Friday, December 28, 2001

Sax Punk II
A continuation of the Media Diet interview with Jake Williams, tenor saxophonist for the punk band, the River City Rebels:

What's the worst show-related injury you've ever received?

The worst show related injury I've ever received was during this set we played in Warren, Vermont, in our friend Gavin's barn. The barn was pretty tightly packed, and the stage had just been repaired since the last show we played there -- but had also somehow shrunk in size. Anyway, during the very first song we played, I jumped up like I was some kinda rock star, but when I was coming down, someone knocked me over, and I fell face first into the drum set, simultaneously slamming my forehead into something hard enough to cut it open and give me a huge lump, and I also managed to practically dislocate my shoulder. I kinda stood aside for one song, and then danced cautiously for the rest of the set.

You were actually in a band called Cobra Skammander? Did the band consider any other names before they settled on that? That's pretty rad.

I honestly can take no credit for the name Cobra Skammander, unfortunately. But I think the name existed before any kind of band actually did.

You said the band wasn't able to play out very often lately because folks are in college. What are the River City Rebels studying? How does the school experience influence or inspire the band, if at all?

College is gross. I'm a writing major at Emerson in Boston. Everyone else is studying very random things. College really only makes me appreciate the opportunity that I have to play in a band that much more.

Fair enough. You also mentioned that you'd like to do more in response to the Sept. 11 tragedies. How have you been affected by the tragedies and the subsequent military actions? What role do you think the band could play in helping further the antiwar effort?

Sept. 11 was supposed to be my first day of class, but I only had the first one before the rest were cancelled. Everyone was freakin' and told me not to get on the subway. I just walked to a record store, bought the new Grade album -- and then I went to work. The truth is I haven't been affected by 911 any more than I have by any other world tragedies. Natural disasters occur all over the world, killing thousands at a time, and it's barely headline news in the US. Ethnic cleansing and civil war take place in Africa and Asia semi-frequently, and yet Americans can't be bothered with it. Just because this event occured within a few hundred miles of my home doesn't mean I would any more or less affected. I'm really unsure what the band can do except tell our fans to think for themselves about the events taking place -- and not buy into all the blind flag-waving going on right now. I'm not sure how bands in Boston are politically engaged, but if the punk scene is representative of Boston itself, it's just a bunch of "patriots" talking about justice and pride while they drink beer and watch football. I'm sure there are bands who are just as against the war effort, but I know none personally. My politics borrows from early punk ideals of an underground community that stands against a corporate government and consumer-based society. It's hard to communicate because punk rock now to me goes beyond being a music; it's an idea that transcends a musical style. The music is unimportant if the message is unpolluted. The message is unity of all people, a burning of all barriers that separate, be it by race, gender, age, class, or religion.

You went straight to work Sept. 11? Sounds like a pretty crummy job. What do you do to make it fun and worthwhile? Do you at least get to see movies for free?

There is little that makes the job fun or worthwile except the fact that I will never have to pay money to see a movie in any Boston theater again. Suckers.

Back to the engagement of the Boston-area punk-rock scene... What do you think small-town punks bring bigger-city scenes? Coming from Connecticut, what were some of the biggest differences you saw moving here?

Hmm. Small towns punks have a naivete that is quickly swallowed up once they realize how little fun big city shows actually are. The biggest change moving to Boston from Connecticut was mostly the increasing access I now had to all types of music shows -- but then quickly enough, a lack of desire to go to any after I'd seen the way kids act at them. There is little similarity between the two scenes. Kids in smaller towns sometimes wish they were in big cities, and vice versa. If you could mix the potential for big city shows with the integrity and eagerness of small town punks, you might have something there.

Feel free to email Jake. To learn more about the River City Rebels, check out the band's Web site.

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