Q&A: Zombie Crank Records Founders Pick Fave Punk Comps Before Night of the Living Punks' Weekend Release Parties

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The compilation has provided punk rock with some fantastic content over the years. In 1981, Alternative Tentacles released Let Them Eat Jellybeans!: 17 Extracts from Americas [sic] Darker Side, assembling Flipper, Bad Brains, Black Flag, Dead Kennedys, and Circle Jerks in the same package. Dischord Records' Flex Your Head came out just a year later, focusing on early D.C.-based hardcore punk outfits like the Teen Idles, Government Issue, Void, Iron Cross, and the iconic Minor Threat. The skate-punk-leaning Fat Wreck Chords put out a bunch of them in the '90s, including Fat Music for Fat People (1994), Life in the Fat Lane (1999), and Short Music for Short People (1999). The latter was one of the most memorable concept comps ever undertaken, collecting a hundred-ish punk songs that never topped the 0:40 mark.

It's a real shame, then, that the comp's power is perpetually diminishing. Before our lives were changed by the marvel of the interweb, compilations were gateways into specific cultures or subsets that weren't always accessible to the outsider. A major part of the thrill was the hunt: you might have never heard of a band before, but catch a provocative song on a collection and you're motivated to learn more about them. Nowadays, hunting down similar artists via Last.fm or checking out a band's MySpace friends will pretty much accomplish the same task.

Still, props to a new label called Zombie Crank for curating Night of the Living Punks, Volume I, a bundle of 22 songs from eight South Florida punk acts. Available for streaming in its entirety at zombiecrank.com, Night's roster includes Unit Six (Lake Worth/Miami), the ClockOuts (West Palm Beach), Naked in 8 Days (Palm Beach Gardens), Howitzer (Fort Lauderdale), Orquesta La Venganza (Broward/San Juan, Puerto Rico--more on that in the Q&A below), DNR (a.k.a. Dirty Nasty Rotters, from Miami), Mute Issue (Miami), and Heroes and Cons (Miami).
The collection itself is a fun, varied affair -- good but not universe-shattering -- that's full of self-empowering declarations and "Whoa-oh" chants. To give you an idea of the palette Night is working with, Unit Six's "Under Attack" sounds like a Suicide Machines rarity; the ClockOuts' vibe is like the Frisk turning into a street-punk band on Hellcat Records; the stern, bearish vocals in Howitzer split the difference between the dudes in Agnostic Front and Fucked Up; and Heroes and Cons are like Propagandhi's Chris Hannah deciding to form a pop-punk outfit to play on Warped Tour side stages. Notable tracks include "Neanderthals," DNR's juvenile but mildly amusing anti-sports star number; the peculiar "F.U. Sociedad" by Orquesta La Venganza, which darts between a bad hard rock intro, a punchy pop-punk version of what sounds like "99 Bottles of Beer," and a pounding Metallica-like bridge; and Mute Issue's "Missing Pieces," an overdramatic but insanely catchy and promising number.
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This weekend, various folks involved in Night of the Living Punks will throw three shows in separate to commemorate the release of the comp. Here are the lineups by day and venue:

Friday, June 10 at Respectable Street Café in West Palm Beach: Unit Six, The ClockOuts, Naked In 8 Days, Mute Issue, Heroes and Cons, and Orquesta La Venganza

Saturday, June 11 at Churchill's in Miami: Naked In 8 Days, Orquesta La Venganza, Mute Issue, Heroes and Cons, and Dirty Nasty Rotters

Sunday, June 12 at Dekka South in Hallandale Beach: Naked In 8 Days, Orquesta La Venganza, Mute Issue, and Heroes and Cons

Before the festivities kick off, we caught up with Night of the Living Punks' overseers and Naked in 8 Days members Robert Neinast and Nikki Carlson for a quick e-mail Q&A about the comp's genesis and the whole zombie aesthetic. (By the way, bands interested in submitting songs for Night of the Living Punks, Volume II should hit up info@zombiecrank.com.)

New Times: Tell us about Zombie Crank. The label was Nikki's idea initially, but how involved are both of you and how serious do you hope for it to get?

Nikki Carlson: The idea behind the Zombie Crank compilations is to give local, unsigned bands some exposure and to keep the punk rock genre alive. Immediate plans are to get Volume II together by the end of the year and showcase different bands than the first release. We want to expand Volume II to include bands throughout the state of Florida. Robert and I work together and wear many hats depending on what the situation calls for. As we continue to grow, we may bring in more individuals, but for now, Robert and I handle the day-to-day operations.

