Pairing with print issue #33 of New Noise Magazine is the story of East Bay Punk. Subscribers to New Noise Magazine will receive a limited flexi of “If There Was Ever A Time” by the East Bay supergroup Armstrongs, made up of Billie Joe (Green Day), Tim (Rancid), Joey (SWMRS), and Rey Armstrong. The song is featured in “Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk.” The cover of the exclusive subscribers only magazine was done by Richie Bucher, who is famous for Green Day’s Dookie album cover. New Noise Magazine has more about the documentary ‘Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk” by Corbett Redford, an interview with Richie Bucher and the rise and impact of the East Bay Punk.
“Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk”
Interview with director and producer Corbett Redford | By Alan Snodgrass
On October 26, 2013, Corbett Redford was at Eli’s Mile High Club in Oakland, California. Foxboro Hut Tubs were about to take the stage for a secret show in front of a packed, sweaty room of a few hundred, and Corbett had some big news to share. “That was the day!” he recalls. “If it wasn’t my first day, it was the first week that I was there [on the job].”
The inadvertent birth of “Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk” began when Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong went on the hunt for video footage from an early ‘90s backyard party in Oakland that included Fuel, Juke, and Green Day. Enter Redford—aptly dubbed “The Punk Whisperer” by his wife—who not only tracked down the footage, but also packaged it all onto one disc and delivered it to Armstrong. Redford remembers the frontman’s reaction: “‘Holy crap, this is amazing! We’re trying to do a movie about our early years, do you know anyone that could do it?’” The next day, Redford was starting work on his first feature-length documentary.
Originally intending to cover Green Day’s early years, the project quickly grew as additional footage started to roll in. “That’s when all hell broke loose,” Redford recalls. All told, three years of production netted over 500 hours of footage from over 185 interviews and a collection of over 35,000 event flyers and archive photos—including pictures from the first-ever Gilman show—and curated a footage library of over 500 vintage live shows, including Operation Ivy practice footage courtesy of Tim Armstrong’s mother. Much of this stuff has never seen the light of day—until now.
Starting as “East Bay By the Punks, For the Punks, About the Punks” as a nod to the zine Absolutely Zippo, the title of the movie eventually changed to “Turn It Around” after the 1987 Maximumrocknroll compilation created by Lookout Records founder David Hayes. The movie centers on Berkeley’s burgeoning punk rock scene as it crawled out of the surrounding communities and eventually exploded out of 924 Gilman Street, the nonprofit music space best described to the unaware as what a punk club ends up looking like when it’s founded by hippies.
“I think a lot of punks, they rail against hippies, but it’s different here,” Redford says. “One of the reasons Gilman has flourished is because of that inviting, supportive culture.” He notes that Tim Yohannan, the guy who started Maximumrocknroll and founded Gilman, “decided he was going to put this thing together as an antidote to the violence of hardcore and the rise of the nationalist skinhead movement that was going on in the ‘80s, and [he] said there was going to be some rules.” Those rules—which have since been expanded to notably include “no asshole behavior”—remain indelibly stenciled at the entrance to Gilman.
For those who grew up in ‘80s punk culture pretty much anywhere else in the world, 924 Gilman was an oddity. But sandwiched between the art-punk scene in San Francisco and the bastion of free speech up the road at U.C. Berkeley, Gilman was the perfect catalyst for the East Bay punk scene that eventually spat out the likes of Green Day, Rancid, AFI, and hundreds of other bands. One could literally spend hours reading through the list of bands who have graced the Gilman stage, which is proudly pasted on the walls.
As Redford embarked on what would become an ever-more daunting task, he was backed by what he describes as “excited and supportive producers” who were more likely to fire off middle-of-the-night texts with suggestions for interviews than they were to try to guide the narrative. That said, Billie Joe Armstrong did set forth three rules to follow: 1. Include diverse voices. 2. Focus on people’s contributions and stay away from acrimony. And 3. Don’t focus on nostalgia and don’t mystify the past.
