Igor Vidmar
 
Right. You think you know everything about Yugoslavian punk? Sure you don't. That's why we bring you an exclusive interview with Mr Igor Vidmar - one of the punk pioneers in former Yugoslavia. Although his name might not sound familiar to you, Igor was behind some of the first punk shows over there. He also produced and co-released Pankrti's first singl. And then their album. And then Paraf's first LP. And then "Novi Punk Val 78-80" compilation LP. And then "Lepo je..." LP. And then... Well, enought said. Just read what the guy has to say and enlighten yourself. Oh, yes, I included some comments (red fonts in brackets).
 
(l-r) Igor Vidmar and Stane Susnik
following the road to the LEFT
Could you please introduce yourself to our readers? 
I'm Igor Vidmar, born in the '50s in Ljubljana, Slovenia, then Yugoslavia; studied Political Science in Ljubljana, member of the Communist Party for a few years, then expelled for insubordination and ideological dissent. Worked at Radio Student (first and only independent College Radio in Eastern Europe) as political journalist; writer on strip (as in comic strip) and rock; publisher of first YU book of strip; from '78 punk DJ and political commentator at same Radio Student until '89; co-producer and publisher of first SLO/YU punk single (by Pankrti) and album in '78 and '80 respectively; promoted first bigger punk concert in Ljubljana in 78; first punk rock show at SLO National Radio; co-innitiator of Novi Rock - first punk/new wave festival in '81 (which is in its 20th edition this year); put together three punk/new wave compilations from 1980 to 1984; from '83 to '88 collaborator of Laibach, publisher of their first 
album in '85; from '83 also concert promoter - started with Siouxsie & the Banshees, then scores of punk, reggae, new wave bands - from Sex Pistols to Beastie Boys to Nirvana to Pearl Jam and RATM; '90s promoting and indie political pamphleteering on National TV.
 
You got heavily involved in punk music back in late '70s. What were your musical interests prior to that? 
Rather sporadic - from Blood, Sweat & Tears to Rolling Stones, from Led Zep to Frank Zap(ppa), with his local variant called Buldozer; but politics (and strips and avantguard theatre) came first before punk... It just had to be hard and innovative. 

What were you studying when you got "hooked" on punk in late '70s and did that influence your opinion on music in any way? 
I had just ended my political science studies and have been expelled from the Communist Party; those were the "years of lead" or "Stalinist consumerism". I was even more disaffected with the whole 

 
The cover of Pankrti's 
legendary first album
"Dolgcajt" (Boredom)
socialist thing than in the "new leftist" times; but there was no outlet (I was also expelled from Radio Student ), so punk was a godsend. It was "political" in a totally irreverent way, but also musically/"artistically" intense and innovative...
 
How did you get involved in punk scene? 
I heard Sex Pistols music on National Radio (Radio Student was politically correct and musically dull at the time), and then went to the very first Pankrti gig in October '77, wrote the review of the gig for the major pop weekly, and that was that. 

What are some of the first (then) Yugoslav punk bands that caught your attention? 
I went to the first Paraf gig in Zagreb in early '78; then Prljavo Kazaliste... Belgrade new wave "scene" came a bit later. 

 
 
Earliest Yugo punk bands had a lot of obstacles in their way back then. How hard was for them to get gigs, record the material in studio and finally get some radio airplay? 
You're right, but the true difficulties started later when punk began to be popular independently of the "organised" youth and the establishment in general. Also, rock in general was not well developed - like venues, promoters, PA's... and strangely even more so 
Paraf tearing the fuckin' stage apart live
in a well-off Slovenia that elsewhere in Yugoslavia. First Pankrti single was totally self financed, recorded in Gorizia, Italy and released through SKUC (Students' Cultural Center) independently... But the record industry was already market oriented enough and some people in it were open-minded enough to react to the increasing popularity of punk, so Pankrti could
Pekinska Patka being 'risible' on stage, '78
release their first album through a "major" label (RTVLJ). Similarly, Prljavo Kazaliste and later Paraf (whom I produced for the same label as Pankrti). In Serbia it was the risible Pekinska Patka (as I said somewhere, Pekinska Patka were often dismissed as 'parody of punk'-to this day I still can't see why), and then THE "Paket Aranzman" (legendary new wave compilation album) with the great Belgrade new wavers, all released by "official" labels. But new bands had all sorts of difficulties, especially after '81 Nazi Punk show-media-trial... 
As for radio play, after the "return of the Yedis" to radio Student in '78 it became the main media outlet and quite effective too. And from 1980 I had a regular weekly show at National radio. So airplay, at least late night one, was not a big obstacle, at least in Slovenia.
 
