Addicted to punk: 5 years Adrenalin Addiction

It’s just about impossible to love punk in Amsterdam and not know about the Adrenalin Addiction nights. During the day, organiser Bianca Refualu works as a physiotherapist in a hospital; at night, she manages her unrelenting addiction to adrenalin.This year, Adrenalin Addiction will be celebrating its 5th anniversary. We interviewed Bianca about punk, keeping your day job and not taking it easy.

Why punk?
I started off listening to skate punk, which soon turned into British and American ’77 punk. Lately I’ve been listening to hardcore a lot. Yes, my taste has been evolving. For instance, I used to not be into bands with female vocals at all, so I never really paid attention to them. Until, during a visit to Berlin, my friend Jenny from Emancypunx Records played me all this female-fronted stuff. I realised I actually quite liked it. Punk bands with women do exist, but you really have to dig deep to find them. These days, I try to actively book them.

Hmm, what would be a good introduction to punk? I would say, start off with ’70s bands such as the Ramones or Dead Kennedys. Their songs are melodious and catchy, and won’t make people turn off their stereos thinking “fuckin hell, what is this horrible noise?” If you’re still interested, you can go from there.

The first show…
I grew up in the Betuwe area, near Den Bosch, where a friend and I would regularly go see punk shows. We both loved this band Beans, and always joked about how we’d someday organise a show for them. This joke resulted in our first show, which we put on in Dolle Tol, a small squat in Den Bosch. The line-up consisted of Beans, BBK and two other bands. Yeah, we were 16 or 17. After I finished high school, I moved to London, where I got a job as a bike messenger. I used to help out sometimes with shows at this crazy but cool squat called Dalston Lane. When I returned to the Netherlands, I moved to Amsterdam to study physiotherapy. During that time, I would often come to OCCII to see shows. When I finished my education, I started volunteering there, too. Since, at that time, most of the guys who organised shows only booked their favourite bands – which I thought was too bad –  I started promoting my own Adrenalin Addiction nights at OCCII. I had my first show in January 2009. Usually, there are hardly any shows in winter, so I was terrified no one would show up. But people did. So far, most shows have been a success; I have always been sort of able to break even.

Full house?
Over time, I’ve become more selective as to what I promote and how often. Of course, it is possible to have bands play seven days a week, but it will most likely lead to your own demise, and nobody is looking to go to a punk show every day anyway. That sounds tough but, as a promoter, I have to take demand into account. Sometimes I feel like I’m organising shows just for myself and a few other nerds that care… And that’s not the point. No audience means a shitty night for the band and the organisers, not to mention that it’s not that great for the people who decided to come out, too. I’m also not super thrilled when I’m at a show and there are only a handful of people. But when it’s packed and full of crazy energy, my night is a success. So, I have to think beyond “I’ll book this cool band and hope my friends show up,” which means that I sometimes try to add a band that needs a show to an existing line-up. Unfortunately, not every organiser remembers to collaborate like this. Recently, I visited a big punk festival in NYC. Talking to fellow bookers and promoters I realised that they, too, are always worried about saturation and if they can generate enough of an audience. A lot of cities face the same challenges as we do in Amsterdam, especially cities that see a lot of touring bands. Really, we are all just spoiled! In Amsterdam, often there are multiple events per night, so it’s no wonder people can’t come to every show.

Don’t quit your day job…
I think that to most young people, punk music is an identity, and maybe later on, it becomes a taste in music. When you’re young, you’re still defiant, but the music survives even when you’re older. I’ve been to record markets and saw people in suits finding all the good records just before I did. Then I think: “WTF, dude!” They just whip that cash out of their wallet without giving it a second thought.

I’m not interested in earning money with punk music, I have a day job in the hospital which I love. My colleagues know what I do. They know that my schedule is crazy. Sometimes they ask “What are your plans for the weekend?” and when I tell them, they think “Oh God… here she goes again.” But that’s the cool thing about my work: my colleagues are super nice. Even when I’m tired or feeling shit, I don’t mind going to work. In my job I can be myself, and that isn’t always the case in hospitals, because they’re usually quite hierarchical. I’ve even brought my colleagues to the soup kitchen MKZ to have a vegan dinner there together.

I think it’s cool when people don’t only do punk stuff, but other stuff too. It’s happened that a band that had played with us before wanted 400 euros for a show. So I told them: “The last time you played OCCII there were only a 100 visitors, so 400 euros is out of the question.” And they said: “But we have kids.” Then I think: “Well, I got myself a day job, too. But, haha, that way of thinking isn’t punk, of course!”

I did karate until I was 19. I was on the Dutch team, and I went to the European and world championships.  I didn’t become a world champion, but I became fourth. After that victory, my parents decorated the whole street for my return. There was a reception, including a banner, but I was angry about it. I was just so embarrassed! I don’t like being in the spotlight. I would rather be getting stuff done. I had to train five times a week, and in between I tried to go to shows, which wasn’t always possible of course. I had to give up a lot for karate, it made me the person who I am now, determined, chasing goals and wanna be the best in life with everything I do. A little selfish I guess… but it has its results, right?

Keeping the edge…
For me, it’s all or nothing. I used to sometimes drink a lot. Then something happened that scared the shit out of me. There was a Buzzcocks show at Paradiso, and I’d had a lot to drink and walked home afterwards. The next morning I looked in the mirror and saw that my  face was an open wound. I thought: “WTF?” I couldn’t remember what happened at all, I just vaguely remember returning home. That was scary, because anything could have happened… somebody could’ve beaten me up, somebody could’ve raped me, somebody could’ve stolen everything… This happened just before I was about to go to Australia for an internship, so if I’d broken my arm, I couldn’t have done the internship at all and wouldnt graduate, So that’s when  I quit smoking, drinking,  and all the radical stuff straight in one night. I still don’t say that it’s for forever, but I do think  that if I’d started drinking again, I would have a really hard time playing in a band, organising shows, volunteering at OCCII, running a rehearsal space and start work at eight in the morning four days a week!

Last year I swore that I would start doing less. But when there’s an act that I personally like, I just want to book it. I just keep going, so somebody has to stop me. People around me try to do that, but I don’t listen very well to others. I often think that I should do yoga or something like that. Something that would make me more quiet, the opposite of what I’m doing. But how would I do that? Sitting still without moving and stuff? A friend of mine recently asked: “What do you do when you want to relax?”  And I thought “..Yeah what do I do…?” What actually really calms me down is going to donate blood, because then I have to sit still. I’m not allowed to do anything and I can just look out of the window. Too bad I’ve been abroad so much lately – half of the times I want to go, I can’t. If it was up to me, I would be at the blood bank every other week.

Not so long ago I thought: “WTF, I’m going to quit organising shows.” But, if I would quit, maybe a few people would say ‘damn,’ but nobody would say “I’ll do it.” If I would organise less, I hope that somebody else would take over in my place, but if that doesn’t happen, that’s too bad. I don’t want to officially hand over everything to my successor, it should happen naturally. So, I’m trying to get more people involved, with bar shifts, making posters, etc. That way I can let them know that I value what they’re doing and that they can contribute to what’s happening in the scene. But sometimes it costs more time to cooperate. The reason that I mostly work alone is because it’s easier, it takes less time. Things go pretty fast in my world. The disadvantage is that I find it hard to relax, but it has the advantage that I’m quick at organising.

So, in fact, Adrenalin Addiction is a personal…
Disorder! Yes, it’s a personal disorder, yet another one. And to be honest, I’m hoping that more people will catch it!
Photo © Clarissa Villondo

See for all upcoming Adrenalin Addiction shows.

By Maaike Muntinga and Nora