John "Stabb" Schroeder is best known as the mischievous frontman of '80s DC hardcore/punk/pop-rock band Government Issue. After the group disbanded in 1989, he formed such bands as Stabb, Betty Blue, The Factory Incident and his current outfit Sleeper Agent. I know what you're thinking: "Say, shouldn't that year be '2010'? After all, it's currently the end of February 2010, and I don't recall ever seeing that John Stabb interview before!" Well, you are correct. Unfortunately, the interview is in fact fifteen months old. Don't get me wrong -- it's a GREAT interview. But even more so, it's a LONG interview. Two tapes and three hours long, in fact.
So what happened is (a) official MarkPrindle.com interview transcriber Jim Laakso transcribed the first tape, but then became very busy at work for several months, (b) aforementioned Laakso spilled water on his laptop, destroying the hard drive and deleting the entire transcription, (c) Laakso returned the tapes to Prindle, who quickly discovered that he is far too busy doing freelance work, trying to find full-time work, keeping the house clean, taking care of Henry The Dog and keeping MarkPrindle.com afloat to transcribe it himself, (d) the tapes gathered moss for several more months until finally (e) a Government Issue fan named Tom Trujillo emailed Prindle offering to transcribe the tapes, (f) Prindle sent them out to him, and (g) he transcribed them in like four minutes. So THANK YOU TOM TRUJILLO!!!!
The interview took place shortly after Obama's election, so don't assume that John would say the same things today that he said at that time (though he certainly might! Who knows!?). And here's something horrible: the 'gang attack' that we discuss in the middle of the interview took place on MY BIRTHDAY!
So grab a candy cane, set the cat on the boiler, and get ready to enjoy the longest interview ever posted on MarkPrindle.com. My questions are in bold; Stabb's responses are in crystal.
So what happened is (a) official MarkPrindle.com interview transcriber Jim Laakso transcribed the first tape, but then became very busy at work for several months, (b) aforementioned Laakso spilled water on his laptop, destroying the hard drive and deleting the entire transcription, (c) Laakso returned the tapes to Prindle, who quickly discovered that he is far too busy doing freelance work, trying to find full-time work, keeping the house clean, taking care of Henry The Dog and keeping MarkPrindle.com afloat to transcribe it himself, (d) the tapes gathered moss for several more months until finally (e) a Government Issue fan named Tom Trujillo emailed Prindle offering to transcribe the tapes, (f) Prindle sent them out to him, and (g) he transcribed them in like four minutes. So THANK YOU TOM TRUJILLO!!!!
The interview took place shortly after Obama's election, so don't assume that John would say the same things today that he said at that time (though he certainly might! Who knows!?). And here's something horrible: the 'gang attack' that we discuss in the middle of the interview took place on MY BIRTHDAY!
So grab a candy cane, set the cat on the boiler, and get ready to enjoy the longest interview ever posted on MarkPrindle.com. My questions are in bold; Stabb's responses are in crystal.
Hey, Mark. What's going on?
Hey, how are you doing? Can you hear me okay?
Okay. So I guess you're pretty bummed that our man John McCain lost the election, huh?
(laughs) Yeah. Like all we need is another crusty old white geezer in the White House to bring more war and stuff. And a woman from Alaska who doesn't really have a clue about politics.
Hey, look, it's hard to remember that Africa's a continent. There's seven of those things!
Yeah, but scarier than that would be having her in the White House. She's definitely a lot scarier than he could be. It's funny because I work in a hardware store, so I kind of always say that I “went from hardcore to hardware," and basically a lot of conservative rednecks and construction workers, contractor guys, come in there. And there's one particular guy who always wants to goad me into an argument. And foolishly I said the other day, "Oh, so your guy lost.” Because he told me in the past that he's gone to veterans' rallies because he's a war veteran and he supports all that, and he would say, "Oh, so all your peaceniks are down there protesting against the war.” You know, "I know you're one of them, and I like you John and everything, but when you go down there, all bets are off" and "I'm with my boys" and stuff. And I'm like, “I'm not going down there! I've done enough protesting and all that. I've done my share.” I definitely am against the war, and I went to the big gathering of the "Bring Our Troops Back" thing; I supported that. But l was like, “Look, I'm not Mr. Radical Punk Rock Guy anymore. I'm Mr. Punk Rock Guy, but I just don't do that kind of stuff.”
But he was all heated about the whole presidential thing, and he was like, "Yeah, just wait till your boss comes up to you and tells you 'Sorry John, I can't afford to keep you anymore'.” And I'm like, “Yeah, that's going to be Obama's fault.” Whatever. It's ridiculous. And he's pulling out all these facts, and I don't have facts on the tip of my fingers. I've never been a good political discussion person or anything. Definitely if he quizzed or asked me about completely useless entertainment facts and figures, and things about the entertainment industry with music or movies or something, I'd knock him out of the water. But politics, I was just, "Well, no. I'm not going to get into this with you." But he just really got heated, and looked at me quoting Martin Luther King, Jr. and saying "Obama got in there just because he's black. That's the reason. You liberals think the same,” and it's ridiculous.
The thing it comes down to for me is that I was very apolitical for several years. Back in my punk rock kind of ignorant days, I was just like ‘Screw Reagan!’ and all that. “I don't think voting makes any difference. Everything's set up the way they want it to be.” And I finally got to about Clinton, and I did vote for him. And I voted for Obama. And I got to the point where I think it does make a difference, and even if one little vote doesn't make a huge change, at least I'm going to go for it, and I stood in my three-hour line in this little elementary school where I live down here in Maryland early in the morning from about 7:00 to 10:00, getting in the building, and doing my vote and going to work late. And then he said, "Well, that's a good excuse for being late.” And I was like, “Okay.” “We'll let you off this time.”
But it's funny; I really was a very apolitical person, but everybody thought like…. Even in the punk rock days, you go to Europe and tour and they're like, "Oh, you and your Ronald Reagan and your big, expensive cars" and I was just like “Look, I didn't vote for the guy!” I didn't want him in there, but I didn't vote in general, so I was kind of out of the picture. Even because I worked in DC -- I worked as a foot courier basically -- I walked by the White House area and all that, but I didn't always stop immediately and give them the finger and say stuff like "Fuck you Ronnie!” It’s just like, whatever. I was pretty naive and foolish.
Even the first EP that GI ever did -- the first record I was even part of in the whole punk rock scene -- it was an "Attack the World" EP. Whatever was around, I attacked it. You know? I attacked on "Legless Bull" a mechanical bull. I attacked people into cowboy fashion, people into regular fashion, and all kinds of stuff. If there was something to attack, I attacked it. Everybody thought I was full on Mr. Thoughtful Of What I Was Doing, and it was pretty naïve. Down the line, I just realized, “Well, I'm really not good at these political things. What I am I writing about, ‘Hey Ronnie’ and all that?” Politics. I know people like Jello Biafra and other people in the punk scene follow that stuff really well, but I never really followed it. I was just like a spur of the moment attack guy. In my angry punk rock years, I took it out on everyone and everything.
What made you change?
What made me change is more or less relationships. I was always a shy loner misfit kid. Not so much perfect categories like ‘Freaks & Geeks’. Like, I smoked pot in half of my last year in high school -- my senior year -- and I did it just to hang out with the juniors that were like the bad crowd. Like the pot smoking kids and all that, and made friends with them. I really didn't have a whole lot of friends. I was too shy to actually ask girls out for a date and whatever. I was the moody guy. I was the guy who, for entertainment, basically just went on my own to movies all the time, and I was always at home watching every TV show on the planet. So I do have that information tucked away at any time to use for an article, or for an interview, or if anybody asks me in a trivia game. That's one thing an old girlfriend once said to me in about '87 when she was pissed off about me, "Well, if I could say anything really good about you, it would be that you're a complete authority on useless entertainment facts and musical trivia.” And I'm like, "Well, that'll do something for me someday! Maybe I'll be a music journalist or write about movies."
Me and my wife both are so ultra critical -- extremists pretty much -- about there being really no middle ground with music or movies or things like that. Entertainment, arts, whatever. We're like the Siskel & Ebert of Maryland or something. We just are always critical. Very critical people. And I've always been that way all my life. But the whole thing with me just kind of being outside everything, I just got into the whole punk rock thing towards the last half of my last year in high school. Because I had been into these radio-oriented cheesy rock bands for so long, but I was never like a big huge Zep/Tull/Skynyrd fan. That was like the terrible trio back in my high school. I understood, in a way, why people liked the rock bands like Skynyrd or Zeppelin, but what do people see in this flute player guy? You know there's like air guitarists, but are there air flutists? Do they get up in front of Ian Anderson like "Yeah! Yeah!" and play their air flute!? I never got that.
But I tried to get into certain bands. Like I tried to get into Zeppelin when I was stoned in a movie theatre -- just from the pot smoke that was filtering through the air, I got a contact high -- and I went back to my older brother's double album of "The Song Remains The Same" or whatever. And I was just like, "Oh yeah, Page is an amazing guitarist, you know? He gets out the violin bow!" And then I was trying to play like John Bonham on the trash can in my room in my parents' house listening to the record at the same time. I finally saw the movie a year later and was like, man…they were so sloppy and out of it, and it was horrible, and it’s completely an over-exaggeration of the worst thing that you could possibly do on stage. I mean, I can’t play an instrument to save my life. I tried to be a drummer in GI, and I just banged away on this drum set that I bought in a sale and I just couldn’t pick it up. I can’t pick up a beat to save my life. I’m musically uncoordinated.
What were you listening to then?
Well, basically, Pete Murray from Artificial Peace, Marginal Man, Red C, he was a friend that I met through another guy named Rich Barnes who actually introduced us both into punk rock. Rich was a guy that was open-minded enough to go from being a hardcore Jefferson Airplane fan and liking anything connected to Airplane, whether it’s Starship or whatever, but yet he got into the Ramones and the Sex Pistols, and he turned us all into that kind of stuff. And he lived in the neighborhood too, in Rockville where I grew up. And we all went to high school together, but we never had any classes together. We just met all of a sudden around the same area, and Rich introduced me to Pete, and I found that he was an amateur guitarist but yet I thought he was like a genius. He could play like Clash and Sex Pistols chords and stuff and I was just like, “Oh my god, this guy’s incredible!” And Pete was like “Yeah, we have to get a band together. Go out and buy a drum set.”
So I went out one early morning in Rockville to a place called Veneman’s Music, and I stood in line with all these people and it was a half-price off sale, and I took the money I made on a week’s worth of work at Toys ‘R Us, when I was pushing carts in the winter time as a seasonal thing or whatever. Me and another guy got fired just for sitting down just for a second in the work lunchroom when we were cleaning up, and one over-eager young manager was just like, “Oh! Sitting on the job! You’re both fired!” And I was like, “Okay, whatever.” And that was my first job ever. Basically, I had enough money just to buy this used drum set for half-price. And Pete’s like, “You buy drums, and I’ll teach you a few lessons, and I’ll play guitar and sing, and we’ll worry about a bassist.”
But we found a bassist -- actually in line at the same sale. We hooked up with this guy named John Berger, who was in a Chicago rock band leaning towards punk rock. He was really into The Who, The Clash and the Sex Pistols, and had started some band called The Lines that didn’t really go anywhere. So he moved down here and was going to school here, and we all hooked up. I was banging away in my parent’s basement on this drum set and trying to pick up a beat to save my life, but really couldn’t do it so other people jumped on it.
We were called The Stab originally; that’s where my nickname came from. It was Pete Murray’s idea. Down the line, we got other people into it -- people who we met through the punk rock scene -- and Marc Alberstadt was the drummer. Originally, his brother Kenny Alberstadt was the 2nd guitarist. And Pete kind of got caught up in his college scene and everything, like a junior college, and we kind of phased him out. We were so gung ho, it was just like, “Pete can’t make practice this time and everything with problems at school, so I guess he’s out.” That was kind of sad, it felt bad to kick him out of the band, but we really were so gung ho on getting this whole thing together.
It ended up being John Barry and Brian Gay. Brian Gay was a friend of Marc Alberstadt’s from high school -- another high school in Bethesda. John Barry we met through a… I think we put an ad out. But we just met up with people and we got together. We were still The Stab. I was telling everybody about The Stab. Like Ian MacKaye, when I first met him at a Teen Idles show -- one of the first early punk rock/hardcore shows I ever saw in DC, at a little club called Scandal’s. In Georgetown, of all places. That place is all about over-excess; it’s like “Georgetown: a terrible place to be in for even a half hour’s worth of your time!” But I met him and I told him about The Stab, and so he wrote my name down as the nickname, and it ended up getting put down as “John” and then the name of my band “Stab” and my phone number.
And by that point, when Marc was playing drums and I was the vocalist and Pete was out of the picture, Marc and the rest of the band said, “Well, this Stab name is kind of embarrassing. Let’s call ourselves something different.” And that’s when I went and saw Black Market Baby at a show in a little club in Bethesda, MD called The Psychedeli that’s no longer around, and I was really impressed by them. And I heard this song called “World at War,” which has become one of my favorite songs; it’s still a great song. And it just had the line, “I want a war, I wanna be a GI”. And I thought, “GI. Let’s go for that!” And then everybody in the band was like, “Okay, that’s cool; we’ll pick that.” And then we were trying to figure out, “Well, what does the GI mean?” Because we didn’t want to get mixed up with The Germs’ ‘GI’ record, because everybody would think we were ripping off The Germs or something. And then I thought it was “Government Issue,” and then way, way down the line, in about the mid 80’s, GI was touring, and we finally came to the conclusion that it was “General Issue,” actually. And it was like, “Well, it’s too late to change it!”
But that’s about the time that Ian was giving us our very first show. He’s like, “Hey, do you want The Stab to play this two-night band festival with like a zillion bands called Unheard Music Festival, with my band Minor Threat and Henry’s new band SOA and Slickee Boys and a lot of the old-timers and sort of the godfathers of the punk scene?” And we’re like, “Yeah! Yeah, but we’re not called The Stab anymore; we’re called GI, like Government Issue.” I didn't want to get rid of the name Stab though, so I took it as my stage name but added an extra B on the end in honor of (Jello) Biafra. And he’s like, “Okay, whatever. Sure.” But that night, Marc Alberstadt couldn’t do it; he was really sick with something. And we used substitute drummers, so we called ourselves The Substitutes. And everybody still remembers that we were The Substitutes then, and played two nights in a row with two different drummers!
