the most important rule.
- Leeds, 1981 [photo via H. Hellinga’s flickr]
"Why talk about sex and violence and food in songs?" Blag says. "For most of millennia music was transmitted around a camp fire along with drama and religion. There were tribal things. All anyone talked about was sex or violence- Killing an antelope, fucking a fair maiden, the gods fucking a fair maiden and creating a steer. All of music, all of drama, comes from the center of sex and violence. It’s what the human condition is."
So how did you get into the whole punk-rock scene?
Here’s how it happened for me: when I was a little kid in the early ’70s I would listen to the radio and back then the radio was integrated, which it is not anymore, which is really sad, and you’d hear the O’JAYS do “Back Stabbers” and “Love Train” and then you’d hear Elton John do “Crocodile Rock.” I just liked the pop songs on the radio ‘cause they were good. And then I got a little older and more sophisticated I started getting into Broadway show tunes and things that had stories and things that had variations and I got into things like Frank Zappa and these things that were more almost like novelty music, and if something wasn’t really sophisticated it didn’t really catch my eye at that point. And then when I was 14, we moved and I started school in Illinois and I didn’t have any friends there, I didn’t know anybody there, I didn’t know how anybody did anything. But I’d already started smoking weed and started going downtown and listen to records. So the first day I went to school, I stuck out my thumb and I started hitchhiking and this kid picked me up, he was a senior in high school and he said, “Hey man, nobody hitchhikes around here, I don’t know what you’re doing.” And I was like, “Fuck, all right.” And this guy became my friend and in one week he played me the Nuggets record which was the original ‘60s record with THE SEEDS and THE STANDELLS and all these obscure ‘60s bands. This was 1980. And then he played me this record by Eddie Cochran and another record by Gene Vincent, so I discovered rockabilly. Then I remember at the end of that week we went to the movies and we saw a movie called The Decline Of Western Civilization. So basically in one week I learned about ’60s punk, rockabilly and hardcore and I hadn’t really known these things existed so this is the story of my rock band experience. For me it’s always been part of the same thing. If you grew up in California, it’s, “Oh man, it’s the mods versus the rockers versus the skinheads versus the punks,” but if you grow up in a place like Illinois, we were just happy to have anything that was different. To me it was like I happened to meet these people who were into cool music and underground shit. Remember there was no internet, there was nobody to tell you about it. You had to go find it on your own. But for me, I sort of got the whole story in one week, like this is all part of the same thing; it doesn’t really matter what kind of clothes you’re wearing or what you’re doing, it’s all youth culture or rock ‘n’ roll. It was all kinda tied together for me. So I would go downtown to see all the early punk bands at the beginning of hardcore but I didn’t fit in with that, I didn’t wear their pants, I didn’t shave my head, I wasn’t part of it. And at the same time I would go see Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry. They were still out there and there would be all these- what you’d now call retro people- but we called them Potsies ‘cause they looked like people from Happy Days, but I didn’t fit in with them either. And then I’d go to the ’60s punk shows that would occasionally happen, like THE FUZZTONES and didn’t wear the right uniform. So we were always a band that had its own identity and didn’t really struggle with trying to fit in. It made it hard to market the band. Guys like Fat Mike would tell me, “You guys are a garage band.” And then guys from garage bands would say, “You guys go too fast, you’re like a hardcore band.” And then other people would go, “Fuck you, you stopped in the middle of a sentence saying a Captain Beefheart song a cappella. What the fuck are you?” A lot of times in a place like California or Manhattan or I guess now it would be Brooklyn, if you get these places that are a hotbed of a certain activity, it breeds this hive mentality.