Joe Queer: "Bands Sell a Few Albums on Warped Tour and Think They Cured AIDS"
|photo by Paolo Presperio|
The punk-rock guitarist and vocalist has built a cult legacy for himself with his long-running (20-plus years, on and off, sober and not) punk band the Queers. Alongside labelmates Screeching Weasel, Joe and a regularly entering-and-exiting stream of backup players rose above many of their Lookout! peers. They did this by spearheading an entire genre around reiterating, modifying, and experimenting (as much as one can with such basic, conservative building blocks) with the raw, dumb, and poppy blueprint drafted by o.g. glue-huffers the Ramones. But despite the acclaim and the success, King has maintained an unwavering position of surly grouchiness.
In the lead-up to the Queers' taking the stage at Respectable Street this Friday, County Grind shot Mr. Queer some questions to get to the root of his rage.
County Grind: Do you ever get sick of Ramones-style pop-punk? If not, what about the genre allows it to have such replay value for you? Are there any new trends or waves through the expansive "punk" genre that you've been really into lately?
Joe Queer: When it's done good, it's great. But usually, a lot of bands suck at it. Trends and shit in punk have all been done a few times. They go in and out of style every few years: the greaser Social D thing, Irish drunken ex-racist thing, the ska thing, the garage-band retro thing, the pop-punk thing, the lame mainstream pop punk à la All-American Rejects or Good Charlotte thing.
The stuff that gets me excited these days are some of the unknown punk bands that no one will ever hear of that still play music 'cause they love it. They're not trying to "make it" in the biz. They love punk, and they're playing it win, lose, or draw. I produce a lot of unknown bands, and they almost all have great energy and some really good songs. One band I did recently is from Huntington, West Virginia, called the Nakeds. Three young kids, covered a Germs song, and their originals were really great. Fit right in with that Germs cover. They'll probably go nowhere, but it's a classic punk album.
What inspires your lyrical antagonism?
Eh, usually day-to-day stuff, to be honest. We'll be on tour and something will piss us off. We'll write the title down and make a song out of it. As far as lyrics, I think it's arrogant and conceited to get onstage and talk about politics like you have some knowledge that us other poor idiots couldn't possibly have figured out. All that political shit for punk bands is just a schtick. Just a reason to crawl onstage and make as much money as they can. Most of them probably don't even believe the corny shit they spout off about. To go to a punk show to find out about politics is pretty pathetic. Most punks I know can't tie their own shoes, and I'm not really interested in their political views. (Gotta save that line for a song).
On that note, Queers songs are weirdly political in their consistent combativeness. It's not really about a position or platform, but to offend so frequently and seemingly so frivolously does seem like a sort of ideology.
Ha, yeah, I guess it's a weird stance. I guess you could say it's our schtick. I always loved the old punk bands who got their message across with humor. They'd say some great stuff, but they were always goofing at themselves and never took themselves too seriously like so many punk bands today. Christ Almighty, these bands sell a few albums on the Warped Tour and they think they have the cure for AIDS. They're doing us all a huge favor to jump onstage and spew their useless bullshit. I like to get onstage and make everyone forget the BS we all go through and enjoy ourselves for 45 minutes.
The recession and the internet have not been kind to the midlevel DIY punk label. But it seems like Asian Man is silently chugging along; you guys make it down to Florida every year or so, etc. How is the nationally touring pop-punk scene's infrastructure doing?
It's permeated by money-grubbing whores parading around as hard-core punk rockers. No integrity and honesty in the scene among any of the bigger punk bands. In the old days, all those bands would have been beaten and attacked and sent off to sell cars, wash dishes, and deliver pizza. The smart ones would work the drive-through window at Mickey D's. Luckily the Queers have a loyal following of like-minded individuals who show up to support us and have a good time. So we keep on keeping on. Asian Man is the best label we've ever been on. Exactly what I thought a punk label should be.