by Josh Hooten
Admittedly, the music is why we’re all here; it’s the most inspiring and influential force in my life. At 14 years old, I bought Minor Threat’s Out of Step and something changed in me forever. That record, along with Youth Brigade, Black Flag, Dead Kennedys, Sex Pistols and all the rest are a major part of who I am today at age 25. Those records sent me down a path I’m still exploring; in those records you can find the basis of my belief system, my morals, my values. Hell, Bad Religion single-handedly got me through my junior year of high school.
It’s not just the sound of guitars that change lives, however, the words and the people and the emotions and the guts driving those guitars do too. It’s not just the sound, it’s the message and the attitude; guitars aren’t the only channel through which that message and attitude flows.
FedEx was a friend today. Outside my door at 10 a.m. there were packages from Seth Tobocman, Winston Smith, Art Chantry, Frank Kozik, and Cynthia Connelly full of the art that you now see in the pages that follow. We opened it all up on the picnic table in Sinker’s dining room (why there’s a picnic table there I know not) and leafed through so much pure brilliance and profoundly inspiring work that I’ve been walking around in a haze all day, unable to come back down to earth after the morning’s visual overload. I spent the rest of the day scanning Paul Drake and Chrissy Piper photos and pictures of Kim Saigh’s tattoos — equally brilliant and inspiring work. I can’t believe all this stuff is just sitting here in front of me. Looking at it all on that table, I had an overwhelming urge to run out and do everything; I wanted to get naked and roll around in it. The events and places and pictures and ideas these people are documenting, as well as the books written about or by them are the documents with which we trace our past and inspire us to seize the future. These are our history books; it’s an invisible history to most of society, but a valid history none the less.
In brainstorming and compiling this issue, I learned something new and inspiring from every single person I talked to. Talking to all these artists about their lives and their work made me feel totally valid about what I’m doing with my life. It’s easy to second guess your work and your choices when you spend your life straying from the beaten path; it’s easy to give in to your insecurities and doubts when there is no positive reinforcement. But through talking to these people and getting to see so much of their work, it’s gone a long way in validating a lot of my decisions about what I’m doing. It makes me proud to be doing my own thing, knowing that all these other artists are out there doing the same.
Winston Smith was probably the first visual artist who really affected my life in any profound way from his work with the Dead Kennedys on records like In God We Trust Inc and Plastic Surgery Disasters as well as the ubiquitous Dead Kennedys logo that I inscribed thousands of times on notebooks, skateboards, clothing, etc all through junior and senior high school. If I gave the man a nickel for every time I drew that logo somewhere, he’d be retired and sipping fine wine on a beach somewhere in the tropics. I’m sure a lot of you have a similar familiarity with his work. At age 14, his collages were spooky and cool. Over the years they start to make sense; the meaning becomes more complex and applicable the longer you live with them. Smith is partially responsible for my pursuing art ten years ago and subsequently for me doing what I’m doing today. The man is a legend! So much so I was afraid to call him and ask him for an interview because I felt so far out of my league. But it turns out he’s a really nice, very funny guy who is very easy to talk to. He’s no less a legend to me now that I’ve talked to him, but far less spooky.
If there was ever an issue of Punk Planet I would urge you to read cover to cover, it is this one. You may not think the visual art of this scene is as important as the music or the live performances, but read the words of some of the most talented artists working underground today and you’ll understand that you’re mistaken. Listening to them talk about their work and the lives they lead you’ll find inspiration to do whatever you’re doing whether it’s art or just living your life. These people are important. They’re documenting the invisible history in their medium of choice and though it may be a history ignored by most of society, it’s still ours and it’s still important.
I want to thank Chrissy, Paul, Art, Winston, and Kim for taking the time to talk to me and letting us reproduce their work, as well as Cynthia Connolly, Frank Kozik, Seth Tobocman and the fine fellas at House Industries, as well as all the contributors for making this art and design issue my favorite issue of Punk Planet I’ve worked on. It’s an honor to work with each of you.