The Story of DIRT
By Lance Hahn
SO MANY PEOPLE CAN DETERMINE THE WAY YOU DIE, BUT ONLY YOU CAN DETERMINE THE WAY YOU LIVE.
The Story of DIRT
By Lance Hahn
"Naïve? No way... I think the whole thing was enthusiastic and took up the momentum of a runaway train."
Gary, guitar and vocals
Three vocalists, six guitar players, five drummers and five bassists and the history of DIRT could read like a Pete Frame family tree. Spanning the '80s and into the '90s, the band splintered and reconstituted on an arbitrary and perplexing schedule. Three fresh starts and three clear splits, DIRT were perhaps the
Though some version of the story have the band forming in February 1981 at a Mental Institution, Death Is Reality Today formed in 1980 with two young people riding the same bus.
Gary, "The band was actually formed in 1980... memory of that time is a bit jaded (21 years ago). And like everything else you tend to remember extremes... be they good or bad.
"I was writing lyrics/music and going to lots of gigs (shows) at the time. I was looking for other people to play with and ended up teaching a friend how to play guitar... (could just about play myself).
"Deno was a friend who lived local and we used to go home on the same bus! We never met at the Institute for Mental Health... We did however develop a history of problems that would lead people to believe that was the case... (This was perhaps one of the strong points of the band... our two personalities were so extreme that people who worked with us ended up suffering on numerous occasions).
"You may notice we had something like 21 different members throughout the bands history!"
Having been fascinated and moved by the initial punk explosion of '77 in England, founding members Gary and Deno found the movement as part of what defined his rites of passage. Though he had never been in a band before, forming DIRT was almost something of inevitability.
Gary, "Punk rock exploded in London in 1977. At that point... I was going through the 'growing up phase' not knowing what I was gonna do with my life.
"The UK at that time was in a fucking mess. High unemployment. Strikes. Power cuts. There really did seem to be 'No Future'....
"Music up to this point was crappy rock bands... same old shit... elevator music.
"Punk was loud, fresh, in your face and exciting... It acknowledged its surroundings and said 'Fuck You'. Prior to Punk I felt alienated, had few friends and no idea about what to do in life... Punk gave me confidence and a direction... It certainly opened my eyes to the politics around me and made me think about things... it also gave me something more... a sense of belonging... a "scene" that I wanted to be part of and a vehicle as an outlet for 'my ideas'..."
When punk began evolving musically into uncharted areas as demonstrated on the more abrasive side by Crass and Discharge at the time, the two were ensconced in the high energy music where the live show was everything and the record was the souvenir.
Gary, "I can't remember what I listened to at the time.... I know my tastes haven't changed that much and my record collection reflects that whole period. I used to see live bands all the time... regardless of what they sounded like... I just loved the whole energy that was around at the time. Can't say that anything really influenced me... you can probably judge that by the way I play!"
Having been made aware of the growing anarchist punk scene around Crass in London, the libertarian ideas found easy manifestation in the anti-authoritarian, anti-mainstream ideas Gary and Deno had already found to be endemic to punk.
Gary, "I think the so-called Anarcho politics stemmed from the sense of community that developed after the 'No Future' ideas... The bands at the time were being bought up by the record industry and marketed as 'Anarchic'.
"There was no way I was gonna let this be taken away from me... So just continued with the idea that we didn't need the mainstream... and if the punk movement was gonna become mainstream... we'd help re-direct it... create a future.
"I had seen Crass play many times... and had become friends with several of them... I'd have to say yes the politics of their lyrics did influence me as they were representative of what was going on at the time... they were a little older than us and had been involved in 'movements' in the past, were artistic and easy to get along with.
"They had a vision that made a lot of sense, were not about ripping people off and were genuinely trying to create something... above all open & honest."
As a couple, he and Deno set out to start the band first recruiting two young punks named Fox and Vomit as drums and bass respectively. The line-up was rounded off with Lou making the group one of the early punk bands with women and men playing together without traditional roles. The still macho world of punk rock was forced by many anarcho bands to rethink their attitudes and Lou especially found herself in that role as guitarist. Struggling against the macho façade was part of DIRT's concept from the start.
