The Healthy Junkies: Camden, Drugs and Gentrification

Written by: Violet Myers

It seems only yesterday that The Sex Pistols burst onto the British music scene; shoving safety pins through anything that dangled, mysteriously disposing of girlfriends and generally causing all sorts of ruckus. Well, it may be time to bin that calendar, it was far from yesterday, it wasn’t even last week, punk is turning 40! But will it be buying a inappropriate Ferrari and heading for the inevitable midlife crisis? It seems Johnny Rotten is more into butter than anarchy these days… Luckily, the next generation of bands are attempting to lead punk out of the dairy isle and back on tour.

In celebration of 40 years of upsetting our neighbours and lowering our parent’s expectations we spoke to North London band ‘The Healthy Junkies’ to talk politics, Camden and girls who rock.

Punk is turning 40, is it now good and truly dead?

“It never went away it just went underground! Bands like the UK Subs continued relentlessly touring during the 80s and 90s. Over the past 15 years or so it started to build up momentum again.”

Do you think music can have an affect on politics?

“In the past music certainly has affected politics with songs of protest in the 60s, anti-system, nihilism and frustration of society in the 70s for sure. These days it seems social media has a bigger impact than music on people and politics, the internet is the super star of now. However, music with a political message is relevant when used as a way of seeping into people’s psyche.

How has London changed for you in the past few years?

“I read recently that about 40% of underground music venues have closed in recent years to make way for property developers who convert them into overpriced flats, or build flats next to venues which have been there for many years and then have to close because of noise complaints from the new tenants next door.”

“London is being gentrified and sold off at the expense of its richness of culture, which includes live music. It is more expensive and more crowded than ever. This is all happening in the name of progress and expanding the economy. At what cost though? But I still love London.”

Is Camden still cool?

“Camden is still cool in terms of the music venues that remain and the core of alternative people that are still battling on. The market is somewhat of a tourist theme park but I would miss it if it weren’t there. The market has also been sold recently so who knows what the future holds for Camden. As long as Pepi’s Hairdressers is still in Camden Market then it’s still cool!”

Front woman Nina left home at 14 and battled with drugs from a young age. Have these experiences helped you to write music? Does it give you an opportunity to deal with your past?

“I would say yes. It has given me something else to write about that is out of the ordinary in terms of my life path. Music has given me hope and an aim, a direction to steer my life in a positive direction, a dream and aspirations. It does help me therapeutically and keeps me on the (not so straight) and narrow. Some of the songs contain autobiographical experiences, better to put them on the page sometimes and leave them in there.”

What keeps you in London?

“The fact that there are so many alternative, like-minded people here and despite the venue closures still gigs to be had. New people from all over the world arrive frequently looking to taste London’s rock’n’roll heritage. In fact the Healthy Junkies bass player is from Sardinia and the drummer from Venezuela, both very talented musicians attracted to London because of its history and hope. We go to many underground gigs as well as our monthly nights at The Unicorn including The Dublin Castle, Proud Gallery and The Underworld in Camden. Also there are gigs in Holloway down the road like the 12 Bar, The Garage and The Big Red, which is a rock bar where everyone goes after hours.”

How do you feel when people say women can’t rock?

“Of course that’s not true and is an attitude we don’t follow. There are so many great female fronted punk rock bands happening all over the UK, Europe, the States and Australia that we have had the pleasure of seeing and playing with. Bands like Dragster, In Evil Hour, Brassick, The Kut, Loaded 44, Louise Distrass, Pussycat and the Dirty Johnson’s, Polly Pickpocketz spring to mind but there are many more. These bands all have their own style and they definitely rock ! Kurt Cobain said that the future of rock’n’roll is with girls.”

 

The Healthy Junkies new album ‘Box of Chaos’ launches 20th February. Be sure to catch the band every second Saturday of the month at Punk ‘n’ Roll Rendezvous at The Unicorn, Camden. More info.

Images: courtesy of The Healthy Junkies.

 

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