There's an aesthetic in punk rock, one that if channeled properly, can convey through the dynamics of anthemic music, defiance against all odds that life throws at you. It's a voice of dissonance that cares nothing of trends and speaks from genuine experience. The Heartbreakers and the Dead Kennedys had it, Poison Idea and the Crucifucks had it, and the U.S. BOMBS probably own shares in it. Their recent album, WAR BIRTH on Hellcat Records was an oddball release amongst happy ska fusion bands like the Slackers and the Gadjits. It’s doubtful that the U.S. BOMBS’ approach to classic punk will never get them an appearance on Saturday Night Live like label mates Hepcat. The band is a rare & hazardously road worn phenomenon that even areas of the punk underworld want to go away... NOSEBLEED interrogated a heavily tattooed and scarred Duane Peters in Slattery's on 25/2/99, a couple of hours before the band’s gig with the Dropkick Murphys, to discuss the new album, skateboarding, touring and growing old disgracefully with punk rock...
BOZ - One thing I found funny earlier, you didn't seem too impressed with that skate shop we were in.
DP - Well I understand, they're not making money, if they were making maybe they'd have more of a selection... but maybe it's not a big priority around here.
BOZ - What was that small wooden one you were looking at?
DP - The board, it was probably an old... like a '65 Webber with clay wheels. I've got old boards at my house so I always check them out, but I don't really feel like buying a lot of things that I have to carry around and shit.
BOZ - There's still very little known about the U.S. Bombs outside the States. Is this your first time in Europe?
DP - Yeah. First time overseas... well, I've skateboarded in Canada but the Bombs have never been there. We've been banned from Canada I guess.
BOZ - Why is that?
DP - I don't know... well, not banned... just from our felonies and all that stuff so they wouldn't let us in and that's it... I've been in Mexico... never been in a foreign country.
BOZ - So you've just been doing a lot of touring internally in the states?
DP – Yeah, we toured 9 months last year... and a lot farther this year to go.
DP - Well... me and Kerry both knew each other since we were kids... 14 to 17 we met and he was in a band called Shattered Faith, I was in a band called Political Crap and both our bands played together all the time and we fought on the same side all the time against other shit that was going on at the time. There was a lot of... where cities used to fight cities and then once you had a big rumble... it's really lame but that's how it was... and then we ended up just doing our own things. I've been in several bands, he's been in several bands. We finally hooked up because we talked about putting a band together for a long time. That was in Christmas 1993. We've been going through members to get some guys with no life that want to hit the road, you know... and that's basically it... we've just been writing records & been touring.BOZ - What sort of volume of stuff came prior to Hellcat?
DP - Ok, well we were on a backyard label, Vinyl Dog. They put out a double 7-inch, "Scouts Of America" in '94 or maybe '95. "Put Strength In The Final Blow" 12 inch by Vinyl Dog and then I re-released it... same thing... a backyard label, "Disaster" on CD... I'm gonna put it out again... then "Garibaldi Guard" on Alive, "Never Mind The Open Minds" on Alive... a 10 inch picture disc on Outsider... a split with the Bristles, a 7 inch, on Beer City and another Beer City Basement thing and then we've got another full length coming out ...and a single... the full length is in May which we've just recorded.
BOZ - How did you get hooked up with Hellcat?
DP - We opened up for Rancid and Tim liked our band a lot. He said he wanted to put us on his label and we knew it'd be better distribution so we said ok. It was that simple.
BOZ - I presume the band has a better nationwide profile now in the States?
DP - It's gotten better... It gets better every tour, but we've pretty much done everything on our own, even with them. There was a big marketing problem with WAR BIRTH and some chick supposedly skipped out with 10 grand and there's just this big fucking thing where we only had one ad for that record and we've pretty much just sold that on our own, just by touring. We toured the fuck out of the states just to get that thing out there, but Hellcat and that GIVE 'EM THE BOOT thing definitely helped, I mean, there's more people into us.
BOZ - That's one thing I've noticed, people haven't been able to get the record over here.
DP - Even WAR BIRTH?
