Tuesday, July 3, 2012


Beautiful Rincon Point near Santa Barbara

Oh, that's right, we left off around hanging out in Hollywood. Okay, so we had nothing book related scheduled for the next day (but wait…we’re getting there…) so Stewart and I headed north along the Pacific Ocean, our destination - Santa Barbara. Before I explain what can be viewed roadside on this drive, I want to tell you about the etiquette of the ‘All American Freeway.'

Hold on while the dramatic music is cuing up…

What a messed up system..! Other than surfing, celebrities and all year round sunshine – Los Angeles is famous for one other thing - traffic – and lots of it. Stewart gave me a brief history lesson in ‘Carpool Lanes’ (a whole inside lane ‘the fast lane’ to you or I) that is solely reserved for cars with a driver and a passenger. Yes, that’s right - if you are driving with another person alongside you, you can sail past the traffic…  Most people on the road out here are sole drivers because Los Angeles barely has any public transportation, and the city is so vast and spread out, that driving is necessary; but not quite justifiable. Everybody in LA drives as a result, just to get around and roads resemble a rollercoaster version of our UK  ‘Spaghetti Junction’. 

Remember, I am British. In the UK we have a solid public transportation system, so I was just not used to NOT having public transport… ALL THE TIME!
The drive to Santa Barbara is varied and ultra scenic, from picturesque red foothills to vast valleys of citrus fruit, you just end up with retina strain trying to soak up the visuals. It was at this point that I remember zoning out and listening to the radio, which was playing an array of Mariachi, I realised a ‘non-point’ that Stewart had been driving with one foot on the dashboard pretty much the whole time we were on the freeway - as most cars in The States are automatics with cruise control, not stick shift like back home. So, yes, just a side note. Sorry. 

We took a break at Rincon Point, a famed natural point break surf spot with a horizon and surroundings that has to be witnessed. It’s so beautiful! In total cliché, I perched on some driftwood and cooled myself in the sea breeze watching the surfers hanging for waves and smiling at the passing ladies. Being a fan of our animal friends I was super happy to spot some sea lions swimming alongside the surfers, I rolled up to Stewart grinning and pointing like an idiot to which he informed me is a bad sign, as seals being so close together usually means sharks in the area or at least attracts them in this environment. Oh shit, of course, they have fucking sharks out here, I am petrified of sharks.

We jump back in the car and soon enough we pull into Santa Barbara. We take a walk around and find ourselves on the main high street that is cluttered with cool craft shops, weird high-street bronze statues that look like everyday workers cleaning windows, super high-end designer stores and various eateries. We look around somewhere suitable to feed and find a Vietnamese place, which was just incredible. Planning our next day over a mountain of food, we walked around a little more and headed back to the rental car. It was somewhere along the trip back where I remember I could barely keep my head up…I remember thinking… 

 “I wonder if I ate something that doesn’t agree with me? I feel like shit!”
 I felt like my body was made of lead and I just fell into the deepest sleep, which leads me to my next point; The Mysteries of Jet Lag. The thing about Jet Lag is it is never finished in one sitting; it hits you like a wave and just comes out of nowhere…I’ve never had it that bad visiting the US before, this time it just floored me and pretty much finished me off for the rest of the day. So in the car we climbed and all that I remember was, well, the next day.
The next day, Stewart had arranged for us to go for coffee with a guy called Robert Arce. 

If I remember correctly – Robert used to work for SST (Black Flag’s homegrown label) and is currently in the process of making a Black Flag documentary in the vein of 2007’s American Hardcore. We met up and he showed us the trailer on his laptop, it looks like a great project. Over coffee we talked about the string of interviews that Barred For Life had conducted thus far and the interviewees and just general geek Black Flag trivia. We explained to Robert how tough it was for us trying to reach Raymond Pettibon (Greg Ginn’s younger brother, and exceptional artist for Black Flag and others), and Robert kindly he gave us his home address – which happened to be in the Venice Beach area. After a little debating in the car park we decided to just head out there and go knock on his door and see what happens. 

An hour later we arrive in Venice Beach, and this is what kind of went down…

There is a fine line between wanting an interview and stalking a man, and both can be risky business.  Happily we were not stalking, but Raymond didn't know that. If legend is to be believed, Raymond is notoriously reclusive, so the thought of disturbing him was awkward and weird – but totally worth a shot if we could secure an interview for Barred For Life. So we parked and walked along Venice Beach Boardwalk, which has to be witnessed with all it’s human oddities and accepted pan handling freaks…

We soaked in the visuals and simultaneously psyched ourselves up. Venice Beach is amazing and terrifying all at the same time. It is a melting pot of every type of culture you can imagine, and completely full of whacko’s and chancers. We watched a Jimi Hendrix look-a-like (played a left-handed Stratocaster strung upside down) on the beach, saw the beefcakes pumping iron at the outdoor Gold’s Gym (hilarious), amazing Skateboarding in the bowls and I got totally hustled by some Hip Hop guys giving me a signed ‘free’ CD and then trying to charge me for it. The whole experience of Venice Beach can be summed up as WEIRD. 

