Thursday, February 4, 2010




If you came to any of the photoshoots while we were on our tour you might remember some faces, some strange, uncomfortable situations, or possibly you became friends with one of us. However, unless you are one of the crew then I don't believe that it is possible to have met us all, and so allow me to do some introductions.

Without this group of dedicated individuals this project, and the tour that allowed us to harvest all of the photos, interviews, and the experiences would not have been possible. While I was able to do a lot of the nuts-and-bolts stuff on my own, let's face it, nobody has all of the skills necessary to put together tours, books, graphics, blogs, and all of that other stuff all at one time. While I am multi-talented, I am not anywhere close to being good at all of the things that I can do, and that is where everybody else comes in. And not only that, I managed to surround myself with a group of people that really know the insides-and-outsides of Punk Rock at many different levels, and that provided me perspective.

Possibly the biggest problem that I have encountered over the past three years that the Barred For Life project has been active is that I have a tendency to approach the topic from a "back in the day" sort of way. So, when I was placed for 7-days in a car with Noe, for instance, I was quickly schooled that there IS an active Punk underground. While it doesn't look exactly like it did when I felt that it was relevant to me, IT DOES EXIST, and these sorts of revelations gave me a new perspective on the information I was gathering.

So, with this in mind, let me introduce you to the cast of characters; me included.

Stewart Dean Ebersole

I am Stewart. About three or four years ago I walked into my friend's tattoo shop in Westerville, Ohio, and that is where the project found its roots. Five of us sat there on that rainy day, and all of us had The Bars tattooed on us, and some had better bars than others. But I'll be damned if the stories that we related to one another about this "cult" tattoo weren't amazing. Naomi, the owner of the shop informed me that the numbers of people coming into her shop requesting the tattoo was on the rise, and about a year later I was working out the plan that would become the book Barred For Life that you should be reading in about a year.

When I am not spending my savings on touring the world to take pictures of you, and interview you, I am just working on the book; writing, researching, communicating with other poeople, an just trying to gain more and more perspective. I have a birthday in a few weeks, and I will be 43. I spent nearly 20 years of the 43 actively involved in the Punk Rock culture between the east coast and the mid west. My favorite era of hardcore happens to be that which came about when Gravity Records started releasing bands like Antioch Arrow, Angel Hair, John Henry West, Heroin, and stuff like that. However, I am pretty sure that that whole thing was inspired by one of my other favorite bands of all times, the Nation of Ulysses.

Jared Castaldi

Jared joined the Barred For Life crew almost as soon as I had decided to tackle the project back in 2006. He was just starting his photography career, was a talented web designer, and was drumming for a band called The Vote. Jared was rather busy, and is now even busier, but he took interest in the project and seemed to grove pretty heavily on traveling around the east coast shooting photographs of Punk Rockers young and old.

Jared set the ball in motion, and he defined the visual aesthetic of the book from his first few shots. His style evolved, in my estimation, directly from shooting the activity of bands, and so his style had this rich darkness to it. I am not totally sure but I think that he settled easily into shooting black-and-white images for the book both because they broke the photos down to their bare essentials, and because it would be cost prohibitive to to produce a book about an element of the Punk Rock culture in color.

Jared's stark black-and-white photography set the standard for the book, and so when I found out that he was not going to be able to tour with me, um, I had to man-up and take over the photography duties. With Jared's guidance, somehow I made it through. His picture of Mike Cummings of Backwoods Payback has become the most utilized image whenever BFL is mentioned in the media, which it has been more than even I know (because nobody is telling me). Let's face it, this project would not have been possible without the input of Mr. Castaldi, who is now the staff photographer for Main Like Today magazine.

Matt Smith

Matt Smith has a rather impressive Punk Rock pedigree, but that isn't the only reason that I asked him to be part of the project. Matt, besides being something of a walking encyclopedia of the history of the Punk Rock culture, he is a solid Graphic Designer as well. If you saw a flier or an advertisement, or you've seen a copy of the manuscript that we were shopping to the media and publishers, then you've invariably seen the work of Matt Smith. From day one Matt and I seemed to share an interest in making Barred For Life look more like a zine, or an album insert, then a cut-and-dry documentary about a very active and colorful cultural phenomenon. Together with the photographic contributions of Castaldi, Matt was able to produce a manuscript that read my mind. It was pretty cool the day that I saw it in print, and I knew that it was gonna be an amazing finished product just as soon as I was able to take the project across the country and Europe to get the goods, the pictures and interviews.

