Down Home Punk: an introduction

Justin Patrick Moore's picture

1st in a series of essays on the fusion of the punk rock mindset with the tenants of green wizardry.
By Justin “Ratpick” Moore

The mohawk I had as a teenager is long gone. The army jacket I wore, with lighter clips and band names and patches scrawled all across it is buried and dead. The clothes I wear on a day-to-day basis are not ratted, and I’m not tatted, and no safety pin is in my nose, yet the movement that inspired me as a teenager continues to live on in my blood, and I continue to derive power from the legacy of the punk rock subculture and its various offshoots. I still love Crass but I have to side with the Exploited on this one and say “punks not dead”.

Punk is not dead. Its DNA lives on in a variety of mutated forms, just as the original aesthetics associated with the movement have grown, changed, or been dropped and new aesthetics adopted. The philosophy embedded within the punk subculture is still thriving and has the potential to form a core response to crisis of our times.

That is what this series of articles is all about: how the mindset, practices, and toolkit of the punk rock subculture can be applied to solving some of the problems humanity will face in the hard years of economic, ecological, and societal collapse that are now standing down the barrel at us in the present. As a subculture at odds with the Establishment the punk rockers developed workarounds and hacks for getting their ideas, words, art, and music out into the world on the cheap. They developed networks of support and communication that enabled the subculture to thrive in the absence, and without deference to, corporate handouts and support. I think that reviving and breathing new life into those methods now can be a useful adjunctive to the revival of the appropriate technology toolkit being done by enterprising green wizards.

In John Michael Greer’s book Green Wizardry: Conservation, Solar Power, Organic Gardening, And Other Hands-On Skills From the Appropriate Tech Toolkit he lays out three ways the appropriate tech toolkit was put together into some basic lifestyle options. He writes, “Back in the heyday of the appropriate tech movement…there were at least three distinct ways that the basic toolkit tended to be put to work, each with its esthetic and typical lifestyle choices. To the best of my knowledge no one gave names to them at the time, and that’s a gap that needs filling. For our purposes they can be called the New Alchemy, Down Home Funk, and Retrofit modes of green wizardry.”

The purpose of these articles is to propose a variant on the Down Home Funk mode, which is what I call the Down Home Punk mode. In doing so I’ll explore some of the specific tools and techniques the punkers have used to accomplish their goals without selling out to the corporate overlords. Other people have already covered the history of the punk subculture much better than I have. I don’t have the space and won’t attempt to trace its origins and history here. I will be using examples from the history of the punk subculture to flesh out how some of that gear can be used to the green wizards advantage as civilization climbs down the stairs to a future dark age.

Punk is by its very nature a mutt, and as Amyl and the Sniffers say in their song “some mutts can’t be muzzled”. This mongrel breed is essentially urban and grew out of the subcultural ashes left behind by the hippies and beats. In some respects punk rock was a revolt against the failure of hippiedom. In other ways it was an outgrowth of the same impetus present in many post WWII subcultures: a revolt against consumer society and the ethos of “the Man”.

One of the touchstones of the movement is a refusal to ask “the Man” or other authorities for permission. If you want to do something or make something, go ahead and start. It is this willingness to get to work and get your hands dirty that is part and parcel of being a Down Home Punk. The punk work ethic was forged as a weapon against the complacency of consumerism, a tool to batten the hatches against the storms of inner resistance. To a punk the only authority is yourself.

In an interview Penny Rimbaud of the band Crass speaks of the slogan the group popularized: there is no authority but yourself. “You can’t look to any authority but yourself, and neither can you be ruled by any authority but yourself. Even those who acknowledge [the phrase]… they say, ‘I can’t exist properly because the police are such pigs or laws are so… but whose accepting the police, or whose accepting the laws? You are, so it’s your responsibility, it’s not their responsibility, it’s your responsibility. So there is no authority but yourself and what that simply means is, don’t look to others, and don’t be cowed by others. Don’t be fearful of others. That’s their business, not yours. And it is only because people don’t simply look at life in that way to realize that they are the only authority, they are choosing to buy into, or not buy into, because they don’t realize that, that people live fearful lives. You don’t have to feel fear, it’s just something, you know, you buy into.”

