Interview date: 5/26/2010
TP: How did you end up at Kansas House? How did you find yourself there?
KS: It had to be Ann– Ann Jaeger, for me. I mean Ann was my entre into everything in the punk Arlingtonness. I don’t even remember when my first time going over there was, because there was always some kind of party or show happening. And I sort of just followed along with wherever they were going. It was that era.
TP: It was!
KS: That era of Go! And Sugar Shack and Indie Rock Flea Market and old Arlington.
TP: Do you remember?
EA: Yeah, I mean I know that I had been to, cause I moved to town in ‘95.
TP: From where?
EA: State College, Pennsylvania. So the whole band moved to DC and we moved our company, Lumberjack and Art Monk, which was a distribution company and a record label. And I think what happened was– I don’t know. I had been to several shows, because people would come through town and I didn’t really know anyone but I knew someone who knew someone who lived at the house and I said well, if you can’t get a show at the Black Cat you could go and play at a house. And the house I knew of since I just moved here was this place. And we were thinking about doing shows at our warehouse but we were just too busy. I know that a couple bands played there that I saw and one of the bands that was on my label played there. I don’t remember. I just know that I knew a bunch of people. Bob, I knew Bob, I knew Mary Chen used to live there.
KS: Yeah, I was trying to recall Kansas House memories, and I was thinking, Bob was always there as far as I could remember. I mean, I’m sure he wasn’t always there but he was always there as far as I can remember, it seemed like he was always there. And I remember when Ann and Mary Chen were living there and they rescued a kitten… do you remember this whole fiasco? They rescued like a street kitten and brought it home, like they were out somewhere late at night at one in the morning in some alley and found this cat and brought it home and they got scabies? I don’t think that’s the technical term for it, but they totally got scabies. Some pinworm or some like gross thing that’s in your skin or something. I remember they were so depressed, they were, like, calling “We can’t come over, we can’t go anywhere, we’ve got scabies from the damn cat.”
EA: It’s probably scabies from the house, ‘cause the house was disgusting.
KS: And then they were like: oh, and now all of our roommates are mad at us because we brought this cat that has scabies.
EA: Or maybe that’s why it became disgusting.
KS: Scabies cat. I don’t know. But then, I don’t know if the cat even lived. It was like, all fakakta.
I remember they were really upset. Because I think Ann was living there for a short time, I mean, Ann was everywhere, lived everywhere, at some point… But yeah, she was very upset that they had freaked out the group, and freaked out the house. I remember that was a big thing. I guess it was very, nobody bothered anybody else, to be cool. And this cat had thrown a monkey wrench into the whole thing. That I remember it being a big deal for some reason. Now, it doesn’t seem like why it’s such a big deal but at the time it was a lot of drama.
TP: It was a huge deal.
KS: But the party, what was that party for? Somebody was going out of town, or leaving.
EA: I don’t know, it was someone who wasn’t too connected to the punk scene, or whatever, that lived there, and he just was like a dance guy, or something, I don’t know. And he just had like, a salsa party.
TP: Rico? Was that who it was, when Derek lived there? Maybe?
EA: Yeah, and there was everyone there, there was half of the normal crowd and half, like, these regular folks who were into salsa dancing…
KS: Which was good, which is what made it good because most of the parties you’d go to would be like “ugh” you know, how like DC kids would be just like “ugh” standing there…
EA: With the back pack on.
KS: Yeah and just all slouched, and like, tapping their toe.
EA: And they had a DJ who was blasting dance music.
KS: Yeah this was a good party! I remember being like, finally: somebody’s got their shit together and made a good party! And I went over there, and this fool was there, and we weren’t dating yet. And he was getting rip-roarin’ drunk, and I’m sure I was getting rip-roain’ drunk, and Ann was rip-roarin’ drunk. And the three of us were hanging out a lot. It was a fun night.
EA: I think I may have assaulted a few people.
KS: You, as the night wore on you were definitely assaulting a lot people, men and women.
EA: It’s the way I dance.
KS: On the dance floor.
EA: I make up for my lack of skill.
KS: He has an extremely aggressive dance style when he gets drunk and later to be christened “Mr. Butt” because he throws his butt into everyone on the dance floor.
EA: I don’t really move my legs…
KS: Just the butt starts comin’ into you from all directions. So that’s when I sort of was like: hunh, okay Eric Astor, you are a little bit more than I thought you were. He was always this quiet guy or whatever, and then, on the dance floor he was a whole other animal.
EA: I kicked it out! Major skills.
KS: He was riding a girl, at one point, like piggyback style, like riding her around the dance floor…
TP: Someone who was, like, a non-Kansas person?
KS: Yeah, I don’t know who would be willing to let them do that, but somebody was.
EA: I tried to put a saddle on her at one point.
KS: Yeah, we were like salsa dancing at some point and you bit me repeatedly on various parts of my neck and shoulders.
EA: That sounds suspect!
KS: I remember getting bitten, at some point.
TP: And you were bitten, with the love bite.
KS: The love bug!
EA: The precursor to Twilight.
KS: So we were vampires before the craze. And so, yeah. That’s kind of like, this guy is a little bit nuttier than I thought!
EA: That’s right.
TP: How did you know [about the party]– Ann had invited you?
EA: I mean, I don’t know.
KS: Obviously we didn’t use email for any of this.
TP: Well, you were living at Adams Street then, right? Was Ann living at Adams Street then?
EA: We knew several people there, and that was the big party.
KS: I think everything just seemed to be like, you ran into people and people were like, oh yeah, party at Kansas Street. It was never, I don’t even know how we found out about things, it was just always somebody knew somebody in the house knew somebody, you know, Adams House also always had a lot of stuff going on.
EA: And I was probably trying to mac on her.
KS: Yeah, I definitely think he was trying to mac on me.
TP: So this was in the days before email and also cell phones, right? And it’s weird to think about.
