punk you up with small axe (premier feature): a band called death

October 2, 2012

You wanted more PUNK, so you got it! Welcome to the PREMIER feature of “PUNK YOU UP” WITH Uriel Winfrey of SMALLAXE! This is your weekly dose of all-things-blackpunk. This is punk straight out the punk’s mouth–> Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Uriel J. Winfree III, better known to my friends as Roch and lead vocals of Brooklyn based punk band Small Axe. My goal here is to open your eyes to new and old forms of Punk ranging from Proto, Crust, Hardcore, Glam, Post, Ska, Pop, Oi!, shit even some Metal!!!! A little bit of EVERYTHING!!!


First let me  tell you about my background, so you don’t think that I’m just some asshole with an opinion…


Growing up the youngest of eight siblings in a musical household, I developed an eclectic taste in music thanks to my parent’s extensive collection of tapes, records, and eight-tracks of various artists ranging from The Mighty Sparrow to The Beatles. Rap and Hip-Hop were introduced by my brother’s and cousins, so I got heavy doses of A Tribe Called Quest, Big Daddy Kane, and Slick Rick.


It wasn’t until I was in fifth grade that I met punk… My best friend at the time had moved away and he came back punked up, and I was like “Yo!?! What the fuck happened to you?!” then he just introduced me to this whole new world of shit that I was intrigued by. It opened my world up and I started to thrash to bands like The Misfits, Sex Pistols, The Ramones, MC5, Black Flag, Dead Kennedys… The list goes on…


Since I was listening to this “White People” music that my other friends didn’t identify with, it caused me to distance myself and become a social-nomad. I would hang out with all the different clicks, but just brief interactions. This provided me with a lot of time to really get into music on a deeper level. My solitude caused me to be able to relate to the lyrics and I was glad that my eyes and ears had been opened to other genres of music so that I wasn’t just stuck in the world of Hip-Hop like many of the people I knew.


Over the years I spent a lot of my time developing my musical talents in various areas. I was classically trained on the violin, piano, and drums, and I was a tenor in the Canta Nova Choir as well as the church choir. My father always sang in gospel groups and my brothers were constantly rapping. I was surrounded by music all the time, listening to my father recite jazz standards comes to mind, as I write I can even hear the sound of my father’s voice in my head.


I started writing songs when I was in seventh grade. I had a group called AOI – “Art Of Illusions,” it was a trio. We performed at school gatherings during lunchtime and talent shows. After AOI, I joined a group called “Thunder Hut,” I was about 15 or 16 then and we were doing shows and touring. I was also in a Hip-Hop/Rock band called “Soul Aggression” and we almost got signed to Madonna’s label Maverick.


I was eighteen, with dread locks down to my shoulders, drinking Incredible Hulks in the Wilshire Hotel in LA and the rest of the band got mad because they thought that I was getting special treatment because I was the lead singer of the band and they decided to kick me out of the band.  I left Cali in December of 2010 and moved to Brooklyn, NY where I started my current band “Small Axe.”


Thanks to this opportunity provided by AFROPUNK, I want to broaden your horizons and show you that there are no color boundaries in punk or music for that matter. I would like to encourage you to not only look for punk/metal bands in the black community, but for the black community to look for punk/metal bands in general because we need unity in our community, that’s what I’m about!

I couldn’t do this without first paying homage to the precursor ProtoPunk Gods, Death. The Detroit, Michigan trio was formed in 1971 by The Hackney Brothers Bobby, Dannis, and David. Inspired by The Beatles first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show to start playing music and a later Stooges performance quickly geared them up to be in my eyes yesterday’s visionaries of today’s blueprint of punk bands we all know and love.

Battling the Disco and Funk area Death was criticized for being Young, Black and Rock & Roll influenced by their community and piers but stayed true to their vision lead by David Hackney, the youngest. In 1974 the three brothers set out to record 12 songs with funding help of Columbia records president Clive Davis only to have the dispute of the name of the band and it not being marketable enough. In true “Punk” form the Hackney’s refused and declined the name change. Needless to say the suits halted funding for the project and only 7 of the 12 songs were recorded and only 2 of them were released.


The brothers self released 500 copies of the single “Politicians in My Eyes,” backed with “Keep On Knocking,” on their own Tryangle label in 1976 and re-released on Chicago based label Drag City titled “For The Whole World To See” in 2009.


Still playing today, Death (Bobby Hackney, Dannis Hackney, & Bobbie Duncan) are the epitome of AFROPUNK in my eyes. With haunting vocals, guitar riffs that shred the best of the best, complex drumming time signatures that will make you want to kick your own ass…


Death’s vision is still very alive today, more than ever with the help of Bobby Hackey’s 3 sons. Bobby Jr., Urian, and Julian and their band Rough Francis, a tribute band to Death with the handle in reference to their Uncle David Hackney.


Shit, take a listen for yourself and PUNK OFF!!

Get your weekly PUNK fix here every tuesday with SMALL AXE and tell us what you think on twitter @afropunk and @SmallAxe