With a stable line-up quickly assembled, the name DIRT was chosen.
Gary, "The name Dirt came about as a result of the way people treated us as Punks. Punk at that time wasn't the 'trendy' MTV thing it is today! It was seen as ugly and threatening. People used to attack you verbally and physically. You were refused service in bars and restaurants etc."
From the start the imagism of nuclear holocaust loomed large in the lyrical field of DIRT. The renewed interest in CND in Britain as well as the TV show "Threads" helped fuel the post-apocalyptic landscape that existed in the punk collective unconscious. As both antithesis and fascination, Hiroshima and Nagasaki were archetypes in the band's aesthetic.
It's only a matter of time
Before it happens here
'Cos down in Hiroshima
They live in constant fear
Don't let them con you it won't
Don't let them con you it can't
'Cos at this very moment
They are building a nuclear plant
Inside are all those chemicals
That make those dangerous gasses
All they need is one leak
And down will go the masses
As had always been the fuel that kept the intense dedication to punk rock alive, this feeling of desperation and frustration was a key part of the beginning of the anarcho punk movement. In the case of DIRT it was always best manifested in the early live performances. Further tearing down the separation between audience and artist, DIRT was one of the early punk bands to see gigs as a town hall sort of interaction rather than a performance to be observed with distance.
Gary, "The early gigs were chaotic and exciting.... We couldn't get gigs at proper venues... always requiring demo tapes and 'play the music game' rules. So we would go out and find our own places... We'd never done anything like it before and it was a huge learning experience. I remember on one occasion we hired a church hall as if it were for a wedding reception. Got bands to play with, it was 'real' DIY... The audiences were similar people to us... the gigs were seen as meeting places for like-minded people. We made lots of good friends... people would produce their own fliers and distribute them. (The fliers were quite diverse... vegetarian recipes.... human rights.... news and gossip). You didn't have to be in a band to be part of the experience."
This new community was both mirrored and inspired by what was happening all around the country as well as a uniquely English history of counterculture going back 100 years. Crossing over two generations of agit-prop were Crass who would inevitably begin a working as well as friendly relationship with DIRT. In 1981, they would become touring partners, which would continue throughout DIRT's existence.
Gary, "Crass had been touring with the Poison Girls for a number of years.... and then at some point in 1981 the 2 bands decided to stop playing together.
"I got a phone call from Steve saying they had a tour in the planning and were looking for a band to tour with... they liked the fact that we were different... ie. Not an all male band with female singer... (Dirt from the outset had made a conscious decision that this would never be the case).
"Plus our style and lyrics complemented what Crass were perceived as. On stage we were very non-macho... almost amusing at times and we had a professional approach to everything we did.
"Crass put out the "Object Refuse..." EP... as part of their label and as a thanks to us for being part of what they were..."
Before the end of 1981, DIRT would release the 21st record on Crass Records becoming the eighth band other than Crass to release music on the label.
The EP "Object Refuse Reject Abuse" was a four track 7" of sheer guitar sounds and rhythmic patters unlike anything else at the time. The white noise of the guitars were more reminiscent of Wire or Gang Of Four than the power chords of other early '80s UK punk bands. The screaming vocals were made powerful by the shameless commitment to the actual emotion rather than the specific lyric. Even groundbreaking punk women singers like Ari Up and Poly Styrene hadn't let go so completely.
Lyrically, the record continued with paranoid themes of mistrust, alienation and it's inevitable outcome of death. For the first time, DIRT became an acronym for Death Is Reality Today headlining a suitably gothic photo of a graveyard accompanying a manifesto of sorts defining the many layers of oppression in society from war toys to global politics.
How can we expect to live in a sane world when we teach our children to play games of destruction, mutilation and death? Why do we let it happen? Is it that we don't care? Are we the passive herd? Are we afraid, too fucking scared, of what might happen if we don't' follow the rules set out for us, those nice little media labels? As long as we continue to accept the violent state that we live in, things will only get worse.