We finally located Raymond’s house and rang the bell. Dammit, Nobody home. I spotted a telephone book lying next to a gate; we looked him up. R. Pettibon was listed. What the fuck. We called his home number and got his answering machine. His answering machine gave us his studio number, and his receptionist told us he was out with Thurston Moore ‘on the town’. So, we were close. We talked to his gallery rep, we sat on his front stoop. We called his house, and at one point Stewart talked to somebody, who could have been Thurston Moore or David Markey (he was also mentioned along side Thurston Moore by his rep). Well, you can’t win them all. We cut our losses and went to eat gigantic pizza to calm our stomachs, and to give a chance for Stewart to give a call over to Chuck Dukowski (Black Flag’s original bass player), who lived just up the street from Raymond. 

Okay, so this is where the story gets even weirder, so I may as well cut it short and pick up from this point next time. Hope that you enjoy the images, and thanks for reading…



Monday, June 25, 2012


Lovely Whittier, CA
On the 4th of December 2009, I hosted a last minute shoot for ‘Barred For Life’ in Manchester UK (see Stewart’s prior post for the summery). I followed the project online, reading this very travel blog you are reading now - and as the tour unfolded beyond Manchester, into Europe and the New Year – Stewart and I kept in regular contact via email. To cut a long-winded story short,

Stewart asked…

 “I’m going to Los Angeles this summer to conduct a series of interviews – why don’t you get yourself a plane ticket and get out here?”.

I did just that and here is what happened...

I left Manchester Airport for a connecting flight at Heathrow (LONDON) bound for LAX (LOS ANGELES). This was the first time I’ve covered serious mileage on my own before - I was excited but admittedly, I was pretty fucking nervous, too. It had been awhile since I saw Stewart, my life was in a state of dis-harmony and I thought ‘fuck it’ this is going to be a story no matter what happens or how broke I am...I should do this because it will be the silver lining on a shitty couple of months… I may never get asked to do something so cool again…

So I got to Heathrow, I wandered around – and it’s kind of like a scaled down, actually, NO, it is pretty much like a full shopping precinct within an airport. I’ve never witnessed anything like it - it’s so fucking unnecessary. Who would visit an apple shop and buy a macbook or an ipad on a whim before boarding a trans-wherever flight?
I had about two hours to kill before boarding time so I headed straight for the bar to pound a couple of beers - hoping it would take some sting out of the waiting around. I watched whoever it was playing that day in the World Cup propped up against the bar staring at the TV.
Finally my gate opens, I stroll up with my boarding pass and passport then I’m stumped with the question;

“Where will you be staying for the duration of your trip Sir?” the gate lady asked.

“Somewhere in the suburbs of Los Angeles, Whittier if my memory serves me correctly?” I flatly respond.

Basically, due to the tightening of homeland security in the US since the events of September 11th, you now have to provide the accommodating airline with the FULL ADDRESS of where you are staying. Something I didn’t have. As far as I was concerned, I was just going to get picked up at the other end and taken to wherever I was staying.

I missed the flight as a result and had to wake up numerous people on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean trying to find out this shred of information that I COULD have probably made up – but wasn’t going to risk it just to be received in the US of A and sent right back to the UK, which I have heard had happened to people in the past.  Off to a flying start. At this point I’d been in two airports for about 8 hours. Without smoking, and I’d not even left British soil; excellent.

I finally got the address, boarded the plane, found my seat and started to tinker with the on-flight entertainment. A very attractive Californian lady sat next to me and we talked for the majority of the flight. She looked just like one of those ladies from ‘Desperate Housewives’ all teeth and cheekbones with a healthy complexion. We shared anecdotes of airport hell and a bottle of wine. She asked me for my reason for my visit and I told her about the book. I asked the same – it turned out she was a real published author who had been in London writing a novel about a young girl coming of age. She was real fun to talk to, we laughed at the crummy movies and I remember envying the fact that she was petite enough that she could sit cross legged comfortably in her seat but I can’t remember her name.

Adieu, adieu…

We touched down in Los Angeles 16 hours later. At this point I had been travelling for around 24 hours and I was delirious from air conditioning, lack of sleep, too much booze and no cigarettes. I said my ‘good byes’ to the author lady as she sailed through passport control and I stood with the cattle through immigration, knee deep in sniffer dogs and police security types.

Robbo and Phil
There’s something about airports in foreign countries that put me on edge; a feeling like I’m in possession of something I shouldn’t or an unexplained guilt - I always feel like I’m going to get put back on the plane home any minute. I went through all the ridiculous questioning and iris scans and headed for baggage claim. I grabbed my bag, fished out my tobacco and began to roll a cigarette, just as I was finishing the roll – random John Law pulled me to one side and asked me what I was doing ‘just then’. Rolling tobacco is somewhat of a rarity in Los Angeles it seems and a filter tip may as well have come from Mars. I had to explain it’s purpose about three times and he still disappeared with my passport and tossed my luggage. He let me go when he was content I was not a terrorist armed with underwear, a few gift 7 inches and filter tips. Anyway, Stewart was hanging around to greet me and off we drove into the City Of Angels.

Stewart informed me of a rough plan for the week and we took a detour en route to where we would be staying, as he wanted to show me the Pacific Ocean - a fine introduction to the start of my trip. We parked up in a sleepy town of Hermosa Beach. As far as I know, Hermosa Beach is where it all began for Black Flag, as in where it all started.  We walked a small strip of bars and restaurants, which is known as ‘The Strand’ as in from the song ‘Wasted’ (“I was a surfer, I had a skateboard, I was so heavy man, I lived on THE STRAND”). It sounds pathetic, but this trip was blowing my mind already, I walked out along the pier to the very end, stared at the murky waters, marvelled at the clear evening sky and it sunk in… I was actually out here doing this awesome thing.
We drove out to the house we were to stay for the duration of our trip - Whittier, which is a suburb South East of Los Angeles. Our hosts Philip and Robbo greeted us as we arrived, we ate, drank and then I crashed out.

