drumbeat and then heavy guitar, all of which in the first 20 seconds of the song made my arm hairs stand up with anticipation that my world was about to change. Hearing the Sex Pistols quickly led me to The Clash since they were 1976-77 contemporaries, but the first Clash album I was able to get my hands on was “Combat Rock” from which I already knew “Rock the Casbah” and “Should I Stay or Should I Go” from the radio.
Those songs made it to conservative South Carolina where I grew up. I love “Combat Rock” and “Know Your Rights” had the perfect blend of defiance and militancy as a “question-authority-manifesto," which made me always wonder why upon sharing my love of that album the “punkers” I knew called “Combat Rock” The Clash’s sellout album. Of course loving that album and being curious about why the punk rock style police were saying it was the worst album, I went to buy their first album. I was short on funds and figured that if their latest album was supposedly their worst, then the first album must be their best.
What I didn’t know was that the American release of their first album was a hybrid of the English version of the debut album along with several later singles. The great news was that that album didn’t sell super well in the U.S., so it was $5.99 I think, maybe even $4.99. In 1984 that was the best five bucks I ever spent. I love a lot of the songs on the first album but “Complete Control” might be my favourite because it’s so brilliant both lyrically and musically. I also loved “London’s Burning,” “Police and Thieves” - which I had no idea was a Lee Scratch Perry song at the time - and “Jail Guitar Doors.” From there on as I could afford, I accumulated the entire Clash catalog.
How hard was it for you and for your friends getting your hands on hard copies of UK punk releases on vinyl and tape growing up in Carolina and at university in California?
It was hard for me to get a lot of records and I taped things and trends and traded these with friends frequently. I also did mail order. But luckily The Clash were on CBS Records, so they were in pretty much every record store. To paraphrase Zack de la Rocha, they use the machinery of the very machine they sought to question, to spread their message. One thing that was important about how much commitment it took to get ahold of punk records was that it meant that I spent time with them analyzing the music and the lyrics. If you’ve gone through the effort to climb the mountain, you might as well get a 360-degree view before heading back down. Once I took an interest in punk rock, I felt like with each new record I was going through a course in art, culture, and politics. I didn’t feel like changing my major midway through my matriculation.
Can you tell us a little about your how your love for Joe’s compassion for the underdog and his resolute stance against injustice had an impact on your own values and in turn how that manifests into your art?
A lot of punk rock at first pass seems nihilistic, and I think that some people mistakenly think that taking a stand for social justice is not “punk rock.” Joe Strummer proved that it was possible to question authority, show compassion for the underdog, and have great style and humour. Anyone who thinks you can’t be cool and righteous isn’t familiar with Joe Strummer. Bukowski said something along the lines of - ‘if something is worth saying, then it’s worth saying with style.’ I think Joe and The Clash are a true embodiment of that concept. I use my art to make pictures I want to make but also to say what I want to say. I think my approach to art is very similar to The Clash’s approach to music.
How did your collaboration with Kate Simon come about and what was the thought process behind that piece?
I love Kate Simon’s work, and she’s a pleasure to collaborate with. She’s very passionate about The Clash and has great aesthetic and intellectual insight into working with them. Her image of Joe that I used as a reference for The Joe Strummer Foundation (Strummerville) piece was a great image of Joe, but I embellished it by adding his Telecaster because it's such an iconic part of his identity. I frequently place subjects I want to celebrate in stamp-like frames because to me that visual device suggests that the person deserves honour and recognition. Hopefully, my admiration for Joe is implicit in the presentation and also a way to pique the interest of the casual viewer.
Which spots in London do you frequent when your in town?
Usually when I’m in London, I’m so busy doing art that I don’t go out for a casual night of music. But I have been to a few events at Cargo in Shoreditch. Since I did a mural there in 2005, they said I could roll through anytime I want. The Rough Trade Record Store is a pretty great place too.
Your vast mural at the site out in Silvertown on the outskirts of East London was one of my own favourite personal photography excursions. What was it like to create?
That mural is my biggest in Europe, and it was very exciting to work there because it was where they shot one of my favourite Kubrick films, “Full Metal Jacket,” but it was challenging because it was extremely windy. It was so windy that another artist assistant had his back broken when the wind blew a billboard, and it landed on him. Even though the mural was difficult, I felt that it was worth it because of that site, The Pleasure Gardens, was supposed to become a bohemian art and music venue run by a collective of progressive Marxist types. Unfortunately, the government decided to restrict the capacity so severely that even with a lot of volunteer efforts, the space would not be financially viable. A funny story that was a result of the space being desolate, is that a woman who came to my Sound & Vision art show in London and saw a painting in the show of the same megaphone image that was part of the mural said to me - “Oh, you made this painting based on that mural that’s been in East London since the 60s.” I tried to explain to her that I painted the mural there only less than a year earlier.
To start the good vibrations and fire up the sound system we grabbed a moment with the legendary Don Letts to give us a flavour of what it was like operating in the hot seat at The Roxy and 1976 and public service broadcast. Don also did us the honour of pulling out 8 records that were key for him, so kick back as we set the vibes to Rebel Dread levels.
Seeing The Clash play at The Roxy in Harlesden supported by The Slits and Subway Sect back in the late seventies was a seminal punk rock moment along with seeing the Sex Pistols live at The Nashville. The Carnival riots in 1976 weren't a black and white thing it was a wrong and right thing sparked by police pressure over the previous year and inspired Joe Strummer to write the song 'White Riot'.
It was basically the people rising up and saying 'we're as mad as hell and we're not gonna take it anymore'.
There was only one place you could hear a mix of punk and reggae and that was the legendary Roxy Club in Covent Garden where I was the DJ. For a short while it was the centre of the punk rock universe and I had a front row seat. Hell its where the punky reggae party started! Messages are for postmen - come down to the Tabernacle on October 13th and check the music that moved and made me the man I am today!
Sex Pistols ‘Never Mind The Bollocks’
Prince Far I ‘Under Heavy Manners’
The Clash ‘London Calling’
Dr Alimantado ‘Best Dressed Chicken In Town’
The Slits ‘The Cut’
Culture ’Two Sevens Clash’
Patti Smith: ‘Horses’
Keith Hudson ‘Pick A Dub’
Dread Meets Punk Rockers
13th October 2016
The Tabernacle, 35 Powis Square,
Notting Hill, London, W11 2AY
Buy tickets for the event here.