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Citizen Fish.

CERTAIN OLD PUNK BANDS' LOGOS HAVE BECOME PAR OF A UNIFORM. I always see kids at shows with patches or t-shirts from the Dead Kennedys or Black Flag or the Subhumans. That's cool, but it always makes me wonder why kids aren't more supportive of current bands. Hell, three of the four guys from the Subhumans are still playing punk rock in Citizen Fish, and Citizen Fish's newest album Life Size may be the best music those guys have put out. Then, I went to see Citizen Fish at the Showcase Theater in Corona and realized that punk rock kids are still supporting Citizen Fish in a big way. The place was packed and everyone there seemed to know the words to all the songs. Everywhere I looked, kids were singing and dancing along and going nuts. It was the most fun I've had at a big punk show in a long time. Before Citizen Fish played, I had a chance to talk to them about the punk scene they grew up with in England, the vans they've lived in, their body odor, and other interesting stuff.

One of your friends told me, "Dick's smelled' the same kind of bad since I first met him six years ago."

Dick: I seem to be--no pun--ranking up on the smelly punk rock scale. Yeah, I probably do smell the same as six years ago, but the guy obviously missed me having a lot of baths and showers in between--not heaps and heaps, but being on tour is a dirty occupation, especially in the heat. I showered this morning.

Phil: We bathe a lot more than we used to The van has never smelled this good on a tour.

Dick: I do have an "I don't give a shit" attitude about stinking--expect me feet. I've always cleaned me' feet because they stink really bad. They offend me, so I clean them. But when it comes to armpits and stuff, it's just normal everyday life. You're gonna smell. I refuse to wear deodorant or anti-perspirant because it's just more chemicals in the air, in your body. It doesn't do you any good. And nerves mad me sweat a lot more. Nervous sweat, as a theory, smells worse than confident sweat.

Phil: We definitely have a reputation for it, though. I saw it on an At the Drive In site on the internet. It got mentioned under the heading "Bands Smelling." It said, "I saw Citizen Fish last night. It stank, man."

How much time did Trotsky (the drummer, not present) spend living in a van?

Jasper: Seven years. We'd drive around Europe for 30 days, then we'd take the gear Out of the van and then Trotsky would just go into hi bed in the van. Seven years of that. He'd come home, turn the engine off and crash out. That world be his house.

Where was "home" that he'd go to?

Dick: He had the van parked on a piece of grass next to an old barn in a small village.

Phil: It was on his uncle's land and his brother has a workshop there. So he had access to electricity.

How did that come to an end?

Phil: He bought a house with all the money he saved.

Dick: Seven years of rent-free existence, he saved up quite a bit.

Phil: That was his plan really. No rent for seven years and he had enough to buy a house. He didn't know what to o with all the rooms. He lived in one room for the first year.

In the garage with his van?

Phil: Yeah. He recreate the dashboard across the fireplace.

Phil, you're the only guy in the band who doesn't smoke? Why is that?

Phil: It's fucking disgusting, horrible. I hate it. find it totally obnoxious, used to smoke, when was in school, but when was legally allowed to do it, I just thought it was stupid. Financially stupid. Health-wise stupid.

Does it bother you that the other guys smoke?

Phil: Yeah. I think about leaving the band sometimes because of it

Dick: We think of chucking you out sometime (as he's smoking a cigarette).

Phil: Everyone's better than they used to be. Windows are open more It seems to be more considerate now.

Jasper, you have kind of a reputation as a ladies' man. Is there any truth to that?

Jasper: I quite like that phrase. Yeah, I mean, I have a stack of women friends as well. But it's a bit of a Craig O'Hara (author of Philosophy of Punk and the man responsible for Jasper's "ladies' man" rep) sort of Casanova comment.

Dick: Craig's descriptions of our characters include lots of semi-ironic, sarcastic humor. Jasper's the one without a sort of permanent girlfriend, which the other three of us do have, so it's pertinent to that.

I'm also told that you like trains a lot.

Jasper: Yeah, ladies and trains.

What's the fascination with trains?

Jasper: They're big and make lots of noise.

Phil: Go into tunnels; it's Freudian.

