Punk rock and responsibility go together like TK and TK. So how does a snarling, 18-year-old nihilistic punk rocker who rages against authority deal when he finds himself a father of a child who needs him to be a consistent presence and authority figure? It's a question that Jim Lindberg, the 46-year-old former Pennywise vocalist and current frontman for The Black Pacific, asks himself every day as he does his best to raise his three daughters.
Lindberg wasn't alone in his concern and confusement when he had to figure out punk rock fatherhood. In director Andrea Nevins' fun, fascinating, and moving new documentary The Other F Word, he and other punk rocker dads, including Ron Reyes (Black Flag), Flea ( Red Hot Chili Peppers), Lars Frederiksen (Rancid), Greg Hetson (Circle Jerks, Bad Religion), Mark Hoppus (Blink-182), and many more, talk about the problems that parenthood presents to guys who've spent decades running wild and preaching anarchy. For many of them, the punk scene became a family that replaced dysfunctional relationships with their own dads, so making sense of fatherhood was even more complicated.
With The Other F Word in theaters now, Complex spoke to Lindberg, whose 2008 book Punk Rock Dad: No Rules, Just Real Life inspired the film, about why he agreed to be a part of the project, the reality of the punk rocker lifestyle, and how the hell he plans to deal with his daughters' inevitable teenage rebellion.
Interview by Justin Monroe (@40yardsplash)
You were reportedly hesitant to be featured in The Other F Word at first. Why did you decide to be a part of the film?
Basically it was a situation where, after I wrote the book [Punk Rock Dad: No Rules, Just Real Life], there was a lot of interest from reality shows and things like that, and I’ve never really been about that, wanting to make big celebrity of it. I’m from a place, Hermosa Beach in L.A., where all that kinda stuff is pretty frowned upon. It’s a little too Hollywood, coming from the punk scene. So that was just never really something I was into at all.
But when I talked with [producer] Cristin [Reilly] and [director] Andrea [Nevins] (right, with Everclear's Art Alexakis), and they wanted to talk about this new generation of parents, coming from a perspective of alternative parenting, and just a new hopefulness and an era of tolerance. That was something I was much more into, explaining what a lot of punk rockers come from and the positive side of all this. So that was a little more intriguing, and once they said they would let me suggest some other dads to interview, that it wasn’t gonna be all about me, that’s what made it something I was going to work with them on, ‘cause I really didn’t feel like I needed that much attention. [Laughs.] I think it was really cool to have the other dads involved.
One thing that’s explored in the movie is the rockers’ relationships with their own dads, many of which were dysfunctional. Is that something you find to be true generally in the punk scene?
Well, obviously the ones that are gonna stick out are the ones that are from the film. I think we picked out certain people because we knew that they had a story to tell. Being friends with Art from Everclear, I knew that with a song like “Father of Mine,” that he had some issues to talk about. And just other people from the early, like Tony from The Adolescents, and Ron from Black Flag; they were such a big part of creating the hardcore scene that I knew there had to be some interesting motivations for them to choose punk rock.
And I kind of served as a foil in all this ‘cause I didn’t come from a bad background, I came from a happy family life. I have a great relationship with my dad. There’s kind of this situation in the film where you have this yin and yang of people who obviously came through a very challenging upbringing and got into the punk scene, but also there’s plenty of regular people out there as well who don’t go out like Sid Vicious, that become parents who still appreciate punk music and I think they did a good job of showing both sides.
What was the main attraction of punk for you?
I think the main attraction was just growing up here in a surf and skate punk scene, and coming from Hermosa Beach, where three of the most popular hardcore punk bands came from—Black Flag, Circle Jerks, and The Descendents. We basically grew up at ground zero for the whole alternative culture surf/skate culture and punk rock culture. It was in my backyard, it surrounded us. When you have The Descendents and Black Flag going to the same high school as you and you surf and skate all day, it’s just the atmosphere that you’re brought up in, so I was hooked from a very early age.
