Ex-girlfriend of mine interviewed me for a sociology course she's taking in University. Thought it could interest a couple of people.
1.Why punk rock? Why and when did you start listening to punk rock music?
I started listening to punk because this girl I was into when I was 13 listened to The Distillers and The Adicts a whole bunch, and wore like, fishnets and eyeliner and stuff, which was pretty bad-ass at age thirteen. I guess that started the seed -- I borrowed her CDs and memorized the lyrics and stuff because I thought she was so cool. The next year, I moved to Canada, and was instantly despised by very nearly everyone at my school.The people who gave me the most shit were miniature thugs decked out in G-Unit clothes and spotless white sneakers, and naturally, I started to gravitate away from that kind of mindless commercial-gangster-rap attitude, and nurtured a deep hatred for school and the people there. At the same time, I began reading a lot about anarchism and smoking a lot of weed. By the time I was fifteen I was singing in a hardcore punk band called Mad kid Disease.
2.Why do you dress the way you do? Do you find that people react to it (and how)?
In high school it was made abundantly clear that I wasn’t welcome in any social groups, so there was nothing to stop me from growing dreadlocks, wearing combat boots every day, piercing my eyebrow with a safety pin, and rocking the most ridiculous clothes I could find. I didn’t care what anyone thought, and since I was already outcast, it could have no repercussions, like the ones I observed in the precarious social lives of the students around me. At a certain point, too, my clothes became my armour. They were a huge fuck you to everyone around; teachers, principal, jocks, thugs, emo kids, and all the pretty girls who would never ever say hi to me. By wearing torn clothes, multicoloured hair, and a leather jacket covered in neon spray paint I was letting everybody know that I was so fucked up I didn’t even care about their retarded little bubble worlds, and to some extent that made the most aggressive among my bullies back off. They weren’t sure what I might do. I would let them torment me, ignoring them, but every once in a while I would snap and hurt somebody, and they knew it, and they knew I projected that attitude through my clothes.
Nowadays it has become a habit for me to always wear combat boots. I keep my hair short because it’s easy, and in case I get into a fight. I wear leather jackets. I favour black and never wear anything with a logo on it. I’m less concerned now with looking punk rock than I was back in school. I don’t go out of my way to look super punk rock, I just do my own thing and wear the clothes I got. I live in the punk ghetto, with punks, doing punky things and basically I don’t have to prove to any tenth-grade assholes on steroids that I just might be crazy enough to bite through their eyelids if they come to close to me.
People react differently. I’ve had people tell me in all seriousness that they thought all punks were fascists. Sometimes I’ll be sitting downtown having a cigarette and old ladies will offer to buy me breakfast because they think I’m homeless. Sometimes people in deps will act like I’m about to reach over the counter and stab them to death when all I want is some matches. But by far the people who react the worst and the most are the police, to whom punks are essentially just fair game.
3.How much of punk rock is related to drugs (drinking and sex)?
One of the things punk rock is about is youthful freedom. Punk is cynically optimistic. Life sucks now, life will suck even more later, so you might as well get all fucked up. That being said, I don’t know any punks who haven’t known someone thats died from an overdose or suicide, so drugs are respected. But just like in any community, there are some people who drink, some who smoke pot, some who do anything they can get their hands on, and some who don’t do any drugs or drink, and make kampucha tea, and do arts and crafts and paint and bake banana muffins and listen to Haydn and never eat animal proteins. It’s a wide spectrum.
There was a movement within the American hardcore punk scene called Straight Edge, and it consisted mostly of punks being like, “Our scene is completely ravaged by drug addiction,” and they didn’t do drugs and would even go to such lengths as to knock drinks out of peoples’ hands at punk shows or fight them if they showed up high. So again, there’s lots of different ideas about it within the punk culture and punk music.
I think part of it is that a lot of punks went through trauma or just tough or confusing lives when they were younger, and they’re distrustful of the established system, so drinking is a logical outlet. It’s affordable, it’s easy, it’s everywhere, and it makes you happy for a night. In my experience, most punks drink, usually to excess. About half also smoke weed. A minority smoke weed but don’t drink, and another minority does anything they can. In general the junkies are sort of taken care of but everybody’s a little freaked out when they start pulling their rigs out and cookin’.
As for sex, everyone’s fucking, all over the place, all the time. I think the punk subculture is the only atmosphere in which you can have a room full of rowdy, drunk men not even bat an eye when two beautiful naked women emerge from upstairs and then join the line for the bathroom totally casually, talking to each other about how they want to rearrange the handcuffs hanging from above the bed, and also one of the only atmospheres in which you can have six tough-looking guys, covered in tattoos, with mohawks and leather jackets, and have one guy run up to them and plant a huge slobbery kiss on the biggest, toughest looking guy, and again, have no one bat an eye cuz that’s his boyfriend. You know what I mean? Not that we’re all queer, we just don’t give a shit, we love having sex, no one is ashamed of it, and attempted rape is rewarded by asskickings and rape is rewarded by you better be off the island of Montreal by morning or you’re gonna get found dead in a park.
4.Do you find those who don't engage in those things less punk rock then others?
How much you drink, fuck and fight, to me, has no bearing on how punk rock you are. Basically if you can keep up your attitude, your mentality that says ‘I do whatever I want to, nobody has the right to stop me but myself, etc,” without drinking or doing drugs or having a bunch of sex all the time, that’s fantastic. God knows I need a drink sometimes just to get out of bed. If you’re strong enough to exist in such a negative, fractured, psychically confusing community without ever smoking a joint or drinking a forty, good for you.
