The Ballad of Wade Michael Page
At night, Jason Stevens lies awake, sweaty and covered in tattoos, next to his girlfriend and 1-year-old son. In the dark silence, he mentally retraces dozens of plane trips and highway van rides with his former bandmate, Wade Michael Page, during his past life as a skinhead, white-supremacist rock star. In vain, he grasps for something—anything—Page ever said that corresponds to the actions of a man capable of shooting and killing six people and himself at a Sikh temple in suburban Milwaukee.
During the two years Page toured as a supporting member of Stevens' band Intimidation One, the guy barely said a word. When Stevens picked up the phone in his Portland, Oregon, home to speak to the Weekly, he hadn't slept in the three days since the Aug. 5 shooting. "I never suspected this guy, man, and I spent hours and hours with him," Stevens says. "You start to think, 'Well, which night did he stand over my head with a baseball bat?'"
As the story of the Sikh Temple mass murderer unfolds along with his connection to Orange County's hate-rock scene, the predictable picture is emerging of a racist loser turned lone-wolf killer. By all accounts, Page drank too much, sponged off his friends, couldn't hack it in the army and got fired from a series of dead-end jobs. Just about the best thing you can say about him is that he was apparently a big Rush fan.
But when it comes to Page's role in Orange County's white-power music scene, there's no overstating its magnitude, beginning with his stint in OC-based band Youngland and eventually touring overseas in Europe as a sideman playing to thousands of skinheads at a time. For a quiet, awkward racist who didn't say much, this world of extremist rhetoric and large-scale riots was ill-fitting, Stevens recalls. Aside from their hatred of non-whites, he adds, he and Page were polar opposites.
A former leader of the group Volksfront, which seeks to create a whites-only homeland in the Pacific Northwest, and a member of the nationwide skinhead alliance Hammerskins, Stevens started Portland-based hate-rock band Intimidation One in 1992. Before he left the movement in 2004, his band occasionally played shows with Youngland. He first met Page at Hammerfest in Georgia—the largest white-supremacist rock fest in the country—in 2000. There, Stevens recruited the then-28-year-old Page as a guitarist to fill in for a band member who couldn't get a passport for an upcoming European tour.
A 190-pound, camouflage-wearing punk rocker with a shaved head, Nazi tattoos and horn-rimmed glasses, Page took up guitar and bass duties for the band. His mellow, awkward personality, Stevens recalls, made him the least likely guy to ever get involved in police scuffles or riots that broke out at their shows or at festivals in places such as Berlin, Moscow and Poland, events that drew as many as 10,000 people.
"Wade was never a fighter. He was never aggressive; he was never mean," Stevens says. "We'd have riots break out at our shows in Europe. He wasn't getting it on with the cops; he was usually trying to get outta there. I would say that I thought he was more in it for the beer and the pussy than the actual movement itself."
However, there were a few times Wade was arrested and quickly released when he and his bandmates illegally played their neo-Nazi music in public while on tour in Europe, where several countries have banned public displays of Nazism. After leaving the movement and Intimidation One, Stevens became an electrician. He recently started a non-racist band called the Suppression, but he had lost track of Page. When he found out in 2010 that he was still in the hate-music scene, Stevens was surprised, apparently underestimating his allegiance to the music and racist ideologies that dated back to Youngland.
Pete Simi, a criminology professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, was once a grad student who talked his way into staying with Page and his housemate in Old Town Orange to study them and their scene for a dissertation on white-supremacist groups. From 2001 to 2003, Simi's contact with Page included everything from interviews and crashing on his couch to late-night hangout sessions watching him play in various bands.
Simi said Page became a racist during his stint in the military, and after his discharge, he rode a motorcycle to Orange County from his previous home in North Carolina with few possessions besides the clothes on his back. He eventually met the members of Youngland and start playing in local hate-rock groups at such Anaheim venues as the Shack (which is now a Mexican nightclub, Xalos) and the Doll Hut. "He called it the best time of his life," says Simi. "He'd always say it was like he'd finally found his bros."
In a time when OC was regarded as an all-white, conservative enclave, Simi says, bands such as Youngland, Blue Eyed Devils and Max Resist felt comfortable making their beliefs known in public through their music—for which skill was not a prerequisite.
However, Simi says, Page and other white-supremacist band members were studied con artists when it came to getting unwitting club owners to let them play gigs. In 2001, the Shack hosted a white-power rally that had been disguised as a wedding reception and quickly overwhelmed the place (see Rich Kane's "Springboard for Hitler," Sept. 7, 2001). "The first thing bands like that try to do is ingratiate themselves with an owner or a bartender that worked there," Simi says. "When they asked about playing shows at these places, they'd just say they played 'pro-American' music."
After Simi completed his research and left Page to take a job at the university, he made one return trip to OC in 2004. But by then, he says, Page had already returned to North Carolina—though he did periodically stay in touch with his old buddies. Stevens says he spoke to the future mass murderer on the phone in July 2011, while Page was in Orange County for a gig with his most recent group, End Apathy. Even then, an attempt to catch up with his onetime bandmate offered little—mostly small talk and the news that Page had started a new job at a metal-working shop in Colorado. A little more than a year later, his mug shot and horrifying actions would be plastered all over the news.
"What he did literally makes me sick to my stomach," says Stevens over the phone. In the background, there's some chatter from his girlfriend, who is part Indian, as she attempts to quiet their son, who is busy making age-appropriate racket. Lately, Stevens says the actions of the quiet killer have left him with plenty to say as he unleashes his frustrations about the senseless murders the only way he knows how.
"[My band] had practice the other night, and we wrote a new song, and I just started spewing out lyrics about the killings," Stevens says. "By the end of the week, we'll probably have a song specifically about this incident because of how much it's really affected my life."
This article appeared in print as "The Ballad of Wade Michael Page: An ex-bandmate and ex-Nazi recalls his OC hate-rock days with the Sikh temple shooter."
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter