Live Fast Jeff Young: Vol. 5 - Time Flies When You Live Fast (My Turned Out a Punk Story)
What's up Sorry Staters?
So as you might have noticed, the concerted effort to deliver consistent blog posts has sort of faltered from most of us over here at Sorry State. For me, this lack of blog content is due in part to it being such a busy summer, both at the store and in my personal life. Also though, I feel like when I sit down to write these things that I want to have a theme or focused conversational piece in mind beyond just reviewing records. At our last staff meeting, Daniel made the suggestion of providing "prompts" for each blog post, in which each of us write our own take on a topic. I'll be honest, the suggestion of adding structure like that to my blog sort of makes me feel like I'm writing essays for college again and like I have an assignment to complete. But who knows? Maybe doing things this way will give me the kick in the ass I need to knock out these blog posts.
So what's our first prompt? Perhaps you're familiar with Damian from Fucked Up's podcast Turned Out A Punk, in which Damian interviews different musicians and personalities about how they got into punk. We figured everyone here at SSR could do the same, and we could each contribute our own little narrative about how punk music totally ruined us! Totally kidding, but I'm not going to sit here and pretend my own story is nearly as interesting as Mackie from Blitz or Fat Mike or something... Still, I'll try to make my journey into punk not too long-winded and hopefully you'll get a kick out of it. Here we go:
I. Hair Metal Beginnings
My dad circa the early '80s.
When I think about the reason I got into punk, it's not as if one particular life event or epiphany occurred that left me forever changed. I think it's been a gradual plunge deeper and deeper into understanding why adopting "punk" as an identity or cultural perspective has always been attractive to me. Without sounding overly dramatic, I think punk resembling something socially subversive has always sort of vibed with my natural disposition. But it wasn't always that way, and that's not to say I didn't have help from significant people in my life. For starters, I always grew up around music. My dad (Jeff Sr.) is also a guitar player, but his sensibilities sort of fall more under the umbrella of the era when 70s hard rock slowly started morphing into 80s heavy metal. Ozzy's first couple solo records with Randy Rhoads were drilled into my brain as a major staple and mark of excellence as it related to progressing on guitar. Which is cool, don't get me wrong! But I can clearly remember discovering some of the heavier CDs in my Dad's collection and gravitating toward them. In my middle school years, I soon abandoned Motley Crue and Dokken and was much more into Metallica and Slayer.
II. The Peak of Good Living
As much I'd like to say I grew up in Raleigh, I actually lived in Apex, NC, which is a suburb about 20 minutes away. I remember attending Apex High School and realizing I'd already committed social suicide by not wearing boat shoes or a North Face jacket. For whatever reason, the peer group I ended up identifying with were the future delinquents and burnouts of Apex High. I think I fit in with some of these kids because I was into skateboarding, which I viewed as an even further extension of my social otherness. At this point, I was about 14 and had become pretty familiar with a good portion of the Epitaph catalog, mainly through skate videos and because bands like The Offspring were still putting out new CDs. I think myself and a lot of these freakier kids were bored in a town like Apex. And while the town's motto is the "peak of good living," my adolescence in Apex is chock full of some juicy suburban legend. Across Highway 64, within walking distance of my house, there was an abandoned, run-down Winn Dixie grocery store that remained vacant for years. A lot of my "friends" that I previously mentioned broke into the building, designating it as a place to hang out. Lots of these kids would skip school and go inside the abandoned building to go have sex or do drugs. I still vividly remember walking inside for the first time and there being a dusty, old futon and used condoms littered on the concrete floor. So what did my skater friends and I do? We would hang out and skateboard there all the time. A big pastime in this germ farm was to spray paint on the walls. I still can visualize the image of a previous graffiti artist's adorning the wall with four huge black bars. My naive 14-year-old self would not learn that it was a Black Flag logo until some time later.
III. My Partner In Crime
Me at about 15.