KS: There was email, but like none of us had jobs that we had computers. I mean, except for him, most people that we knew back then didn’t have a job where you sat at a computer all day so emailing someone would be crazy.
TP: And we didn’t have cell phones, for the most part.
EA: Yeah I was the only one with a cell phone…
KS: You were like, fancy. You had a Honda Accord and a cell phone and a computer and a business. It was like, wow.
EA: That’s some stability right there.
KS: I was like, wow, this guy’s got it together. But, I don’t know. It was just much more like, you bumped into people in social networks before they were like something some college kid invented and put on the Internet
TP: It was in person.
EA: It was much better. Back in the day.
KS: And actually using the phone, like having a phone, a kitchen phone, still at Adams Street, and calling up people and being like “Hey, come over, we’re doing this” Whatever…
EA: But you probably didn’t say: “Hey…”
KS: But yes, it didn’t even seem like most of the stuff we ever did was planned. It was just kind of like, somebody would show up at our house.
TP: It just happened.
KS Or you’d run into somebody…
TP: Or if it was when you were on the phone with somebody, and you were like, What are you doing today? I don’t know.”
KS: Let’s blow something up, let’s put a sofa in the back of Jason’s pick up truck and drive around Arlington.
TP: So, moved here and you already had Art Monk Construction and you already had Lumberjack, right?
EA: Yeah, so I moved from Phoenix to State College, PA to play music with this band called Junction.
TP: Who else was in Junction?
EA: Vanessa Downey, this guy Garrett Rothman, Gregg Foreman and Ben Azzara.
SK: Garrett is still in DC, isn’t he?
EA: No, he’s in Pennsylvania. And then, so Ben, I think had moved out of State College, he had graduated and left, and this guy Juan Carerra, who I knew from Arizona, I was in a band with him, he had moved to State College and I think he was playing with them for a little bit. And then, I was just trying to find a place to live. I wanted to move out of Arizona. So I just picked a place because I knew some people, and I had met Garett when he was on tour with Admiral, and they came to Phoenix, so I’d known a couple of these people from before, like pen pals and band tour stuff. So I was just like, screw it, I’ll move there. I got something to do and I’ll eventually find my resting place or whatever. And so I moved out there and Juan had already moved to DC, so I missed that. But, I just knew the Junction folks, and it was kind of like set up shop. And then I didn’t really have anything to do, so I started a record label, and then Junction broke up and we started a band called Samuel, and after a year of doing the record label we were having a hard time distributing, so we started a distribution company. We decided all to move to DC because Vanessa’s parents lived out here and we had a bunch of friends. So, in ‘95, I guess it was the summer of ‘95, we all moved to Arlington and then the business was in Falls Church. So that’s how we got here, and I think I might be the only one left.
All the people that moved with us left, and all the people from Arizona that came out here, you know there’s like, probably like 8 or 9 people who came out here to be DC rock gods, everyone left except me and this guy Scott Holman, who used to live with some dudes, and now he’s like, he’s selling wine and managing restaurants for a long time. And I actually just, through Facebook, found him and started talking to him.
And I think the reason why a lot of people left and I didn’t is a) I met Kim. But also, um, a lot of people came here for a reason. Obviously, as you know there was a DC scene, and they came here to do that, and I came here just to live, you know? And as the scene waxes and wanes, or ebbs and flows, I should say. Maybe, like if your home base isn’t here, then maybe it’s not, maybe you go and you chase whatever that dream is, and maybe that dream changes so then you change your location. So I never came here to be part of the scene, really, even though I like music and stuff like that. I think it didn’t matter as much to me that I didn’t get signed to Dischord or one of these labels or I wasn’t friends with someone; that didn’t bother me. We did our own thing, kinda just went from there.
TP: But I wonder if you could also talk about, you started going to Kansas through that whole group of people.
TP: Did you ever play a show there?
EA: No, I think we were all broken up by the time. I mean, I wasn’t in a band by the time we started going there.
TP: Do you remember any shows that you guys saw there?
EA: I have a horrible memory because of my brain problems, but, ah, this band The Trans Megetti, which was on my label. They played there. I’ve seen I think maybe we saw Les Trois Malheurs there.
EA: I mean I’d probably been to like ten or 12 shows.
KS: That’s the best way I have to pinpoint what time this was all happening, was Les Trois Malheurs.
EA: Because James, who used to be the drummer, was in Samuel. So, I knew Jonathan, Ann, and Jimmy.
KS: And Jonathan and I went to high school together.
EA: So, yeah, and then I saw other bands that I knew through Lumberjack or I knew from same thing, going out and playing and they would come through town, so I would go see shows. I’m sure I saw one of Hutto’s incarnations of an organ project, and that was always a good time. But, I’m horrible at remembering stuff.
This is horrible to say but its true: there’s a lot of friendship politics– oh yeah, I gotta go see your band because you came to see my band; and you gotta be supportive of people. And I remember seeing people from out of town go play there but I don’t remember the bands’ names because it was like, around the same time I was doing Lumberjack. And the reason why we stopped doing Lumberjack was because for me, it’s hard to separate music and product, so all of a sudden, all this became work. And so, none of the music stuff was fun anymore. There’s a big chunk of time in my life where I started looking at bands and records as product, and it just kind of killed my love for shows and stuff like that. One of the reasons why we sold the company was because my business partner Rich and myself were just kind of burned. And I kind of, almost probably in a subconscious way kind of blocked it all out because it was like, business, and it wasn’t as fun. So I don’t remember bands but I remember going there a lot.
TP: And that’s kind of interesting too, in a way. If you’re talking about networking. Doing what you guys were doing, networking meant going to shows, right? Whereas if it’s more of a social thing, it’s a completely different experience. And if the way that you contact people is in person, that’s kind of what you were doing.