Edward Colver
The next day we had an interview scheduled with the legendary Edward Colver at his home. Edward is primarily an artist, sculptor, photographer and back-in-the-hey-day an avid attendee of LA’s punk scene. He was the careful eye behind the lens of pretty much EVERY memorable image you have seen from that period. The man was there documenting punk rock shows all over LA five nights a week for five years and responsible for creating the iconic ‘Damaged’ album cover amongst countless other recognisable album covers, photo sessions and artworks from that time.

Edward saw it all and was cool enough to let us into his home and recount his tales of Black Flag and punk from that time.  The things that stick out in my mind from that interview the most was Edward’s eclectic garden with carefully hidden artworks in and around plant and rock formations. We sat on his porch for a while, smoked sweet smelling clove cigarettes and he told us the history of his home. He brought out his book ‘Blight At The End Of The Funnel’ and I browsed his impressive pictures and the varied roster of artists who he has worked with in his career. We were invited in and I was astounded with the various belongings inside. Edward’s other life long interest is in antique furniture and his collection is truly astounding.

We set up our equipment, interviewed and photographed Edward (complete with his talking parrot Zeus) for about an hour, he recounted the process of setting up the ‘Damaged’ cover shoot, memories of the LA punk scene, the ever increasing LAPD presence and more interestingly, what it felt like to be insider – watching how it all manifested into something so different then how it started out and ultimately his exit, his step away, when he realised he no longer wanted to be a part of it.  Edward took us through the back of his home to his outhouse where he has what only I could call ‘a museum of all things weird and wonderful'. I was totally awestruck. The icing on the cake was Edward’s business card that he gave me as we left…a ‘deepest sympathy’ card with his phone number on the reverse. This pretty much sums up Edward. A total gentleman with a wry sense of humour.

After we had parted company with Mr. Colver, we headed out to West Hollywood or ‘Westwood’ to shoot a Mother and Son who had identical ‘Bars’ and also the Minor Threat ‘Sheep’ jumping over said set of ‘Bars’. We had a little time to kill before the interview so I headed towards the numerous record shops that Hollywood Boulevard, Melrose and the surrounding area has to offer. I had a lengthy chat with the quintessential LA punk store - 'Headline Records’ owner Jean-Luc and hung out at Immaculate Tattoos on Melrose where our host Philip works. At this point I should probably note that Philip apprenticed under Rick Spellman (the guy who gave Henry Rollins his ‘Angry Sun Face’ and ‘Search and Destroy’ tattoos) who also is featured in Barred For Life.
Finally we head to the shoot just as the sun is setting, set up, get the interview underway and chit-chat until it’s time to head back. I barely remember much of the evening after the excitement of the day and general jet lag kicking in hard. We pit stopped at what was to be our regular morning breakfast ritual, an authentic Mexicali burrito joint called ‘Burrito Track’ and bed down for the evening with a full stomach and my head swimming with punk rock stories. This was only day number two…

...to be continued...

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

...for this one I used my special "cyclops" eye lens...


I met Phil completely by accident, and now we are life-long friends. While I don't live any place close to Manchester, UK, I sure do like a lot of bands from there; most notably THE FALL, THE SMITHS, THE STONE ROSES, CHAPTERHOUSE, and so many other amazing bands of the shoegazer classification. So, at least in theory, Manchester has a very particular place in my heart, musically speaking.

Panic on the streets...
Well, things change. Now, instead of me just having this slight interest in going to Manchester to see Mark E. Smith get in a fist fight outside of some backwater pub or another, just like I saw him do the last time I saw THE FALL play in Philadelphia (disappointing, disappointing, disappointing), I honestly consider Manchester a place to go to hang out with the friends I made there in December of 2009. 


I blab on a lot about the 2009 tour, mostly because it was sort of my crazy Aquarian version of the mid-life-crisis sports car, 20-year-old-girlfriend, reliving my highschool football years, etc. You get the picture. It was a big deal, but mostly to me, and a few hundred people who are going to be in Barred For Life, and for those who became my new friends all over the country, and, predictably, all over the fucking world. 

Phillip, day one...
Booking the European part was not easy. I didn't really want to go, except for the fact that my friend was able to get me dumpster-bottom prices on airfare, and that I had a few connections over there already, and that I was going to head over for a break in Italy for the Christmas break anyway. So I did it. Sadly, I have no idea or recollection as to how I met Phillip, but I do know that he sort of came out of nowhere.

One day my tour assistant, the lovely and talented Audrey Traum (formerly Dwyer) were sitting and making our travel plans, and next thing I know MANCHESTER, UK is on the itinerary (I put it there). Phillip, or PJT as he likes to be called sometimes, was probably the most amped person regarding this project that I'd dealt with up to that point, and I happily allowed him to throw together a party for us just a few days after our shoot in London. 

