Category Archives: Interviews

“Strange Tales From The Doc” #15 Here’s a “special” one for Monday’s story. This is an interview I did with John Stabb, singer of Government Issue shortly after he was beat up and robbed on the way home from work while walking the streets of Washington, DC. Hope you enjoy!

“Strange Tales From The Doc” #13 Here’s a “special” one for Monday’s story. This is an interview I did with John Stabb, singer of Government Issue shortly after he was beat up and robbed on the way home from work while walking the streets of Washington, DC. Hope you enjoy!

“On the Couch with John Stabb”

> There are quite a lot of bands that I consider to be great but only a few that are “special” to me. Government Issue is one of those bands. I remember being 17 years old, living on my own, going to school (well sometimes) and starting out my day playing G.I.’s “Boycott Stabb” 12”. It was bands like Government Issue that kept me going when I could have very easily been depressed, unmotivated or bummed out. So it’s a great pleasure to not only be able to re-release some of my favorite songs from them but also be able to call John Stabb and Tom Lyle “friend”. When I heard that John was mugged and beat up pretty badly a few months ago I thought I’d ask him to do an interview. It took a while but here it is. Enjoy!

Doc: Wow, so many things to talk to you about John. Let’s start off with the
“bad” stuff first. It’s been all over the internet about your “mugging” last
month. Please, in detail, let us know exactly what happened that night. And what did they actually end up taking from you?

Stabb: Man, it’s like something out of a scary film! Let’s see … I was just walking home from work about 10:30 pm minding my own beeswax and out of the blue came 6 clean cut young black teens. They were laughing & seemed innocent enough but I soon discovered something much different. It was because none of them had hoods or masks on that I felt at ease until one of them got in my face. With the other 5 standing on a hill about 20 feet from me & this other guy trying to get my attention by bobbing and weaving like a boxer asking “Hey, what’s up? What’s up?”, I knew there was going to be trouble. I looked around trying to keep an eye on all these dudes and wondering who was going to try to jump me or if all of them would take turns. Then I got sucker punched by some person or persons. (It ended up to be just one dude but it sure felt like more than one guy) The fists felt like bricks against my face. But that’s not the first time I’d experienced something like this:
Years ago walking home late from club in WDC on a sidewalk, I got sucker punched for no particular reason by a young black dude & I was able to pick up my glasses & walk away with my bloody face swelling up so I felt like
Shit, this is happening to me again & it’s going to get worse”. So, as my
face was swelling up the size of a f’n honeydew melon & blood was pouring down my face, I swayed back (luckily not hitting the ground). I thought that I’d just been clocked by a few people but discovered it to be one guy. That was a rough night but nothing could compare to the one I was having on the night of 7/17/07.

My right eye was starting to seal up from this kid’s fists & my glasses were somewhere on the ground & this f’n bastard wasn’t leaving me alone. I knew my life was seriously in danger and had an idea: I put on my best psycho-face, pulled out my exact-o-knife from my back pocket and spoke a line I’d always wanted to use in case of something like this. “Have you ever had to beat the shit out of a bunch of dudes in lock-up so you wouldn’t be raped?!!”, I smiled through my gushing bloody mouth. One of the guys on the hill watching said “Hey, he’s got a knife”. Unfortunately this didn’t sway my attacker & the fucker proceeded to pick up some huge blocks of cement (our Condo-community’s pool had recently been rebuilt & cement wasn’t cleaned up) to throw with both of his hands at me. “Put down the knife, bitch!” the mother fucker yelled out at me several times. Seeing all these other guys (and I was pretty blind without my glasses!) around, I thought the best move would be to put the lame weapon away & maybe they would leave knowing my face was rearranged. But the attack dog on 2 legs rushed towards me & I ran to the middle of the street hoping the upcoming car would see me in it’s headlights & stop. I got punched one more time before I hit the pavement. The car stopped & the gang of thugs ran off laughing. The kind citizen called the police for me & another nice person lent me his cell phone to call my wife Mika at her work to tell her I’d just been attacked by a bunch of kids. And lucky for me, someone found my glasses on the ground fairly unscathed. I wasn’t really thinking too clearly because I’d just had the shit beaten out of me. I was definitely shaken up to say the least. The police officer showed up within minutes & took my report. I wasn’t robbed just used as a f’n human punching bag. I gave the cop a description of the young animals and he says “Oh, that sounds like the same description of the ones that just assaulted another man and robbed him 5 minutes ago just up the street from here”. That’s totally f’ed up! These kids were on an adrenaline rush or something. And I’m starting to think it was a gang initiation & I was the unlucky victim. I’m actually lucky the guy didn’t shoot me because I can live with a broken face. If this happened in a bad part of L.A., you’d probably be reading some kind of obituary for me.
I was on my way to be carted off in an ambulance to a local emergency hospital but there was a sudden stop up the road. My EMT groaned, “I really hate when they do this”. And I was more than curious. The EMT tells me they’ve been stopped by my cop on the side of the road & the officer wants me to identify a few guys in cuffs outside to see if they’re guys I recognize from my attack. What the fuck is that about? Like I want these guys to see me identifying them?!! I poked my head halfway through the window and told the cop “I honestly cannot tell you if these guys were the ones because they were clean cut young black teens. These guys don’t look like them to me”. And then I was off to the emergency center.
>

Doc: How has this changed you? Something similar happened to one of my friends many years ago (robbed and beat) and for months after that he was prejudice against blacks. And he was NOTHING like that to begin with. I guess that reaction would be normal. Has this changed your opinion of people based on their race?