BOZ - Yeah. There’s obviously a problem somewhere.
DP - Really? You see, that's always the story... it's like, our t-shirts aren't even here... we're so used to being down.... it's just like we expect it almost, you know, I mean, what are you gonna do, crawl up in a ball and mosey on off into the corner and blow your head off?
BOZ - How does that suit you in terms of a label, with a mixture of classic punk and ska and reggae bands?
DP - I think it's cool, we're just not team players, or I don't feel like we're on a big football team or something... although all the bands that we've met on that label are way nice people... on the Hellcat label, everyone we've met are really real which is what I really like, but you know, it's all about the next record... for everybody...work is work... we work hard at not getting real jobs, but this is our work... you know...
BOZ - I reckon the album is one of the best I've heard on Hellcat. Do you think the fact that you're not all kids anymore helps you to focus on a really non-bullshit authentic style of punk rock?
DP - Yeah. That’s true, we try to stay real traditional and in the same vein as the stuff that we listen to now. With age we have a wider scale of what we like but there's certain lines you can't cross or you’ve got to keep it within or none of us are going to like it, so we're just trying to keep it all in the same vein and still be moving on at the same time so you're not completely repeating yourself over and over... just trying to keep it rolling, you know... we just recorded a bunch of songs for this new album and we're already talking about what we're going to write for the next record. We've got so much stuff to say but it's like.... when we got home from tour we had to go right in and write this thing and then we were fucking gone... we weren't even there for the mastering because we were on our way here. It was like that with WAR BIRTH as well. We mixed that in 35 hours, had no van... and we were set for a US Tour the next day and we hadn't signed a contract or nothing so it was like... we just rushed it. It was stupid, 35 hours... we sat up all night and half the next day, rushed the tape to Brett and he gave us a $10,000 cheque. I kind of think that might have been our marketing money but they won't tell us. I don't know what happened but it was like, " Give us a cheque ", and then he forgot he gave it to us, but we went and bought a used van in a car lot... the thing blew up the next day in Texas, we fucking were stuck in New Orleans for a week on $3 a day and the blacks there really, really hate the whites... it's like, more repressed and they're still pissed off about all that civil war stuff or whatever, but it was just fucking hell getting around that place without wheels.
BOZ - The way the album stands out to me is that it's kind of mid paced whereas a lot of punk around is more up-tempo. I assume that's a conscious thing?
DP - Totally, because we do some faster paced stuff... for us... but it 's not our favourite thing to do... if it goes along with it or we like it, we'll do it but we try and stay around mid tempo, and still vary it a little bit, just for dynamics... you know, a ballad should be a ballad... a good rock song should be a good rock song, and you've got to feel it... that's why I write all my lyrics... I know a lot of people who don't write their own lyrics... actually, those guys are the real singers 'cos I really don't consider myself a singer... I'm more of a paper boy delivering the latest news the way I see it... but we just try and stay within the dynamics... the Clash said it too in an interview, " It's all the shit that we grew up with and use as our own lines to not cross ", But a lot of bands do... they loose any dynamics... they think it's gotta be fast, it's gotta be fast, it's gotta be fast, and you loose a lot of what you're trying to say maybe, or they're afraid of it and they think it'll make you not as good or something, I don't know... but we're trying to fucking not have to be anything, you know...
BOZ - That whole vibe kind of reminded me in places of Keith Morris and the Circlejerks...
DP - That's nice & stuff, but I don't know, I have a lot of influences... I just try and go in and do whatever comes out, you know...
BOZ - And who's the weird kid on the record cover?
DP - Oh, the kid on the cover of WAR BIRTH... I saw him in a 1941 Saturday Evening Post magazine in Memphis in a thrift store shop... it was just one of those things where you go in, it was a story of all the World War II babies and shit... and there's that kid in the crib and stuff... his eyes for some fucking reason... we were looking for a cover, an idea to base the cover around because I had the story already... it was just like, " That's the cover, get it "... we got it for a quarter and then took it out and put it with the dollar bill...
BOZ - A lot of the publicity emphasis on the band seems to be based on the fact that you've got a past in skateboarding and you're deemed as somewhat of a legend... can you tell me something about that?
