Rock Book Review
WE OWE YOU NOTHING
PUNK PLANET: THE COLLECTED INTERVIEWS
EDITED BY DANIEL SINKER (AKASHIC)
Here's a book about punk rock that, rather than rehashing the scene's formative years like almost every other book on the subject, covers all the vital music and ideas that came afterward. A bimonthly zine out of Chicago, Punk Planet has done an expert job documenting how the movement has progressed over the years and inspired all sorts of artists and activists outside the musical sphere. In their first book, We Owe You Nothing, they chat with hyper-opinionated producer Steve Albini, who rails against his favorite target, major labels, concluding that bands who choose not to sign with majors usually last longer and sell more records. They talk music and business with Sonic Youth guitarist Thurston Moore, who says the reason his band is still on Geffen is "because nobody wanted to be the person who dropped Sonic Youth." Boff of the anarchist eight-piece Chumbawamba explains how the band makes all their decisions collectively by attempting to compromise rather than voting. Usually guarded and defensive in interviews, Fugazi's Ian MacKaye offers a rare view of his own life, discussing his family, high school, skateboarding and how Fugazi handles every aspect of its business. As for punk history, We Owe You Nothing's interviews with seven of the key members of Black Flag gives the reader a sense of the chaos, violence, work ethic and drama of one of the angriest and intensest bands ever. Henry Rollins says of the band's leader, Greg Ginn, "In Greg's mind, we were all lightweights." Ginn, in his own words and in the words of everyone interviewed, comes off as an impossible asshole genius who ran the band like a drill sergeant. Also fascinating is the "Punk & Politics" section, which includes commentary from social critic and Jello Biafra/Bad Religion collaborator Noam Chomsky—who at age 72 is as radical as anyone—railing here against the WTO, the American judicial system and the ignorance of the mainstream news media; the Ruckus Society's Han Shan, who has many insights about effective direct action; and a couple of activists from Voices in the Wilderness, who explain what life is like in Iraq under the U.S.-imposed sanctions (their story might even change your mind about that issue, as it did mine). Rather than dwelling on the scene or the music, We Owe You Nothing furthers the various causes and ideals behind punk rock—an important, often riveting work.
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