 
You've produced the first 7" by Pankrti. What attracted you to them and what do you remember from recording session? Was there any attempts from anyone to "water it down" lyrically/musically? 
As I said it was recorded in Gorizia, Italy, in a couple of hours in a small studio specialised in radio ads. So after we brought the rough material to a bigger Ljubljana studio for a remix, it appeared the recordings were technically wrong, made in "counter phase" so the owners of mono equipment (radios, record players) - a majority at the time - would' t hear anything! But we somehow corrected this and the single was a "hit" - it sold a thousand within a week or two. I was bringing boxes of it daily to this ONE central shop in Ljubljana that was interested (besides SKUC outlets). 
 
The cover of Pankrti's debut 7", 1978
As for interference - they didn't try to censor it directly, but through pressure on SKUC. The President of the Union Of Socialist Youth summoned me to a meeting, bluntly telling me that SKUC would do itself a favour not releasing the single. I remember trying to explain the social value of punk etc., but to no avail. So finally I muttered something about "we'll discuss it". But we just did it, and that was that.
 
And how did producing of Paraf's debut LP go? 
The main "problem" was my lack of experience and the studio engineer (also the owner) who was just afraid that the lyrics would be too prominent in the mix, so he tried - as previously with Pankrti - to push the buttons accordingly whenever I wasn't attentive enough. Also the lyrics to one song had to be totally changed - the song being of course the legendary "Our Police Is The Best" (Narodna Pjesma) - one of the all-time YU punk anthems... 
 
 
You've compiled "Novi Punk Val 78-80" LP. What were your criteria in choosing songs for that compilation and would you say that was the best punk Yugoslavia had to offer at the time? 
The criteria were the quality of song and lyrics by the bands, as I only heard them live since most didn't even have demos. Actually, as you know, most made their first (and, alas, for many also the last) recordings for this compilation in the 2-track broadcasting studio of Radio Student  (via re-recordings etc.), so the sound quality is very rough, but the spirit is there... 

It certainly is. What did you think of that Chris Bonn's article on Yugo punk in Melody Maker? 
Oh, at the time I was elated, and I thought it was OK, given the time he spent in Ljubljana. The only "grudge" I had was that he somehow managed to credit - beside us punks - also a certain established media guy who was into jazz and trad-rock... 

If you see this record buy it!
Especially if it's cheap, as it's one of 
the rarest and greatest Yugoslavian 
punk albums!!!
 
 
 
This one is even harder to find. It was also 
compiled by Igor Vidmar
After 20+ years, what's your stand on Yugo punk? Do you think it changed anything over there? 
Well, it didn't change the "system" or "regime" or "government", but it certainly changed the general social atmosphere. It dragged the latent intolerance and repressiveness of the system out in the open and attacked it, exhibiting a de facto unprecedented - at least in mass culture - freedom of expression. It offered an outlet for youth dissatisfaction. It provoked public debate on taboo topics and animated younger academic intellectuals; opened up certain - mostly electronic media; it even "staged " a first spontaneous demonstration against Government - at the Pankrti concert in '83 there was a massive shouting "Down with the deposit" (at the time Yugoslav residents had to pay dear taxes on going abroad), etc. 
So, it can be said punk was - besides being an exciting, creative sub or alternative youth culture - also a veritable grass roots, spontaneous mass pro democracy and pro civil rights movement, as well as a strong agent of "urbanisation" and pluralisation of Slovenian and Yugo culture. So, yes, I think it DID change something.
 