DP - ... it's a long, long story... just a lifetime of skateboarding... I did a loop when I was 16 years old and Tony Hawk had just done one... and then I skated a lot of contests when I was younger. I was one of the guys who was backing up punk rock and being in a band and skating... and I did a lot of TV and just a lot of shit like that basically. I didn't really make much money at it because it was pioneer days and I was a stupid kid, you know, I didn't even drive my own car, I was living in garages... but every garage I lived in, we had a studio and we were playing punk rock and I'd feel guilty if I had any money, and I'd buy my band stuff... " What do you need? Drums... ok, here you go, what do you need... ", So we'd all be the same at least... otherwise I felt really guilty 'cos they were working their asses off these shitbag jobs, their parents were fucked, they're paying them rent... this, that and the other... and I would just sleep and make my own little cool quarters by the studio.
BOZ - In order to be that proficient, you've obviously had some pretty horrific accidents in the learning process. Does anything stick out?
DP - Oh yeah... I've broken a lot of my bones... none of them really stick out 'cos I've eaten shit so many different ways with or without my skateboard... I got into stair diving... I've gotten into all kinds of crazy shit just out of being bored and shit... but I retired from that last year... but my whole life has been like this.... I've been on the go and I've been in the gutter... I've been homeless and I've been on top of things and any chick who ever hangs out with me for a few years calls me a drama queen because every fucking day could be my last so I try to stay in the moment...
BOZ - Like a soap opera?
DP - Yeah... and if you make it more dramatic... it's more acting and it's more fun and it makes life more creative and more cartoony.
BOZ - It's possible that a lot of people only realised how much of a tie-in there was between skateboarding and punk rock ( particularly in America ) when, say, the Glen E Friedman book came out.
DP - There totally was a tie-in 'cos everybody was listening to Van Halen... which was better than a lot of shit that was going on... at the pool sessions... and that's when backyard pool riding was at it's prime and there were heavy sessions with the Ramones. When everybody heard the Ramones, I remember it... it was the Winchester contest, they started playing it at the contest... and Devo came after that... the Sex Pistols were coming... well, they'd already been out, but by '78 they'd started playing the Sex Pistols at the contests, the Clash... we would have been some of the pro's... there was like, 3 of us that were really into bands and really into punk rock and a lot of other one's just kind of got new wave-y, softer, whatever... but it was fucking great man... 'cos the guitars and everything that they said... I mean we were all dysfunctional kids, out there coping, beating up these pools anyway... it was a place to get the fuck out of the house because things aren't so good at home for a lot of kids, especially now, it's worse than ever, but back then, it was like... you know... they were still trying to keep it in the closet and shit... you'd be embarrassed if you said you came from a divorced family and shit, you know... we were on the poorer side... there was more divorces and everyone knew... you didn't have to hide that shit, you just had to take it out on shit.
BOZ - How do you feel, touring with the Dropkicks, about the fact that they've achieved so much in such a short time?
DP - They're fucking businessmen... man, they're fucking smart and they do a lot of stuff that we don't know how to do... we're the slowest fucking learners. If you ask any band that really knows us... they've taught us a lot, just by fucking hanging out with them like how to do tax stuff and to count your merchandise... I mean all that shit... we did 3 tours and we didn't save our receipts or nothing... I mean... we're just punk rockers and we've never gotten into everybody going to another country... we never expected that at all... we just expected to try and get a record out... you know, that's all... "Let's get a record out, it'll be really great", and then playing shows is just the shit, you know.
BOZ - So the U.S. Bombs have learned everything by making mistakes?
