...KNOCK IT DOWN...
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,
IF SOMETHING STANDS TOO LONG KNOCK IT DOWN. IT IS EVIL.
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...