I think this attitude, or what I’ll call mindset, indigenous to the punk rock subculture, is something of particular usefulness as we enter the third decade of the twenty-first century. People in general suffer from a paralysis of volition. It is something I struggle with: the ability to choose and direct my own life and go down a path that hasn’t been decided for me by algorithms and advertising. In this brief window of life people can’t afford to drive blind, or be driven, blind.

It is also necessary to claim our own authority in matters that are regional to global in scale. In his essays and books John Michael Greer has shown with repeated analysis how the environmental movement in particular, and the political left in general, have failed at their own stated or implicit objectives. The reason he has given for their failure can be summarized as the unwillingness of individuals to practice what they preach and to live a lifestyle that is actually predicated on the values they publically espouse. It is hard to believe someone really gives a flying frack about the environment when they jet set about the globe dumping huge amounts of carbon and pollution into the atmosphere. It is hard to believe someone wishes to be free from the damages caused by consumer society when they do nothing to offset their consumption by practicing the habit of production. By teaching the Do-It-Yourself ethic and the idea that there is no authority but yourself, countless youths and adults who were inspired by punk became the producers of their own culture and decided to live in ways that reduced the strain mainstream society places on the systems that support life.

Punk gave permission to just get on with it, take action and do things. As the top-down resources and infotainment began to dwindle the Do-It-Yourself/There-is-No-Authority-but-Yourself mindset will become ever more applicable and necessary. Things we may have paid others to do for us in the past we will choose to do ourselves, as much for the personal satisfaction as for the financial solace. As industrial civilization continues to wane, as society spirals downwards individuals and allied groups will need to just get on with it. This is something the punk mindset can inspire and teach.

This series will look at a number of aspects of the punk rock movement, how it played it out, and what worked within it historically and how that can be adapted for use by the aspiring green wizard, with our without the safety pins.

First is a look at the punkhouse, or the shared living spaces created by punks to cut costs and pool resources so they could work and consume from the System less and do more of what they wanted, often creative projects. A number of specific and influential punk houses, and the cultures and legacy created around them will be explored. This section will also offer some thoughts on squatting, a rite of passage for many punks, and look into how squatting and group living can be useful tools for coping with homelessness and housing crisis. Some of the examples here will be Dial House, Positive Force, ABC No Rio, and other squats and spaces.

Next we will look at the sustainable and ethical business models created by enterprising punks such as Ian Mackaye and his work with Fugazi and Dischord Records, and the work of Steve Albini at his Electrical Audio Studios. The way they handled the financial side of having a band, record label and music studio show that fair and just prices can be charged for products and entertainment all while providing a living for the workers. Green wizards with a craft or service will be able to use these as models for starting their own businesses, whether full time or a side hustle.

Another section will explore the communication techniques of the punks that were honed in the days before the internet. The punk rock scene had a resilient and robust subculture of interconnected local scenes. People were able to communicate with each other, book tours, make pen pals and friends, all through small, independent fanzines and homegrown record labels and venues. It was an analog network that existed below the radar and made extensive us of the postal system.

Still another section will examine the fusion of folk and punk. I will look at how punk rock is an urban folk movement and look at examples of how the music itself has drifted into folk over the past decades. Other elements of punk culture as folk culture will be explored. This last bit dovetails neatly with John Michael Greer’s original naming of one mode of Green Wizardry as Down Home Funk. That mode is characterized by “reviving the technologies of the preindustrial past.” This fits in with the egalitarian ideals of the punk movement and ties it to “the folk”. Preindustrial tech is tech that potentially anyone can use, and that the down and out and broke and common people can afford or make. These are techs that can be scrounged, dumpster dived, rebuilt, repurposed. The Down Home Funk option embraces regional flair and variety in its tools, but they are tools that have been tested and prove to work. By fusing the appropriate tech of our folksy forebears with the additional kit built up around the punk mindset individuals can begin the process of reclaiming their own authority and autonomy and live a good and noble life during the decline of western civilization.