The track "Democracy" in particular reinforces that sentiment.
The system is there
The system will stay
The system will rule
Birth control, life control, death control
Education of their wrong and right
Of their order and of their law
Don't take it
It's just a con
Don't take it
You know it's wrong
It's just a front
So they can use you
It's just a front
So they can cheat you
Object Refuse Reject Abuse
Gary, "Expression... the lyrics come from within... from things around us that happen to us, that we see."
Like most of the releases on the label, members of Crass were directly involved with the record both with layout and with studio production. On the cover, crime and war scene photos are juxtaposed with a collage of photos of band members as a bit of lighthearted fun against the backdrop of doom and gloom. Also, for the first time, the black and white skull image that would become associated with the band as a logo appeared.
Gary, "The text was done by me, the collage was done by Andy (crass). The skull on the records which was also used as the bands logo was painted by an artist and best friend of the band... Leo!
"Many people have submitted to us what they feel it represents... No Comment!"
The recording itself was produced by Penny Rimbaud and engineered by John Loder at Southern.
Gary, "Recording was weird... never been in a studio before... it was good but also disturbing... in the sense that what may work live on a stage, sounds dreadful when you break down the individual instruments.
"Coupled with the fact that our equipment was the cheapest you could possibly get! And I seem to recall having to do my vocals over and over...
"Working with Crass was fun, inspirational and laid back. Southern Studios had a relaxed atmosphere and nothing was rushed... there was no obvious concept of time.
"Penny was and still is a craftsman. We worked together recently when he produced one of the Stratford Mercenaries CD's. He sees things from different perspectives and what at first seems odd to me... makes a hell of a lot of sense as time rolls by!"
The debut 7" by DIRT remains one of the classics of the period. Even at the time it was responded to warmly both in terms of sales and increased support at gigs. Also, DIRT were growing close with other likeminded bands on the Crass roster.
Gary, "Of course we related to the bands that were around us... in fact we shared musicians with Flux at one point... We did many gigs with the Mob... (probably one of the best bands of the time).
"All the bands had something in common, a direction we all believed in and a hope for the future.
"We would pool resources, share equipment/vans and book shows for each other. We helped form networks around the UK that would allow bands from outta town to have a place to play and stay."
The end result of course being more and more tours around the UK and not only with Crass who were their original touring partners.
Gary, "Dirt were always playing gigs... Between tours with Crass we would tour with the Mob / Anthrax / Polemic... The vinyl release helped in the sense that people knew who we were.... other avenues were open to us... networks were getting bigger... clubs were phoning us to play."
With the Falklands War in 1982, the anarcho scene was one of the few still vocally opposing state sponsored violence. The wave of patriotism that swept the country further isolated the groups in the Crass camp and made life much more confrontational if not outright dangerous.
In the midst of records like "Sheep Farming In the Falklands" and "How Does It Feel?", DIRT came up with their own instant response with a live record hastily put together as time was now consumed by the no longer theoretical struggle of stopping war and attacking it's roots.
Gary, "Crass gigs were like military operations. Everybody had a job to do... PA loaded in. Screens set up. Projectors and TV's. Backline. Banners hung from the ceilings. The whole room we played in was transformed.
"From the moment the doors opened there was something going on. Videos playing. Spoken word artists / poets / etc. between bands.
"The crowds were incredible, enthusiastic and very large.
"One down side being that 'Spitting' was very popular at the time! The more they liked you the more they spat. My guitar actually rusted after one tour.
"Some of the gigs were marred by troublemakers... At the time in the UK football (soccer) matches were a place of violence! Certain factions decided to bring this to the shows.
"Being politically motivated attracts a lot of intensity and anyone with an issue would show up!
"At one gig in Sheffield we were confronted by local people who had lost friends and family on board The 'HMS Sheffield'... A ship sunk during the Falklands war. I remember a group of us sitting backstage before the show, we explained what we were doing and about our anti-war beliefs. There was never any suggestion that we were attacking the dead. It ended on good terms and most people stayed to watch the gig. Very moving!"
