And did you find some kind of solace in that punk community, or did you feel like an outsider?
No, I definitely felt community. I feel like it was very strong in the late ’80s/early ’90s -- there was Anti-Racist Action, which was very much alive back then with marches being organized pre-internet, just through zines and word of mouth, and that was all part of the punk community. You’d go to [non-profit venue 924] Gilman Street in Berkeley and they would have monthly meetings with very outspoken characters talking about how this band or that band should be banned because of these lyrics, and who were really on the lookout for the Nazi skinheads. That was a big problem in the ’80s and early ’90s.
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Going off-topic slightly, do you feel, in 2019, when Trump’s in the White House, that any progress has been made? Or are we taking steps back now?
One hundred per cent. One step forward, two steps back. That’s exactly what’s happened. I feel like the bigots have a bravery these days, more so than they did 10, 20 years ago, to be outspoken. White nationalists have no fear in displaying their true colors, so it’s a scary time. But it has also brought people and ideas together, to remind people that this stuff does exist. I think you can become complacent in life, where everything is rose-colored and you just move along with life, and I think one thing Trump has done is caused mobilization amongst underground movements towards progressive and anti-racist activism and ideas.
With that in mind, you started Asian Man just before punk became really commodified with the success of Green Day and The Offspring, which diluted the political edge of punk music, to some degree. Does the punk community now need to organize and mobilize, and not just rely on the music?
I would hope so. And not just punk musicians, but musicians across the board, whether it be country, hip-hop, R&B, soul, funk. It shouldn’t just be the punk community -- the human race as a community should be mobilizing towards positive change. But in terms of punk, if this was 20 years ago, I’d have said that most definitely every band should be voicing their opinion. But I’ve changed that, in the sense that not every band is political, and that’s not their forte. That doesn’t mean they’re bad people.
Let’s take a band like The Aquabats, for example, who I love, and love as people, but I don’t want them to be spouting politics at their shows. That’s an escape band. And I see a need for bands as entertainment, so I don’t feel like every band needs to [be political]. But I do feel like bands need to be aware of it. There are other ways of supporting causes than just raising your fist and making a lot of noise online, whether it’s monetary or signing petitions or involving activist groups at your concerts. Especially bands that draw younger audiences that are at the voting age or going to be at the voting age for the next election -- those are the bands I wish and hope would be more involved than a band like Bad Religion, who has an older audience who has set ways. I think it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks, so I really feel like it’s the younger bands that need to mobilize.