Gunk are a Riot Grrrl inspired band from Brisbane, Australia. Guitarist/vocalist Alex Campbell also makes Slubberdegullion zine—she’s deeply passionate about both—and a proud feminist not afraid to talk politics.
Who or what first inspired you to pick up an instrument?
ALEX CAMPBELL: I’ve always been really into writing and singing. I can’t really remember what or who inspired me but my sister bought me my first guitar and I think that’s what really got the idea into my head about the whole band thing.
How did you first find out about Riot Grrrl?
AC: When I was little my older sister one day decided that I was a human being and let me listen to her CD collection which included stuff like Sleater-Kinney, Bikini Kill, L7, Ani Difranco—pretty fuckin’ inspiring stuff for a 13-year-old.
How did your band Gunk come into being?
AC: I met Caroline at uni; we were both doing the same course which we both felt kind out of place in. One day she said that her and her friend Laura wanted to start an all-girl punk band. I was like, fuck yeah! So we quit uni and did Gunk instead.
Why did you decide Gunk would be an all-girl band?
AC: I think that we all felt it would be cool to make music with other women to explore the different kind of energy a band might have with just girls. I thought that we’d all be more on the same level about the kind of music we wanted to create and the kind of stuff we wanted to sing about if we were an all-girl band. Also I think it sends a good message to show that girls can make music without dudes…not to sound sexist but, more just to show that we can do it, if that makes sense?
Tell me about Gunk’s first show.
AC: Well our first show was at an all ages festival called Too Poor For Splendour. I was so nervous. I don’t really remember much of it. I think our second gig was on the back of this old fire truck that happened to be parked in our backyard. We ended up getting evicted from that house because of those gigs [laughs].
What’s Gunk been up to of late? You’ve recently released three new songs on your bandcamp.
AC: Yep we’re looking to release an EP before the end of the year then probably going to do some more recording and hopefully release something on vinyl in the future. In October we’re playing a couple of shows with a really cool Melbourne band, The Kremlings at The Waiting Room and The Time Machine in Nambour. It’s gonna be sick!
You’re the editor-in-chief of Slubberdegullion zine; what was your first introduction to zines?
AC: My sister once again, she opened a zine library when she was younger so I got to read a lot cool stuff from local and interstate zinesters. My bestfriend and I made our first zine when we were in Grade 10. It was 3 pages long and called Punk [laughs].
Why do you feel zines are important?
AC: Zines allow anyone to be able publish work. You don’t have to have qualifications or experience to be able to publish your writings and art. There’s no censorship so you can create anything you want! It’s so important to keep independent media thriving. Zines help us retain some control of the media and let people know about all the stuff that doesn’t get said in mainstream media. There needs to be more people writing about stuff so we hear all opinions from all sides of society. Zines and other forms of independent media are so damn awesome because we get to hear everyone’s voices not just a select few who have the money and the power.
What are some of your favourite zines?
AC: I read a really cool zine recently called, Not Afraid of Ruins. It’s created by punk-feminist-Jewish-author Nausea. It covers her experiences travelling throughout Palestine/Israel and her thoughts and feelings about the conflict and the peace movement happening there. It’s really funny and sad and totally inspiring.
What does feminism mean to you?
AC: Feminism for me is about achieving gender equality and because we live in such a patriarchal society, I feel that the best way of seeking that equality is to focus on women. I feel that women are not equally represented in areas of our society like the media, music industry and the government and this leads to a lot of ‘women’s issues’ not being seen as a priority and so are forgotten. I think in Australia at least, we’ve come a long way in terms of gaining more opportunities for women, but I still feel that on a societal or cultural level that women are still seen as the lesser gender; are still seen as a group of people who need to be told what they can or cannot do, how they can dress, how they should look, how they should behave, what is appropriate for them to be involved in etc. I see this attitude in the language used towards women by all genders I have talked to and in the objectified images and messages used in advertising and the media. I see the impact of this societal attitude on women and girls I care about. I don’t know any women who haven’t ever been harassed, hassled or assaulted by a man. I know so many women who have body image and self-esteem issues. I think these kinds of concerns are brought about by this dominant attitude that is in place and if one by one we can recognize the damage it is having on our lives, then from there as a society we can change for the better. I know that inequality is happening for all genders in our society but as a woman, I face this shit every day of my life so it is something I can put my heart and soul into, to bring about change.
Why do you think feminism sometimes gets such a bad rap?
AC: I think most people who talk that shit don’t really know much about feminism or are scared. A lot of people believe what they hear and see in the media, and believe one stereotype that is represented. If they really took the time to find out about feminism they’d realise that it’s really simple stuff, just wanting equality right? I also think that a lot of men and women feel threatened by feminism because it signifies change and a lot people are scared of change.
For you, why is it important to identify yourself as a feminist?
AC: Like I said before, we need to stop denying that this struggle exists. I identify as a feminist to make other people aware of this struggle.
Do you have any feminist role models? Or any role models in other areas of your life?
AC: My mum and my sister. Joan Jett, Tobi Vail, Kathleen Hanna and any of the women and girls who brought about the Riot Grrrl movement. Aung San Suu Kyi because she is such an amazingly determined woman who never gave up or compromised her morals in her struggle for her country’s freedom and independence.
Do you feel that activism is part of your art?
AC: Yes. Art and music is a way for me to have a voice to express my views about all the fucked up shit that happens in this world. I think art and music is such a powerful tool for inspiring and creating change.
In your experience, what are the positives and negatives of the Brisbane music community?
AC: I feel it’s one big club for most bands in Brisbane, it’s about who you know and if you know the right people things will be easy for you, but if you don’t then you have to work really hard to prove yourself and make people sit up and pay attention. I also think it’s not political enough but on the other hand I think Brisbane has a good DIY underground community that’s doing a lot of really awesome stuff.
What are some of your favourite places to go in Brisbane?
AC: My favourite venue is probably The Waiting Room in West End. I love going to gigs in people’s backyards and garages. Visible Ink is the best for making zines
What local bands are you loving at the moment?
AC: Tangle, Melk, Pastel Blaze, Kitchens Floor, Cannon, Okemah, Virginia Sook, Horris and Foxes.
What are some things that are really important to you?
AC: Being genuine and honest to myself and others. Having integrity in everything I do, being open minded and compassionate and never being silent about things that need to be said.
What projects are you currently focused on?
AC: I think Slubs [zine] and Gunk are getting a lot of my focus at the moment. I’m also kind of working on doing a solo/spoken word thing.
Catch Gunk live tomorrow night at Ric’s (see flyer above).
*Photo credit – Alex Campbell (Gunk) live photo: Emily Griffin