But more or less, I was listening to, towards the end of high school, a little station that was called HFS that was in the Maryland area and played like free-form radio. They played everything from Grateful Dead to the punk stuff, and I was really getting into sort of the new wavey stuff at first. Some of the bands I was taping on my 8-track stereo in my room in my parents’ house -- I was hearing these bands like The Stranglers and The Clash and Elvis Costello and The Police. And I was like, “This is really some different stuff.” That’s when I was going out and trying to get into the whole scene, and I got into the hardcore thing through the new wave thing. So that’s the kind of stuff I was listening to.
But early on, from about ’77-’79, my high school years, I pretty much listened to everything from Boston to Van Halen. And it’s funny, because my high school was so behind the times with bands that were going to become the next big thing. I was listening to the first Van Halen album and other bands like AC/DC and Queen, and they were like, “Turn that punk rock shit off, man!” I couldn’t believe that they were calling it punk rock, because they were just like rock and roll to us. But if you weren’t into Tull, Skynyrd or Zep, then you were out of the picture. I didn’t want to listen to Boston anymore. I brought in The Cars on my portable 8-track that I got for Christmas so I could bring my tunes to school and get stoned and listen to my tunes. And they were like, “Turn that punk rock shit off!” It was things like Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers and The Cars and Van Halen!
For a brief moment, people wanted to be my friend because I had music with me and they could listen to music with me. But then down the line, I just started discovering more and more of these bands and thought, “This is cool.” It was filtering the same anger and same frustration I had. We were all suburban angry kids, like the whole early punk scene. And a lot of the people like Ian and various people came from the Georgetown scene, and that was sort of a snobby suburban area or whatever. But more or less, I just had all this anger and frustration, and I wasn’t getting laid. And then by the time I got into a punk rock band, it was like sex was a new toy and stuff. It was like, “I found this new toy! I have to take my G.I. Joes with lifelike beards and kung fu grips and put all that crap away!” I was kind of immature early on. In my 20’s, I was still watching way too much TV and getting caught up in Charlie’s Angels and all these re-runs of sitcom shows. That’s the stuff I was into. Then I went from TV and movies to music. And that became my new thing.
Really? It seems like you guys had a pretty good concept, or at least mature concept of sex, in the fact that you wrote “Notch To My Crotch,” and that was obviously a sarcastic song.
Yeah, that’s the thing. Some people didn’t understand that that was a song about the California Descendents kind of crowd, the Black Flag thing. Like, guys just went out and scammed all the time. People at the shows always thought, “Yeah, this is great! It’s about cutting girls off after you have sex with them!” And they thought that was me, that that was my stuff. And it was like, “No! You don’t understand.” And how all these people like skinheads or punk rock guys were all moshing to “These Boots Are Made For Walking,” I just didn’t get that. I was like, “Oh, that’s a Nancy Sinatra song,” and they take it to be like this real tough guy song. It’s like, “Um, okay….” But I wrote about relationships, and I was always in really bad, mixed up, screwed up relationships. I never got it right until towards the end, until I was finally married. I had to learn through getting burned – kind of the same way through the music scene.
You just kept dating the wrong girls, or…?
Yeah yeah, they picked me or I picked them, that kind of thing. It was going through all the bad relationships that I wrote all these good GI songs. My wife says to this day, “Man, you’ll never write a really good song about me. I have to break your heart first.” It was so true, and I let myself get involved with all these people because I was pretty lonely and mixed up and insecure. People don’t realize that about 80% of what I wrote about in GI was how insecure I really was in the whole punk rock scene, and within relationships and all this, that I just never could get it right. But I wrote these songs about all these involvements, from short-lived ones to long relationships. The longest relationship I ever kept in those days was about two years. That was like my time limit, and then it just kind of fell apart through either them or me. It was screwed-up relationships that definitely fueled my energy and my fire. My punk rock fuel.
It’s an interesting dichotomy, or not dichotomy but…. I’ve seen footage of you on stage where you wore the crazy clothes and made the crazy faces and everything, and then I’d listen to what you were singing, and it’s like, “Jesus! Those aren’t jokey lyrics!”
Exactly. That’s the thing. I tried, along with Black Market Baby and some of the other bands like Slickee Boys, to put some sort of sense of humor into the hardcore scene. But that was even kind of filtered. I idolized bands like TSOL with Jack Grisham, and when we played with them I was still dressing pretty non-descript, early on in ’81-’82. I was wearing my Dead Kennedys shirt and a pair of jeans, and spiking my hair and all that. And as soon as I saw TSOL -- we played with them at the old 9:30 Club -- that was just like a breakthrough for me. I went, “Wow, dress up in really wacky thrift shop clothing and wear makeup and stuff.” Jack was like, “Yeah, you just gotta piss ‘em off. Like this lipstick I’m putting on my lips smells like dogshit, and I’m sure somebody’s going to get near me and be like, ‘God, this horrible!’ You’ve got to irritate your crowd!” I learned that through Jello and Jack basically. I was trying to be like Jello Jr. in the “Legless Bull” days. By the time it came to “Make An Effort” and “Boycott Stabb,” it was like my Jack Jr. days. But I just started going, “Yeah, this is kind of interesting.” And a lot of people like Ian and various people in the Minor Threat scene just kind of looked at me as like, “Stabb will wear anything! Give him crazy clothes.” So they were coming back from their tours in California and bringing me back some jester’s cape that had bells on it that obviously was some kind of Grateful Dead hippie-ish thing. It took me a long, long time to have my actual own persona. To be John Stabb, as opposed to Jello Stabb or Jack Stabb.
It took me a long, long time to have my own persona because I was actually filtering my persona through other people, because I was insecure. I was very insecure. But that was my outlet, my way to escape. There was a lot of escapism in my own life. I was never really myself in relationships, and I was never really myself in the punk rock scene early on. It took a long time for people to actually see -- my real name’s Schroeder. But down the line, my wife decided, “Let’s do something different. As opposed to calling ourselves Ackerman (which is her last name) or Schroeder, let’s do something different with our names. Why don’t we be the Stabbs? It makes perfect sense now.” And I’m like, “Well, sure!” We haven’t legalized it yet, but we’re working on making it happen. People at my work all know me as Stabb. They tease me about the Stabb name. For years, nobody really knew me by Schroeder, but I put it on the “Boycott Stabb” record; I went by John Stabb Schroeder. People were like, “What’s this Schroeder thing, Stabb?” People thought that was a fake name, so I went back to being Stabb. I just went, “Well, whatever.” I was trying to distance myself from being the person that will get tracked down if you called me at my parent’s house, foolishly enough.
We were just talking about that the other night, because I want to put out these memoirs from childhood and GI, a book. Me and my wife have been working on it for years now, and I’ve finally gotten it on disc. People are supporting it, and we’re completely editing it and finishing it to come out hopefully by early next year. But it’s always been put on the shelf for various reasons. I went through unemployment problems over the years, I had public assistance, different things were going on, bad relationships and going from house to house. And now I’m married, but we’re not struggling like when I was on my own living from paycheck to paycheck. So we have different things going on. We’re married, we have three cats, and we've thought about having a kid, bringing someone into the Stabb family. So, we’ve kind of always put this book thing on the backburner.
But we were just discussing the fact that on the 1st EP that I ever did, “Legless Bull,” naively enough I put my parents’ phone number and address on there for booking info. I was just so gung ho about it, and my wife finds it kind of charming, but at the same time it was kind of foolish. I mean, nobody else in the band scene put down anything but a P.O. Box or their parents’ address. Like the Dischord address was Ian’s parents’ address at the time. He didn’t get a real P.O. Box until towards much later. But I was so, so naive that I put down my parents’ phone number. So I got people calling me, even towards the end of GI, going, “Hey, this is Jim from Boston! What’s up?” And I’m like, “Do I know you?” I was just so gullible and so naive that I let myself be like the punk rock psychologist or psychiatrist, helping these people out of their problems. People were writing me and calling me at my parents’ house! Down the line, I would only get these calls when I was at family occasions. Or my mom would pass these things, like “Someone called you from Sweden and they want to talk to you, so I passed them on your new phone number.” And I was like, “Oh god, no!”
So I had to tell Ian in about ’84, when it got repressed in the Dischord years as a 12” with SOA and Youth Brigade, “Please, please take my parents’ phone number off. Black it out, white it out.” Because we just never really realized that I would go over to Thanksgiving dinner or something at my parents’ house in ’86 and all of a sudden I’d get a call from someone out of the blue that just wants to talk to me and wants me to solve their problems. And I got so, so caught up in that kind of thing that when I lived back at my parent’s house -- I went from a bad group house experience to living back at the parent’s house for a little while, till I got it back together and found a place with some other people, and then that wouldn’t work out. So there were times that I actually fell back on my parents’ house, and they let me live there again briefly. I’d get calls, and it was so weird. It drove me to a point where I was just like, “Look! Fuck off! Just leave me alone! Go kill yourself, if that’s what you want to do.”
I was just so caught up in getting to be friends with people. Telling them, “Well, you really shouldn’t cut yourself with broken pieces of mirror.” And then their friend would call me like, “Hi, I’m Kira. I’m friends with this person Candi, and you don’t really know what she’s like. She kind of gets these guys to beat up other punk rock kids at school. And I’m like, “So I’ll cut off Candi and be friends with Kira.” And then down the line Candi calls me saying, “How come you never call me anymore? You haven’t returned my calls! Kira’s been filling you with lies!” And I’m like, “Look, she tells me you’re a Nazi; your dad has a picture of Hitler on his wall.” And she’s like, “Well, I can’t help it. It runs in the family.” I’m like, “Look! Go away! Leave me alone, both of you! Fuck off, whatever!” So I was just cutting people off finally, because I can’t be the punk rock psychologist. I’ve got problems of my own, you know? It’s like “Leave me alone! You guys don’t understand that I’m dealing with other stuff in my own life, and here I am trying to solve your problems.” And I got really so gullible that I did really get caught up in it.
And I just got to a point where I said, “I can’t do this. I need my own psychiatrist.” And down the line, towards the end of GI, I was like, “I really need to go to a therapist.” And it took me until years later to finally realize that I have real anger management problems. I never beat up people or beat up my wife or picked on anybody, but yet I’d get so angry in public when I’d deal with all the frustrations I’d see around me, like people blasting out their tunes on a bus, and I’m just like, “Aaah!” And I’d invent scenarios in my head like “I want to take their Walkman and throw it out the window and get into a huge thing with them.” It’s all imaginary in my head, and I’m realizing, “Maybe the last girlfriend was right that I have ADD issues, and that’s what probably fed my whole punk rock days.”
So I’ve come to the conclusion I have ADHD, and I should take something for it. So now I take Paxil. I take it three times a day. It helps to manage all these things, and it’s really a good thing for me. Yet, if I would have had meds back in GI, none of that stuff would have ever happened. So I’m glad I didn’t have it in my ADHD years, when I was like a crazy man on stage and all that stuff happened. Not to sound all Buddhist or philosophical or whatever, but I don’t regret any of those years, anything that’s happened in my life. Crazy stuff has happened, bad and good, but it’s all one big learning experience. I look at life as one big learning experience. And the time that you stop learning, you might as well be dead. By the time I stop learning, I’ll be ashes. You know, cremate me and I’m done.
How did you experience ADHD?
Well, basically the attention deficit issue was that I just really couldn’t focus. Paxil helps me focus a lot better on things in life. I was all over the place in relationships. I went out with people who had ADD issues themselves, and that’s no good; we’re all like unfocused people. So, it helps me focus in on things in life. I can start to focus on things as opposed to just being scattered. I am still scattered a bit; that’s the reason I don’t drive. I see way too many things around me! I’m looking all over the place, and to my wife I’ll be like, “Did you see that? Did you see what that person was wearing?” And she’s like, “I don’t see these things because I have to concentrate on driving, and if I did that we’d get into a crash.” And that’s one of the reasons I don’t drive.
People would be probably surprised or shocked – people who don’t know me. People who know me know it’s a good thing that I’m not behind the wheel of a car and I never got my license. When I got out of high school, my parents tried to help me drive, and I went through a course and they take you out on a few lessons and they think you’re ready. And I looked at it as kind of a silly thing, but it’s a fact that I could never actually manage to parallel park. It’s either been the upswing or the downfall of my life, and I think it’s more of an upswing because I look at people -- plenty of friends and other people -- that are screaming at people and losing it and road rage and all this stuff. And I just know that if I got into traffic jams, I would totally have no patience. I have no patience when I’m driving with my wife as a passenger. So it’s a good thing that I’m not behind the wheel of a car, because I’d either be the most over-radical driver with no patience or the one who’d be like a little old lady that would get into an accident with somebody because I’d be so over-cautious. So it’s a good thing that I’m not behind the wheel of a car.
That’s just another thing in life, like I’m so afraid to work a cash register. I’m bad at math. Math is my worst subject of all time. And that’s kept me from doing several jobs. I was so afraid of things. I still have fears of things. I’m really not into flying. I do fly in planes, but there’s a little bit of fear still in the takeoff and landing process. And there’s a fear of heights that comes from my mom’s side, because she was always afraid of being on bridges and stuff like that. So I kind of have to say, “Okay, I’m going to walk across this bridge and get to the other side.” Or if I’m driving on this big old bridge with a body of water way down below, I just kind of have to put myself into things like “Nothing’s going to happen to me. I’m not going to fall through. The bridge is not going to fall apart.” But I do have a big fear of heights, and I don’t like to climb way, way up on a ladder. I’m not good at that kind of a job. I’ve gotten over a few things, but I’m still afraid of cash registers; I panic. But now that I take Paxil, I’m better. I’m really good. I can ring up customers; I can do the simplest things now that I never could back when I didn’t take the medication.
That was definitely something -- that I kind of floated through life, through family, and through life in the punk rock scene. I kind of just got by. I worked crappy little foot courier jobs, and jobs that didn’t take a lot of knowledge and experience. I tried doing cashier jobs over the years when I was back in the punk rock scene, but I would just break out into this huge sweat. I started making things more complicated than it was. I tried to work a job at Tower Records back in ’91 or ’95, and I was hoping to be a stocking person -- stock up things and put out things, like a record information type of person because I would be great at that. I did a little of that, and I was even a doorperson that checked people’s bags at a place in Georgetown when I lived down there briefly -- that was early in the punk rock scene. A friend of mine went down there years later and said, “Well, you were replaced by technology.” And it’s true; they’ve got the whole thing that checks people when they’re trying to steal stuff on the way out the door. So I was the first punk rock bag checker. Ian helped me get that job back in Georgetown. I floated through crappy, weird, manpower-type jobs. I was a jackass of all trades kind of person. I got by. I lived in the crappiest room in a group house so I had to pay the least amount of money. I didn’t have to worry about too many bills. I paid my share of the phone bill. I could never manage a group house. I tried to be the one taking responsibility for certain bills, and I was like, “Aaaah! I’m losing my mind here. I can’t do this.” And so the littlest things definitely kept me out of simple jobs in my life. So I kind of got by a lot.
