5 Punks Who Are Smarter Than You

Punk rockers are the most badass guys and gals on the planet. On a regular basis we witness them moshing, crowd surfing, abusing substances and screaming their lungs out on stage.  But its not all partying and protesting.  It may surprise some that a good number of punk’s most vociferous icons spend their time between gigs hitting the books, learning all they can and using that knowledge to make this world a better place. Their areas of learning are surprising too. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the smartest punks in the scene, shall we?.

1. Greg Graffin

How smart is he?
Greg Graffin has been using his creativity and intelligence since he was a kid. At age 15, he and his friends formed Bad Religion, releasing two EP’s and full length until 1985 when they broke up. In 1986 Graffin reformed the group and they’ve been killing it ever since. The band is still going strong, having released sixteen full-lengths, two live albums, two EP’s and two DVDs. It’s hard to believe that with all this rocking out Graffin is able to further his education but he has, in spades. After graduating from El Camino Real High School, he attended UCLA where he received his undergraduate degrees in both anthropology and geology. He continued by receiving his master’s degree in geology and Ph.D. from Cornell University.

What does it all mean?
There seems to be no end to Greg Graffin’s genius as he has done so much with his knowledge. His Ph.D. dissertation was a zoology paper titled “Evolution, Monism, Atheism, and the Naturalist World-View: Perspectives from Evolutional Biology,” say that five times fast. After graduating UCLA, he later returned to teach Life Science 1 and has since announced that he will also be teaching a class about evolution. As an award winner, he received the Rushdie Award for Cultural Humanism. He is also an author, publishing several books including but not limited to “Evolution and Religion: Questioning the Beliefs of the World’s Eminent Evolutionists,” “Anarchy Evolution” with Steve Olson and the upcoming “The Population Wars.” And that is all really just the tip of the iceberg for a true renaissance man who should be an inspiration for all.


2. Dexter Holland

How smart is he?
Perhaps the most mainstream of the smart punks is The Offspring’s Dexter Holland. While he may be the original prankster he’s also a incredibly intelligent. He began in high school where he was the class valedictorian. From there he went on to the University of Southern California to gain a Bachelor’s degree in Biology and a Master’s degree in Molecular Biology. He even went as far as to be a Ph.D. candidate before deciding to concentrate on his band. In addition to book learning, Holland also is a licensed Airline Transport Pilot, a licensed flight instructor and entrepreneur.

What does it all mean?
For the most part, Dexter spends his time focusing on The Offspring which is great because The Offspring are fantastic (I don’t want to hear it, you elitists!). Their third album Smash has gone 20 times platinum since its release and most of their follow up albums have gone anywhere from gold to multi-platinum with their success having no end in sight. But Dexter still uses his smarts from time to time. Equipped with his pilot’s license, he made a solo trip around the world in just ten days which is quite the feat. This year, he and three others published a highly regarded paper regarding microRNA in HIV genomes. I’ll give you ten bucks if you tell me what that means. It should also be noted that James Lilja, The Offspring’s original drummer is also a smart cookie. The band let Lilja go so that he could go to medical school. He is now a hard working gynecologic oncologist in San Jose, California.


3. Milo Aukerman

How smart is he?
As part of the popular Los Angeles punk band The Descendents, Milo Aukerman is known equally as a kick ass musician and a brilliant mind. Milo had no issue displaying how incredibly nerdy he was before being a nerd became cool as he is most notably recognized as a four eyed anti-rockstar. Milo attended UC San Diego where he received his doctorate in Biology. He then followed that up by doing his postdoctoral research in biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin.

What does it all mean?
Though there will always be debate on the matter, The Descendents are often thought to be the pioneers of the pop punk genre, proving that Milo’s smarts not only influence biochemistry. Milo and company became one of the heavy hitters in the punk world and have released six studio records, several live albums and a few compilations since their inception in 1987. While the Descendents have limited their performances since reforming in 2010, Milo keeps himself plenty busy as a plant researcher (he researches plants, people!) at the DuPont Company in Delaware.


4. Michael John Burkett (aka “Fat Mike”)

How smart is he?
Fat Mike is a punk rock God! As the lead vocalist/bassist for his band NOFX and bassist for super group Me First and the Gimmie Gimmies, not too mention his notoriously shocking antics, he is undoubtedly one of punk rock’s biggest icons. But he’s not all angst and attitude.  He’s got brains too. A graduate of San Francisco State with a bachelor’s degree in Social Science and a minor in Human Sexuality, it is evident that he has book smarts. But what really elevates Fat Mike is his street smarts and razor sharp business sense. With it he has created a punk rock empire while influencing many aspiring musicians along the way.

What does it all mean?
At 46, Fat Mike has done it all and it only starts with him being in NOFX, one of, if not the most popular punk bands of all time. In addition, Mike is the owner and founder of Fat Wreck Chords, one of the largest independent record labels in North America. He knows a good band when he sees it, launching bands like Rise Against and Against Me into the spotlight, just to name a couple. On top of all that, he started Punk Voter, is a political activist and a restaurant owner.  Conservatives might cringe at his proclamations on religion, drugs and sex but nobody can deny the man knows what he’s doing when it comes to business and street smarts.


5. Dan Yemin

How smart is he?
Westfield, New Jersey’s Dan Yemin is yet another one of the smartest and creative guys in the punk rock scene. His major claim to fame is being the kick ass guitarist for the majorly influential band Lifetime. In addition to shredding guitar for the likes of Kid Dynamite and Paint it Black he also plays bass on the debut album for the Adam Goren fronted, Armalite. All of this just continues to prove his creative prowess but his brilliance doesn’t stop with music. Yemin is one smart dude who was able to obtain his doctorate in psychology from Widener University in Chester, Pennsylvania.

What does it all mean?
Along with his fellow dazzling puck rockers, Yemin is certainly not the type of guy to get his degree and then push it to the wayside. Although Lifetime reunited in 2005 and plays a gig here and there, Yemin puts his heart into to his real passion and he is currently a practicing child and teen psychologist in the Philadelphia suburbs. It seems that everyone can agree that its already astounding that this guy acquired his doctorate degree but the field he chose and his determination to make the world a happier place one young person at a time is truly inspiring.

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  1. joltman
    joltman9/19/2013 4:34 AM | Permalink

    I’m glad Yemin was included, he’s one of my idols

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