Review: Vostok Amphibia and Komandiriskie wrist watches

Price: £50 on average as new, £10 International shipping. Vintage models circa 1970s/80s significantly more.

Vostok Amphibia ‘Scuba Dude’ model #710059, and Komandiriskie model #350753. Both feature a 31 or 32 jewel automatic movement with a 31 hour power reserve

Russia – a mysterious land. In the west, known mainly for communism, vodka, and a car company with an unfair reputation  heavily ridiculed by 1980s British comedians. If Russia was ‘that kid’ in school, he would be the enigmatic hard kid that school bullies left alone, shrouded in endless rumour and legend; that guy who supposedly copped his first boob feel when he was 12 and got laid when he was 13. A country not normally known for a watch that gives a Casio G Shock a run for its money.

Enter the Vostok Amphibia, and the Komandiriskie.



Vostok was first created in 1942, based in Christopol and appointed official supplier of watches to the Russian Ministry of Defence in 1965 which gave birth to the Komandiriskie. In 1967, they were given the unenviable task of creating a watch with 200 meters water resistance that could compete with the Swiss in terms of ruggedness and durability, without their large budget. After some clever innovation, reverse engineering of existing diver’s watches, and looking under the couch then raiding the piggy bank for funds – they created a seriously impressive automatic watch for peanuts. Desired by collectors with an intriguing history and aesthetic all of its own, as worn by Bill Murray in the film ‘The Life Aquatic By Steve Zissou’ which has furthered the watches iconic status.

Steve Zissou Vostok Amphibia
Actor Bill Murray playing the fictional character Steve Zissou in ‘The Life Aquatic’.  Shown here wearing the Vostok Amphibia model #420374

In the flesh


The Vostok Amphibia and Komandiriskie use a unique design that works in such a way that the further the watch is submerged, the more waterproof it becomes. The watches feature a threaded locking ring where the case back pushes into a rubber gasket that becomes tighter under increasing water pressure, combined with a screw down crown ensuring no water penetrates the watch. A YouTube search reveals the Amphibia surviving pressure tests well beyond their projected water resistance to double the manufacturer’s figures of 200 meters which is testament to the watches incredible design. Both watches feature a 60 minute bidirectional bezel, that can be used as a countdown timer.

For those uninitiated, both models are ‘automatic’ movements; they require no batteries with a free spinning semi circle shaped counterweight inside that moves and winds the watch when the wearer is walking around performing day to day tasks. In theory, such a watch can last forever until it eventually succumbs to mechanical wear and tear, or until the watch is taken off – lasting 31 hours before it stops. The watches have the option of hand winding if desired, but in a cycle of regular use shouldn’t be needed. Amusingly certain companies are championing these watches as “Eco Friendly” like it’s a new thing, despite the fact automatic wrist watches came into mainstream existence from 1930.

Day to day running and set up


Upon setting the watch, the new owner will be thrown off by the strange wobbly crown when trying to set the time and date – this is an anti shock feature to ensure the watch still performs after a sharp jolt or sudden impact. The watch should start from dead after being picked up for a minute or two, and can be set by pulling the crown out 2 clicks and with light backward force can stop the second hand at 12 o’clock to ‘zero set’ the watch to an accurate source of your choice. Setting the date is a faff, as you need to forward the hands to 12 am to make the date advance, turn back to 8pm then forward to 12am until you get the desired date.

Now that you’ve set the time. pulling the crown out to the first click and winding 20 times should fully power the mainspring. Screw down the crown to seal the watches innards from the elements, and you’re good to go.

Komandiriskie K35 variant

The Vostok Komadiriskie model #350753 with the 2432 automatic movement, that features a 24 hour reading, date, and day/night indicator

The Komandiriskie differs slightly, offering 100 meters water resistance versus the Amphibia’s 200 meters – something that shouldn’t bother most people unless they were planning on scuba diving with them; in everyday use both will survive messing around cleaning your pond, fish tank, getting caught out in the rain or washing the dishes. There are numerous variants, styles, and face designs of both watches – but the K35 is of particular interest.

Notably, this model features a 24 hour time window which tells the wearer the hour reading in a 24 hour permutation, date window, and a ‘day and night’ indicator. The latter is particularly quirky as the window slowly fades into black from 8 pm onwards to indicate night, and into white after 8 am to indicate daytime. One can argue such a feature is superfluous, but this adds to its overall charm. This example features a one piece zulu strap made from nylon, that feels similar to tent fabric and boot straps; aiding to its military style appearance, with thickened spring bars that hold it more securely.

Build quality and accuracy


Both models are particularly simple watches with a ‘meat and potatoes’ design centred on ruggedness and reliability over build quality. The watch glass is made from acrylic and can scuff easily, and metal bracelet models are particularly cheap, rattly, and badly finished resulting in tearing out arm hairs. Many collectors swap the terrible bracelet for an improved metal bracelet, leather, rubber or nato/zulu ‘one piece’ type – and fall down a rabbit hole of endless customisation possibilities adding to further watch personalisation. Accuracy is very reasonable, gaining around 10-12 seconds a day in the examples I own, although many first time owners of automatic watches lose sleep worrying about the differences in performance compared to quartz movements.

