No Cause for Concern? Issue #9 | June 1984 | Page 12 | John Stabb Interview
Now that Minor Threat has broken up, John Stabb feels that GOVENMENT ISSUE will be the next big band from D.C. The way is clear for the "Masters of Disaster", the "Rock n Roll Maniacs".
Watch out, Ozzy!!!
[UPDATE: John Stabb continued in the music scene with a band called Factory Incident, more in "post-punk terriritory" than his previous stuff. Check them out on their mySpace page. He's followed that with a band called History Repeated [fb page here]
Update #2. John was interviewed again nearly 27 years later for No Cause for Concern? fanzine as it seemed appropriate to see what he's up to on the eve of Government Issue's reunion show taking place Friday, December 11, 2010, in Washington D.C. Click here to read the new interview.]
[Photo of John Stabb from the cover taken by Naomi Peterson]
DAVE: Why did you guys get together?
JOHN: We've been together for about four years now. When we first got together I was really influenced by the Dead Kennedys so that's where the whole political edge, the mock humour of "Legless Bull" came from. At that time I was really into that and it was something I was writing a lot about but now I write about things that go on around me more than about political stuff. I'm not going to write about politics if I don't really know what's going on. I'm not in the heart of El Salvadore so I'm not going to write about it. I write more on a gut level.
DAVE: So how do you feel about bands that don't live in El Salvador but all they talk about is things going on in El Salvador?
JOHN: There's a million band out there saying: "Fuck Reagan and we hate this and we hate that". I don't know. Bands like that are very politically oriented. I think Jello Biafra knows a lot about what's going on, he's very smart and very aware of the whole situation from being a really intelligent person but half those bands are bitching and moaning, they don't know what's going on. No one could really know what's going unless they were really there. They're just writing from an outsider's view. Basically I don't do that.
DAVE: But can you not respect a band that takes it from an outsiders point of view?
JOHN: Not really, I don't respect 'em. I think if bands sing about things they really know about then they're a good band, but bands that sing about things that are over their heads, I don't take seriously. I don't even pay any attention to...so that's that.
DAVE: Let's take a song that was on your first e.p. "Anarchy is Dead"--
JOHN: Take it! Just them them ALL. I don't want to hear 'em.
DAVE: A song like "Anarchy is Dead", that was about the time Crass started getting big--
JOHN: Everybody was treating them like a big deal When I heard them I thought this is just preaching on a record with very little music. Musically I guess they were "okay" but I just didn't get into them. They were just preaching so I just had to write a song about it. "Legless Bull" was taking everything I wanted to attack at that time (ages ago, thank god) and taking them for a ride. I saw this thing on 60 Minutes on cowboy fashion and I thought "What is this!? Five thousand dollars for a pair of boots? That'll make a good song. Jello Biafra would like it". So I came up with all these attack-type songs. "Fashionite" was attacking all those people that dress real fashionable. Most every song on that was an attack on certain things. That was when I was a "mad and angry youth".
DAVE: So is the John Stabb of 1981 any different from the John Stabb of 1983? Do you still hate the things in those eight or nine songs or have you mellowed out a bit?
JOHN: I think basically I've learned to accept them. It was at a time when I was picking certain things out and attacking. I really didn't have anything to say. Today, there's a lot of things that get on my nerves, I work in a record store and people drive you up the wall over there but you have to deal with it. It's your job and you work. Little things that irritate me shouldn't make a good song. I write more on inner emotions now. At that point I was into the whole punk rock thing. I was like "Yeah! Punk rock!" I was Sid Vicious or something, I don't know. I was into the whole look, the acting, the whole bit... The fishhawk I had that wasn't even a mohawk it was a fishhawk.
DAVE: What was that?
JOHN: It was off to the side somewhere and had a thousand different colours in it. I used to dye my hair with crazy colour and shit. I've done probably everything in the world to my hair that a person could have done.
So basically those songs and that whole period was a whole different thing. I'm real real hard on myself when it comes to the past 'cause I've done so many stupid things in the past. There's a lot of things that I've regretted and would like to forget but there's a lot of good memories back then too. And a lot of the whole e.p. thing, I thought I was just trying too hard. When we first came and did that in the studio we were really into that "fast" thing. We said "Let's make an e.p. that can be FASTER than the Bad Brains" and that's our goal on the e.p. That's why the songs are like [snaps his fingers quickly]. One guy wrote a review that I thought was the best review in the world in "Offense" magazine that said "If you blink you'll miss three songs. This material is original but so is a fart". That one I like. That's one of my favorite reviews.
DAVE: If you could go back two years ago--
JOHN: I wouldn't.
DAVE: I was going to ask was would you have done it any different. Would the music be any different?
JOHN: I don't know. I could be reincarnated as an ant and get stepped on by some punk rocker. I don't know what could have happened.
DAVE: You were talking about how you deal with things from a gut emotion, a song like "No Way Out"--
JOHN: That was like another commentary on what was going on. There was a guy that held himself up in Georgetown and he had just robbed this pizza parlor and there were like helicopters and everything out to get him. I thought I'd write a song from the guy's point of view. That song wasn't about things that are about myself, I don't rob banks or anything, I'm no outlaw.
Most every song I've done in the past few years when Brian Baker was with us have been a piece of me. Every show that we've played at in that period when he joined the band was pretty much a different little piece of me at the shows. Whether it was a good show or not, it was definitely a real intense part of me. There's been certain time where I've gotten so into a song where it's taken me a couple of minutes to get back into things. Last year when we did California, Frisco, we were into mocking people I was dressing psychadellic and trying to mess with people and their minds. They hated the Misfits for dressing differently so they didn't like us. They thought "Oh, you guys look too normal. You're from D.C., you're supposed to have shaved heads and are supposed to be mean and scream and shout, beat your head against a wall or something". We didn't do that. We looked pretty normal except for a certain person that dressed in paisley vests and things like that. People were throwing things at me and stuff and I never even realized it. After the show Scream -- who played with us -- said "fuck, all those people throwing shit at you, they were throwing bottles at you!" and I didn't know what was going on.