Sorry to give so much background, but here's where it all starts: one of my skate rat buddies in the group mentioned above was my best friend in high school. Randy was the kind of friend who wouldn't ask if he could come over, he instead would just follow me inside my house after school -- no questions asked. I don't think the conversation was as simple as, "Hey, wanna be punks, dude?", but I cite Randy's importance because we got into punk together. I'm not sure if we discovered punk bands through Tony Hawk's Pro Skater or what, but it is funny revisiting now and realizing how crazy it is that "Lexicon Devil" by the Germs is in a fucking video game. At the time bands like The Casualties and A Global Threat were still really popular and played locally fairly often. The first time I went to a "street punk show," for lack of a better classification, Randy and I both still had shaggy hair and wore baggy skateboard shirts. Not long after absorbing the atmosphere of people standing shoulder-to-shoulder uniformed with charged hair and studded-out clothing, Randy and I quickly got our hands on some secondhand leather jackets. With our limited resources for discovering new music, Randy and I would kind of egg each other on with a fun competition of, "Dude, how have you not heard this band yet?" I feel like some of my formative musical discoveries occurred just sitting around with Randy. We would clumsily sew and stud our leathers and other clothing, alternating between punk bands we'd never heard, and then listening to The Specials and other selections from Randy's dad's reggae record collection. My punk makeover was more or less fully realized over one summer. I showed up with my new look for the first day of sophomore year of high school and most of my delinquent friends would no longer talk to me. Posers!
IV. Some Old Punks Wear Sweaters
At about 15 years old, which was when my interest in punk and change of fashion sense became a worrisome discussion amongst my family members, is when my uncle (also named Jeff) confided in me that he was a punk rocker in the late 70s. To which I of course responded, "Yeah right!" Mind you, my Uncle Jeff is now a sweater-wearing state employee working with the NC art museum department. But when he revealed to me that he still had a small chunk of his punk record collection hidden away somewhere, I was proven wrong. Perhaps one of the more significant turning points in this story is that my Uncle Jeff proceeded to graciously give me his entire punk record collection. It would take me a while to digest everything he gave me that day in the months to come. While I personally think he looks back not so fondly on his punk days, I loved pretty much everything I heard from that stack of records. Uncle Jeff lived in Ohio during his punker phase and was therefore a huge Dead Boys fan. He had the first two Dead Boys records, a lot of staples like Sex Pistols and Clash records, but also had records that would take me time to understand like Wire's Pink Flag, which is now one my favorite records. He also gave me the leather jacket I'm pictured wearing in the photo above (it was a plain black jacket when I got it.)
V. DIY Made Me Shave My Mohawk
By about 2006, Randy and I would still frequent street punk shows. Neither of us could drive at the time and most of these shows weren't nearby, sometimes happening at clubs in cities like Charlotte, which was 3 hours from us. We also had no awareness that a DIY punk scene in Raleigh even existed at the time. Randy and I were the only punks at Apex High who looked the way we did, but we did meet other kids at our high school that we later found out were part of a forum group called NC Punk Online. A lot of these kids seemed more like general weirdos and hippie types than they were uniformly punk. One of those kids later invited me to see this new movie American Hardcore that was playing at an indie theater in North Raleigh. I had no idea what "hardcore" meant at the time, but needless to say, this movie opened a whole new world of interest for me. I remember watching the documentary and finding the parts with SSD offputting and Jack Grisham talking about his grave-robbing being really scary, but I was totally transfixed. After seeing that movie, I immediately ran out to Coconuts Music. All on the same day I bought CD's of the Minor Threat discography, Black Flag Damaged, and the first Bad Brains and heard them all the way through for the first time. That was a good day.
For a short period, I still made no real distinction between the street punk shows I went to and the hardcore punk I was becoming obsessed with. I remember I still rocked my leather jacket, but it now had a Minor Threat back patch (which is still on there). But this new group of freaks I had met would tease me about attending street punk shows relentlessly! Eventually I was convinced to go to smaller shows in Raleigh. I remember some of the first shows I went to were at a place called Sadlack's (RIP), where the bands would play outside beneath an awning and anyone off the street could just walk up and watch. More than I remember the bands, I mainly recall being approached by an overwhelming group of new faces wanting to meet the "fresh meat," i.e. ME. A lot of the people who played in the bands and helped book the shows in Raleigh are still my close friends, and the idea that this small group of people was making these gatherings happen was a revelation to me. Even though I liked the music, I realized that a lot of these "punk" shows that were in clubs I had been attending were really just like going to a hard rock show.
Double Negative at some house show. Daniel and I are right next to each other but I don't think we had even met yet.
