Sean Stern of Youth Brigade

Local musicians ponder the eternal, wrenching dilemma

Photo by Jack GouldToo many people emphasize something they have no control over. If you like a band and they do something you don't like, and you consider that selling out, then you shouldn't buy their records. A band is going to do what they think is best. The only thing I cannot fathom is a band that is supposedly political and sings about the multinational corporations screwing people over, and then goes and has their records owned by a multinational corporation—that's treading the line.

An artist could make the case that they are more effective getting the money and distribution from a major label. But that was proved a moot point in 1994 after Epitaph was able to sell 8 or 10 million copies of the Offspring's Smash record, and several million copies after that of Rancid, with gold records for NOFX and I believe Pennywise, as well.

I don't sit around worrying about who sold out and who is or isn't politically correct. If a band wants to go and sign to a major label, that's their choice. To me, it's more of a personal thing. You could sell out and still be on an independent label. You can sell out your life by compromising what you want to do. You may want to sail around the world, but you're working some crappy day job you chose because that's what you went to school for and that's what people have told you you're supposed to do. A lot of people look to celebrities in general—entertainers—as their ideal of what they'd like to be doing, but they don't have the talent, resources, creativity or whatever to do it. That's the beauty of punk rock to me. It's never been about being a rock star. Anybody can do it. I saw the Damned in the late 1970s or early '80s, and I was standing up in front of the stage. This kid was shouting at the guitar player, "You're the greatest. I love you. I idolize you." The guitar player stopped and told him, "Don't idolize me. I'm just a guy who plays punk rock music. You can do the same."

That is so true, and it's why punk rock still exists. The system we live in demands or forces people to try to make a bunch of money off stuff, makes you big and famous, and then tears you back down. It's kind of sad, but if you're in a band and that's what you want to do, then I say more power to you. I might not like that, and I might not listen to your music anymore, but if it's good music, then I'll listen to it. If you're a fan and you think they sold out, don't sit around moaning about it—just don't buy their records. Support bands you do like.

That's the bottom line: life is full of compromises. Just try not to compromise on big things —like how you want to try to change things.

 
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