Here’s the difference. If you DO drink, but you get yourself a six pack, drink it and then start acting like a total fucking idiot, unless I know for a fact you’ve been abstaining for years, you’re going down as a dumb cunt in my books for not holding your beer. If you get drunk and immediately start a fight with another punk over something completely trivial, and you don’t bring it outside, that’s another thing. If you break your beer bottle and don’t clean it up, you’re fucking scum -- almost everyone living in the punk ghetto has a dog. If you’re constantly preaching to everyone about how they shouldn’t drink or smoke, you might get punched. But in general absolutely no one is going to tell you you ain’t a punk cuz you don’t get fucked up every night.
5.Does social class have anything to do with how punk rock you are?
I don’t know if social class has much to do with how punk rock you are, although I’d say members of the upper class very rarely penetrate the scene and if they do, they leave or change, and most members of the scene are from working-class backgrounds. Once you’re there, we’re all the same class -- white trash scum despised by the police. There are no upper class punks.
6.Some people seem to think that punk rockers get into a lot of fights, but how often does that occur? Why do you think it does?
Punks tend to get into sketchy situations and we tend to be drinking. I’ve been in a lot of fights. In Europe, gangs of immigrant youths would fight me because they thought I was a neo-Nazi, and gangs of neo-Nazis would fight me because they thought I was gay. In high school I had to fight people off when they got too abusive with me. But in general I’d say there are not more fights than usual among punks. Maybe we’re just better prepared for a fight.
Of course it doesn’t help that nearly every portrayal of punks in the media has us as sort of a mix between Fight Club attendees and bank robbers... Which leads us to our next question.
7.How do you find the media represents punk rock life style? Is it a fair representation?
Nothing in the media is fair representation. Furthermore a lifestyle which completely rejects most or all mainstream values would never be accurately portrayed in the media representing and even manufacturing those same values. I think the film SLC: Punk is probably the fairest representation of the North American punk scene in the 80s and 90s, but it’s not even a particularly mainstream movie... In general punks in the media are either a joke (stupid character to get some laughs), totally twisted around to be something entirely different (the ‘pop punk’ of MTV -- Good Charlotte? Simple Plan? Jesus), drug addicts (have you learned your lesson yet, America? Drugs are BAD!), or just super brutal street characters who act like Nazis, can’t pronounce long words and just want to break stuff and rob people so they can get some more money to buy some more gel to put in their immaculately upswept mohawks.
8.What is anarchy? Why and how does it apply to you?
I’m an anarchist. As an anarchist, my goal is to help my comrades build a society without sovereigns -- that is, anarchy. We hold that hierarchical control, by the state, a capitalist, or an individual, is both 'undesirable and unnecessary'. We envision a society in which all members peacefully and voluntarily cooperate for the greatest good of all.
Anarchists are communists. Communism has two branches, authoritarian communism, as practiced by Lenin, Castro and Mao, and libertarian communism, which is another phrase for anarchism.
Anarchy is one of the most commonly misrepresented words, often taken to mean ‘chaos’ or ‘disorder’. In fact, the famous anarchist logo, the A inside a circle, is not an A inside a circle but an A inside an O, standing for l’anarchie c’est l’ordre, or Anarchy is Order, a quote from the famous anarchist Proudhon. Anarchists hold that the existing system actually represents an artificially maintained state of disorder wherein capital and resources are improperly distributed according to illogical capitalist ideology, and wherein workers’ rights are severely curtailed in favour of property rights, also illogical for society as a whole, which consists mostly of workers.
Since capital is identical to government in terms of the illegitimate and brutal nature of its power, anarchists oppose capitalism and the State.
Anarchy does not mean destruction. It does not mean nihilism. It does not mean blood-baths and massacres and looting and burning. It means total freedom and total solidarity, social harmony, love for one’s fellow wo/man, and an end to capitalist misery and alienation.
I am an anarchist by default. Capitalism is sickening. I spent a large part of my childhood in the third world and witnessed the incredible human suffering our economic system inflicts on these populations of serfs around the world, and the deadening, intellectually murderous effect it has on populations at home. Communism as practiced in the USSR and the PRC is unacceptable, for it merely reincarnated the elitist state-capitalist character of the states systems it succeeded. The only logical and ethical political theory is libertarian communism, or anarchism.
While many punks are anarchist, not all are anarchist, and while many anarchists are punks, not all are punks.
9.Is Punk a life choice?
You mean, can I ever ‘go back’, and be ‘normal’ again? I don’t know. I can dress however I want, but I still feel the way I feel: my society is ridiculous and suicidal; the function of the police is the protection of property, not the fighting of crime; the people who claim to be my government are firmly in the pockets of the Euro-American capitalist industrial elite; commercials are so sad in their nonsensical insanity they make me want to die; this culture is tearing itself apart. Amputated at the heart. I’ll never be able to just pretend I once didn’t know and feel these things. I can’t just turn around and become what despises me and what I despise.
10.Where do you see yourself in 15 years/ where do you hope to see yourself in 15 years.
In fifteen years, I’ll be thirty-five. I hope to be traveling somewhere very far away from here, or participating in the glorious Reconstruction of our plague-infested, radioactive wasteland of a country, or hiding in the woods somewhere with a rifle, trying to pick off American troops as they tramp through the trees looking for survivors of the cluster-bombing of Montréal.
Fuck tha police, comin' straight from St. Hungry