But a lot of us, at that period in time, a lot of us were latchkey kids. Our parents worked all day and we were just free to do whatever we wanted. So it was basically adolescent delinquency that led to me getting involved in punk rock. And that has a lot to do with the themes in my book and also the film, which are, issues of authority, and when you’re someone who grew up having free reign and being able to do what you want all day, you definitely have issues with authority.
But then how do you become an authority figure for your own kids? It's difficult. It’s something I still struggle with daily with my kids. How do I draw the line between being a cool tolerant parent but also wanting to guide them in the right direction and keep them away from dangerous areas in life. It’s definitely a challenge and it’s not something that anyone takes lightly in the movie.
Do you feel you’ve figured anything out from your first to your third daughter or is it still a constant balancing act and you never know exactly what you should be doing?
The latter definitely. I think the more experience you get, the more confused you get. But I guess it’s a learning curve here. You definitely get some perspective.
If you've got kids, you've gotta be around for 'em and somehow be a positive role model for 'em. Being drunk, passed out at your show somewhere isn’t a way to do it.
The thing about punk rock is it’s very much about keeping that youthful ideology, so you think back and remember when you were a kid, so I do that as much as I possibly can with my kids. I realize that they do wanna go out and have fun with kids but I’m also there to say, “Let me tell you what it was like for me, and what type of situations you could encounter,” and use some of my experiences to give them examples, but while also letting them be free to make their own mistakes.
I’m definitely becoming more conservative than I thought I would turn out to be, I guess because I’ve seen so much coming up in the punk scene and living in a place like Los Angeles with the beach here. It’s pretty fast living for kids, so I’ve been shielding them somewhat but at the same time letting them have their fun as well.
In what areas does your conservativeness most surprise you?
Having three daughters, I definitely am trying to keep them from doing too much dating at too young of an age. I’m definitely gonna be the dad sitting on the porch with the shotgun. [Laughs.]
But also I’ve seen drugs and alcohol ruin so many lives. I enjoy a drink now and again but [teaching them the dangers] is something that’s very, very important to me. I don’t want to sound hypocritical; there’s plenty of people who’ve seen me on the wrong end of a bar stool over the years that would cry foul when they hear that, but at the same time, I think some people get into it way too early. And there’s people that can handle it and people that can’t. I’ve seen that and I’m sure everyone out there has seen that drugs and alcohol can really destroy people’s lives. The people who can’t get it under control are gonna have a lot of problems, so I’ve been very conservative in making sure that they understand that.
How do your daughters feel about you being a punk rocker dad?
I would think it’s a double-edged sword. There are probably times when they wish they just had a normal dad who had a suit and tie and a 9-to-5 job and didn’t stand out at all, but there are other times when they think it’s really cool. It’s one of those things where they’re proud when they see another kid at school wearing their dad’s T-shirt; the fact that kids their age like the music I’m putting out is really cool. They probably don’t like when I’m playing guitar at full volume when they come home from school every day, though. [Laughs.]
Also, I think it depends which kid you’re talking about. My oldest doesn’t like to stand out. She’s more reserved, whereas my middle child is very outgoing and she’s an athlete and she’s loves it. She’ll probably be the first one in the pit when she gets older.
When the film started, you hadn't yet decided to leave Pennywise. How did you come to the decision to leave the band you'd been with for two decades to be a better father?
It was a difficult decision that was, in some ways, a long time coming, and there were a lot of factors that, just for the sake of our fans, I don’t think it helps anyone to go into all the sordid details of fights that me and other band members got into.
But there was definitely a situation where I felt I was doing more than enough touring for the band over the years. We did an album and tour back-to-back for almost 20 years without taking an extended break—a lot of bands take a two- or three-year break sometimes. It got to the point where we had finished that tour and I was in desperate need of a break, for a variety of reasons. The tour we’d just come off was particularly out of control, and that didn’t really match up with my lifestyle being a dad anymore. Basically it just got to a situation where they were ready to go again right away and sign up for the next tour and I said I needed a little breathing room.