Beyond all of that book-related stuff, if you've ever heard of Rain on the Parade or Shark Attack, these are two mighty impressive bands that Matt played in, along with an early manifestation of Terror. Yup, all of that and recently married, when you finally get a copy of Barred For Life in your hands you will be looking at the design of Matt Smith.

Todd Barmann

Todd is the newest member of the Barred For Life crew, and meeting him was kinda whimsical. About two years ago I was invited out for drinks on a Thursday night with a lawyer friend of mine. When I finally made it to the bar I was introduced to Todd. I had no idea that he had any association with Punk Rock, but that would all change later. My first impression of Mr. Barmann was that he was smart to the point of genius, one of the most articulate people that I've ever met, and so sarcastic that at times I was actually scared of him.

After a few drinks, however, while watching folks perform many a Punk Rock classic care of a karaoke band, I realized that Todd Barmann is a Punk Rocker of the same school as me; that of the early 1980's. Similar in age, I also learned that we are both Aquarius', which means that we shall remain brilliant, broke, and defiant until we die, and we Aquarians are fine by that.

Todd is a wordsmith. Todd is also, like Matt, a walking encyclopedia of Punk Culture. Part of the famed North Jersey scene, Barmann was a staple of New Brunswick and Trenton. Now a freelance editor, Todd was an instant in, and logical choice as editor for the book. Proving to be a faster writer (albeit, a bit messier) than me he also took over the interview duties during the early group photo shoot for the book. What you will be reading upon your purchase of Barred For Life next year will invariably be his crafting of my information, and so if you disagree with it you can try to kick either of our asses (yeah, good luck with that...)..!


So, yeah, getting the book finished is one aspect of Barred For Life, but there is another aspect that I refuse to overlook; The Barred For Life tours. Between the months of October and December, 2009, we took to the road. Fifty photoshoots and 300 people later, here I sit at my computer trying to make sense of what just happened to me (us, really), and it is difficult.

For me at least, I quit a job, gave up an apartment, spent almost 5 months calling and reaching out to promoters trying desperately to make them understand (1) I am not a band, (2) I was coming to their town to shoot photographs of people with Black Flag tattoos, and (3) they needed to figure out a way to get people to come out and allow us to shoot and interview them for this mythical book. Well, it worked and as of October 1st, 2009, I set off for 40 shoots with my trusty companions Stefan, Jorge, Noe, and Audrey. Allow me to introduce them to you, won't you..?

Stefan Bauschmid

Go back one blog entry and there I laid out a pretty solid rundown of the events that led to Stefan accompanying me across the country. I will cliff note some of the information.

I met Stefan a bunch of years back in Wasington, DC. he was hosting an event called Indie Tea (see last blog for details), and I was invited as a friend of a friend. It was a cool vibe. Over the years we had a bit of contact but not a ton of it, but I was always excited to greet he and his wife Amy whenever they were spending time in my home city of Philly.

Stefan is a drummer with an obsession with the Minutemen. His obsession is not a bad obsession, but his obsession drives him to know more about that band than anybody else that I know in the Punk Rock scene. While on tour in LA, every time that he saw a sign for San Pedro (the town of origin of the Minutemen) he would let out a rebel yell. I never found out the root of his obsession, but it sure was interesting to the point where he had decided that the Minutemen anchor would be his second tattoo; his first being the Black Flag Bars scored in Buffalo, NY, on this very tour.

Stefan kept the tour together. By the end I was just a tired mess and burned out organizationally. Yup, he kept it together. While there was some bickering and so forth toward the end, I will have to go on record to say that for two people that didn't really know each other that well in the beginning, we made it almost 50 days together squeezed into a tiny, white, Hyundai Sonata, and no punches were thrown. In my book, that is pretty fucking amazing.

Stefan resides in Arlington, VA, and from what I have gathered his band now has a singer.