The translation of politics lyrically to the reality of '80s Britain was becoming more and more defined which certainly explained why so many flocked to the movement. With poverty and then war, people were looking for answers and alternatives.
Gary, "Again this goes back to what was going on in the UK at the time. In 1980 England was involved in War games (Crusader 80) with the rest of Europe. The USA was using the UK as a base for Nuclear weapons... We saw peace movements forming with the Women at Greenham Common. Anti apartheid rallies were highlighting race issues in South Africa. War was seen as a real threat at that point. (And we all know 'War' is a good way of bringing a country together)!
"Then... as if by magic... came the Falklands war...
"The imagery we were using at the time was used because that was all that was available to us. People like us had little idea what the effects of war could be... those who were old enough for the war that ended in 1945 were a different generation.
"We had soldiers in Northern Ireland and we saw the watered down news reports that tv at the time would show. There was no Internet or satellite TV. Nowadays there is far more access to this kind of information... (yet still this shit against mankind goes on)... We used what we could at the time."
But there were also more practical reasons for the follow up 12" to be a live recording titled "Never Mind Dirt – Here's the Bollocks".
Gary, "Studio album was out of the question... our instruments / equipment hadn't changed... Our material was raw and straightforward. We were more of a live experience anyway and it seemed this was the best way to go!"
Despite the live recording including much of the same music they had been playing live around the recording of "Object Refuse", there was still an evolution with this record. It became clear on the record that their live show had become one single-minded entity that grew from song to song rather than just a collection of tunes like at a regular rock review. Also, the lyrical content was more heavily valued as they were written in the layout in a way that they needed to be read and contemplated as a separate entity. They didn't exist just to sing along with the punk anthems.
Gary, "It was deliberate... I call it art!"
Like the previous record, the back of this 12" included a rant that doubled as a poetic distraction from the noise. In some ways it could almost be assumed that the nature of the writing was in some way influenced (as many bands were) with the poetic style of the Mob.
As blue skies turn blood red
And destruction is abundant
Families cover in the squalor of their homes.
I'm bleeding; barely alive
But aware of my body hemorrhaging
Bleeding into the scenery
Of red rouged make-up parlours
A haze falls on toy town
And the child wonders why
At the same time, the band was doing more and more for the community with benefit gigs and involvement in political causes. This further shaped the band's education and of course affected the songwriting.
From the slaughterhouse comes a hateful cry
The soul is dead, the carcass to fry
Where is your mercy now God?
From the flesh that weeps to the blood that stains
Meat has no forgiveness
It just feels pain
Where is your mercy now God?
To live to meet the butchers hook
To die for food to cook
Where is your mercy now God?
From the cradle to the grave
Is how we're brought to live?
But from the mud to someone's belly
Is no life for a pig?
There is no mercy now God.
There is no God
Gary, "My surroundings and people gave me my outlook. We did a lot of benefit gigs (various causes) and met lots of activists along the way. Some very close friends were active in hunt sabbing at the time... even going to prison for their actions.
"People who know me... know I don't read anything! (Still the same)."
Around this time, the band went back to Southern to record a single for the Crass imprint label, Corpus Christi. What should have been a single for the songs "Mother" and "Ripper" turned out to be the beginning of the end for the band as tensions turned to fighting in the studio resulting in a record never finished or released.
Gary, "The "Ripper" sessions were recorded for Corpus Christi... a spin off at Southern Studios. We were 'perhaps unwisely' left to our own devices... we ran up a huge debt at the studio... couldn't agree on sound or a final mix and ended up in one of our familiar 'disagreements'. It was shelved... and is probably still in the vaults at Southern!"
Incomplete mixes of the songs would later appear on the "Black And White" retrospective double LP.
That year ended for the band with the famous Zig Zag festival.
Gary, "The Zig Zag was certainly an event. We put out notice that it was to be at the Rainbow Theatre. Then the night before... The Zig Zag was taken over... electric turned on and we were in. I drove the van with the backline in it... Met by police at the door who didnt know what to do... so they did nothing. It was a great day... all the bands and the audience alike were friends by this point... It was a party... We had all come a long way together and this was indeed a turning point... where could things go after this?"
