“Good artists copy, great artists steal.” That’s how the saying goes. In fact, Steve Jobs stole the damn quote from Picasso and thus created a debate on who actually said it first. That’s how the creative process works for most people; you hear or see something that you like and you try to recreate it in some way until eventually it becomes your own. You can try to duplicate something exactly, but there are two issues in doing so: 1) your own personality naturally slips into that process of recreation and automatically starts to stray you away from the original and 2) what is the point of doing something that’s already been done? There isn’t. Building upon something, however, is a completely different story.
There’s a foundation to everything, a backbone holding every piece of work up, or some source of inspiration lying behind the creator’s thought process somewhere. Whenever I listen to music, I don’t just listen to what’s going through the speakers. I think of two things: the influence and the writing process. People want to know where their meals come from right? Why should music be different? Take, for example, the greatest mosh part ever written in the Bad Brains’ "Right Brigade". Aside from the fact of how great the song itself is, I am always left wondering, “How the fuck did they think to do that?” Modern music has it easy. You have these set guidelines for how to write a mosh part or a how to structure a song, but back in the inception of these various genres of music, they didn’t have much to work from. Hardcore punk only covers a small fraction of the musical spectrum, so let’s move beyond that.
The 90’s are huge right now and are incredibly romanticized; everything from the clothing, the products, the TV shows, and the music. Especially the music. Some of the most influential bands of this era are obvious: Nirvana, Dinosaur Jr., Sonic Youth, Melvins, Mudhoney, and the list could go on. But who influenced them? Sure, there’s a probably an incredibly long laundry list amongst all of them, but what is the one band that they can all trace back to? The Wipers.
By no means am I downplaying any of the precedents that any of these bands have set, but what I’m asking is shouldn’t the band that influenced your influences be held in a much higher esteem than they already are? There’s infinite acclaim for the aforementioned list, but the amount of acclaim for The Wipers is criminally underwhelming by comparison. This is a travesty. The Wipers are by far one of the most important American (punk) rock bands ever.
Often categorized as a punk band, they struggled to see themselves fitting in that category with each release. The Wipers, the brainchild of Greg Sage, was formed in 1977 and intended to be a recording project to do 15 LPs in 10 years. No touring, no promo. As time went on, this obviously didn't remain the case but the DIY mentality never faded away. They wanted to record the music themselves and put it out on their label through their own funding. Maybe the rejection of extended promotion is the reason why they were left in the shadows of their successors. Nirvana has stated that The Wipers one of, if not the biggest, influence of their music. Nirvana covered one of the best Wipers tracks, “D-7”, which ended up being a major contributor to their later recognition.
Sage early on discovered the key to success with his seminal “labyrinth guitar soaked punk rock epics” that would be eventually be borrowed by all of the aforementioned bands. The band has a lot of material, but the first three releases are by far the most important: “Is This Real?”, “Youth of America”, and my personal favorite, “Over The Edge”. It’s a very interesting phenomenon being able to listen to your favorite bands and finding the bands that were innovating the stylings of your favorite bands before they were even formed. Take a listen for yourself. Maybe tracing back and, later appreciating, the creative process will become a habitual action that will be sure to take music from being something you just do to something you give a shit about again.
- Jay Chary
Included is Is This Real?, Youth Of America, Over The Edge, Land of the Lost, the Alien Boy EP, and the Better Off Dead single