My only parent was an unwed single mother at 15, and had my younger brother and I in the late 70s. We never met our “father” or any of his family, but I have been told that he tried to kidnap us once. My mom was very active in the nascent Lexington, KY scene and pretty frequently dragged us to shows that I don’t remember, but after becoming a born-again christian in the early 80’s these became exclusively religious performances. She would still let us stay up late on Sunday nights to watch the British programming that was just starting to show up on cable, specifically Monty Python and The Young Ones. I even dressed up as Vivian- a character from the latter show- for halloween once. This is my first remembered exposure to punk generally speaking, and I assumed that Motorhead was therefore punk rock as they had been on that show.
The stress of being such a young single parent who lived with her kids in her grandparent’s unconditioned attic while attending college and working full time (all credit to her for being a bust ass individual and teaching me a work ethic) led to her putting both myself, and a few years later my brother, in an inpatient psychiatric hospital for children where I stayed for a year and a half until my insurance ran out at the age of 12. I don’t blame her for this per se, but I have never forgiven her for having done so. While I was in there I was never given a diagnosis, but had been suspected of being schizophrenic, manic-depressive (back before bipolar) and a few other things, and my release from inpatient coincided with a decision by my mom’s insurer to not pay for me to be committed to a real mental hospital- it wasn’t because I ‘got better.’ We were just normal kids made feral due to a lack of supervision- not insane or degenerate. Upon my release, I was compelled to attend twice-weekly psychotherapy sessions and a couple of stints of outpatient treatment while they tried to find out ‘what was wrong’ with me. I was only able to eventually escape this situation by turning 18 and being permitted to cancel my ‘treatment.’ Although I was never a popular kid before, the baggage of having been in a mental institution for so long really made things more difficult than ever once I was discharged. I was constantly bullied, name-called and beat up, and unfortunately my brother was also by association. This led me to being a part of a very small group of similar people, held together mostly by a common love of chain smoking behind one of their garages, role-playing games and horror movies. As a kid, my musical preferences were mostly things with a strong beat- Miami Sound Machine, Herbie Hancock, disco and dance music etc, and I had played classical music in school orchestra for my entire life. Hanging out with the D&D kids exposed me to the Misfits, and they rapidly became something that I listened to a lot, along with Metallica and other early metal, but I never realized that they were punk rock. It just didn’t occur to me that this band was a part of a larger thing- I figured it was just early Danzig. I wore out my cassette copy of “Collection 2” in a year’s time.
This was the state of things until about my sophomore year of high school. My best friend played bass in the school jazz band and I ‘cello in the orchestra, but we really spent most of our time skipping school and hanging out at the guitar store in a nearby shopping center, failing in an attempt to play Primus. Once, while walking to the vending machines in front of a grocery store but across the back parking lot of the guitar store, I happened to look inside a dumpster (my mom, before she was ‘born again’ when we were kids, had us dumpster diving and walking on railroad tracks and all kinds of questionable shit) and saw a LOT of records. Jumping in, I decided that a lot of them were crap that I wasn’t interested in, but a 7″ record by (what I later learned was the local Lexington punk rock legends the Active Ingredients) caught my eye with a song called “I hate MTV.” Snagging this, I found several other interesting-looking albums- some Bonnie Tyler, Wham and the like: along with Milo Goes to College by the Descendents, the Loud Blaring Punk Rock LP by Peter and the Test-Tube Babies and a few others. I already had a record player because I listened to a lot of my grandparent’s classical and disco type stuff, but I was blown away by the Descendents and devoured those albums- teaching myself to play bass in the process as I played along. Being a morose, moody and bullied high school kid, the Descendents really made a huge impression on me. As I was also REALLY into a German industrial band called KMFDM at the time and going to all-ages techno night at a local club each weekend. I started frequenting a record store and slowly accumulating more music- a lot of KMFDM vinyl, but more Descendents albums, Misfits stuff and the like, NoFX and a few other bands- I loved NoFX’s song titles, and to this day really can not stomach slow music because of how fast I felt NoFX was.
My buddies and I started going to local shows -not just punk shows- as they would be in the same venue before the techno overnights, and buying a ticket for one got us both events. We did this pretty much every weekend, rain, sleet, snow or shine, walking miles in the process (this was before anyone had a car and getting rides from parents was usually lame.) I think that my first was for a Lexington band called Groovezilla- a band that combined metal and funk, which was unusual for the time. As my bass player buddy had gone to a different middle school than I did he had a separate group of friends that attended a different high school than we did. Some of them were in a band called Ten Foot Pole (not the nationally popular band of the same name) that covered, among all of their original music, “Ugly” by Fishbone- they were my introduction to Ska, or skacore, or whatever.
