RIOT 111

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RIOT 111
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RIOT 111, In Touch Magazine
Background information
Origin Wellington
Years active 1981-1983
Associated acts First Fifteen, Flesh D-Vice, Life In the Fridge Exists
Past members Roger Allen (drums), Mark Crawford (bass), Nick Swan (guitar), John Void/Geoff Ludbrooke (vocals)


Until Riot 111 appeared there were few if any punk bands playing music with an overtly political content. The Springbok tour of 1981 however greatly politicised a generally placid New Zealand society and it was therefore no great surprise that Wellington, the nation's capital, should spawn a band whose message and approach would serve as a template for the issue driven anarcho-punk that would follow in the 80's.

With members of the band active in the anti-tour marches Riot 111 was conceived following the infamous Molesworth Street baton charge on July 29 . “Here's these people supposed to be protecting what's right and they're hitting old ladies over the heads with batons.”<ref name="Allen">Allen, R.,"[1]"</ref> With Geoff Ludbrooke on vocals as John Void, Riot 111 was formed along with Roger Allen on drums and Mark Crawford on bass. Nick Swan formally of Life In the Fridge Exists on guitar was the only member recognised as having any serious musical ability but like his former band Riot 111 was intended as more of a performance happening than a radio friendly unit shifter.

The first song '1981' was recorded in a couple of hours with an initial 500 copies of the 7” single selling out. The song is based around an English interpretation of Te Rauparaha's haka 'Ka Mate', often performed by the All Blacks before games, shouted by Void over searing guitars and pounding drum beats. It is an anthemic call to arms that Void intended to be played as the anti-tour protesters marched into battle. Following the tour the single was repressed and entered the national charts at number 46. '1981' was recently declared 12th most important song in New Zealand history by documentary series “Rocked The Nation”.

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Geoff Ludbrook aka John Void, 1981. Photo Nick Swan

Following the success of '1981' Riot 111 played their first gig at an end of the tour party in late September. In keeping with their agit-punk manifesto the band's set featured songs about police violence, drugs, state power and impending revolution. The band's second single, “Subversive Radicals”, released in early 1982 paints a grim picture of New Zealand under the then prime minister Muldoon as an Orwellian 'East Berlin of the South Pacific' with social freedom perceived as being progressively eroded by a 'police state'. The single charted at 19 and the band's increasing popularity/ notoriety saw them open for big overseas acts such as The Fall.

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Riot 111 outside Avalon studios, 1982

Having already shown their interest in creating sensationalist media stories (see "Kilted Singer Stripped by Audience") Riot 111 upped the ante in 1982 when TVNZ refused to play a video for “Writing on the Wall”. The band transported all their gear along with a horde of Wellington's punks and skins out to Avalon studios in Lower Hutt. Parked at the front door the band played (loudly) off the back of a truck besieging New Zealand's castle of state sanctioned information and fantasy with a aural barrage and raising the increasingly prevalent anarchist flag.

Riot 111's confrontational music and style made them a favorite with the boot-boy scene and gigs were consequently often marred by violence from the audience, street gangs and through police actions to break up shows. By the end of 1982 the Wellington punk scene filmed in Chris Knox's documentary only a couple of years earlier as a co-operative, playful, avant-garde movement was fast disintegrating into a nihilistic mess. By October 1983 the members of the band had had enough, Roger took off to Auckland and Void recast himself as an actor based in Sydney. However this basic division within the scene between the violent death-cult faction of the “boots” and the social issue driven protest music of what became known as the “Crass-punks” can be seen as emerging out of this period.


1981 7" Single: 1.1981 2.b-side

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  • Singles
    • Subversive Radicals b/w Escape or Prison and 1984, 7" vinyl, released 1982
    • 1981 b/w spoken word, 7" vinyl, edition 300, released 1981,
  • Compilations
    • Move To Riot: A New Zealand Punk Compilation, Move To Riot, Raw Power Records, CD, released 2002
    • Capitol Kaos Riot Fever, 1984, Move To Riot, 12" vinyl, released 1983
    • Goats Milk Soap 1981, Ripper Records, 12" vinyl, released 1982


External Links