EA: I mean, I remember a lot of shows that I went to that I wanted to go to, and I remember all those shows. But some of the bands that played there weren’t necessarily bands…
KS: Well you just had to show up, too, didn’t you? Like, if you were just at a show, then you got credit for being there. Like, you didn’t have to be like up listening and really into it and loving it or anything.
EA: I mean, most of it was just going to see people I wanted to see.
KS: If the band or whomever told you about it saw you there, then it was like okay check mark: I got it.
TP: I think it’s interesting in the way that you’re talking about it, in that, it was sort of like you go and you get seen by people.
KS: Yeah, but see, I’m different because I don’t have any cred in the scene. I never was in a band; I never was, like straight-edge…
EA: She didn’t care.
KS: I didn’t care. I didn’t know who Fugazi was when I first started working at the Sugar Shack. Like, I did not know who Ian was at all, and everyone was like, ooooh praise to him but I was just like, who? Bald dude, what? I don’t know. Literally if I tell people outside of this world, like, what did you do since college or high school or whatever I just say, oh, I was like a party girl, in Arlington and DC. That’s what it was. I was just a party girl. Because I don’t want to pretend that I was part of this great movement or something. Because I was just, like, really there for the fun. I was there for having a good time with weird people. But it was interesting because I was always on the outside of that so I was always like: what, why do we have to do this? We have to go to this show? Well, because so-and-so knows so-and-so and they really want us to come, and we gotta be there. I was always like: wow; like, scratching my head. I don’t get why, or we’d get there and it would be, like horrible music or something, and I’d just be like, wow this sucks, where is there a good party, I gotta get out of this place. So yeah, there were tons of shows I went to at the Black Cat and I have no idea.
TP: Yeah, it all kind of blurs together. So, when you worked at Sugar Shack, who else… Go! was still above?
KS: Go! was upstairs.
TP: So, who did you work with?
KS: I worked with Becca Guerney, Ann, what was that… I can see faces but I don’t remember because they were all, like people who disappeared into the abyss…
TP: And Jimmy and Laura worked at Go! upstairs…
KS: Yeah, Jimmy and Laura were around.
TP: So they were sort of your connection?
KS: Yeah, working at the Sugar Shack probably was the biggest thing for me to get connected. I mean, I worked at Iota when it was little Iota, before they expanded and I was a cook there, so I met a lot of people from that. And hanging out at Galaxy Hut and met Ann. Actually, I met Ann years before because we were both in food service. Back when Kramerbooks had a store in Ballston Mall, for a very short period of time. It was beautiful. A beautiful restaurant, bookstore, and she was bartending there. And that’s how I met Ann because I was in my chef wear, coming form a shift and all greasy and nasty and drinking a beer at the bar, This is a crazy story. It doesn’t make any sense or have to do with anything, but, there was an old man at the bar, and Eric knows, I love old men, I can’t ever resist socializing with old men, I can’t resist. I love ‘em.
EA: It’s true.
KS: And he was deaf. And I was like, writing in a journal or reading a book or doing something stupid, and he passed me a note on a napkin and I was like: Ew!, creepy old man, why are you passing me a note on a napkin, but it was because he was deaf. So I wrote back and he wrote back and we had this whole conversation on the napkins. And Ann was the bartender and she was like, what is going on between this young girl, and this old man and the napkins? And then after he got up and left she was like: what was going on there and that’s how we started talking and met.
TP: So basically, the old man is how you know Ann, and that’s how you know everyone.
KS: And that’s how I know everyone, because Ann knew everyone, obviously. You know, Ann could get into everywhere because she knew all the bouncers and the bartenders and everything. So I just, what do they say? Hitched my ride to her and we were best buddies and we were both into the same thing which was partying and drinking and having a good time, raisin’ hell. That’s when I started hanging out with her. It was way before I met him, and I was still working in restaurants and stuff. And I didn’t really know… I knew her, I knew Jonathan Kreinik. They were pretty much the only people I knew. And then at Iota, I met more people and that’s when all those great bars were on Wilson, like the, um, what was that weird one…
TP: And Bardo.
KS: Yeah, I mean I remember dancing on the bar and Strangeways and getting ill on that beer in “Bardo Bardo Bardo.” I was a naughty, bad girl.
TP: But, I think, and I definitely think this has to do with the time period, too, like, this community and sort of the group house thing that was happening.
KS: Well, everything was different. The economy was depressed enough, or whatever, and Arlington hadn’t been discovered yet, and there was the public transportation and accessibility and close quarters of Arlington. Which just geographically made it really nice and being close to the city and stuff. And there were all these great old houses and garden apartments that you could still rent which now almost none of them are left.
TP: Or unaffordable.
EA: I take it back even further. I think there was a renaissance of music that happened. Like, there, I didn’t live in DC during the 80s but I followed it from afar. There was Minor Threat and Dag Nasty and all these bands and then it kind of dropped off a little bit and then Fugazi started. There was this creative output that happened in the early, mid-90s, that all these other bands and all these other people kind of coalesced around it. And it was like, it was… not to say that things now aren’t significant, but there’s not a Fugazi or a Shudder to Think or a Make*Up or a Nation of Ulysses, you know these bands that were very unique, you know? And that people wanted to go see. Now, there’s a lot of bands that are good but they’re not revolutionary. They’re not like these bands that are kind of like shaping the music of today or tomorrow or whatever.
KS: There was a culture that supported trying out new things with bands. Like, Les Trois Malheurs is never going to go down in the history books or anything but it was kind of, or the Make*Up or any of these bands were influential in different ways, they influenced people. Maybe somebody just saw that show and maybe they never played another gig and they all kind of just disappeared, but it influenced somebody who was at that show and they went and did something different with music.
EA: But it was also kind of must-see music, you know? Whereas I can’t say that about a lot of bands now, but even, you know, Clark. When he was in bands, it was like, you gotta go see Clark’s band. I mean, they might not even be any good but he’s like David Lee Roth of the punk rock scene, so you have to go see it because it’s gonna be fun. And there were a lot of bands that were really just you know, boring.
