GI's John "Stabb" Schroeder (vocals) and Tom Lyle (guitar) were interviewed at Lansburgh's Cultural Center on June 5 by Mike Ross. Photos by Bob Davis and Ellie. Interview taken from Brand New Age #2.
Mike: How do you feel about being called "Punk Rock With A Punch" in the Washington Post Weekend section?
Click for a larger version.
John: People label things all the time and we get labeled everything from punk rock to hardcore to heavy metal to psychedelic to country western to blues. You name it and we've been called it except for disco and that's probably next. People are always into labels and we're not, but as far as that review goes it's alright, if they don't make us sound stupid or something. Everyone has their own idea of what "Punk Rock" really is but it's just a label. I'd rather be called "thinking man's rock" than "punk rock." You get the whole stereotype of people thinking you're like what was one Quincy or Chips. People were into leather jackets and stuff before, but that was two years ago and bands have to move on. We don't want to be labeled any of those names like "hardcore" or "punk rock" really. And also that review makes us look like some kind of S&M freaks that like getting kicked in the teeth or something. But Howard Wuelfing has always written that way, using strange phrases...I have to explain about some of our reviews.
Tom: Yeah, they talk about what we wore and not what the music was like.
John: They say "He drew all these notches near his crotch to show how many times he's fornicated" and the whole point of that song is to say how stupid it is to spend your life scamming on girls. Some of that stuff comes from New York which is a weird place. Oh, we met Googy (ex-Misfits drummer) in New York and we didn't even know it. He was trying to give us books on Hare Krishna and we were trying to make him go away. He's a Hare Krishna now! By the way, Tom Berard is here.
Tom B: Hi.
Mike: He's at every one of our interviews.
Tom: Tom Berard is the number one DC fan.
John: He always manages to get his face on every record cover.
Mike: What happened on the last tour? How many shows ended up being cancelled?
Tom: We had as many shows cancelled as we ended up playing. When we got out there, every show that we had was cancelled. Every single one.
John: It was pretty poor organization. It wasn't promoted at all. We didn't have any vinyl out except the first
EP, which we never did a second preslng of, so nobody knew who we were. The clubs said "Yeah, you can play if you play for free." We played a few parties that were real good and the gigs that we did play were real good for shaking people up and stuff because they're image conscious as hell out there.
Mike: How did you end up playing the On Broadway?
Tom: We were booked at the On Broadway and we ended up playing there. We got $40 for that, which paid for the entire trip. All the expenses, all the food, everything.
Mike: Did you get paid anywhere else?
John: We played a party for about a dollar.
Tom: Two dollars...we got two dollars for that.
John: At the On Broadway, we got $40 for the first show and the second show they paid us nothing.
Tom: We had to pay them.
John: Oh, that's right. At the second show they wouldn't let Scream play and they let us play for free. Then right after that we rushed to Sound of Music. Two gigs in one night. We played there for five drunks. That was probably the funnest show.
Tom: That was the best gig.
Mike: How much did Scream get to play?
John: They played more because everyone in GI except me went home and I travelled with Scream, they played some shows in Phoenix and some shows in Texas. They did better than us that's for sure. They had a bunch of gigs set up on the way back but most of them fell through so we just went home. But, to get this totally cleared...it was just a vacation with a few gigs set up. Scream's main thing was to make a bit of money but we just went to have fun.
Mike: Did people criticize you for your hair and clothes?
John: Yeah, in San Francisco mainly. My hair was long and I was wearing the psychedelic stuff...the clothes, the shades. There was one guy who had like the personality of a brick and was trying to convince me that I did acid and I guess I did if he says so. People hated us, and It's like the thing with the Misfits... If you look a little different from the hardcore look they can't handle it. We were begging for shows and they were saying...
Tom: "Government Who?"
John: We were saying "Please let us play" and now they're calling us and we tell them that we were out there last year and they wouldn't book us. Then people would come up to us at shows and ask us for money. Mitch was great though, one girl begged him for some money and he said "Look, we're from DC and we're a band, we came out here, had all our shows cancelled, lost a lot of money and if we don't make a little bit of money we'll be hitchhiking home" and she felt real bad and went around collecting money for us. We'd ask people what they wanted the money for and they'd almost always say "Uh, beer".
Mike: What kind of organizing have you done for this tour?