Stabb:I guess I’d be lying if I said I haven’t suffered from a bit of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome but it’s probably not that surprising after being attacked. I’m a hell of a lot more cautious around folks now & I carry a much bigger knife (which I use as a box cutter at my job) in case anyone confronts me. I’m not about to have some mother fucker rearrange my mug again! It hasn’t changed my opinions against anyone for the color of their skin because I will never end up a racist. To me, you can be white, black, yellow, red, polka dot, whatever. That’s no reason to judge anyone. I just hope that all young folks stop thinking this shit is fun and the ones doing the damage are caught and locked up.
>

Doc: I guess one of the good things about this incident is the huge outpouring of support and concern from the punk community. I myself (as a record store) have had people mail me money from England and come into the store to donate to you for your hospital bills. That has to make you feel good.
>

Stabb: It has made my wife Mika and myself feel incredibly great deep inside every time we get another donation or caring word from someone. We had no idea how many people out there cared about the geezer from G.I.-ha! It’s the outpouring of love from some mighty caring individuals that we shall never forget. It really blows my mind how much everyone within the punk community or not has lent a helping hand to this injured man. We are truly grateful for your love.
>

Doc: And speaking of Hospital bills how is that going? Did you have any
insurance at all to help you out?
>

Stabb: The bills are almost finally paid after a handful of benefits, pay pal
donations and e bay auctions. I do have Blue Cross/Blue Shield from my workplace but it’s only covering half the debt. And we just couldn’t do it without the help of everyone out there. My face looks normal thanks to the talents of my oral surgeon and I’m happy to have the damned braces off my teeth! The running joke around my work was “Finally, we have a way to shut Stabb up”. Ha! But I came back from the surgery with braces and was talking up a storm … you can’t keep a good Stabb quiet-ha!
>

Doc: Have any of these people been caught?
>

Stabb: No, and even the police think the likelihood that this group of thugs will
ever be caught isn’t very likely. It would be great to have them locked up so they cannot do this shit again but it’s not going to keep me up at night thinking about it. I won’t be making their capture my life-long goal or anything. Life goes on, you know?
>

Doc: Okay, onto some other stuff! I do have one of the founding fathers of the early D.C. scene at my disposal after all. On that “note” do you think of yourself like that? A “founding father” of the D.C. Scene? I know there were many before you of course but in the history of Punk/Hardcore and the D.C. scene, what will the Books say about John Stabb? What should they say?
>

Stabb: I don’t feel like I helped impregnate the DC music scene so “founding
father” is a weird term. I’m happy to be one of the folks who helped get the WDC punk scene’s name out there to the world. But I’m certainly not going to go around informing people “Hey, don’t you know who I am?! I created the DC punk scene, man!”
And as far as what the books say about me or Government Issue, it’s up to them. But. that said, I actually feel a bit left out of the punk loop when I read a book on the Underground Music Scene and don’t even get a passing mention because they will always talk about another DC band … Minor Threat. Now I happen to love what Minor Threat did but G.I. did our time in the WDC punk scene and sometimes are overlooked. I still think so many of the 80’s punk bands are great so it’s a little disappointing to be dismissed like you never counted among them.
>
I don’t really care what they say as long as there’s some truth to their
research so a book like “American Hardcore” means nothing to me. And unlike Ian or Henry, I am very happy not to have the “figurehead” tag placed upon my name. I consider them both as friends but man do they get so much shit from folks. Some people have such high expectations about celebrities, musicians, actors, sports stars that nobody can live up to. I like having a “cult following” and not world stardom. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: “I’m just another bozo in a band”. And that’s good enough for me.
>

Doc: What got you, not only into Punk, but just music in general? Who was the first band (punk or otherwise) you saw?

>
Stabb: What originally got me into music was “The Monkees” because I was so into the old 60’s TV show when I was a wee lad. And of course, I had to own their “I’m not (Your Stepping Stone” single! My older sister was all about The Beatles, Beach Boys, Herman’s Hermits, and others and I went through her record collection at times. But “The Monkees” were my first real introduction to music. From there it delved into the silly teen pop of “The Partridge Family” (everyone knows I was a TV baby, right?) to the pretentious Dino-rock of “Led Zeppelin”. But I’d have to say that the Monkee’s “Stepping Stone” was my first into to Punk because (despite all the early WDC punk bands covering it years later) it’s a pretty big “Screw you for trying to string me around, girl!” song. And what got me into punk was the typical stuff that most 19 year old suburban males had to rebel against: snobby girls in designer jeans, mechanical bulls, preppies, and high school to name but a few. But remember this was the 80’s for me.

The first rock concert I went to was: Linda Ronstadt on her “Mad Love” album tour at the Capitol Center during the summer of ’79. I was just starting to get into underground music with bands like Blondie, The Stranglers, Talking Heads, and The Cars. I was so naive that I thought Linda Ronstadt had gone kind of punk because she was doing Elvis Costello covers. But the first punk gig I saw had to be Black Market Baby at the Psychedely. It was also the night a young angry 19 year old almost lost his virginity. And that’s all I’m going to say about that-ha!
>
Doc: Tell us about some of the early days of G.I.. How old were you at that
time? And what was it like hanging out at the Dischord House, recording with Don at Inner Ear and playing the 9:30 Club? Was there ever any sense that, nearly 30 years later anyone would give a damn?