KS: Or the same thing, like Mancake or Frodus, you know they do like crazy stunts.
EA: Yeah, I mean it’s just like entertainment. And as much as no one would admit, in the punk scene, that they’re there for entertainment. It’s like, if you’re there, and it’s boring, and there’s not energy and it’s just a band playing songs and they’re being really super serious, and they just, you know, it’s not fun. Then people aren’t going to get excited to go see it. But, if you make it an event, which a lot of the bands were so good, or they were so influential or they were so different that it was like an event. Sometimes it might not even be the greatest band in the world, but like, Dismemberment Plan, I mean, they got so big that it was like, even if you weren’t like a huge fan, you knew that it was gonna be a packed house, and you were gonna see 20 friends and you were gonna have a good time. The scene kind of needed that to kind of coalesce to what happened. I think that, I’m kind of a little divorced from it a little bit, I don’t know much about what’s going on these days, but it doesn’t seem like there is that kind of– you know–enthusiasm. There’s an enthusiasm gap. Which I thought, would kinda come back during George W Bush because usually punk music is great under a conservative government. It was huge under Reagan and you know, I would think it would come back and people would start writing protest songs again, but everybody started signing these stupid pop songs and dance songs and it was just like, where is the outrage? I mean I was pissed, and you had, like, Pearl Jam singing songs that were protest songs. But all the punk kids were wearing, like, skinny jeans and signing about asteroids or whatever. So it was kind of disappointing that that didn’t come out.
TP: Yeah, I thought about that, and I wonder. Because there was something that I feel like– I don’t know if it was a sense of community that everybody was a part of, but it’s the same thing, Under George W Bush, like everybody protested his first inauguration and then, what happened?
KS: It was like the wind went out of people’s sails.
EA: But also, a lot of the instigators have left. Like, Jeff Nelson, was in town he’d be plastering up posters all over the place, and you need those kinds of people.
KS: It’s hard to stay angry that long, I think.
EA: And also, I think it’s also a lot different, people… I don’t know. I don’t know what it was like back in the day, but there is a level of comfort that everyone has. Communication is totally different, like we talked about the Internet, so, it’s a lot easier to protest by sending an email to your senator, or doing something on line whereas that didn’t happen before; everyone’s outlet was to fuck shit up, or spray-paint, or plaster posters up. People are meeting on line, you know– Facebook. Everyone has this fake community through Facebook, kinda going, oh I know what Tina’s all about, or I know what Kim’s up to or what Hutto’s up to, but we really don’t. We know what they post but we don’t see them anymore. Whereas before, it used to be, I’m gonna take this creativity or this anger or this disappointment and I’m gonna get together with people and when you get together with people, things happen. Like, things don’t happen when you just, like Twitter or email or Facebook, so as much as well all do that, and it’s a part of our daily ritual, I think. Not to get totally philosophical, but what’s gonna happen in communication is gonna be what’s gonna happen with the book. And what’s happening now with vinyl, you know people are buying more vinyl now then they have in years, and people I think at some point will go back to buying physical books, because people go in this direction and they go back. And people are gonna go “I want something in my hands again. I want to turn off all this distraction. Cause it’s hard to get an iPad out and read a book when you’re getting texted and Facebooked and things are going off and shit like that. So, I think that, I don’t know, I think that maybe everyone will get engaged again once they turn shit off.
TP: I remember a lot, maybe not necessarily going to Kansas for a show, but there would be something that would be happening, like just to watch TV. Or there was a show I remember they did, I don’t even know if you guys were there, during the World Bank Protests, that Most Secret Method played.
KS: I think DC is like a small town. My mom always said, cause she moved here in the ‘60s and she said it’s a small southern town, and I always thought that was crazy, there’s people from all over the world, but it really is like a small town. The more time you spend in DC the more you meet people and everybody knows, you think you’re meeting someone that you’d never have any connection to in a million years and they know someone you know and they worked with this person on a project or they used to be employed here. I mean it’s a pretty small town. And people do really, I think, there’s still a closely knit kind of a town, there’s not that many degrees of separation between people, and I think you just can’t help but be informed about things when you live here. I know when you travel anywhere else, people are like: I don’t even know what you’re talking about. Like, you know how when you go other places and you’re like: what do you think about this issue and they’re like…
KS: Completely out of it. Like you always say, our local newspaper is a national newspaper. So you just can’t help but feel connected to things that are a little bit bigger.
EA: I think the difference is like, I mean, even when I just moved here I was like 22, 23, and then my peers, were like, Brian Lowitt was working at Chuck Robb’s office. So, he’s working for a senator, that’s his experience. That’s his reality. You have people that are, if you work in Arizona, you’re working at some business or some place that tints car windows, or some sort of real estate or something like that. The same people there would be working at a non-profit, working at a museum, cause that’s what the industry is. That’s just the way it goes. So if you’re interning in DC you’re going to be in the thick of something. And that does a couple things. It really makes people really dull, because I just notice the more I know the more miserable I am, so that’s one thing. And the other thing is, we listen to NPR, all day long. I barely listen to music anymore. I mean, I’m listening to WAMU almost all the time, Kim and I… I always chalk it up to this elitist thing, like you either listen to NPR or you don’t, because you know so much more when you listen to something that’s a little bit more well-rounded, that’s a little more, you know, I consider balanced. And it’s funny ‘cause when you go and meet people, from other parts of the world or other parts of the country. It seems like the coasts, are all kind of somewhat like-minded or clued in, other places maybe not so much and not so interested and not so plugged in. I don’t say, I don’t think anything is right or better than the other, it’s just funny. And then in DC, the whole punk thing, because we’re part of that, that used to be really infused in the music. And I think there’s been a big backlash against that. Because people just want to have a good time, which I’m totally in favor of, and part of that is because people got a little too serious. And you didn’t want to have to think about Darfur when you’re rockin’ out, you know, and sometimes you just want to play good music.