Blah blah numbers, blah blah accuracy something. This bit is for the hardcore watch nerds to pour over – otherwise don’t read this bit.

Buying guide

Short of going on holiday to Russia yourself and importing one, nearly all Vostok watches are purchased online. They are advertised on Amazon, but cost almost double due to coming from European or British dealers that have taken the legwork of importing them. Otherwise, the delivery can take 4-6 weeks due to Russia’s appallingly inefficient state run postal service – so it pays to shop carefully.

The official online store is, where the cheapest automatic models starting from around £50 upwards dependent on what style, case, and strap you desire. The best stockist on eBay is MoscowTimeSeller, with the cheapest deals where I’ve purchased my examples and are a pleasure to deal with.


Tech Review: Casio DBC-32 Databank Watch

Tech review: Casio DBC 32 ‘Databank’ calculator watch
Price: Around £26 (black resin strap and case), £35 (metal strap and case)

I’ve had a love affair with wristwatches, probably down to growing up as a kid in the 1980s with the Casio range; the ‘de facto’ standard for feature packed watches that are affordable for all. From the G Shock and Pro-Trek, to the very basic cheapest of cheap to the databank models – there was a watch for everybody. There isn’t anybody you know that hasn’t had a Casio watch at some point in their lives.

Towards the late 1990s and early 2000s, the Databank models fell mostly out of favour and were extremely hard to obtain – and (correct me if I’m wrong) were discontinued at one point entirely unless you imported one from Japan. In recent years, Casio has recreated a couple of models in the form of the DBC 32 and DBC 611.

First impressions:

The DBC 32 feels weedy and lightweight in the resin strap form, with complaints about the metal strap variant feeling ‘tinny’. It seems the cheaper models of Casio are made in China, while the more expensive ranges are made in Japan – as noticed when I compared it against my G Shock GW1400, as there’s marked differences in quality between the two watches. However, this is a churlish complaint as the G Shock is several times the price and built like a tank – but don’t let the cheap construction fool you. The watch is easy to wear, and even on bony wrists doesn’t look obtrusive – you would assume with such a strange rectangular shape they may look overly long and awkward but are in fact contoured to your wrist and the resin strap is comfortable to the point that you forget it’s there.

Display and functions:

The time readout is bold and clear, with a clear indication of the month, date, day and year. This said, it’s a struggle to make out the top right hand of the display which harbours indicators for the auto light function, auto light duration, and key beep (marked as ‘Auto’, ‘3 Sec’ and ‘Mute’). But, these actions will become prevalent when you tip the watch to yourself and the display auto illuminates and/or you hear a key beep, which are easy enough to turn off.

Pressing the bottom left button cycles through the functions of telephone number memory (allowing for storage of 25 numbers), 8 digit calculator with currency conversion option, 5 alarms (allowing for a date setting) with hourly time beep, and dual time (time in a different time zone). The databank memory allows for an 8 character alpha numeric description, and a 15 digit number which should cater for most phone numbers or other numerical data that you need to store. However, unlike the databank watches of old there’s a lack of passworded data storage, battery backup should the watch run out of power, or schedule reminder memory which made it useful as a business watch to remember important dates and meetings. Also lacking, is a countdown timer, but the watch contains a stopwatch facility and oddly – multi lingual support that supports 13 different languages.

Inputting data can feel fiddly for those with mutton fingers as the keyboard does feel stiff compared to the original databank models. There’s no mention that the watch is waterproof, but it certainly appears to be splash proof and will survive an accidental trip to the shower, which is probably down to the complex nature of the keyboard and buttons. Therefore, if you know it’s going to get particularly mucky or wet then it’s best to take it off.


The watch will tolerate everyday usage, but if you’re doing some manual labour where the watch could become badly beat up then it probably won’t last. It will survive an office environment if it’s to be used as a “daily” and if you have a collection of wrist watches that you alternate between. In a tougher environment, the G Shock will tolerate the abuse that this particular watch won’t. The more durable of the two models is the metal strap and case variant, but there’s been criticisms of it being tinny as mentioned earlier (It’s only a watch between £25 – 35, and is hardly a Rolex after all). There’s an acclaimed battery life of 10 years, but in real terms could be an average of 7.5-8 years depending on how often you use backlight illumination and alarm features. The overall longevity will be good in the future, although resin straps perish over time (several years dependent on wear and tear) and some may dispose of the watch completely rather than replace a battery – which would be a real shame as generally it’s a decent watch for the cost.


Now, this is where it’s REALLY surprising. In approximately 3 months of ownership I would’ve expected it to have drifted horribly, gaining or losing time by around 5 minutes. Incredibly, there has been a drift of only 1-2 seconds from cross referencing accuracy with a Casio Waveceptor atomic timekeeping watch and a radio controlled alarm clock that receives the MSF time signal from the National Physics Laboratory in Anthron, Cumbria. This is an impressive feat for such a budget watch.