Arriving at the rail platform in Manchester, we were late-as-hell, and yet PJT grabbed one of my bulky bags, shook our hands, and ushered us to the spot where we'd be shooting pix all day. We met a lot of amazing folks there, and so Ms. Audrey and I decided to stay for about a week. In that time we were introduced to so many cool people, taken to so many cool places, and did so many amazing things, that I think both of us remained friends with at least a handful of the people we'd me there. It was, if nothing, a very easy thing to do for a person who'd been on the road for almost three months without a significant break. 

White Balance Model

Over the next few months Phil decided that he wanted to be part of the book crew, and given his strategic location in the UK (they speak English pretty well over there), he became my European Promotions Manager, and has been at that post ever since. He, more than any other person connected with Barred For Life, seems to take it more seriously than even me sometimes. He is, as you may have guessed, amazingly on it. 

I am happy that we became such good friends. 

(well, at least one of us is young)

Phil, and the amazing Mr. Edward Colver
When I told Phil that I was flying to California to interview noted photography legend, Edward Colver, and with the hopes of interviewing Raymond Pettibon, he decided that he wanted to join me. Phil bought his ticket, made it a mad ruckus to pick his sorry ass up at the airport in LA, and then we just had the best time imaginable. Setting up shop at the home of another friend named Phil, we rented a pretty nice car and just spent 10 days playing around in California, going to shows with Keith Morris, taking more photos of Kira Roessler, interviewing, videotaping, and hanging out with Edward Colver, and camping out on the doorstep of Raymond just praying that he would agree to an interview. He never did. Doesn't matter. We hung out on his doorstep for hours. It was a blast.
Kira's house

So, anyway, I am going to turn over the controls of this blog to Phillip for a few posts about his experiences on our trip to California. Sadly, by the time we'd gotten there I was just not taking a lot of photos of my surroundings (and was quite focused on getting shots of the people who were to be in the book), so Phil will give you the straight dope, as where I might just talk your ear off.

If you would like more information about my guest blogger, he fronts a pretty cool photo blog at http://peejaytee.tumblr.com/... Look for his first post next this coming Monday. He took notes on the trip. I was just relaxing.


Sunday, June 17, 2012


And yesterday it hit me, the book is going to be released this year. After nearly seven LONG, LONG years of gathering images, writing, traveling, editing text, editing photos, and now in the layout stage, Barred For Life is about to stop being a concept that I talk about in a sort of reverent future tense and become a fucking book; a beautiful 8x10, black-and-white, 450-page book. It is astounding to me. The completion of Barred For Life will represent the most important event in my post 40-year-old life to be sure. And surely the book I have planned to follow it up (you'll have to wait for me to release details), will be the pride of my 50's.

BUT (slowly building) TO THE POINT

I was walking home from the project's new "layout guru's" manhattan home last night. I was walking out of Manhattan just as everybody else was coming into the city, and this is a lot like how my life has become in the past two years; I am not a lot of fun. Sadly, or possibly happily, I've become a GET THE FUCKING BOOK DONE machine. Richard, the guru, wanted to show me some layout that he'd constructed for the interview section of the book, and as usual, after viewing the material, we settled onto his comfy couch for an hour to talk about book related, life related, couch-related and Punk Rock related stuff. Well, I do a lot of the talking because I love to talk. That is just me. Who I am I guess.(?)

On the walk home I was thinking about how when my ex-girlfriend told me that her son had just turned seven I blurted out, "Barred For Life will be seven next August," and it occurred to me that I've been working on this project more or less as long as her son has been a son, and it made me think back to the very beginning. The subway ride home yielded a flood of memories, mostly concerned with me and my crew's efforts over the past two and a half years since completing the three month tour, and much of what I annexed was, well, a bit of a bummer. I was reminded of the story of the man who was sentenced to push a stone up a hill for eternity; after reaching the apex, the stone rolls down the other side, and from there he must push it up the hill once more. In an effort much like this, I must say that the "collection" phase of BFL was way more coordinated, focused, and, well, fun. The "synthesis and completion" phase was kind of the opposite. And now the stone is going up the hill for the last time.


That's all she wrote... Final cover design by Matt Smith

Any person who knows me, or has ever been close to me, understands implicitly that I don't always have the most 7-Second's'ie positive attitude about life, but being a product of two working-class German folks, I am nothing if I am not adamant about finishing what I start. I am far less likely to talk about something I don't intend on finishing unless, all of a sudden, I plan to finish it. So, yeah, if you know me, or you've read back over the blog, you will probably realized that right around the San Diego leg of the trip I hit a wall of depression that could only be described as EPIC, that has just recently subsided. It is where I found myself doing a lot of talking and not a lot of DOING...

Depression is kind of like debt. If you don't start paying off your debt (doing things to counteract depression), you debt just moves into a realm that is overwhelming. You eventually don't want to even try to rein in your debt. You just let it compound until it is a crushing weight. It makes you do shit you wouldn't normally do, and for me it turned me into a crabby-ass-bitch. Depression sucked the life out of me wanting to finish the book. Add to that bouts of unemployment, bouts of dating all of the "WRONG" people, and bouts with trying to maintain a life that had become far too complex to maintain simply, Barred For Life was derailed. At times even even seemed unfinish-able.