TP: I remember, the whole scene that sort of came out of Motorcycle Wars, was a lot of the antidote to everybody being super serious.
KS: I think there were things that even before Motorcycle Wars where we had different groups and things that were just to be silly. Like silly, absurd kind of events because that was, I think it was this kind of burnt out from being serious all the time, Fugazi model.
TP: Do you remember any?
KS: Well, we had, I remember we had at Black Cat for Ann and Rene’s birthdays?
EA: I wasn’t there.
KS: I think it was Ann and Rene Kische’s birthday. And they like, got the Black Cat. And I think Most Secret Method played, or Dismemberment Plan, I remember Ann was really into both of those bands. I think it was Most Secret Method and some other band, and they basically co-opted the show to be like, their birthday party show. Which was fine. The bands agreed to it, obviously. But then, they asked me and my friend Allesandra who was definitely not in the scene, at all, to be, like MCs for the night. And we dressed in drag, like, drag queens, but we’re women obviously but we were looking like drag queens. And we hosted the whole night as, like, lounge singers and sang show tunes and stuff, in between the bands playing. And people were just like, what the fuck is going on? People were like, so mad that we were up there, like why are these girls in blonde wigs tarted up and singing show tunes? This is not cool, I’m at the Black Cat, I’m here to be cool, to see this cool band, and we were getting the most aggressive stony silence from people and it was awesome. I mean we loved it. My friend and I just completely thought it was great.
TP: But I think that’s interesting because especially at that time, there was some sort of… you could not be funny, you know? You had to be serious about everything.
KS: That was why I never got into the music. I was only there for the socializing. And so to me, it just didn’t make sense, I was just like why even be here? Why even breathe if you’re not gonna have fun.
EA: It’s really odd too, because you know, Ian… I knew Ian before I even moved to the East Coast. I did interviews with him and talked to him on the phone. He’s one of the funniest guys out there. He and Henry Rollins should really do a stand-up comedy tour. But they’re really funny people.
KS: Their music was always really serious. Fugazi, and the music, and their whole approach to music was so serious.
EA: Fugazi did a 30 volume set of all these live shows, we started this thing like seven years ago, six or seven years ago. Back then I was more involved in production here, and I had to listen to all that stuff for quality control. The farther away they were from DC the funnier they were on stage. Cause I remember them being very funny in Arizona but not being funny in DC. And you listen to, you know, there’s a show from Kuala Lumpor, and the more behaved the audience was, since they didn’t have to be the cops…
TP: They didn’t have to call anybody an “ice cream eating motherfucker.”
EA: I’m not going to have to stop the song because somebody’s beatin’ on a girl in front. There’s like this morality that everyone in DC had that everyone had to be a certain way, and it kind of stifles creativity in a way, and it also stifles your ability to just focus and have a good time.
KS: Well, there was also this thing of eating their own young, kind of left-leaning liberal people in the ‘90s too, where it was like, it wasn’t enough to be a vegetarian you had to be vegan. And it wasn’t enough to be vegan, you couldn’t wear leather. And people would seriously call you out. It would be like: how can you say that you are vegan and you have a leather belt on? I hate you. People were just, like, narcing on each other a lot, you know, there was a lot of this, like, you’re not legit enough, you’re not authentic enough, you’re not extreme enough.
EA: And that always happens when people just get into it. That’s when they’re the most intense about something.
KS: But I think that was a big thing in the 90s, or maybe that’s because I think it was like, Clinton was in, and people felt like okay. That’s not going far enough now, we’re not Left enough, or whatever. But instead of focusing on how to make the world better, and how do we fight the Man it was like: let’s all pick at each other like chickens in a hen house.
EA: It’s also, that’s what you do when you’re 23, and you don’t know what the fuck’s going on. You don’t really have any responsibility…
KS: But I think this was broader, like across the board.
EA: But the older people were never really like that.
KS: Well, I don’t know, cause I worked for Jane Goodall, and she was under attack…
TP: I think what you were saying, though, is interesting. Both are true aspects. Everybody was sort of picking at each other, but they were picking at each other because, like 22, what else are you responsible for? This period of time where it was like a golden era for us. We didn’t really have any responsibility and we could go out until 2 O’clock in the morning, 3 O’clock in the morning, 6 O’clock in the morning, next day. And not really have to worry about anything. Or, it’s more acceptable to show up at your job…
KS: Smelling like last night…
EA: …with the hand stamp on.
TP: Yeah, and I wonder sometimes, too, how the group house aspect came into play with that. You have this construct that’s sort of like a family but it’s not really a family because you’re not related, but you picked all the people.
KS: For us I think it was, you wanted to start having a better living situation for yourself than a group house. You wanted to not come out of your bedroom in the morning and find some random people in the living room, or wake up because some drunk kid is coming into your bedroom because he doesn’t know where he was going.
EA: Oh that was great, and that’s how Adams Street started. Cause we had just moved to town, and I was living in the warehouse. I had my futon, I built a shower in the little tiny bathroom, and I was roughing it, and I was totally fine with it. But then it got to the point where I was like, if I’m gonna date, it’s gonna be hard to bring a lady back to the warehouse. So after about a year of living in the warehouse, I moved to Arlington, and we were living in the Pershing Projects… that was just awful. So me and my buddy Rich decided we were going to go and find a place. So it was Rich and I, and three totally random people. And so it wasn’t anyone that was really scene oriented. It was just me and Rich and three other people. Actually it was, there was one other, Charles Lawerence. Anyway so we started the house and then as people started to move out, you know, we got Hutto at some point. And there were other people that were just City Paper finds that were just disasters. And slowly but surely it becomes this thing were you know, you start to get like-minded people because it’s kind of like a peer-pressure thing, like if you know them from friends, they’re not as likely to screw you over. And you don’t have some crazy person coming in that has a gun or something. And that’s how Adams Street became that, and I’m sure that’s how Kansas and all these others, it was like, I just graduated from college, I need a place. It just kind of morphed into something.