In general, the DBC 32 is extremely hard to beat for features for such a small cost. An excellent timepiece, with retro 1980s nerdcore credentials.

Rating: 4.5/5

Top 20 Albums Of The Year 2017

2017 has been an odd year, that feels like we’re staring into precipice of destruction. With the likes of Donald Trump’s hilarious online shitposting, foot in mouth and prodding the hornet’s nest that is North Korea – for an old bastard like me it feels like the 1980s cold war all over again. Combined with Theresa May dragging balls over Brexit, and Europe acting like a stubborn mobile phone company shafting you up the fudge tunnel for a contract you want out of – many of us turn to music for an escape to tune out the awfulness in the world.

Despite all this, it’s conclusively proven the best metal albums have been penned during the bleakest years. For example, The Exploited’s best work was created during the Thatcher years, while America’s thrash metal bands in the 1980s had endless boiled piss fuelled by Reagan – creating songs about the threat of nuclear war.

As ever, such lists are a chore to create as 2017 had a lot of decent releases. Some of which, didn’t make the cut but are certainly worth your money:

Honourable mentions:

Electric Wizard – Wizard Bloody Wizard
Enslaved – E
Kreator – Gods of Violence
Immolation – Atonement
The Black Dahlia Murder – Nightbringers

20 : Akercocke – Renaissance In Extremis

After nearly a decade of absence, calling it a day with the Antichrist album – Akercocke to the surprise of many reunited in 2016 for a few festival appearances and a full UK tour. This year, they released ‘Renaissance in Extremis’. An intriguing black metal album, coming across like a product of binge listening to Rush and Voivod while off their faces on blotter acid that can only be described as Marmite. Spiralling, grandiose, and with their signature bleak noire – a highly recommended album.

19 : Septic Flesh – Codex Omega

A high quality release that shows Septic Flesh, much like their fellow countrymen Rotting Christ – show no signs of calling it a day. Weaved with gloriously over the top orchestral sections and blistering death metal, Codex Omega is a captivating delight from start to finish.

18 : Samael – Hegemony

After a six year absence, Samael returned this year with another high quality album to add to their repertoire. Their almost disco anthem catchy brand of blackened industrial metal has plenty of hooks that stay in the brain for days, with huge stompers like “Red Planet”, “Black Supremacy”, and “Angel of Wrath”. One that will have you coming back due to its rich and expansive nature. Not many bands can release their 11th album, and still sounds as fresh and vital.

17 : Nightbringer – Terra Damnata

A spiralling, dense, and at times claustrophobic album that is filled with menace – ‘Terra Damnata’ captivates the spirit of mid period Emperor, Dodheimsgard weirdness, and the foreboding atmospherics of Blut Aus Nord whilst sounding distinctly Scandinavian. An incredible feat, for a bunch of blokes coming from Colorado. Demonstrating to the world that the land of hope and freedom can do this black metal lark as good as the Europeans.

16 : Solstafir – Berdreyminn

Continuing on in the vein of their previous release Ótta, Berdreyminn continues in an emotive post metal/rock odyssey that is wrought with emotion and excellent musicianship. Building on their previous album, they’ve included more expansive elements and soaring melodies into their sonic tapestry making for an album that is a must have in your collection.

15 : Wolves In The Throne Room – Thrice Woven

Wolves In The Throne room are another shining example of American black metal with a healthy back catalogue, and ‘Thrice Woven’ certainly delivers the goods. The production adds a sense of space and atmosphere, making for a hugely immersive and hypnotic experience that draws the listener in. A carefully crafted black metal experience.

14 : SikTh – The Future in Whose Eyes?

Sikth’s latest release is packed full of energy and is one of the most exciting releases of the year. With an excellent mix of growled and harmonised vocals, hardcore breakdowns, and complex technical djent style passages that at times sounds like a British version of System of a Down on a massive drugs binge listening to Meshuggah. Probably the best album they’ve ever released. Glorious.

13 : Ne Obliviscaris – Urn


As predicted by yours truly many years ago writing for This Is Not A Scene, Ne Obliviscaris are “….quite possibly in danger of out Opeth-ing Opeth” with their debut ‘Portal of I’. Since that point, our Australian extreme prog metal chums have hugely refined their output and matured hugely to become a force to be reckoned with. ‘Urn’ is a glorious tour-de-force of highly skilled musicianship, and long may they continue.

12 : Foreseen – Grave Danger

One of Finland’s finest exports since Impaled Nazarene, Foreseen seemingly appeared out of nowhere with their debut ‘Helsinki Savagery’ in 2014 – an extremely high standard thrash metal release. Incorporating the speed and aggression of Nuclear assault, C.I.A, and D.R.I. with a sneering punk edge, ‘Grave Danger’ is incredibly raw, fresh, and vital.


11 : Cradle of Filth – Cyptoriana – The Seductiveness of Decay

Cradle of Filth are pretty much a household name in metal, yours truly following them since the days when nobody had heard of them and their band shirts were worn by blokes that looked like dead girls. Many people got bored of them after ‘Midian’, but the distinct sound of old demonstrated in ‘Hammer of the Witches’ made the original fans stand up and take notice, myself included. ‘Cryptoriana’ continues with the same line up as the previous album, and is as strong as their late 1990s output such as ‘Dusk and Her Embrace’. Fans of black spinning discs should look for a picture disc version, which has stunning artwork and highly recommended.