Redford was not alone in his endeavor. He lists purveyors of the scene like Kamala Parks, Robert Eggplant, Dave Mello, Tim Armstrong, and Jesse Michaels, among others, noting that “all these people in some way made the art for the movie or were going through the archives with us. To be doing this with the people who helped create the history was invaluable. It was amazing.”
“The roster of our movie is insane,” Redford says. It must be hard to crank through interview after interview with icons of the scene and not have the occasional “holy shit” moment. For Redford, “sitting with Iggy Pop in his living room to record narration was a trip.” Hearing the director talk about seeing Pop basking in the sun in his backyard surrounded by lizards, it’s clear he hasn’t quite processed what his life has become thanks to this film. Oh, then there was that time he got to show Ian MacKaye some never-before-seen Fugazi footage. And the time Tim Armstrong drew his house for an art piece. We’re sure you’d be tripping too.
But it wasn’t all about the glamour; the responsibility that came with Redford’s job weighed heavy. “Nostalgia is a mother,” he admits. “I can understand not wanting to get mired in it.” Therein lies the challenge: how does a documentary avoid getting mired in nostalgia? Redford says they achieved this by “showing the dorkiness and accessibility of the early Gilman scene. Nobody had the same costume. Many of these bands did not sound punk. You’re showing the past, but you’re not saying it’s awesome. We don’t have interviewees saying, ‘Those were the times.’”
Unfortunately, the cutting room floor ran thick with discarded footage. The initial cut of the film was close to five hours and, while some of the deleted footage may eventually appear online or on the Blu-ray release, “anything you lose is heartbreaking,” Redford says. “This is people’s sacred history, and I know that I did the best I could. I know that I worked 60 to 100 hours a week for almost four years straight trying to do the best I can. There are certain people I would have liked to see in it more, but the edit is brutal.”
The true test came on May 24 when the final film was premiered to an intimate crowd of cast, crew, family, and friends. “Why would I invite the 200 people that are in this film to sit in a room together and watch this fucking movie?” Redford muses. “I might as well put stocks out in the lobby and have a basket of tomatoes. I’m not a complete outlier in this scene, so I think that’s hopefully one of my saving graces.” Any worries evaporated as an emotional Redford introduced his film to cheers and applause from the room. With the mood sufficiently lightened, folks settled in with their popcorn for what was clearly a personal story for many, punctuated by laughs, cheers, and maybe a few tears.
Amongst the encroaching gentrification, 924 Gilman Street stays true to its principles. Thirty years later, Yohannan’s rules remain stenciled at the entrance and that “dorkiness” and “accessibility” that Redford describes is still there in spades. Go see it with your own eyes. It’s real and it’s genuine. “I’m not saying it’s about being cool or being in the know,” he says. “It’s there, and it will always be there, […] that spirit of creativity and dissent. It will always be there if you look for it. I hope Gilman lasts for my kid to be able to go there.”
Redford welcomed his first son, Rex, just over two years ago in the midst of production, while the nearly four-year gestation period for “Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk” ended on May 31 with an opening night gala festival premiere at SF DocFest. Only Redford and his family know what Rex weighed at birth, but his other baby, “Turn It Around,” came in at a whopping two hours, 37 minutes, and 38 seconds.
For a guy facing the late-July nationwide rollout of his most significant work as a documentarian, Redford remains contemplative. “I don’t know what the future holds, but it’s been a hell of a ride, I’ll tell you that,” he says. “If this was my crescendo in the creative world, I’d be OK with it.”
Visit EastBayPunk.com for screenings, ticket info, and DVD, Blu-ray, and digital release dates. For more info on how to support 924 Gilman, visit HelpGilman.org.
Artist Spotlight: Richie Bucher | Interview by John Gentile
“At the time, people would call me a ‘poser,’ so I sort of embraced that. I felt outside of punk at times. I felt outside of everything—walking down the street, you knew you were going to get hassled. Frat boys would definitely fuck with you.”
Richie Bucher is reflecting on the “golden era” of the late ‘80s East Bay punk scene. Little did his detractors know, the burgeoning artist would come to define the era, and more specifically, the physical area.
