Portraits of Punk, or Why I’m Starting a New Interview Series

In 2012, I’m going to publish a list of interviews with as many punks as I can. Here’s why:

A little about me

I used to worry about whether I would ever get hired as a reporter after spending so many years identifying as a punk.

I didn’t study journalism in college. By the time I graduated, I knew I wanted to be a reporter, but I thought my background in Anthropology (my major) and political science (my minor) would be a handicap in job hunting.

I also thought the ghosts of my punk-rock past might haunt my working-stiff journalist future. I was convinced an industry that sought to present news in a fair and unbiased way would have a hard time stomaching someone whose integrity might be called into question by their past.

I was wrong. I’ve met some great punk journalists, and that’s not all. Anyone who’s seen “Page One: Inside the New York Times” knows about David Carr and his coke-snorting past, and that his mastery of the craft has not suffered for it. I’ve met journalists who spend their 20s as blacked-out drunken touring musicians. Journalists who previously worked at nonprofits, or who spent their formative years as graffiti artists. There are others.

It turns out the media is full of people whose paths to the trade were anything but ordinary, or for that matter, sanitary.

‘We rock, because it’s us against them’

Before journalism took over my life, I was a punk. That was an integral part of my history. It’s cliché, but those kids, those shows, that lifestyle and those ideas influenced me and made me who I am.

We tapped into something visceral when we crammed ourselves into those sweaty basements and legion halls to play and listen to punk music. We found something honest and joyful there in the sweat and the screams. Some people called it their community, others called it a scene. We didn’t create punk, but we proudly carried the mantle given to us by those who came before.

So if this thing we call “punk” made me who I am, how did it shape other people? What does being “punk” even mean? Did it look the same for everyone else as it did to me? Did everyone else come to punk the same way I did? And who was more important, Crass or The Sex Pistols?

Portraits of Punk

I hope these interviews will provide readers and myself with answers to some of those questions, but mostly I hope they’ll be fun to read. I also hope my interviews – unlike the punk scene at its worst – will be interesting and insightful for people outside punk.

I hope to carry on in the vein of the interview series that inspired me to start this project, namely Gaby Dunn’s “100 Interviews” or my friend Zach Dionne’s “Conversations with Creators.”

Both those series tell the stories of people, most of whom aren’t famous or even particularly noteworthy. No matter who the subject of the interview was, I never forgot t. Zach or Gaby were there. They drove the interview, and allowed themselves to be part of it. I plan to do the same, so if you liked those series, I hope you’ll like mine.

I plan to start easy, with what I know, by interviewing some Maine punks I’ve been friends with for years. It’s my hope that from there I’ll be able to branch out to the periphery of my social network and eventually to people I’ve never met.

I’ve got a few interviews in the works already, so you should start seeing them here every week or so starting with the new year. See you then.

PS: If you fit the bill and would like to be interviewed for this series, let me know in the comments or email me at riocarmine@gmail.com.

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  • http://zachdionne.tumblr.com Zach Dionne

    Can’t wait, bro. Very humbled you remembered my tiny series. Yours sounds spectacular.