10 : Dying Fetus – Wrong One to Fuck With

Dying Fetus in general are a highly regarded death metal band, with a consistent track record spanning 25 years. ‘Wrong One to Fuck With’ is probably the best album since ‘Destroy The Opposition’, bringing speed, ferocity, and grindcore style riffs to a highly polished precision slab of death metal. The album title certainly does what it says on the tin.

09 : Vallenfyre – Fear Those Who Fear Him

Vallenfyre are an extreme metal fan’s wet dream, incorporating band members that have worked in Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride. Blending death metal with doom metal melancholy, ‘Fear Those Who Fear Them’ is a hugely addictive album that will keep the listener coming back for more.

08 : The King Is Blind – We Are the Parasite, We Are the Cancer

A relatively new British band, The King Is Blind have gone from strength to strength doing numerous tours and festival dates where they have made many new friends. Mixing the best aspects of death metal and doom, ‘We Are The Parasite’ builds on further from their debut ‘Our Father’; finely honing their craft on razor sharp riffs conveying the air and majesty of mid period At The Gates and the doomier elements of My Dying Bride and Paradise Lost’s song writing. Excellent stuff.

07 : Paradise Lost – Medusa

A band that practically needs no introduction, Paradise Lost continue to impress making their weird Depeche Mode-ian phase feel as if it was imagined. ‘Medusa’ is a superb album, with the classic majestic riffs of old and steering into prime doom territory with Nick Holmes’ mostly growled vocals as heard in their earliest material. Without shadow of a doubt, Paradise Lost are the crown princes of doom metal – and long may they reign. Incredible stuff.

06 : Godflesh – Post Self

One of the highly regarded pioneers of industrial metal and hugely influential, Godflesh have an enviable back catalogue. Fusing crunchy guitars and fuzzy infectious beats, ‘Post Self’ paints a bleak picture of sonic nihilism with a delivery that feels like it could destroy skyscrapers if played loud enough. A soundtrack for troubled times.

05 : Cannibal Corpse – Red Before Black

Bordering on almost 30 years since their debut ‘Eaten Back To Life’, line up changes, endless tours, and a new vocalist in the mid 1990s would have spelled the ruination of a lesser band. Such things didn’t phase Cannibal Corpse, who are on their 14th album with ‘Red Before Black’. Bristling with death metal brutality, razor sharp riffs, and the vocal talents of Corpsegrinder they are a seemingly unmovable force that has weathered the storms of pointless fads and fickle scene changes. An album that wipes the floor with lesser acts that have been around for a quarter of the duration of these guys.

04 : Power Trip – Nightmare Logic

This year has had a ridiculous amount of thrash metal bands release new material, and the whole scene is in very rude health that is bristling with talent that are in danger of giving the originators a run for their money. Power Trip is one such band, combining abrasive riffs that sound like atypical Bay Era thrash with a tinge of death metal ferocity and a Scott Burns style production. Absolutely essential.

03 : Suffocation – Of The Dark Light

One of the true innovators of the death metal scene with an enviable back catalogue, ‘Of The Dark Light’ is in the upper echelons of this year’s releases. An embarrassment of extremely catchy songs, and monumental riffs delivered with such jaw dropping execution that you’ll find yourself stage diving from your coffee table – it’s simply that good. Long live Frankie Mullen and the lads, and may his wavy hand chop bitch slap the pretenders and poseurs.

02 : Yellow Eyes – Immersion Trench Reverie

Yellow Eyes are an incredible American black metal band, that harbours the nihilism of Burzum’s best works that was fuelled by the Skarstad brothers having a trip to Siberia for a month. An expansive album that conveys bleak icy nihilism, soaring soundscapes, and interludes from their field recordings of their trip including ancient choirs and bells; fooling the listener into thinking the band originates from the rustic edges of Eastern Europe – like a grittier version of Drudkh. There is a distinct air of magic that pours forth from the speakers, that make the entire album absolutely captivating.

01 : Fen – Winter

Hailing from London, Fen continue to push the envelope and evolve with their distinctly British flavour of atmospheric black metal. Blending together emotive and at times delicate passages of haunting post rock elements, with blistering black metal and progressive interludes – ‘Winter’ conveys a fragile beauty and British melancholy that makes for a hugely expansive listening experience that’s mesmerising and deeply compelling. A band at the absolute zenith of the black metal scene.

Worst album of the year:

Code Orange – Forever

As well as decent albums this year, there’s been a fair amount that are just plain awful. Or worse, lacking a spark that makes them sound boring or riding too hard on the shoulders and names of well established acts. Notably, there’s two bands that have been mentioned ad nauseum by the quiff haired neck beard metal hipsterati – gushing forth in torrents of sycophantic praise while whipping themselves into a frenzy of circle jerking soya wankaccino coated frothing ejaculate. One of them, a by product formed due to throwing Bolt Thrower into a cryogenic stasis – and this clattering heap of bollocks by a band called Code Orange.