KS: Yeah, I think it was pretty much just roommates until Jason Hutto came to Adams.
KS: Because then it was like: awww Jason! And Jason and I would watch Teletubbies in the morning and eat Cream of Wheat together, and we would just sit there and Eric would come out and be like: what is wrong with you two?
EA: I know that Jason doesn’t do drugs, so… What is goin’ on here?
KS: And Jason always had his whole milk he always had, like big old gallons of whole milk.
TP: He’s the only person I know who still drinks whole milk.
KS: It clearly doesn’t do anything to him, so what’s the fear? I think everyone should go back to whole milk.
TP: And you ran lumberjack out of that house?
EA: No… I ran Furnace…
KS: No, it was Furnace out of that house.
EA: Yeah we sold Lumberjack and when I spun off this company, it was just a sales kind of thing at first, and I was doing it out of the basement. I was doing it out of my room, and then a dedicated room and then the whole basement and then we moved out into this place. Actually, we were sharing this space with another company.
KS: You know what I was thinking… is that maybe part of the reason the music changed and the scene kind of changed was that since it was really indie and there wasn’t, you didn’t hear this stuff everywhere, and then I think as it started to get out into mainstream. Like Green Day, and people getting, like, big hits, and then people wanted to say this is punk, or this is whatever, and they wanted to kind of have it be like, if you go to a show, you have an expectation. It’s gonna be like, this kind of a pit, and it’s gonna be this kind of guys gonna be there and they’re gonna have these kinds of tattoos or whatever it was. Do you know what I mean? It became kind of commodified, well, that’s punk. What you’re doing is not punk. What you’re doing is Emo. And it was then, this fractionalizing. Labeling everything.
TP: You’re not a vegan ‘cause your belt has…
KS: Yeah, and it was kind of that thing, like maybe it became mainstream enough so it had to break off into like, little niche groups or whatever, but I feel like during the Kansas House, and the Adams House, and Sugar Shack days and all that stuff, it was kind of like we’re just throwing shit up and seeing what sticks. It wasn’t so much “I am making this kind of a band. This is the kind of audience I’m going to attract and we’re going to wear these kinds of clothes.”
TP: Yeah, it was like there was a safety zone, in a way. And, like, it didn’t matter, you weren’t going to be judged by…
KS: I feel like the parameters were looser. Like, as long as you were a little bit of an oddball, you can show up and it’s cool.
EA: I think it’s also like, everyone was getting older and all that little shit doesn’t really matter anymore.
KS: I distinctly remember having a drink at the end of the Black Cat bar, and looking down the bar at an aging rocker girl that will remain nameless, who was, like, slouched at the end of the bar drinking or whatever and she was like, 31, maybe? And I was like: if I am still here at her age, I’m gonna shoot myself. I just remember being like, that is the most depressing thing. Not because I, like, hated it, but I just thought it has an expiration date. I kind of felt like, that kind of youth culture, whatever, and when you’re there past your… it’s just like old milk at that point.
TP: But talk about, because I think that’s really interesting, too. There’s sort of that idea, that there is an expiration date, but yet, I wouldn’t say that either of you are out of that world, it’s just that you have a different role.
EA: Well, I mean, at some point. I would love to be in a band, and for a lot of people, that’s kind of like your entre into getting involved. Because, well, this sounds totally old man and corporate, but when you’re kind of in the business of this stuff you’re around it all day and you kind of need a break from it. And hats off, there are people who are much older than I am, they’re so much more active, they’re still going to see shows all the time and I’m totally impressed because that’s the kind of stamina I would love to have.
KS: That guy who used to own all the Record Convergence…
KS: Ted was always at shows. He was always, always at shows and he was like, ten years older than us.
EA: But there’s this guy, Al Quint, up in Boston who runs Urban Voice. I remember pen palling him when I was like, 15, when I was just getting into stuff and doing fanzines and stuff, and he’s probably in his 50s now, wait… late-40s, and he still goes to shows, like, all the time, and not like shows, like he still goes to punk shows. Which for me it was like, kind of nostalgic and fun, but my tastes have changed a little bit. If the Circle Jerks were playing, and they were the Circle Jerks of the way they used to be, I would totally go see them because they would be awesome. I’m not going to see the 45y.o. version of the Circle Jerks because that would be depressing.
TP: Who would you go see of their version of today? Who do you think has made a good stay at it?
EA: I thought, I was really bummed out that I missed Scream. Because when Scream got back together and there was a blizzard that night, and I couldn’t, I mean we were literally snowed in. They were like old guys when I listened to them in the 80s. I kind of envisioned them as being the Rolling Stones of Punk. They were like old dudes, and I would have liked to go see them because I don’t think there would have been much difference. I like that type of stuff… The same thing with Fugazi. Those guys are much older than me so if they were to get back together again and play, it wouldn’t be much different, they probably all look very similar, it’s not like they have hair so you wouldn’t be able to tell if they were graying, but their attitude is the same. And the music wasn’t… Minor Threat playing today would be like, why, that’s not who you are.
KS: That’s like when you hear The Who sing songs like Pinball Wizard and they’re just like, so old. It’s so weird looking. It just looks really weird on stage that they’re like, grandparents and they’re singing about teenage wasteland. What? Do you remember your teenage wasteland because you’re so old. Yeah, it’s ridiculous sounding.
