This past Monday, April 24th I interviewed members of an iconic, first wave California skate punk band, the owners of a record label and the brain trust of a popular annual cultural event that completely consumes every hotel room, a dozen bars and music venues and every beer coozy in Downtown Las Vegas- and I did them all in the span of an hour and a half. Like a wise man once said, “Let’s do the whole fuckin village, man.” Bunny from the movie, Platoon.
Sometimes, people make the mistake of thinking wisdom and maturity are the same concept but Confucius say, “enjoying or telling of a fart joke, occasionally, does not preclude you from being able to call on experience to make the right decision'” -from Confucius’ early, more obscure teachings- the more underground stuff.
Some people have an inherent, child like disposition. On the latest Janky Smooth Sessions, it’s hard to tell with the Stern brothers if it’s the brother dynamic that brings out the towel snapping, one-ups-manship and verbal noogies because I’ve never spent a moment with them while attending a tax seminar to witness how they conduct themselves amongst the squares.
But fortunate for all of us, they aren’t accountants- they’re punk rockers and it might just be that a jacket and tie and a bad sense of humor might be bad for their business. Because whatever they’re doing, they’ve had enough wisdom to still emerge on top after pivoting in the post-mortem of two pursuits that so many people agree flatlined, even viewing the open casket of the music business and punk rock with their own eyes but debating only the actual time of death. Yet here they are- still in the business of music and that music is still punk rock.
Interestingly enough, Shawn and Mark Stern, O.G. skate punks and independent record execs have managed to continuously resuscitate the corpse of punk’s most punkest eras and draw every crusty fuck, every studded and squatted sane and psycho, every buttoned up polo that covers a chest plate during work hours, every black, brown, yellow, two tone, peckerwood and poser, every new and ex-suicidal, every mature parent transformed from L.A.D.S. to prove every year that punk IS Dad as they invade Fremont Street with roving groups of old friends and new that must look like an army of skin headed psycho-billy aliens to unsuspecting mid-west and southerners, seeing culture on the skids for the first time, kids. But I digress..
Speaking of wisdom, in 2003 I was a fledgling music journalist with Juice Magazine– a publication dedicated to skate, surf and punk (pools pipes and punk rock.) One of my earliest assignments was to interview Shawn and Mark. Now, some 14 years later the three of us reconvened to catch up and bring it full circle, at least for me.
Now in the spirit of the theme of bringing it back to full circle, it’s wisdom and experience that has allowed them to be magnets of music media money. They haven’t simply ridden the horse of past success into the ground and then continuously insisted on beating that dead horse. Like the old bull said to they young bull, “no son, let’s walk down and fuck them all.”
We talked about the future and the past of Punk Rock Bowling and Music Festival, the feckless fans of punk rock on Facebook, whether or not the presence of Neo Nazi skins at punk rock shows is on the rise again. the rise and fall and rise again of Cock Sparrer and examples of other bands which, because of the internet, have become more popular now in their returns and reunions than they ever were in their so called prime. And of course, the continuing state of suck of bands like New Found Glory.
They don’t seem to agree on much but it sure was fun asking the questions.
Mark and Shawn have made their mark on punk rock and American culture. Not only with the success and status of their band, Youth Brigade but with great runs in both the music business with Better Youth Organization Records and through music festivals with Punk Rock Bowling in Las Vegas in it’s 19th year and the PRB expansion into the east coast in Asbury Park, New Jersey going into it’s second year in this year of our lord, 2017.
But our interview is the perfect example of why I do what I do and, if I might be so bold, why the BYO Boys do what they do- to have fun doing what we do.
video: Todd Andersen
edit: Danny B