By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Talking with Duane Peters is a test of the reflexes. It might even make you moist. You'll be listening to Duane regale you with his many tales of inebriation, stupidity and excess, not wanting to disrupt the neck-vein-popping rhythm of his impossibly deep, gruff voice with your meddlesome questions, when—whizzzzz!—something flies past your ear. A wasp? A gnat? The ghost of Sid Vicious? . . . zoommmSPLAT! . . . There it is again. But this time, it kisses your cheek and sticks—what the hell? So you nonchalantly take your hand and wipe your face—all the while looking Duane straight in the eyes so he doesn't notice—when you suddenly feel between your fingers a goo of phlegmatic proportions . . .
Duane's been spitting on you! Especially when he's worked up—which is often!
But the guy has no front teeth; he can't help it. You don't mind—much—and you really don't want to call Duane on it. That might make him feel all self-conscious and sensitive and apologetic and non-punk.
And there are worse people to be gobbed on by than Duane Peters.
These are some basic things you need to know about Duane Peters, Orange County Punk Icon. He lost one front tooth from a mistossed or otherwise uncaught microphone, the other in a fistfight. He's been in myriad OC punk bands, including the Exploding Fuck Dolls, which may have had the greatest band name ever. He currently splits his band time between the U.S. Bombs and the Hunns, and he runs his own indie imprint, Disaster Records. He's put out three full-length albums in the past year, two with the Hunns (Unite and Tickets to Heaven) and one with the Bombs (Back at the Laundromat). He's a champion skateboarder. He has lots—no, an artist's catalog—of tattoos. He likes saying "fuck" and "shit" and all their variants. He's done jail time. He chain-smokes like a mutha: sucks 'em right down to the filters, he does—and if his fingers were more easily combustible, he'd smoke those, too. He has two teenage sons living in Arizona. He hates most girl-band singers who aren't named Debbie Harry or Chrissie Hynde; query him about the merits of Gwen Stefani or Monique Powell, and you'll get pummeled by a slobbering faceful of nasty expletives. He's on an endless-loop videotape in the Experience Music Project museum in Seattle, talking about the origins of skate punk. He isn't as scary as some people think, even though he made the OC Weekly's list of the county's 31 Scariest People last year. He's just turned 40, which is about 120 in punk years.
He'll be punk rock until the day he croaks. And by all rights, the man should have died a long-ass time ago. But here's Duane Peters now, looking fine and healthy on a nippy afternoon in a Costa Mesa coffee hole, adorned oddly in a green, high school letterman's jacket. A well-worn Clash tee peeks out from underneath, and tattooed beneath that, the words KILL ME I NEED THE REST run across his back, which is in full view when Duane takes his shirt off during Bombs and Hunns shows. POGUES and 101ERS (Joe Strummer's first band, if you must know) tags color the sides of his neck, right where his jugular pumps. The letters S-T-A-Y are inked on the fingers of his right hand, while A-W-A-Y are tatted on his left hand digits—just to make sure you get the message if Duane ever has to cock his fists at you someday.
That becomes less likely, it seems, as Duane gets older. The AIDS death last year of longtime U.S. Bombs guitarist Chuck Briggs changed Duane, made him a mellower, even more spiritual person—though he had to first wallow through a period of alcohol-soaked depression to cope with the pain. "Chuck was my best fucking friend, and it tore me up," he says, taking a long drag off a cigarette. "For four months, I couldn't get out of bed. I just smoked weed and closed up shop. But I did a lot of heavy thinking, too. I just think there are other levels you have to go to do good and redeem whatever the fuck you haven't done in other lives."
Not counting Duane's nicotine fetish, he's been eight months' sober—no booze, and certainly none of the hardcore intoxicants he once imbibed. His clearer head is like a new high, he says, and the future looks pretty fucking good. This year, there will be more Bombs and Hunns tours, including return jaunts to Europe. "A lot of kids, like in Ireland, they know our lyrics fucking verbatim," Duane says. "I've smoked hash joints with these kids, and it's an emotional thing. I left Ireland last time crying because these kids were so fucking poor that they'd thumb it four days to get to our show. It was fucking real. There'll be more songs written, more records put out, more half-pipes conquered. Next year, he'll be getting married to longtime girlfriend Trisha Maple. During our talk, Trisha comes around with her daughter, and Duane's scary exterior instantly melts away, revealing a contented, surrogate punk rock papa.