Craig White

I got called a poser by an older kid for wearing a Baja surf hoodie I got on vacation when I was in the 6th grade. I didn’t even know what poser meant, but it was said in a very derogatory tone. When I looked up what it meant I was like, huh? Really? As silly as it sounds, as a very young person just starting to realize my own individuality, It really affected me, making me super self conscious about how I represented myself, and stuck with me for a long, long time. Years later I actually became really good friends with the guy who said it, and when I told him about it, he didn’t remember it at all.

It was around this time, in the very, very early 80’s that I was starting to discover music. My cousins turned me on to Kiss, but a friend’s brother had a wicked record collection that intrigued me to no end. The early Scorpions and Van Halen record really appealed to me. I would stare at the covers for hours. They looked so tough and heavy with their long hair and leather pants…. The brother was a jerk though, so when he wasn’t home, we would sneakily tape his records by putting a portable cassette recorder up to the stereo speaker. The speaker was right next to the laundry room though, so sometimes his mom would be washing clothes, and the sound of the washing machine would bleed into the recording. To this day when I hear Grinder by Judas Priest, I still hear the rumble of the dryer in my head, and the finishing buzz during the solo! 

The first record that I ever bought with my own money was Iron Maiden. They were way heavier and rougher looking than Van Halen. They were too heavy for the older kids, so it was almost like I discovered them myself. My parents were pretty straight laced, so I felt like I was going to get in trouble for listening to them; another running theme throughout my life.. the element of danger.

While it fit the Iron Maiden guys perfectly, tight leather pants, bandanas and long hair did not suit me. Not only did I not want the attention of standing out like a sore thumb, I just couldn’t back it up. It was that poser thing again. I loved the music and the attitude, but the look was just not for me. As time moved on, heavy metal fashion was eventually (begrudgingly) accepted by popular culture, but by then it represented something else, and it wasn’t the music. It was fashion.

My uncle was doing a late night radio show on the Cal Berkeley campus, KALX on Saturday nights, and he was playing a lot of standard college radio fare, but was also playing some very early punk records too. I remember he had a record by a band called Black Flag. The first time he played it for me, I couldn’t understand any of the words, except for “SIX PACK!”

I was in.

It was just as heavy, if not heavier than the stuff I was listening to, but was way more visceral and dangerous; like a fight caught on tape. When I got the chance to read the lyrics, I was amazed that they were singing about being broke, and drinking a six pack! It wasn’t some elaborate tale of dungeons and dragons, or some cheesy love story, these guys were singing about real life. 

I needed more.

The next record I heard along these lines was Love Canal by Flipper, particularly the song Ha Ha Ha. It talked about going to a cheap motel and “getting all gushy and wet.” I knew I’d get busted for sure if my mom heard me listening to that one. Luckily the Sony Walkman had just come out, and I could listen to this stuff privately, which I did every chance I got.

The first full album I got my hands on was Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables by The Dead Kennedys. This one was from a totally different galaxy from the others, and bit me right on my young ass. It was way faster than the others. I remember thinking it sounded like sped up jazz! Most of the songs were way too political for me at the time, (I wasn’t even in high school yet) but I remember the lyric “I’m looking forward to death” hit me pretty hard. I played that tape until it couldn’t be played anymore! I was told they were “too new wave” by people I was hanging around at the time, so I knew at a pretty early age that I would be walking a lonely road.

Then, one fateful night, I was spending the night at another uncle’s house watching horror movies. He had a huge record collection, and a really nice stereo system. After some pestering, he let me carefully rifle through them. This was the night that changed everything forever. First I found the compilation album Hell Comes To Your House (with Christian Death, 45 Grave and Social Distortion, among others.) Next was City Baby Attacked By Rats by Charged G.B.H., Group Sex by The Circle Jerks, and the first album by Minor Threat. With his help, we recorded these all onto 1 tape that I bought especially for this occasion: it was 60 minutes on each side. (I still have it to this day!) 

I was in heaven, but the one hit the hardest was a very no frills looking gray covered record called Milo Goes To College by a band called Descendents. I knew right away that this one spoke to me in a different way than the others. They were singing about their feelings. I could very much relate to this, because I was starting to have feelings too. Right off the bat “Parents! Why won’t they shut up?” Ha! Right? Shut the fuck up! I’m Not A Loser? You’re right. I’m NOT a loser! Thank you! And then it just took off from there. When I finally saw a picture of them, I was surprised to see that they were 4 normal looking guys; no spiked hair, no tattoos.. the singer even wore glasses! A rock singer with glasses… They were the band for me.

The lesson they were teaching me so early on was that I didn’t have to feel like a poser to be a punk. I could be myself, and it would all be ok. Punks came in all shapes and sizes, and individuality was encouraged. 

When I got to high school, I had a couple good friends who were into the same things I was, music being the main one. (Two of these guys are still my best friends today.). We were skaters, which fell right in line with the counterculture I was discovering; it went hand in hand.

This is about the time that I started going to shows. My first punk show was at The Farm in San Francisco; It was The Adolescents with Verbal Abuse and Doggy Style. I paid for a guy I worked with and his sister to get in because he had a car, and was willing to drive. Once the music started, it all just felt so right. It was crazy and intense, people going nuts! I jumped into the pit, I went to the front and sang along, I even did a stage dive. (This was when it was still ok to do so, ha ha!). I was hooked. I still have The Adolescents shirt I bought that night… From that day forth, I went to as many shows as I could.

The more shows I went to, the more I realized, hey, we could do this too!. We found some old used instruments, and senior year, we started our first band, Public Interest. We weren’t doing anything particularly noteworthy, and weren’t even very good, but we did do a ripper version of Nena’s (via 7Seconds) 99 Red Balloons, and had a lot of fun. 

Playing in a band totally opened my eyes and ears to all forms of music, and increased my perception and appreciation for art. I studied music in college for a while, but ultimately finished with a degree in art.

Today I’m in my 50’s, and now I’m the one with the big record collection. I still go to as many shows as I can, but tend to stay away from the pit. Punk rock has always been an excellent vehicle for letting off steam and getting aggressions out, but as I’ve gotten older, and my musical tastes have changed and expanded, it’s the sensibility of punk that has remained, and colored everything along the way. Most importantly though, it has served as a reminder to stay humble. Over the years it has always kept me grounded, focused and real. Wherever I may be, It’s the real me. The ethos that punk has taught me has taken me far in life, and will be with me forever, because at the end of the day, what defines you isn’t what your hair looks like, it’s what’s inside your head, and more importantly, your heart.

PS I inherited those big 4 records many years later… 😉

In addition to Public Interest, I was in the bands Here Kitty Kitty and Tune in Tokyo

I have worked for kVp Records: I put out 2 Power Electronics cassettes: Dodssang Tempel – s/t (2019) and Rust Worship – Perpetuality (2020)

These days I work as an x-ray tech in the East Bay in Northern California, and am married with a 15 year old son.

  1. naes

    What a poser! 🙂
    Hi Craig

    • ssilk


    • ssilk

      When are you going to tell me your story?

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