I’m Okay, You’re Fucked: Dan talks to Joe King of The Queers
by Dan Greene
Joe King has been playing punk rock with The Queers since 1990. Or is it 1982? Depends on where you want to start. FTTW author Dan caught up with Joe while Dog: The Bounty Hunter had gone to commercials.
Dan: Hey Joe.
Joe: Hey Dan. Where you calling from?
Dan: Mississauga, just outside Toronto; you’re in Atlanta, Georgia, right?
Joe: Yeah, good old Atlanta, it’s raining like shit out here but it’s 62 degrees. But I’m from New Hampshire so it’s warm here, it’s not bad weather to me.
Dan: Yeah I’m from Newfoundland, I know bad weather too well, always raining and snowing.
Joe: You’re from Newfoundland?
Dan: Yeah, you know the place, you’ve heard of it?
Joe: Hell yeah, of course, I’m from New Hampshire, so from fishing with my brother…. we fish out of Portsmouth, New Hampshire so we know all the coast, we’ve been up to Nova Scotia. My parents used to go up to Newfoundland sometimes during the summer.
Dan: Cool! And I’ve heard you do a lot of fishing, or you have, or…
Joe: Well I used to. I’m actually waiting to hear from my brother; his boat sank last year in a storm… but we’ve got some other friends with boats, so I said shit, I’ll come up for a while. I mean, it’ll be cold as hell but it’ll get me away from the city.… it’s cold but you get bundled up and you can handle it, you know? So anyway, what, do you write for a zine or something?
Dan: (Blathers on about FTTW etc for a while.)
Dan: Yes, and I’ve gotta say that I laughed my ass off.
Joe: You know, I was just over at this really cool bookstore, A Cappella Books, and I’ve gotta order that…. tomorrow, so I’m writing that down right now…. I feel embarrassed, everyone I know has read it, but I haven’t read it, and everyone says it’s great.
Dan: Yeah, I found it really funny. It took me a while to get around to it myself. Once I did, it wasn’t so much that I couldn’t put it down as I just didn’t want to.
Joe: That’s what everyone is saying. I just ordered this new Green Day book called Nobody Likes You. I got a couple of emails about it and said, I never buy those books, but fuck it, I’ll go buy this one.
Dan: It’s funny, I never even bothered with Green Day myself until Warning, which is when some people started getting pissed off with them….
Joe: I know a lot of people give them slack, but Dookie was their best album, and that was their first major label album. They would easily have done Dookie on Lookout if they had to, you know what I mean? They had all those songs before they got signed to whatever label they got on. I said it before and I’ll say it again, all those bands like Blink 182 and Good Charlotte and fucking Sum 41 and all those bands….. I mean, okay, I’ll give them their due, but I remember Fallout Boy before they hit it big, I mean right before. They were really nice; I remember the bass player saying, “I can’t believe I’m sitting next to Joe Queer!” and I said, “Dude, it’s gonna get better than this, trust me.” I checked them out because I’d heard the buzz, and you know, Fallout Boy weren’t a great band at all. It wasn’t because they were off, it was because they just weren’t a good band. I mean, they had that one song that was kinda catchy, but… Green Day came up out of the trenches. They were just schlupping around in their van and just rockin it, you know? And that was the experience, it wasn’t just some band that had been put together and known each other for six months.
That’s why we wouldn’t go on the Warped Tour, I mean we were asked, but all the bands we met that…. The trends have changed the whole landscape of the punk scene. Some of us get together and play music because there’s something inside of us, but I think now that it’s a career move, with the bands like Fallout Boy or Good Charlotte. The Warped tour has really changed things. I couldn’t go on it because I would get kicked off, I just couldn’t stand to be around all those crappy bands.
And I could see some of these trends coming, but I didn’t see the Dropkick Murphy Irish thing. That one did not make sense to me. Anti-Flag and the political schtick, yeah, I could see that; I hate it but I could see it. Didn’t really see the emo/Taking Back Sunday thing, to me that was just a spinoff of the lamer Lookout stuff.
Dan: Now, you just mentioned the Dropkick Murphys, and I know that’s been a hassle. The first time I heard those guys, I nearly shit myself. I couldn’t believe that someone had taken those traditional Irish tunes that I’d grown up listening to and had put that twist on it. But the culture that follows it does sometimes seem to have that bent towards violence for no good reason….
Joe: Well that’s the thing that gets to me, I mean musically I never heard anything I was impressed with at all. I saw them way back when in the Elvis Room in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and they were fucking horrible. I remember we were over in Australia and there was a tour poster for the Dropkick Murphys, and it was a drawing of a guy in a wifebeater with a studded wristband, holding his arms back like he’s ready to fight. I said to myself, you know, that whole scene is just built on stupidity and ignorance, and we’ve gone through punk rock for over 25 years and nobody’s learned anything.
The great bands back in the old days, to me, had a sense of humour and that’s how they got the message across. They used humour as a tool, like The Dead Kennedys, Flipper, Angry Samoans and The Ramones of course. Black Flag with TV Party and Six Pack; it was desperate but with a sense of humour. They could laugh at themselves, and that is the thing that, I think, is sorely lacking in music now. Bands take themselves too seriously and can’t laugh at themselves. I’m not bad mouthing these motherfuckers either; I’m not just talking shit. I grew up with Black Flag and the Ramones and DK and I just can’t buy this shit. And I get death threats because of it, ha ha! I get death threats and I say, “Man, I just don’t like your band, you don’t have to kill me, I don’t care if you don’t like my band. I’m in a fucking band called The Queers, what are you listening to me for anyway?”