Stabb: The early days of G.I. were some of the most treasured ones in my memory bank. It was a time of a handful of bands and friends all feeding off one another’s energies. We were all sharing something special that we called “HarD.C.ore”. After a few years, there were far more bands and people came & went. Different factions took place and the innocence of what we were all a part of was gone. It wasn’t the same close-knit connection and a lot of the fun of just hanging out disappeared.
I was 19 years old and just out of high school. A lot of us were close to the same age. I’m actually as old as Ian (MacKaye) and Henry Rollins. Those guys got immersed into the punk scene a bit earlier than me but I caught up pretty quickly-ha!

I was fortunate enough to not only hang out at Dischord House but also got to live with that group of punks for a brief time. When the house was initially forming, I wanted to live there but didn’t have the funds to pay for my room. Sab Grey of Iron Cross got my room in the Va group house and I will always wonder what it would’ve been like if I would’ve been one of the original tenants of the house. Instead, after my first punk group house nearby ended very badly (try having to go to court with your house mates after they commit assault & battery on you!), the good folks at Dischord House took me in. There was all of us (Ian, Eddie Janney, Jeff Nelson, Sab, Richard Moore and myself) staying up till the wee hours of the morning watching old reruns of “Perry Mason” & “Private Secretary” on the tube while sucking down 7-11 Big Gulps of Coke & Beef Bean and cheese burritos. It was the best of times, it was the beast of times-ha!

Recording with Don at Inner Ear has always been a joy. He’s the coolest engineer a musician could work with. Because “Legless Bull” was our very first Dischord session, things were tense for us kids. I can remember Me, Brian Gay, John Barry and Marc Alberstadt getting into silly arguments because we were in the studio with the mighty Ian was producing & Don recording us. This was also when Inner Ear Studios wasn’t the monster studio it is now. It was more like Don’s basement featuring a sound booth, microphones and kids toys strewn about the room. I actually did my vox in the washer/dryer room. The recording for “Boycott Stabb” was far more relaxed and quite a bit more fun. Ian’s producing was amazing and Don’s engineering brilliant!

Playing the old small 9:30 Club back then was one of the coolest things in the world! Stage dive heaven! Slam dancing galore! Some of my all-time greatest memories are buried in the ground where that building use to stand. It was my hangout, therapy session, and lifes blood all rolled into one. And at the time we were all so involved in the thing that I doubt any of us even remotely gave any thought of how we’d be remembered in the punk analogs. I think it’s cool that something I was fortunate enough to be a part of is thought of in such a lauded way. It’s nice to get some respect after all these years. I’m extremely proud of all I’ve accomplished with music but it ain’t over for this old punk yet-ha!

Doc: And what about the “movement” you, and others like Minor Threat helped to start: Straight Edge. I myself, in a big part due to you and Minor Threat, was Straight Edge for 7 years from about 20 to 27 or so. Do you feel any responsibility, even today, to stay on the straight and narrow or is that past history?

Stabb: I never felt like being straight in the punk scene was any way part of being in a movement. I get asked (and even harrassed by some idiot punk kids at times) about “Straightedge” quite a bit but it’s a fine Minor Threat song & that’s it. I never labeled myself this but was on an incredible natural adrenaline high at shows to ever want to ruin it with drugs. I left my “Dazed & Confused” years back at high school along with that awful Led Zeppelin film. I think folks have really blown the meaning of Ian’s song way out of proportion. This said, I do find it a monumental tragedy when you hear about young talented people such as Heath Ledger and Brad Renfro recently dying from drugs. I like a good fruity mixed drink now and again but I would never mix drinking and my punk rock back in my G.I. years. I knew people who would get stoned or trip on acid to G.I. and this blows my mind! Our shows were so intense and emotional that I could only imagine them to be terrifying on drugs. Unless you’re having to take some kind of meds (I take Paxil) for depression, anger or just helping you focus better on everyday things, drugs suck! I’m certainly not all fascist or militant about people who do them but I prefer not to be around those folks.
>
>
>Doc: I was lucky enough to see you guys in the early to mid 80’s at a small
> place called Oscar’s Cornhusker, Azusa, California with Uniform Choice. How was that tour? Did it meet expectations? Any cool or funny stories?

Stabb: That mini-tour that Mystic Records flew us out to California to do was a blast! Not only did we have a great photographer and lovely friend in SST Record’s own Naomi Petersen shooting us at gigs but hung out with all kinds of cool folks. Mystic Records head honcho Doug Moody couldn’t have been a nicer fella to us and his assistant Philco was generous to a fault. I’ve heard all of the horrible “dealing with Doug & Mystic” stories but they were very very good towards G.I. Mystic set us up with a handful of gigs, a driver with Winnebago, studio time, and great food!
I don’t have any major issues with the label in the long run. Doug regaled us with stories of his youth in the major label industry and all the bands he had first time original recordings of like: Suicidal Tendencies, Lone Justice, Guns “N” Roses, etc. He was a real sweet guy to listen to. We had a really enjoyable time hanging out in sleazy Hollywood and even went to a TV show taping (Tom & Lenny went to “The Price is Right” & Marc and I checked out “The Merv Griffin Show”). There was even some romance for me before we left … oh yeah!!! The only downside of that tour was having Lenny go through a bit of a nervous breakdown but it didn’t ruin our total experience.

