Youth Brigade (IV)
Posted Apr 1, 2007, by The Bear.
First broadcast on KSCR on January 31, 2007
INTRODUCTION: I label this interview “Youth Brigade IV” because it’s a transcript of the fourth time that Shawn Stern, Youth Brigade’s leader, has been a guest on my show. He visited us at KSCR in the spring of 1998, and we spoke to him again that summer, and again two years later in the spring of 2000. He’s one of “The Bear’s Den’s” oldest friends and supporters so when I celebrated the tenth anniversary of my first broadcast this January it was quite natural to have him back on again and find out what both Youth Brigade and his label, BYO Records, had been up to in recent years. This interview was broadcast live during the show. We spoke to Shawn via phone in the offices of BYO Records. Also present in the studio for the interview were Jonathan Slowik, KSCR’s current Punk Director, and Tim Loc, KSCR’s current Promotions Director, both of whom interned on my show when they first came to the station and were sitting in that day to help celebrate my show’s tenth anniversary.
THE BEAR: One of our oldest friends, Shawn Stern, the leader of Youth Brigade is on the line. Can you hear me Shawn?
SHAWN STERN: Yes I can. How are you doing Barry?
BEAR: It’s great to have you back. Thanks for asking.
SHAWN: It’s great to be back.
BEAR: It’s been a long time since we’ve spoken to you so I’m glad that you’re taking time out to speak to us today. Shawn first came here – to KSCR actually, he came and sat in on the show in the spring of ‘98, and we had him on a few times after that. He’s one of our most frequent guests, and BYO Records happens to be the first label that I formed a relationship with after I started the show, and therefore they are the foundation of the Punk department here at KSCR. So anyway welcome back. How are things going over there at BYO records these days?
SHAWN: Things are going great; it’s our 25 year anniversary this year and it should be a pretty big year. We plan on releasing at least a record a month, and we’re gonna be putting out this big box set for Christmas this year. It’s gonna feature probably a 70 to 90 minute DVD history of the label made by Jeff and Ryan who did the Bouncing Souls DVD, and they’re actually working with NOFX right now on a DVD for them. There’ll be two audio CDS with new songs hopefully from pretty much every band we’ve ever worked with or are friends with.
BEAR: How many bands is that by now? That must be like 350!
SHAWN: I don’t know, something crazy like that. Not all of them are still together, but we’ll try to get as many different ones as we can, and try to get stuff that you can’t get anywhere else, and then we’re gonna top that all off with a 50 page hardcover book that will have the whole history of the label with pictures and flyers and posters and artwork and all kinds of inside stories.
BEAR: That’s quite a long time. Labels come and go of course. How many labels have you seen come and go over the years?
SHAWN: Oh, dozens at least. I don’t know.
BEAR: Just right here in L.A.
SHAWN: Yeah. I can’t keep track of some of the ones that come and go just in a year or two. We’re pretty amazed that we’re still here after 25 years but it’s a wonderful thing and we owe it to all the people out there that have been supporting us and Punk Rock in general for the last 25 years.
BEAR: So what has Youth Brigade specifically been up to? Now I know you went overseas –
SHAWN: Yeah, we went to Japan back at the end of November, beginning of December; we hadn’t been there in about ten years.
BEAR: And how was it?
SHAWN: It was great. Japan’s an interesting country and interesting people. They drink like crazy.
BEAR: Oh do they?
SHAWN: Yeah, it’s a lot of fun.
BEAR: Might I ask what they drink like crazy?
SHAWN: Well they drink beer and saki mostly, but they’ll drink just about anything. The Japanese people tend to be very quiet and respectful until you put some drinks into them and then they get crazy.
BEAR: Anything in particular that you can tell us about?
SHAWN: Um, well actually we were the ones that got pretty crazy on the first night in Osaka. I don’t remember too much but I know that my brothers went to the bar with – the Briefs were out with us, and apparently they were walking through the alley just sort of drunk and breaking things, and then the police came and they all ran, but my brother Adam wasn’t quick enough to figure out it was time to run and the cops just stood and sat there. Mark went back for him and they took out a broom and made him start sweeping the alley.
BEAR: So that’s what happens when you get arrested in Japan? They make you sweep?
SHAWN: Yeah they don’t handcuff you and throw you to the ground and beat you and pull out guns.
BEAR: “We don’t have enough room for prison so we’re going to put you to work.”
SHAWN: Pretty much. And then when they realized he was way too drunk to be able to do anything they told him to leave and go back to the hotel.
BEAR: You know if that had happened in America it would have been much worse.
SHAWN: Yeah, well he probably would’ve ran if he was in America.