I had gone to a handful of shows in Raleigh, but some of the most memorable shows I went to that were proper hardcore shows were at this retro-fitted bike shop in Durham called Bull City Headquarters, or BCHQ. Granted, I was late to the game. I didn't see Daniel's band Cross Laws for the first time until their last show, and I believe Wasted Time also played that show. At my first few hardcore shows, I had no idea what band I would be watching at any given moment -- it was all an exhilarating blur, but I remember being blown away. I probably stuck out like a sore thumb because I was still transitioning out of my decidedly-punk-looking phase. One particular show at BCHQ that really stands out was in late 2007. I rode in the back of some older street punk's car along with Randy and my friend Arwen in the back seat. I was 16 and never met the dude driving before, and I remember feeling nervous when we stopped to get beer on the way. The flyer for the show had only 4 bands listed, which were Born Bad, Socialcide (who had Brandon Ferrel on drums that night), Double Negative, and it was Devour's first proper show. I don't know if it was just a killer show and the energy in the room inspired spontaneity, but other bands just randomly played, including Logic Problem and then Government Warning played a surprise set, who I had never heard before. GW opened with "Arrested" and the crowd exploded. A minute in, I caught an elbow to the face and blood poured down my face. I had an instinct to run back to the bathroom, but instead I got caught up in the mass of bodies and just raged with my bloody nose.
Crowd photo at BCHQ. I'm off to the left, try and spot me!
I decided not long after attending a few shows that this type of punk was what I was looking for, so I immediately retired my leather jacket and shaved my head. I also wanted a piece of it. After I graduated high school in summer of 2009, I had a mission to start a hardcore band that was at least close to being on par with the great bands I'd witnessed. Stripmines started playing shows a couple months later. Pre-every killer hardcore record being on Youtube, meeting people in the scene after Stripmines started playing shows is how I was exposed to a lot of more obscure punk. I remember Matt from Stripmines showing me Bastard for the first time and losing my mind. And I would just be blown away by bands that my new friends would show me constantly! It was exciting.
Here's a video of Stripmines at our last show, still one of the funnest sets I've ever played. Good view of my sober butt in shorts:
Welp, I guess it was kinda long-winded after all. I don't have too much more to say. I've continued to play in band after band since Stripmines, and the pattern continues! I don't really know what else to do with myself!
Alright, now let's talk about some records:
ISS: Endless Pussyfooting 12" - I'm not sure if I didn't properly digest this LP upon first listen or if shifting the medium from cassette to vinyl allowed me to listen more attentively, but I'm only now realizing how fantastic this record is. What's funny is that I imagine if someone were to pitch to me the concept behind ISS to for the first time, which is a two-piece collaboration who makes new compositions out of punk drum samples, I would probably naturally respond with, "That sounds terrible!" Well, lemme tell ya, this crow tastes pretty good. I feel like listening to this Endless Pussyfooting from start to finish is an enveloping experience. The sonic experimentation, use of sampling, dynamics, and especially the sequencing of tracks are all right on the nuggets. Also, while I think the songwriting is catchy and top-notch, everything about ISS is genuinely pretty funny. PS, correct me if I'm wrong but I'm pretty sure the pick slide in "Endless Drip" is from lifted from the beginning "Hit The Lights" by Metallica..
Suck Lords: Demo CS - Super raw, super fast, super pissed first release from this new Portland hardcore band. This demo definitely falls under the category of my recently adopted motto of "I'm so glad bands are playing fast again." This recording is honestly pretty sloppy, but I kinda like that. It has urgency. Somewhere between the speed of Deep Wound and the snottiness of JFA, I'm digging Suck Lords' vibe.
U-nix: Demo CS - What the fuck is up with Portland lately? I used to mainly associate that region with crusty raw punk bands, but between this and Suck Lords it seems like there's a new crop of kids that just want to crank out classic, ripping USHC. U-nix seems like maybe they've ingested some of the midwestern hardcore sensibilities, kind of reminding of bands like Ooze. There are moments on this demo that get really noisy and chaotic that also kind of make me think of the Void demos. Killer.
Silverhead: S/T 12" - Let's face it, sometimes you just need some old fashioned rock 'n' roll! If any of you read one of my earlier blog posts, you'll know that I had been on a 70's glam rock kick as of late. I think I find this era of rock so addictive in part because of the lush vocal hooks, and Silverhead is no exception. I had never really heard of Silverhead until Daniel informed me that we would be getting the reissue of their first record in our next Forced Exposure shipment. Since hearing it recently, I've been spinning to this LP constantly. It's funny because Silverhead was part of the whole UK glam scene, but more than some of their contemporaries, I detect a healthy dose of southern rock flavor. Not unlike T. Rex, some of the slower songs straight up sound like they could be Skynyrd ballads -- choir-esque backup vocals and all. Some serious hot tracks on this under-the-radar rock record.
Not much else to talk about. Hopefully I'll get in another post or two before Skemäta sets off for tour. While I'm here though, I have a new project called Scarecrow with Daniel and our first show is coming up. Check it out:
That'll do it for this round. Thanks for reading!
'Til next time,