Sean Saley

It’s all my uncle Mickey’s fault. Up until I was about 13 years old, my musical taste was pretty mainstream. It was 1980 and my uncle had started to discover bands that wouldn’t necessarily fully qualify as punk rock, but were at least off the beaten path. Iggy Pop solo material, the first B-52s album, The Plasmatics, etc. He introduced me to a few albums and got the ball rolling. The following year I entered high school and met the only two other kids in the entire school who were not “normies.” One was Doug Gillard, who went on to be the longtime guitarist for Guided By Voices. I’d go to his place and we would listen to bands like XTC and The Plastics. Groups skewed more toward the new wave end of the spectrum. The other guy I met was Fraser Sims. He was more into the harder-edged stuff like early Killing Joke and The Damned. Within the year, by late 1981, the two of us had discovered this new form of punk called hardcore and, that was it, I was hooked for life. We started making our way to stores and finding what were some of my earliest hardcore and punk rock purchases by bands like Dead Kennedys, Black Flag, The Fix, and compilation albums like Punk and Disorderly and This is Boston, Not LA. Then we caught wind that there were actually, gasp, punk bands and punk shows in Cleveland, about 30 miles to the northeast. Neither of us being old enough to drive, we would hop on a bus and go to the city. we met some other kids at a yearly event on the grounds of Case Western Reserve University called Studio-A-Rama… An all day, outdoor punk rock show. In the couple months leading up to that outing, Fraser, Doug, and I had formed a three piece band we called Burning Theater. We did our teenage best to ape bands like early Killing Joke and Gang of Four. But after the trip to Studio-A-Rama and getting to meet some actual punks while simultaneously being exposed to the harder shit, Fraser and I decided that what we were playing was too wimpy and we needed to speed things up make it sound angrier. We changed the name of the band to Starvation Army and became a hardcore band. When I listen back to that stuff these days I find it crude and chaotic even by today’s standards. By the summer of 82, we had met more people in our burgeoning little scene, including a huge group of kids who lived down in Akron, 50 miles to our southeast. Again, getting on a bus on a Friday afternoon, crashing down there at a punk flophouse, and taking a bus back home on Sunday evening. Starvation Army played its first “show” in a crusty old garage in Akron with a gravel floor for a gathering of about 20 punks. The ball was rolling and I never looked back. I had found my people, my music, and, more or less, my life. I even went on to have a short stint in a fairly well-known, arguably legendary DC punk band called Government Issue. Now it’s over 40 years later and little has changed. Obviously, my taste has expanded, but I still love hardcore and punk, still enjoy playing in those types of bands, and I’ll never grow out of it.

Bands I have played in – Pentagram, Government Issue, The Guns, Starvation Army, and most recently Hot Blood. The first punk show I went to was The X-Whites and The Adults (local bands), November 1981. I’ve worked at Record and Tape Exchange in College Park, MD and another record store, Phantasmagoria, in Wheaton, MD. I have also worked for Waxie Maxie’s Distribution Warehouse in DC. As far as punk movies go, I’m featured in a documentary about the early 80s Cleveland punk scene called “Cleveland’s Screaming.” It was made around 2005, but recently found its way to YouTube. I had a few punk rock pen-pals. Flipside hooked me up with a few people. I’m still friends with one of them, some 37 years later. These days I work for a large TV network / communications company in the Washington DC area. I’ve been married but am currently single and I have one cat. Punk rules.

One Comment
  1. Frank

    Awesome!! Dig around a little for that X-Whites 7″ on Eerie Records. Also, Sean appears on the double LP Guns retrospective on Smog Veil…

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