BEAR: Probably would’ve had the sense to run, yes. Is Youth Brigade working on new material now?
SHAWN: Yeah, we’ve been saying that for the last five years but yeah, we are. We’ve just been so busy with the label and with family stuff. But we are working on some stuff; we hope to have a record out by the end of the year because it’s been a long time.
BEAR: Now the last time we had you on the show it was a completely different world. It was before 9/11 – quite a ways before 9/11 actually – so much has changed in this country, in the world, and in Punk. What is your take on the state of the scene today – “yes, here we are on Public TV, what is your take on the state of Punk today, with McNeill/Lehrer?”
SHAWN: I don’t know. It’s a weird world just for music in general with the digital downloading which, from a musician’s standpoint, and even a record label standpoint, is a good thing. But people have to remember that if you don’t pay for it the bands aren’t going to survive. So I really think that things are changing in that respect drastically. A lot of big labels think it’s going to take some years but I think it’s gonna happen – it’s already happening, and it’s only a matter of time before you’re just not going to see CDs anymore.
BEAR: That’s very possible.
SHAWN: As far as 9/11, yeah it’s a crazy world but we all knew that George Bush didn’t win the first election.
BEAR: And now he’s only got a 30% approval rating; that’s the latest poll.
SHAWN: There’s no surprise to any of that. Any intelligent person knew that going into Iraq was just gonna cause a civil war, and he got exactly what he wanted. I mean everybody knows it was all about money and they’ve taken a ton of our money to go over there and reconstruct and rebuild Iraq, and there was a report on the news just now about how the State Department is finding that a bunch of the money has been misspent or has disappeared – surprise, surprise – it’s going into Halliburton’s pockets. It doesn’t take it genius to know what’s going on.
BEAR: Well maybe whoever’s the next president will actually order a criminal investigation into this president.
SHAWN: That would be wonderful. I’d love to see the man impeached because he actually did really messed up things, unlike Clinton.
BEAR: Yes, we remember that. And certainly if [what Clinton did] was an impeachable offense then lying to get us into a war should count as well.
SHAWN: Yeah, people are dying for this. Nobody died over Clinton.
BEAR: No – well maybe shame did, but that’s about it – what did you say Jon?
JONATHAN SLOWIK: We don’t know that for sure.
TIM LOC: The body count’s at 11 right now.
BEAR: The body count’s at 11. So if you guys have any questions for Shawn just jump in.
JONATHAN: Is this thing on?
JONATHAN: I don’t really have anything to say, but just checking. Hi Shawn.
SHAWN: Hi how you doing?
JONATHAN: Pretty good. I’ve been a fan of Youth Brigade for a while, so good to talk to you.
BEAR: He’s our current Punk Director now here at KSCR.
SHAWN: Very cool. We got a lot of good new bands coming out. We got a new Chlorox Girls record coming out later this year, and Nothingtons just about to come out.
JONATHAN: Nothingtons? That’ll be cool.
SHAWN: Yeah, Nothingtons a great record.
BEAR: Now among the changes that have happened in the last year is we lost CBGBs.
BEAR: I believe Youth Brigade went and played a last show there.
SHAWN: Well they billed it as a last show when we were there, but then there was a whole bunch more after that.
BEAR: I remember initially the thing was going to close at the end of August, 2005, and then there was a court fight, and they finally struck a deal that let them stay until this past October.
BEAR: Did you play there within this past year?
SHAWN: We played there in 2005, the end of August/beginning of September I think it was. We played with Sham 69. It was an amazing show, one of the best we’ve had there since back in the 80s when we used to play there pretty much every year when we were on tour. And it was still a dump, and of course the air conditioning was broken that night - which I think is always broken.
BEAR: I don’t know that it ever worked.
SHAWN: Yeah, it was a sweat pit
BEAR: There was still no door on the bathroom downstairs.
BEAR: The Throne was still visible from the stairs; it always was.
BEAR: Did you ever get there during the very brief period, I think in the summer of ‘99 – no ‘98, when they did put doors on the bathrooms downstairs behind the stage. I think they lasted for about a week –
BEAR: – And then they were gone.
SHAWN: That’s why. They probably do put them in every once in a while and they just never lasted.
BEAR: No they never did. So what does it mean for Punk when a place like that closes down?
SHAWN: Uh, you know, it’s a shame, but what are you going to do? Nothing’s forever, right? The Whiskey’s still going, the Troubadour’s still going, the Roxy’s still going, that’s good. We lost the Starwood.
BEAR: We lost that one a long time ago.
SHAWN: Yupp, and the Masque too. But you still have the memories if you were there and you can say that “I was there before it closed.”