If I'm not wrong, apart from producing you were also doing some managerial/promotional, as well as radio work at the time. Tell us more about it, please. 
I was never a manager. A promoter - yes. I mentioned the first ever bigger punk show on Ljubljana University campus in spring of '78 with Pankrti, Paraf, Prljavo Kazaliste... It was also my very first promotional exploit. I was unsure of the attendance, so I let some rows of seats at the front so it would look like there's more people; but the audience promptly threw the seats away or smashed them. Also, I had a fairly longish hair at the time - I didn't become a punk overnight - so I took a fair share of abuse from the audience when I appeared on stage to announce the 
Prljavo Kazaliste captured live in 1978.
Two years later they'll become one of 
the crappiest bands ever!
program... In '81 I promoted the first foreign band - Siouxsie & The Banshees - in a 3000 capacity venue. After that promoting became an increasing part of my activity. As for the Radio Student - I had first a twice weekly, then once weekly show called "Rock Front", from early '78 to '89, playing new punk records and informing on the punk scene, gigs, events. I attacked police oppression, official media hate campaings against punk etc. It had the best ratings, as far as Radio Student goes. In 1980 I was offered a one hour weekly show on national Radio by some quite old, but indie-minded editors. And yes, I only did music and information, reserving the polemic for Radio Student.

I recall reading about infamous "Nazi Punk Affair". What actually happened?
In 1980-81 Ljubljana and Slovenian punks became so numerous and aggressively present on the streets (they even re-named a central Ljubljana square into "Johnny Rotten Square" in massive black letters on a 10x15 feet wall).
 
One of the Yugo punks. 
Yes, these are the real safety pins!
The punk music started being played on National Radio, Pankrti released a hugely popular first album, Novi Rock festival for new bands started in the centre of Ljubljana, etc. etc., so the "system" had to do something. At first the Ministry of the Interior wanted the youth organisation to act, but it didn't know what to do with its Marxist sociology. We were like Martians for them - no real communication. So police decided to act itself - with a little help from some trusty journalists. They suddenly, in the Autumn of '81, announced the discovery and arrest of three members of a phantomic band called "Fourth Reich" that nobody knew much about. It was a show-trial situation, totally misconstructed and media blowup: one of the three - a singer of Lublanski Psi (a then prominent band) - had absolutely nothing to do with "Fourth Reich". The other two had, but this so-called "band" never ever performed publicly. 
Some months earlier they actually invited me to a rehearsal - they had stupid racist lyrics and couldn't play, and I told them quite clearly, promising them they would never play publicaly, as far as I and Radio Student was concerned, due to the stupid bigotry of their lyrics and their musical ineptness, and I then forgot all about them. But not so the police, who were obviously taking the punk thing very seriously, dedicating it hundreds of informant and infiltrator's man-hours...
 
Anyway, the consequence of the police/media set-up was a massive wave of heavy police oppression - cops taking dozens of band-members and ordinary punk kids to interrogations from homes at four in the morning. Directly from school classes, interrogating them for hours, some even for days, and repeating it all over again after a few days or weeks... Major newspapers denounced punk as being "nazi", stirring up incredible moral outrage from manipulated general public; kids with punk attire were attacked on the streets, refused service in the pubs, expelled from schools etc. The consequence - although Radio Student and some youth papers denounced this plot openly, and the three arrested were later absolved of all accusations due to   
Prljavo Kazaliste once more
"lack of evidence" - was that the "movement" lost some people. The impetus was somewhat broken, but it was too late - the punk genie was out of the bottle...

You were also managing Laibach. How was that and are they still with you?
I cannot confirm this. I only served in a capacity of part-time tour manager and general helper on the legendary Occupied Europe Tour in '83 and later tours. Also as first album publisher, maker of first TV documentaries on Laibach/NSK, but I was never formally their manager. Laibach managed themselves up to '88 or so, then took international management.
 
 
 
Pankrti taking a walk down the railway 
tracks, trying to find the inspiration 
for their next song
These days you are probably the biggest promoter in Slovenia. What are some of the names you recently brought over there and do you have any interesting stories about them? 
I promoted Bob Dylan, Public Enemy, Rage Against The Machine, Pearl Jam, Alanis Morissette and Lou Reed - among others - in the last 12 months or so. As for stories - I guess audiences at these shows must have more "interesting stories" than myself. For me it's mostly work. I am just very glad about the Dylan show - the artist himself declared it "the best" of all euro-shows.... 

What was the weirdest request you had from a band you organised a show for? 
It has to be a request for a pair of fresh underpants.... 

 

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