Best known as the artist who created the cover for Green Day’s Dookie in 1994, Bucher helped set the tone for the scene. Featuring a cartoon dog dropping bombs on a motley collection of East Bay residents, the seminal album’s cover features a fantastic sense of motion, insight, and whimsy—as does all of Bucher’s work.
“When I think about punk rock and Green Day and the East Bay scene, it really did feel like dropping a bomb on something and then leaving an impact,” Bucher says. “I was listening to the first two Green Day albums, [1990’s 39/Smooth and 1991’s Kerplunk], and the concept came to me like that.”
Bucher’s work follows in the tradition of other cartooning greats. As a preteen, he would sneak into his brother’s room and rifle through his record collection and comic book stash. One of his main influences was English political cartoonist Steve Bell and the witty, ghoulish comic strips he scribbled in the liner notes of The Clash’s 1980 Sandinista! LP.
“I distinctly remember hearing The Clash for the first time when I was 12,” Bucher says. “That, along DEVO [and] The B-52s just grabbed me and blew my mind.”
Bucher played in a number of bands—including Soup, Sweet Baby Jesus, and The Wynona Riders—and created art for some of his own releases. He also drew the cover for Very Small Records’ Very Small World punk compilation in 1991, which features everyone from Pinhead Gunpowder and Sleep to Voodoo Glow Skulls and Jawbreaker.
Bucher says, “To me, punk isn’t a sense of something that you adhere to, a proscribed thing. I’m not even really sure what it is. I just identify with its creative expression and recognizing bullshit—wanting to create stuff on your own terms.”
“It does blow my mind that so many people have seen the Dookie cover,” he continues. “I’m proud of the drawing, but it’s not how I define myself. I’ve done lots of things that I’m proud of. I feel lucky and happy and grateful to be a part of it all and to do it with a bunch of people who I admire and respect. It was freaky and weird, and all of us were just outside of everything else.”
Welcome to Paradise: How East Bay Punk Rock Changed Our Lives!
The influence of the Easy Bay punk scene is as far-reaching as it is powerful. Some of our favorite artists weigh in on how bands like Green Day, Rancid, Operation Ivy, and AFI—as well as venues like 924 Gilman—helped shape their bands and their lives.
“One of our friends made a video of us playing Gilman and bringing their kid to his first punk show there. Pretty sweet!”
Jason Hall of Western Addiction
“Dookie absolutely made an impression on me as a young person. When Green Day played Woodstock ‘94, it was a ‘cultural moment.’ I remember it being very exciting, because there was no internet, and you had to watch MTV to see something like this. However, with the release of the new Rancid single, ‘Ghost of a Chance,’ I’m feeling nostalgic. I knew I loved Rancid’s songs at the time, but I didn’t know why. Now, I do. Tim Armstrong is a truly great songwriter—if you listen closely—and has a strong command of vocal melody, which I believe is the secret to a great song. Even on the new single, I can tell he is a studied historian of songwriting. I remember having to ‘audition’ to be a DJ at my college radio station, and I had to include a few songs that showcased my interests. I included ‘The Ballad of Jimmy and Johnny’ from Let’s Go. When Rancid played SNL, it was a big deal to me and quite an accomplishment if you think about it. I also think that Lars [Frederiksen] has one of the best voices in rock ‘n’ roll. It’s the perfect amount of rasp when needed. John Lennon has it. Joan Jett has it. It’s the ability to break your voice at just the right time.”
“Western Addiction has never played Gilman. We would love to. I’ve been there a million times, but we’ve never actually played. I recently attended the Lookout! [Records] 30th anniversary show [at 924 Gilman], and it was quite special. I went to see my pal Marc [Tamo]’s band, Scherzo, and I saw so many old faces. It felt pretty cool to see how all these people have aged and changed but still had one thing in common. On a sidenote, there is a documentary about Gilman, and funny enough, there’s a scene where people are walking in the door, and I just happened to be one of these people!”