And towards the end of GI, I was talking to Tom Lyle, who is a friend now but at the time we were our own worst enemies. We fought about the littlest petty things. The band problems became your personal problems, and your personal problems became your band problems. We couldn’t separate those things, and then we lived together and wanted to kill each other. But like I said, towards the end of GI -- it was like ’87 or something -- we were touring, we were still eating shit on the road, and we were getting burned and ripped off left and right. People thought, “Wow. GI accomplished all this stuff, and you guys must be making a living and doing really well!” There were people out there who literally thought I was riding around in a limo with two blondes on each side of me, because a girlfriend I once had told someone that. You know, “What’s John Stabb like?” “Well, he’s always got two blondes, he fucks big-titted blondes, and he rides in a limo, and he’s got three cars” and all this stuff. And they were like, “Yeah? Well, he deserves it, man. He’s paid his dues” and all that. And I’m like, “What are you doing telling them this stuff!?” And they believed it! People were so naive. And I had to tell people, “You don’t understand. I have trouble paying the gas bill. I have trouble paying my own rent. I don’t make money on this; nobody makes money on this.”
And Tom and I sat down, and I’m like, “I’m 27 years old, and I’m starting to realize that this band has fueled and encouraged my insecurities in life. And I feel like I’m kind of walking on air, and I should put my feet on solid ground and really experience life.” And he goes, “Look, how do you think I feel? I’m older than you and I feel the same way.” He literally quit medical school to be in GI. I mean, this was a huge, huge thing. He took two years of medical school and had two more years to go. He went to Howard University and his parents paid for it. In 1984 he quit, and tried to make himself look indistinguishable on the back of GI records. Like “Joy Ride.” That’s why he looks like Nosferatu or something. He Xeroxed the hell out of these pictures of himself so his parents would never figure out, if they ever walked into a punk rock shop or something and saw a record, “Well, that’s his band. Oh my god, my son’s in this punk rock band!” But he quit two years before he could graduate. And he goes, “How do you think I feel? I quit medical school. I’m not making any money.” And then he became a car courier, and J. Robbins became a bike courier, and I was in the same company being a foot courier.
And my courier jobs, or phone solicitation type things -- that’s the only thing that the usual punk rockers can hold down if they’re going to tour all the time. I got to a point where I worked at a dishwasher job, and they were like, “Look, you just got back from a one-month tour across the country. How do I know if you’re going to go to Japan, you’re going to be famous, you’re going to quit this job?” I’m like, “You don’t understand.” He goes, “I’ve got to let you go. You can’t be a dishwasher in a crappy restaurant anymore, and work with a minimum wage Hispanic crew that doesn’t speak any English and you’re the only one that speaks any English.” It just got to the point where people were like, “You can’t do this because you’re touring like a weekend tour,” and they think you’re going to be famous. So I lost a lot of jobs just being in this punk rock band, and I’m sure a lot of people did the same. They just felt like, “Whatever, I’m going to go out on the road and I’m going to do this.”
I’m glad I did it all. I mean, it was such an experience, and I don’t regret anything. But that’s the one thing; I get into conversations with people these days, the old geezers of the punk band scene, and we all understand this so well -- that hmm, very few of us really made any money out of it. If it wasn’t for Dischord down the line sending even little royalty checks here and there, I’d have trouble paying certain bills and stuff. And it got to a point that I was shocked that I ended up getting checks for “Legless Bull.” I’m like, “Oh my God, I got a check for ‘Legless Bull’!?” Then down the line, I get checks for compilation cuts that I’m on, and everybody gets a fair share, and I was shocked about that.
But GI never got royalty checks from any other label. We got burned so bad. If we got a big advance, like $5,000 or something, for an album we were about to record, we put all that money into the studio. We didn’t even take the money out. We put it back into the band. None of us split up any of that money. Yet a band like Dag Nasty turns around -- and they’re friends of ours and everything, but we had this huge feud with them. They’re on the same label, and they’re doing better than us. Well, they really weren’t, but at the time we thought they were because they took a portion of their advance, and they spent maybe a thousand recording “Field Day”. And they put out perfectly good records, but yet they split up the rest of the money on their own. We didn’t split our money. We felt really burned by the whole thing. We felt like our label was putting more advertising into a band that wasn’t that much better than us, and they really weren’t. I talked to Peter Cortner; he’s a friend of mine through this daghaus.com site that I’ve been on. Lots of people hang out there -- Dave Smalley from Dag Nasty and Down By Law and various people, Brian Baker. And I never really realized until the early 90’s when I was on this site talking to people and Pete said, “You have no clue. They treated us a lot worse than they treated you and GI. It’s just that we were arrogant and cocky, and we pretended like we were doing really well.”
Which label was that?
That would be Giant Records, coming out of Rockville’s Dutch East India Trading Group. It was the label that they basically invented to put out GI on. And I’ve talked to so many people over the years that have just been burned so much from all these little indie punk rock labels. And we were amongst them. Like SST ripped people off. They won’t admit it, but I was good friends and even connected with Naomi Peterson, the photographer that fairly recently died and Joe Carducci, who worked for SST, put out a book on her. She would tell me things about SST, and I was just like, “Wow! I thought they were this grand, honest label and everything.” And she’s like, “No, you don’t understand. I call Chuck Dukowski and say, ‘How are things at SST?’ And he says, ‘Things are going great! It’s really cool.’ ‘Oh, well do you think you can pay me that $200 for the Minuteman photos I did?’ And he goes, ‘Actually, we’re not doing too well.’” Like they couldn’t even send her a $200 check!
I’ve heard so many stories about so many labels -- Homestead, Dutch East India, all those labels have ripped off so many bands. Sonic Youth, Husker Du, there’s just a long line of people that would probably like to stay in line and take potshots at all those guys at those labels -- Homestead, Dutch East India, Giant Records -- because they’ve been burned. People have no idea that we never received one royalty payment after GI broke up. Basically, we had a contract that we got screwed on. You put out your three-record contract or whatever, and you’re used as a tax write-off. That’s what major labels do, and they don’t lose money. And yet we broke up, and our contract said for the first five years, they’re allowed to put out our whole catalog and not have to pay us a dime. And then after that -- this was five years later -- people were like, “Why don’t you sue them? They’re obviously making money off of you.” And for years, I was thinking about it and thinking about it. And I thought, “They probably have bigger lawyers, and I don’t want to get into it.” And someone told me that they were connected with the mafia. I think there are mafia connections with that whole New York label. I’ve heard things through Thurston Moore and other people, and I’m like, “Hmm… So Dutch East India and Rockville Records equals John Gotti? I don’t want to be involved in that. I don’t want to have somebody come after me because I’m asking for my money!” So we didn’t do anything about it.
But finally, and this took several years, when we decided on doing the whole reissue thing with Dr. Strange, the owner Bill at Dr. Strange was honest enough to call up the people at Dutch East India and Rockville Records and say, “I’m going to put out the GI catalog now.” This was like the end of the ’90s. He wanted to put out this whole collection, “Complete History Vol. 1” -- two CDs, everything we did from the Tom era. It’s not the early GI “Legless Bull” Dischord era; it was everything else from ’82-’84. And he called them and said, “Would you have a problem with this. Is it going to be a problem if I put this out?” And they go, “Yeah, we’ll sue you.” And then he was afraid to put it out, and he calls us back and tells us, “I don’t want to get involved in this lawsuit business.”
Finally Tom calls his L.A. lawyer brother -- he’s like a schmoozer lawyer kind of guy in L.A. or whatever – and he says to him, “Look, this is such bullshit. Can you do anything about this? Can you call them and threaten them, and say, ‘How many years have you been making all this money off of GI and we haven’t gotten a penny from you?’ and ‘We want to have the rights to our own catalog, and we’ll take YOU to court and burn you really hard.’” So the brother calls and says, “Put up or shut up.” And they’re like, “Okay, fine. You can have the stuff and you can put it out, and we’re not going to sue you. But we can take our back catalog -- our dusty old stuff in warehouses that’s sitting around collecting dust -- and we’ll put out our stuff again of GI, and we’ll sell it, and you guys can’t make any money off of that.” And he’s like, “Fine, whatever.”
So now we basically own the GI catalog; we own the name and everything. Except for what they have left over, which isn’t a whole lot. I think it’s dwindling pretty fast. I’ve even seen on Ebay, people from Dutch East have tried to sell these things on Ebay, and it’s just like, “Screw them.” Whatever. We put out much better collections through Dr. Strange. And Dr. Strange has treated us like kings. They’ve sent us personalized GI watches; me and Tom got these watches that have the Government Issue logo on them! And nobody ever did anything like that for us. They treat us really well. They send us the proper royalties, and on top of that they give us boxes of the actual releases, from the DVD to the CD collections. So Dutch East has nothing to do with us anymore. And people are really like, “These collections so are so awesome.”
Yeah, they really are.
I’m really happy with them, I’m really proud of it. I really wish Dutch East would have done something like that with us years ago, and treated us well. But they just burned us.
Like just for me -- I had the “Legless Bull” on that Dischord “Four Old Seven Inches” LP. I liked that, but I hadn’t really thought of buying any of your other records, particularly because I didn’t see them very often. And then this thing came out, and I looked at the back and went,” Jesus! There’s like five albums on this thing! How can I not buy this?” And then I bought it and it was really good, so I bought the second one. It’s really great.
I’m really happy with all that stuff. You know, we’ve gotten so many letters saying, “Will you ever put out ‘Legless Bull’ again?” And the reason we never actually re-released it after we put out a 1,000 press – we never went out of our way to be like, “Man, let’s make this a collector’s item. Let’s make it like $800; people will be selling this thing as a collector’s item.” Like, ha ha. We never thought that way at all because we were really embarrassed about the production on it. Me and Marc Amberstadt were really like, you know, “The drums don’t sound right, and this doesn’t sound right.” And Brian Gay and John Barry would have had no problems with still having it be re-released. But they kind of went, “Okay, if you really don’t want to put it out, then fine. Let’s don’t put it out again.”
And it’s funny, because John Barry was at my wedding with his wife, and he teaches a Creative English class at Towson University now, and he occasionally will find people that are like, “You’re John Barry from GI? I can’t believe you’re from that punk rock band. That’s cool!” And he’ll tell me -- and it’s the funniest thing in the world -- that he’ll say, “You know, when Dischord started sending us royalty checks for ‘Legless Bull,’ that became the most profitable half- hour I’ve ever spent in my life.” And it’s true for all of us; it was very profitable down the line. We never knew we’d ever make any money. We never expected it through Dischord, because Dischord was always a label that just put it back into other bands, and we knew that all along.
But it was like, now the stuff comes out, and it’s out there, and I can’t believe people can sell “Legless Bull” for $800 on Ebay. It’s like, “Wait a minute! Don’t buy this record for $800!” It took me several years to finally get a copy of it myself. I sold my original copy. This is how mixed up and insecure and ADD I was back in GI. In ’85, I thought, “I’ve got to sell all my Dischord collection. I’m living at my parents’ again, and I don’t have a job, and I have no bus fare or whatever.” I really panicked, and I went, “I have to sell this stuff just for bus fare and everything.” And I remember, foolishly I went to a store -- Yesterday And Today Records -- and the guy there ripped me off so badly that I would just like to go back and shoot him. But I didn’t realize that he took advantage of me. I was a naive kid at the time. And I sold my SOA test pressing that Henry Rollins gave me -- and he wrote a little “Stabb” and the “t” was a knife, it was his own autograph. I sold that for about three dollars.
Yeah, I know. I know. It’s unbelievable. One time at a record convention when I was with Tom, I really kind of ripped off the person that was selling a record; because they need to eat, they need bread and butter, at a record convention they’ll sell things for next to nothing. And for two bucks I bought an original pressing picture sleeve of Blue Cheer’s “Summertime Blues” single. And then at another record convention, I got about two bucks for it! And I couldn’t believe I was getting screwed in the long run too. But he took advantage of me, and I took advantage of other people, like through a record convention, and I feel like it all came back to me.
But down the line, like on Ebay, I’d find people selling the GI records on vinyl, and I’m like, “I’ll bid on this. You don’t understand; you probably think this is really ridiculous. This is the guy who was in this band, that’s on this record, that’s trying to buy this record back.” I sold all my stuff when I thought I really needed the money! I foolishly sold it. I sold the “Legless Bull” test pressing to a guy in Germany at the time, in ’85, for about $200. And he wanted the Teen Idles single, and I didn’t have that, so I sold him my Bad Brains original picture sleeve of “Pay To Cum” for about $200. And I know that that record alone just goes through the roof. And Minor Threat test pressings and stuff. I said to Ian a while back, “Did you hear that someone sold your test pressing of ‘Out Of Step’ for $2,200?” And he’s like, “Wow! Really?” And he was kind of proud of that, like “I can’t believe that little piece of vinyl went for that much!” But it’s insane that people will do this thing.
And I’m like, “Look, I want ‘Legless Bull’ back, but I’m not willing to pay you like $800 for it, and maybe somewhere down the line I’ll get it.” And I had a girlfriend that bought it for me as a birthday present when I was in a relationship with her in about ’86, on the wall of this guy’s record store, Vinyl Ink. The store’s no longer around -- the owner died sadly, and he sold it for about $40 at the time. And it was worth about that much to a collector. So she bought it for $40. And then down the line, we were good friends with the guys in this band Half Life. In Pittsburgh, they were like the kings of their punk rock scene. And we played a lot of shows with them and everything. And it ended up that their drummer, Damon Chè -- does that name ring a bell?
Yes, it does.
Damon Chè was a huge fanatic DC hardcore punk rock fan. And he was like, “Please, please, you’ve got to sell me your copy of this. I’ll buy it from you and everything.” And I sold it to him for $40, the price that I paid for it. Because he was such fanatic fan, I thought, you know, at the time I sold it, I never listened to it anymore, and I’m embarrassed about it and everything. And here’s someone who’s going to get a lot more out of it than I ever really will. And so I sold it to him and I autographed all his GI records and everything.
