Türkiye'de Punk ve Yeraltı Kaynaklarının
Kesintili Tarihi 1978-1999

An Interrupted History of Punk and Underground
Resources in Turkey 1978-1999

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Kemal Aydemir

How did you get involved with Punk?

I went to England to study graphic design. When I arrived, I saw that the schools were incredibly expensive. The plan was this: I was gonna work part time and go to school for the rest of the day.

Which school?

There was no school. I couldn’t get into one. That "which school" never happened.

What year was this?

1977. There was hippie life going on in Turkey at the time, everyone was wearing their hair long. I took off from such a scene here and went there. The picture was a different one altogether. The hippies were older, most of them were living in squatted houses. After a while I started to be aware of the Punks, weird make-up, torn clothes, pins and stuff. You didn’t see them that often though, the year was only still ‘77. I thought that they were all wackos. I thought that they were psychos, thought they were dangerous. I was still thinking like a hippie you see, still listening to Pink Floyd, Frank Zappa. A friend said "these are the punks. It’s a new thing here. They have clubs. I’ll take you to one of their concerts and you’ll see the difference". I said, "okay, let’s go." We went there. There was this place called "The Marquee". The Lurkers were playing there that day and 999 was playing as well. I went inside and I’m telling you, I was really frightened. Now we were quite decently dressed; they were all in torn clothes, chains and stuff. The club looked like an insane asylum. I started wondering what I was doing there and I was frightened, but on the other hand I really liked it. It was very colorful. The concert started, we were right there in the front row, and they were letting people drink beer. They started doing pogo and all… you should have seen the commotion. People were on top of each other, they were spurting and spitting beer on each other. Everyone was soaked with beer. We were scared that there would be a fight, so we went towards the back of the room and started watching from there. There was an incredible energy in the music when I first listened to it. I don’t quite know how to make a comparison. Our groups from the ‘60s for instance, they take their places on stage, play a specific song and then a guitar solo starts and goes on for hours, jar jur jar jur. And then enter the drums and that’s it. These guys were playing one song for two minutes and then, wham, the second song began. No guitar solos or anything, but there was an awesome energy as well. I said, "man, I love this music, let’s come here every week."

We lived in North London at the time. All the houses were squatted there. There was also a very important pub in English Rock Music history that was there. Very important musicians played there and it wasn’t that huge place either. Since I was living in the neighbourhood I kept popping my head in to see who was playing. I became a regular of that pub. I said to myself, "drop the hippies man, there is life in these punks." And afterwards, I mean, I still didn’t know what it was that these guys wanted, what their goals were, what their culture was like. My English was very bad so I really didn’t understand much. We used to go to Kings Road. Punks strutted up and down there. They’d dress up, folks would stare at these punks and the punks would spit at them and so on. Malcolm McLaren had a shop there, it was called "SEX". I was passing by one day, but I didn’t know that it was a shop. They put an army boot on display in the window and it rotted there. I didn’t have the slightest clue about conceptual art and stuff either. I thought "what is this place?" I went inside and there was Jordan, staring at me with a whip in her hand. I thought "oh no, this can’t be good." However, I really liked the shop. No one pestered me like they do in the other shops. And the music playing was Punk. I thought "This must be a Punk shop." And then I looked at the clothes and stuff, which were all fetishistic. Bondage trousers were in at the time. Who the hell would wear these? Then I looked at the t-shirts. First thing, I really liked the designs on them, those phosphorescent colours and all. Whenever I went to Kings Road I’d drop by the shop. Then some time passed by. punks were not allowed to play their music. I was checking the newspapers. It looked like the Sex Pistols were playing, but no one knew where. They were playing undercover. Something happened: In one of the concerts someone threw a bottle at a girl and it poked one of her eyes out. All Punk concerts were banned. We kept going to The Marquee, but there were no gigs going on. They were distributing flyers saying there will be a concert at this place, this time etc. One day I went to one of those. I showed them the flyer I was given and they just let me in. It was so crowded inside. The building looked like an old factory or a warehouse. I still thought that in a concert there would be seats and everyone would be seated and stuff. I looked around, the place was full of punks. I was wearing a raincoat. While I was still wondering to myself "how are they going to give a concert here?" they came on to the stage - the Sex Pistols. Well, I didn’t know that they were The Sex Pistols because they appeared under other names as well, from time to time. For instance, even when it was The Sex Pistols on stage they would be announced as The Adventurers, so they wouldn’t get caught, they were banned from playing. Anyway, one of them appeared in doctor’s scrubs. It was hellish. There were these people called skinheads at the time and they were fascists, they were against Punk. They didn’t like it. They raided the place, all hell broke loose. A guy lashed a razor at another and caught him on the lip. Police cars and everything. I threw myself out on to the street. I said, "Man, I will never go to one of their concerts ever again."

You were there at just the right time when Punk was happening. How old were you?

Twenty-five at the time. To tell you the truth, I was a bit old for those punks. They were all 16-17, 20 at the most.

Were all the listeners of Punk English? Were there any other foreigners?

At the beginning all listeners were English. At the end of the ‘70s and at the beginning of the ‘80s, girls and boys dressed as punks started coming from France, Denmark.

Were you discriminated against when you told them that you were Turkish?

Punks never had any racism in them. Clash even did something, launched a campaign called Rock Against Racism.

Which concerts did you see?