Doc: Government Issue is still hugely popular today. Maybe even more so than when you were playing around? In my store and mail order people young and old are into G.I. No matter what age. Why do you think that is? Just good music or is it (Government Issue) just something you have to have in order to be “punk”? You know, you’re not cool unless you have: Circle Jerks, Ramones, Adolescents etc. Or is that even the case in your opinion? Has G.I. gotten it “Just Dues” in the Punk Scene?

Stabb: I couldn’t pinpoint a reason why folks dig G.I. maybe more now than when we were playing out. I’m always pretty blown away that G.I.’s fan base runs from as close as close to me as WDC to the outer reaches of Japan. It’s nice to be appreciated for something you put so much of your life’s blood into but that was never the reason I’ve been part of any group. I’ve always just done it for myself and if others enjoyed it than that’s cool. I don’t think people place G.I. in the leagues of say Circle Jerks, Ramones, Adolescents, etc. Bands such as these have a zillion times more popularity than a little group like Government Issue could ever come close to. Those would some pretty big combat boots to fill-ha!
I think after all these years that G.I. has definitely gotten their “just dues” by having a label such as Dr. Strange want to put out our material. The G.I. collections that y’all have released made people think about us again and that’s awesome. G.I. struggled their asses off back in the eighties so it’s nice to finally make a bit of a profit 19 years later. And when I come across a person placing G.I. on their favorites list, contacting me on an online site like Daghouse.com or Myspace or even approaching me in person to tell me how much the group means to them … it makes me feel good. I’m always about making an impact on people so I think I’ve accomplished that.
>

Doc: What’s your opinion on the value of some of these records today? Your “Legless Bull” 7″ goes for a small fortune. How does that make you feel? Flattered or angered that people actually pay that much for Punk record?

Stabb: It boggles the mind how much people will shell out for a piece of vinyl!!
I have seen “Legless Bull” go for as much as $300 on ebay and Minor Threat’s first “7” test pressing sell for a whopping $1200!!! That’s insane, man. It doesn’t anger me that someone is willing to pay that much for something I was part of so long ago. I still think it’s ridiculous that they’re doing that. I have never spent more than say $40 on some recording I felt was worth it to me to own. The collector’s market is a crazy world and it’s not my world. When I think about spending anywhere near the amounts that some kids do for a record, I’m reminded of the days I once spent being incredibly unemployed and having to accept public assistance. When you’re struggling you should never be too proud to accept any charity the government is willing to dole out. Money is a fleeting thing so you should only spend it on things you truly need. That’s not to say that treating yourself and your mate to a nice dinner, movie or gig now and then. That is, if it’s in your budget. My wife and 2 cats are the most important thing to me in my life, not a record.
>

>Doc: For right or wrong, singers always get all the attention in bands (and
> chicks?) but let us know a little about the other guys in G.I.. Tom Lyle is
> a lot like you in my opinion: A gracious, giving, level headed all around
> good guy. What of the others? Do you still have any contact with them?

Stabb: That may be right that the wacky front person gets the attention most of the time but someone has to make the band look good-ha! The bottom line is that front people are usually the focal points in bands because we are the biggest hams up there. When you put on a frenzied fun-filled intense flamboyant performance, you’re bound to stand out. Tom and I went through many years in G.I. wanting to tear each other apart but there was a lot of petty immaturity happening back then. I’m happy to say that Tom and I are good friends again, the way we first were when he joined G.I. He’s a great guy and an amazing musician! But don’t think that young Stabb got all the chicks back in G.I. because Tom was usually the one the girls went for. I was usually the guy they watched on stage with this “tortured nutlog” vibe and they were afraid of me after the gig. Tom didn’t chase after any of them but they sure went for him-ha!
Tom and I are extremely happily married so those, um, days are a thing of our sordid past-ha!

We both used to hear from Marc Alberstadt (who grew up close to me) but he’s kind of dropped out of the musical loop lately. Marc’s a great guy to hang with and talk about movies and music. Otherwise, the man’s a reserved quiet dude. John “God” Barry teaches at Townshend University and lives in the Baltimore-area. I’m happy to say that John and his wife Ditty plus Tom and his wife Kim, were all at my wedding. If I knew how to get a hold of other x-G.I.’s at the time, they would’ve been invited. I’m still in touch with J. Robbins and Peter Moffett who were both at my Government Re-Issue gig. They’re great guys as are anyone who spent time in the group.
>

>Doc: – I have to ask you because I’m asked this many times. With more bands reuniting than not: The Freeze, Bad Brains, Sham 69, etc. why not you? I know you would get a ton of people to go your gigs. What has stopped you?

Stabb: Tom and I discussed doing a reunion gig as a benefit for J. Robbins and his wife Janet Morgan’s baby who was born with Spinal Muscular Atrophy. I called Tom and said “You and I have always been violently opposed to ever doing a G.I. reunion (we were even asked to play one of the “Save CBGB’s” benefits and turned it down) because we wish to just move on and not take ten steps backwards but the only reason I would do it is to help raise money to help medical bills for J.’s son”. “I agree with you but I’d do it in a heartbeat to help J.’s son”, Tom answered. I even contacted Pete to see if he’d do it and he told me to ask J. if he’d be part of it because he would only do it with J., Tom, and me. I avoided contacting J. because I felt he had enough to deal with but Pete asked him. Apparently J. wouldn’t have been opposed to doing it but we discovered that in order to make it happen, we’d need to be f’n great! This would call for us to do some serious practicing time. What with Tom living in the Jersey area raising a daughter, Pete traveling across the world as a drum-tech for Dashboard Confessional, and J. seeking alternative medicines for his child … this was not to be. There was no way on earth we could do this half-assed so better not at all. It would’ve been a hell of a gig if it did happen, I tell you what-ha!