Jorge Brito

I met Jorge while a bicycle messenger in the city of brotherly love, Philadelphia. He had never been to Canada, and I am not sure the exact set of circumstances, but he was adamant about being my travel companion, half the driving team, and principal interviewer on the Canadian leg of the tour. Who was I to say no..?

Hailing from somewhere in Virginia, Jorge went to school in Richmond, VA. In VA I'd imagine he was influenced by bands like Avail and Municipal Waste (which he was), and so by the time that I had met him he was road hardened by touring with bands and traveling to see shows. Jorge met up with Stefan and me in Buffalo where Stefan trained him in the art of conducting an interview, and in no time Jorge was pulling people aside and getting their information. Not that I could read any of this formally trained "school teacher's" handwriting, but it all worked out in the end when I forced him to read his own writing and pull the quotes that you will see later in the book. But I refused to judge a man by his insane handwriting, except for that I think that it is a sure sign of a serial killer instinct. But what to do I know..?

Beyond that, Jorge was my party partner. I am not much the party guy (unless I am really drunk), and so having Jorge pulling me onto dancefloors, crashing wedding parties, and making me crack up until milk ran out of my nose, was definitely a necessity on the Canadian leg where just about everybody (except for those crazy straight edge kids in Ottawa) was drunk when we interviewed them. So, yeah, Jorge stands out as the person that brought me out of my shell, if only for a few days.

Noe Bunnell

Noe is the first Hawaiian Punk Rocker that I've ever spent a lot of time getting to know. I know her roommate Jackson, who is also a former Hawaiian Punk Rocker (now also living in Philadelphia), but that is about it. I, seriously, didn't know that Hawaii had a scene, so in our many conversations on the topic I was continuously made aware that I didn't actually know everything. I know most things; just not everything.

Before the tour I had only met Noe one or two times, and one of them she had just gotten her bars done, was drunk, had just finished a bike race, and showed me her ankle while I shot some pix of the tattoo. While on tour Noe and I stayed in contact with one another and I think that it was in Chicago that she reached out and asked if she could share a leg of the tour with me on the West Coast. Unfortunately we weren't able to work that one out, but soon we had her on board for the trip from Florida to Philadelphia, and covering a lot of states that she had never seen.

On day one Stefan took off for home and I trained Noe on the interview protocol, and like that she was doing the interviews. After a mad rush of seven folks in a few hours Noe settled into the chair for her second, pink, set of Black Flag bars on her other ankle, while I got some updates to my bars as well.

Our trip up the coast was enlightening in that Noe schooled me in a lot of "what is new in Punk Rock." While I know that there is still a scene in existence, I wasn't sure just who occupied it and what young Punk Rockers did, and this profoundly effected how I would approach the writing of Barred For Life afterwards. Seriously though, the average age of a person with The Bars tattooed on them is 25, and Black Flag broke up 24 years ago. So, I have to blame that bands legendary status for half of this, but if you didn't have some necessity to connect to this band and their legacy why on earth would you get the tattoo..? Because, you want to connect to the beginnings of the scene that you are living in. Simple, but I was a bit resistant to that idea at first. Yup, I was pulling a "back in the day" episode until I got Noe on board.

Audrey Dwyer

Audrey is awesome. I met her at a photo shoot in Philadelphia, where I interviewed her. From Audrey I got the craziest answer for the "favorite singer" question part of the interivew (promised that I would never tell anybody her answer), and we became friends over time. She is a hair stylist and is constantly putting up stickers that scream, "I GOT DONE BY AUDREY." Maybe you've seen them.

Anyway, Audrey wanted to join in on the fun in North America but that just never worked. So, after some thinking we agreed that maybe she would come to Europe with me and be my assistant. I was broke as a joke and she offered to pay her own way, and with that gesture she was in. Featuring the best hand writing of all of my interviewers, Audrey was my party surrogate. When I wanted to sleep but our hosts wanted to party, I would sleep and allow Audrey party enough for the both of us.

Having Audrey along made the last leg of the trip interesting. By the time we got to Rome, a city where I'd been a number of times before, it had become a vacation. I showed her around the ruins and, then, all of a sudden she was gone and I was on my own.