Razorcake 139, featuring Osa Atoe, Carnage Asada, Greg Knowles (Chumpire), Two Punk’s Guide to Community Planning

Razorcake 139, featuring Osa Atoe, Carnage Asada, Greg Knowles (Chumpire), Two Punk’s Guide to Community Planning

Apr 24, 2024

“It’s about connecting to ancestors, connecting to the people who came before me. Why wouldn’t we want to stand on their shoulders?” –Osa Atoe

Cover by Lauren Denitzio
Cover photo provided by Osa Atoe

Osa Atoe interview by Gina Murrell

Back in 2015, while in town for the first-ever Olympia Zine Fest in Olympia, Wash., I dropped into Orca Books. While browsing the cooperatively owned independent bookstore in downtown Olympia, I came across the zine Shotgun Seamstress #2 with RuPaul as Starbooty (Ru’s character from an underground film series) on the front cover. I bought it and considered it a major score, having long heard of the much-coveted Black punk zine and its creator, Osa Atoe. That out-of-print issue and others have since been republished by Soft Skull Press as Shotgun Seamstress: The Complete Zine Collection, released in 2022. So, if you didn’t luck out by stumbling across an issue in a Pacific Northwest bookstore, you can still own it (and all the rest) in this pretty spectacular anthology.

Aside from creating Shotgun Seamstress, Osa has played in a series of punk bands, most notably the celebrated New Bloods that was on Kill Rock Stars when she lived on the West Coast. Making the move from Portland, Ore., to New Orleans, La., Osa booked bands under the name No More Fiction, creating all-ages shows with women, nonbinary, and queer-fronted bands in intimate spaces in NOLA. Most recently, she has gone into business for herself, starting Pottery by Osa, now based in Sarasota, Fla. Through her successful business, Osa not only makes and sells beautiful red clay pottery, but she also spiritually connects to her Nigerian ancestry through the craft and gives back to the community through Kaabo Clay Collective, the mutual-aid network for Black ceramicists she founded in 2021.

For years now, I’ve followed @shotgunseamstresszine on Instagram, and previously Osa and I were connected through other social media. Despite that and having friends in common, we’d never talked until this interview for Razorcake. Over two days in December 2023, we spoke via Zoom and got to know each other more, beyond social media, and it was very enjoyable (and to me felt way overdue). Following is our two-day conversation.

Carnage Asada interview by Random Cusswörd and Matt Average

“‘L.A. Punk History’ for two hundred dollars, Alex.”

Random Cusswörd buzzes in first!

Definition according to Webster’s, History: noun, a chronological record of significant events—such as those affecting a nation or institution—often including an explanation of their causes. Random Cusswörd had been operating under the false impression that his history with Carnage Asada began with Dave Travis and Cafe Nela circa 2015, when in fact they had been around some twenty years prior. Grasshopper with so much yet to learn; might just want to keep that dictionary handy. 

What other band can boast having members from Saccharine Trust, Black Flag, Sin 34, Alice Bag, and the BellRays? Carnage Asada are a punk rock supergroup that pushed against the boundaries, breaking through to become their own genre, their own “thing.” If punk rock happened during the era of the Beatniks, Carnage Asada would have been the flagship. They take sounds of the past into the present. Think of Coltrane when he cut loose and started going out there, way out there. Think of psychedelia when it expanded on where jazz was heading, then go into prog which enveloped both styles, and then take all of that and inject it into punk to create this hybrid beast called Carnage Asada. Good music lifts you out of your surroundings and takes you on a journey, showing you possibilities of a better, more interesting world than what we see before us. You can either look back at history and stand still in nostalgia or use history to move forward.

We sat down with one of L.A.’s most respected, beloved, and longstanding professors of psych-punk, Carnage Asada. Here’s your history lesson.

Greg Knowles: Three Decades of Chumpire Interview by Scott MacDonald

For more than three decades, Greg Knowles has been chugging along in the Pennsylvania DIY/punk rock scene, consistently and persistently putting out zines, playing in bands, releasing records, putting on shows, recording demos, and generally being an engine of creativity and community, all under the banner of Chumpire.

Perhaps you’ve come across his curious little zine over the years. Chumpire issues are typically a single piece of paper, small type front and back, with record reviews, musings, personal stories, show reports, occasionally some photos. It’s economical and decidedly unfussy.

I first met Greg in the early 1990s. He was teaching Spanish at a high school in a small Pennsylvania town near the small Pennsylvania town where I lived. A punk scene had sprung up around Greg, partly because he had started a band with a few of the misfit kids in his high school (one of whom went on to play guitar in Limp Wrist).

