If your biggest hit is the punk rock anthem Fuck Authority, when you become a father, how do you discipline your own children?
That’s the fundamental contradiction and dilemma facing punk fathers like Pennywise’s Jim Lindberg in Andrea Blaugrund Nevins’ The Other F Word. In the new punk rock documentary about fatherhood, Lindberg ponders having to play the “clean versions of my albums” for his children, and using admonishments such as “I’m not sure that was cool.”
The Other F Word is Nevins’ first feature length documentary, and is executive produced by Morgan Spurlock, director of 2004’s Super Size Me. Originally from Manhattan’s Upper West Side, Nevins worked for NPR and ABC News. Her documentary short Still Kicking, about aging dancers, was Oscar-nominated. After meeting her husband Nevins moved to L.A.; they now have three children.
Her entertaining rock-umentary is alternately funny, insightful and surprisingly poignant, as it burrows beneath punker pops’ porcupine personas. Chronicling the current state of the music industry and Southern California’s punk music movement, Nevins’ punkumentary is arguably the best nonfiction film about that scene since Penelope Spheeris’ 1981 The Decline of Western Civilization.
Official Trailer – The Other F Word
Rock Cellar Magazine: How did you get the idea for The Other F Word?
Andrea Blaugrund Nevins: My producing partner Cristin Reilly had been friends with the lead singer of Pennywise, Jim Lindberg, who’d written a book called Punk Rock Dad. She thought this would make a fascinating documentary; I read it and said, “Okay, I’m in.”
RCM: Were you a punk rock fan?
ABN: I was teenager then, but not a punk rocker.
RCM: Talk about some of the major fathers in The Other F Word.
ABN: We really touch on a whole panoply of characters from the punk rock movement, going back to some of the very early ones. We really focus on Southern California punk because that’s the movement Jim Lindberg, our lead character, came out of. Pennywise started in the early ’80s and it was the second movement of SoCal punk. Their best known song is Fuck Authority.
We have Ron Reyes, from Black Flag, who we think of as the “Greta Garbo of punk.” He left Black Flag in the middle of a set, because he found the environment was getting too violent. He left the U.S., settled in Vancouver, became a guy who worked in a print shop, had four kids and raised them. This last year, for his fiftieth birthday Ron got back up onstage with some of his old bandmates and is getting out there again.
Mark Hoppus is one of our dads – Blink 182 considers themselves punk, having roots in the punk movement, but lots of people say they crossed over into pop.
We’ve got Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers; people would say they’re not punk, but he originally played with a band called Fear in the early days of the punk movement here, so Flea was very much a punker. Flea and his daughter Clara appear in our movie; he’s a really extraordinary person.
Others incredibly indispensable to our storytelling were Brett Gurewitz, founder of the seminal punk label, Epitaph. He also played in the band Bad Religion. There’s a couple of San Francisco bands: NOFX, with Fat Mike, and Lars Frederiksen of Rancid.
RCM: What are the changes in the music industry and how do they affect punk acts?
ABN: Most punk rockers were really trying to make a political statement and express some very, very visceral feelings. When punk was starting there was lots of hypocrisy in our culture and anger at the current state of the world. They will tell you they were never in it for the money. There aren’t a lot of punk bands gi-normously successful like U2; in fact it doesn’t exist in the punk world. But, once they’ve had some success, some began moving through their lives and weren’t going to such extremes like some punks did, ruining their lives through drugs and alcohol — it became a job. Being a job, they had to be able to make a living, pay a mortgage, live a life. They were able to do that when the music industry was selling records and getting some revenue. Once file sharing took hold, that kind of revenue dried up. And for them, it felt like almost entirely.
So consequently, the only way they were really making money was by making records and taking them out on tour, and by ticket sales. That then became a real drain on the time with their families, because it meant they had to spend lots of time on the road. They’re also getting older; they’re not as young as they were. Touring becomes a different animal when it’s not just like, “Hey! We’re out on the road and this is so fun! And we have no curfew and nobody’s watching over our shoulder” – when you start to make commitments in your life that kind of lifestyle becomes difficult.