And then all of a sudden, I find out Damon Chè is the next big thing in the indie punk scene through Don Caballero and all this other stuff. And I’m like, “Wow! The guy from Don Caballero might still have my ‘Legless Bull’!” And I’d really like to connect with him. I know they play shows down here at Black Cat club in DC and I’d really like to see him sometime, but I keep on missing them. And I’d love to meet up with the guy again, and the guys from Half Life came to see me in another band called The Factory Incident in Pittsburgh. And I’m like, “What’s Damon up to? I sold him my ‘Legless Bull’, and he’s got this whole collection and I’d love to connect with the guy.” And they were like, “How much did you make off of it? Maybe YOU were one of the ones on Ebay selling yours under another name!” When I tell people that, they’re like, “Damon Chè from Don Caballero bought your “Legless Bull” for $40?” And I’m like, “Yeah!”
And it’s funny, I find all these people years after the fact that were huge GI fans that I never knew. I liked Superchunk when they did “Slack Motherfucker” and I never saw them. I never got a chance to see them. And then I find out that Jon Wurster, the drummer, is selling off his GI “Joy Ride” used vinyl. And I write to him and say, “Well, you might find it weird that this guy from GI is actually trying to bid on his own record for like five bucks or whatever.” And he goes, “Dude, I was a huge GI fan! I love you guys. You know, we covered GI; we did ‘Blending In’ and recorded it.” And I said, “I’d heard this once through a friend of mine in Connecticut who said he saw you play it live! You’re in Superchunk? Wow, you like GI? You guys were doing a thousand times better with Merge Records than we ever were.” And he goes, “Well, not really. But I’m selling off all my vinyl because I’ve got it on disc now.” And I’m like, “Well, that’s what a lot of people are selling off their vinyl for.” And I understand that and everything. And he goes, “Write to me right now, and I’ll take it off the auction. I’ll say that something happened to it and I’ll give you my copy.” And I’m like, “Well, I’ll give you a copy of my new band The Factory Incident, or Betty Blue, or stuff I’ve currently done; we’ll trade. I can’t just have you give it to me for free.” And then he goes, “Whatever. And we recorded this song, and it’s going to come out on this Superchunk collection called “Cup Of Sand”. Finally after all these years, it’s finally going to come out. And did you know that John Reis from Rocket From The Crypt and Hot Snakes -- he’s a huge a GI fan, and he produced us on this session at his studio in Georgia.” And I’m like, “Really!? That’s incredible! That’s cool.”
But you know, I find out all this stuff way, way after the fact. I found out that Juliana Hatfield liked GI when she sent me a card after I wrote to her when “Hey Babe” came out, and I was like, “This is an awesome record, and I’ve always been into really cool female singers.” Like I love Deborah Harry and Blondie, and all these people in the DC punk scene were like, “You like Blondie? Whatever, they’re like a new wave band!” Ian and Henry gave me so much crap. They’re like, “Stranglers? New wave. X? New Wave.” They were like, “They’re alright and everything, but come on! Germs! Black Flag!” And I’m like, “Yeah, but I still like these bands.” So I was the kind of guy that was always into new wave stuff and pop rock stuff, still over the years. On GI tours, I was trying to have like the Joan Jett haircut and dye it black. That was my persona then, during “Joy Ride”. I was wearing half shirts and stuff, and going, “Joan Jett and the Blackhearts! I’ll buy that album at a cheap record store!” And people in GI are like, “What the hell are you buying that for?”
Jay and Pete and all these people were like, “You like Julian Cope? How come you don’t listen to Effigies?” And I’m like, “Whatever. I like Naked Raygun and bands like that, but I still like Julian Cope and stuff.” And people were like, “You’re into such wimpy stuff!” I remember one GI tour towards the end, they were all so, so gung ho about the first Beastie Boys album. And I’m like, “These little brats sampling Led Zeppelin and AC/DC licks? Like, who are they? Whatever, I’m not into that.” Then years later, I’m like, “That stuff’s pretty clever! That’s a great album!”
I’ve rediscovered half of these things I had so much hate and so much bitterness towards. Even The Clash, when they came out at the time. This shows you naive and angry punk rock I was, and how I got so, so immersed in the hardcore thing from bands like The Germs and Black Flag and all that California hardcore stuff, and DC hardcore stuff. I totally wrote them off – The Clash have gone commercial rock with “London Calling”. On “Legless Bull”, I wrote about them, and how I used to listen to The Clash. Then Van Halen used to be a hit, now they suck. You know, whatever. And Supertramp I got SO much flack for. And I still look at as a really funny thing, and I laugh about it now, but at the time…
Even The Ramones! “The Ramones used to be a hit, now they’re just a piece of shit!”
They’re just a pile of shit because they put out “End Of The Century,” and I’m like, “Ah man, listen to that extra production. Fuck that! They need to be The Ramones that I love -- the raw Ramones!” And I had no clue until these documentaries about how badly they were treated, and how badly The Clash was treated. You know, GI opened up for The Ramones at some little club called The Bayou in DC, and we got a whopping $150 to open up for The Ramones. We knew that we were going to get no money out of it, but we were going to just try to get recognition. “We’re going to open up for The Ramones; they’re Tom’s favorite band.” I gave up on them a long time ago, but I was kind of like, “Whatever, they’ve got some good songs.” But I thought they were like a bad satire or a bad parody of what The Ramones could have been. It was embarrassing. Joey was all strung out or whatever; he was all coked out. He couldn’t even get his leather jacket off; he leaned back and a roadie pulled it off. He was slurring out the words to the songs.
Johnny looked like he hated being there. To this day, I’ve heard that he just totally was the biggest dick and right-wing Reagan supporter, but he was a great musician so I can't fault him there. He was up there, and he totally looked the way that this girl described him -- this girl who was a so-called ‘friend’ of Johnny Ramone’s, who used to book bands like Black Market Baby, and booked them with The Ramones and went out to Virginia Beach with them. And she said, “Johnny is just a really bitter guy." She was kind of a groupie-like girl and a manager-type person, but sometimes they go hand in hand, groupie/manager for women or guys. But just in general, she said, “He was staring out at the beach. He looked so angry, and at one point I asked him, ‘Johnny, what are you thinking about?’ And he goes, “I hate this band! I hate being in this band. I feel like I live in a bad cartoon. I’m 40-something years old, and I feel like I’m in this joke, and I’m a much better guitarist than this material is. I hate all my band members and I hate this band. I really wish I didn’t do it, but I only do it because it makes me money.” I mean, if you get to that point, just hang it up!
In Joe Strummer’s documentary “The Future Is Unwritten,” you see him finally say things like “We sold ourselves out. It was more of the Joe Strummer Experience than The Clash. It was embarrassing.” Somebody even said in an article recently, “What happened when the guy with the Mohawk on the record cover -- the most punk rock member of the band -- puts out a record that’s just complete crap? Like wannabe funk commercial crap?” And he’s like, “Yeah, I realize that, and I totally screwed everybody in the band.”
And Tom and I, we fought like cats and dogs. We were like the Gallagher brothers of the DC punk scene. People knew; we had a rep everywhere we went that “John and Tom hate each other. Don’t even get them in the same room together, unless you want to have a punch-out like Liam and Noel.” But ours weren’t as bad as theirs; those guys literally punched each other. We got pretty close, like we just screamed at each other and almost came to blows. But it was just insecurity and immaturity, and we were doing so badly in the band we put so much into that we just wanted to kill each other. To this day, I look at it as Tom was like my best friend, my husband, my wife, my whatever. He was all these things. So that’s why I took so much out on him, and I think he felt the same. I mean, we both loved each other, but you can’t be in a band or a project like this, where things are going so badly and so wrong that you’re so frustrated and so angry with the person that you care about the most, because you’re going to take it out on them. And we lived in a group house, and we just like…oh, man. When I wrote the “Joy Ride” material, even the title cut, that was one of the few times that I was screaming into a mirror silently, because I was angry with Tom and his girlfriend at the time for taking up all the hot water in the winter of like, ’84.
And I thought I was having a nervous breakdown. I’ve had times where I’ve had little mini-nervous breakdowns over the years. And I went through that in GI, and I went through it in other bands, and I lost it. And I’ve had people that have actually shaken me out of it. I had people like Ian, or Jeff Nelson; I went to Dischord house, where I thought, “Oh, those guys are going to help everything. I’m like, I’m losing my mind.” I remember even girlfriend situations, where I had a nervous breakdown, like what I wrote “Puppet on a String” about. She’s now one of my best friends, but at the time I thought she hated me, and we broke up really badly, and she admits after all these years that she was the one that drew the “Boycott Stabb” graffiti on the wall that we took the picture of. And I thought she hated me. She said, “No, I was really immature at the time, I drew it as a joke, but I never hated you. We were both just immature, and things happened.”
And I found her years and years after the fact. Like I say, through the joy of the online computer, it can be a blessing or a curse. The blessing part of it is that someone wrote to me on a band site and said, “Do you know some woman is selling off all these photos of you? She says she was your girlfriend at the time and was the one that drew the ‘Boycott Stabb’ graffiti.” And I’m like, “Oh my God! Cathy!” I wrote to her and said “Look, we both said some pretty stupid things back then. I was punk rock, I was angry, I was immature. I’m on medication now; it’s helping me focus and it calms my anger down. It’s a godsend. I mean, I’m not a religious person or whatever, but I think, and even my wife will admit to it, “This thing is a godsend for you, taking Paxil.” Everybody at my work even thinks like, “Did you take your Paxil today?” They’ll see how scattered I am, and it can happen at the drop of a hat.
So I said to Cathy, “You must have really hated my ass back then.” And she wrote me back, “No, no, I never hated you. Things happen or whatever, but the only reason I’m selling these photos, records and stuff is because I just don’t really listen to it anymore and I think other people will get a lot more out of it.” And I said, “We have to meet up sometime.” And we met up in Virginia where she lives and got a bite to eat, and she was giving me copies of photos in her photo album. And this other guy who bought her collection basically made Xeroxes of so many things. She said, “If I’d known how to get in touch with you…. Because I heard that you moved to Ohio, someone told me you moved to Boston, you were all over the place.” I’m like, “How did this happen? I never moved to Boston.”
Someone else wrote me recently, in another band, and said “Weren’t you living in Boston?” I said, “No, I never lived in Boston!” I lived in Toledo, Ohio for about a month or two with my best friend in a band called The Stain, who has run for Republican City Councilman in his own town, and recently he was supporting McCain, and that just gets under my skin so much. I mean, he’s one of my best friends. He’s like my bastard twin brother. But he’s trying to get in an office where it will make him money, and he’s gotten involved in politics over the years, and he’s such a schmoozer and such a good talker that he’s worked his band -- a little band out of Toledo, Ohio that was on Mystic Records -- into getting sponsored by Vans and getting his music onto commercials for 7-Up and snowboarding ads. He knows how to talk the talk. He’s had every punk band on the planet back in the 80’s stay with him, and had parties for everybody from Black Flag to The Mentors and GI, so that he’s made so many connections over the years. And now he's in politics. Go figure. Ha!
He still loves really big ass Arena-rock, like Guns N’ Roses or Poison, and he’ll still make this connection with people that people say, “Stain! What’s up?” You look at like an old Circus magazine pin-up of like Duff Mckagan of Guns N’ Roses, and he’s wearing a "Stain" pin. It is just so weird. And apparently Duff has said, “I owe so much to Stain…” He’ll play a show with Velvet Revolver, and Duff talks about him on stage and in interviews, “…because he introduced me to my wife, and now we have kids.” He introduced him to this hot model chick that everyone knew in Toledo. And now she has her own line of clothing because she hooked up with Duff. And it’s so funny, over the years we have been such good friends.When my book comes out, people will say, “Man, he looks a lot like you. You guys have the same sort of traits and characteristics.” Yet he is the guy that talks a great game and has convinced people to put out his band and various things.
Recently, before I got my big face rearrangement -- which I know we’ll probably get into, the whole medical stuff with me getting facial surgery after getting beat up by thugs -- before that happened, he convinced me, “Hey, come up to Toledo. I’ll pay your plane fare. It’ll be a free trip for you for a couple of days when you have some time off from your job, and you can play this punk rock show with Jeff Nelson’s band,” at the time called Fast Piece Of Furniture.
And Jeff is so out of the punk rock and hardcore thing and all that, but he’s still such an extremist, radical, political guy. He’s amazing. The guy literally put things outside on the lawn of his big Victorian mansion -- like a big huge billboard where each day he counted “This Many Dead in Iraq.” He changed the number each day. And he lives in Toledo, Ohio, which is such an extreme conservative place -- the glass capital of the world, the Jeep factory and all that. Jeff is unlike Ian. I mean they’re both millionaires from what they’ve done, but Ian is very frugal about his money and Jeff bought a Victorian mansion, which is what he wanted all these years, and he paid cash for it right at the door. And he now wants to move out of it.
Good luck selling it.
Yeah, yeah, it’s tough. He’s trying to fix it up and he told me, “Man, you don’t understand. I’m trying to get out of this thing because it’s costing me a fortune, the heating bills alone in this place.” And he’s kept his collection of all kinds of artifacts and everything. But Jeff is a collector. When he moved out there, he bought some Jeeps and stuff, and he wanted to move to Toledo because he’s got a fascination with the history of Jeeps. He’s got a big thing about the history of Buffalo sculptures; he’s a very eccentric guy. Which is cool to be. And he realizes too that he’s in the wrong place if he’s going to be an extremely liberal person. He said he’s had his signs ripped down before because people in that town are not into that. And when I went over there, I couldn’t believe it. I was looking at him like, “Man, you’ve got such balls. This is amazing.”
But he moved to Toledo, Ohio, which is a terrible place! It was a great place to play, and he had a great time doing it, and maybe you could score lots of groupies. Lord knows I went through a few myself, but not the way the California bands were. Always like, “Hey, come back to the condo! There’ll be chicks and beer.” This was like in ’86 and the guys in DI, who we were playing with -- Casey and all these people -- were so into us, they were like, “You guys are so cool. Come back and hang out! There’ll be chicks and drugs and whatever.” And we’re like, “No no, we’re just going to do our laundry.”
It got to a point where we were like boring. We were self-referential. I look at it now as a funny thing, but it was so true. We were boring guys in the long run. We were guys that would rather do our laundry and eat a good meal, or go to a mall and be people-watchers in Biloxi, Mississippi. That was our day off. Most rock and punk rock bands on their day off will go out and score chicks and drink and get fucked up. Tom drank beer and smoked a lot of pot and all that, but he wasn’t the kind of person who wanted to do that on his day off. He’d be like, “Let’s go to a mall. Let’s go and watch people -- look at people and make fun of them.”
