Spanish Bombs: Granada just named a plaza after the Clash’s Joe Strummer
p.s. awesome “SEX” graffiti in the background
Spanish Bombs: Granada just named a plaza after the Clash’s Joe Strummer
p.s. awesome “SEX” graffiti in the background
The Richard Hell Interview
Richard Hell—legendary punk rock iconoclast, intrepid novelist, poet, and now memoirist—is lounging on his couch in the cozy East Village pad he’s called home since 19 fucking 75. Considering how brutally forthcoming Richard is about his drug use in his new autobiography I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp (“Thirty years later, I still have the scars on my left forearm”), it’s a surprise that he looks significanty younger than his 63 years. His litany of feats since he escaped to New York are a total mind-blow.
In Tramp, Hell vividly recounts his gun-toting cowboy dreams as a young miscreant and his rabble-rousing school-dropout years before hitting New York City and altering its landscape. He helped create the punk template with a fuck you attitude, birthed anarchic style with tattered, thrift-store threads, botched hairstyles that Malcolm McLaren later swiped for the Sex Pistols, started Television with Tom Verlaine, put CBGB and Max’s Kansas City on the punk rock map, wrote era-defining tunes like “Blank Generation” with his band the Voidoids, survived life as a junkie, and penned Burroughs-level dirty sex ‘n’ track-marked novels and poetry.
Hell’s I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp is epic badassness. He hides little about his life’s trajectory and his disdain for Verlaine and Richard Lloyd, his undying love for Dee Dee Ramone and Bob Quine, the drugs, the music, and the debauchery. Just don’t ask him about being Jewish and what he thought of Marquee Moon. He’d much rather talk about his dick.
VICE: When did you start writing I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp?
Richard Hell: Right after my last novel (Godlike) came out in 2006. It’s been a long haul. But I did a bunch of things—other projects—as I was doing it, too. Still, it was a slog. It’s twice as long as anything I’ve written before. And also more confusing. It gets delicate to write about yourself [laughs].
I assume it’s much easier to write fiction.
Yeah, yeah. It’s easier to write fiction. You’re right. But it was a long process figuring out what to keep and what not to keep. Things are coming back to me that I forgot to mention [laughs]. Still, it hits you when you’re working on a book like that, that it will be easy enough to spend 600 pages describing one day.
But you kept journals over the years. Did those help in putting the book together?
I did, yeah, but I was never really systematic about it. They were really useful. But it’s not as if I could wonder what I was doing some month from looking at my journals. I’d go three months without writing anything in there and then just open it up and just write a page. But they were helpful. They did nail down dates and did also just show me exactly what was going on in my head.
When you started writing Tramp, was the book already bought?
Oh, I never do that. I’ll write the book, then I’ll go look for a publisher.
So, there weren’t any publishers on your ass to write an autobiography?
Are you kidding me? Noooo! In fact, I was turned down by probably about six or seven publishers. There were basically two offers. The book was in sloppier shape then. I did send it out because I was so tired of working on it. I really OD’d on it. I was nauseated and I just wanted to find a publisher—just to get a little charge goin’, ya know? [laughs]. But I got the ideal publisher for it, and it worked out great. No regrets, really.
Did you plan on Tramp being your next project after you were done with Godlike?
No, I had to figure that out. I thought writing Tramp was gonna be easy in comparison because I figured I had the… narrative… so that solves a lot of problems. Then I’d just try to figure out how to write good sentences. It sure turned out to be a lot more complicated. I kept getting turned around and all the fuckin’ internal turmoil figuring how to regard my own self… I mean, that’s really confusing.
Did you feel like by writing the book, you were penning a de facto obituary?
No, it’s nothing like an obituary. An obituary is just a really flattering curriculum vitae. That wasn’t the issue.
When you were writing the book, were you cognizant about other musicians writing memoirs, like Patti Smith (Just Kids) and Keith Richards (Life)…
I can’t see this interview in VICE magazine.
Why? OK, I’ll ask you some more provocative questions [laughs].
Yeah, you’re supposed to ask me about my dick or something.
Yeah, you’re right. Who’d you bang?
What is the story behind the Iceage branded knives you were selling?
Johan: [Laughs] It’s amazing what a crazy big thing these knives have become. It was just an idea our friend in the US had that would just be a strange merch thing to do. And we were like, “Yeah, that sounds like fun.”
You weren’t slightly concerned that somebody might get stabbed or an accident might happen?
Johan: Yeah. But if someone stabs someone, I don’t think they’re doing it spontaneously. They’re not just spontaneously going to stab someone with an Iceage knife.
Jakob: Also, those knives are really small. If I wanted to stab somebody, I’d probably use another knife.
Johan: You could still stab a person with it, but it’s not like you can’t get knives anywhere else.
But doesn’t it concern you to be associated with weapons?
