PUNK ROCK MARKETING AND MAGICK
Penny Rimbaud was the founder, drummer, and lyricist for the seminal anarcho band Crass. Inspirational to thousands of youth the world over, Crass broke new ground in what could musically be considered punk and how a punk band could present itself.
Penny was fascinated with how major corporations presented themselves and drilled their image in people’s minds. The use of symbols, such as logos, is a defining aspect of corporate culture. With a good logo, a small image can invoke a wide variety of complex emotions in the viewer. Be it the McDonald’s “M” to inspire hunger (or the thought of breasts) or the Playboy bunny to invoke lust. Businesses have long ago mastered the art of manipulation.
Not to be outdone, Penny wanted a symbol for his projects that could hold the same power. He wasn’t looking for a band logo, but a logo for a movement. He turned to his friend and artist, Dave King, and got this:
Penny wrote about the logo in his autobiography, “The symbol represented the various forms of oppression…family, church and State. Heraldic in quality, part national flag, part cross, part swastika, the circular design broke on its edges into two serpent’s heads, suggesting that the power it represented was about to consume itself. It was an extraordinarily powerful piece of work which…became synonymous with the ancharo-punk movement that we had spawned.”
When it came time to expand out into a record label, Crass applied their branding technique to this new venture as well. Each release on Crass records had a black and white circular logo on the front. This associated every release (almost all by previously unheard of artists) with the mega-popular Crass. Their popularity was used to gain exposure for numerous other acts which may have otherwise never have gained an audience. Flux of Pink Indians, Conflict, and Bjork all got their careers started with this business model inspired by the biggest corporations in the world.
And some say the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.
With simple images and design Crass sent out their message to the world with the goal of essentially brain washing their audience. This, coupled with the booklets, posters, patches, and buttons that came with every release, made Crass records a one-stop-shop for the aspiring anarchist.
This may not sound too revolutionary but it is worth keeping in mind that Crass was operating in 1980. At that time, literally no one had yet thought to apply corporate tactics to presenting and spreading radical ideas. Their goal was to brainwash their audience and remake the world in their own image.
In his essay, Pop Magic, Grant Morrison says, “Corporate entities are worth studying and can teach the observant magician much about what we really mean when we use the word “magic.” They and other ghosts like them rule our world…
Think hard about why the Coca-Cola spirit is stronger than the Dr. Pepper spirit (what great complex of ideas, longing and deficiencies has the Coke logo succeeded in condensing into two words, two colors, taking Orwell’s 1984 concept of Newspeak to its logical conclusion?). Watch the habits of the world’s greatest corporate predators like FOX, MICROSOFT, or AOL TIME WARNER. Track their movements over time, observe their feeding habits and methods of predation, monitor their repeated behaviors and note how they react to change and novelty. Learn how to imitate them, steal their successful strategies and use them as your own. Form your own limited company or corporation. It’s fairly easy to do with some paperwork and a small amount of money. Create your own brand, your own logo and see how quickly you can make it spread and interact with other corporate entites
Build your own god and set it loose.”
From 1994 to 2000, Morrison set out to translate these ideas of symbols as magic into the comic book format. His result was The Invisibles – a multi-volume comic series that is widely regarded as one of the best comic stories ever created. The book is one part conspiracy thriller a’ la The Illuminatus Trilogy, one part do-it-yourself guide to brainwashing and chaos magick. Morrison described the series as a “hyper-sigil” (a sigil is a visual representation of a spell) where he was attempting to work magic on a massive scale. When asked what the goal of his hyper-sigil was, Morrison frequently told interviewers it was to spread his “mentally transmitted disease of sex, drugs, and good times.”
In 2000, Grant Morrison spoke at the Disinfo Convention about the use of Sigils and the practice of Magick in one’s everyday life.
In 2001 a new punk band formed in Canada named Fucked Up. The band started as your standard sing-along hardcore punk outfit but, after reading Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles, they decided to change their focus. They released a series of seven-inch records, each one a sigil in record form. In 2006, the band took their concept of occult punk to the extreme with their first album Hidden World.
From that point on the band went into full-on occult mode. Each of their releases became its own spell to further Fucked Up. They were no longer experimenting with the technique but were becoming focused around it. They even went as far as doing a yearly project themed after the Chinese zodiac – thus far there have been three releases of the promised twelve. They have never revealed what the purpose of their sigils are for but it appears the magic is work. They have won critical acclaim, rapid fan base, performed twice on MTV, covered in the New York Times, won the prestigious Polaris Music Prize, become regular guests on FOX News, and even claimed to have summoned a man name David Eliade in existence (he now serves as their band manager and artist).
The band openly acknowledges the use of sigils in relation to their success. In an interview with Analogue Magazine the band said, ““But man, Fucked Up is proof that sigils work.” Jo laughs, “Yeah through effort, good song-writing and black magic, you can make it!” Damien goes on, “black magic is all you can attribute this too. It’s not looks! It’s got to be some evil higher power. But it is seriously practiced by some people in the band. Y’know, maybe this band is a sigil. This band is magical!”
Symbols are power. Symbols can inspire a revolution, sell a product, and rewrite the brain. But only the right symbol and only if it is attached an impassioned subject. Some would use the power in this technique to enslave other minds while others use it to inspire. Regardless if you want to call it marketing or magic there is the same goal – remaking the world in your desired image.
“For every McDonald’s you blow up, “they” will build two. Instead of slapping a wad of Semtex between the Happy meals and the plastic tray, work your way up through the ranks, take over the board of Directors and turn the company into an international laughing stock. You will learn a great deal about magic on the way. Then move on to take out Disney, Nintendo, anyone you fancy. What if “The System” isn’t our enemy after all? What if instead it’s our playground? The natural environments into which we pop magicians are born? Our jungle, ocean, and ice floe…to bargain with and dance around and transform, as best we can, into poetry?
What if, indeed” – Grant Morrison
Have some thoughts or opinions? Let me know in the comments!