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Dead Pioneers
Dead Pioneers Dead Pioneers Punk Rock Theory
Friday, June 7, 2024 - 08:06
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Hassle Records are excited to announce they have signed Dead Pioneers to their roster (Brutus, Petrol Girls, The Used, The Joy Formidable etc) and will be re-issuing their self-titled debut album, Dead Pioneers worldwide on 16th August on limited edition coke bottle green vinyl and digital.

Hassle stated, “We were told about Dead Pioneers a couple of months ago by a good friend who works in the music industry. They sent it to us saying they thought we’d be a really great fit for the music in a label capacity. We listened and looked into the band and the culture around the band and totally agreed. Their music is an excellent way of presenting not just indigenous peoples issues, but all marginalised peoples issues. With a UK election in a few weeks and a US one in November it feels like now is the time to be spreading Dead Pioneers message as wide as is possible."

Who were the first punks? Do The Damned have more of a shout than The Sex Pistols? The Stooges or Ramones? Gregg Deal, the acclaimed visual and performance artist behind his new project Dead Pioneers, is making a claim that Indigenous Americans were the first real punks.

Deal suggests that the overarching theme of the album is “an introduction to the band itself.” Created with a DIY disposition and the “love of a scene that saves lives”, they reel off a roll call of marginalised groups and protected characteristics: “Indigenous rights, Black rights, Brown rights, Asian rights, Gay rights, Trans rights, Workers rights and beyond…”. This is central to their identity and focus, saying that “with a North American Indigenous person as the vocalist, being unapologetically upfront on the social, political and cultural side of things doesn’t seem necessary, but paramount to the overall tone of the band.”


This self-titled debut, coming in at a lithe 22 minutes with only one of the twelve tracks exceeding three minutes, is almost over before it begins, but covers a huge amount of ground in that time. Musical touchstones are varied, ranging from Black Flag and The Minutemen via Suicidal Tendencies and Rage Against The Machine through to La Dispute or Idles. Thematically, as much as sonically, it channels the taut energy and directed rage of Fugazi or Henry Rollins at their peak.

Spoken word interludes serve as connections between songs as well as linking back to Deal’s extensive art career. Tracks such as lead single ‘Bad Indian’  uses humour as a way into complex, knotty themes and has the lines, “A woman once asked me my Indian name and I said “It’s Gregg." She was so disappointed she was like “no it has to be Red Eagle, or two Rivers”, “or Greyskull ” I said. “ Yes, wait, is that for real? ” “No, no” I said without her realising my brief but generationally relevant He Man joke, the kind of joke that would tell her while Indian, I’m also having an American experience too."

"Bad Indian" originated as a spoken word piece that was mentioned to articulate experiences I’ve had in real life." Deal explains. "Everything articulated here is true, and meant to stand as an example of some of the difficulties Native people of North America experience. The cultural nuances of this piece are important, though. We are not a stoic people, we are a humous biting people, the result of which is rooted in the concerted effort to eliminate our people through colonialism and acts of genocide. How do you speak of stereotype, micro-aggressions, racism, white supremacy and casual genocidal language? Like this.

Bad Indian is all of that and more to me. Bad Indian is the statement of what’s possible to me. Good and bad experience informs our existence, and what we do with that is what matters. From being a Native person on the receiving end of racism and genocide to an artist who is unsure if I can pull off spoken word with punk riffs. It speaks possibility, it’s speaks truth, and it speaks that truth to power.

The genesis of the band came from a performance art piece created in 2020 called ‘The Punk Pan-Indian Romantic Comedy’. “A sort of one man show around how I grew up with music, my experiences, and connections. It is funny, and sad, and incredibly personal”, says Deal. “I was able to secure a grant to expand this piece, to specifically produce music that would exist in the performance.”

The band is made up of guitarists Josh Rivera and Abe Brennan, drummer Shane Zweygardt and bassist Lee Tesche (who is also lead guitarist for Algiers), with Gregg Deal on vocals. For the creation of the album, the songs were written together, “all bringing something to the table and working through it, just the excitement and desire to write”, with most of the lyrics contributed by Deal. “We are together in all we do. Our process is one of unity and no ego. Obviously I wouldn’t be here without them. The shared vision is paramount to making this work properly."

The band reiterate the purpose that underpins their work and suggest there is much more to come: “Carrying ourselves unapologetically in our music and in word is the only true and honest thing we have, and we have deliberately chosen to do just that. It also sets the stage for our second album.”


“I see the existence of Dead Pioneers as an extension of my own visual and performance art work”, concludes Deal. “Having used spoken word in my practice, this is a new medium that is not just satisfying as an artist, but empowering to unapologetically say the quiet things out loud.”


Regardless of who was really punk first, Dead Pioneers are here now, continuing to ask questions and stand up for the voiceless. And in a post-Albini world, perhaps such a sense of integrity is more important than ever?


Gregg Deal is an artist and activist and a member of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe. Much of his work includes exhaustive critiques of American colonialism, society, politics, popular culture and history. With this work - including paintings, murals and performance art - Deal critically examines issues within Indian country such as decolonisation, stereotype and appropriation. He has exhibited his work at cultural centres nationally and internationally, including the Smithsonian Institution and the Venice Biennale. After living in the Washington DC area for 17 years, Deal moved his family to Colorado, coinciding with his time as Native Arts Artist-In-Residence at the Denver Art Museum.


Dead Pioneers track listing:

  1. Tired
  2. We Were Punk First
  3. Moving Day
  4. The Punchline
  5. Bad Indian
  6. The Art Of Savagery
  7. Rage
  8. Dreamcatcher
  9. World Up My Ass
  10. Political Song
  11. Doom Indian
  12. No One Owns Anything And Death Is Real