DAVE: Going through all the different changes you've gone through, with the hairstyles, the paisley vests and other things--
DAVE: We weren't supposed to say the paisley vests belonged to you.
JOHN: No! It was Sky Saxon. He made a special appearance at our shows in San Francisco. He came up and wanted me to have his Godchild.
DAVE: So what you've been saying for the past few years, like "Look at Me"--
DAVE: Like "Asshole", could part of it be about you.
JOHN: Um, no. That song was written about people beating other people up at shows that didn't know anything about it. It still goes on today where a spectator will be there and somebody will bump into him and he'll think "I'm into this whole punk rock thing" and they'll start pounding on someone and think it's slam dancing. What they're really doing is just beating up people. That's what that song was about. I've written songs about myself but "Asshole" wasn't one of them.
I need to have the band as a total outlet to a lot of things, to what goes on around me and my work situation. And I've got so much feelings. When I was in high school I was a pretty quite, nerdy-type person. I was like wearing highwaters and shit and wasn't into the whole "high school" thing. I always hated school and I'd get really bad grades. At that time I was really into the commercial bullshit that was on the radio but only because if you hear something enough it gets indented into your mind. It's like brainwashing, so sure I listened to Boston and Skynyrd and shit like that but all that time I was thinking there's got to be something better that this shit so I started listening to things that were pretty obscure. My whole school life and my whole childhood has been such a head-case type thing. I used to get beat up at school all the time. I used to be the kid that they used to pick on. I never had any going-out type dates, relationships. Anything like that I was just not into, I was just too sky and I never had a way to express myself at all. All this shit that is all build up now is from my childhood, it's from my school days.
DAVE: So it's like "I'm attacking everything I can see that bothered me then"?
JOHN: That's the way it was when "Legless Bull" came out. Now it's like I have to say these things. I have to get on stage and do this. It's my way of expressing things that go on around me. I have no other way to do it. I'm not a real artistic person and I'm not musically coordinated either. I tried to play the drums in the early days and I couldn't do it. I was supposed to be the drummer for "The Stabb" which was the G.I.s at first but it didn't turn out.
DAVE: The nickname did.
JOHN: Yeah, that whole history. I could go into a whole family tree. It's like, do you want the paperback version or the hardcover version? It's pretty confusing but I could be as brief as possible.
DAVE: Go ahead.
John: Okay, nobody sleep right now 'cause it's gong to be pretty brief. I basically started out -- like I said -- I was really into the whole Dead Kennedys thing. They were a band that had a big huge influence on me and I wanted to "attack" a lot of things.
DAVE: That's cool.
JOHN: What do you have, ten hours on the tape? Okay, and when I was getting out of high school I was just getting into that stuff and the whole punk rock thing never appealed to me. I was as naive as the next fool. I didn't know what was going on. Punk rock was like "Quincy" or CHiPs" episodes or something. The exploitation shit you see on TV.
[Here John goes into the band history then after about three minutes he says: "Wait, this is a mess. Start all over. I fucked myself up. It started out me and Pete got together and formed a band and I was going to be on drums and he was going to be singing and playing guitar. This is the synopsis, this is the paperback version. Short and sweet. That last version was WRONG. I fucked up, okay?" The next version took fifteen minutes so Dave drew up a family tree for your convenience.]
JOHN: Let's go on to something more interesting.
DAVE: Let's talk about Canada.
DAVE: Yeah, to see how the G.I.s can possibly relate to Canada. What do you know about Canada off the top of your head.
JOHN: Well, my impression is they all drink a lot of beer and go "eh? eh?" like Bob and Doug MacKenzie. Do they all look like that over there or what!?! I don't know. I was talking to Biscuits who is from Canada and he has thee biggest Canadian accent and he'd be saying "[makes up something Chuck Biscuits would say with a strange accent with lots of 'eh's thrown in but it doesn't come through in print]". I can't figure out if it's "eh" as in E-H or "eh" as in (A) (anarchy symbol) 'cause everyone's into anarchy over they, eh, eh? Let's get a brew, eh?
DAVE: The reason I asked is because people might wonder why we'd have an interview with John Stabb from D.C. in a Canadian magazine. The purpose of that is that hopefully one day the G.I.s would make it to our fair country.
JOHN: That would be great. That would be really great if we could get everything together and come out of it in the clear instead of getting ripped off which has happened to us too many times. We've been treated not too kindly on our tour exploits because people take advantage of us. So we just need a big guy that looks like Doug MacKenzie to come up with us and everything will be okay.
DAVE: What do you see the G.I.s doing through 1984?
JOHN: I see them going to make a movie with Roger Coreman, the genius of all time who made such movies as "Little Shop of Horrors", "Buckets of Blood" and "Sky Troop Attack" with a high school ski team on a budget of ten dollars. And I see the G.I.s making incredible new rock videos such as "Happy People" which has already been done and being signed to MTV ("Happy People" is a song on "Boycott"). That record has gotten us very good reviews and all but it's terrible. It's got some of the gayest vocals I've ever heard in my life. Anything I've done before or after is better than those vocals. The production isn't too keen. We're going into the studio real soon -- like January 13th -- and we're going to record a lot of new stuff. It's going to be sixteen tracks and we'll blow Ozzy off the map.