>
>Doc:- Speaking of music, what’s up with your newest band: Factory Incident?

Stabb: The Factory Incident lasted a good 5 years but are done making their post-punk noise. x-F.I. guitarist/best friend/best man at my wedding Karl Hill and I are getting together with a few other folks to see what gels.
I will tell you this: I’m extremely anxious to make some noise in front of people again!! I miss being part of a band but life’s been pretty busy lately. Mikastabb’s dying to see her crazy husband back on stage as she’s probably my biggest fan-ha!
>

Doc: – Tell us about life today for Stabb. I know you recently got married. No
> kids correct? What is an average day for you John? And what are your goals for tomorrow?

Stabb: I work in really cool hardware store so you could say I went “from hardcore to hardware”. Mikastabb and I love spending time with our little fuzzy 4-legged family: Cat-Astrophe & Whisper. They are our kids and play a huge part in our lives. We check out DVDs on Netflix and go to check out a band or 2 now and then. We’re very comfortable hanging at home watching a movie while our cats sleep nearby (or on us). Unlike the old days of having to check out so many bands during the week,
I don’t feel that need. When I was younger in the scene, I had (!!!) to check out every cool punk gig. It was my destiny-ha!

My goals these days are pretty simple ones (at least I hope they are):
To keep myself from ever getting into huge debt, complete my memoirs “The Sheer Terror of John Stabb”, form a publishing company with Mikastabb so we can release my book and any others we come up with, do a speaking tour a la Henry Rollins, have another band that records and plays out, be able to afford a house to raise a child with Mikastabb.

Thanks for the therapy session, Doc. Who should I mail the check to-ha!

Thanks again to John Stabb and all the great memories and music!
Doc
*Want more info on this story? e-mail me directly at drstrange@drstrange.com or if you want music, shirts, buttons etc… from this band or others, visit the world’s largest PUNK ROCK site at www.drstrange.com

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“Strange Tales From The Doc” #12 Hi Friends! Dr Strange here with a “bonus” story for you. I know it’s long but it’s one of my personal favorites. If you have time, please read it. Although it’s one day short of Veteran’s Day it is still important.

Hi Friends! Dr Strange here with a “bonus” story for you. I know it’s long but it’s one of my personal favorites. If you have time, please read it. Although it’s one day short of Veteran’s Day it is still important. This was done 6 years ago and originally ran in MRR Fanzine. Hope you enjoy…

I have a few of these old “On the Couch” interviews. This one, below, is good timing for Veteran’s Day.

“On the Couch” w/ Dr. Strange

I’ve been doing mail order for 19 years now and one of the best things about it is getting to know and meet new people from all over the world. I’ve actually been lucky enough to make “real” friends. You know people you call, visit and care about. And all because of selling records. In those 19 years we’ve dealt with several punks that are in the military but it hasn’t been until our (the U.S.) recent war in the Middle East that I actually started wondering, “Who are these people?”. “Why are they in the military?”. One thing specifically that got me wondering that was when I did a mass mail-out of the catalog. A couple of them, to people in the military, were sent back. All it said was “Not Claimed”. I wondered to myself, “Are they dead?”. That inspired me to get in touch with a newer customer of ours; Chris Dunn, who is in Iraq right now. I hope you’ll take the time to read what he has to say~

Okay Chris, for everyone out there, those of us who you are fighting for, tell us your: name, age, rank and where you are right now. –chris dunn, 26, specailist, we patrol the Wetsern Baghdad neighborhood of Amariyah. U.S. army infantry 1-5 cavalry
 

What initially made you want to join the Military and how long has it been? Was it for Education money? Patriotism? Gain Skills? A family history?

–Well I was having a long stretch of bad luck, that was lasting like 3 years. It got to the point were I was pawning everything I owned just to pay the bills. Then I had to start selling all my movies and worst of all my records. I knew I had to do something before I was out on the streets, so just said “fuck it” and made the drastic move to join the army. I just reached my 2 year mark.

Do you have any regrets? And when you signed up did you assume you were going to have to fight in a war?

–It’s hard to say I regret joining the army, like I said it helped me get back on my feet, and I knew I would be going to Iraq when I joined, I figured if I was going to go, I would want to be out there on the front lines rather than sitting behind a desk on base doing some boring bullshit.

How long have you been on tour for? Is this your first?

— Yup this is my first tour, we have been here a little over 10 months now and still have another 5 or so to go.

I hear in the News about all the hardships, atrocities, killings etc… that go on in Iraq on a daily basis. How do you deal with that? Do you separate yourself from Chris the “civilian” from Chris “the soldier”?