[P.S.: Additional subjects and areas are sure to come up as I work on this project, so consider the above outline in the introduction as a sketch that will be brought into greater relief as this project is carved out, over time. And it will take time, but I will work to get essays out as I can between other writing projects I am also committed to. As always, thank you for reading. –Justin Patrick Moore, Cincinnati, Ohio August 26, 2019.]

i. Green Wizardry: Conservation, Solar Power, Organic Gardening, And Other Hands-On Skills From the Appropriate Tech Toolkit, New Society Publishers (September 3, 2013)
ii. Video produced by Noisey website and published on February 28, 2017. Retrieved quote from on August 23rd 2019. URL:

Crossposted on my website here:

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David Trammel's picture

I wonder if you'd let me repost this to the main page as a guest blog post?

Justin Patrick Moore's picture

Thanks David. I also am also finished with the first article on squatting, and the "punk house" collective living "movement", starting with the history of Dial House. I'm finalizing and editing end notes. I hope to post in the next day or so.

Justin Patrick Moore's picture

I just posted the next article - a long essay really- here:

In any case I'd like to be able to add photos to break up the text, but only managed to add some below. (I'm beginning to compile material for the next article in the series, continuing the discussion of punk houses, so there will be more where that came from, on all the topics I wrote about here in detail, and perhaps a few more I imagine )

David Trammel's picture

Justin, do you have any more photos you'd like to add in this part of your series?

Justin Patrick Moore's picture

Not really for this part. I'm kind of knackered at this point in the night. I will check back here tomorrow. I just wanted to say again I really appreciate your efforts here with this site and all the work it entails!

Alacrates's picture

Very interesting introduction to your series!

I myself kind of missed out on the punk movement growing up, the grunge era was dawning as I found myself in junior high school, my favorite albums at the time were Nirvana's In Utero, and, moreso, Smashing Pumpkins' Gish and Siamese Dream. I had some friends that were still tuned into punk bands, I appreciated the aesthetic.

I was watching some documentaries recently on Woodstock for the 50th anniversary of that festival, and it was clear how strong the connection was between the counterculture individuals & communities and the related forms of music & art. (They originally billed the festival as an "Aquarian Exhibition of music and art.") One of the reason why I always want to ally appropriate technology with cultural forms that might ally with that level of expression.

One thing I like about the punk expression is that with their music & publications, they make space for the DIY aesthetic, which will allow for people who have not been co-opted into the mainstream systems to express their creativity, warts & all, due to the lack of time & expense needed to cover up all these idiosyncrasies. I've found for myself recently, whether writing blogposts or making youtube videos, just going ahead with whatever non-academic and lo-fi content I could come up with, is very freeing and allows me express some creativity and engage in learning more without signing up with any particular vision of a larger organization.

The squatting/co-housing aspect to the punk viewpoint may prove to be an important element. Having the members of a group subscribe to a shared aesthetic may be quite important. As I think about it, there is no more important consideration to aligning with roommates than: do we like similar music? Other things can be easily negotiated from there!!

David Trammel's picture

Justin, your post is now on the Green Wizard main page, and I've sent you an email with some additional info. If you don't see the email, check your spam folder. GMail has a habit of dumping the emails fro us into the spam folder for some reason. I've also reposted Alacrates' comment to that blog post.

David Trammel's picture

"The squatting/co-housing aspect to the punk viewpoint may prove to be an important element. Having the members of a group subscribe to a shared aesthetic may be quite important. As I think about it, there is no more important consideration to aligning with roommates than: do we like similar music? Other things can be easily negotiated from there!!"

