My family was the stereotypical northeast liberal family. Grandma served in WW2 w/ the WAVES (the Navy Women’s auxiliary force) and my Grandfather served in the US Coast Guard before getting a deferment since he was a dentist. My parents marched in candlelight vigils for civil rights in the 1960s & my Mom went to Antioch College. I was brought up to advocate for justice, honor union picket lines, and to never say the n-word. My family were and are Literature professors, English teachers, writers, poets, and librarians. My grandma taught me to back up my opinions, otherwise she’d destroy them with logic, facts, & a sharp tongue. Between that sense of right & wrong, wide-ranging voracious reading & learning, and a love of hard rock, I was primed for punk rock in the 1980s.
My 1st concert was to see Joan Jett & the Blackhearts in Philly in 1984. The Ramones opened- I recognized “Beat on the Brat” (it must’ve gotten some airplay on local rock radio WMMR because I hadn’t discovered WKDU Philly’s college station yet) but was there for Joan Jett, who was incredible. In high school all of my close friends were geeks and nerds, including the 3 punks in my class. An exchange student gave me a tape with Dead Milkmen “Big Lizard in my Back Yard” on one side and Sex Pistols “Never Mind The Bollocks” on the other, and that was it. My friends gave me more tapes, including “Let Them Eat Jellybeans” and I bought records by every band on Side 1 (the hardcore punk side).
My 1st punk show was 1986 at Grendel’s Lair on South Street in Philadelphia, PA (at the corner of 5th & South- last time I was there it was a cell phone store): Ruin, Electric Love Muffin, & Mr. Mehta. The 1st 2 bands were 2 of Philly’s best punk bands of the time (& Mr. Mehta wasn’t too bad either!), and their live sets were a revelation to me. Ruin is still easily a top 5 live band for me.
I never looked back, doing a zine called “Philly Zine” and then- after a 3 month collegiate career at Antioch College & stops in Chicago & New Haven- “Berkeley Sucks” fanzine out in Berkeley when I arrived there in June of 1989. A couple decades of volunteering at 924 Gilman followed, along with bands Blatz, The Gr’ups, The Criminals, The Frisk, The Pathogens, and now- in England- Scene Killers.
I joined radio station KALX in Berkeley, CA in 1991, first went on the air in 1992, did my last regular show there during lockdown 2020, so that’s 28 years on the air. I’m still a volunteer doing production work behind the scenes.
Punk has pushed me into public service as- ironically- a politician. Of course, being a Green Party politician means I didn’t get corporate funding like members of those other parties, so it hasn’t been all bribes and hookers. I did get to be elected and then re-elected twice by my fellow Berkeley residents and served on the Berkeley Rent Board for 10 years, trying my best to stem the tide of spiraling rents and rampant gentrification. Thanks to state law and sometimes hostile local business interests, we were only partially successful, but we did a lot of good and stopped Berkeley from being a carbon copy of the gentrified skeleton that used to be San Francisco.
This determination to fight for justice, equality and for the rights of non-millionaires to live where their families have lived for generations came in large part from the hands-on experience I had in punk- from squatting in Philly to fighting to keep 924 Gilman open in the face of an often-hostile bureaucracy and police force. 924 Gilman is actually directly responsible for me getting into local politics because our fights with the City showed me that there was a dearth of younger voices in local politics. My political allies encouraged me to volunteer for City Commissions and run for office. After a 1st failed run, my next 3 campaigns were all successful.
In the past I have worked for Lookout Records, Alternative Tentacles Records, Fat Wreck Chords, and my own label Zafio Records (with Kamala), Wooden Shoe Books & Records, a mall record store “Record World”, and Lookout Records. I started & ran Philly Zine & Berkeley Sucks, and wrote for Maximumrocknroll, Hit List, AMP, Shredding Paper, and… a few others. I did put on a show outside of Philly, 3 shows at Antioch College, and booked at 924 Gilman Street for a few years. I have been in a lot of documentaries, including Turn It Around. These days I work for Packaged Sounds- a UK & EU vinyl & CD manufacturer. I live in Nottingham England.