Kelen Capener of The Story So Far
“The Bay Area was a breeding ground for some of the best punk rock bands in the world to break out of the ‘90s, and these bands influenced countless young people—myself included—to pick up a guitar for the first time. I learned guitar by listening to and playing along to songs off of Green Day’s Dookie, Insomniac, Nimrod, and Warning records. In sixth grade, I even remember performing ‘Waiting’ at my middle school talent show. The VHS recording of that prepubescent performance—thank God—is likely lost in oblivion.”
Neil Wayne of The Bombpops
“When it comes to East Bay bands, I’d have to say for [drummer] Josh [Lewis] and I, our biggest influence was definitely AFI. We were both in high school around the time AFI was just blowing up, and everyone was really infatuated with them. So many friends rockin’ their Davey Havok devilocks. We still always talk about how AFI was such a beloved band by us and our friends. So much so that there were constant arguments about every song, lyric, and detail about the band. Josh even one time ripped off AFI lyrics for an English class assignment and the teacher was like, ‘Wow, man, that’s really dark.’ His friends, of course, called him out, saying how full of shit he was.”
“We had a really special moment a few years ago, though, when Josh and I were playing a Halloween cover set with some friends in L.A., and Davey came onstage and sang The Damned’s ‘New Rose’ and the Ramones’ ‘Bonzo Goes to Bitburg’ with us backing him. We definitely felt like some long-lost childhood dream came true that night.”
Stacey Dee of Bad Cop / Bad Cop
“I play punk rock music because of the East Bay Punk scene. I grew up in the Bay Area, and at around 15 years old, all my skateboarding friends would hang at my house. They brought cassette tapes of Operation Ivy, Green Day, Fifteen, and the Odd Numbers, pre-Dookie. Before that, the Ramones, The Go-Go’s, and Joan Jett were the only bands that even resembled the punk rock melodies and rhythms that I fell in love with that came from the East Bay. Most of my friends were at those Gilman shows; I wasn’t allowed to go. But my brother, ‘Seltar,’ told me he would always yell, ‘Billie Joe’s a raver,’ when Green Day was playing. The day Dookie came out, I was standing on my porch, and my friend Gabe drove up in his car and screamed, ‘Stacey, the new Green Day came out! It’s so fucking good!” He turned up his radio, and I listened for the first time! Fuck, man, he was so right! That record changed the game for punk rockers. Every young girl quickly decided that they were gonna grow up to marry Billie Joe. I was one of them as well, but realized I didn’t really wanna be with him, I wanted to be like him! So, I picked up the guitar and went for it. The rest is history. I recently met Tim Armstrong and got to tell him how important his music was to me becoming who I am and thanked him. That was rad!”
Nick Woods of Direct Hit!
“I remember the first time I heard ‘Longview’ by Green Day like it was yesterday. My family and I were visiting my aunt and uncle outside of Chicago, and my cousin Mike came down in the basement where we were watching TV, with Dookie in hand on CD, and told me and my brother that we couldn’t let our parents hear what we were about to listen to. So, we all got really close to the stereo and kept the volume low, and I remember my stomach clenching when Billie Joe first said, ‘Same ole shit,’ because I’d never heard someone curse in a song. And then, dude said ‘fucking lazy,’ and it was like someone had dropped their pants and underwear at a party. ‘Fuck’ was a word that was never used in our house, and I’d only heard it a handful of times when my friends whispered it to each other on the bus on the way to school when we were talking about things that would send us to Hell. So, it was both hilarious and awful at the same time, and I remember thinking, ‘Whoa, you can say whatever you want.” Like, whatever you want. That thought had never occurred to me before, and for a kid aged 9 or 10, that’s a really powerful thing to realize. Green Day gave that to me. Because if a popular band swore on a record, there’s no way it could come back to bite someone in the ass, right? Either way, at some point, my parents found out that I was really into that song and forbade me from ever obtaining a copy of that record. I bought Insomniac a year or so later instead, because I don’t think they ever made the connection that the band wasn’t called ‘Dookie’ straight-up. Either way, the former’s become my favorite album of theirs, if only because it’s more obscene than Dookie is.”
