came in uniform—poster-
perfect punks in studded leather, proclaiming in cracked paint the
many bands to which they swore allegiance. This night, for those
attending the Sept. 11 Salt Lake City show, was a night for The
The RED Interview
soldier and presently pissed-off Wattie Buchan first embraced
punk in 1977, then started his own political punk band, The
late 1979, while critics and even some punks declared punk rock’s
demise, a former soldier from Scotland thought he’d give it
a go and threw together a band. The members’ intimidating
street-punk looks matched a reputation for starting riots and trashing
hotels. They made furious, if vague, stabs at the establishment.
They cursed war, touted anarchy and revelled in being pissed off,
betrayed and, well, exploited.
Only one member from the early ’80s lineup made it to Club
Bricks last Thursday, a fact not lost on Wattie Buchan, who started—and
later saw—it all as the front man for The Exploited. A lifestyle
fueled by alcohol and fury tends to erode friendships. “Years
ago, I thought it was normal for guys to get pissed and to get in
each other’s faces,” Buchan said. “Now I realize
I was a bit of an idiot.”
Along the way, he took on his brother Willie as a member. He intensified
the band’s sound, found new guitar players, made enemies in
the press and on stage and never managed to get rich doing what
he apparently loves— demonstrating that his brand of punk
still has a pulse.
Buchan stalks about the stage and stares down the audience. Back
in 1981, his boyish sneer and tall red mohawk arguably represented
the archetypical punk for thousand of aspiring social misfits. He
now brings to mind a diminutive, despotic alien. Long, tight braids
the color of synthetic cherry sprout from a head heavy with piercing
hardware. He barks out lyrics, points accusingly at an unseen oppressor
and makes abbreviated lunges at the audience.
He knows what brings the kids off the streets and sings The Exploited’s
signature songs with the same ferocity as the newer fare from the
recent album Fuck the System. Songs like “Dogs of War”
harken to days of shouting “Oi!” They lend themselves
to the sing-alongs that Buchan asks from the audience every time
he plunges his mic into the swirling humanity at his feet. The coup
de grace “Sex and Violence” is a sort of Rorschach test
for punks. The music and lyrics consist of melodically shouting
“sex and violence” in varying cadences. In some it invokes
celebration, in others a condemnation of pop culture. To some it’s
just punk in a “Surfing Bird” kind of way.
Buchan discovered British punk in 1977. Bands such as the Sex Pistols
wowed the 17-year-old, but the music itself eclipsed the players.
“I heard it and I knew I was a punk. It’s pretty fucking
simple,” he says. “I heard a band called Johnny Moped
and the singer just sounded fucking horrible, but I liked it. So
I thought—I can do that.”
Wattie’s singing—or according to his astute 8-year-old
son, shouting—voice remains gruff, forceful and only hints
at the thick Scottish brogue that becomes nearly indecipherable
in conversation. “Wot?” he asks the request-yelping
audience members. He then announces his decision in Gaelic…or
He finally gives in to recurring calls for the song called “Maggie.”
He seems almost nostalgic when asked about the target of the song,
former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. “She was
a bit of a cunt, but at least she was honest,” he says. Buchan
respects that. As for Great Britain’s current leadership,
“Tony Blair is a total fucking, lying fanny wank.”
Tell the fucking truth. It seems a recurring theme with Buchan.
He debunks the sincerity of his “punk is dead” anarcho-punk
“People listen to bands and believe what they sing about.
Crass was just words,” he says. “They were full of
shit. They said they believed in this and that, but bought record
companies under other people’s names so it couldn’t
be traced back to them. It was all about money with them.”
makes like Johnny Cash and extends some love to the audience.
contrast, Buchan continues to admire bands such as the iconic-to-a-fault
Sex Pistols. “When they got back together in the ’90s,
they admitted they did it for the money, all the money they never
got the first time around. As long as you admit it, I respect that,”
Buchan likely sympathizes with those who never reaped the rewards
of music for which they bled both emotionally and physically.
He sits in the flickering interior of a battered hulk that doubles
as a tour bus. When it’s all about the music, you attract
plenty of other people who beg to differ. To them it’s all
about money—your money. Punk itself complicates matters. In
the world of punk, appearing on England’s “Top of the
Pops”—as did The Exploited in 1981—was less an
omen of bigger, better things than a death sentence. However, refusing
never to give ammo to those yelling “sellout” makes
little sense when the bus breaks down.
Recounting days of being hounded by British tax officials with only
£400 to his name, Buchan sees it as yet another reason to
keep going. “Real punk is to stand up for what you believe,”
he said. “I regret nothing.”
Salt Lake punks seem a little bashful at the show. One expects—
no, demands—that a crowd sporting mohawks and liberty spikes
of every hue to come to a furious boil soon after the first power
chord. At times, the pit merely simmers.
They’re just kids, Buchan points out. This is not a The Damned
concert filled with 30-somethings bedecked in evening attire. Tonight,
punk is for the young. Try to ignore the precocious aroma of clove
cigarettes wafting from the all-ages crowd.
Despite the hard living and the hard music, punk soldiers on for
“If punk was dead, I wouldn’t be doing it,” Buchan