My last "tour" blog entry back in early 2010 heralded the efforts of the crew behind BFL. Trust me, what I wrote was a vast understatement. While on tour Stefan Bauschmid single handedly dealt with the effects of me falling apart, and he deserves more than praise; he deserves a fucking medal. Audrey Traum not only came to Europe on her own dime, but she, too, nursed me through some darkness over there and never asked for a fucking thing in return. I have been surrounded by some VERY, VERY, VERY (never mind the hyperbole) supportive people, and as a result of depression, I more or less pushed them right out of my life on some level. Not that I am not still friends with these fine folks, but for most people this tour would have been a bonding experience. For me it was more of an alienating one; which went dead against the actual premise of the tour which was to bring people together.
Diary of a Madman. Me at the start of tour. Happiness factor = 0

Laying in my girlfriends bed in January of 2010, I remember getting a long email from Ron Reyes (second singer of Black Flag, aka Chavo Pedarast on Jealous Again). We had become friendly after our interview in Vancouver, and since he was my favorite Black Flag singer, I felt more-or-less massively honored by his attempts at keeping a line of communication open to me. He made a statement that was certainly true, but kind of improperly timed (meaning everything happened, just not in the order he espoused). His eerie statement, "Man, you've invested so much time in this project that it is like it is your kid. What is going to happen to you when your kid moves out; when you finish the book? Man, I wouldn't want to be in your shoes. It might take you a while to recover. It is going to be some dark time following that one probably." Thanks Ron. I don't think that Ron knew at the time just how dark things were for me right-then-and-there. They were dark. Let's just keep it at DARK, okay..?

So, I guess I got the DARK TIMES A COMIN' out of the way first, right..?

Back to the point. So, for two years I can easily chart my efforts to get BFL back on track, and I can totally see a sort of manic-depressive switching up of my efforts whereby I invest heavily for a few weeks and then withdraw for a few months (and get into something totally different). But these moments of light are not for naught. In fact, had I not decided to retrace the last days of tour, return to my friend's home in Italy last April and May, I don't know if I would have had the time or energy to complete the text here at home. Instead, the Gambino family not only made me part of their family (as they always do) for the Easter season, but they didn't mind that I would hole myself off in a corner during the festivities when I felt inspired to write a chapter or two, or to edit the chapters that I completed. Had I stayed at home I probably would have just laid in bed and read a lot when I wasn't working. The trade off of running-and-hiding worked way better than the staying-and-wallowing option. Plus, I officially wrapped up the text on the same couch where I changed my flight plans with the AMAZINGLY AMAZING Steven "88" Wade over a year before as I prepared to come back to America with my tail between my legs after having been identity thieved, robbed of my savings, and sent emotionally packing from the remnants of my tour. But I didn't do much with the text after that.

I guess that what I am saying here, and maybe I am even doing it so passively-aggressive that I should apologize in advance, is that I now realize just how huge of a success the tour, and the efforts following tour, was, and I really need to thank the people who kept me afloat (which I will do in my own time and in my own way). Leaning very heavily on a lot of people for a lot of things that I could not do myself, I guess that I became a sort of wolf-in-sheeps clothing by using and not building-on-friendship bases with these amazing people. Maybe the fog of depression is finally clearing. Maybe I finally got rid of some of the people who needed to go because they were just distracting me too much from seeing this project to the end. Maybe, maybe, maybe...

This was meant for somebody else, but it will work here, too...

No matter how you slice it, over the past two-point-five years I burned some bridges that I hope to start mending very soon. Sadly, until the book is completely finished I may keep on stressing at the foundations of other bridges, but for those of you who are with me now, who were with me in the past, and need to be acknowledged for your participation, please accept my invitation to rebuild in 2013. I know that it is a lot to ask to hold off for another year for me to really appreciate you fully, but it is necessary. For now, just understand (as I have come to understand) that being undiagnosed (though knowing it fully) depressive is not a very awesome way to live a life. Now that I am on the mend, now that I am working on simplifying my life and deleting some of the complexity, a party in all of your honor is necessary.

Yeah, I think of you all daily...
Don't think that I don't...

Most Sincerely

Sunday, May 13, 2012

(and some humor to go with it)

(not sure it was supposed to become a religion)
I grew up in a mostly German area of central Pennsylvania peopled by the later descendents of Amish, and other Germanic religious derivatives. My father used say, and I found this to be something of a regional cliché based on the Godly-motivated work ethic of our forefathers, that “If you have time to think, you aren’t working hard enough.” While working for my family business, this was roughly translated into a more simplified form of, “If you cannot talk and work at the same time, stop with the talking.” Leave it to a maverick descendent of an Amish farmer to instill me with that awesome credo since I was prone, both, to talking a lot and thinking even more. I was a jabbering thought machine. I was not, unfortunately for him, the ideal of stoicism that my father wanted swinging a hammer on his watch.

Please forgive me for having no idea what my future would have looked like had I stopped talking, stopped thinking, and just worked super hard in order to stop the voices in my head from actually making logical sense.

What I knew was this; the world looks great to those who are competing “IN” it for its host of spoils. For those who took issue to racism, sexism, wars on foreign soil (and the consequent government cover up of said war), corporate take over, robotification of the workplace, and the decreasing standard of living in and around my home town, well, there was always the toxic trinity of Xanex, Zoloft, or Prozac, the prospect of cheap alcohol, cheap spirits, and the pursuit of getting laid. Don’t ask me why, but not one of these made sense to me in high school.

In many ways I was Straight Edge before I even knew that Straight Edge was a “THING,” and so I was very happy to eventually find out that it was a thing so that I had something with which to associate for a very long period in my life.