RCM: Lindberg leaves the band to spend more time with his family.
ABN: Exactly. And given the fact that the music industry is in dire straits, guys who aren’t making gazillions of dollars selling out amphitheatres on tour are really middle-class laborers. Because of the music industry, Jim was no longer making money on record sales, just from touring. Because they weren’t in giant arenas, it meant he really had to be on tour most of the year… He [occasionally] came back home but during the course of a year he played 200-plus shows. Pennywise is still together and still touring without him.
RCM: A touching thing in your film is many of the punk rockers had been abused children.
ABN: Not only were they responding to the political and societal world around them but lots of them – not 100% — were very, very hurt by their own fathers. Art Alexakis of Everclear — his father left town and left his mother with a bunch of kids to raise on her own. She didn’t have enough money and they ended up moving into the projects. This put Art’s safety at risk; he still harbors lots of anger and hurt about that, and he writes about that.
Another person whose dad left is Tony Adolescent of the Adolescents. His dad, as he says, took the proverbial walk for the cigarettes and just never came back. His mom remarried a man who was quite violent and the kids grew up scared and really without a male role model.
Flea had a really difficult upbringing; his mother worked, his stepfather was a substance abuser; he felt entirely alone and left home when he was 12. Lots of these guys were runaways. Black Flag’s Ron Reyes, as well, was a runaway when he was 15, and ended up moving into a closet in an abandoned church in Manhattan Beach.
RCM: The punk fathers all seem to want to do better by their own children.
ABN: They do. Every single one of them – they’re very sensitive human beings. That was probably the biggest revelation to me, because they look so scary and so hard on the outside and put on – somebody once described it as a “porcupine.” This sort of protective shell. What was really remarkable about talking to each of them is that each one has an extraordinary tenderness, and that became very external when they were handed their own child. They could look at this infant and think: “I do not want this child to experience what I experienced. So I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure that does not happen.”
RCM: Your film doesn’t show the temptations these fathers face on the road?
ABN: You see some drug use. Fat Mike stands onstage, drinking quite a bit, explaining that he doesn’t go onstage unless he’s had four very strong drinks and possibly some Quaaludes. So, there are some guys who are older and still partaking on that level, but it becomes very hard on your body when you get older, so a little bit more care is taken.
RCM: What about groupies?
ABN: It’s not something that crossed our path while we were on the road… I’m sure if we had spent much more time on the road we could have ferreted that out. But it was not apparent in the footage we collected.
RCM: What was Super Size Me director Morgan Spurlock’s role in your film and what was he like?
ABN: We felt like we needed some guidance from somebody who was in the field right now and making documentaries that were punky in their attitude. Morgan was willing to sit down with us over coffee one morning while we pitched him the idea to get a sense if he felt we were moving down the right track. And before we paid the check he said, “You know what? I’m in as your executive producer. I’ll help guide you in this very new world that exists in documentary these days.”
So, he was really our touchstone, we were able to go to him and say, “Can you take a look at this cut? Are we going down the right path? Or, how can we tell this story but remain very, very lean in our budget?” Because we made a conscious decision not to get studio backing as a way to really protect the punk subculture, which is very skittish, and attuned to not getting bought out by big corporations. Morgan knows how to do that, so he was able to guide us that way. He was really our guardian angel…
I love Morgan’s scrappy sensibility as a filmmaker. More power to him. He has a way of being “Joe Normal;” an accessibility that’s hard to come by. I want to convince him to make a movie called “Veganize Me” – about how hard it is to eat healthy in our country.
RCM: You said you sat down with Morgan over coffee – do I have a scoop here? Did he order a Big Mac?
ABN: [Laughs.] No.
For more info about The Other F Word see: www.theotherfwordmovie.com.