And that’s where we found the do-it-yourself video thing where we made the “Strange Wine” video. We were like guinea pigs; it was the first time they ever had a customer. For $22 we made a video for “Strange Wine.” We finally put it on the DVD "Hard.C.Ore Day's Night" that Dr. Strange put out; that I’m really, really happy about. This thing has got like 1982 footage, and I put little arrows pointing to people, like “Guy Picciotto – Insurrection.” I wanted to post like, “These are the people that were in the scene, and this is the band they were in at the time.”
And it’s so funny that in our own DC punk scene, GI was the band that kept collecting members of other people’s bands. Like Mike Fellows -- he was a huge fan. He loved The Faith and GI. We were like his favorite band, and U2 ended up being up a favorite band of his down the line. So him doing the bass line for “Understand” is ripping off U2 from “I Will Follow.” And it’s just like he took the favorite bands he was into, and he gave us songs like “Understand” and some of the other things on “Joy Ride.” He gave us some great melody in GI for a change, and Tom didn’t have to write all the material. Tom had so much on his shoulders. I understand why he was such a dick to people! He was an asshole because he wasn’t making any money, he was struggling, and at the same time, he was the one that carried the band musically, because nobody else wrote songs. John Leonard wrote maybe a few songs and a few bass lines.
I actually only have about 10 more minutes.
Oh, I understand.
Yeah, because we’ve been on for like an hour and a half.
Yeah, I realize I can just totally ramble on and on.
No, it’s great. There’s just something else I had planned to do today. So I definitely did want to get to this – why did these people attack you? Were they mugging you?
No special reason, really. I think these days -- and I’ve seen news stories and heard enough -- that there’s a lot of teens that don’t have what we had in the punk rock days and all that, and it frustrates their angers, or they’re bored, or whatever. And this group of young black teenagers -- they could have been high school kids or they could have been out of high school. But they were young, and they were just looking like, “You know, this would be fun to do. Let’s punch this guy.” It could have been like a gang initiation kind of thing. But I think more and more these days that kids -- white or black, it doesn’t matter culture-wise or anything -- are just so bored and frustrated with how things are going on in their lives. Instead of having this outlet of being in a band or taking to sports, art or entertainment, whatever, they’re suburban kids that just think it’s fun to punch somebody and then walk away.
Yet they didn’t get my backpack; they didn’t get my wallet. I ran in the road by the time I had gotten punched a few times. I pulled this X-Acto knife, like to say “Leave me alone” and that didn’t help. But yet, I put it away, thinking like, “Okay, okay. I’ll put it away. I’ll show you; you guys had your fun.” And this guy punched me -- it was basically just one guy, and I am convinced to this day that he was like a practicing boxer. Because he really pinpointed things on my face. The doctor said they don’t see facial injuries like that on most people. Like something out of a boxing ring.
How did it happen? You were walking and he approached you?
Yeah, a bunch of them were on a hill, and they kind of came over by the condo area. I was just almost inside the condo community where I live. And they were laughing, giggling. And I thought, “Well, there’s some kids; they’re just having fun or whatever.” And then they stopped, and one guy got in my face and was moving like a boxer. He was like, “What’s up? What’s up? What’s up? What’s up?” And I thought, “Uh-oh. This is bad.” It was like five guys standing on a hill, and one guy’s in my face, and I’m like, “Oh shit, this is really bad.” And I thought, “What’s going to happen here?” And that’s why I was focused on looking at the guys on the hill, looking at him, looking at the guys on the hill, looking at him, whatever. And then I got slugged. I got sucker punched by the guy.
I only felt that one other time in my life, and it was kind of a wild event that happened like in ’92. I was walking home from a 4th of July concert, and I was walking in a fairly bad part of DC, and I was waiting for a bus. I was walking towards the bus stop, and these two guys were walking by -- young black men. And I thought, “Okay, whatever. They’re not going to bother me. I’ve been on this route plenty of times and I’ve never gotten messed with.” And foolishly I thought that they would actually walk around me, and I was walking through them, and one guy sucker punched me.
And I didn’t realize -- I thought I got thrown a brick from a car or something, and I just felt this swelling on my face. I was lying on the ground, and blood starts gushing. And the guy was in my face, and I said “Whoa! Why did you hit me?” And he goes, “You tried to bump me!” And it was just like this anger or frustration or whatever. And then the other guy that was with him was kind of laughing, giggling. And I was like, “Why did you hit me?” And he was like, “You want some more, bitch?” And he said, “You tried to bump him!” And I’m like, “Oh my god, this is bad. This is really bad.” The guy’s in my face and I’m like “No, no,” and I walked away. I picked up my pair of glasses, and then I’m walking down to catch the bus and I’m feeling this swelling on the side of my face and everything, and I felt attacked. And then all of a sudden, a bunch of young teenagers over by the 7-11 are going like, “White bitch! Fucking motherfucker!” And they’re throwing bottles at me from this 7-11, and I’m like, “Whoa, this is the worst night of my life! What’s going on?”
So I’d only felt that kind of thing once before; it was that night that I realized the guy sucker punched me. And I kind of came back after falling back a bit. I didn’t knock all the way down, because I have a hard head, I have a hard face, whatever. I’ve been knocked in the head before slam dancing at punk rock shows and all this stuff and I’ve gotten out of it. You know, stage diving, the waves parted, and I’m knocked unconscious for about 60 seconds. Luckily I never split my head open at a punk rock show; stage diving is kind of dangerous sometimes. But in general, he got in my face, and then I realized the guy hit me, and I felt like he was still at me. And then he kind of got back a bit when I pulled out this X-Acto knife. And I always wanted to say this line to anybody -- it was imaginary, it would go through my head that if I ever was attacked by someone, or about to be attacked, that I would pull out the knife and go, “You ever had to spend time in lockup?”
Because I went through this court thing where I actually turned myself in on something; it was like an outstanding warrant for nine years over something really ridiculous. I kind of refer to it as my P.P., or my Pre-Paxil years, when I wasn’t really thinking straight. And I worked in a department store where they thought I wrote some graffiti towards my manager on a bathroom wall. I still don’t know to this day -- I have no idea if I did it or not, but I admitted to it and everything. And they thought, “Well, it’s hateful. It’s a hate crime thing.” And I was going to go to court for this, and I thought I got out of it by paying a lawyer, and the case was dropped, but then they couldn’t find me after all these years, and it was only recently that I actually found out I had a nine-year outstanding warrant against me. It was because I was trying to get a government job with an agency or something. Anyway, it was just kind of ridiculous, but I went through lockup in a little cell with a bunch of real criminals. And then I got out of there after five hours and I had to go to court again, and it got dropped because nobody showed up.
But yet, I said this. I said, “You ever had to be in lockup with a bunch of dudes that want to rape you?” And the guy’s like, “Hey, he’s got a knife!” And the guy kind of stepped back, and then he threw like boulders, big chunks of cement towards me and everything. And then he was a little scared at that point, and I should have kept the knife and then walked in the middle of the street and flagged down a car or whatever. But he was like, “Put down the knife, bitch. Put down the knife.” And he was just throwing stuff at me, and they weren’t even coming close. But literally, I was really freaked out because I’m seeing all these guys, and I’m blind as a bat without my glasses, and my glasses are somewhere who knows where, they got knocked off my face. And the guy still wanted to punch me, and I thought “Maybe I’m going to get ganged up on by the whole entire bunch of these guys.” And then I put the knife away, and then he came at me again.
Then I ran in the street, because I saw a car from a distance, and I thought, “Either this guy’s going to stop for me or I’m going to get hit by it. Either way, it’s going to be a lot better than what I’m going to go through with these guys.” And I ran, and that’s when I think he hit me one more time, because I went down on the pavement on the street. And the car did stop, and he said, “Are you okay?” I was like, “Yeah, I’ve been ganged up on.” And he said, “Do you want me to call the police?” And I’m like, “Yeah, please.” And I called my girlfriend (now wife) at work and said “Yeah, I just got attacked by a bunch of guys.” And it was just a freak, fluke incident, but nothing has ever happened since. It was a crazy thing and it happened to me, and no one’s ever been arrested for it. But I told plenty of people around town in the community. I was like showing them my face and what I looked like and everything, and saying, “Look, I got ganged up on. Be careful.”
It’s amazing that something that quick cost so much money.
Yeah, yeah. It was pretty amazing. It was pretty amazing. Really, if it wasn’t for the love, concern and caring of a punk rock community that really reached out for me, I really wouldn’t have been able to pay just over $10,000 worth of facial surgery costs. It was crazy.
Wow. Man. And he must have been a practicing boxer, because a normal person wouldn’t know where to hit you.
Exactly. He pinpointed parts of my face. He broke my upper jaw, so my jaw was like twisting around. When I went to the guy that my dentist recommended, he goes, “I think you have a broken jaw there.” And I’m like, “Really? I just thought it was a few teeth.” And he goes, “No, your whole upper jaw is moving around.” And he hit me in the nose; a bone was kind of almost sticking out of the left side of my nostril. So I had this bump there, and he says, “You’ve broken your nose.” And the right side of my eye was practically sewn shut and that needed surgery as well.
So literally to this day, I have more metal in my face than Iron Man. It’s silly, but I do have permanent metal in my face for the rest of my life. But I thought it’d be pretty funny if I ever went through airport security check and it went ‘beep beep beep’ by my face and they went, “What’s that about?” and I’m like, “I was in ‘Nam, man! I’ve got them all over my head!” But I hate that though -- the police state kind of things going on ever since 9/11. But literally, they told me it will never go off in an airport security check or a metal detector. But I have these plates. I have one on each side of my cheek bones that are permanent. And I have one just above my eye that’s holding up my eye; I have a kind of plate up there. And my nose has these two plates to hold up my nose. So I really would have like a boxer’s nose -- I would have a completely flattened out nose if I didn’t have that done. I would have had some messed up stuff.
To this day, everything’s pretty fine. I do feel a little bit of soreness, more than I ever did before on my teeth -- on the upper half of my teeth. They’re a little more sensitive after that happened. And I’m about to go to a dentist appointment in another few days, and I hope everything’s good. I hope I don’t have to deal with any more dental stuff. But people reached out, and it was a real blessing. Me and my wife were at the point where we were in tears because people gave so much. And I realized that the punk rock community and the music community -- it really does give back to its own. And I’d do the same for anybody else. One guy who actually did donate towards me, he’s gone through some big hospital troubles – Karl Alvarez from All and The Descendents. He went through some real bad cancer stuff, and he needs some money, too. I’ll donate to him. Me and my wife have donated towards J. Robbins’ child that has SMA, Spinal Muscular Atrophy. And they didn’t know if he was even going to survive a year or two, and he’s 2 ½ now. We’re still donating money towards that because we feel like we want to give back to people who really need it.
TWENTY MINUTES OF INTERESTING CONVERSATION ENSUE
I REALIZE, “WAIT A MINUTE! I SHOULD BE RECORDING THIS!”
SECOND TAPE BEGINS
Alright, I put in another tape. So let’s say that part again -- I was on Fox News’ “Red Eye” TV show. And the guy from the show is a really nice guy, and he’s helping me out, blah blah blah. And you said something about when Henry Rollins went on there.
Well, I don't want to take anything away from Henry because he talked about this in his recent spoken word show and you have to see him do it on stage! He goes into great detail and it's so funny. So, he went to appear on Fox to do be interviewed, but he actually didn’t want to. He thought that they were fucking with him, so he came on ready for war and ready to fight these guys and be a nasty prick to piss off everybody. And he was thinking like, “You’re the enemy, so I’ve got to go with this.” Then he realized that the cameraman was like, “Man, I’m a huge fan of yours and I love your stuff. I don’t believe the shit that they say on this network.” And Henry’s so gung ho that he met up with all these people, and he goes, “You don’t want me on here. You really don’t. I go against everything you stand for here.” And walked away leaving the staff surprised that he wasn't into doing their gig. Then he said to the cameraman, “Can I leave a videotape of me talking straight to Bill O’ Reilly?” And the guy’s like, “Yeah, that would be awesome!” So, he was literally giving the finger to the camera and saying, “Look, you hate everything I’m about. You hate everything I stand for!” He was just attacking him, just ripping him apart. And then the guy was like, “Oh yeah, that’s awesome.” And he walked out of that place just feeling pleased.
Was it delivered? Do you know?
I heard it was. Anybody that thinks that O’Reilly’s saying anything remotely like facts, figures and real news is just clueless, because he’s just a guy that wants to stir shit up. I’ve seen his work, and I’ve hated him ever since he was a reporter on “A Current Affair” with fricking Maury Povich, who’s got another bad talk show that everybody wants to see. Everybody’s tragedy is a spectator sport and a freak show; it’s just like one long O.J. trial or something. That stuff bugs me so much -- all this stuff dealing with trials, and reality shows, and seeing other people’s tragedies and miseries as a spectator sport. It’s bullshit.
But that’s the way I’ve always kind of looked at politics. It’s like people get so, so stirred up about it and everything, and then when things get screwed up like, “Oh, he admitted he had affairs….” Me and a friend at work were talking the other day. We both believe that there should be legalized prostitution, and then there would be a lot less mess about what’s going on around here. And this other guy says, “Doesn’t that fall under some ‘morally wrong’ description?” I was just like, "People are so, so hung up on morality and what’s right and what’s wrong.” And I was like, “Here’s my list. Here’s the moral right and wrong. Okay, wrong: having sex with barn animals. Wrong, definitely wrong. And gerbling. You should definitely never do that to a gerbil.” And they were laughing so hard. I love making people laugh saying twisted shit. And I was talking about various things. Same sex marriage? Nothing wrong about that. That Proposition 8 thing -- that pissed me off so much that people fought to bring that down. If anyone in this world finds another person, either same sex or opposite sex, to love and care about and want to spend the rest of their life with -- that kind of relationship and bond -- then more power to them. There’s no free love anymore, there’s lots of free hate floating around.
Republicans are afraid Obama’s going to bring in Socialism. They’re so afraid of Socialism. But the thing is, all that they’ve got is war. I know McCain is Bush; he claims he isn’t Bush. And Bush was completely just for the corporations, and the people who supported Bush. But Obama, whether or not he is a genius or the savior or whatever, is surrounding himself with smart people. And his election has given the entire world a sense of hope. And even if doesn’t pan out, it cannot be worse than the alternative: McCain gets in there, and he just wants to do more war.
Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Just his relationship with General Petraeus -- it’s like, “What, are you having sex with the guy now? You’ve mentioned him every five seconds.” “Well, General Petraeus tells me this, and I turned over in bed and General Petraeus was there with my wife between us.” Like, “Oh my God, stop mentioning him. And your ideas for what we’re going to do over there are so wrong. They’re just a mess.” And for him to attack, “Obama has no war experience”? “Yeah, you were in a fricking prison camp for a while and I think that kind of messed your head up.”