Jasper: I used to catch the train a lot. Get into one of those compartments, get me bag and throw everything out on all the seats as if there were loads of people there, crack loads of beers and get me video camera and me notebook. It's sort of romantic, and I'm a romantic.

Phil: Tim from Avail, who we toured with years ago, he does a lot of train riding as well.

Jasper: When I was 10 or 11, I used to stand on a little piece of concrete next to a railway line for 10 hours a day just watching the trains and writing every number down, it's a loner pursuit.

Phil: It was a big thing in England in the '70s for kids--trainspotting. Jasper was a spotter. And just by total coincidence, I was as well.

Jasper: Me and Phil can trade locomotive names. It's not just generalizations. We talk in "sixty-fivers" and whatever.

I should probably ask you a question about music, too. A lot of kids here in the US think of ska's influence on punk as something that came up and went away in the last five or six years. But really, in the early days of punk in England there was a big ska influence.

Phil: The Coventry scene and all that; the Two Tones were the new wave of ska. It was probably the Slits who were really the first ska-punk band.

Dick: That was sort of reggae-punk. Over here, I would say Operation Ivy did it first, if there's gotta be someone to do it first. People have credited Culture Shock (an English punk band that two of the members of Citizen Fish were in) with doing it first in England. Then bands like AOS 3 were going shortly after Culture Shock started. It was all the same sort of scene. There were quite a few bands doing ska and reggae rhythms with a punk rock attitude and punk rock music. It was a very free style of music to be playing or involved with. It still is, because you're not set down to certain things. You can have a trumpet or keyboards. There's freedom within mixing music together. It think people should loosen up.

As I understand it, didn't the people who played punk and the people who played ska and the people who played reggae all hang out together in similar scenes in England in the '70?

Dick: Yeah. I saw the Damned play with the Specials when the supporting the Damned, and I'd never seen anything like it. I'd never seen a ska band. I was young and narrow-minded and just like, "this isn't punk rock." In the back of my head, though, it just stuck right there.

Phil: At the same time, there were reggae bands like Steel Pulse--full on reggae bands--playing with punk bands as well.

Jasper: England was great then. It was like, We're gonna play punk music, but there's only 20 punk singles in the world..." at that point. So after you play your 20 singles, what are you gonna do then? "Well, we'll play some reggae." There weren't that many records.

Phil: Bands like the Clash and the Ruts started playing reggae songs. Actually, those are the bands that started it off, in a way. I love the Ruts.

Jasper, you did a video of the '99 Citizen Fish tour, is that right?

Jasper: Yeah. It's called Gaffer Tape, Gaffer Tape is like what you call "duct tape." It's the thing that every band has. I've filmed the band for 10 years, in the van, whatever. I just put it together and made it a little charming story of our band--an honest story.

Phil: It's a great insight for people who haven't been in bands. They get to see what it's like to be in a van for 10 hours a day. Jasper spent a really ling time editing it, as well. Props to then man.

This is the only Subhumans question I'm gonna ask: Is it true you guys beat up the Canadian Subhumans? (In the early '80s there were two punk rock bands called the Subhumans become 3/4s of Citizen Fish, the other was from Canada. Neither band had heard of the other when they were both still in existence, and had the same name by total coincidence.)

Phil: Yeah. Twice.

Dick: No. Where'd you get this from? We've never met them. We met the one who ended up in DOA, but no. They actually split up before we even realized they existed. The Subhumans had been together like six months before they split up. So we know a little bit about their history.

How do you account for the mullet years?

Jasper: It's an English style. A misguided English style. Do you know where that haircut originates from in England? It's called a festival doors--traveler communities--they could cut their hair in the front but they couldn't see the back to cut it. So it went like that.

Phil: Festival fashion.

Jasper: We came here on our first tour with Cringer and...

Phil: It was a source of great hilarity for them.

Jasper: They just said. "Why have you got mullets?" And we were like, "What do you mean? We thought this was the height of style."

Me and Phil just cut them in a bathroom in Oakland.
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Title Annotation:music group
Author:Carswell, Sean
Article Type:Interview
Date:Feb 1, 2002
Previous Article:Exhumed.
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