X-ray Spex, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Lurkers, I saw almost all of them. A brand new door was opened with Punk during the ‘80s. In the oldies, you know, there was always this love thing going on and that finished with Punk. The songs were an expression of rage from then on. After Punk there came Industrial Music. Around the same time something called Two Tones Ska emerged. You see, it was the period when London was flying higher than it ever did before. And then there were the new romantics, around the same time as Psychobilly. I mean during that period they were all playing in different venues. And then there were the Teddy Boys who still listened to ‘50s Rock ’n’ Roll. I was living in London when everything was booming beautifully. I caught up with Punk, New Wave and all the other waves that came after. Joy Division and all. Some dark music… Sisters of Mercy. It completely changed the way I saw the world. I was squatting myself, most of the time. You could do that then - you could go, break the door and enter a building, and it’s yours. There was a law in England for that. If you don’t have a place to live in, you just break your way into a building, change the locks, and after that you go to the council and you tell them that you didn’t have a place to stay so you are staying in this building now. You have them reconnect the electricity and you pay for it. You don’t pay rent though. Squat. The people who squatted were mostly hippies, punks and gothics.

Were you playing music when you were there?

No, no. I did all sorts of lousy jobs there. I worked in construction. Worked in a restaurant, washed dishes back in the kitchen.

Did you have a residence permit or were you staying illegally?

I forged a marriage on paper. I was caught and extradited.

And what did you think about Istanbul on your return?

Don’t even mention it, man, that was the worst part. I came back and saw that the country was under martial law. Man, I landed at the airport and I saw that the place was swarming with soldiers and machine guns. I said to myself, "I must have landed someplace else by mistake. What is this place, Africa or what? This can’t be Turkey." You come from a free country and all you see is soldiers everywhere. "Go," a soldier was shouting, "get your paperwork done." He said that there was going to be a blackout at two o’clock. I said, "Oh no, what blackout?" He said that the curfew would begin soon. He said "man, quick, find this guy a taxi cab." I had two cases full of records. If they saw the records they’d definitely arrest me, because those things were banned at the time. For instance, if they found Alien Sexfriend’s record inside they definitely would tear it apart and toss it. My brother used to work there, so I didn’t let them check my luggage. So when I came back to Istanbul, I sank into a deep depression. Six months passed. I couldn’t stand it here. You know, you get used to the comfortable life over there. This felt really off. The system was too militaristic for my liking. I decided I should get out as soon as possible. On top of all of this they took away my passport. My, oh my, now what? Boredom and depression…

Well, didn’t you have any friends who listened to Punk?

No, none. Not even one. I was so lonely. I listened to those records, you see, I was young and it was the worst of times, I cried and cried. I was doing pogo at home, all by myself. I was devastated. No one listened to Punk over here. British Metal was emerging at the time. Sometimes I’d go hang out with them for a change. Punk? There was no one. I said Punk, they said "What the hell is Punk, man?" They didn’t like it, that’s all. Metal lovers didn’t like Punk. They thought it was fascist, but in truth it had nothing to do with fascism. I don’t remember any racist Punk groups, not one. There were even black guys. I don’t know maybe later on something different happened, but during the first years of Punk, between '77-’80, I don’t recall any Punk groups that were racists. And I definitely wouldn’t get hooked up with them if they were. A guy called Hakan had a stall on the plaza right next to the train station. I had this crazy thing that no one else had. I used to bring tapes to him and I would force him to play them out loud. "Man," he would say, "cut this punk stuff out. It doesn’t work for me. I am a Megadeth kind of guy." They thought the guitar solos were too light and that’s why they didn’t like Punk. He would see me and say, "Oh, no. Not you again…" Lots of time passed until I met the punk kids in the ‘90s. I met them. They told me that they had their own group, that they listened to Punk.

Who do you mean by "they"?

Noisy Mob.

Which year was this?

Beginning of the ’90s.

Recently I’ve read an interview with The Headbangers. They talk about you. They say that they learned all about Punk from you.

That’s probably right. I used to tell them about it sometimes. The kids were asking me, what is Punk and so on. I used to tell them there are bands called this and that, there is this music. Then the impact of Punk slowly started reeling in from abroad. There were neither many listeners, nor sources.

What were you listening to at the time?

Apart from Punk there was Gothic, Industrial. The Test Department group, Foetus, Clock Diva and many others which I can’t remember right now. And I sold them all to Deniz (Deniz’s bookstore) later.

How did you meet Deniz?

I really don’t remember. We always went to Narmanlı Han at that time. It was a meeting point, it was always crowded. There was nowhere else to go. Everybody went to Deniz’s shop. The newspapers printed stuff like… Esat was publishing a magazine called "Mondo Trasho" all by himself. Some people were curious, what is this Mondo Trasho? They were hanging around at Deniz’s shop.

Did you know Esat?

No. I met him here. In fact I saw the magazine. I loved it. I thought "what a beautiful magazine." There were other fanzines, but I didn’t like them. Some guy wrote ten pages of poetry, for example. When I finally met Esat, I told him he was doing a great job and asked him how he did it, because I was surprised. Really, if you’ve never been abroad, there are certain things that you can’t know, whatever you do. There was no internet at the time. Turkey was still a closed-up world on its own. No magazines, no books. Naki Tez, Murat Ertel, Gamze Fidan, Nalan Yırtmaç, and there was this boy, a photographer, I don’t remember his name. The circle was quite crowded in fact. There was one circle around mondo trasho and another around Deniz. The mob from Bakırköy had their separate circle and there were those who came from Kadıköy and these guys were Ismail’s mob, The Headbangers.

What about friends you’d got here before you went to England? Did you get in touch with them after your return?

No I didn’t. Most of them died during the drug epidemic in the ‘60s or most of them ran away because of the terror here. They could not stand it. During the ‘70s long hair was not tolerated here at all and bell bottoms weren’t either. We were completely out of it, man, trousers with patches on them and stuff. The life here was really hard for guys like us. Most of them ran for their lives, went abroad in search of freedom. I’ve scarcely seen anyone from my youth.