But with Lou already moonlighting in Flux Of Pink Indians, the band simply unraveled.
Gary, "The band had pretty much exhausted itself by this point. We felt we had done a lot... grown a lot... Lou had left... Fox who was the drummer had had enough. The antics of me and Deno had caused a lot of rifts between us all and those around us... For some time me & Deno were pretty explosive (not physically) in each others company. We had trouble agreeing on anything... we were still sharing a house and domestic issues and relationships weighed heavily on what we were doing..."
Lou would go on to play guitar for Flux Of Pink Indians on their second LP. Fox and Vomit had a bleaker future.
Gary, "Fox and Vomit were brothers. Fox sadly died about a year later. Vomit went on to play in a few non-political local bands..."
The band lay dormant for two years when Gary and Deno decided to get another line-up together in 1984. Finding a couple of guys named Paul and Richard to join on bass and guitar respectively, they made the controversial decision of hiring Stuart Bray on as drummer.
Bray had got his start in the band the Waxwork Dummies. But by 1982 he was drumming for controversial Oi! band Special Duties. While mostly known for their singles "Violent Society" and "Police State", the band became notorious after releasing the "Bullshit Crass" single. Lead singer Steve Arrogant claimed "we wrote the song because we felt the fun element had gone out of punk and all the Crass style bands had made it too gloomy and too political. In hindsight, the record probably killed the band!"
Fearing violence between in the audience, Special Duties found most of their gigs cancelled with the release of that single and bands like the Dead Kennedys refused to allow Special Duties gig with them.
All the more ironic that two years later Stuart Duties would wind up in the revamped DIRT. Stuart is, incidentally, now drumming again in the newly reformed Special Duties.
Gary, "I had been working with some friends for a while and written some new material... that project ended before it saw the light of day... not wanting to waste what I'd been doing I put it to Deno who then added her contribution... The new line up was made up from friends who were people we lived and hung out with... it just kind of fell into place... What could possibly go wrong?
"Paul and Richard took over on bass & guitar and Stuart (ex Special Duties) on drums. This caused a little controversy... but that's life!
"We used the name Dirt 'cos the lyrics/music had always been written by me & Deno and this was still the case.
"The idea was the same... we had taken time out, felt refreshed and ready to continue... (this line up was the only time that Deno was the only female in the band). We felt we had played a large part in a movement that made people aware of surroundings and options. And we still had potential and things to say!"
Despite an ongoing interest in the band live, the gigs had taken on a completely different atmosphere as crossover had now hit both sides of the Atlantic.
Gary, "Gigs at that time were taking on a new lease of life... Violence at gigs was by now a common occurrence. Music tastes had changed (not from my perspective)... Every new band seemed to be heading towards Black Sabbath riffs... We toured with Antisect for the most part... We even ended up all living together at one point (hell... in case you were wondering)!
"Other bands such as Toxic Waste and Crucifix joined us on some tours."
After a bit of touring and a set of new material, the band recorded a demo. Satisfied with the sound, they decided to release the record on their own in a limited pressing.
Gary, "God alone knows this one.... We recorded and released it ourselves. (because we could)... Limited to 1000 vinyl copies only.
"In hindsight it was a demo of material we were working on. I think it would have been better if it was recorded a year later! But a year later and it wouldn't have seen the light of day."
What would turn out to be the bands only studio LP, "Just An Error" was a 12 song outing. Rudimentary and extremely proficient punk, the record was quite different from the joyous noise of the previous line-up. Despite the efficiency of this solid record, the band were unsatisfied when faced with the end product causing reflection on the nature of the band itself.
Gary, "Dirt had a different feel than the previous line up. The tensions weren't as high between us all and we didn't seem to have to work too hard to make things happen for ourselves. The energy wasn't right and it seemed hard to focus on a direction. I feel, looking back... that we felt we had something to say... but it was more like letting off steam and wasn't working."