The biggest problem with ‘Forever’ is that it’s a massive musical fraud that’s the worst possible definition of emperor’s new clothes. Even worse, the bovine masses are completely oblivious to the fact their music is a pastiche of riffs raided from the parts bins of far superior hardcore/metalcore acts. Tracks such as ‘Spy’, ‘Forever’, and ‘Kill The Creator’ come across like an impotent rendition of being trapped in a disused mine shaft listening to Will Haven, Blood Has Been Shed, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Converge, and Zao with the festering corpse of Dry Kill Logic as if the year 2001 never ended. Not that there’s anything wrong with Blood Has Been Shed, Will haven, and Zao per se as they’re extremely good bands. However, when you listen to Code Orange’s “Real” and they sing “This is real now, motherfucker!!” with no sense of apparent irony – it comes across as the worst example of cringeworthy slam the bedroom door, sent to bed without your supper, teenage angst filled musical masturbation yours truly has heard for some years.

Do yourself a favour: Find Zao’s ‘Where Blood and Fire Bring Rest’, and ‘Funeral of God’. Find any of Will Haven’s albums (especially ‘El Diabolo’). Find Blood Has Been Shed’s ‘Spirals’ and ‘Novella of Uriel’. These are what Code Orange borrow far too heavily from, and save yourself the hassle. You’re welcome.

Twitter Censorshit


Twitter is great, the execution behind such a social media platform is simple but brilliant. 140 characters – a ‘micro blog’ of short, punchy, succinct, thought provoking and humourous content. A place that’s freedom of expression for all creeds, and all tribes, a place that is on the pulse that it often makes the news via traditional methods entirely redundant; exposing all bullshit from the mainstream media along the way. It brings together a sideways thinking demographic, that sees through all the tofu fed dullard crap that you get on Facebook. The character limit alone works well as an excellent ‘anti beigeist filter’. You can speak to your favourite artist, author, or celebrity – assuming they’re not using a social media manager and not tweeting as themselves.

I’ve had Twitter accounts since 2010, back then I didn’t know what I was doing with it until I used it as a way to spleen vent about various things: work rants, public transport woes, dickhead spotting and other irreverent brain farts. People use it as an anonymous platform where they’re allowed to have a voice, versus the dogma of Facebook that insists its user base use real names; detering people with an Orwellian iron fist with the constraints it inflicts upon its users. Many of the users are ‘digital fugitives’ who are decent people, who aren’t the vile trolls that people think they are – speaking as a person who follows a sizeable portion of ‘Dark Twitter’. There’s followers on Twitter I’ve met and made great friends, such as a fellow Goth that I tweeted one night a few days before going to Whitby Goth Weekend. I’ve got a list of about 20-30 people that I would happily love to have a pint with one day. It’s that great, Twitter is news, Twitter is life.

One of many of my own shitposting entries. I don’t take this platform very seriously, and neither should anyone else.

However, it’s an abused platform that went from an appalling lack to abuse reporting facilities through to suspensions and reporting over trivial things. I’ve had good friends on here doxed, jobs threatened, and persecution from followers who don’t know where to end things that spills into real life. Such behaviour is condemnable and should be stamped out – that’s a no brainer. This said, innocuous accounts are getting stamped out who are here for a laugh, a bit of surreality, and off the wall shitposting. I admit myself to being an irreverent shitposter of Twitter who doesn’t take himself very seriously, pointing out the absurd, parodying the mundane; an amplification of real life me harbouring the same irreverence and cynicism of the world. I’ve had the Internet since 2002 and I’m essentially dead inside – nothing phases me.

Marco Pierre Shite, a well known parody account that was put on a 7 day ban for this tweet. Is Twitter’s anti abuse algorithms becoming too severe?

Twitter has slowly become worse, it’s slowly eating itself. The halycon days have gone, especially in the past couple of years due to politics outweighing the surreal and fun posts of yore, the mocking of celebrities who are up their own arse forgetting the little people that made them. going into hilarious meltdowns. It’s become too serious, the algorithms rolled out recently are a sea of size 10 boots stomping the face of free speech. The rot began to set in when it bitch slapped 3rd party developers that created apps, then the sense of humour failures started. Peak outrage occurred spectacularly last year when it banished Milo Yiannopolous for simply saying the new Ghostbusters remake is shit, and Lesley Jones using it as a vehicle of self victimisation and virtue signalling; a trend in vogue amongst champagne socialists like Gary Lineker and Lilly Allen. If you take the Internet that seriously you need to put your phone down and enjoy the outside world; you can’t have the left wing trains of thought without the right, the yin and yang. Light and shade, chalk and cheese, and so on. Otherwise, you might as well ban everything and become a police state.

Godfrey Elfwick, a well known ‘Lord of the Shitposters’. Granted, calling Gary Lineker a “virtue-signalling cunt” was probably a step too far but the first tweet is a valid point. Celebrities shouldn’t be on Twitter if they can’t accept criticism from the public and people that made them.