Johan: I didn’t see it as a weapon. I don’t know, I can see the stupidity of doing it; it is in some ways kind of idiotic. But we haven’t sold many of them, and we didn’t make a lot of them.
Assuming somebody was stabbed, even if you have faith that your audience wouldn’t do that, wouldn’t you admit that it’s risky?
Johan: Yeah, but then I would also say that any fan of ours could take another knife that didn’t have our logo on it and stab someone. Are you referring to a situation where someone has bought one of our knives and all of a sudden thinks it’s a good idea to stab someone?
Music scenes are for idiots. Here’s why.
As an inverse to how Kissinger’s winning of the Nobel Peace prize rendered Tom Leher’s career no longer relevant, Whitney and Michael’s deaths have given GG’s demise a dignity that he would have found repellent. How low can a punk get? Pretty low. My view of the state of punk is the same as my view of the State of Israel; entirely indefensible but I don’t want it to die. And both are like the music of Lana Del Rey; sure I’ll make fun behind closed doors, but get me in the bar and I’ll take positions no sane man could support just to remain, in my mind, in stark opposition of the stupid, stupid faces of the naysayers. My god, I’ll defend ‘90s era Bad Religion before I concede the point. What point? Any point. That’s what being a punk is about.
I was once asked, after GG Allin’s death, if I wanted to try out to sing for the Murder Junkies. I was threatened with bodily harm for making some Johnny Thunders crack and asked if I liked rape rock. That’s not my story. I’m just establishing my credentials.
Listen, it’s late and you’re the only paying customer here, so please don’t let me bring you down. I know I rolled my eyes when you said Nina Simone was the first punk, but you have to understand; giving the souls of black folk the unasked for validation of a Minor Threat t-shirt is a sucker’s game. One you should stop playing at the exact moment you stop pretending to enjoy Greil Marcus. But I’m here to serve you, not insult you, not shave you with my eyes, not rearrange the letters of your neck tattoos so that they no longer spell out the names of all the line cooks who have died on your watch, but instead say something true like: “Given the choice between getting all the pussy in Gainesville while actually Being in the Moss Icon reunion and President Obama being re-elected and National service being instated therefore ensuring a genuine rebirth in civic pride and actual community rather than the half assed insular compromises of house shows and bike clubs, I don’t actually know what I’d choose. Probably the tan lines and Sub Springsteen sing alongs of the Against Me! pool party. Sorry. PS. Not really sorry.”
So let me get you another drink. No, we don’t have Lonestar. Yes, I know where you first had it…
Watching this clip of NYHC kids on Regis Philbin’s Morning Show in 1986 and it’s bringing up a lot of emotions
Punk Families Are Boring
Have you ever wished that a middle-aged white man from the Orange County suburbs was sitting next to you on a plane, telling you how much he loves his kids and showing you snapshots and home movies on his iPad? You haven’t? Then the movie The Other F Word is not for you. The bulk of this rambling, 99-minute documentary about West Coast punks who have children is crushingly banal, and the remainder is given to tearful descriptions of absent fathers, childhood traumas, and accidental deaths. Save your money and go to an AA meeting instead.
Though old folks including Ron Reyes (Black Flag), Brett Gurewitz (Bad Religion), Mark Mothersbaugh (Devo), and Flea appear on camera, The Other F Word prefers the Warped Tour version of punk to the punk version of punk. The main theme is some sappy, auto-tuned thing by Against Me! about nostalgia for the teen years, and the figures who get the most camera time are Pennywise singer Jim Lindberg, Art Alexakis of Everclear, and the guy from Rise Against. The idea of punk as a demand for social change is out, as is any political, economic, historical, or even musical context. (Vietnam and Nixon are briefly alluded to as bad things that happened.) Instead, the documentary gives punk the Dr. Phil treatment, presenting child-rearing as a way for wounded men to heal themselves and become the fathers they never had. According to this version of the story, the only thing you need to know about punk is that people got into it because their dads were real dicks.
Art Alexakis in The Other F Word
Roughly the first two-thirds of the movie records doughy white men sitting around with their families in drab suburban dwellings (not surprisingly, Flea and the guy from Blink 182 have the nicest houses) and extra-large SUVs. The crew also follows Jim Lindberg on a miserable 7-month Pennywise tour, during which the singer talks to his family on Skype when he is not wearily greeting another audience or dyeing his beard with Just For Men in an Econo Lodge bathroom. In the last third, the movie kicks into high pathos: Flea, Art Alexakis, Fat Mike, and Tony Cadena speak bitterly about their parents’ neglect, and Duane Peters talks about his son’s death in a car accident. There is much acoustic balladry.
Fresh off the heals of playing the Power of the Riff, and then opening up for Red Hot Chili Peppers at the Staples Center last night, OFF! announce their U.S. mega-tour with Negative Approach, The Spits, Double Negative and Power Trip. When we heard this lineup confirmation from our man Dimitri Coats, we nearly slapped a baby in the face. Thats how excited we were.