— I don’t seem to have a problem with dealing with what I’ve seen over here. The first few months all we were dealing with was sectarian violence. We were picking up dead bodies almost everyday some as many as 3-4 a day. We would find them everywhere; in the streets, sidewalks, trash piles. Some were decapitated, arms cut off, tied to trees with their head in their lap. Then it turned to attacking the Iraqi National Police that would patrol with us, they would set off the I.E.D.’s trying to get them, but hitting us at the same time. Then it turned to just attacking us, we were getting hit almost everyday for weeks, had a few close calls in my Bradley (tank) and then they started making them bigger and deadlier able to destroy Bradley’s and tanks. In may alone we lost 13 soldiers and they destroyed 6 Bradley’s and a few tanks. Our sector was becoming one of the worst. Lately the I.E.D. attacks have stopped a lot and now its snipers taking shots at us. We stay so busy doing patrols and such, were you gotta stay focused on a lot of your surroundings so we just don’t think to much about it. We joke around a lot in our platoon, and that helps keep you sane and in a good mood.

Man, I don’t know how I would be able to deal with just “seeing” the things you’ve seen (bodies etc…). You must have some pretty terrible nightmares… And what about you and your platoon. Have you personally had to kill anyone? What does that feel like? How have you, or your buddies, dealt with that?

— I haven’t had any nightmares or anything like that, you have to be strong mentally more than anything. We’ve had a few guys get sent home that couldn’t handle it. I personally haven’t killed anyone, shot my weapon once while we were guarding one of our combat outposts. We were taking shots from surrounding rooftops, once we started shooting back they took off. It’s really hard to know in an urban battlefield just how many casualties are out there.

What is a “normal” day like for you? What is your job and tell us how hot it gets over there. I’ve heard as much as 125+ degrees? Is that true?

— I drive a Bradley fighting vehicle. I have done dismount missions, clearing houses, and gunner on a Humvee. No such thing as a normal day here. Since bush’s new plan to put the troops out in sector living in these combat outpost in the middle of some of the more dangerous neighborhoods. We live in some lousy conditions a lot, sleeping in bombed out buildings no running water and using burn shitters, sleeping on cots, the ground. We rarely stay on base were we have a/c and comfy beds. Instead we are always out patrolling the streets, usually looking for I.E.D.’s and searching houses. Then we rotate with other platoons and pull security on the outpost. We also do a lot of q.r.f. missions (quick response force) where for 24 hours we have to wait around, if something happens in sector, we have to be ready in like 10 minutes to roll out. But we always get stuck also pulling security for barrier missions, where they go out and put concrete barriers and block off entire neighborhoods to reduce the flow of weapons and bombs into the area. So its rare we get much down time. yes it gets so fucking hot here, we have a huge thermometer in our Bradley and it usually stays around 140-150 in the Bradley.

You’re kidding? You have to live in the city? I just assumed you would go out on patrol but at the end of the day get to come back to your base. So you guys are sleeping in bombed out houses etc? Also, how many people are in a platoon? 8-10?

–We started to move out in sector around February. We have started 3 C.O.P.’s (combat out posts) some were nicer than others, our second one was nice cause it was in an Iraqi National Police compound, so we really didn’t have to do much to make it livable. The one we are at now has taken a lot of work, its a great building, cause its huge and its basically a bomb shelter, but someone had loaded it full of tires and burnt them inside, and there were 2 really bad decomposed bodies out back, so its been a long ordeal to get it cleaned out, painted the inside, and put cots and bunk beds and a/c. it’s come a long way. But when we were getting that building ready we would sleep in this bombed out building next to it, cause at least we had the breeze. But when you stay out there all you hear all day it gunshots and explosions all around you. About a month ago we split our infantry platoon and joined with the tank platoon, so now we roll out 2 tanks and 2 Bradley’s. We have now about 24 guys.

I would imagine (because that’s all I can do) that making friends with fellow soldiers may be kind of “odd”. I mean you have to have a good person watching your back for you but is there a sense of not wanting to get to close to someone in fear of that person getting killed? Has this happened to one of your buddies? How do you deal with that and do you ever feel “guilty” because it was him and not you?

— It is very odd, cause you are put with all these guys with all different backgrounds. Most of them are people you would never hang out with outside the army, but we all get along real good for the most part, there are some you don’t care for, but others you never thought with nothing in common that you would get along great. You can’t help but get close to them. Since I’ve been in for 2 years living in the barracks back in the states we have lived and worked with each other every day all day. So far in our battalion we have lost I think up to 15 or 16 now. We are actually having another memorial service tomorrowfor a guy in our company. Several have been friends, while the rest are people I’ve seen at work but didn’t really know to well, but it hits you hard never the less. One guy was my roommate back at fort hood. Yeah its tough, but we hear that we lost another soldier but then we have to roll right back out on mission, so you have to push it to the back of your mind so you can stay focused. Everyday we roll out you know it could be your turn, that’s why we joke around a lot, to take your mind off it. These terrorist have gotten damn good at hiding these bombs, and in our sector they are so big they take out Bradley’s and tanks. We had to stop rolling out in our Hummves. The longer we stay, the better insurgents we have created.

Are you worried that when you get back home this all may “hit” you at once? You know, when your mind starts to let it’s defenses down? And above you referred to them as “terrorists”. I’m still confused, thanks to the News, White House, etc… as to who we really are fighting there. Iraqi Nationalists who want us out, Al Queada, Iranians, men, women, children or a mix of all. Chris, help me out. Who are these people and why do they (really) want us out? Or do they?