In the following years, Greg landed new jobs as a high school Spanish teacher in various small Pennsylvania towns, and everywhere he went a scene seemed to pop up. I took to calling him “Pennsylvania’s Pied Piper of Punk.”

Greg and Chumpire are approaching thirty-three years of punk rock productivity, and the three hundredth Chumpire release. Of those, forty-eight were audio (records/tapes/CDs), twenty were shirts and stickers, the rest have been zines. At the same time, Greg has played in twenty bands and recorded demos for at least fifty bands. (The first time I ever recorded, it was as a drummer in my pop punk band. Greg Knowles and his 4-track were in my basement in a small Pennsylvania town.)

Despite often being out front as the vocalist in his bands, Greg’s also a behind-the-scenes guy. He’s putting on the show, or running sound, or generally being useful. He’s the guy at the back of the hall lovingly yelling “last song!” at the young band that hasn’t quite grasped that punk is about brevity. He’s making the thing happen.

Through both example and deed, Greg has influenced countless punks from the Keystone state, myself included. As he prepares to put on a couple shows to celebrate Chumpire 300, I wanted to know what motivated him to start all this and, more importantly, what keeps him going after all these years.

Two Punks’ Guide to Community Planning By Kamala Parks and Jason Wittenberg

What Is Planning?
Have you ever been traveling on a familiar street in your community and been struck by something new in its midst? A building under construction, a bikeway, a park, a traffic signal at an intersection? You might have a variety of opinions, such as, “Finally, they built something on that abandoned lot!” or, “Let me explore this,” or, “Damn, the gentrifiers have discovered my neighborhood.” Regardless of how we feel about this new thing, it often seems to come out of nowhere. The embryos of these projects, however, start with community planning. There’s a long gestation period during the planning process when nothing seems to be happening. The genetics of this project may be found in policies passed by elected officials—who may already be retired from public service—and in zoning codes created years ago. It may have even received special attention and refinement in a specific plan. Even though its arrival is anticipated by many, a project’s birth is still a shocker to most of the community, because it’s a change to an environment we thought was already set in stone.

Communities must, in fact, change to remain relevant to its members. Imagine if your favorite record store had been forced to remain a horse-drawn carriage repair shop due to a community desire 150 years ago to resist any changes in use for that building. You can thank your local planners for querying its denizens, recommending changes to policies and plans that are then presented to elected officials at public meetings, translating policies into zoning codes and other guidance, and overseeing the permitting process that ultimately led to the record store’s existence.

Resist the urge, however, to curse those same planners when that record store becomes a factory for producing house-cleaning robots. Planners are often not the ultimate deciders. Instead, they channel the community’s desires into documents and codes, and guide those who build a project to make sure the rules are being followed. We punk planners would seemingly be torn like Batman’s cape, playing rulemakers and gatekeepers by day and fighting the system at night. It turns out, though, that planning is punk, because it’s about questioning the status quo and taking actions to actively reshape communities so they better serve their inhabitants now and in the future. 

“I’m so fucking sick of having to make good faith arguments, backed by scientific study and historical research, only for reality to not matter… And I dare anyone to try and fucking stop me with something as flimsy as a manufactured culture war.” –Donna Ramone (instagram)

“In Latin America, ‘punk’ means something different than it does in the United States… Tana put it best: ‘Punk always unites and is universal!’” –Jim Ruland (instagram)

“Trauma shrapnel can hit innocent bystanders.” –Lorde Destroyer

“Being on strike sucks. You don’t get paid. You have to stand around outside your workplace all day holding a stupid sign while people sing annoying songs.” –Sean Carswell (instagram)

What makes stripes punk? I’ll hasten to remind the reader that not all stripes are created with equal punkliness.” –Rev. Nørb (instagram)

GOP: stinking turds. Democrats: dead fish. Whatta country! Whatta “choice.” –Art Fuentes. (instagram)

“The Since Gator was wise enough to keep the cork-filled bathtub in the ladies room, the optimal stage for this party’s ruckus seemed all too obvious.” –Rhythm Chicken (instagram)

“Mail! No obligation to reply! I don’t think anyone has ever gotten pissed because a friend sent them a nice sentence and a picture in the mail.” –Jennifer Whiteford

And photos from the lovely and talented:

Chris Boarts Larson

Mari Tamura

Albert Licano

This issue is dedicated to the memories of Wayne Kramer, Mojo Nixon, and Ace Farren Ford

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Thankful Bits

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Any findings, opinions, or conclusions contained herein are not necessarily those of our grantors.