Check out the flyer and click here to get tickets.
Chunklet to Go Go: The Wheel of Punk, Part 2
If you’re anything like me you’re probably still reeling from the conversation-generating majesty of theWheel of Punk (Part 1). If you don’t feel like clicking over, it’s (arbitrarily) this:
It’s beautiful. It’s a double rainbow all the way. But: what does it MEAN? It’s time to take this baby out for a test drive. Let’s rate some motherfucking BANDS.
Rating 1: Sex Pistols and The Ramones
Who is more punk? This is one of those age-old questions without any answer, and one of the reasons I came up with The Wheel of Punk™ in the first place. Out of a sense of national pride I’ve always wanted to believe that The Ramones were more punk forever amen, but the Sex Pistols make a pretty convincing case too. London in the 70’s gets points for being just as fucked up as New York at that time. Say what you will about New York’s white flight, bankruptcy, blackouts, the bicentennial, and the Son of Sam; London had rioting skinheads, garbage strikes, fucking English weather and food, and the silver jubilee. They were probably equally shitty places and times to be alive. We on this side of the pond lack the historical context for this stuff. At least New York had the Reggie Jackson Yankees to root for.
By way of a review, The Ramones had the following punk things going for them: were the first/most “we are punk” punk band in the USA, funny accents, incredibly stupid songs about sniffing glue and not going down to the basement, misunderstood lyrics about fucking LIKE a Nazi, leather jackets, black t-shirts and black Chuck Taylor All Stars, an aesthetic agenda which involved no guitar solos ever, a junkie bassist who couldn’t play bass, pretty much deciding never to be anything but exactly The Ramones after working with a gun-wielding Phil Spector in 1980.
In the Sex Pistols’ favor: were the first/most “we are punk” punk band in the UK, funny accents, songs about not liking the monarchy, exactly appropriately understood lyrics about not getting abortions, presumably free yet highly conceptualized clothing as a result of being put together and woefully mismanaged by the owner of a fashion boutique, an aesthetic agenda which involved glaring bug-eyed and acting hyperserious all the time, a junkie bassist who couldn’t play bass, pretty much calling it quits and implying the death of punk rock once they got tired of their manager using them for crazy stunts.
There are contrarian arguments to be made that The Ramones were incredibly stupid Bronx-basement sub-humanoids who only sounded the way they did instead of sounding like AC/DC because they didn’t know how to play their instruments, and therefore they’re not even all that punk. And there are arguments on the other end that the Sex Pistols were effete fashion-oriented Monkees concoctions dancing on the puppet strings of a calculating businessman who saw the New York Dolls and decided to horn in on the action, and therefore they’re not even all that punk. I think those arguments are 99.9% bullshit, but, like farts, they exist and they are funny.
The good news about The Wheel of Punk™ is we don’t have to decide who is more punk. We can just say “however punk you think The Ramones are, the Sex Pistols are equally punk and vice versa, only the Sex Pistols are on the ‘artier’ side of the circle and the Ramones are on the ‘dumber’ side.” Debate over, forever and ever, and the only thing that’s left is the argument over subjective locations. If you want to buy into those “not very punk” arguments for either band, you can go ahead and put the Pistols at your 2:00 and The Ramones at your 4:00. Just know that if you do that, you’ve probably got NOFX at your 3:00 (if so, please don’t think I’m making fun of you; I wouldn’t do that because I know it’s not easy being twelve years old). We’re talking about the fucking SEX PISTOLS and THE RAMONES here.
I’ve got them at:
Sex Pistols - 2:59.
Ramones - 3:01.
Rating 2: The Doors
The Wheel of Punk
You ever get weird flashbacks to things from high school that you both did not learn and did not forget? I get that a lot with the Wheel of Governmental Something Something. I don’t know what it’s called. I couldn’t find evidence of it on the internet. It might just be one of those things that tenth grade civics teachers have written on chalkboards since they crawled out of the primordial ooze and began droning on about checks and balances.
You know, the Wheel of Governmental Something Something? Kind of looks like this:
I think it’s supposed to teach teenagers not to get all carried away with their political beliefs. The idea is that if you go too far in one direction of wanting things to be a certain way, you come back around, and the most extreme ways to be are actually dead in the middle of two other things.
Like for example: If there’s only one person in charge of the country where you live, it’s probably not going to matter to you a whole hell of a lot if that person is ideologically more of a fascist or a socialist, because either way you’ll probably get your head chopped off for bitching and moaning about them in public. Or if everybody is equally in charge, you can never find a way to be conservative or liberal because every single decision is like nine people on their iPhones taking fucking FOREVER just to figure out how to pay for dinner. So the most left or right you can get politically are actually from the most medium-authority style governments that go all the way in one direction.