In terms of what Deno was doing lyrically, however, it's easy to see forward progress. While maintaining the political ideas that helped make them DIRT, the storytelling was evolving.
Sitting here on a merry go round
Just waiting for the world to stop
The night is fading the dawn is nearly here
And I feel so tired I could drop
There's a shadow in the distance
With a gun in his hand
And his mind is on shoot to kill
Then a shout comes up from the back of the crowd
To fire at ones own will
Then one by one they fall to the ground
And for a moment I think I'm not there
Then I open my eyes and I'm still going round
Bu my mind is tortured with fear
With the release of this quickly out of print record, the band continued to tour eventually splitting when Stuart left the band to become a father. Gary and Deno also decided to go their separate ways.
Six years came and went before Gary got the urge to get the band together again. It would turn out that Deno was thinking along similar lines as both had continued to write music separately. But it was the oddest band that inspired the reincarnation.
Gary, "My best friend at the time was working for a music magazine. She took me along to see a band called Daisy Chainsaw... It was one of the first gigs I had been to in years. Fucking incredible!
"I was so motivated that I called Deno... who I hadn't seen for a long time. Our lifestyles hadn't changed but we had gone in different directions... We got together and decided to work it through... It turned out that we were both still writing material... And our different experiences had caused us to feel strongly about what we had done in the past. About the same time as we were doing this I got a call from Ali of Hellkrusher. He had heard from friends that me & Deno were working together and made us an offer! He had made some contacts and was booking a small tour for his band. We went along on a kind of low key "see how it goes"... It went well for us and we were all fired up!"
Karen, Mick and Stef were the recruits on guitar, bass and drums.
Gary, "Dirt always ended up in turmoil... so new blood was required... The others in the band had been in some bands before... but I'd never seen them and cant remember the names... (not selective memory I assure you).
"The new people were friends of old... except Karen who had been recommended as a guitarist."
With the new line-up in place and some gigs under the belt, the band recorded a six song demo while in Ireland. "Feast Or Famine" was eventually publicly released to much success.
Gary, "Originally it was done as a demo whilst on tour in Ireland. The reason it was only on cassette was that it was only a demo and we could press them as and when required!"
With the band back now in force, interest from newer, second and third generation anarcho labels expressed interest in releasing music by DIRT. The first release would be the "Scent of the Kill" EP on Germany's Skuld Records. The four song EP was an odd mix of material considering it was the band's first vinyl release in over six years.
The first track was "Lunacy" originally on the "Feast Or Famine" tape. The b-side was made up of two cover versions from the band Toxic Waste, "Listen Morons" and "Plastic Bullets". The only other DIRT original was "Hated".
Gary, "I think the reasoning behind it was that the cassette had actually sold about 1500 copies and to put out the same songs on vinyl would have felt like we were cheating somebody. Plus the cassette was good enough in its own right. "Lunacy" and the other songs that formed the 2 7" singles were Deno's new direction in writing. Taking on a more personal direction and those of women's rights. The 2 Toxic Waste songs were added because Deno had performed with them on a tour and we had incorporated both songs in our set."
Their dealings with Skuld seemed to have been instigated by their old touring partners, Hellkrusher.
Gary, "Can't remember all the finer points... but I recall Hellkrusher had dealings with Kleister... we talked and it seemed like a good idea. We had no finance to put anything out ourselves and Skuld has a good network. Kleister was good to work with and easy to get along with."
The two originals were clearly more evolved stylistically than any previous DIRT release. While marinating the sad bitter edge of the earlier writing, the new songs were equally personal.
Beat me 'til I'm black
Beat me 'til I'm blue
But I'm not giving in to the likes of you
Living in the sanctity of love
Living in the sanctuary of love
Living with this lunacy called love
Nowhere left to hide
Nowhere left to run
You can't undo things that you've already done
Hold me to the sky
Bring me to my knees
Pretend I don't care
But baby don't tease
Now I've had enough
I'm walking through the door
But you can't make me stay
Cause I can't take no more
Artistically, the cover took on a new ethereal mood.