Tom: Well, we talked to the people who set up the shows and I said that first, they have to be all ages shows and that second, we can't have more than three warmup bands because we need our beauty sleep. This is probably going to end up being "Do not let Tom sleep because he'll play much better and he'll remember the guitar parts much better if you don't let him sleep, make him drive and... "
John: And make him crazy too. This is the "No Sleep 'till DC Tour".
Mike: Why did Mitch leave the band?
John: We parted ways Just like Steve parted ways with Minor Threat.
Tom: I think he lost interest.
Mike: What's he doing now?
Tom: He's playing with a band called the Crippled Pilgrims. He likes to experiment so he's trying different things with other bands.
Mike: Is he still doing video stuff?
Tom: He still has to fix up one of ours. We have a video coming up.
Mike: The Wilson Center thing?
Tom: Yeah, if you've ever seen it...
Mike: No, I haven't. I talked to Malcolm about it though. He said there was a problem with the sound.
Tom: The sound is good, but it's not in sync with the video image and they're fixing that. We'll give that to everybody once we get it out which should be about a month.
Mike: Are you going to keep Artificial Peace on the video since they filmed them too?
John: We probably will, but since the stuff we did got mixed the best and it's still off but they have almost a whole set of our music.
Tom: The other bands are ali chopped up.
John: Yeah, It's real messy. That part of it wasn't put together well.
Tom: Plus with the GIs he was on stage filming and the others were filmed from farther back.
Mike: Would you like to do a video like the Birthday Party video?
John: Yeah, we'd like to do something interesting. Most bands do like a live video but we want to do somthlng we can be creative with and have a good time with.
Tom: With a budget of like $30,000. On location in New Zealand.
Mike: What influences you?
John: Everything to anything.
Tom: We listen to everything.
John: As this lineup changes we've done a few more covers that we wouldn't have done before. I'm influenced by everyone I see and Tom's always going "This is my Void song, this is my Faith song". Tom, tell them your secret.
Tom: We take old songs that people forgot and then rewrite them a bit.
John: Oh no, the secrets out. We're ruined as a band.
Tom: Every song we do we haven't written ourselves. Every song has been taken from someone.
John: John Berry's style was "Well, I always speed up Rolling Stones songs" and then everyone thought he was God. But now I'll write the lyrics and they'll do the music. I have a book full of lyrics and I just change the lyrics a bit to fit the song.
Tom: Right now we're teaching Rob the songs for the tour.
Mike: Is Rob learning all your songs? Aren't there some you don't do anymore?
John: Yeah, that's the thing. When we do out of town shows they expect us to do the songs from the first record and that stuff is in the past. It's only around for like encores or something.
Mike: Why did you decide to cover "These Boots Are Made For Walkln'"?
Tom: It's a good song.
John: We heard the Nancy Sinatra version and we wanted to do a real obscure 60's cover. We heard it on the radio and said "Let's do it".
Mike: What other songs do you cover?
Tom: We do "Wild Blood" by the Seeds which is going to be on the Fountain of Youth sampler in the fall.
John: But we don't do it live anymore. That's our one psychedelic song and everyone says we're a psychedelic band but we only did that one song. I got into the psychedelic stuff about a month or two ago and now I'm sick of it.
Mike: Do you get a lot of letters?
John: Lots. I used to get tons and I used to keep in touch with a lot of the people but the letters started asking us for too many personal things. You know, 500 little pieces of memorabilia. I got letters that said like "Please send me T-shirts, buttons, stickers, flyers and info," and then there wouldn't even be a stamp in the envelope.
Mike: Are you going to do a repressing of "Boycott Stabb?"
John: As much as it will take. So far we've done 2 of 1,500 each.
Tom: But there's no difference between the two.
John: They're going real fast now and then "Make An Effort" will be out in another month.
Mike: Why did you call the record "Boycott Stabb?"
John: That was a drawing someone did on the planks in front of the construction where Scandals used to be, across from where I work. The wall just got taken down, but the drawing was covered up with flyers a long time before that.
Tom: The person who drew it has still not come forward. If you do we'll give you a free copy.
John: That and a free trip to Europe...
Tom: And a Polaroid SX-70...
John: And a ride in Tom's car.
Tom: But seriously, the person should really tell us. We want to know.
John: Such artistic ability.
Tom: Really unbelievable, the Picasso of the 80s.
John: But the whole thing with Boycott Stabb is that people were starting to think it was my real name.
Tom: Didn't Ian think of that name?