Eric Egan of Heart Attack Man
“My neighbors that I grew up skateboarding with loved Green Day and showed me Dookie when I was really young. I saw Green Day on the American Idiot tour when I was in seventh grade. When I recorded our debut EP, Acid Rain, I actually recorded with the exact guitar head that was used on Dookie—since the owner of the studio I was at owns it now—which was pretty surreal to say the least.”
Derek Zanetti of The Homeless Gospel Choir
“In September 1994, I had no idea what punk rock looked like, sounded like, or felt like. I grew up in a conservative evangelical right-wing Christian family and was not permitted to listen to secular music. Needless to say, anytime I could get my hands on something that wasn’t available at the Christian family bookstore, I was readily available to listen to it. My friend Jake came up to me at school and said he heard a new kind of music, something different that was made for people like us. I took that Green Day Dookie cassette tape home, and in four months, I wore the tape thin. It never left my tape player. I know that record like the back of my hand, because that’s the record that changed my life forever. I finally knew what it was I was looking for. I finally knew where it is I belong, and I finally had a group of people to belong there with me. The name of that belonging was called punk, and it fucking changed my life forever. There are plenty of punk bands that I got into as a young person that I don’t listen to anymore. However, now at 34 years old, that Green Day Dookie record is just as important to me as it was when I was 11. Fucking hallelujah, up the punx.”
Kyle Pulley of Thin Lips
“If I were to be honest with myself, I would not be the musician—and perhaps even the person—I am today without punk from the East Bay scene. As a small child growing up in the wooded suburbs of South Jersey, I was always drawn by music’s power. Like any child, the first thing I listened to was music my parents had, like Sam Cooke, Michael Jackson, The Go-Go’s, and country music radio—which my parents played in the car—which had stuff like Garth Brooks on heavy rotation. Green Day was the first band that was mine! When I heard Dookie the spring of my fifth grade year of school, it changed my life. It turned me onto modern rock radio where I learned about Weezer, Smashing Pumpkins, and Nirvana—and lots of bad bands too, [laughs]—and it was the first time I felt like I knew about something that was cool! Kids made fun of me for loving Garth Brooks, but not Green Day! Green Day made me want to quit piano lessons and learn guitar!”
“A few years later—and several unsuccessful attempts of learning guitar on my mom’s old acoustic later—I went with my parents to buy my first pair of skate shoes from a store at the mall. My pair of blue and grey suede Vans came with Punk-O-Rama Vol. 2.1, an Epitaph Records compilation that featured the Descendents, Rancid, and NOFX. I was a bit incredulous just by looking at the cover with a weird, dirty looking purple shark-shaped person, but the shark-person did have a skateboard and was doing a handplant. I took Silverchair out of the boombox, hit play on Punk-O-Rama, and fell in love immediately. Punk was so raw and intense in a way that other music couldn’t be to me.”
“I think it was the opening bass fills in the beginning of Rancid’s ‘Sidekick’ on Punk-O-Rama that made me curious about the bass. I had never heard an instrument sound like that on the radio, and it only had four strings! So much easier than guitar, right?! Well, that’s definitely debatable, but this latest attempt to learn an instrument proved successful, and later, I would learn many Rancid [and] Op Ivy songs on bass. Looking back, I think that aesthetically, things like Matt Freeman’s extremely bright bass tone, Tim Armstrong’s unconventional vocals, and even the recording quality of Operation Ivy’s Energy had a profound effect on me as both a musician and producer. Lyrically, Operation Ivy became a primer for how to understand social issues outside of the bubble I lived in in New Jersey, while songs like ‘Here We Go Again’ helped me understand some of the things in my high school bubble. And Rancid’s imagery that romanticized the beauty and excitement of city living put a blueprint in my mind that would later construct an intense appetite for new music and community in Philadelphia in my later teen years and early adulthood. Garth Brooks would have never given me that.”