Where could this platform go? Is it dying? Many people say it is, decent people I know are giving up in their droves adding to the sea of dull mediocrity. The world could eventually get as bad as the film Demolition Man, where you’re just allowed to think lovely fluffy thoughts and nothing else.

Or, maybe Twitter’s problem is people?


Respect The Office Worker

My career path originally started with wanting to do something related to Marine Biology or fisheries work, due to tropical fish keeping being a hobby of mine. Alas, things didn’t work out and I decided to take a career in office work after leaving college, with a Business and Finance qualification. At the time, I was done with learning and wanted ‘folding money’. Therefore, I’ve been in office work (on and off), ever since.

However, throughout the years I’ve took much criticism from those who are of an ‘olde worlde’ mindset. The sort of people who believe the only true work, is mining for coal or something – or at least you could be forgiven for thinking that way. On Twitter, there was a particularly nasty piece of work I used to follow who chose to sneer at office workers of all forms; dismissing it as “That’s not a proper job”, yet they were very quick to moan about it raining and being cold in the winter; saying “The cold weather is bad for my old bones, I wish it was summer” with no sense of irony.

Office worker_01.jpg

In all forms of work, there has always been and always be some form of administration department in all sectors of employment. A department processing the wages, a department for sales, and in very large organisations an entire department that manages human resources (H.R.) to keep track of staff absences, payroll, attendances and so forth. There is a vast ecosystem of employees that work behind the scenes, who are the cogs of a well oiled corporate machine imperative to the survival of a business.

For example, take our roofer friend mentioned earlier. Let’s say his van broke down. He would ring a call centre, that would transcribe the fault and enter it on the system. The system will have a queue of jobs that has been phoned in, all listed in order of what came in first, separated into geographical areas so that the nearest engineer could be sent out to him as soon as possible. A service controller/controller team that deals with that area, will then check a queue of jobs that was transcribed by the call centre. A list on engineers will flag up whether they are already in a job, or not – usually highlighted as being available. The controller would then send the job via the mobile network to a PDA device, detailing the fault and GPS map information to get to the breakdown, where the engineer will diagnose and fix the fault, get the customer to digitally sign the job as complete, or flag up that his van would require towing back to his workplace or nearest garage agreed by his employer to be fixed. Within that business, there’s separate departments dealing with new memberships, cancellations, paying the staff, invoicing customers, credit control, and a sales team canvassing for new customers to set up new breakdown contracts. This is just ONE job sector that is involved in the repair of his van, think of all the other processes involved behind the scenes of all companies that isn’t manual labour.

Office worker_02

Your water, gas, and electric? Office workers are involved in processing whether you are connected or not.

Your phone bill? Office workers process your bill and can disconnect your phone if not paid.

Your pension fund? Office workers ensure that money goes in the pot from your wages.

Your bank? Office workers ensure your wages go into your account sent by your employer.

When your home appliances break down? Office workers sorted out and processed the service contracts you took out when you bought them.

Your car insurance? Office workers ensure whether you still have valid car insurance or not, who can report back to the DVLA to verify if your car has been stolen. Guess what? There’s a whole bunch of office workers dealing with that too, and a whole bunch of office workers working for the police that took the details of your stolen car from you.

Office worker_03

In a flurry of keystrokes, the office worker under instruction from higher personnel can easily make life extremely complicated and quite nasty if so desired; bringing people to their knees, especially in today’s information age. Office workers do not simply sit there looking at the internet all day, talking to other staff at the water cooler about their weekend, and work just as hard as anybody in any other sector – probably more so. For arguments sake, we can easily say you drive around in a white van causing a nuisance to other drivers, or sat around on site reading porn mags in your JCB swigging coffee all day, or say that you’re only source of work is digging roads all because you bunked off school drinking cider and taking drugs rather than studying something important.

All workers should be respected, including office workers, retail staff, or whatever you do to pay the bills.

Don’t look down the nose of other workers.

Carcass ‘Heartwork’ – A Musical Epiphany


Autumn, 1993

A fledgling 16 year old metalhead apprentice clad in blue jeans, Caterpillar boots and Regatta lumberjack shirt is enjoying his new found identity and awesome music that his friends has got him into a couple of months previously.

He seriously enjoyed listening to Metallica‘s Ride the Lightning, a live Motorhead album, Napalm Death’s Utopia Banished and a thrash compilation on a mid priced record label – with fascinating stuff by Sepultura, Anthrax, Megadeth and many more.

This wee young lad was due to have a massive musical epiphany; some interesting new tapes a friend was babbling excitedly about. One tape had a morbid collage of dead body parts on the front cover, while this brand new release had a metal CND symbol on the front, with a spike covered arm across the top of it. It was designed by H. R. Giger – he knew this from buying an art book on a weekend spending spree with his college grant the week previously. The band in question, is Carcass – and their new album is Heartwork.