EA: But, like the Minutemen were like old souls back in the day. Those guys I could see playing and being super into it. And there’s still bands I love that it would be silly. You know, there’s like rock bands…
KS: But tell her what you’re gonna do, though…
EA: Well, Samuel, the band I was in, we had all this music that we played but never got to record, and it’s been 15 years. We didn’t make an impact, no one knows who we are or whatever, but, it would be fun… they’re coming out and we’re gonna record all that stuff next month. And its not like we’re not gonna go play shows and tour. The bands that we toured with on our last tour, are getting back together now and doing a tour, and like– who knows who you are? I mean, it’s not like they would go and draw tons of people back in the day so who’s gonna go see them now? I’m not under any sort of illusion that anyone would even remember us except for a select few people. We just wanted to archive the music. And in that way it’s fun, but it’s not like, no one’s going, oh yeah, let’s go and do a tour and expect people to care about us. For me it’s just like, the one thing I was never good at was archiving anything that I did. I have nothing. I see flyers of shows and I don’t even remember them. Like Jeff Nelson and those guys are so meticulous. They’re the Martha Stewarts of punk, they’ve got everything from everything they ever did, Ian recorded every Fugazi show, he’s got every Fugazi show on tape. They’re like real archivists. And apparently, the rumor is that Henry Rollins has like, a museum full of artifacts of stuff.
KS: Oh boy, that should be interesting.
EA: And all these flyers and just set lists of everything and every show, like crazy stuff. I was never like that. So, I could understand why people would get back together again and do stuff to archive, but under no illusion. You know if, you’re Van Halen, with David Lee Roth, that makes sense. People like me, you know, want to see it.
TP: But I wonder if that goes back to the idea of you’re doing it for the sake of doing it, and that’s almost kind of like what was happening at the time. People weren’t so serious. Sort of like the idea of what you were saying—we’ll just throw it up there and see if it sticks, right? It’s kind of like the same spirit.
KS: And just like, it matters more to be with those people and those relationships. I mean, I’m not gonna say that we had deep relationships, but there was obviously something. I have great memories of all that time, like you guys and Jimmy, and all the characters, and the crazy get-ups for Halloween and doing fun stuff. I don’t think it was so much that we were all identified with the same music or whatever, it was just that we were all the oddballs of wherever we came from. And we found a little place where we all could express that in different ways. It seemed like everybody was like, a photographer or was like an artist in some way in that they put together amazing thrift store outfits or they collected crazy things, or had strange obsessions like Frank Higgins’… what’s that boat movie he’s obsessed with?
TP: Poseidon Adventure!
KS: I’ll never forget that he was obsessed with Poseidon Adventure. And now, it doesn’t seem so crazy to find all these people with quirky interests and stuff like that.
EA: I think the mainstream culture…
KS: …got quirkier.
EA: Yeah, I think that it co-opted a lot of, I mean, I remember back in the day, to see, not to stereotype librarians, but you know that punk librarian look? Now, that’s in like TV shows.
KS: What is it, like CSI or Bones? There’s that girl who looks like that. You never saw that on TV.
EA: So back in the day, it was kind of like, you were the freak. In the mid-80s, when I was getting into punk, I don’t know, you got beat up for looking the way you do. This is totally unrelated but related. I was at the gas station the other day, and there was a kid who was obviously like just a dude, high school kid, had flip-flops on, you know, just a dude, right? And now all these kids have long hair, you know, and look all straggly. But this kid had a shirt on that said “ Gay? It’s all Good” And even when I was a kid and I was punk rock and enlightened, I wasn’t as enlightened as this kid who was probably just like a jock dude. So now, like, nowadays, there’s not as much, like, unless you’re gay or there’s someone who’s being discriminated against. Back then it was like if you’re punk you were getting beat up now it’s like you really have to, unless you’re in the South, you really have to find somebody who is really freaky for a kid to get beat up. Because now everyone’s kind of a nerd and everyone understands that subculture a little bit.
KS: You can be a Goth, you can be into Plushies, you can be into anything now, and it’s almost like, well, that’s just expected that kids are gonna be that way. I think it was really, it was like a foundling home, for little weirdos to get together, and that’s what I think was great about it, and gave everyone a little bit of why we wanted to support each other, like I may not be into what you’re doing but I know how it feels to be where you are.
TP: Like, you’re my friend.
KS: Or I support that you’re doing something that’s different. I mean, back in that time period, everybody listened to Dave Matthews Band. That was it. That was the only thing that was happening evidently, in the world, besides what we were doing. You either, like, wore madras shorts and listened to Dave Matthews Band. Or, you could be a weirdo, and hang out where we did. So, I mean, I think it was just like the right group of folks and a great location, like I said, the housing and all that stuff, it just came together at the right time. I mean Arlington was still half empty when we all lived there. There was all those abandoned buildings and no posh, trendy places. Everything was a dive and we were okay with that. You know, you couldn’t have opened the bars and stuff that we opened or went to then because you wouldn’t have been able to afford the rent. You know all the new restaurants that are going in are Cheesecake Factory and stuff because that’s the only people who can afford the rent.
EA: It’s hard, now that we’re getting to the age where we should probably be having kids, we’re getting to that zone, it’s like I kind of look at it, like all the parents who think their kids are special. Everyone… back then, there was like something special about what we were doing because it took a little bit of effort to find out about this stuff and be engaged or whatever. Now it’s like, there really isn’t a whole lot of effort to know about stuff and to research stuff. I mean, the Internet is really kind of equalized that, and a lot of people lament that, but I think it’s good. I think it’s progressed our culture a little bit, to know there were all these fucking freaks that were trying to do something and you can learn about them. It used to be that you were in the know, and if you were in the know you could be part of this little exclusive group, which I never liked. You know, when Rage Against the Machine came out, I was like: this is the most important– if you’re talking politics and if you’re talking social awareness– this is the most important band out there. And everyone was like: what are you fucking talking about, that’s jock rock. I was like, no, they’re talking about shit your band isn’t talking about. Every punk band in the world can get together and calculate all the people they touched, and Rage Against the Machine has touched more people in a single tour than every punk band. I was like, this is good, this is something you should adopt and back then it was like, oh no. This was like, ’94, no they sold out.