DP - Oh yeah, over and over and over and over... baby steps is what we call it... we're trying to take baby steps... you've got to laugh about it man 'cos if you take it too serious you're gonna get everybody down... we've always got to keep our morale up and we fight and all that shit, we've been through a lot together, a fucking lot and where we didn't used to be so close it's hard to take 5 older guys and throw them in a fucking small van and go, " Here, hit the road! You've got no support but just do the shitholes of America ", and that's why, at home, I'd have a lot more respect for bands if they... a lot of bands don't even want to go out... they'd rather just be hometown heroes, which is cool, but if they can make it through 2 or 3 US tours on their own, I've tons of respect for them because it's really fucking hard to get along, especially when you're older... and we were fucking boxing out... these guys were my worst fucking enemies and I hated getting back in that fucking van and everybody hated me... or me and somebody... there was just always some fight... we fought on stage in Toledo... just all kinds of shit has gone and now we're brothers... it's like, after so much time we wanted to compromise with each other... that was our biggest problem, just getting along... trying to learn how to get along and know everybody's deal and accepting it and moving on... and if there's a bad apple you've got to get rid of it... it's like what the Osmond brothers said, " It'll spoil the bunch... it slowly grows on everyone "... unless, if you really love your band you've got to always do something about the problem and move on.
BOZ - I take it then that you're constantly touring, not spurts on the road and then back to jobs?
DP – No, we have no lives, none of us. I mean, I skateboard and I play punk rock and that's all I do... and I fuck my girlfriend, you know... and the rest of the time is maybe movies or whatever I feel like doing... just sitting back and listening to Frank Sinatra or checking our history stuff... but that's all I want to do... I want to learn shit still and move on and not have to do a fucking robotic 9 to 5... I did 5 jobs and I still skated and still played punk rock so there's really no reason... and I've lived in a ditch for years and half my guys have, you know, lost everything in the punk rock days... fuck, I had no clue how to become like my dad, I had no education... where the fuck am I going... I ended up in a gutter with a needle... and then when you finally don't die long enough, you crawl out and see what year it is and then move on... that's the other part, we all know each other from other bands and stuff... everybody who's been in this band has been a part of the early Orange County scene, which is really fucking great, you know, I've got a really good crew right now.
BOZ - There's a prevailing notion over here that a lot of American bands can survive just by touring. Have you seen a lot of bands that wouldn't be able to do what you do?
DP - We've got... just no high maintenance guys and we all barely make the rent, you know, you've gotta leave a pad at home... we've come home in debt. Fuck it, I came home in debt for 4 tours in a row... and you just learn from your mistakes over and over again and then... I came home with $1200 in my pocket last time after 8 weeks, you know, and that's working your ass off, driving, this, that and the other... and playing every fucking night... and I mean, you can't really ask for much and if we can pay our rent and keep our heads right at the water level where you can breathe, fuck, we're down with it 'cos realistically, most of my guys have trades... well actually, 2 of them have trades where they could make more money... they're not big-time trades, but they don't wanna fucking swing a hammer or lift gear for the rest of their lives either... so it's like, the state of the moment and if we can get by, we can get by, you know, otherwise we'll get shit jobs and then we'll go out... everyone will deal with whatever happens.
BOZ - The opening to WAR BIRTH, "That's Life", it's a really strong opener, it sounds great.
DP – Wow, thanks... yeah, I always wanted to do a Frank Sinatra song. I did a Karaoke... I worked on the Warped tour '96 as a skate ramp builder or whatever the fuck I was... I was mostly avoiding the work on it and they were trying to pull me out of buses... I was hanging out with bands and I was pissed because my band wasn't on this thing and I was just lifting ramps for way little pay... and we were all at some fucking dumb bar and I was completely sober and somebody called me out... I never would do a Karaoke thing... that just looks so fucking lame to me... and they called my name and it was like, " Aw, fuck ", and I went up there and it was That's Life - Frank Sinatra and I kind of just went with it and just closed my eyes and acted if there was a band behind me because it felt so fucked and I knew the words... I didn't have to read... and I was going fuck, you know, I should change a couple of those words... Sid did that with "My Way"... and it was perfect, so I said I've gotta do it...
BOZ - And they used it really well for the trailer of the Hellcat film. Do you know anything about that?
DP - I heard it's coming out in July and we don't know a lot about it. We just heard that it's gonna just be a lot of band interviews, because they went around and just interviewed all the Hellcat bands and live shows... probably a lot of Warped tour and club shows... hopefully it'll be a lot of quick clips because I like shit when it just keeps moving... I liked the trailer... it was moving, you know.
