This past week I attended the MLB Winter Meetings for the third consecutive year. It was also the second consecutive year I received press credentials. All seemed normal, but this year had a bit of a twist. I had an event planned on Tuesday night, something non-baseball, but all the while still as entertaining or even more exciting.
I interviewed the punk rock band Implants in July of 2012. They are considered a super group in the punk world. Ken Conte, Jim Blowers, Chris Del Rio, Chris Dalley, and Rob Ramos have been playing music for years and have been apart of some of the biggest bands the punk world has ever seen: Strung Out, Pulley, Ten Foot Pole, The Tank and Death By Stereo.
In January, Cyber Tracks, a record label formed by Aaron Abeyta (aka El Hefe) and his wife Jennifer, signed the Implants to a record deal. As per their press release, this isn't the first time their paths have crossed.
"Cyber Tracks is Implants first label deal, but the members have all toured with El Hefe at some point in their careers with other bands. “I’ve known all the guys forever, and when I found out they were working with Ryan Greene I knew they were really on to something,” says El Hefe, with Jen adding, “After we released our first album, as a label we weren’t sure which direction to take. Once we heard Implants and the amazing record they were finishing up, the decision was a no-brainer. It is an honor to work with such a great band, and there is nothing cooler than doing business with your friends. I feel that we have created a power team with Ryan Greene, five talented punk veterans and my husband as the ingredients.”
El Hefe, as he is known throughout the music world, has been in the game for a long time. As a member of NOFX, a pioneer of sorts in the skate-punk music scene, he has been with the band since 1991 and has been apart of every album since: 1992: The Longest Line, 1992: White Trash, Two Heebs and a Bean, 1994: Punk in Drublic, 1995: I Heard They Suck Live!!, 1996: Heavy Petting Zoo, 1997: So Long and Thanks for All the Shoes, 1999: The Decline, 2000: Pump Up the Valuum, 2002: 45 or 46 Songs That Weren't Good Enough To Go On Our Other Records, 2003: The War on Errorism, 2006: Wolves in Wolves' Clothing, 2007: They've Actually Gotten Worse Live!, 2009: Coaster, 2012: Self Entitled (Courtesy MTV).
Since the record deal, the Implants have been playing all over the world. Until recently, they were on tour in Japan with Useless ID, Kill the Drive, and the Decline. Now almost one year since signing with Cyber Tracks, the Implants are nearing the end of their first tour joining headliners NOFX with Dillinger Four and Masked Intruder.
I have been fortunate to continue contact with the band through twitter, a tool that can connect anyone in any industry. Remember MSN Messenger and ICQ? All these programs could connect people, but pale in comparison to what twitter is capable off. Knowing I would be in Orlando the week of December 9, I reached out to the band to let them know I would be in town and had tickets to the show at the House of Blues Orlando. What I didn't know was that drummer, Chris Dalley, who I spoke with in conjunction with Jim Blowers for my original interview, had a backstage pass for me.
This opportunity to meet and to speak with people I have been listening to for years was an unexpected surprise, one that I wouldn't soon forget.
To see the work that goes into preparing for a live show is seriously mindboggling. I only saw the latter stages, but can only only imagine what goes into soundchecks, the setup of the equipment, electronic and the acoustic checks. And to top it all off, for someone to be able to go on stage and make a building full of people smile is remarkable.
Quite honestly, for a band that has an eclectic group of guys who, as mentioned earlier, has been apart of some of the biggest bands of my generation, is still working toward that ultimate goal of becoming the best band they can be, while putting out music they love.
Punk rock is funny thing. It's music is different and against the grain. It's style is nowhere near radio friendly and when it is, it's not punk anymore. When your favorite group becomes so popular that it's fanbase explodes beyond belief, it's not punk anymore.
What is punk anyway? Is it a culture, is it a way of life? Is it us against the system? Ian MacKaye of Minor Threat, Fugazi has his own definition.
"I think what we took away from first hearing about the punk stuff in England and then the early American punk stuff was a sense of self-definition and also sort of playing music for music’s sake and being part of a family for family’s sake.”
Maybe its a musical family doing something they love, and when it works, it doesn't need to change or conform to what's trendy or "in" at the time? Maybe punk is a group of people accepting of anyone who enjoys their music regardless of who you are and where you come from? How else would I, a manager at financial institution in Thunder Bay, Ontario, who also runs a baseball business website, be able to connect with people in a completely different world?
Whatever the case may be, I was able to witness the Implants live. They played Parallel, which you can view here, and I also had the pleasure of speaking with Mrs. Hefe, asking questions that would allow me to understand how her husband can play fulltime in a band, and run a record label while still doing what's right for their signed acts. It's a daunting task they're both undertaking.
Each show is different, but everyone can relate because they travel all these miles months at a time to play the music they love and for the fans that can sing every song word for word. One concert for NOFX, Dillinger Four, Masked Intruder, and the Implants is just one of many, a performance they've all done thousands of times on separate occasions, but for me it was entry into a world I've only read about.
When someone says you can't, that means you can.
Every person on that stage, in the office, or on the playing field has been told at one time or another they couldn't do something. Yet, a style of music that's almost unheard of on the radio theses days had people from all ages at that show singing along at every turn. I know what it takes to play at that next level, and the artists know what it takes to put on events that leave people talking for days after its over. Every person on that stage is gifted in their own way and can make music that is still cool 30 years later.I met truly engaging people that allowed me to see their world first-hand. I can't thank them enough.
Six hours in their world opened my eyes to a lifetime of excitement.