KS: Sold out, people said that all the time, didn’t they.
TP: I think what they were doing was really important, because they were still talking about really political stuff.
EA: Like, we all knew, like, what’s the point to sing about politics, like, we all got it. You know? I have an employee, John, who went to see Pearl Jam a couple weeks ago at Nissan Pavilion or whatever it’s called now. He basically commented that it was really good until he did a little political rant and a couple people were like, ugh, and then they went off and played. But I was like, all of a sudden, I don’t know how many people show up to those things, like 20 thousand people or whatever, like they heard something they wouldn’t have heard otherwise. Most of their fans, right? I think that means more get exposed to something they wouldn’t be a part of otherwise. rather than a bunch of people who have already subscribed to the political view and societal view.
KS: But does that really change anything if all they remember is that they had a buzz kill moment?
EA: Well, the way I look at it is if one percent of the people who listen to Rage Against the Machine, if one or two percent of those people actually take it to the next level and decide that they want to be interested in.
TP: That’s a lot of people.
EA: And Fugazi had that same cross-section of people coming out to see them, cause they kinda crossed paths. When everybody else was getting signed– Kurt Cobain and Foo Fighters. After that, Green Day said, oh you know well Fugazi is kind of our model of DIY blah blah blah, and people started to go pay attention to them. And maybe they weren’t the most political, they were kind of artsy, lyrically– I’m not too smart when it comes to English so I don’t really get lyrics. It’s like, I’m the drummer, so that sort of explains it. So maybe they don’t read lyrics and say this is right, this is wrong, but when you go to see their shows and stuff, you see there’s a different ethic involved. Like, Hey, I can go see Fugazi and pay six bucks, why am I paying 40 to go see Offspring or some other punk band? I think when bands like that bring people from outside into this world, I think that’s important. And we’re all a little guilty of it, but if the goal was to be part of an exclusive group, you know? I think that it’s fun and it’s great and there’s a place for it when you don’t have anywhere else to go because you’re a freak and you can’t really go and hang out with friends and maybe they’re a little racist or just stupid.
TP: And it makes you know like you can say something to those people, and say: that’s wrong.
EA: Right, that’s fucked up. And that’s why I think it’s okay. It used to be like that. Now, I think people, hopefully, at least a lot of people that I run into are a little bit more on the level. So maybe for me, it’s not as important to be part of this little thing. But if also the job of being part of the subculture is to promote those ethics and morals to outside, then you open it up, you don’t make it this exclusive little club.
SK: I don’t think there was that much identity though. In that time period. Maybe earlier on.
EA: Well, part of it is like, you know I had been kind of in that thing for a long time. By the time ’95 hit, when I moved out, I’d already been kind of in the punk thing for 10 years, so maybe it’s a carry over from that. But there’s still scene politics that I just never found to be interesting, or whatever.
KS: And there was always a lot of garbage of, oh we’re not telling you this, because blah blah blah…
TP: Like, we can’t play here because they don’t do all ages shows.
KS: Well, not even that. Like even stupid petty little grievances. I remember just hearing about “we can’t hang out with that person because he was in a band with that person and then fell out of the band and screwed people over. And I was always like what? I don’t even know these people. Why do I have to not be their friend? This is like, playground stuff. What are we talking about, but there was a lot of that stuff going on.
EA: But as petty as a lot of that stuff was, I still have great fondness for, I mean that was fun, it was something to get you out of the house. It was looking back at something that was great, I think that those things can happen again, but, I think like this whole computer culture has destroyed that way of communicating. And getting back to what we were talking about earlier, and as soon as people turn off, and they decide that Facebook is toxic and email and texting and stuff is bad. And I’m a total geek, I’m on line all the time. I’m not spearheading the effort, but at some point I think that when people start to realize that maybe there’s something more, then maybe that comes back. And until then I don’t know.
KS: See, I think, I have a different feeling about that. Like, how we’ve reconnected.
EA: But if we actually left the house, you know what I mean?
TP: We would all actually have to leave the house.
KS: See, that’s the thing, we all are leaving the house, but we’re all doing different things. We go out more than anybody I know, but we don’t go just to the Black Cat or the Galaxy Hut anymore. We go to kinds of stuff. We go to fundraisers or we go to see stuff with friends from here or friends from Smithsonian or somebody in my class, you know, our neighbors. We have different levels of connection now.
TP: There’s different communities.
KS: That we’re a part of, and we just don’t have that single dedication to one community that we used to.
TP: Or, it might be tied to the idea that now, we actually have responsibilities that are completely different, right?
KS: Everybody had to get benefits at some point.
TP: Exactly, there’s things that as you get older, you, like certain things are best left to the people who are 22, who can call you out for not wearing, or for wearing a leather belt. And then there’s things that we’re better at.
EA: That we’re better at because we can punch ‘em in the face and let them know that there’s something more, that there’s things that actually matter in life. And, it’s hard to see it when you’re that young and maybe I grew up a little faster than a lot of people because I was pretty much financially on my own since I was 17, and I didn’t have parents paying for college and I didn’t go to college and all that stuff. I always kind of looked at everything a little differently in that didn’t have the luxury of being as carefree. I mean, it would have been a lot more fun to be less responsible, but I don’t know. I don’t know what I think. I think I was an old man. And that I missed out on a lot of stuff because parents did beat into me “hey, you got to make sure you have health insurance” and “Hey, you gotta make sure that you pay your bills on time. And don’t have a credit card that you can’t pay off and stuff.” That kind of killed all the fun stuff. So, I would have much rather have a bit more carefree, drama-filled life.
KS: Yeah, I did enough for the both of us.
TP: So, do you have any other last thoughts?
KS: Kansas House was fun. And god bless Bob Massey for stewarding it for all those years.
EA: Yeah, it’s not fun being the den father or mother.
KS: He was like Captain Jean-Luc Picard!