"I find I don't use the word 'fascist' as much as I did when I was younger"
There's little your humble narrator can add to the exhaustive work our own David Ensminger did on the elusive Anarchitex, something of Houston's best-kept punk secret, and his in-depth preview of the band's new album Digital Dark Age. However, there is always a however, and Rocks Off wanted to check in with singer John Reen Davis before the band formally releases the album tomorrow at Fitzgerald's.
Since 1983 Anarchitex has put their own spin on the punk genre - looser and more experimental than The Hates, but with the same kind of legitimacy. The music is as angry as ever, railing against their own advancing age as well as the continuing downfall of society. There's nothing standard about their songs. Don't expect some kind of generic punk soundtrack to some kind of half-remembered Sex Pistols-inspired film. You're going to get hit in the brain when you turn on Digital Dark Age.
Rocks Off: Is getting old really as bad as you sometimes make it sound? It's better than the alternative, surely.
John Reen Davis: I haven't experienced the alternative so I'll have to take your word.
Originally Punk was about the frustrations of young people. I wrote "Mean and Bitter" as sort of a sequel to "Blank Generation" by the Voidoids or the Adverts's "Bored Teenager." "Button on a Lapel" was written when I was about 25. Back then, that already made you the oldest punk in the room.
RO: What kind of place to you have to be in to write a song like "Chain of Cigarettes?" The whole thing seems bizarrely stream-of-consciousness on top of the more standard punk on the album.
JRD: Well it's not like I took an unhealthy amount of LSD one night and scribbled a bunch of nonsense that Torry set to the tune of an old Beatles instrumental. No one should ever write a song that way. So I guess I don't remember. Originally it was two songs, one about my addiction to nicotine, which I've since kicked, and another which was about "class anger," or something like that.
I never did see what the two had to do with each other. Now that I'm all grown up I find I don't use the word "fascist" as much as I did when I was younger.
RO: What's different about this version of the band than previous versions, and what made you want to record this era in the studio?
JRD: This is pretty much the same lineup from 1986-87 but without David N. W. Sawyer on sax. When we got back together for the Axiom Reunion in 2007 we were surprised at how good we sounded. After 20-some-odd years playing in other bands we actually must've learned something. The sound was strong and crisp and more confident than before, and more minimalistic compared to Naked Amerika or Pain Teens or some of our later projects.
The only release from the old days was a joint cassette we did with the Pain Teens shortly before we broke up. It's a medium that didn't make for a very rich sound and the production was really primitive by today's standards (Scott's learned a lot since then). We had a chance for a do-over and we took it, and we're very pleased with the results.
RO: Punk is based on anger at the current system. What is honestly the thing that has pissed you off the most about the modern world that inspired a song?
JRD: I think what pisses me off the most is how little things have changed. Like Torry has said before, songs about how shitty the government is never seem to go out of style.
RO: After so many years doing what you do, what do you think the most important thing you've learned is?
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JRD: Be patient. Some shit takes like 30 years to catch on.
The Anarchitex releases Digital Dark Age at Fitzgerald's Friday with The Energy, Black Congress, and The Delta Block.