It is still quite clear to me when I made the connection to this fad, movement, lifestyle, or whatever it was back then. Unlike the Straight Edge we know now, Straight Edge kids didn’t look ANY DIFFERENT than the Punks because Straight Edge was a Punk Rock thing. In the outside world there really wasn’t an equivalent. The only thing that I can think might be equitable is somebody who is in AA and trying to break free from alcoholism and narcotics, but there certainly was never really an active popular culture movement toward living the sober life, and that had its own music to keep you plodding through being treated like a loser in high school for not wanting to drink shitty beer and Mad Dog 20/20 (and the colorful puke that followed).

Dating wasn’t something that came easy to me in high school. Not that I was a loser, or was questioning my sexuality, or anything like that, but I just didn’t have the confidence to ask a girl out. As a burgeoning Punk Rocker, and having no other Punk Rocker girls in my school, most normal girls weren’t taking a chance on me. Plus, I was more-or-less just a mall-Punk, and so I didn’t really have a whole lot of cred built up so that I could pull some “Pretty In Pink” thing and steal the cheerleader away from the abusive, cheating, douchebag of a quarterback. So, I chose to just go to shows where I could find them, and just marry that lifestyle for a while. Secretly, I did want to get laid though (duh.)…

As I ventured out of my little blue-collar town, and would find myself in the neighboring city (a very small city, but a city nonetheless), I started meeting New Wave girls who thought that skateboarding Punk Rocker boys were kind of the shit, and, well, I started dating them. They sure were cute, and thanks to them I got into the Smiths and New Order. However, they never really seemed all that interested in the Circle Jerks and the Dead Kennedys. Oh well. Their loss..!

I will not name names, but I started dating this super cute red-headed (thus the start of my fascination with the red-headed ladies of my life) that I met at a club called Big City. This girl came across as really being into the Madonna of her “Like A Virgin” years, replete with a big oversized cowneck sweather, lacey gloves, a bob/perm, sparkly makeup, and deep/dark eyeliner. She was so hot that it was mind boggling, and she was moving closer to me on the dance floor. While dancing to some gothy classic, she found her way onto my radar screen and a few hours later we were making out on the balcony. It was the beginning of the end that somehow lasted for almost a year in some bastard form or another. She would become my Straight Edge Yoda.

Who knows why, but for some reason the Dead Kennedys seemed to be the first Punk Rock band that found me, and I found them a joyous departure from anything else I was hearing around that time. This is, um, 1982 maybe..? If you peered deeply into my record collection at the time, there you’d find DK’s “In God We Trust, INC,” “FEAR the record,” and maybe Black Flag’s Jealous Again (being my first Punk Rock record purchase). Missing from this mix was many of the classics of the time, most conspicuously the self-titled Minor Threat album, where I may have stumbled on to Straight Edge way before I was forced to understand it the hard way.


So for about three-months I dated this lovely New Waver girl and life was blissful. She was hot, I was hot for her, and this kept us focused on each and every encounter with one another. However, there was this other thing happening. Besides my people there was this other little crew of young Punk Rockers from a neighboring town, and one of these kids seemed to be hot on my tail, stylistically speaking.

If I cut my hair, this kid would cut his hair the same way. If I died my hair, a week later his hair would be died the same way. If I bought a Zorlac skateboard, a week later he’d have the same skateboard. It was fucking weird. I didn’t know this kid but he seemed to be reading my mind, and I didn’t like that at all. And, in an even stranger turn of events my girlfriend started taking notice to the copy-cat, and telling me her observations. I started to get the feeling GF was taking a shine to copy-cat. I didn’t like this one little bit.

It could have been a week later or it could have been a month later, but while on a weekend skateboard outing with some friends, upon returning home I got the anonymous phone call/tip that GF hooked up with copy-cat in public, and many of my friends, her friends, and random strangers saw it go down. I was furious.

Not only was I furious that she had cheated on me, but was furious that she cheated on me in public, on my home turf, and with a dude who was trying to be me. More than furious, I deemed my GF a pathetic fucking scumbag, but, um, sadly, I mourned the shit out of that relationship.

Again, the details are pretty blurry, but she did contact me after I broke up with her to tell me that she was drunk, had blacked out, and had no idea that copy-cat wasn’t me, but I didn’t believe a word of it.

As I tried to write something truly shitty, meaner than I’d ever penned any words to any person, I was introduced to Minor Threat and the lyrics to Straight Edge. It was strange that there was this song that joyously proclaimed the wonders of a drug free, alcohol free, and sex free (I never did get that one) lifestyle, and at the time I was penning my heavy FUCK YOU GF letter, I think that I used half the lyrics to that song to detail why she was a drunk, lying, fucked up piece of shit, while I touted myself as being a virtuous, high minded, ass kicking Straight Edge warrior.

What I penned rivaled the complete works of the great poets of lore, and put me on par with the emotional meanderings of Morrisey, but somehow fully missed the mark. For some reason I thought that I had just somehow missed out on this concept of Straight Edge, and by finding it I figured that if I used those two words in tandem that every person alive would be like, “Holy Shit, Stewart is Straight Edge. He means business.” The unfortunate facts are this:

  1. I most certainly was a 16-year-old Straight Edge boy.
  2. The lyrics to this epic song resonated deeply me (except for that “don’t fuck” thing)
  3. Outside the growing Punk Rock scene, NOBODY knew what Straight Edge was.
  4. My emotional outpouring to GF probably read to her as a foreign language.
  5. I completely didn’t wreck her party with my Straight Edge attack.
  6. I now look back and laugh about it because it is funny.