–I’m sure there are genuine cases of P.T.S.D. (post tramatic stress disorder) but I think its B.S. that so many people try and use that as an excuse, it’s just people that were weak minded before they came here, they knew they were coming to war and now that they are here they cant handle it. Well there is definately Al Qaida here, our sector of Amariyah was a strong hold of them. I would agree that Iran is a huge part of a lot of the attacks, you talk to the locals and they all say that most of the I.E.D.’s in Baghdad come from Iran. I hate to say that kids and women are used a lot. We have found that Al Qaida was using kids age 9-16 to set off the I.E.D.’s. They would stand out in the street and wave at you, than as you turn the corner the kids would go back in the courtyards and watch for the antennas on the vehicles to pass a certain point and detonate the bomb. it’s a tough question on why, so many different terrorist factions have sprung up, its hard to say why.

In my first question I said that you were “fighting for us” back home. Do you agree with that? I know what the “higher-ups” have told you why you are there but why do YOU think you are there? Do others agree or disagree with your opinion?

–I honestly think it was a good idea to come here at first, but all we did was turn this country upside down, it came clear that Saddam was what these people needed, they respond to fear more than kindness. The Iraqi people try to carry on a normal life, but with the corruption within the Iraqi forces, I don’t see it being something we can fix. They want us to do most of the work for them, but its their country and they know it better than we do, so without their full support its almost impossible for us to fix it all for them. They are so terrified to tell us about the insurgents in the area, cause if they are seen helping us it puts them and their families in danger to be murdered. It’s basically a cat and mouse game we are playing. A lot of us feel the same. I totally agree we should just leave, they have lived with war and violence for centuries, it’s all they are used to. A few times we’ve had guys that wanted to show us were the Al-Qaida meets every week, but he wouldn’t go unless he had us treat him like a captive, he wanted to be zipped tied and blindfolded.

I’m sure you, and others over there as well, know that your country back home pretty much hates the President Bush (22% approval) and wants us out of Iraq. How does that make you feel? Is there a feeling of “Why even try”. And do you, as an extension of the U.S. Government, feel any responsibility or guilt for the situation that Iraq is in now?

–To me it’s just a job, I don’t pay to much attention to the politics of the war. In my opinion we are here for some hidden agenda, usually money, who knows. It’s a tuff situation, I think if we stop trying to win the hearts and minds of the locals, like I said earlier they respond to fear. There are locals that try hard to help us at the risk of their families life, tuff question. It’s hard, one day we lose 3 of our friends in an I.E.D. attack and a few days later we are having to pass out food to the locals in the same area. For the most part the Iraqi people are nice and like us there but they know what’s going on when Al-Qaida is planting bombs in the streets next to there house.

I hope that you and the troops know that even though the country is against the war they do (really) support you guys. Is there a feeling of understanding that the country supports the Troops but not the Governments policy? Or do you feel clumped into the same catagory? (of being disliked)?

–I agree with that, I feel a support for the troops, when I flew home for r & r in April, at the D.F.W. airport, there were hundreds of people cheering and giving us a standing ovation. That was kind of weird.
Was going into Iraq a mistake? Did we take our eye of the ball by not going in stronger into Afganistan as many have said? Where do you think Iraq, as a country, will be in 2 years? 5 years? 10 Years? Is there still hope for them?

–Like stated earlier, it was a good idea, but we made this country worse, at first they liked us around, they said they felt safer, but it started to get real bad again and the locals say its worse than when Saddam was in power. It will take a long time to fix this place, but it should be up to them. one problem is the corruption, I know in Western Baghdad, the Iraqi police hate the national police, and the national police hate the Iraqi army. They are all working for the same result, but it all goes back to the hatred between the Sunni and Shia tribes.

On that note, what would YOU do to fix it? If you were the “man in charge” starting today what would you do?

–I think I would just leave, I’m sorry we kinda fucked this place up, but if they cant unite and fix their own problems, there is no need to keep putting our lives in danger.

Okay, now onto a better topic; Punk Rock! You order a lot from my mail order (thanks by the way). How did you hear of Dr. Strange and how long have you been into Punk Rock? Name a few of your favorite bands.

–Well I think it was back in 2000, I came across a catalog of yours somehow, I ordered a few patches and some records, I remember I was pleased with the selection, and I got the stuff pretty quick. But I always liked to support the local record stores around town, plus its always fun to go record hunting, but sometimes they just don’t always have some of the old rare stuff all the time. So when I got to Iraq and had my debts paid it was time to rebuild my collection that I had to pawn. So I remembered Dr. Strange and haven’t found anywhere else I would buy my records online from. I was in high school and was into the whole headbanger metal scene, and a friend made me a punk comp tape, and immediately I was hooked, so I would say its been 12 years now. Naming my favorites would take forever, i love music so much, its a big part of my life. i go into phases where i will listen to several bands all the time, right now its been Poison Idea, Adolescents, Angry Samoans, Zero Boys, and the Feederz always playing.

I know you order on-line from Iraq and have your stuff sent home to Texas. I bet you can’t wait to get home. I’ve been to San Antonio, Texas. Where do you live and what do you miss most (besides family). What is your life like back home?

— Fuck man its going to be awesome to get back to all those records, I cant fuckin’ wait. I was born and raised in Austin, I miss going to the bars and clubs, I plan to go out a lot, I have a lot of catching up to do. Well now that I’m back on my feet financially, i can go back and do a lot of what I wasn’t able to do being so poor before. Just having fun. Being in Iraq has been good, its helped me realize a lot about what’s important in life and that’s having good friends, and having fun with what time you have in this life. Seeing the condition these people live in everyday, we as Americans take so much for granted it makes me sick, when you really get to see how a lot of these other countries live and survive you will think twice about what you complain and bitch about.