It got to the point where there was a lot of negative talk going on. I had just had enough. It was a difficult decision to make, and I understood what me leaving a band like Pennywise would mean, but I felt very disrespected by the other band members, and it was my time to go. That was just the bottom line; I just didn’t think it was healthy for me and my family to be in a band like Pennywise anymore.
How has being a musician changed in your new band, The Black Pacific?
It’s a 180-degree difference. I am having a lot of fun again playing music. I would never let my music get to the point that it felt like it was a job and I was just showing up to make money, ‘cause that’s hideous to me, that’s the epitome of selling out. In this band, we sure haven’t made a lot of money, because it hasn’t been about going out on tour and bringing home a ton of cash. It’s doing it for the love of playing music, and the guys in my band are very supportive and understanding that I’m in a unique situation, and we still have a great time playing music and everyone really happy to be out there playing together.
That was very important because it didn’t feel like it was that way anymore in my previous band and I wasn’t willing to fake it anymore. I think that’s the ultimate disrespect to your fans, when you’re going up [on stage] pretending everyone’s getting along and having a great time and they’re not. I think a lot of bands go through that and it’s the ultimate hypocrisy for your fans to go up there and just be doing it to collect your paycheck. It’s wrong. I’ve got pretty high ideals when it comes to music. I was responsible for a lot of the lyrical content of Pennywise and I felt very strong about the message, and to be up there and have it not ring true, I couldn’t fake it.
The film does a really good job of showing how the image of punk rock and the reality aren't necessarily the same. You make a joke of dyeing your hair and goatee black to look younger, for instance.
That’s the ultimate joke in rock ‘n’ roll, that you pretend to be 18 and carefree and then you come off stage and you’re talking to your kids at home and worrying about the mortgage. I wanted to be honest about that and that’s why I think it is important for people to see that and to see later on that, if you decide to become a musician and make this your career, you also have to be a business person.
The glamorous side of punk rock is the Sid Vicious ending to the story, and you die somewhere a drug addict, live fast, die young. No one wants to end up like Sid Vicious.
I was very good at keeping the two separate. When I was up there playing, I was thinking nothing more than about the song and what it was about and what it meant to me, but there were also times when I’d come off [stage] and had to be talking to record labels and booking agents and trying to do the right thing for the band. It was my job to guide the band away from doing things that I thought were a bad representation for the band. It is very difficult, and you have to have a good head on your shoulders.
So in that way I think the film teaches young people who are considering a career in music to have their priorities straight because a lot of people that go into a career in music have no idea what they’re getting into, they just wanna play, and they end up burning out very quickly because they don’t know how to deal with the unglamorous side of music, which is booking the hotels and flights and van rental and making sure the band’s business affairs are in order. So there is that side of it, and I think it needed to be shown.
Is appealing to young fans when you're old enough to be their father all about maintaining the spirit of rebelliousness?
Absolutely. I definitely think playing music keeps you young at heart and keeps you in that frame of mind. As a matter of fact, Andrea [Nevins] did a film about senior citizens doing ballroom dancing and how it really perked up a lot of these old people. So I think music in all its forms is something that helps people stay young and vibrant.
If anything, I’m angrier than I was as a kid and I’m more ideological than I was as an 18-year-old, when the band first started, because I care a lot more about the future that my kids are gonna inherit. I’m very concerned about the economy, about global politics, about trying to stay active in that arena and get my kids to think about it and talk about it. I think that’s really important, because people can sometimes get hypnotized by video games and other things they don’t realize what’s happening all around them. Creating that awareness is really important to me, so I still have that fire which started when I was younger, except now it’s more intense because I’m invested in it.
Another thing the movie does a great job of showing is the reality of touring, especially for somebody in your position, who has a family and concerns elsewhere. At what point did touring become more of a burden?