Dan Rock of World’s Scariest Police Chases
“One look at World’s Scariest Police Chases’ NOFX …and Out Come the Wolves Dookie, and it should be incredibly obvious that the East Bay punk scene had a bit of an influence on me and the rest of the band. I was 12 when Dookie came out, and although I grew up sharing a bedroom with older brothers that were listening to Black Flag, Minor Threat, and Gorilla Biscuits, Dookie was the first punk album that was mine, and Rancid was the first concert I went without my older brother. It may have been two decades since I last purchased a Green Day or Rancid album, but there is no doubt the lasting impression those bands have left on my life. When I say punk rock ruined my life, it all definitely started with a couple little bands from the East Bay scene.”
Ray Carlisle of Teenage Bottlerocket
“I can safely say that Teenage Bottlerocket would not be a band if it wasn’t for Green Day. My friend Tom up the street had Dookie. Brandon and I saw the CD, and we made fun of Green Day’s band name. Tom sorta shrugged and said, ‘Oh really?’ and then, he played us ‘Basket Case.’ I’ll never forget it; it was like nothing I had ever heard before! From there, we dove into the Lookout! catalog and our lives were forever changed. We went from loving Jane’s Addiction and Primus to loving Operation Ivy and The Queers within a month. The problem is a bunch of bands that say they wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for Green Day, I feel like, ‘Hey, that’s our story, and your band sounds like dog shit.’ But that’s the thing: Green Day is monumental. They changed a shit-ton of people’s lives, not just ours.”
“Brandon and I played in a band called Homeless Wonders before we started Teenage Bottlerocket. Homeless Wonders played Gilman Street with At The Drive-In on the Vaya tour. The show will forever stand out in my mind, because this is right around the same time everyone decided Screeching Weasel sucked and Fugazi was the best band ever—they are. I’m pretty sure we booked the show with a 7”. I love that sorta stuff. It wasn’t up to At The Drive-In’s booking agent to figure out who opened that show, it was up to the staff at Gilman.”
Jonathan Brucato of Born Without Bones
“Dookie is one of those records that I found at a very early age and continues to pop up in different phases of my life. I remember first hearing it in my friend Pete’s mom’s minivan around elementary school time. We would be in the back, and he would always unbuckle his seatbelt and jump into the front seat to crank the volume on the car stereo. His mom would scream, and we would just be freaking out off of the energy of this record. It has always been musically and lyrically relevant. I mean, the thing just doesn’t show its age! When high school rolled around, it became the proverbial handbook for rhythm guitar for me and my friends, and by college, we considered it the standard for tone and mix. It’s not exactly a coincidence that I play a Strat into a 2204 Marshall to this day.”
Jenna Priestner of Mobina Galore
“Nimrod was released when I was in grade seven—the year I learned how to play guitar—and became the foundation of my power chord punk style! ‘Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)’ is an epically timeless song that any guitar player learned early on. Being able to see that performed live for the first time just this year blew me away!”
Rob Flynn of The Winter Passing
“The first CD I ever bought myself with my own money was Dookie when I was 10 years old. Green Day totally paved the path through my adolescent life and introduced me to so many other California-based punk bands, such as blink-182, AFI, Rancid, Dead To Me, and more. The first song I ever learned to play on guitar was ‘When I Come Around,’ and it was the first song I ever performed with a band too. I even bleached my hair and wore Converse because I wanted to be like Billie Joe Armstrong, and I guess not much has changed since! I owe a lot of my life’s efforts, experiences, and music I’ve discovered to Dookie.”
“We’ve had an ongoing joke about our love for Rancid for some time now. While Green Day was all over MTV, as a kid, you started digging a little deeper and seeing the bands they thank in their liner notes and start investigating. Rancid was the band that had the look and attitude to appease the 13-year-olds wanting to piss off their parents, but the songs that told the stories kids growing up in the Midwest only dreamed of. You can’t listen to Let’s Go or …And Out Come the Wolves and not fall in love with this band. It’s Tim and Lars against the world, and we’re Rancidpunx for life. See ya in the pit!”