I couldn’t agree more! That’s my favorite part about going on vacation (to other countries). It really makes you appreciate how great the U.S. is. Not perfect but the best thing going in my opinion. Getting back to Iraq, have you met any other Punks over there?

–Unfortunately not. Rap and hip hop seem to be what everyone is into.

Are there any cool bands that go through or near your town? Who have you seen?

–I’ve been away for a few years, but it seems a lot of bands skip Austin, which sucks. Being born in ’81 I missed out on the great early hardcore scene. But I have managed to still see bands like the Circle Jerks, MDC, Cramps, Exploited, T.S.O.L. reunion show to name a few. Seen the Austin bands such as Lower Class Brats, Krum Bums. There are others but a lot of nights are real fuzzie and don’t remember a lot.

Hey Chris, I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to do this and more importantly, thank you (sincerely) for doing all you do over there. You’re in a hellish situation over there and right or wrong my hope is that it’s over soon and more importantly, we will learn from it and not repeat our mistakes in the future. I hope that the word “War” will eventually only be found in our history books instead of our present world. Keep your head low Chris!

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Interview With Doc Strange by Jasen T. Davis (March 2012)

Stolen From Jasen T. Davis’ Blog
I have a nightmare that in the future we will all only be able to buy music either online or at the mall. Deafened by stereo speakers blaring obnoxious pop, blinded by multiple screens replicating soulless videos, you will search hopelessly for real music from a collection dwindling with the passage of time like the English language in Orwell’s 1984. Why? Because enterprises like Dr. Strange Records won’t exist.

The building that is the physical representation of Dr. Strange Records was the first post office in Rancho Cucamonga 100 years ago. Located in the city’s old town, it’s a music store, punk museum, social center, clothing and accessory shop, and the very epitome of that corporate outlets like Virgin are not: a locale of wood, dust, grit, soul and history.

When you walk into the place you enter a store of wooden floors and plaster walls replete with posters and paraphernalia from punk bands both old and new. Rummaging through several used sections will reward you with solid gold: You can find crazy, obscure albums likeWakey Wakey by The Toy Dolls, Television’s Marquee Moon, and Coulda…Shoulda…Woulda by Black Market Baby.


William “Bill” Plaster is Dr. Strange, the man who runs the business that put the city of Rancho Cucamonga on the punk rock map. His office is a cold room where he runs his company, answering emails and shipping music all across the world.

I had to step over cartons of merchandise while Bill took a seat next to a computer that was probably manufactured in the mid-90’s to find a place to perform the interview. Between the posters, the cd’s, the shirts and other punk paraphenalia, it was difficult to tell which was merchandise and which was his.

“The online store keeps me busy,” he says. “It took three to four tries to get the website up. I used to do mail order with a typewriter. I’d retype it every month. Right now I’m sending a big package to a Russian embassy in Belgium. I send stuff to Tahiti, Croatia, Greece…any developed country, all over the world.”

The man who would be Dr. Strange got into new wave in the 80’s, as it bled into punk. “By my sophomore high school year I was listening to The Cars, Blondies, Devo, Oingo Boingo, then other bands like Black Flag, Stiff Little Fingers and The Circle Jerks.”

In 1988, Plaster was working his last “real” job as a waiter, going to Mt. San Antonio College and putting together a record label. “I didn’t do it for the money…I just wanted to pay rent, but I realized I had to put out a punk record before I died. I worked seven days a week, 12-16 hour days. I still wear a million hats. I’m the order guy, the label guy, the retail guy…”

1993 saw the rise of a dozen Inland Empire punk bands under the label of Dr. Strange Records. Groups such as Letseatlots, Guttermouth, Face to Face, Voodoo Glow Skulls, Golfball Liberation Front, and Mindless Thoughts were pushing the scene in a city that had never had one, playing at local venues like Spanky’s, Munchies and The Showcase Theatre. “Between 1991 and 1996, anything would sell. I fathered a lot of bands, mostly from around Rancho Cucamonga.”

Now, ten years later, Plaster has a history behind him and a future of doing what he loves ahead of him. His recent releases stand like menhirs in a punk rock Stonehenge:Coulda…Shoulda…Woulda by Black Market Baby, Killer on Craig’s List by The Texas Thieves, and The Golden Age of Piracy by The Skulls, to mention a few.

I tell Plaster about my nightmare, and how I feel the small chains are being ground under by the big ones. But even those big chains are being destroyed by the Internet in the form of Internet piracy. Virgin Megastores are going down in flames, so the smaller operations, owned by normal people who understand the art like Mr. Plaster, aren’t going to be able to take it for long.

“You’re 100% right. It’s cd burning that’s killing me.” The man known as Dr. Strange admits that it does hurt him. “Before it got big, I’d sell 10,000 copies of an album. Now, I can only sell 1,000.”

His record store is one of the many hardcore punk landmarks you can find throughout southern California. The business is more than just a place to find all things obscure (or place an order for what you want if Dr. Strange doesn’t have it), it’s also an inspiration to the future punk musicians living in the suburbs around the store that still believe in the old skool.



Because of that, Plaster is still proud to have the job he has.“I have been allowed to do what I truly love to do. I’m one of the few people who get up to go to work thinking, ‘I get to go to work!’”

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