It was the early 90’s and the second wave of punk was building steam. Some of my highschool friends were starting punk bands but it never really made an impression to be a thing for me: it is what my friends did, and I came out to shows to support my friends. Punk just wasn’t what I was. By this point I considered myself a metalhead/industrial type of person more than anything else: my wardrobe was almost exclusively KMFDM shirts (with an odd GWAR shirt here and there,) black cutoff cargo pants, over-the calf black socks, ten inch black lineman’s boots (I wear the same style of boots in daily life to this day,) a black trench coat that I had decorated with ivy leaves and braids using a liquid paper pen, and a mohawk that I usually had died red, maroon or black (I was born with platinum blonde hair and it never grew back blonde after I died it the first time.) I did not consider myself to be a punk.
After one of my good friends’ band, the Infected, made the transition from being considered ‘kinderpunk’ (as they had derisively been labeled once) to ‘real’ punk once the ‘real punks’ realized that anyone writing lyrics such as “fuck feeling blue, fuck falling in love, fuck hanging on so long – I will dwell in my addiction until I find perfection” as croaked by a drug-addicted teenage runaway lead singer, I started having some interactions with Lexington’s adult punk scene- usually very negative ones as the ‘real’ punks thought that the ‘highschool punks’ were a joke and disdained us. I got into more than one fistfight with drunk dudes twice my age, but usually we never saw them at our shows.
The pattern was usually this: a couple of the highschool bands would open for one of the local ‘real’ punk bands or a touring act. The show would be half-empty with kids while our bands played, but once the big band showed up the ‘real’ punks would come out in force, acting like assholes and being really shitty. There was a ‘real punk’ local band, however, whose members were actually really cool people- Ungrateful.
They played what would now be called grindcore or something similar, but as the only album that they put out was called “Southside Lexington Hardcore,” I assumed that was what they were- hardcore- and that all harder punk was just that. Hanging out with them exposed me more broadly to more extreme music, such as Disrupt, Retribution, the Varukers and especially Crass. Crass became the foundation to almost all of my ethics and beliefs and contributed significantly to my atheism.
Between my junior and senior years of high school I shot up something like ten inches in one summer (I very painfully hit 6’2″) and suddenly people stopped picking on me: quite the opposite, I was suddenly regarded with some weird kind of reverence. Most of the younger kids acted like I walked on water. I was in my first punk band as a bassist, writing my first songs and skipped the last half of each school day to hang out downtown. At the time, Lexington was infested with runaways, squatters, hippies, rainbows and traveling punks. I felt more comfortable chilling with them than I did at home or with my friends (excepting those who also fell into this culture, of course.) I started hanging out with this squatter girl who went by Dizzy and we hit it off pretty well. To this day, one of the most romantic memories of my life is sitting under an awning at a McDonald’s spanging with Dizzy, taking turns spitting on the ceiling and catching each other’s loogies with our own mouth. We dated for a brief period of time but stayed cool afterwards. My time with her, however, had an incredibly oversized influence on me by filling in a lot of the gaps around my punk knowledge- somehow I had gone all of this time not having heard the Ramones, Operation Ivy or regarding Rancid as anything other than “mall punk.” Some dude took her, and by extension me, to see the Ramones and the Supersuckers in Louisville and I suppose that this was my first “real” punk show, other than local events. Later that summer I saw Rancid live and totally changed my mind about them.
Dizzy and I were looking through records one day and she pointed out to me the “Fuck Nazi Sympathy” 7″ by Aus Rotten. Lexington, in addition to having a problem with hippies, was also in the midst of a nazi epidemic. I had some first-hand experience with those dudes and they were total assholes, so I bought the record. It completely changed my life. I went back and bought “The System Works… For Them” by the same, the Oi Polloi/Blownapart Bastards split 7,” “No Future No Hope” by Defiance and a lot of other hardcore punk and leaned hard in that direction- more and more left.
By this point, I had dropped out of high school and was living in a cheap apartment- number 6 in the basement- with a “magic using satanist” death metal dude that my brother had met in the mental institution. As a joke, my bass player best friend had nailed two more sixes to the door and the rest of my life was born: we were Apartment 666. Almost every night was a drunken or LSD influenced spot of madness- much to the chagrin of my bass playing friend, who was not edge but sober (“straight-edge is a recovery process from addiction, and I have never done drugs at all” he said once) and we frequently recorded really bad songs with a cassette player, synth, bass or whatever was on hand. I met the woman that I would eventually marry and have kids with during this time: she was a teenage runaway from very rural KY and I was so nervous
that I had to get the lead singer of the Infected to break the ice, but it worked out well. It is fair to say that this experiment with adulthood died a painful death at my eviction party- we literally ripped the panels off the walls and the doors off the hinges at Apartment 666. In Lexington, as an aside, to be a punk there were two unwritten rules: The first and most important was that no matter what you looked like, how you dressed, who you hung out with or anything you were NEVER A PUNK. You never, ever, claim to be a punk. You just like the music. There was an exception: the EBP’s, a subgroup who dressed constantly in stereotypical punk gear, down to the spikes and studs, and CONSTANTLY CLAIMED TO BE TRVE PVNX. Rule two was that your favorite band could NEVER BE A PUNK BAND. You always actually like Bauhaus, or Megadeth, or some other band: never the band on your shirt or your patches. Some time in the late 90’s, I guess, by these rules I became a punk. If anyone would ask me if I was a punk- I would vociferously deny it. How could I be a punk? Look at my KMFDM shirt- they are really not a punk band. Doesn’t matter if I have a Rancid back patch on my trenchcoat- I AM NOT A PUNK.