I see the singer of The Dropkick Murphys running around and doing all these theatrical moves, and I go, “That reminds me of the singer from Journey.” I mean, when we did it in a punk band at first it was a parody, and he’s a parody of a parody and he doesn’t even know it. He’s back to Journey. They don’t get the fucking joke. And those guys, Lord forbid that you should fucking stand up and say anything, because you make a big target in this day and age…… It’s like when you read a book and there’s a character who goes through an experience from beginning to end and learns something by it…. Your whole agenda can’t be just to go to a show with a purple Mohawk and say life sucks, fuck you, I want to beat people up. I mean, do you learn anything by it? This thug mentality shows that we’ve not learned anything from punk rock; I mean maybe the music has been done so much that there’s just not gonna be another really great punk band, I don’t know. I mean, we’re not great; we’re a good punk band, but we’re not trailblazers. But I will say that we have a sense of humour.
I was talking to Marky Ramone in Brazil recently about all of this, and how those bands wouldn’t have stood a chance back then, nobody would go see them, but now…. The Ramones had a great punk message: don’t take yourself too seriously, question things, be able to laugh at yourself. Those are tools to get through, well not only punk rock but life. If you can’t be part of the solution, don’t be part of the problem. Some of the stuff I see just bugs me in punk now.
Dan: And it’s funny how so many people are so defensive over an identity, and are so unwilling to give an inch on it. And how some other people, for example, Dave Smalley from Down By Law and shit…
Joe: Yeah, he’s a great guy…
Dan: And a couple of years ago he “came out” and said, “You know what guys? I’m kind of conservative minded” and people gave him hell for it, saying, “Who do you think you are, you call yourself a punk?”, and it’s like “Jesus, just let me say what’s on my mind”. He was saying just one thing, and even if you didn’t agree with the guy, you gotta let him say it.
Dan: Oh yeah.
Joe: And it’s the same sort of thing with this. The people who voted for Bush, I mean, whatever. I don’t like Bush, I hate him, but I don’t think any less of my friends if they did vote for him. I’d like to think that most of them had a reason why they voted for him. Not like they were stoned at a fucking party and someone said so…… Just don’t go to a punk show to fucking learn about politics, I mean you should get more informed…
Dan: Anti-Flag are a good example…
Joe: Well, I think it’s pretty pompous and conceited to get on stage and start saying shit like that. That just bugs me. Fuck you, you know? You think you’re so much smarter than the audience, just fuck off. It’s a schtick. It’s like they’re doing us a favour by picking up their crappy guitar, and then they start believing their own bullshit.
Dan: You had a decent crowd when you played here in Toronto back in February.
Joe: Last time in Toronto; yeah, we did good in Toronto but I had a cold and was feeling kind of crappy that night. But it was still fun, we always have a lot of fun up there. We have our little corner of the world…. We have a new album coming out, a DVD coming out, and we’ve been working on a tribute album, I’ve got to get a few more bands together, and that’ll hopefully be out in May. I think we got The Dwarves, The Parasites, Screeching Weasel, New Bomb Turks….. some good bands there.
Dan: Sounds like it, yeah!
Joe: And we’re looking for a few more so we’ll see what happens. But I’m psyched to do that.
Dan: And why the hell do you have Ed Asner on the cover of Weekend At Bernie’s (live album recently released)?
Joe: Ha ha, that’s Don Barnes, a local drunk. He’s a guy that always gets up and sings Batman. Whatever band shows up, he wants to sing Batman. It’s on the album, hey?
Dan: Oh yeah, I haven’t picked it up yet.
Joe. I’m actually going to be doing a repressing here in a couple of weeks. We had to change that song. There was a fuckup in the first pressing, but yeah, it’s on there……
Dan: And a new album (Munki Brain) is coming out soon?
Joe: Yeah, well we’re all pretty big Ramones fans obviously. But the new Queers album goes off a little from that three chord stuff. I mean I love it, but I wasn’t in the mood to write another album all about being drunk and bummed out and stuff.
Dan: I heard there’s going to be an acoustic song on it.
Joe: On the new album there’s one semi-acoustic song; there are a couple of slow songs and one really Beach Boys sounding tune. I love doing that stuff, I’m really happy with that one. Some kids won’t like it, others will. It’s more in the direction of stuff since Don’t Back Down, and some people didn’t like that one at all. But it’s got that typical three chord stuff too, although a lot of people do like the slower ones. We’ve had a good run with it…. I was talking to Marky Ramone and we are looking at doing some songs, us and Ben Weasel.
Dan: No way, sounds great! And some of your stuff is coming out on Asian Man Records now. I hear that Mike Park (owner) is a pretty cool guy.
Joe: Yeah, I’m just getting to know him. I remember him from Skankin’ Pickle back in the day, but he’s got a great reputation and everyone likes him, Ben Weasel’s been really happy with him.
Dan: Well I’ve kept you long enough, so thanks a lot Joe, I really appreciate it.
Joe: Yeah, no problem, take it easy.
Thanks, Joe for this great interview. And the editors of FTTW thank Dan (Don't Go In There) for getting Joe to sit for a few questions. Great job, Dan and Joe.