What is very funny is that I not only embraced the Straight Edge lifestyle, but I rode it like a rodeo champion for 31 years of my life. After the Madonna break-up debacle I am pretty sure that I never used Punk Rock song lyrics in any break up letter, love letter, or college essay ever again. And while this is just another “funny” thing that happens to people who do not really live in the crazy normal world, one of the most amazing things about being a Punk Rocker is that had my Madonna GF been one, she would have understood where I was coming from. Sadly, however, she was a new waver.

To attack an ex lover on the basis that her moral fiber is weak because she was drinking shitty vodka and giving copy-cat a “covert” handjob in a dark corner of a public place, um, it is acceptable based on the fact that it is kind of shitty. However, to then turn around and offer Minor Threat as my own personal savior, and the lyrics to this obscure song as my reasons for being morally superior, I may have missed an opportunity to make a dent in her moral fiber. As it was, I doubt she stopped laughing long enough to give remorse a kind consideration. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012


She is the daughter of a Punk Rocker; Jon Steen


It is impossible to summarize, completely that is, the events that have taken place to shape my life and the process-to-completion of Barred For Life, since I returned from tour on January 1st, 2010. However, I will present to you a series of entries that will connect dots that may be unconnected if you are new to the project, old to the project, or just asking yourself, “WHEN THE FUCK IS THIS THING GOING TO COME OUT.”

Over the next few weeks I will attempt to reconstruct the important events, important people, and the important thoughts that crossed my plate in moving from conceptualizing to collecting to writing to finishing, and highlight the various nouns (people, places, things, and themes) that have made the past two years both enlightening and infuriating in equal measure.

Not everybody is equipped to do what I did..! I am not saying that what I did was heroic, or even brave, and at times I feel that I had made a huge mistake, so what I am saying is that when it comes to seeing a path, taking it, and somehow making it work (even when it doesn’t want to), God gave me karma to burn. In terms of the bridges I burned, friends I betrayed, and the not-so-awesome things that I had to do to make an idea into reality, well, there are repercussions. I will touch on all of these things if you will simply listen.

So, here goes…


At age 15 or 16 I just didn’t want to do what was expected of me anymore. My family had ideas of how I should live my life. My community had ideas of how I should live my life. My school had ideas of how I should live my life. In fact, just about everybody (and every thing) had an idea of how “I” should live my life. I had other ideas, but apparently I was just young and stupid, and didn’t realize that I was not supposed to have ideas outside the normal ones being puked on to me by people I had very little to call “in common.” Really, I despise you and you want for me to be MORE LIKE YOU…? How can I be LESS LIKE YOU… Really… I want to be less like you (fill in the name of your favorite authority figure).

At age 16 I remember my mom asking me why I had to be so difficult all of the time. Difficult to my mom was me wanting to buy what I wanted to wear to school, or not dating her friend’s daughter, or not smiling for my class photo. I wasn’t Goth-ie or dark, but the little voice inside just told me that everything that I was hearing streaming in at me like a hail of arrows, well, it wasn’t exactly real. It was made up. It was more or less a lie, and somehow everybody bought into it except for me. Even my siblings thought that I was on a path to nowhere, and I thought the same of them at times.

Finding Punk Rock was a lifesaver for me. I wasn’t suicidal, but I was starting to think that there was not a fucking soul on this planet that felt as trapped as I did. I was basically conscious enough to know that most kids go through a period of alienation, but my reasons for feeling so alien seemed more other-worldly than most kids. I wasn’t dealing with a bad break up or guilt related to why I didn’t make the football team, but was handling very mature existential problems at a very tender age. I couldn’t exactly talk to my guidance counselor about having feelings that I was born years too early for my thought patterns because, well, predictably, psychological evaluations would have followed. My friends at school were no more helpful. My family, um, even less helpful…

Punk Rockers, at least those of the early 1980’s, proved to me that I was not alone. Not only was I not alone in my thoughts and fears, but I had some pretty solid people standing beside me. While to the outside world Punk Rock just seemed like this pointless musical fad, what those people were missing was the part of the story about how not every person on the planet has the same wants and desires as they do. Sure, Aerosmith might have gotten the average person through a torturing adolescence, but not me. In fact, if popular music did anything to me it just made me feel more like a loser for not really liking it, relating to it, or trying to achieve its high ideals. I just didn’t like popular things, which made me quite unpopular.

Finding a group of weirdoes and losers just like me, suffering the same defeat at the hands of a world that just didn’t seem worth accepting, was pretty amazing ammunition for me. However, even deeper than that, it seemed that the bands we were loving were speaking both against the standing dynamic and speaking directly to us in every lyric. It is possible to listen to, um, say, a, Black Flag’s classic anthem RISE ABOVE and hear it not only attacking the mainstream for trying to pigeonhole our culture, but it was telling us to get our shit together and move our dreams forward. If you can imagine life as a silly Civil War movie, those bands and songs were that colonel who was sitting on his horse in front of his army and screaming CHARGE. Not only were you obligated to attack what you feared, but you were being implored to put something better in its place after you defeat it.