So I guess this is about when I became a punk.
After a stint living with, and breaking up with, my girlfriend whom I would eventually marry, I moved into the back room at my mom’s new place after a brief stint in jail, across the street from where we grew up in the attic. My hippie younger brother had the actual bedroom. This house had a garage, and my bass player best friend and I jammed a lot as I learned to play drums on a set mutted together from a few old drum kits, a ride, a high-hat and several parking signs as cymbals. We recorded a really bad EP featuring Fruitbat on vocals and a cover of “She Drives Me Crazy” by FYC the night before my bass player left on a trip to attempt to move to Scotland.
When he came back a few months later we got back into jamming, starting to write actual songs in some kind of funk-metal-punk kind of thing and it went nowhere, as he was also in the local band Deep 13 and took it a lot more seriously. Members of Deep 13 would later found Eugene Records, which was Central KY’s main label/organizer/etc for the late 90s and into the 2010s. About that time, some of his other friends were organizing a show that the Hookers were going to be playing and asked us if we wanted to start a band so they could have an opening act. We got together, and after briefly calling ourselves Nole’s Hemorrhoids we settled back into being Apartment 666. We played that show, then many more. The complications of me having a kid with my ex (and marrying her,) along with a general breakdown of our social group in late 1999,
led to me and my new family moving to the middle of nowhere over 100 miles away and going non-contact with my former peer group in an effort to ‘change my ways.’ I wanted to try adulting “for real.”
After about a year I started hanging out with my old bandmates again, and this led to us regrouping and playing many more shows as Apartment 666. I set up a recording studio, first in a spare bedroom in the house, and then in our garage, where the plan was to record our first “actual album.” Life had other plans: first, the singer quit in some kind of coke binge, then the guitar player quit to move to California and be the lap pet of a chick called Devil Doll or something. My bass player and I attempted to go on, first soliciting other vocalists to join, then with me trying to move to guitar and find a drummer, but this failed and that was that. We recorded some songs together, but the dedication needed to keep a band going couldn’t be found due to adult responsibilities and eventually that equipment got sold.
My wife, the kids and I moved to Evansville, Indiana for some unexplainable reason and, while there, I attempted to get involved with that scene and start a band. That town was notably hostile to people that they didn’t go to high school with and, while trying to start a band was hard, having anything other than a fast food job was even harder. After a few years of attempts while that scene died, we moved back to rural Kentucky. I once more set up a studio, but by this point it was for show. I never recorded anything again- not for lack of want, but because you lose a lot of skill and speed playing drums if you can’t practice frequently and it is mega frustrating to not be as good as you used to be. The magic of being in an actual band was so much more to me that playing by myself was at best musical masturbation and completely unfulfilling. One day I realized that I hadn’t touched my drums in over a year while I was busy with full time work and tech school, so I packed them up and never touched them again. I ended up selling them to my brother so his phenomenally talented stepson could have a drum set. That kid is much better at drums than I will ever be.
Actual adulthood made anything similar to being in a band- especially one where I was more than 100 miles away from everyone else- almost impossible, but my ethical point of view did not lend itself into being in a city. My wife and I eventually went even more extreme in the opposite direction, living in a couple of very old campers in the middle of a field that we bought on a land contract in an effort to establish an off-grid, DIY organic farm. We have since built a house and a farm and are in the process of going 100% self-sufficient.
My politics never changed- if anything, I have become a radical evangelical anarcho-communist and wife and kids are somewhere nearby this point of view. I can single-handedly credit finding those records in a dumpster on Southland Drive in mid 90s Lexington, Kentucky for making me the punk that I am today.
My first punk gig was probably Ten Foot Pole opening for the Blue Meanies (local) or the Ramones (big time) I have worked on the fanzine Up! You Worms and Floor Sweepings.
I have booked and set up many local shows. I have volunteered at local gigs such as bouncing at shows and being a roadie/squathouse operator/etc. These days I work in an extremely specialized part of the HVAC industry to support my off grid farm in the middle of nowhere, Kentucky. I am a married father of two adults who are both well-ingrained with punk rock.