Gary, "It's easy to put out a record and miss the point that art plays a strong point in what you do... (Gone are the days of photocopies and stencil/ letraset etc)... I think we realized that artwork was 'not' a strong point in our list of talents!!! We decided that someone more artistic should be involved. Lin Cummins, artist/photographer was given the space..."
Around the same time, they were approached by the US label Tribal War for a split with the US band Mankind? (will that girl please put down her lyric sheet!).
Gary, "We had played with Mankind on a few occasions. Tribal War were releasing some of their material and asked if we were interested in putting something out... We had 2 tracks from the same recording session as the Skuld 7" so... released a split. They were seen as the US version of Dirt! ... (Well... at least soundwise).
"Ideologically... hard to say! On the surface... probably... but we are worlds apart... We are much older! A little wiser? More jaded... more cynical... better looking... we face different problems to them... different lifestyles... different backgrounds...
"We are all part of the same scene and I consider Stacey and Bill to be really good friends of mine."
But soon things were changing again. For various reasons, Mick and Stef would leave the band to be replaced with Russ and Stick. Stick, of course, the famous British drummer for hire who started with Doom and went on to play with just about every other great UK hardcore band of the early '90s.
With a renewed interest in anarcho punk in the states after successful visits from bands as diverse as Citizen Fish and Chumbawamba, DIRT were offered a US tour with Fair Warning and Hellkrusher. The tour started on an ominous note as drummer Stick was stopped and turned back at immigration to be momentarily replaced by New York drummer Julian. With two days practice he managed to sort out a sets worth of material. Not nearly as easy as it sounds and it does not sound easy.
Gary, "It was our 1st US tour. I think we were all really impressed that the scene was thriving on its DIY level... the enthusiasm was overwhelming and we met tons of good people and bands.
"It seemed odd at times... the age gaps between us all. All ages shows mean that majority of audience are under 21... The tour was great... 3 bands traveling in 2 vans. We covered a lot of ground but didn't make it to the west coast... there's only so much time you can put into touring in one go... that's why we came back later the same year.
"Subsequent visits have led me to the conclusion that whilst the 'punk movement' appears to be growing... when people get to 21 they tend to avoid all ages shows... leaving bands with a new audience to play to... unless they start playing in bars!
"Some of the best moments that I recall... this is hard... the basement shows in Chicago / Wisconsin with a jam session at a local bar afterwards! A two day party in Minneapolis! Hanging out in Dallas on a very hot day! Playing an AA club in Long Beach & having to pass breath tests to get in! Riot police stopping the shows in LA & again 2 days later in Phoenix. Falling in love a "couple" of times... seeing the Redwoods / deserts / truck stops / some presidents cast in a mountain? Getting to play with Aus Rotten and Naked Aggression... Seeing how Tribal War Records works!! No real bad points... although everyone can remember me & Deno not talking...
"The tour was in 2 parts... a lot of people don't realize what a lot of stress touring can be... you don't have a proper bed, a place to call your own, endless driving, sleep deprivation, having to be nice to the 50 people who have trekked 3 hours to see you. The noise on stage every night, drinking & partying... even if you don't want to... basically its a roller coaster that you cant get off... and it is hard work. All for the 45 minutes performance everyday.
"Add to that 5 shows in the mid west were cancelled and you end up camping cause there's no money for the 15 people on the road and its hell!! (we are punks not hippies).
"So the tour has to be broken down into smaller segments!"
Not an uncommon story for touring bands, the US was a slow burn that resulted in skilled guitarist Karen to leave the band. She was replaced for the second half of the US tour with a girl named Debbie who left soon after. She in turn was replaced by Gus. More band fighting led to the departure of Russ the bass player to be replaced by Cecile. This would be the band's final line-up.
Gary, "Cecille was a girl we met in France and gave her a lift to Italy! She stayed on the whole tour and then came to visit us in UK. She took over as bassist after more arguments within the band..."
Back in the comfort of the continent, the band continued to tour eventually recording one last LP of a live gig. The self-released album was titled "Drunks In Rusty Transits" and would be the only record of the band's last line-up though only one song, "Manhunter" had been previously unreleased.
