“I quit driving cars in 1991 to protest the Gulf War.” – John The Baker
Very happy to say we’ve got a cool ass interview with John The Baker about Skate Til U Die. This is a killer event with heart for good causes and is ALSO just plain awesome for skaters and music fans. I’ll let John tell you about it in a minute but first let me tell you about John!
Fans of anarcho punk, MDC, Tank Crimes stuff or the DIY West Coast punk/crust scene are often fans of John The Baker. He’s also known as the punk singer who once won a censorship battle in (allegedly liberal) Woodstock, NY after getting arrested for singing a song about cops sleeping with underage girls in town . Oh, and got a settlement he used to put out his CD and mail complimentary copies to local police stations. That was a band called Slimy Penis Breath which also featured a young, dumb and full of cum (this is meant affectionately) Jason Christopher who now plays bass in mighty Prong. JTB was kind of a lot of kids “punk rock uncle” in the scene, though he actually is related to Josh and Joey Eppard.
The 90’s Woodstock/Kingston, NY punk scene I grew up in was a blast. You had Slimy Penis Breath, sludge n roll onslaught .mearth , noise rockers Dripping Goss (feat. Brian Goss of Warzone and at one point Frank Ferrer, now of Guns N Roses), Simone Felice doing weird post-punk rock before his interest turned to The Band, poetry and the Catskill mountains and more. Sean Paul Pillsworth and the Jerk Magnet/Anadivine pop punks. You also had John the Baker’s mega talented nephews Joey and Josh Eppard known for playing in prog/emo bands Three and Coheed & Cambria), plus Shabutie (Claudio Sanchez’ amazingly fluid and funky pre-Coheed and Cambria band with Mic Todd and my best friend multi-instrumentalist Nate Kelley) and also bands like apocalyptic rockabilly meets Am Rep on Primus-style telecaster weirdos Pitchfork Militia and my early teen angst grunge band Melancholy. Hardcore band (and Metal Riot favorites) Painmask, still active today. AND Woodstock had Bad Brains members living in town raising families! This led to Bad Brains dudes playing on Coheed’s first record or being involved in producing my later band Divest along with a local (now famous) studio Applehead, also where Coheed and Three have both recorded amazing albums.
There was a lot of creativity and home grown shows and a lot of partying, but a scene sprung from hometown hopes, the shadow of the 60’s & also the close proximity of the Albany hardcore scene created a really interesting mix of styles and people in the post-“alternative rock” explosion surrounding Nirvana. Some of the bands are still playing today. We’ve had ups and downs like any scene and life lessons learned. Three/Lunch Meat guitarist Jason Foster and Melancholy drummer Pat Howland were two local talents who both died and are very missed. I’m very happy to say after about nine years of not speaking I’m friendly again with the recovering Mic Todd, the former Coheed bassist and have had some really good talks with him lately as well as gotten off booze myself. As a rowdy scene we could have taken it easier on ourselves and others at times BUT the cool thing is the music is surviving and as a collection of people we all changed a lot of lives for the better!
John the Baker (one of the first vegan bakers I ever met) was a heavy player in the DIY Woodstock 90’s scene and always out playing his acoustic guitar in Woodstock. He still plays “Fuck The Fascists USA” and other songs I fondly remember in his current band, the subtly named Fucktard. I’m really inspired by John’s drive and he’s one of the handful of people most responsible (along with my bassist friend Dave Daw and Jess Killganon from the cobaltandcalcium page) for helping me quit drinking out of the bottom of a fifteen year depression. John has always been a remarkable advocate for getting out and organizing shows and benefits, making art on your own terms and not getting pushed around. I remember him showing me with exciteent a letter he got back from Jello Biafra , the one true Dead Kennedy’s vocalist. John eventually went West and worked with Alternative Tentacles, Jello’s label. He even sang back ups on a killer Melvins record Jello did with the grunge godfathers, my longtime almost favorite band ever!
JTB has always been a skateboarder. I’ve got a cool black and white picture of him somewhere with a deck sitting and hanging out shooting the shit with my ex-girlfriend from like 20 years ago. It was awesome to catch up with John and get the scoop on Skate Til U Die, an event he’s dead center of which is TRULY aimed at smashing apathy, people powered transportation and PMA.
How did this all start? It’s such a great, organic event for skaters or the green civic minded.
I had this idea that I could skateboard to any show in the Bay Area if I stayed close to the water. One day I was skating and got a call from my nephew Josh Eppard of Coheed and Cambria saying he was playing that night in San Jose. I told him I was gonna skate there. So I skated as far as I could then as it got late I called a friend who picked me up and drove us the rest of the way to the show. On that attempt, I discovered there was a trail around the bay and started talking to some friends about my idea. Jared the now bass player of Fucktard said he had skated some long distances and he would be into try to skate the bay with me. So one night after a show at Burnt Ramen (Richmond, Ca) Me Jared and Steve (Rotten Fux , Follow Blindly) got on our boards at midnight and skated for 19 hours Til we got to San Jose. We had such a blast we had to do it again. So I decided to split up the skate over 3 days snd to do a punk show each night and do the whole thing as a benefit. That’s how it all started.
What do you think younger punks today can learn from the anarcho punk movement or DIY approach, especially now that we have “the internet”.
Well ya don’t need big record labels and corporate sponsors to tour the country with your shitty band and have the time of your life. You just have to be relentlessly persistent in your commitment to live your life by your rules.
Can you explain why people powered transportation appeals to much to you?
I quit driving cars in 1991 to protest the Gulf War. I then rode a bicycle across the country from San Jose to New York and haven’t driven a car since. About ten years ago I switched from using a bike to skateboard as my primary source of transportation. I believe that what we choose to eat and how we transport ourselves are two of the most important ways we can create a better world. So my commitment to people powered transpiration is a sort of therapy for our addiction to oil.
How does the event work? Can you explain it to our readers?
Skate Til U Die is a 66 mile benefit skateboarding punk rock adventure with 3 punk shows. Most all the bands have at least 1 member that also skates the event. We start out on Friday May 15 with a show at Burnt Ramen after the show we skate to east Oakland and camp out. Wake up and Skate to Fremont. Then we go to the next show. This year may 16 it’s at 924 Gilman St. Berkeley. After the show we camp again then get back to Fremont and Skate the rest of the way to San Jose for the final show and prize give away. We raise money by having people sponsor us by the mile so if you pledge 10 cents a mile you donate $6,66 This year we have two groups we are raising $ for – Qilombo a radical community center in Oakland and the Buffslo Field Campaign to save the wild buffalo.
What are you up to musically these days? thanks John!!!
I have two bands going now. My hardcore punk band Fucktard has been going for over 5 years and has toured the USA 4 times and have some releases. www.reverbnation.com/fucktard And Medicinal Anarchy my acoustic duo with my wife which is a blend of Native American and Rock n Roll. We are just starting out but have played A lot of shows and are making plans to record. http://youtu.be/hYcfjYEK6Sw
Skate Til U Die FB https://www.facebook.com/pages/Skate-TIL-U-DIE/145567448844091
Follow John the Baker on twitter @JTB666