“They’re a local band you know, lad?” –  his friend told him. The tape was inserted into the tape deck, and the play button was pressed – a landmark moment poured fourth from the speakers of an Aiwa midi system. A thumping intro, with guitars that sliced the air like a nailbomb with growled lyrics:

“Welcome! To a world of hate – a life or buried dreams, smothered by the soils of fate. Welcome! To a world of pain, bitterness you only wealth, the sands of time rubbed in your faaaaaace!!”

The first track automatically struck a chord with this disenfranchised angry teen. While pop artists were singing about love, fluffy rabbits or whatever bloody cobblers it was this week, these guys had somehow hit the nail on the head. Lyrics expressing an air or snarled cynicism and poetry combined with guitar riffs that sounded like a chorus of chainsaws spearheaded by a cyclone of seriously pissed off hornets; and soaring guitar solos courtesy of Bill Steer and Mike Amott.

This young lad was seriously hooked.

He went out and decided to purchase this album for himself, which quickly became the soundtrack for almost everything. Journey to college? Carcass. Coming home with lots of coursework and needing inspiration? Carcass. A particularly bad day, wishing he could speak to that ‘fit bird’ in registration? Carcass. He bought many other albums, and poured over the liner notes and checked out who the bands toured with and who were friends that they credited. Making copious notes, he found the likes of Bolt Thrower‘s IVth Crusade. Dream Theater‘s Images and Words. Entombed‘s Clandestine, and eventually his attention was turned to Sepultura‘s Chaos AD and an equally astonishing album by a bunch of Yorkshire lads called Paradise Lost, who had just released Icon.

For Christmas, he decided to buy a ticket to see Sepultura, after hearing their new album Chaos AD, spurred on by the friend that introduced him to such great music. He attended the gig, and was blown away by seeing the band in the flesh. He joined in his first moshpit and a strange new activity called crowd surfing. Dazed and bruised, with a ringing in his ears and quite drunk – he had a fantastic time.

The metal bug had bitten – and there was no going back.

All of it was responsible due to an innocuous tape, with an unassuming and curiously low key H. R. Giger styled logo on the front. But this mere tape is something this guy still holds dear to this very day.


A Buyer’s Guide To Hi-Fi: Tapedecks – Part I

TDK MA-XG  -The veritable king of blank tapes


In this two part series Armchair Anarchist blog will cover the resurgence in the compact cassette format, and what to look out for those who never owned a tapedeck and for those who want to own another machine who had one in the past. The second part will cover the functions, and terminology.

With the vinyl renaissance doing the rounds, the underground and independent scenes have resurrected another supposedly dead format – the humble compact cassette.

Compact cassette (for ease of simplicity we shall call it tape) evolved from shrinking down reel to reel tape to a small, compact size factor. Phillips perfected the process in 1964, and over a period of time gained many design improvements which gave it (under right conditions, decent tapes, and decent kit) superb sound quality that can mirror the source component it was recorded from. They were highly popular, and brought music to the car, or wherever you wanted with the advent of portable players such as the Ghetto Blaster and Walkman. Essentially, the grandfather of the MP3 player.

Sadly, most people’s memories of tape was a horrid format suffering from muddy sound that used to become mangled in the machine – spewing tape everywhere. The Armchair Anarchist blog is here to squash that myth, and also give some sound advice to those who were too young to remember tape and want a machine of their own to collect these weird tape EP’s and albums doing the rounds today.

Tapes weren’t as bad as you remember
For those who remember tape the first time around, they didn’t suffer poor equipment and maintenance gladly. Also, very much like vinyl – tapes sounded dreadful on cheap kit whereas Compact Disc it was possible to make a cheap or expensive system and it still sounded mostly good. The dubious quality of record decks and tape decks on 1980s and 1990s midi systems eventually forced those mediums to die off and people shifted towards CD’s.

Some of my blank tapes, that still sound as good as ever. 

For the most part, as long as proper maintenance of your tape deck was carried out and you used decent blank tapes to record on – they performed admirably, especially if you used decent hi-fi separate style kit or a similarly high spec Walkman style player. All that was needed, was a periodic clean once a month of the tape head, pinch wheels and capstan with a cotton wool bud and methylated spirits that could be bought off the shelf from a chemist. Or, a special tape cleaning kit that came with a bottle of cleaner to dab onto the cleaner tape reels, brushes or similar. As long as you done that, all was golden.

A Maxell UDII chrome and That’s MG-X metal cassette. I even went as far as photocopying album artwork and squeezing them down with a photocopier!

Tape maintenance was drummed into me religiously by my Dad, who has worked in Hi-Fi shops and was the manager of a local well know electrical retailer. Commonly returned items were tapedecks that had muffled playback, and clogged vacuum cleaners bought by people that coincided with the purchase of a new carpet who hadn’t waited for the fibres to settle. Dependant on how awkward the customer was, he’d “send the tapedeck back to the manufacturer for repair” as punishment (read: sat on the service bench for a week until he got a repair guy to clean it) or he’d show the customer how to keep it clean.

What to look out for
Most people will simply want a machine for playback of tapes nowadays, and not many will be choosing to record on them due to the lack of fresh blank tapes and “new old stock” models from TDK are selling for a premium as they’re no longer made (especially higher grade Type II Chrome and Type IV Metal formulations). Which is absurd when all a tape deck is, is a magnetic read/write head that is sending/receiving a signal to/from narrow gauge sellotape with metal powder stuck to it!