BOZ - There seems to be these credibility stakes in the States where a lot of people seem to be anti-success... like Rancid working their ass off to get where they are and then suddenly they've lost their credibility because they're not suffering any more... where do you think that attitude is coming from?
DP - I don't know, because those guys, they give a lot and don't ask for much... and they've helped out a lot of fuckers... a lot of bands and a lot of people, so I've seen nothing but those guys give back what's been given to them and those guys never really had lives for like, 3 or 4 years... I don't know how bad it was for them before that, but for a long time they were just constantly on the road... like you said, they worked their asses off, but I don't know where the people thing is man, I really haven't paid attention... I just know what I know and I think they're all good guys and I like their band.
BOZ - Tim Armstrong, I read a number of interviews with him and he seems to reckon you're the world’s punkest bloke... what's that all about?
DP - I didn't know he said that... really? I don't know why he would say that but that's cool... but I don't think that sounds like competition to me... I'm not trying to be the punkest anything or the best at anything. I just wanna do the best I can do at what I'm doing... and I'm a human and I fuck up all the fucking time like I said... I'm not a smart guy when it comes to people and dealing with the planet and earth, you know... I mean... Shit, right down to the age thing... people think they can stab you with an age thing and it's like, " Man, I hope you can make it to my age, I know you're not going to go through the shit I've gone through to be at this age "... because I spent my twenties trying to kill myself, I was completely disillusioned. No one taught me and I didn't have a whole lot of faith in anything... I did not want to be 30. It took me until I was about 32 to realise," Man, this ain't so fucking heavy, it ain't such a big fucking deal ", and you know what... now I can start and not have to buy into all the kid stuff that I used to buy into that would detour me from this and that... " Maybe I need to try this... will that make me feel better? "... You know... and all this searching for fucking ways out of the whole nightmare I've been through... and then just to be able to sit back and laugh and kinda keep going... I'm not, "Mister Fucking Learn!"... I don't want to be an adult realistically... like per se... adult boredom... they're just the people you avoid... they fucking annoy me. My little brother, he's 7 years younger than me and somehow within the last 10 years he's become my older brother and I don't know how that happens but he's really responsible and all that stuff... it's like the '50s, there's the squares and then there's the cats... you know... and I just like to stay on the cats' side.
BOZ - The thing I find about punk now and what rejuvenates it for me constantly is people who are older who are still in bands. Do you find that it helps to know these people are there so you and everyone else aren't kinda thinking... oh my god, I should stop playing and settle down?
DP - Yeah... look at Lux Interior, look at Charlie Harper, I mean, it goes on... look at the Rolling Stones... I think it was an interview with Keith Richards and he was saying, " I don't know why people focus on calling it the Rolling Bones tour ", or whatever... one of these tours where they're getting all this flak for their age and he was going, " They don't fucking give BB King shit like that and you know what, we play rock'n'roll and I wanna play rock'n'roll 'til I'm dead "... that's what I got out of it and I like that because it gives me something to look forward to... So when I'm around 50 years old, I'm the kid and I hang out with all the cats... you know, that are good cool guys, you know... hard working, they've been in Vietnam, they've seen a whole other side... and you're the only one who can stifle yourself and if you wanna stifle it through someone else and that's your only thing... use it while you're young 'cos once you're old you're not going to have that anymore... and where's your ammunition for your defence to life, because anyone who even has to approach someone with that question... I don't mind being questioned about it realistically because I hope it can make people not think that there's a time to stop, because I know 25 year olds who don't skateboard anymore... I still skate 3 to 5 times a week because I don't like to go to the gym and I don't like to count. It just makes me feel better about myself and it's an aggression outlet and I just think it's people who are scared, they can't admit it, about their own fucking infidelities or whatever the fuck it is... I don't really care, I don't got the time to sit around and figure out anyone's life... that's why I'm like, " You know what, if that bothers you kid then you keep counting the years 'cos I'm fucking enjoying every day I've got while I'm here " ... that's all I can do... try and keep it simple.