There is a career arc for bands, where one night you have a big show and it seems like things are as good as ever, and then the next night the room is half filled and you wonder how long you can continue doing this. The back end of any career isn’t as fun.
We were a working-class punk band. It’s not like we were taking Learjets to our shows. It’s very different than the perception of being a rock star. We’re flying coach, barely scraping by enough money to get a van or a bus and coming home with the amount of money we were supposed to. There’s definitely a lot of budget issues.
I think Eddie Vedder put it best when he said, “They don’t pay me to play shows, they pay me to travel.” That’s the more difficult part. There’s nothing more fun than that one hour on stage. What’s difficult is to be in a different airport three or four times a week and going from vans to hotels to buses; that constant travel can really age you and wear on you, and most guys deal with that by just getting ridiculously wasted. That’s why you have so many casualties to drugs and alcohol.
I saw that happening to so many people around me, in my immediate vicinity. And me being able to say, I don’t want that to happen to me, and that’s why I’m getting out, because I was concerned about it. I was never someone who was wasted every day, but I like to go out and have a good time, but I realize I’ve got kids at home now who depend on me, and that was a foolhardy, dangerous situation to be in, and also something that I thought was despicable for someone with kids, that you’re just out there getting wasted every night. That’s not cool. If you’ve got kids, you’ve gotta be around for ‘em and somehow be a positive role model for 'em. Being drunk, passed out at your show somewhere isn’t a way to do it.
That’s a really important lesson to learn from this film, because the glamorous side of punk rock is the Sid Vicious ending to the story, and you die somewhere a drug addict, live fast, die young. The truth is, what this documentary shows is, there’s other people who end up having a wife and kids and making a life choice, which is not to go down that road, and that’s the ultimate validation of my version of the punk rock story, that it should be a positive influence on your life, of being exactly who you want to be. No one wants to end up like Sid Vicious.
When did you reach that point of view?
When I first had kids, I definitely went through the sophomore slump; once you have the kid and they get to be one or two, you’re like, Oh, I can go back to my old life drinking and having a good time, staying up all hours, because we pulled off having the baby and were able to survive the first couple of years. There was definitely that for me, just going back out on the road. And it didn't change until someone who cared enough to say something said, "Hey, man, maybe you should mellow out a bit,” after I had one long hard night somewhere. I feel bad for people who don’t have someone who cares enough to say that. Since then I’ve said that to a lot of my friends.
It's the opposite of punk rock, to use the word responsibility, but it’s true: If you have kids and a family to be concerned about, you have to be responsible. And if that’s not punk rock, then call me the most un-punk rock person in the world, because that’s what I care about now. Responsibility definitely has to take precedent over your punk-ness.
Do you see yourself working as a touring musician for a lot longer?
Definitely part of leaving Pennywise was that I wanted to reduce the amount of relentless touring. I’m still willing to go on tour. [The Black Pacific] did a six-week tour of Europe and then was home for a long time and we did a few weeks in the U.S. and a few weeks in Europe but the overall amount of touring is nothing like what I did in Pennywise. I think a family man can get away with about 60 shows a year, 75, maybe 80, but the bands that are doing 185, 200 shows a year, it puts a real strain on families.
Now, in my new band, I can say, I want to do the amount of touring we’ve got to do to support the record but it’s gotta be in line with my priorities. I think that’s where people have to eventually draw the line.
As an elder stateman of punk rock, how do you see it evolving?
I totally consider punk rock similar to music like the blues or jazz music, which will have years of experimentation and retraction, people coming back to the roots music and then branching out further. I think it will fall in and out of popularity but there will always be people into jazz and blues and punk rock because it’s music from your soul, from deep within, it’s your soul crying out.
I can see, in years from now, kids playing music that will sound like complete noise to me, that I’ll think is horrible, but it’ll speak to their generation, and that’ll be punk rock music. But then there’ll probably be, as there is now, a generation of kids that wanna listen to Black Flag and The Dead Kennedys and Misfits and think that’s the best thing they’ve ever heard.
