The Suicide Machines – “New Girl”
My introduction to punk rock was through 90’s ska punk, which I’d assume a lot of people my age would probably say. I remember an older cousin of mine made me a mixtape with a bunch of random junk on it and most of it was pretty good. Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana, Faith No More, and a bunch of other things I liked a lot, but nothing that would spark a lifelong love of music like I have now. But there was one song on the tape that always caught my attention. It was “New Girl” by The Suicide Machines. (I assume he had heard it on the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater soundtrack or something.) Anyway, I had no idea that it was a punk song, or a ska song for that matter. All I knew is that I wanted to hear more of whatever it was. I went to the local record store in Seaford NY, where I grew up, and got a copy of the Destruction By Definition on CD. I also asked around other artists like it and people pointed me towards other ska bands that were popular at the time: Reel Big Fish, Mustard Plug and the like, but none of it grabbed me like The Suicide Machines did.
Choking Victim – “500 Channels”
One day I was in downtown Manhattan with some of my friends, going to all the places young nervous punkers go down on the Bowery, and I wandered into Search and Destroy. While wandering around the shop trying to look cool, which 16 year old me was desperate to be, I heard a song that really got me hooked. It was snotty, and loud, and fast, and catchy as fuck. THAT was what I was looking for. Cue the existential dread when I realized I had to ask someone what was on, thus outing myself as a complete dork. I casually approached the way too hip for his own good cashier and asked him what was on. He told me it was “500 Channels” by Choking Victim, and the rest is history.
blink-182 – “Dammit”
I got into punk rock pretty early in life. In 1997, I was in second grade and my dad bought me my first two CD’s. One was Dude Ranch by blink-182 and the other was the Backstreet Boys’ self-titled album. Luckily, I went more in the pop punk direction as I got older (though I do still have a lot of pop guilty pleasures). I remember being in the car and hearing “Dammit” for the first time and going, “Wait……this is awesome!” blink-182 would eventually be the reason I bought a guitar and “Dammit” was probably the second or third song I learned how to play.
Bad Religion – “I Want to Conquer the World”
Now this song was a total game changer for me. Before hearing this song, I mostly liked stuff like blink-182, Green Day, The Offspring (all the mainstream stuff at the time) before my friend gave me the “dude, that’s not punk, THIS is punk” conversation that I’m sure everyone reading has been a part of at some point. This opened my ears to stuff like NOFX, Pennywise, Dead Kennedys, Black Flag, etc. And now here I am at 25 years old still listening to and playing punk rock, because we’re all in it for the money and the girls right?……
Green Day – “Longview”
The first “punk” song i can remember hearing was “Longview” off of Dookie. I was 9 years old and in 3rd grade at the time if memory serves. I had no idea what getting stoned or masturbation even meant, I just knew I loved the walking bassline into the louder chorus. I brought Dookie into school for my 3rd grade school b-day party, and I remember my teacher laughing at the album art and then quickly not laughing as she realized the subject matter. I’d be lying if I said that record wasn’t huge in shaping my view of music at an early age.
Monotonix – “Fun Fun Fun”
Okay, so my second song kinda comes after absorbing all of the foundation bands. I’m old, after all. It came at a time where I was a theatre student and really studying performance. I was in the process of getting my Masters in theatre while working as a sound guy at the best venue in my little small town in northwest Ohio. Anyway these guys show up in gym shorts, saying they are from Tel Aviv, Israel, they were called Monotonix. They said they didn’t need a sound guy, just boost the main mic. I noticed they set up on the floor and the guitarist had two amps, one bass one guitar, max impact right? The sound was beyond huge. They played to like maybe 15 people. The singer set himself on fire and then taped himself to me, and while doing it, took off my shoe, poured my beer into it, and my girlfriend drank it. Out of control. That was when I realized how any live setting can become a real barnburner.
Brand New – “Failure By Design”
Back in the Napster days of 2002 my friend Jenny asked me to see Brand New play the now-defunct Sports Plus in Lake Grove, Long Island. My mom did NOT let me go, but I did download some of their songs, and “Failure By Design” was the first one I heard and my instant favorite. Brand New was the first band I really fell in love with, and while I’m not sure “Failure By Design” is still my favorite by them, I still get stoked when I hear that opening riff.
The Homecoming Queens – “The Anti-Emo Emo Song”
The first local show I went to when I was 16 was headlined by one of Chris’ old bands, The Vagabonds, and another ska band called The Homecoming Queens. I’ve seen that band a million times, and though they’ve written infinitely better songs, the one to know back then was called “The Anti Emo Emo Song.” It’s silly in retrospect, but using your ska band to make fun of emo kids was like cat-nip to a young, teenage Craig Shay. Jokes on me because I still like both ska and emo. Vizzi and I got to do gang vocals on the latest Homecoming Queens EP and that was such a nerdy dream come true.
Green Day – “Having a Blast”
The Offspring – “Self-Esteem”
It’s hard for me to say exactly when I “fell in love with punk rock”…I didn’t listen to much radio as a kid, so, my music came from my dad’s expansive CD collection. He’s obsessed with music, and in the early days of file sharing (remember Napster?), he made a ton of mix CD’s. One of the ones he gave me featured Green Day’s “Having a Blast” and The Offspring’s “Self Esteem”. Of course, at the time I didn’t really know that “punk rock” was a thing, and that it was different from the other bands on that mix (which prominently featured rock and metal songs by bands such as Metallica, Black Sabbath, and Guns N Roses), but those two always stuck with me, even if they might seem a bit ridiculous or outdated in a modern context. “Having a Blast” uses a possibly tasteless terrorism metaphor, but it’s not really about that; it’s about being angry and frustrated, and being sick of listening to people who don’t understand you. It wouldn’t be hard to interpret “Self Esteem” as misogynistic, but at its core, it’s dripping with nihilistic self-loathing and a resignation to feeling like shit. It was years before I’d fall in love with Against Me!, Nothington, or The Lawrence Arms, but as a perpetually uncool kid with a volatile temper and a complete inability to express feelings, those songs were catnip and inadvertently pushed me toward starting a band with that weird skinny kid in my gym class (you might know him).
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