WORDS: GEORGIA RAWSON
Camden Town is slowly becoming a place where punk simply ‘was’, and can only be found in small pockets of its former shadow. As the market gets taken over for corporate gain, as the rent rises, and the once colourful characters move, or are rather forced out, it feels further and further away from the subculture which once thrived here. But on this particularly gray Saturday, and with Terror playing a mid afternoon matinee show at London’s Underworld, a mere 300 metres from the punk specialist record store, All Ages, there’s still seems to be a very heavy, and impelling presence of punk.
“People have got to stop boxing themselves in.” Jesus Piece drummer, Luis Aponte tells us as we walk through the front of the record store and to the vibrant, and secret film store in the backroom. Sat on a stall surrounded by 80s and 90s hidden gems, never released films which once sat proudly on Camden’s Market, obscure film artwork, and displays that echo the styles of the times of their releases it seems like an almost too well suited place for the interview. Much like this under layer of the store, Luis has his own creative layers that extend further than just the punk front we so often see him through. From video creation to fashion, Luis has become a fluid character that travels through the many counter-cultures that punk so strongly, and sometimes subtly finds itself influencing.
“we’re now loud and proud of this movement”
“My dad got me into hardcore when I was really young, but mostly through metal. I think the first piece of ‘hard music’ I had really heard was Slayer.” He reminisces. “We would watch Head Bangers Ball and he’d tell me ‘tear off your shirt, we’re gonna go crazy and mosh!’ in our living room.” It seems that Aponte’s exposure to the genre was rather generational, a commonality throughout the genre. But from a young age it seemed that he had the ability to link these sounds with more than just 90s television and extreme sports, but rather something deeper. “When I was 12 he showed me Youth Of Today and I didn’t care at first.” He laughs. “But then when I got older it had such a significant impact on my life. It led me to straight edge culture.”
Growing up in Pennsylvania Luis found himself as part of the music based community and local punk scene, which whilst he embraced, he also found himself alienated from, especially with this scene moving towards a more destructive output. “ I got so used to being isolated, but on the flip side I was never judgemental. As long as no one asked me why I wasn’t drinking or made me drink then I was cool with it. Seeing people wake up and looking like shit and feeling like shit just made me laugh and never wanna do it.”
Whilst Luis remained to have a care-free outlook, it was his move to Philadelphia, the birthplace of Jesus Piece, and now festivals such as This Is Hardcore,, that seemed to further carve his path and beliefs system, with him noting that, ‘it wasn’t until recently he had gotten straight edge friends.’ However, whilst he looks back on a sober life he is firm to tell us that sobriety holds a different meaning, and it’s this difference that has changed the creative’s outlook on life.
“Straight edge is more about how you live, and how you’re a part of a community, supporting each other, and just how you move and handle yourself etc. I don’t look at it as a passive state but rather an aggressive state.” He says firmly. “But I’m also not going to befriend someone who fights someone for their lifestyle choices. Back in the day being like that was only something either weirdos or hippies did. But we’re now loud and proud of this movement.”
“I want the people in my work to be real and to be individuals.”
Whilst embracing the consciousness of the movement, through veganism, sobriety, being active within both global and local hardcore scene, it’s this drawing to the ‘weird’, and ‘obscure’ that also echoes throughout the many other outlets of Aponte’s life, and arguably more so creatively than musically. If you were to take a look at the drummer’s social media platforms you would find a rabbit hole that could be comparable to the likes of Warhol, camcorder tour diaries and fashion shoots, skateboarding, green morph suits decorated with Telly Tubbies, and leather skirts, all weaved together by the outlandish yet raw and real unfiltered characteristics that has separated punk from so many other countercultures.
“You can’t learn how it’s really going down by reading articles.” Luis comments when asked about how he has experimented within so many formats. “If you want to know what it’s like then GO there, go skating if you wanna get into skating. Get your ass out there, stop being lazy.” An attitude comparable to the likes of Henry Rollins, and one that Luis describes as ‘useless’ if ‘it is not approached with 110%’, it’s no wonder that time after time we find that the worlds of fashion, photography, video, music, and even thinking are all culminated within Luis. But sometimes these connections aren’t always recognised.
“Someone once told me ‘you do a lot of things but you need to find your thing’ and I thought no you can’t pin me down.” He sighs. “Music is one of the most important things on earth but other forms of art are as important.”
But in a digital world, it seems that all too often both the labels of ‘punk’ and self-proclaimed creatives is a trend, something Luis has found himself passionately defying. “There’s so many brands and designers who look to punk for reference.” Commentates Luis when discussing his involvement in the fashion world. “And these people who know nothing are exploiting it, such as, selling studded jackets that are $2000. People just want to be involved in something that they felt they missed or they just weren’t built for it.”
“I don’t like to lie about how things were.”
It’s this defiance, and sense of respect coupled with knowledge for the culture that caught the interest of New York clothing brand, NOAH, who last year took their ethical clothing line to Aponte’s influencers, Youth Of Today. “Moving forward can be a touchy subject for hardcore because they don’t want big brands representing them.” He shrugs. “When Noah Clothing did the Youth Of Today collaboration and I modelled for that a lot of people supported it, but some were resistant and thought was whack. But Noah to me is hardcore because they do a lot for the environment, they make sure everyone is paid fairly, that sweatshops aren’t used, and in many ways a lot of people involved in Noah are, or were involved in punk in some way.”
But often DIY is walking a thin line when it comes to the financial side of it all, a line that can quickly drop down into capitalism. “What I don’t agree with people selling designer shirts of bands like Warzone on an $800 shirt.” Luis laughs. And while we discuss the fancier things, Luis is also adamant that once more the ethos of punk is there, woven into the labels of Noah. “Everyone wants to help but people don’t want to pay for that $40 t-shirt. They’re very transparent because they tell you why you’re paying that price. If you want things to be fair trade and to help people then you gotta pay for it.”
It is this ‘real recognises real’ attitude that truly weaves together Aponte’s creativity, regardless of the scale of those involved in his work. “I grew up with and used to skate with a guy called Ray (known as RaysCorruptMind on the internet), whos’ Travis Scott’s personal photographer, and so I photograph him because no one photographs the photographer. He wears these outlandish outfits and I just take them and photograph him intimately in them. I want the people in my work to be real and to be seen as individuals.”
“The world wasn’t meant to be a fun place, but we take what we get given and make the best of it.”
Whilst a vast amount of Aponte’s work can be found on Instagram, Luis’s motives are far from that of the cliche sellers often disguised as artists and ‘influencers’, but brings about a fresh perspective, one often overshadowed by digital manipulation. “I don’t like to lie about how things were. If it was wack I will show it, if people were bummed out I will show that. Photographs are like liars. You could feel a certain way and then people are like ‘smile’.
When I’m documenting shit I think it’s cool to see pain but in a way that’s real. When I watch shit and it’s raw and if it really was a happy moment then show that, but also make it real. The world wasn’t meant to be a fun place, but we take what we get given and make the best of it.”
And maybe that’s just it. Popular culture will always have a shifting dynamic, a new face lift implemented by social and ecological structure, venues and art galleries closing, new trends being reinvented. But people like Luis are those who once more defy that system. Punk is an ethos for someone like Aponte, and therefore it is something that through its various weaves of influence, perseverance, and sense of reality, it is more than just another moment on the counterculture timeline. It is undying, and resilient way of life that will continue to flourish as long as these creatives continue to create.