“We were two very pissed-off persons. Steve was a very young pissed off person, and I was a getting-old pissed-off person. We sort of met on the pissed-off-ness, really.” Penny Rimbaud, drummer, producer, and co-founder of Crass, is talking about how he, along with vocalist Steve Ignorant, formed a group that is now considered one of the most influential punk bands of all time. Anarcho punk; peace punk; crust punk; black and white stencil art; dissing the Clash; being punx and being vegan; being punx and wearing all black—if you you can name it, you can probably trace it back to Crass.
“At first, we didn’t have any ambitions, and we certainly didn’t think Crass would become what it did,” he continues. Rimbaud is sitting at his beat-up old wooden desk in Dial House, the 16th century farm cottage in Essex, England which he has preserved as a sort of arts-free-space since the late ‘60s, and which served as Crass’ home base from 1977 until the group disbanded in 1984
From his suburban home in Norfolk, Steve Ignorant adds, “I was working in a hospital and I went to see the Clash. At the gig, Joe Strummer said, ‘If you think you can do better, then start you own band.’ So, I said, ‘Yeah, I will.’”
Ignorant decided to take a trip over to Dial house where he knew a former hippie who was engaged in what would now be called performance art. He found Rimbaud madly typing away on what would become Christ’s Reality Asylum, a stridently political, blasphemous, totally wigged-out piece that would form the core identity of Crass. “I said, ‘I’m thinking of starting a band,’” Ignorant remembers. “Penny said. ‘I’ve got a drum kit. I’ll play drums if you like.’ And that’s how it started.”
And now things have come full circle. One Little Independent records is re-releasing the band’s entire discography in two distinct versions. The first is essentially a re-release of their albums as they were originally released, untouched by the sands of time. The second, titled The Crassical Collection, could be considered the “Deluxe versions,” which include loads of bonus tracks, remastered sound, archival pictures, and reflections from various band members. To that end, we asked Rimbaud, Ignorant, Gee Vaucher, and Eve Libertine to walk us through the band’s six albums.