That is a great observation about social interaction and the art of compromise, Alacrates! If you can share someone's taste in music, or at least accept the compromise of sometimes hearing music that's not your preferred stuff, then its easier to compromise on other more important things.

My workplace, which is a factory has a common radio in the saw area. Most of the time its set at a classic rock station or a newer rock one, but from time to time we let some of the other flavors be played. Rap and Hip Hop sometimes. One guy had a taste for Hard Metal (which I always called "Nazi Rock", think the song "Du Hast" from Rammstein). Another guy liked to put on Christmas music the day after Thanksgiving. He was the same guy who had playing a station all night that was playing nonstop repeats of "Gloria' the night the St Louis Blues won the Stanley Cup. Sorry I let that play for two repeats when I came in and changed it.

You point though is very valid, being able to tolerate music that isn't your first choice, for the common good says alot about your willingbness to compromise on other subject.

mountainmoma's picture

Yes, I think auditory compatibility is one of a couple key things. It doesnt even have to be compromise, it just has to be compatible. Someones ability to tolerate alot of various auditory inputs of course will make them more compatible to more situations, but a household where everyone only likes quiet, or only punk music played, if everyone agrees with this will be fine and there is no need to compromise. Besides type of auditory sound there is also the volume and how much if any quiet time. And, besides music there is TV sounds or Podcasts or just loud talking late at night. People need to have agreement on this to live together in peace.

As far as the minor day to day living, I think auditory compatibility and picking up your own mess, generally especially kitchen, are the top 2 for being on the way to a smooth running household.

Justin Patrick Moore's picture

Thanks for reading the "Down Home Punk" intro & chiming in everyone. I appreciate it a lot.

First, as a kind of general response to what people have brought up so far, for me the idea of "Down Home Punk" is less about specific aesthetics or tastes and more about the attitude and mindset. There are probably is some overlap, but I don't think it's rigid. The toolkit of punk is what I think is worth saving and using by green wizards -but perhaps it is especially suited to the folk-punk bards of the present and future!

@Alacrates: I'm not sure your age, but I just turned 40 at the beginning of the month. The classic punk scene of the 70s and 80s was gone. When I was a teenager grunge was its height, so I'm expecting were close in age. All that being said, there was still a strong punk scene in Cincinnati at that time (and there still is in a way... though my friend Chuck has called punk "an old man's game"... yup the original punks are getting up there!) Being a skateboarder (soon to write a small post on that -I will be commuting some with a longboard -my job location is moving on Monday) there was a lot of overlap between skate culture and punk culture... so I quickly fell in with that crowd. & The music was perfect for my age & hormones at the time. All that rage at the church I was brought up, the hypocrisy of our culture, and questioning it all.

I think you have a good point about Woodstock -and allying appropriate tech with specific cultural forms will be one way to enmesh the two together and see the tech survive. (Hmmm, so maybe there is something to the aesthetics? Thanks! I hadn't thought of it that way until now.)

Didn't know you had a youtube channel. Are you doing gw stuff there? I agree that a lo-fi aesthetic or means of production gives the creator the ability to just put stuff out there without having to make everything perfect.

I think some of what the original punks rebelled against was prog rock. I do enjoy some prog, as I have very wide tastes in music. But I can see how, with the big concerts, the bloated riffing and and playing of super intricate material, could be intimidating to kids who just wanted to make some rock n roll. So they stripped it down and made it accessible. That's kind of what some green wizardry could do -be easy enough for most folks to be able to do-it-themselves. Some of the more complex New Alchemist type stuff would be an advanced level in a way and require more resources. But just as the kid who picks up a guitar and learns some chords, enough to play a few songs, will eventually expand out. Soon she can do more than she did to start.