Gary, "Drunks came about after the European tour where the van (Transit) we were driving started to fall apart... everyday a bit fell off due to rust and we spent hours pushing the bloody thing!
"Add to that it was a pretty extreme tour... 2 bands in the same van... lotsa arguments all round. And alcohol... D.I.R.T became an acronym for Drunks in Rusty Transits!!!"
The band would finally call it a day for good. But not with one last totally chaotic tour.
Gary, "Deno phoned me a week or so before the tour started and said she wasn't going to do it... she had said this to me many times before... so I didn't believe her. Not sure of the reasons... got some ideas... but we never really discussed it.
"Final Warning had flown into the UK already, a van was bought between us, ferry tickets, albums pressed and a tour was ready... As soon as I realized Deno was for real... I phoned Stacey (of Mankind? -vocally very similar) and convinced her to fly here for a 6-week tour!!! Two days later she arrived and off we went... no rehearsals! She saved the tour. She was great.
"The majority of people who saw us didn't realize we had a different vocalist. The fact that she was probably younger than most of the audience didn't seem to play a part in this! (its an older scene in Europe). Obviously there were a lot of people who knew Deno and were upset at her absence... but..."
With Deno out of the band there was never any consideration to tour at that point.
Gary, "No... Never... Dirt was... Me & Deno."
The constant tension that fueled the band and made them so unique had no choice but to ultimately engulf them.
Gary, "Understatement!!!! Dirt was fuelled by the fact that me & Deno could not get along. We were/are both passionate about what we do and both very head strong. We couldn't agree on anything! This was really hard for other members of the band... they would always be caught in the crossfire. It did make touring difficult... but we got a new lease of life when we toured with Hellkrusher... they seemed to suffer more from us than we did!
"In fact it caused them to split a few times! Later we did the same to Final Warning... but by this point me & Deno were always traveling in different vans. Our saving grace! Many tours we never actually spoke to each other! But if you'd seen us on stage you'd think we were family."
Gary still plays music last seen in the states with the Stratford Mercenaries.
Gary, "Stratford is different to Dirt... for a start Deno wasn't bald! (joke-Steve) Its a lot less 'in your face' politics! I see Stratford as an extension of what I personally did before... I have the role of pulling Stratford together... from rehearsals to tours to artwork to the web site to communicating with everybody... I like to take charge of everything I do... I find it hard to hand responsibility over to anyone... The audiences... pretty much the same... Young... (Maybe cos we are a 'little' older)... I think times and attitudes have changed a lot... I see things different-ish nowdays... its sometimes hard to relate... but I usually manage pretty well!
"…I seldom reflect on specifics of the band... but I know that was a huge part of my life... I am fortunate that I have remained in contact with a lot of people who I met over the years... I also know the band played a huge part in other people's lives... be it good or bad!
"I'm happy to say I'm still actively involved in the punk scene... It still causes me some controversy... like the guys who say... "15 years ago you said..."
"I can't always be bothered to deal with people anymore on this level. It seems that whatever you say is set in stone for someone to criticize later! I occasionally play some tracks... and it makes me feel good that Dirt was totally different to the other bands playing during that era... I still think we were more of a live experience and not the best musicians...
"I'm still in touch with most ex members... see a few of them on regular basis. Stef (drums) is often working with local bands. Stick is occasionally playing with Stratford when Phil is busy elsewhere. None of the others are... I think me & Deno put them off for life!!!!!!!!!!!!
"…If the anarcho punk politics hadn't evolved the way it did... then I think things would be a lot different today...
"The 'anarcho punk rock' movement over the years has shown itself to be perhaps the most influential of any generation. Punks have been prominent in demonstrations, protests, promoted vegetarianism, squatting (as an alternative for housing crisis), fought racism, human and animal rights, has its own music scene and venues, has communities that exist around the world offering places for people to stay and communicate.
"We should all be proud of what we did... DIRT played its part. I also feel very proud that we did change the world!! (Well we helped...)"