One of the funniest moments in The Other F Word is when Mark Hoppus of Blink-182 says that he can't comfortably sing songs about masturbating anymore.
Were there any particular songs that you outgrew with age and fatherhood?
Oh yeah, “Fuck Authority” was definitely one. It just seemed so silly to me. It was never more apparent to me than when I went into kindergarten "Back to School" night and the teacher asked me, “Don’t you have a song on the radio right now?” I said, “Yes.” She said, “Isn’t it called ‘Fuck Authority’?” I felt like she was gonna send me to the principal’s office, like, “You should not be talking like that and you’re gonna be paddled in the principal’s office.”
It did seem silly; I’m out there going “F authority!” and then telling my kids to brush their teeth and go to bed. Why shouldn’t they just flip me off and tell me to get lost? “Listen to your own song!” So that was the height of hypocrisy for me. That’s just the circle of life. You start out saying, “F everything,” and—look, I can’t even say the word anymore! I’m so trained now to have kids around that it’s hard for me to say the word fuck. Things change. If you don’t change, you’re probably a fool. There’s a saying: If you’re not an idealist when you’re 20 you don’t have a heart, but if you’re still an idealist when you’re 40, you don't have a head.
Ideals change and shift somewhat, but going out there and saying “Fuck authority” is much less true when you’re 40 than when you’re 18. Anybody who’s saying "Fuck authority" from the stage at age 40 is doing it to sell T-shirts, but they’re not doing it to a cop. They don't want to go to jail or deal with the hassle that comes with the "fuck authority" lifestyle.
Responsibility definitely has to take precedent over your punk-ness. … You just hope that you’re the somewhat cool dad. It's impossible to be the completely cool dad, 'cause that guy’s not around.
I don’t want to be shilling that to kids anymore. They’re gonna get that on their own. You don’t have to tell kids, fuck authority. I would hate to reach a point where I was the Hot Topic “Fuck Authority” guy who’s gonna sell you the “Fuck Authority” brand. I definitely believe in civil disobedience and the Occupy Movement and all different forms of protest, but I’m not gonna be the champion for wholesale anarchy. There’s gotta be a little discipline and social responsibility, but that’s not the sexy tagline for punk rock.
How do you think you'll deal when your 14-year-old daughter looks at you as her oppressor and tells you to piss off?
Um, very poorly. [Laughs.] I joke that I’m gonna build a cabin like Thoreau in my backyard and I’m gonna live out there and just hide from it. I'll probably react the same way all dads do, by being overbearing and impossible and then they’ll scream, “I hate you!” and I’ll say, “Well, I put a roof over your head.” I’ll probably also be doing the guilt trips and all the things that all parents have always done. Like Duane [Peters] says in the movie, you feel yourself becoming Ward Cleaver, and that sucks because Ward Cleaver was a prick.
I just hope I can give some guidance to my kids. I think I’m someone in a unique position who’s been through that as a kid here in L.A. and lived a very fast lifestyle. That’s something as easy as telling my daughters, “Tonight, if you go to this party, there’s gonna be one girl there that’s gonna get way too drunk, and she’s gonna make a fool out of herself, and she will never live it down. She’s gonna be so embarrassed—and something worse could possibly happen. Just don’t be that girl. Go to the party, have a good time, but you don’t wanna end up that girl, because it usually starts a downward spiral for that person."
If you can teach your kid a sense of balance and not going off the rails, I think that’s something important to do, and those are the type of lessons I hope to give them, ones that are based in the real world. I know it’s gonna be impossible to shield my kids from everything, but I’m gonna do my best to point my kids in a direction that I think is worthwhile.
Sometimes being a father means ruining your kids' fun. You’ve just gotta fill that role, no matter what. You just hope that you’re the somewhat cool dad. It’s impossible to be the completely cool dad, ‘cause that guy’s not around.
Interview by Justin Monroe (@40yardsplash)