Yeah. Not only that, but his line in all the debates about “I have experience” and “I have the wisdom to win this war.” What, like that last one you won?
Right. Exactly. I know. It’s like hearing from the extremist Conservative contractor guy that I mentioned earlier. He kept telling me, “What’s wrong with Sarah Palin?” So I whip out the scroll of the reasons I definitely don’t want that person as the Vice President in there. And he tells me that all this stuff is going to happen because of Obama. And it’s like, “Look, when things go wrong, everybody’s going to blame Obama. But look, the guy can speak clearly, the guy can think clearly, and he is not confused every time he gets on camera like Bush is.”
I’m so glad we have someone in there who’s smart and is not a puppet to his other guy. Like Cheney, who ran the whole show in the first place. He was the aggressor, the really strong one. Bush is a weak motherfucker. He is a weak, dumb, cracker redneck. And I think he’s still got a lot of redneck in him, and him making a statement about “Oh well, it’s a great, wonderful thing having a person of another race in the White House” -- I’m sure if he was coming down the steps, he’d be like, “Who let this Negro in the White House? Oh, oh, Obama! Hey, I didn’t know it was you.” He’s a cracker redneck that’s lying through his teeth about everything.
I can understand people trusting McCain, because they’ve followed him for decades. I haven’t; I don’t know much about the guy. However, the people who defend Palin infuriate me, and I’ll tell you why. Not only because she’s unqualified for the job -- I mean, I’m unqualified for the job. What infuriates me is how fucking fake she is. She is so fake. You can see it in her mind, “Oh, I’ve got to say ‘hockey mom’ here,” and people say, “Oh, she’s just like my sister!”
Yeah, she’s like the friend next door. She’s the soccer mom; she’s the one with the cute accent. She’s milking that.
But she’s so fake about it! During that vice presidential debate, very time something came out of her mouth, my wife and I stared at each other gap-jawed. And then Biden -- I didn’t know anything about Biden. You know, I’m not Mr. Politics; I’m just Mr. Hateful. I didn’t know anything about Biden. I came out of their debate going, “Wow, he’s a regular guy. He’s a smart, regular guy. And she is a fake.”
He’s so smart that he could have just ripped her apart. It’s a no-win situation. If he’s not ripping her apart and attacking her and being sarcastic, then people think he’s weak. And if he is, then they’re going to think he’s a mean, nasty guy attacking her. But the weirdest thing -- I discuss this with people at my work -- the one thing with people who are so against Obama is that he wouldn’t jump to their attack. He was more diplomatic. He was the guy who kept his calm, and kept his cool, and didn’t rise to all the stupid, ignorant, lying attacks. Every time he would say something, then McCain would be “Blah blah blah,” and my wife was like, “Yeah, but he just explained that a minute ago! Why is McCain lying through his teeth? He’s just attacking left and right. He’s not listening; he’s so focused that he doesn’t listen to what anybody else has to say.” And then for him to say “that one” over there. Oh, you mean that Negro?
Yeah, I think what he may have been doing, McCain -- and I’m sure a lot of people think this is probably what he was doing – by doing that, it made it so every time the camera went back to Obama, he had to go, “Wait – let me correct that statement.” So he sounded defensive. But he had to!
Yes, he had to. He had to. And the thing is, I can’t say that McCain’s friends with Obama in any way, shape, or form, because he looked like he was so filled with hate and bitterness that he just wanted to punch the guy. He didn’t want to hug him. He didn’t want to shake his hand. He didn’t want to have anything to do with him. And then he couldn’t even face him. And I’m like, “Why can’t the guy even look at him?” You’ve got to look at the person you’re debating with. That’s so wrong. He’s just so like an attack dog, he didn’t want to even notice him. He’s thinking, “Enemy! I hate him. I can’t stand him. I don’t want anything to do with him.” But him turning around like, “We’ve got to work together.” He did this diplomatic speech and people thought, “Well, that was a very good speech” and they go to bed or whatever.
I was about five years old when the Kennedys were around. My sister and my parents were into them, and my sister was so crushed by the Kennedys deaths. Both John and Robert were like her idols and heroes. Same as like The Beatles or The Beach Boys -- scrapbooks and stuff. And she was crushed when they were killed. And I think that definitely -- people don’t really get into it that much, but I think the reason why we’ve got 400,000 more police at the inauguration is they are really worried that someone’s going to try to assassinate the guy. And I really hope that won’t happen, because that would be devastating. Already people are comparing him to Martin Luther King.
There just is so much hate, and so much ignorance, and so much racism still floating around. I mean, people were shouting racist shit at McCain rallies! Ah man. It’s a scary world. But I thought, “Man, if he (Obama) does get elected, I don’t want to see this guy shot.” No other president in history since Kennedy is more apt to have that happen. Because he’s a black man. And it’s scary. I really hope that doesn’t happen, but there’s going to be a lot of nut jobs that are going to come after him, and they’re probably going to be shot on camera or something. It’s going to be a crazy scene. And yet nobody cares enough to want to shoot Bush. You know? They want to climb the wall and talk to him, and yell at him or something. But yet there have never been major death threats to him or anything.
And that’s the thing. I don’t want to sound like an asshole, but Bush was hated by people of normal intelligence, normal rationality. People who hate black people are nuts.
Yeah, they are. They’re really just out there. Or any other race, whether it’s randomly attacking someone of Middle Eastern descent since 9/11. It’s just ignorance; it’s fear. It’s hate and mostly fear. Because people think, “Wait a minute. I saw that video of Obama with that neo-Nazi guy.” It’s like, “Look, he may have been in the same room. He’s in the same room listening to what someone has to say. That doesn’t mean necessarily that he’s pro anything that the guy is talking about.”
I just went on to a white pride site, stormfront.org. This might be good; the comments on this board are like, “The President is just a puppet…There are hundreds of thousands of people who influence decisions…Killing the President would be unwise, best bet is to let him screw up and get voted out.” I wanted to see what they were saying.
Yeah. Yeah. The real wackos are the ones who don’t really have a plan. Those two Nazi skinhead guys that plotted to kill Obama had no plan. And I had my share of dealing with that shit, too. Just because I dressed up in women’s outfits and went out onstage, and most of the DC skinheads thought, “John Stabb and his bassist John Leonard wear make-up and girly clothes so they must be gay!” And G.I. pretty much confronted this National Front Nazi group in Memphis, Tennessee and in Las Vegas on one tour. So in Memphis, we're playing this show, and these guys were Sieg Heiling in the middle of the set, this Nazi skinhead thing. And I was like, “Whoa, stop the set!” Then we’re talking to them, “We don’t believe; we don’t support that. We don’t know why you’re at our show trying to use us” and just ranting at them and going off. Things I was saying might have not made that much sense, but J. Robbins was putting things in perspective. He was saying things rationally, and I was going, “Look, it doesn’t matter if you’re white, black, yellow, red, pink, polka dot, whatever. We are not about hating other human beings.” Then some fan of ours in the crowd is like, “Yeah!” And he got beaten up and so the skins were thrown out. And these guys are all waiting for us up the road with boards and whatever, so we had to literally get police protection to get out of a club in Tennessee.
We ran into that again in Las Vegas with these guys in German storm trooper outfits. We were playing at a reservoir illegally with a generator that these guys set up for shows. We drive up there in our van and look at the walls -- it’s a reservoir in the middle of the desert -- and it says “Jews must die,” “Niggers suck.” And I’m like, “Whoa, what’s going on here?” And he goes, “Well, we do have a few Nazi skins who come to shows here. But don’t worry; they’re not going to do anything. They’re harmless.” And so we played. It was scary, but we made enough money to make it to the next gig. Yet I flipped out on this kid. Basically he’d come to me afterwards and he wanted to shake my hand. I was all worked up and I was like, “Are you part of this Nazi shit?” And he’s like, “Yeah, yeah.” And I was angry telling him, “Then I don’t want to know you. I don’t want to have anything to do with you". And he walked away feeling like I embarrassed him. And he comes back and goes, “You don’t know anything about our movement!” And I was like, “I know enough.” Then with much pent-up frustration I yelled, “Look, go home! Burn your GI records! Hate me! Don’t like this band! Just go away!” And my girlfriend at the time who came up for this tour was like, “Oh man, get in the van. That was really stupid."
And it was a stupid thing. Because all of a sudden we were all packed up, we had half of this sound company’s sound system with us -- these guys were touring with us. This guy out of another band in Morgantown, West Virginia named Robert Bowers took half of his sound company out there, and we lost our ass on that tour. But we actually had good sound, and we didn’t want it to sound like Josie & The Pussycats P.A. system or whatever. So we were like, “Let’s bring out this sound company.” So we had a full mixing board for our shows and everything, and he was a perfect soundman.
So we packed everything up and all of a sudden, we were so pissed off at the promoter guy who set up the show, we were like, “We're going to spread the word. Do not play a show; have nothing to do with these guys. We’re going to go out of our way to tell people this is bullshit. Why do you do this?” And he goes, “Well, we don’t want to let a few Nazi guys ruin it.” And we’re just so pissed off and upset, because we were just up in Tennessee and we had police protection! It was all ugly. Then we’re out there and kids were goose-stepping in the middle of our set with SS armbands; it was unbelievable. But we were out there and we thought we were going to die if we said anything to them. So we just kept it in, and it all came out towards the end. Especially from me. And then all of a sudden, looking out the back of the van, these guys are coming after us to get us. And then the van won’t start. Then we finally get out of there, and I was just like, “Ahhhh!” and we wanted to strangle this kid who got us to play this show. It was so horrible. But just that whole neo-Nazi mentality -- it’s like, “Why do you feel so much fricking hate for another human being? And then you go out of your way to do the whole pro-life thing; you’re going to bomb an abortion clinic.” There are all these nut jobs out there who are connected with the whole Nazi thing. While you were talking, I had one eye on this message board. I take back what I said. It’s looking pretty grim.
Oh my God, “You should kill them all! They should go back to Africa.” I’m sure there are stupid, horrible things. I’m sure there’s maybe one or two people out there on a Nazi message board or white pride thing that will try to say something logical.
I think I hit the best page first. Everything after that was pretty grim.
There you go. That’s why I want nothing to do even with bands that are filled with hate and ignorance. Like people are rushing out to see the Bad Brains show in DC. I have avoided those guys for years, ever since they made homophobic remarks and hate towards women. But this whole Rastafarian thing has gone from the whole Bob Marley peace and love thing to this other planet. H.R. hates women; he’s nutty. I don’t know if the rest of the band believe in what he believes in; I guess they seem a little bit more down to Earth. I heard an interview with Ian on the radio, and he had Darryl the bassist and Dr. Know, and it’s just like, “Yeah. H.R.’s nuts!” This guy invited me to go to his birthday party/roast up in his Crash Mansion in New York recently. And I was just thinking like, “Uhh... Like I’m really going to go up to his birthday party, and also I’m going to roast him? The guy’s nuts!” I read in an interview recently in a Baltimore city paper that the guy walks around in a 100-pound bulletproof vest thinking people are going to kill him and shoot him. He’s nutty, he’s out there. And then the things he said too about how he thinks the world is in a good place and everything is good. He’s so delusional, it’s not even funny. How can this guy who was in a punk band, that had really interesting things to say, and knew stuff and was so aggressive, think that the world is in a good place? It’s just like, “No! It isn’t in a good place! What planet do you live on?” You know, planet H.R. But I won’t support them. I’m sure I told people, “Look, I won’t support them because of him.” And that’s my politics. That’s one thing that’s going to keep me away from seeing H.R.
And I’ll never go see a band that we had a full-scale riot with on the last GI tour in San Diego, I will never see The Vandals again in my life. Because the guys think it was so funny that it riled people up that the drummer had a full swastika painted on his kick drum head. It was like, “What the hell? You think that’s funny? You think that’s really a jokey punk rock thing to do?” I mean, I used to think Sid Vicious was cool back in the early punk rock days. But then I just realized he was a puppet. He was a goofball. He was a guy that was trying to stir things up. But that ignorance is just hateful. And I was wearing my “Heaven Can Wait, Bring Back Sid” swastika shirt one time when I worked in a stock room or something, vacuuming floors. And that didn’t go over too well; people were kind of like, “Oh.” I was pretty ignorant early on. I thought he was a cool guy, but he wasn’t a cool guy.
And people like the fricking Vandals, I want nothing to do with. Here was this band stirring this up, and then someone got so upset with them at this show we played with them in a bad part of San Diego. And this black shaved-headed girl -- I don’t know if she was a skinhead or whatever -- she was like, “You guys suck!” And then the singer of The Vandals goes, “Well, we like Negro people.” And I was like, “Whoa, what did he just say?” And I thought everybody interpreted it as the other N word, which I hate. I hate that word.
What year was that?
Like ’88-’89. And so everybody interpreted it as that word, and then she slapped him, he slapped her back, friends got into it, and then the audience proceeded to kick the ass of the band and their roadies, chase them out of the club, and destroy all of their equipment. And while they were destroying the stuff, they were destroying the P.A., which was our P.A. It was like our monitors and all this stuff. And it just looked like “Apocalypse Now.” That was when I really wanted to pack it and go, “Why I am I in this band anymore? I’m going to go home, I’m done with this. I’ve made no money; this sucks.”
And literally there were streams of blood at this show apparently, and the police came because Tom called and said, “There’s a riot down there.” Then we were packing everything up and collecting what was left -- like 12 mics were stolen, a guitar cabinet was taken. I don’t know how so many people carried this mountain of stuff, if they carried it out the back door, but they did. It was a punk rock audience stealing shit from us, just taking what they could get. And we told The Vandals guys and they were like, “Oh man, I can’t believe this happened.” And I’m like, “You can’t believe this happened!? You ignorant assholes!” I’ve gone on record so many times when I hear people talking about how cool The Vandals are -- like, “Yeah, let me tell you how cool they are.” I have it in for those guys.
I’m a Vandals fan, so I’m hoping that’s the first line-up that did that. The first line-up I don’t much care for.
It was towards the end. It was when they started getting all goofy and doing like country kind of stuff. It was that line-up, yes. It wasn’t the original one, because I saw them all fucked up and giving people crap for being “Straight Edge” or whatever, which is like a fictional word. It shouldn’t even be in the dictionary. It’s a Minor Threat song. But they came to DC -- The Vandals and some other California band -- and they played a big show with some of the DC punk bands. And they were a goofy nonsense band.
And those were different guys?