BEAR: Yes, many times thankfully. Now here’s question that I guess we’ve been waiting to ask for the last several years, ever since “We Got The Neutron Bomb” was published, and also the “Make the Music Go Bang” book was published, but when people write the history of the first wave of Punk – I’ve noticed this quite a bit, and I’ve even been guilty of it myself – they always talk about New York –
SHAWN: – And they always talk about England –
BEAR: But they rarely talk about Los Angeles.
SHAWN: And you’re going to see with our DVD and our box set, since we were a major part of the whole scene here and a part of the history and helping see it through from when it was nothing to being something, you’re going to see what I hope is the beginning of a correction to that, and I hope that people start writing about it and talking about it better. It’s a shame, but the press was always on England and New York, and those were the bands that signed to major labels and got really big. But this was a do-it-yourself scene in Southern California –
BEAR: And when you consider who came out of this scene here –
SHAWN: Yes, some of the biggest bands ever really.
BEAR: X of course, Black Flag, the Dead Kennedys - they were a little later – a whole bunch of others –
SHAWN: Yeah, and then the whole second wave – Offspring and Green Day, and off course Bad Religion back then.
BEAR: Yes. I remember the first time you came here – nine years ago, wow – I remember I was listening to that interview a couple of years back, actually after the “Neutron Bomb” book was published, and I remember hearing all of these references you were making to things like Skinhead Manor and the Masque, and places like that. And I remember at the time – I didn’t know this at the time but listening to the interview the second time I realized that all of those things had just gone whoosh! Right over my head! Because we didn’t hear about those things in New York when I came out to L.A. So that’s really a shame.
SHAWN: Yeah, well if you’ve seen the movie “American Hardcore” that’s probably the first movie that I’ve seen, there may be a few others, that really touches on the Southern California scene and its influence. It does a decent job of giving you a bit of an overview, but it’s mostly a movie about Hardcore in New York and D.C. and Boston. But it definitely talks to a lot of L.A. people and gets you a sense of something big was going [on] out there and people just ignored it. But the kids didn’t ignore it, and that’s what’s important.
BEAR: No. If the kids had ignored it, it wouldn’t have happened.
BEAR: I remember Jay Bentley from Bad Religion spoke to us a few years back, told us about playing a show on USC’s frat row –
SHAWN: Oh yeah?
BEAR: – In 1980, yeah, a Circle Jerk’s show at Chi Phi, which was my fraternity a few years ago, that Darby Crash attended. I would have liked to have seen that but I was a little young. So anyway hopefully L.A. will get more of the recognition it deserves.
SHAWN: I think it’s just a matter of time. I think the thing that we’re putting out’s going to start getting some attention to it. You’ll see things start to change.
BEAR: And if you didn’t say the release date would you say it again?
SHAWN: Well I don’t know the exact date, but it’s going to be in time for Christmas this year, so it’ll probably come out sometime around late September / October I would guess.
BEAR: And what is next for Youth Brigade?
SHAWN: We’re just going to be working on songs and try and get a record out before the year’s up, and keep busy with playing here and there. We’re gonna play at South By Southwest, do a showcase with the Briefs, Nothington, and the Chlorox Girls.
BEAR: You got any other local shows happening?
SHAWN: We might do a couple of shows before that, just sort of little warm-ups; there’s a new place called Airliner Bar down in East L.A. We’ve been talking about doing something there so we might be doing something there right before South By Southwest which I guess would be early March.
BEAR: Yes I believe that’s when it usually is. We can look that up. Where is South By Southwest happening? Isn’t that in Texas?
SHAWN: Yeah it’s in Texas every year. It’s huge.
BEAR: Well I want to thank you for taking some time to talk with us again.
SHAWN: Well thank you for calling and congratulations on your anniversary.
BEAR: Thanks, it’s been much too long. Let’s not have it be a whole bunch of years before we speak again on the show.
SHAWN: Well hopefully we’ll have a new record and we’ll come down and play some tracks.
BEAR: Oh we’d love to have you come in and play live; we have the capability to do that nowadays. I don’t think we did when you first came by.
SHAWN: No, I doubt it.
BEAR: A lot has changed at KSCR; it’s a much better station.
SHAWN: Great. Glad to hear it.
BEAR: We’ve been talking with Shawn Stern, one of this show’s oldest friends. Leader of Youth Brigade – or I guess founder of Youth Brigade. I don’t know if Youth Brigade really has a leader.
SHAWN: Well I’m the oldest brother so by default I’m the leader.
BEAR: Founder of BYO Records and veteran scenester for L.A. Punk. Thank you sir.
SHAWN: Thank you guys.
BEAR: Have a good night.
SHAWN: You too. Take care, bye-bye.