Yamaha KX 580 Special Edition. A highly revered mid/late 1990s tapedeck that was discontinued as recently as 2003.

The biggest problem is that there are virtually no new machines and the youngest models are 18 years old manufactured in the early 2000s, so 90% of the time you will be looking at second hand kit or “new old stock”. In online auctions, look for descriptive bid listings, ask plenty of questions and avoid lazy listings worded “It worked the last time I used it”. If you-see one in a charity shop, no matter how cheap it is – ask to see it working. The commonest faults are drive belts perishing, with stops playback or recording, usually developing warbly playback changing in pitch and speed randomly before they snap. These are plain to see when you remove the case, where you’ll find a black mush around the mechanism.

Sony TC-U2 cassette deck showing drive belts. If these are like mushy crap, expect the machine not to play.

Drive belts can be picked up for peanuts, and a bored Sunday afternoon of cleaning it and installing new drive belt results in a perfectly working tapedeck. Avoid 1970s and 1980s machines that have piano keys, as the plastic mechanism can become brittle and break; where parts are virtually non existent unless you find a parts donor. Electronically, tapedecks are mostly okay with the least problematic issue being a blown bulb on a VU meter of a 1970s machine. At the worst, old capacitors can leak on the circuit board causing various faults, and playback/records issues can arise with worn tapeheads that require you to be handy with a soldering iron and difficult to source.

For playback only, you have a wide choice of players from the 1970s in sexy shiny metal finishes to late 1990s models in stealthy blacks and greys. Your best models to look for are the typical bells and whistles ones used as hi-fi separates, that contain tape counters, record level controls and meters to show tape volume etc. Earlier 1970s style models will feature big VU meters, while later 1980s onward models will feature LED lights to display audio peaks. In operation, either type look really awesome and compellingly hypnotic to watch in operation. For portable players, look for feature laden ones that feature Dolby Noise Reduction, auto reverse, and tape type selectors for the best results – the best models were made by Sony and Aiwa as a rule.

Technics RS-676, circa 1977. VU meters were very common, showing sound peaks. Dolby noise reduction is simply marked in/out as (this is type B on this machine), later brought along improvements in the shape of Dolby C and S type noise reduction, giving you a choice of 3 levels. 

For playback and recording, the best options are younger players from the 1990s such as the Aiwa ADF-450, Aiwa ADS 750, Yamaha KX 393, and the Yamaha KX 580 SE. By the 1990s, they stretched the technical limits of tape to incorporate Dolby HX-PRO; a recording technique created by Bang & Olufsen to extend the dynamic range of your recordings so they perfectly replicated the recording source and improved Dolby Noise Reduction in the form of Dolby S that reduced tape hiss even further than Type B and Type C to almost imperceptible levels. These machines as a rule make dramatically superior recordings than most of their shiny fronted 1970s and 1980s cousins, are much younger and will be in better working order.

Close up of mid/late 1990s circa Yamaha KX-580 SE. Tapedecks moved to LED displays, and Dolby HX Pro for improved recordings. This deck features 3 different levels of Dolby Noise Reduction, with manual and automatic tape calibration (marked ‘auto tape tuning). Trick play facilities such as intro scan (playing a few seconds of a song before fast forwarding to the next), and repeat tracks/endless side playback features became more commonplace.

In general, most decent tapedecks are rising in price (I purchased my Yamaha KX 580 SE for £25 from eBay 3 years ago to replace an Aiwa ADS 750, and the prices have started to rise sharply). The ultimate kings of tapedecks are made by Nakamichi, that were over engineered to an inch of their lives and can cost anything from £150 for a Nakamichi CR-2, to beyond £1000 for a Nakamichi Dragon. It’s worth pointing out that Bowers and Wilkins, the importers of Nakamichi tapedecks can still repair and service them if so desired. Which, if you take tapes very seriously may be worth considering such a machine.

Nakamichi Dragon – from 1982. A high end tapedeck that cost £2000 that is the absolute technical tour-de-force, that creates recording and playback qualities that are far beyond what people expect from the format. 

Price range: From absolutely free to over £1000 (sample prices of “Buy it Now” from eBay, February 2017):

Yamaha KX 393 (mid/late 1990s, with Dolby HX Pro for better recordings) – £30
Sony TC-K630 ES (flagship ES series, 1990s vintage, 3 head) £150
Sony TC U2 (circa 1970s) £40-60
Nakamichi Cassette Deck 2 (early 1990s) – £150
Nakamichi RX-202 (auto reverse, 1990) – £400
Yamaha KX 580 SE (special edition, Dolby HX Pro and Dolby S. Worth £250 new, manufactured between mid 1990s to 2003) – £60 to £80
Denon DRM-500 (1989-1991) – £35
Nakamichi ZX-7 (early 1980s, released 1981) – £995
Nakamichi Dragon (early 1980s, spotted on a specialist German hi-fi site) – £1280