Yeah, that was the original line-up.
Oh my God. That’s disturbing.
Yeah. Yeah. Then the one guy -- the drummer guy -- we knew him from another hardcore band at the time, and he was like, “Man, it was a punk rock thing; it was a joke.” And I was like, “Look, you’ve got a fucking swastika painted on the front of your drum!” And it was such a crazy, wild show. All that stuff got stolen, and the headliners – it was funny, and this shows you how stupid some of these bands can be -- the headliners were Angry Samoans. And I was anxious to see them and everything, and see what they were like. I heard all these goofy, dumb lyrics, but they’re really that dumb in person! Because they actually showed up when the show was over, thinking that it was a nighttime show. It was a matinee. It was like, oh my God, just really stupid.
And like I said, going back to the Bad Brains thing, people run out to see them, and I’ve known some friends who saw them recently, and I said I will never see them again. Because half the set, H.R.’s wearing a crash helmet or something, with a wireless mic, and he’s pulling out a Bible to talk to the audience. And it’s like, “Wait a minute! What’s up with that?” He hates what he does; he said it in an article. He’s like, “I’m not going to jump up and down and do back flips and all that.” And it’s like, “Well, that’s understandable, but at least like what’s you’re doing. Because if it looks like it pains you so much to do your old material, then don’t do it!” And I hate these punk rock reunions that are so just cash-ins for the money. I call them the ‘Punk Rock Helps Pay My Rent Reunion Tour.’
You put up a Facebook thing recently about old punk bands touring without their singers. I only know of two: Dead Kennedys and The Misfits.
The Misfits. Yes, that’s unbelievable in itself. I was thinking like, “Wait a minute.” Then Danzig’s deciding he’s going to do his tour. It’s like cash in, cash in. He hates doing that stuff! Everybody that does these things... I mean, I won’t go see the Dead Kennedys with Brandon Cruz or whatever. Why don’t they get H.R. to be in the Dead Kennedys or something? They played together a lot. But it’s so embarrassing that people do that. What if GI decided to tour without me? It’s like, “Whatever.” A portion of the people go see it because they like it musically and all that, but yet I know too so many people who are like, “Wait a minute!” I don’t understand that; you can’t do that.
Wait, that’s a question I have to ask you. I wrote something down. What is the Rollkicker Laydown EP?
Oh, oh. At the end of GI, we had a couple of songs -- and the original versions of them got put out finally on the “Complete History Vol. 2” in the live stuff. A song called “Rabbits” and a song called “The Land Of Me.” And at the time, everybody was kind of fed up with how Tom was. I mean, Tom would be a real jerk to everybody, and we were all not getting along. Mostly with Tom -- even roadies would be like, “Fuck you, Tom!” because they were pissed off with him. But at that point, he didn’t want to do the old material; he didn’t want to do old stuff. He really wanted to distance himself from the punk rock scene. He was being a real jerk to people. We’re good friends now, but that time was a bad time. People would always come up to me and be like, “Man, you’re such a great guy; you talk to me, you’re approachable. But why does your guitarist have to be such a dick?” And I’m like, “Look, he’s got things going on. I can’t defend him. I don’t know; we have different personalities.”
But yet, he wanted to do the final GI EP. And I said, “I know you want to go into the studio, but I don’t want to have anything to do with you.” And everybody was kind of fed up with it. And Pete and J. run into me in DC and say, “Tom knows you’re not into it, but he wants us to do this.” And finally, they decided, “What the hell, let’s do this.” That was J.’s sort of introduction to being frontman -- to go from that to Jawbox. And it was basically Pete, J. and Tom as a trio.
The only time they got to be a trio before was when I got attacked on stage in Milan by about a dozen speed freaks -- Manson worshippers with X’s carved in their foreheads -- because I sang to someone’s girlfriend or something. It was just all out of control. And the next night I was like, “I’m not doing the show. I’m shaken up. This is traumatic; this is fucked up.” I literally had these guys using my head for a soccer ball, and nobody was protecting me. It was ugly. I came out of it with cuts, scratches and bruises, and a lot of trauma and bad memories. And I’m just like, “We have a couple more shows to play in Italy, and I can’t do this.” Tom was like, “You’ll be fine; the show must go on” kind of thing. And some people understand that, like even my wife said, “You probably should have played the next show just to show that you were not going to cower to them.” And I was just like, “Whatever.” I was so burned and just freaked out by it that I couldn’t do it. So they went on and played as a trio. They did that and people were like, “Where’s Stabb?” And he’s like, “He caused this riot.” It was just like… oh my God, all a big mess. But that was the only other time they played as a trio.
So this Rollkicker Laydown EP -- did they put it out as a Government Issue record?
No, they didn’t at all. It just came out as Rollkicker Laydown. And what pissed me off about it in the long run was that I still see stickers in record stores that say “GI minus Stabb”. And it’s like, “No, no.” Like there’s something me and Tom did in like ’82 -- the Glee Club thing. That was something we did in between “Joy Ride” sessions. We did this really weird industrial Birthday Party/Killing Joke/post-Joy Division kind of thing, because we had material that we were thinking about putting on a GI record and then we thought, “This is too weird. We should put it out on something separately.” So Dutch East put it out and everything, and it’s out there, but I would never want that to say like “GI minus these persons” or something. Because we wanted to put it out strictly as something so apart that people wouldn’t think of who it was.
That’s one of the things I did in my last band; I was “John Schroeder.” I put it down as “John Schroeder” because I didn’t want people to hear this as something to do with GI. This was my band The Factory Incident. People were like, “This guy sounds a lot like Stabb from GI.” And then people were like, “It is him!” But I wanted the band to have people hear it for what it was. I didn’t want to be the guy that helped sell the record or anything. I was just like, “We’re all equal parts.” I realized that when I went out on a self-titled band tour called Stabb with a bunch of guys that were in my band Weatherhead down the line. We did half GI and half originals, and we did our own thing with the GI stuff that really pissed people off. Like we intro’d “Vanity Fare” with the introduction to “Run to the Hills” by Iron Maiden.
Some people laughed, and other people were like, “Why are you making fun of these great GI songs?” It was fun for us and everything, and then we were really pissed off. We did some of the most punk rock things in the world. Like people were like, “Play more GI!” “Well, no more GI. We could play more GI, but instead we’d just like to do an acapella version of ‘Beth’ for you.” And then we’d do this really bad, off-key “Beth, I hear you calling.” And some gigs, we’d appear there -- in Canada or somewhere -- and they’d book us as Government Issue. Our lame booking manager in Canada; he basically booked us like that. And we said, “Why do we come to this club booked as Government Issue?” And he said, “Well yeah, your band Stabb doesn’t have anything out yet and GI was known and everything, so I thought you guys would work it out or whatever.” And I’m like, “Yeah, but people wanted to kill us! Like, ‘You’re not GI!’”
What an asshole.
Yeah, what an asshole. Exactly. So we find that out, and we found out on a cross-country tour that that was going on. And we realized, “Okay, that’s been kind of bad. People hated us.” But then all of a sudden, these people started wanting to book us all over Canada. We kind of thought, “Let’s go with it - just have fun, play our own stuff, play our set and just milk it for what it’s worth.” And then we had some gigs in a little crappy club in Thunder Bay -- like Paul Shaffer from David Letterman’s band, his hometown. “We play this little club two nights in a row, and this guy puts us up in hotels with hot tubs and stuff so let’s just enjoy this, since we had such a miserable time going across country, and have fun with it.” And this guy thought he was going to make a fortune booking us as GI. When we played, this band that opened up was more popular than we were. They were like these kids from a music shop. They were called Problem Child, but they didn’t do AC/DC stuff -- they did all Black Crowes covers!
The people in this place were loving them -- all their friends and stuff. And then we played, and you could hear a pin drop. We just milked it for all it was worth; we just knew that people were going to be really pissed off. When we arrived in places in Toronto, I’d see a flyer outside the club that said “Government Issue,” the other band, and “Stabb.” And one guy who was helping us unload equipment goes, “What’s up? So where are the rest of the guys?” And I’m like, “You’re talking about GI, right? Well, there’s been a big misconception.” It was so frustrating. I had to go around making a banner with a written explanation for the door going, “Hi. The name of this band is Stabb. We feature one ex-member from Government Issue; his name is John Stabb. And we do half Government Issue material and half original material,” which was the kiss of death. We should have just done all originals. “So anybody that’s come down thinking this was Government Issue, I’m sorry. We apologize; we had nothing to do with it. It was this promoter.” And people still wanted us to be Government Issue, because it was me fronting the band and we were doing Government Issue songs. I realized doing this solo project is really, really tough.
And I don’t think I’ll ever do it again. I just like being part of a unit. I don’t want to be the person who just completely stands out, and have everybody fall behind me. We had the ultimate rock and roll breakup, this band Stabb. We were in the middle of a recording session in Toledo, Ohio and we got into a whole breakup thing. We were like “Fuck you!” “I don’t like you.” I don’t like YOU!” I never wanted to be in a band with you, and GI, and blah blah blah.” So much was put upon them because everywhere they went, they had my curse hanging over them. So I understand why we definitely had the ultimate rock and roll breakup. Down the line, we played like one little show or two as a showcase thing for Morphius Records in Baltimore. We went on, we played a few songs, we had fun with it. And it was like, “We all have our reasons why this band never did anything, and why we never played a DC show and we broke up.” But I definitely don’t want to have all these guys behind me and have to deal with all my bullshit from my past. So that’s always been something in the back of my head.
I’ve been in another band in clubs in town, and they say, “I like your band Betty Blue and that’s cool and everything, but who I really want to book is GI.” I’m thinking, “Man, why can’t I ever get away from the GI curse?” And I’m proud of all our accomplishments and everything else. People did that to Bob Mould for years, they’re like, “Sugar = ex-Husker Du.” And it’s always a sticker put on your record. Ian called it on my band Stabb at the time. Like, “You’re a sticker person, like ‘Featuring John Stabb.’” And I was like, “Yeah, because we’re not guys that are making tons of money. We didn’t do as well as you did with Dischord and stuff, and some of us had to do something different.” But now I realize it all comes back to that you should just do what you want to do. We’re doing this for fun, my new band called Sleeper Agent. And we’re doing stuff along the lines of Killing Joke meets Pixies or something.
I love Killing Joke, especially! And Pixies too.
We’ve got two covers, and we’ve got three or four originals. But everybody’s had different things on their plate, and we haven’t had a chance to practice as much as we wanted to. And it was just something that we wanted to do for the hell of it. I always love doing obscure covers in every band I’ve been in. We do “Kings And Queens” by Killing Joke, and we’re doing “Break My Body” by Pixies.
Nice! “Kings And Queens” is on “Night Time,” right?
Yeah. I’d love to see the original line-up. It’s nice that bands get back together and do these kinds of things. And if they put out new material, I support it all the way. TSOL, I supported their tour. And yeah, I know the drummer’s not the original guy, but the guy died. So that’s why they had to replace him, so I understand that. But TSOL without Jack -- that was tough to deal with. With that Joe Wood guy. I liked them musically. I supported them at the time when GI used to play shows with them. But now I look back and it’s like, “Man, he was the enemy. Jack was the real deal.” And it doesn’t matter; he’s got the voice. He’s a master entertainer; he can go up there and do a Las Vegas stand-up comedy show. He’s brilliant at what he does.
He sounded good in The Joykiller, too. Did you like that?
Oh, The Joykiller is awesome. I discovered that stuff fairly recently. When they first came out, I was like “Hmm…” I was stuck on TSOL. But then I hear these collections of their stuff, and it’s quite amazing stuff. I don’t care if it’s not TSOL. It’s really good power pop and all kinds of stuff. But so many bands come out with hardly any original members, and these are people that actually made their impact and stood out in the band. Like they’ve got The Who Tour, which is embarrassing -- taking a band that’s had so much history and so much respect, and then losing it all completely. It’s the Townsend and Daltrey Experience. And Robert Plant did it at first -- he was cashing in a bit -- but now more power to him for saying, “I don’t want to do this. I’m not going to.”
And the other guys are still going to do it!
I know! It’s so embarrassing. And I heard Steven Tyler was going to be tried out. Like, how are you going to have someone in this band who can’t even hit the high notes that Robert Plant couldn’t even hit at the end. And Queen with Paul Rodgers. It’s horrible --their song called “C-Lebrity”. They play it on the classic rock station that only plays old rock, and it’s the only thing they’ll play by a new band -- one that consists of geezers doing a new song.
I’ve heard that whole album. It doesn’t sound a bit like Queen. It sounds like the worst Bad Company album ever, which is like… all of them. I mean, I like the first couple, I’ll admit. But this album is hideous! The entire album is dogshit. Why bother? I know you were just saying, “Hey, if they bring out new material, I’ll support it.” But this is two guys from Queen and the guy from Bad Company.
I don’t know how they even remotely think the stuff is good enough to put out. They just want to play and they don’t want to drop the Queen name, because it’s established. It’s the same thing -- if I was a Guns N’ Roses fan, how could I even remotely think a record that Axl held from everybody for like 15 years is a great, fantastic album? And I’m like, “Tommy Stinson’s on it!?” What the hell is that about? He’s done some great stuff even outside of The Replacements. I liked Perfect, I liked Bash & Pop, and he’s great even solo. But it’s like, “Oh my God. What are you doing, Tommy?” It’s so embarrassing.
I know. I mean, the old Guns N’ Roses stuff – it’s good! Not great -
It’s okay. I remember when GI was all into it, and Pete Moffett went to see them on their first tour in DC. He said, “They’ve got this guy who sounds like Janis Joplin, and they were all strung out!” and he was all into that. And I was thinking, “Yeah, they’ve got a bunch of AC/DC licks.” Basically I could listen to their stuff any day of the week, but I can’t tolerate it with fucking Axl’s voice! And I’m a frontman, so people think, “You’re just jealous!” They hear me at work, and they’re like, “You’re jealous!” I’m like, “I can listen to them musically and I give them credit for what they’ve done, and they’re good musicians”.
But I’m not going to be like Henry, saying, “Morrissey sucks!” Yeah, Morrissey gets on your nerves too, like whiny and all that. But any day of the week I’d rather hear fucking Morrissey’s whiny voice than Axl -- or Bono, who gets on my fricking nerves. And any band like Pearl Jam. I can listen to Nirvana; Kurt Cobain doesn’t grate on me, but I don’t think a lot of their material is that great. I thought he had it in him to put out a really, really great album. There’s bits and pieces here and there; he could have had a great solo album. I’m still convinced that Courtney had him taken out. I think that will come out years from now. Hopefully she doesn’t die carrying that secret. I don’t think the guy committed suicide. I think he was desperate to divorce her and get custody of the kid and all that. Whatever. People are like, “Oh, conspiracy theories. You’re all about that, Stabb.” But it’s like, “No, you just don’t get it. You think the way you think, and that’s fine.” But yeah, I do have it in for bands that have such a horrible, annoying front person. Like Eddie Vedder.
