Punk has certainly changed since it was solidified as a genre more than thirty years ago; now it’s an ill-defined glob that can include everything from the profane experimentations of G.G. Allin to the somehow more disturbing appearance of Good Charlotte at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The discussion of punk has long moved past the music, evolving into a much larger debate about creative ethics and artistic vision. Caught in the middle are countless bands trying to maintain their credibility while finding a larger audience for their music. Joe Blow, guitarist and vocalist for the Dallas-based bands Staggers and Dog Company, weighed in on the challenges and rewards of balancing art and commerce.
What does “punk” mean these days?
It means that punk music was not a trend or a phase of teenage rebellion. It is a viable type of music. So many bands, regardless of their type of music, have been influenced by the aggression, fashion, and ethics of punk. So many of today’s rock ’n’ roll bands never would have existed if it hadn’t been for punk rock. And yes, I said fashion in reference to punk; there’s no denying that punk has a distinct look. It is funny to me and somewhat sad to see some aspects of punk being thought of as fashionable or chic. Actually, it makes me sick. Some punk bands have lost sight of the big picture due to the promise of a big payday. The lyrics and music take a back seat.
Do you consider yourself punk?
I do consider myself punk, and I have since I was thirteen. When I first heard the Circle Jerks’ Group Sex and the Misfits’ Legacy of Brutality, I was hooked. I wanted to get a guitar and be in a punk band. A couple of months later I wrote my first song. I still feel the same listening to that music. I never will get tired or bored of punk rock. There are some things about yourself you just can’t change.
How has being in a band changed over the years? Is punk rock a young man’s game, or have things gotten easier with age?
It has changed for me. I don’t drink much before we play, and I really focus on the show itself and the set list. Being in a band is somewhat of a young man’s game. Since I’m older and have experienced more in my life, my writing is a little more mature. The band tends to think things out, and our lyrics are more insightful. Our music has stayed within the boundaries of basic rock ’n’ roll, but the songwriting has gotten better over the years.
How does settling down fit into the musician’s lifestyle?
It fits great for me. It’s sometimes difficult to balance kids, work, and family and still find time for the music. I was touring when my oldest son was two and three. I was lucky, though, that I had a very supportive wife and family to help out.
Are you currently a full-time musician?
I am a full-time musician and a full-time father. If you mean full-time musician in the sense that it is my job, well, no. I play not only in the Staggers but also in Dog Company. Right now, the Staggers do not play as many shows as we used to. It became difficult to play shows due to the fact that Billy [Blitz, guitars] lives in Kentucky and Ryan [McCoy, drums] lives in Oregon. That is why Matt [bass] and I formed Dog Company. I don’t make enough to live on playing in the Staggers, but I still consider myself a full-time musician.
What are your sources of support for your music?
As far as support financially, we have none; family-wise we have plenty. The fans in Dallas are some of the most supportive of anywhere we have played.
How and why did you decide to cover “Snoopy vs. the Red Baron”?
Billy and I both loved that song as kids, and one day I found the twelve-inch and bought it. My son thought it was the coolest songs he had ever heard, so we decided to cover it. I think mainly I wanted to do it because my son, Thorne, loved it so much.
Who are some other influences for your music?
For Dog Company, mainly politics. It is hard for me at the moment to write about movies or fantasy stuff just because of the state of affairs in the world right now. I do have some new Staggers material, but I have yet to practice it with the band. I watch a lot of documentaries and I only read nonfiction. Our music comes from all different sources — from early rock ’n’ roll to spaghetti westerns, punk rock and beyond. For me, it is Hank Williams, the Clash, U.S. Bombs, the Misfits and Bad Religion.
Is your song “Last Man on Earth” inspired in any way by Matheson’s I am Legend or Omega Man? Any plans to see the movie?
I’ll most likely rent the movie. I have my hesitations about Will Smith, just because he always plays a loudmouth and Robert Neville is not that way, but the previews I’ve seen look pretty cool. I hope there is not a lot of music, just because it is such a somber idea and tone. I wrote the song “Last Man on Earth” after watching the Vincent Price film, but the song has a lot to do with my troubled marriage. I do also love Omega Man. My brothers and I freaked out on that movie as kids. I love him laid out like Christ at the end in the blood and the water. One more way Charlton Heston saved the world.