It took me 3 months to write this Against Me! feature (posted friday). I had spent some time with Tom and Co. in Austin during SXSW. We ‘hung out’ at the No Idea party where we watched the Draft and Chuck Ragan play. I had made a bet with Warren against James that Chuck and the Draft would join forces and do a Hot Water Music song. James was adamant that it wouldn’t happen, he had that twinkle like he knew but Warren and I were so convinced. Blinded by our love of HWM I guess. James was right. The Draft played their last drunken song, thanked all the other bands but Chuck and got drunkenly off the stage. It was like being at a party with a pair of divorced parents and their new love interests. Tom was friendly, though weary of my journalist swagger I suppose. Hows he supposed to know I’m a super fan? I wasn’t swooning. (visibly)
The reason the feature took me so long was because when I interviewed him I was looking for revelation. Some sort of punk rock reasoning behind all their decisions leading up to that point. He said one thing that conceded all the rhetoric, “We’re a rock band.” Explaining that punk rock in its facile philosophy was binding and didn’t allow for expansion outside the ‘box,’ of expectation. People talk shit about AM! and their politics, screaming sell-out. And MRR, a zine’ I’ve always respected, declares a fatwa, but if you listen to the lyrics of New Wave, the dude is lambasting the system he’s become a part of – isn’t that what punk rock has become? ‘Punk Rock’ ceased to be a social movement dictated by music and fashion in 1982. ‘Punk’ as a statement, or a genre tag, or something you use to describe something irreverent is still culturally significant. What are punk rock ethics? Is it some sort of instilled integrity from listening to Minor Threat and The Clash? Pointedly away from that nihilism of notables like GG Allen, Sex Pistols and to an extent Iggy and the Stooges? Somewhere along the line there is something that has informed me. Something that I see as the structure of what punk rock is. There is the DIY aspect of all punk rock before 1990. Before it became easier to be heard across multiple platforms. Those bands from Our Band Could Be Your Life, traveling across the country, where they were basically traveling bums playing instruments. The true spirit of the troubadour.
Against Me! paid their dues the same way. They traveled in a van, played shitty clubs, went hungry, got fucked over by promoters – all those wonderful things that happen on the road. It is easy for armchair punks to criticize a band like AM! which they are really criticizing Tom Gabel. Real punks don’t have a fucking computer, if you want to get technical. Real punks, at least anarchist punks, don’t spend anytime online checking the fucking boards at Punknews.org waiting to bitch about the latest news from AM! Kurtz would all them napalms. Just as easy to understand that AM! is really a Rock band and always has been. It would be financially impossible for a band to maintain their punkness. You’ll probably cite Fugazi. But you forget that there is only ONE Fugazi. There is only ONE Ian Mackaye. He has been as maligned with things he said in his youthful naivety as Tom.
Tom didn’t offer up any explanation as to his bands past politics and current association with the major label. He was a thoughtful interview and at first I thought he was kind of closed off but he just carefully worded everything. Chalk that up to experience. His word isn’t gospel but with enough weak minded people lionizing celebrity out in the ‘world’ its no wonder he choses every response carefully. Maybe his lyrics are response enough.