@: David Trammel & Mountain Momma.
I think sharing some tastes is important. My wife and I have some core music we like together -mostly on the classical, folk, & dub music ends. She didn't really like punk, except maybe some Ramones or the Cramps every once in awhile. Not the harder edgier stuff. She wouldn't listen to Crass with me. There is a lot of stuff I love that she can't stand. Luckily for me I had a radio show to play that stuff on. When she come to the station with me, I would of course, tailor the set to include more of what we both liked.

When she is out tap dancing or doing something else, and I'm home by myself, that's when I crank up the Nurse With Wound and Current 93 records!

Living with a larger group of people it does get tricky. In 2018 and 2019 we had two extended stay house guests -a few months for an older lady and former neighbor when her circumstances changed & the same for the son of a friend. Our house is small and having three adults living in close quarters had its challenging moments. But it was a good way to practice the art of hospitality. Just as we've taken in stray pets in the past, I expect more of us may have times in the future when there are stray humans who may need places to stay for awhile. Finding commonalities in those times can certainly help.

Alacrates's picture

Yep, we are the same age for sure, I turn 40 later this year. Now that I think of it, there were definitely people into punk back when I was in school - I never really heard the music myself, but knew about it from the t-shirts I saw, judging from these, Bad Religion and NOFX were held in the highest regard by the subculture where I lived.

There must've been a punk scene in Winnipeg too, I remember reading an article by someone who was in a creative writing class I was in, who later got a job in our main newspaper, talking about her experiences in the punk scene as a young women. It was a little bit more of an esoteric taste at that time - these bands weren't in heavy rotation on our music video station, and you had to dig a bit deeper at the music store to find their albums I think!

One thing I appreciate about all the musical subcultures mentioned here - punk, grunge, hippies, and even I guess folk - all based their aesthetics, especially fashion but also in instruments and production values, around what was possible in the poorer classes of society.

E.g. Bob Dylan's folk period lionized a working class, dust-bowl troubadour type. Hippies seem to appreciate a very natural look, just letting your hair grow as wild as nature intended. The frayed jeans & plaid shirts of Seattle.

This counter-culture aesthetic seems to me preferable to the style of most of pop music and movie stars, based on glamour & expensive tastes.

I think I notice that the current environmental movement doesn't necessarily have a downmarket aesthetic, though in some places it may. I feel like the aesthetic I see among of a lot of people interested in environmentalism is very "clean" and focused on professional class tastes, focused on buying new 'green' products and living in immaculate new condos. I'm being a bit unfair here, some of the environmentalists I know do have a sort of style that is pretty non-consumerist, I think some of what has been labeled "hipster" promotes down-market fashion and hand-made products. Still, I don't think any current movement has come up with a anti-consumerist aesthetic as powerful as punk/grunge/hippie/folk.

One thing I noticed watching all the retrospective documentaries on Woodstock, same as watching historical documentaries from from the 80s or 70s, in trade school or whatever -- whenever people have a mullet, or over-large eyeglasses, or unplucked eyebrows or an over-large moustache or side-burns, or what-have-you, people (esp. in groups) always seem to want to laugh at the person on screen. I feel like shouting, "You idiots! Don't you realize that the only reason we feel compelled to laugh is that our imaginations have been colonized by advertisers!! This is how modern industrial people look when they don't put over amounts of care into their appearances! We all assume that people should look like they would fit in on the set of Friends or something!" (of course, I don't say anything, I don't really think I could get this point across.)

I do have a youtube channel, but I haven't put much on there except for the few videos on the projects that I've worked on, that you've probably already seen.
I have considered making some talking head videos to include on here, maybe to correspond to the articles I have on my blog. My gf gave me a nice digital camcorder, I just haven't had much luck with synching it to my laptop, which has a malfunctioning USB drive.

I have found that with the various research projects I've done with green wizardry material, if I can organize the content in different ways (presentations/articles/videos) the information does work its way into my own memory much more deeply, so if nothing else, maybe making youtube videos would be a way to cement all these details into my own mind.

Anyways, great post, looking forward to seeing where this series goes.