My punk rock origin story is probably shared (at least in part) by quite a few others – not only in the area where I live, but other cities and regions as well.
I grew up in Oxnard, California – a beach town sixty miles northwest and a world away from Los Angeles. At the time, the local economy was in large part driven by agriculture and the military, with not much for teenagers to do if you weren’t that into school activities or team sports. My friends and I were (lower?) middle-class kids that spent a lot of time outdoors, initially riding BMX bikes and looking for adventure in the lemon groves that surrounded our neighborhoods, then getting heavily into the skateboarding scene of the mid-70s. We rarely had much money in our pockets, but we listened to LA rock radio stations and would buy records at K-Mart – initially singles by Queen and Elton John, and graduating to LPs from the likes of KISS, Ted Nugent and Aerosmith. These became the first soundtracks for our skate sessions, which from day-to-day involved homemade ramps, drainage ditches, empty backyard pools or just curbs we found in nearby parking lots.
When Oxnard got its own skatepark – The Endless Wave – it brought together skate tribes from all over the area, along with well-known heroes like the Dogtown crew from Santa Monica/Venice. The performance bar was continually being raised, and the music fueling the skaters needed to match the energy, adrenaline and guts required to progress. I had sounds going through my head that had nothing to do with keyboards (Kansas, Styx) or lengthy, polished guitar solos (Boston), and everything to do with distortion and fast(er) drumbeats. I’d sit on my floor on Sundays reading the Calendar section of the LA Times and wondering what bands like The Germs, The Weirdos and X sounded like. All it took was a mention of KROQ and Rodney on the ROQ to begin connecting the dots.
Picture this if you will: a less-than-cool, shy teenage kid with little to do on weekend nights trying to find 106.7 FM on the dial of a tiny radio on my bedroom desk, managing to locate the station with a pretty weak signal coming from 65 miles away, and straining through the static to hear Rodney talk about the bands he was about to play. What I could make out, I liked. A lot.
Flash forward to early 1982 and I’m now surfing daily at our heavily localized beaches and trying to figure out college, while making occasional forays into the San Fernando Valley in a VW van to collect records from Black Flag, Circle Jerks, Adolescents, etc, along with the latest issues of Flipside fanzine. The punk scene that would eventually become Nardcore was forming in our area, and Circle One was scheduled to play with three other bands (including Agression and Ill Repute) at a community center less than three miles from my house. This would be my first punk gig. I went there – alone – and sat against a wall trying not to appear scared as a bunch of punks who looked nearly as menacing as Circle One singer John Macias patrolled the small room and went absolutely nuts in the pit. But I dug what I heard and saw that night – the uncertainty, unpredictability and undercurrent of danger gave me the same feelings I’d often had when I encountered a huge vert ramp or confronted a big wave for the first time.
For the next five-plus years, I was all in. I met tons of interesting people and many lifelong friends, some of whom eventually became amazingly successful and some who – sadly – passed away. I went to hundreds of shows both big and small. I roadied for my friends in Nardcore bands, published a few issues of my own zine while contributing gig reviews to Flipside, and brought headlining acts (DOA, Social Distortion, 7 Seconds, DRI, Vandals and more) to Oxnard for a series of very successful shows.
My friends and I largely steered clear of or ignored mindless violence in the scene – something that maybe leaves us with better memories of the “good old days” than some might have. We felt a bit of pride and vindication when Nirvana and others broke big in ’91, then again when Green Day, Rancid and The Offspring blew up in ’94-‘95. The head scratcher? NOFX – their early shows in LA showed absolutely no promise of what they’d eventually become.
Nowadays, I’m still out and about supporting friends’ bands and even attend festivals from time to time. I like venues that have places to sit. How and why did someone like me get wrapped up in all this? Maybe my story above provides some insight. But really, why ask why?
These days I live in Camarillo, CA with my wife and our two black cats. For the past 20 years+, I’ve worked in Digital Product Management for various companies.
(This portrait is painted in gouache and acrylic gouache on 8″x10″ black watercolor paper. SS – Oct. 2, 2021)