Well, that’s probably why you couldn’t get into Led Zeppelin. I love Led Zeppelin, but my wife can’t stand them -- just because of Robert Plant.
Yeah, I agree. Musically, I’m glad that they’ve totally influenced so many bands to do what they’ve done. Like Naked Raygun have taken pieces here and there, Big Black -- all these bands are influenced by these sort of dinosaur bands. I’m glad that people have been influenced by GI or Minor Threat. But yet, if you don’t have a really good front person, with a voice or character or anything, it’s going to suck. And that’s the one thing I’ve always hated about so many bands. I’m not a musician so I can’t really tell, “Is this guitarist any good?” Well, Keanu Reeves can’t play a bass to save his life, but yet he’s in this band Dogstar because all these teenyboppers run out to see Keanu Reeves’ band. But when you get these band people that decide, “Well, I’m going to front the band” -- you’ve got like the fricking Misfits, and Dez Cadena does half the songs and then Jerry Only is the one doing the Glenn Danzig songs. And it’s like, “Whatever!” It’s embarrassing.
I had a feud with Danzig for years because one of the guys in Half Life was good friends with him and roadied for Samhain -- he’s like a big Misfits worshipper; he’s got the devilock -- but he would go back and tell Danzig, “John Stabb said this about you, Glenn,” and so did Barry Henssler from The Necros and Big Chief. And we played with them, and the guy’s a good, strong vocalist and he’s got a really good strong character, but I never liked any bands he’s been in because the band was horrible! And people are like, “The Misfits albums are great albums!” And I’m like, “What albums are you listening to!?” I think they’re one of the most overrated bands on the planet. I just don’t get why they decided to play thrash and jump on that bandwagon, and they didn’t do it well and were embarrassing at it.
And I loved The Misfits when they first started. It was kind of Doorsy and this and that, and then what happened? They saw that the Bad Brains’ career was taking off, and Minor Threat and the hardcore scene, and they went, “Well, now we have to speed up our material.” And that works if you have a drummer who can keep up with you, like if you get someone from Black Flag who can play thrash – Robo’s a great drummer for what he does. He does perfect rudimentary stuff for Black Flag, and it’s intense and all that. But we were always playing shows with The Misfits, and our running joke was “Wait up for Googy! Wait up for him! He’s still trying to catch up!” It’s embarrassing. So I saw them and I thought, “People like this shit!?”
I was almost like the black sheep guy in the punk scene because I wasn’t into these bands that a lot of people in the hardcore scene love to death. Like Discharge – we played a show with them. We opened up for them, and those guys aren’t exciting. They’re horrible! Here’s this frontman -- I could have seen where his footprints stood the entire night. I was always going out of my way, going, “Okay, these are the big rock star guys that everybody loves,” but if you were going to play a show back in that era, you’d better be exciting. You’d better really be jumping around and going crazy. And those guys -- I love listening to their records. I could see them in my mind jumping up and down or whatever. Then it was like, “Huh? What’s wrong with this picture?” They just stood still! It was just a bunch of noise.
And then The Misfits were a bunch of steroid freak weightlifting guys who thought that I looked goofy on stage in my clown outfit and makeup. That was my running thing -- my feud with Danzig -- because he would say, “You guys are cool. You guys are really great, but why does your singer have to dress up like a fucking clown?” And I’m thinking, “What? These guys are like rejects out of a Sabrina cartoon!” And he really wanted me to stop wearing goofy clothing.
That’s an interesting point, and I’ll tell you why. We’ll agree to disagree on The Misfits because I love The Misfits. However, a lot of people say the band Danzig takes it too seriously, whereas The Misfits had a sense of humor about it. But I don’t think they did!
No, they didn’t. Those comic book lyrics, he took it seriously. And he was a really morbid, depressed guy. One time he was walking around the supermarket going, “Don’t you ever feel like the human race just disgusts you, man? Like you want it wiped out?” And it’s like, “No, Glenn.” The guy just takes everything too fucking seriously. Not one iota of a sense of humor. I was amazed that I saw him do a voice-over on Aqua Teen Hunger Force. He did a Danzig voice-over, and I was like, “Wait a minute! Did he develop a sense of humor?”
Because the guy is so angry and so serious about his shit, yet he’s like a child. My friend Stain said Danzig is a huge sci-fi doll collector, and he goes to these conventions and is like a little nerd. But he doesn’t want to show that to people. Henry knows he’s pretty nerdy too. He’s the kind of guy that’s just really boring to hang out with, usually. He does his thing and listens to music or whatever, but he’s not an exciting guy to be around. And Henry knows that, and he makes fun of it and uses that in his standup and spoken word. Danzig’s a total dork -- a nerdy collector guy -- but he doesn’t want anybody to know that. He doesn’t want them seeing that he’s not this tough persona. He’s like Elvis from New Jersey; that’s what I thought.
Worse than even The Misfits lyrics were his solo lyrics. Songs like “Mother,” where all of a sudden he develops a backwoods swamp interpretation of words. The guy’s never done an honest day’s work in his life, and the other guys in The Misfits will say he’s really spoiled. His parents are fucking millionaires or something. He was always doing The Misfits, and silk screening t-shirts by the pool in the backyard. It’s ridiculous. The guy is a goofy nerd, but he doesn’t want people to see that. Seeing him get punched down by that guy in that video was amazing. It was one of the best things that probably could have ever happened to him.
I know! I saw that and what I thought was, “This is going to destroy him.” I mean, anyone else would be able to laugh it off, but Glenn Danzig!? That’s who he is -- the ‘tough guy’!
I even heard the show he played in Baltimore was so embarrassing that he fell off the stage, or walked off the stage accidentally or something. At one point he wanted to be Trent Reznor, wearing the leather and vinyl and all this stuff. Then the next day, he wants to be Jim Morrison. Whatever. Like Elvis Danzig or something. But I heard that he was such a fucking prick to his band he was playing with. He was yelling and screaming at the band before he went on, and then he went on and was basically kicking the guitarist in the back, saying, “What are you doing? What are you doing?” Maybe the band was totally disorganized, but his ego is so huge that he’s trying to beat up his own band. And it was like, “Wait a minute! What’s wrong with that picture?”
So I just found The Misfits a really bad band live. I thought some of their recordings were pretty good stuff, but I was never really into their albums, and I wasn’t into them fanatically the way Brian Baker and all these other people were so, so into them fanatically. The feud I had with him, people like Barry Henssler would tell him, “John Stabb’s making fun of you. He says that you wear a WWF wrestling belt.” Then he goes, “I told Glenn all the things you had to say.” And I’m like, “Well, thanks. Whatever.” And he goes, “And now he wants to kill you.”
And I’d hear it from other people. I had a girlfriend when GI was supposed to play a show one time with Samhain in Baltimore, and I put up all this promotion, flyers, told people about it. And all of a sudden, Danzig decided -- and it was probably because it was with GI, you know, with that clown guy -- he decided that he wanted to be the only band that night, like he would make all the money and whatever. And an old girlfriend said, “Just tell him that if GI would have been on the bill, there would have been a lot more people there.” So she went up to him and goes, “Hey, John Stabb said -” and then he goes, “John Stabb? Where is he? I’m going to kick his ass!” He was so pissed off with me just from other people telling him stuff. He has no fucking sense of humor. I find that flattering. I find it the highest form of compliment when you can satire or make fun of something. But if you have no sense of humor --uh-oh, you don’t want to do that. So for years he wanted to kill me.
And I wrote to him. Tom said, “Why don’t you just write him a letter, saying ‘You don’t even know me; why do you want to kill me?’” And I did. I said, “Look man, the only thing we have in common is we’re both vocalists in bands. We’re both front people. I’ve always thought you have a really good voice. You have a strong voice and character, but I just never liked the bands you were in. And you don’t even know me, and now you want to kill me. I’ve got better things to do with my life than worry about you.” And then I went back to my friend Mike and said, “Did he get my letter?” And he goes, “Yeah, he said, ‘John Stabb, John Stabb, whatever! Now the boy is writing me letters. Tell the boy to stop writing me letters!’” And I’m like, “All of a sudden, he thinks I worship him or something. Like I’m stalking him or something! What is wrong with this guy?”
I saw a recent interview with Jello Biafra where he was remembering back in the 80’s when Glenn Danzig wanted to kick his ass for stealing the song title “Halloween.” Like The Misfits invented Halloween!
Oh my God. Exactly! No sense of humor. The guy will go into a store, and I’ve known people who’ve said he wanted to kick their ass and take the records down if they’re selling a Misfits bootleg. He goes, “That’s mine, man! I’m taking it back!” It’s like, “Look man, that’s something you did. If people are doing that with your stuff, so what?” He’s a guy with no sense of humor. I don’t know if he’s developed one recently or something -- they used his characterization for Aqua Teen Hunger Force -- but I know back then he definitely did not. Maybe he just did it for a paycheck. And then he’s like, “I’m serious, man. I’ve got this comic book out.” I found a copy of one of his comic books and it’s embarrassing. It’s really terrible. It’s a sci-fi horror series, but it’s just like all his lame lyrics. Like, how can anyone take “Braineaters” seriously? I mean, these lyrics that he wrote!
I recently saw a band in a little club in Silver Spring, Maryland. It was a band called Death by Sexy that I’d heard about a lot, and I’d heard good things. So all of a sudden I see that it’s Halloween night and everybody’s dressed up, and they were dressed up as The Misfits. The singer guy had a goatee, and I’m thinking, “If you’re going to dress up as Danzig and wear a devilock, makeup, and your sleeveless black shirt, you’d better shave your facial hair.” Danzig would never go with that. He’s like a southern guy -- like Elvis, who he worships. But they played all Misfits covers. I've seen them recently and they're kind of glam-rock so the group were just doing the Misfits set for Halloween. And my wife and I were at the bar at the end of their set and people were not paying attention. Then I wondered if they're even going to do that silly song "Braineaters" when they stopped all of a sudden and started to chant "Brains for Breakfast/Brains for Lunch ..." and I go "Oh no, they're doing it". How could anyone checking out the Misfits take that shit seriously? I thought at the time that Death by Sexy were a Misfits tribute band and I have no time for that shit. I just don't get why people would want to see a bunch of musicians dress up & imitate another famous group. And I recently read a piece in a magazine that f'n Boston have replaced their singer and are touring again - ugh! Journey have found their next singer on Craigslist.
Like Judas Priest for a couple of years. And Yes is touring with a guy they found on YouTube, just because their singer was unavailable for one year. Unbelievable!
Exactly! I know. It was really funny; I was listening to this classic rock radio station, and the DJ was talking to a teenager at an outdoor arena show, and it was the first show she’d ever seen -- to see Journey and some other band. And I’m like, “The girl should just put a gun to her head now.” And the DJ said “Yeah, you’re going to have a great time. They’re really good!” And what it ended up being -- and how embarrassing is this -- their third wannabe singer guy Journey imitation guy that they were dealing with on the tour got sick and couldn’t play, so they had to find a singer from another Journey tribute band locally in the Virginia area!
And this is another reason why I think bands are so dishonest with their audiences. I hate U2 and here is why: Have you ever read that book "Until the End of the World" that the writer from Spin wrote? He writes about this whole U2 tour that Adam Clayton was pining away about getting dumped by super-model Naomi Campbell so he wouldn't play this big show in Germany. So they got a roadie, one of their f'n road crew, to play his bass parts with ski mask on to pretend it was their bassist. "Hey, on bass, Adam Clayton!" What a sham!
So U2 are touring with the Pixies, and I think they should be kissing the Pixies' boots every night for being great and not doing the kind of terrible material they've done for the last 25 years! But they had on the Pixies' dressing room a sticker that read: "U2 Support Act". They couldn't even give them a f'n sticker with their name on it?! And I’m thinking, “God, he’s a singer that I’d like to kill.” I will say this: I have respect for Larry Mullen, Jr. because my old bassist friend went to see U2 recently at a show in DC, and I said, “You went to see U2!?” And he goes, “Well, a friend of mine had free tickets and he wanted me to go with him, so I went.” And he said that when Bono started preaching and talking and talking and talking on stage that Larry put down his drumsticks, started looking at his watch, started looking around, whatever. Good for him, man. It’s just like, “Shut Bono up!” Then Bono looks over and goes, “Oh, Larry’s looking at his watch now, so I guess I’d better stop talking and start doing some music.”
And that’s what pissed me off about Jello Biafra. I mean, I was really a Jello Jr. worshipper and stuff early on, and then all of a sudden I saw when we played shows with them that 80% of the show was him trying to do a spoken word act. It’s like, “Shut up! When did this band turn into The Jello Biafra Experience?” And it did. And I understand why they think he ripped them off and why they might have screwed him over --whatever, I don’t know the details -- yet why would they ever even consider touring without their original frontman? They’re going to go tour again, and they got the guy from Dr. Know to front the band. And I know plenty of people who went to see it, friends of mine who were like, “Their music and their material’s just too good. I went because it’s East Bay Ray, and they played a great set.” But I’m like, “It wasn’t fucking Jello!”
Oh my God. Like I wouldn’t go see The Undertones because they didn’t do it with Feargal Sharkey, who apparently doesn’t want to do it. If he doesn’t want to do it, then why do it? And the Jam -- friends of mine all went to see this thing with the original members drummer Rick Buckler & bassist Bruce Foxton. But it wasn’t Paul Weller. Paul Weller hates The Jam. It pains him; you can see how much he hates The Jam’s songs. And my bassist friend said, “When I saw Paul Weller do his ‘Jam’ set up in New York -” -- apparently he did a three-night thing; he did his songs, he was doing Jam songs, and Style Council, which is like, “Style Council? Who would like that band? How could you even tolerate that?”
I gotta get off the phone. Three hours!
I gotta, too. I should have probably warned you.
Ha! It’s great, though. There is a lot of great stuff in here. It’s going to take a while to transcribe. Thank you so much!
Oh, man! You’re welcome.
Alright, and I just sent you a link -- I did an ‘interview’ with H.R. a few years ago -- to support what you were saying. You can read it in one minute, I think. Okay, so I’ll talk to you on Facebook.
Alright, man. Alright. Take care, Mark.
You too. Bye.
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