Do you get it…? We weren’t just fighting an empty fight, we were planning on changing the fucking world people. WE WERE MAKING PLANS TO CHANGE THE FUCKING WORLD..! That is bold. I wanted to be a part of it. I wanted to change the fucking world…!

So, let us just say, as I call it a night, to know me, to know that I am something of an iconoclastic asshole (only at times) is to know that I never changed, and that there are many moments in my own personal life where I am asked to give up the shit and just make nice with the outside world, and I just cannot do it. I am not stubborn, I am just an alien. I can no more change the voice of my heart than I can build a skyscraper of my own two hands. And so, next time you say to me, “YOU SEE THE WORLD ALL WRONG,” just remember that you were one of them and I was against you. To me, you saw the world all wrong. 

So, let us pick up from there next time, shall we...?

Sunday, February 28, 2010



Today was a long anticipated interview with a famous photographer that took many of the most iconic images of Black Flag during their heyday in the early 1980's. I don't want to go to in detail about the event but I must admit that it was one of the most mind-blowing of the interviews for Barred For Life thus far. Not only did this photographer, an icon himself, open up and offer his opinions, but there was so much wisdom in what he said that it was just, well, inspiring..!

So frequently we take things for granted. We take our "things" for granted, our friendships for granted, our projects for granted, and, most of all, we take what we know for granted. Since beginning the Barred For Life project I must admit that I thought that I knew a lot about my subject. I thought, for instance, that there were a lot of people out there with The Bars tattooed on themselves, and that they would offer enlightening information about why they got it, and offer their side of the story as to why bands like Black Flag inadvertently change lives, and I got received that. While the information is stimulating, and the subjects interesting, few of us really get the "dedication" that was necessary to keep a band like Black Flag floating during its most difficult times, and so when a subject comes along that just exudes this dedication it becomes necessary to rethink the word dedication. Probably, and definitely in my case, it has been taken for granted.

More than anything, dedication means going without (more often than not). It means doing without expecting (frequently). And, it means that there is no clear definition of what you will encounter, and/or what you will gain by doing, but you do it anyway because you believe in it.

For religious practitioners this is referred to as faith. For Punk Rockers it is just the way that it is, will be, and always has been.

And so this interview was wrought with insight into doing stuff "in the moment" without any realistic idea of what could be expected on the other side. In fact, there was no other side. If Punk Rock in the 80's could have seen itself lasting into the 2000's, well, it probably would have done some things differently, but it didn't. What we have now (or at least what we are able to glean from it now) is that there was no gold at the end of the rainbow. There was nothing to hope for except to keep moving in the moment. There were goals but in a world where you carve out your own version of "goal," what are you achieving anyway...?

Personally, before I found Punk Rock I didn't know what the fuck I was gonna do with my life. Funny how my life has come full circle in the last 25 years, but at least I had been tempered as a teen not to expect anything and go for the gold anyway. For me a "goal" was simply to make it to a place where I could plan my next leap for just long enough to catch my breath. Then I would jump in again, find a rock in the storm, reorient myself, and then jump back in the water. This is the way that I finished college. It is the way that I got myself into graduate school. It is the way that I approached my first real job as a teacher. And, now, it is the way that I am approaching Barred For Life.

Sometimes it seems like I am the only one out there. I don't always know who to turn to for advice. There are times when I have no money but have to drive or fly somewhere to interview somebody, and I find it somewhere just so that I can make it to the next interview. In doing so I've had a tendency to build up a huge insecurity because I can look at the faces of friends and family and see that they think that I am making a huge mistake by pursuing this project, but sometimes you just need to employ something that looks like faith in order to get to the other side, to catch your breath, and then move on to another project. It doesn't look linear. It doesn't look logicial. It doesn't seem to have an end, but you know that it does.

Anyway, that is what I was thinking about while interviewing this person today. His stories about being so inspired that he "had to do whatever he could to promote this thing," and how he "never thought that 30 years later we would be looking back to those times for inspiration," but somehow there we all were (looking like a professional interview was taking place) talking about why we are all doing the things that we are doing, and how it all goes back to those times. It was pretty amazing.

In the middle of the interview somewhere our subject brought up in passing an television interview with Chuck Dukowski. The set up is this: Black Flag was probably at the peak of their popularity. Their shows were getting busted by the LAPD before they even had a chance to play. Their fans were being threatened and beat up by the LAPD for doing nothing but coming to see their favorite band play. Shit was a mess but Black Flag just kept on booking shows and getting a lot of attention (most of it bad). And just when things seemed dire, Chuck appeared on a Los Angeles talk show and eloquently explained to the host that the problems of the world are with conservatism. Things, some of them very bad, become institutions and we don't question them. We just let them go because it is easier to let things go than to challenge them. And by not challenging them we are not doing a service to "creating change in the world," but are submitting to things that we know are wrong (in essence that is what is being said).

So, in the middle of his band, Black Flag, being given a bad, bad, bad wrap by everybody in LA, instead of kowtowing and asking for forgiveness Chuck essentially says that the problem isn't with Punk Rockers (because they are doing the right thing), but is with people who let bad things happen and don't challenge it. I think (to paraphrase) that,


Now, that is dedication. I, personally, would not have had the balls to say anything like that if my band (or my life) was being watched carefully by the Police. Yeah, that is dedication.

look for the Black Flag reference...