John: Well, he called me Stabb all the time because my first band was called The Stab, that was the name of the band and it was with Pete Murray and a couple of other people. We were doing old covers like The Clash and stuff like that. The "Stabb" name came from when I went around to different shows like Scandal's early days and Ian was in Teen Idles and I was following him along with everyone else and I said "I have a new band called Stab but we haven't played any shows yet" and he was real hyped and wrote my name down in his little phone book as "John (Stab)" and it stuck. I don't mind it as a nickname but it gets on my nerves when people take it too seriously.
Tom: Bullshit, I saw it on your driver's license.
John: Yeah, if they ever give me one.
Tom: (laughing) They won't let him drive. He had an accident during his driver's test. He can't drive.
John: I floored the car backwards into a guardrail. After that they didn't like me too much, they failed me for that. My whole thing with driving is that I'm staying as far away from cars as I can because I think they're a burden. I'm just not into cars and some people think I'm immature for that. But I'm probably the worst driver on the road too so everybody should be thanking their lucky stars I do not have a driver's license.
Tom: You're a pretty bad passenger too.
Mike: What about driving school?
John: I took that. It didn't help too much. One thing I can't imagine and could probably never do in my life is parallel parking. (laughter)
Mike: When is "Make An Effort" coming out?
Tom: It's going to be a seven-inch EP with Brian Baker on guitar and me on bass. It'll be out in about a month and we're planning an LP after that.
Mike: What songs have been recorded so far?
Tom: "Dead Dogs", "Notch In My Crotch", "4-Walled Hermit", and "Dating Game" which I don't know if we'll use, "Boots" which we're going to redo, and "Wild Blood" which is for the sampler.
Mike: Do you ever have any hassles with shoplifters at the store?
Tom: You have to explain what he does first.
Tom B: Who doesn't know what John Stabb does? Who hasn't gone to Record and Tape Ltd in Georgetown and had their bags checked by John Stabb?
Tom: Now he has people come in and say "Oh my god, you're John Stabb of Government Issue aren't you?"
John: "No, I just look like him."
Tom: Instead of going to the manager and saying "You let him dress that way?"
Tom B: "Does that guy dress in a closet? What's wrong with you people?"
Tom: Now they say "Hey, that's John Stabb of Government Issue. How the hell do you get him to work here?"
John: They pay me. But the main thing is that most of the time I'm real busy and my manager is giving me dirty looks, so if you have to talk to me about something, talk to me when I'm not working because it gets me in trouble. People mope around and start hanging on the books so soon we're going to put love seats and sofas in. Hey, where was everybody at our in-store? Me and Mitch were there.
Mike: Didn't Fear have a in-store too?
John: Yeah, I helped them with that. It was pretty funny. They all had whoopee cushions and stuff. I was the host and I said they could play any record they wanted and Derf kept saying "I want the record with that butt" and it was an exercise record and he said "I want to hear that butt." They were getting real drunk and people would walk by and they'd squeeze the whoopee cushions and people would be saying stuff like "What's wrong with you, this is a record store!" It was fun but nobody showed up for ours. I guess we're not popular.
Mike: What's going on with Rich, Steve and Bert's new band? Who's playing what?
John: Richard (ex-Double-O) is the singer. Sluggo is the singer and then Steve Hadjsken (ex-Minor Threat) is playing guitar, the singer from United Mutations is playing drums and Berto (ex-Double-O) is playing bass.
Tom: A real superband. Oh, Eric's New Band has a name, ENB is now called Dove.
John: That can't be their name, we have to talk about the dream sequence. Ian had a dream that we opened for the Dead Kennedys at the Capital Centre and our name was Dove.
Tom: The Capital Centre keeps calling and asking for the heavy metal thing.
Mike: Have you ever played with any heavy metal bands?
Tom: No, but we once played at the Outside Inn.
Mike: With Black Market Baby right?
John: That was amazing. Half the crowd said they liked us and and half said if you ever come back we'll kill you. It was a pretty wild show.
Mike: What stuff do you have to say about the LP?
Tom: Well, now that "Boycott Stabb" is out we don't have a care in the world. That was the main idea for a long time. It was Ian's idea to do the record in the first place. At the Dead Kennedys show last July for some reason we decided to play like all our songs so Ian and Jeff realized that we had a lot of stuff. Minor Threat in general has been our biggest help.
John: I've got nothing in the world against Dischord. They're great.