Robert Neinast: We understand that it takes a lot to get a label off the ground. The compilations are where our efforts are going to be focused over the next few years. It's not so much about building a strong label as it is about building an outlet for the bands to share audiences.

We wanted to take the idea beyond the disc itself and host live performances where all the bands would have a chance to play in front of audiences that they might not have been exposed to under traditional circumstances. Some of the bands have really helped out with booking these events for us. Andy from DNR booked the Miami show at Churchill's, Doel from OLV [Orquesta La Venganza] booked the Hallandale show at Dekka, and Adrienne from Naked In 8 Days organized the West Palm Beach event at Respectable. It really helps to have individuals in different counties assisting with everything and overcoming any geographical obstacles we have in regards to booking and promoting.  

How'd you get this compilation together in the first place? Did the bands get in touch with you or vice-versa? What names do you feel are the most noteworthy of the bunch?

Nikki: I had been collecting a number of sampler discs from local shows.  After listening to these two-song sampler discs consecutively in the car, I got the idea to just put all the bands onto one compilation album and have all the bands helping each other by distributing the discs. I started getting the compilation together by contacting local bands through the Internet, posting ads, and going to shows to solicit bands. When Robert came on board with the project, he had a lead on some bands from previous music experiences. Unit Six is the first band on the album, and when you hear it, you'll know why it was chosen to be first. This band will soon be going on tour, taking the Night of the Living Punks album with them, giving national exposure to the other South Florida bands on the album. Another notable band on the disc is Orquesta La Venganza. Their frontman, Doel Silva, resides in Broward, but the rest of the band is in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The shows coming up in June will be the first time that the band will be appearing in our area. We're pretty excited to share the stage with them. All bands on the album give a little sample of the many subgenres of punk rock and there is definitely something for everyone on the CD.  

Location aside, do you see any common thread between all these bands?

Robert: I think the bands that are on this disc are the ones that are out there doing this because they love what they do. There's honesty and passion in the music. We'd be dealing with a totally different genre and business model if we were looking to make a large profit off of this. These bands book their own tours, promote their own shows, run their own labels, create their own merchandise, etc., so I would say that the common thread is the DIY approach rather than a specific sound. The bands are not just slapping a cool label on themselves, they are actually living it.  

Why all the horror and zombie-themed imagery to both the label and the comp? What's the connection between zombies and punk rock?

Nikki: The horror imagery is pretty much just playing off the theme of zombies. I have always had a slight obsession with zombies, whether it's comics or movies or just art. The name of the album, Night of the Living Punks, just seemed very appropriate because much like undead zombies, punk rock will never die. Local artist Doug Cammarota designed the cover and CD packaging for us and I think he captured the theme perfectly.

Robert: It's what we're into. We wanted something that reflected our interests. I think you'll see that as we continue to grow and evolve, we'll be touching on other themes as well.

Compilations haven't done great in the age of free MP3s and samples being everywhere online, making them obsolete to a degree. Why take on the comp? On that note, do you have any favorite punk compilations of your own?  

Nikki: It was never about making money. Actually, it was quite the opposite. It was about making it affordable for local punk bands to be heard over a wider range audience. My personal favorite compilation is Punk-O-Rama III [released by Epitaph in 1998], as it was my introduction to the genre.  After listening to that album, I realized that was the noise I had been looking for my whole life.

Robert: The audience we are trying to reach is passionate about music. The disc itself has more thought put into it than just a random sampler. There's a story to be told throughout the discs and Volume I is just the beginning. I believe that there's still a niche market for this type of thing and as long as we are able to keep our expenses in line with what's coming in, we will be able to continue to do this. There are so many things that we'd love to be able to do at this point, but we have to remind ourselves to take it step by step. The thing I enjoy about compilations is the diversity that you get with it. Two of my favorite comps are Fat Wreck Chords' Survival of the Fattest, Vol. 2 and a 1996 sampler from Rational Inquirer magazine. Both of those CDs turned me onto some bands that I might not have checked out otherwise. That's what we're hoping to accomplish with the Zombie Crank compilations.

Order Night of the Living Punks, Volume 1 here. (CDs are $5 plus shipping and handling)

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