Cultivating one of the scariest careers in the punk rock scene, Skrewdriver have become the proud poster boys for the racial-hate movement in the United Kingdom. They define the stereotypical image of skinheads, preaching the Aryan beliefs of the Nazis, while alternately making violent and visceral music for their fans to get angry about. Led by self-proclaimed "racialist" Ian Stuart, the band came about when he decided to play music with his friend John "Grinny" Grinton, after seeing him perform. Stuart first formed Tumbling Dice, a Rolling Stones cover group that saw very minor success in Blackpool. But the group broke up, and after seeing the Sex Pistols perform in Manchester, Stuart formed Skrewdriver with Grinton. They moved to London and began gigging around the area, eventually releasing the "You're So Dumb" single later that year. Fights were commonplace at their shows, leading to a famous London concert where record executives were suddenly placed in the middle of a full-scale riot. Their skinhead appearance and reputation for violence got them banned from doing gigs in London, and despite gaining some good reviews for their debut album (All Skrewed Up), they were dropped from their label and broke up by the end of 1979.
This first phase of their career didn't reflect his racial-purity beliefs, but as Stuart became more involved with those politics, he decided that music was a good way to preach his message. He re-formed the group out of like-minded musicians in 1982, and began releasing singles in Britain again. He still hadn't officially come out with his beliefs, but the press began to spread the rumor that they were racists. In true punk fashion, Stuart walked out on-stage at a concert in late 1982, and raised his right hand just like a Nazi, sending the crowd into hysterics as they cheered the official statement on his politics. He became quite involved in the National Front, the key organization in Britain to support the new racist skinhead movement. They worked together closely, using each other to gain new supporters and fans while also setting up a joint record label for other bands willing to preach this message. In 1983, the "White Power" single became one of the most controversial songs ever released, prompting the media to immediately shun the group and proclaim their disdain for their actions. Stuart ate up the publicity, claiming that he was starting a real revolution through music, and forming a partnership with the German record label Rock-O-Rama. Their next album, Hail the New Dawn, was another controversial release in 1984. The band's gig flyers were banned, and any venue that housed the group experienced heavy pressure from the media to end their relationship with them.
Although their fan base was nowhere near huge, it was a loyal crowd, and Stuart knew how to cater to them. He started a magazine dedicated to the skinhead movement, and began doing interviews where he began referring to himself as a "martyr" and a "patriot." He was arrested after a racially motivated fight, and found himself spending a year in jail after being sentenced at the end of 1985. He spent his year in jail writing articles for political magazines and new songs, while his band released Blood and Honour, in 1986, despite missing their leader. His notoriety grew during his stint in jail, and once released, he wrote their biggest album, 1987's White Rider. Made up of songs from his year in lock up, it was a very focused political statement that actually opposed many of the National Front's beliefs. Stuart believed that they were softening their approach, and also had financial issues with the organization. He resigned at the end of the year, leaving behind most of the projects he had spent years developing.
He formed a new organization, Blood and Honour, and also started a new band, the Klansmen. They played rockabilly, but never really had the support they desired to keep going. Stuart bounced around Britain trying to avoid trouble with the law, while also working on shaping Skrewdriver back into an important force. Playing around Europe, they were eventually arrested before they could play a gig in Cottbus, Germany. Stuart was released, but the rest of the band was kept in jail for a month while a riot erupted in the town due to their absence. Stuart began to start several more bands, release solo material, and basically attempted to keep as high of a profile as possible.
By 1992, he decided that Blood and Honour needed an even higher profile than what they had accomplished. They started advertising a performance months in advance, even leading to mainstream coverage of the event. The night before the concert, Stuart was attacked and faced threats if they decided to go through with the show. The concert was quietly moved to a venue in Eltham while thousands showed up to the official site to protest the event. The few skinheads that didn't know about the move were savagely attacked, while the actual show also had its fair share of protesters too. Known as the "Battle of Waterloo" to the press, the event was only kept under control because of the presence of the military branch of the racist British Movement. Proud of his accomplishments, Stuart moved on to record Skrewdriver's last album, 1993's ironically titled Hail Victory. In September of that year, Stuart was killed in a car accident. There was suspicion of vehicle tampering, but no definite answers have ever been released from the situation. The band instantly disbanded without their mentor to lead them, sending a huge shock through the racist skinhead community. His influence on the White Pride movement has been enormous, almost single-handedly creating the cult of racist skinhead musicians that popped up in England throughout the '80s and '90s. Outspoken artists like the Oppressed's Roddy Moreno spent their entire careers trying to erase the image of racial prejudice from the skinhead movement, but Stuart's clever self-promotion and impressive work-rate made it nearly impossible. He may not be remembered favorably, but Ian Stuart's career is definitely one of the more memorable stories in the punk rock scene. ~ Bradley Torreano, Rovi