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Friday, February 5, 2010


Hey there and welcome to the blogspot for 'Why Be Something That You're Not', an oral history of the Detroit Hardcore Punk scene in the early 80's being published by Revelation Records in the summer of 2010. For those who are not familiar with what we're talking about, we have listed some links on the righthand side of the blog to get you up to speed. For those of you who know why you're here, prepare for some serious nerding out on here in the next few months leading up to the books' release. Be on the lookout for interview outtakes, book excerpts, flyers, photos, videos, collectors showing off their early 80's Detroit Punk booty, etc. It's gonna be a blast I tells ya!!!

For our first post, we are putting up the first part of a 16,000 word history of those Lansing, Michigan Hardcore pioneers, The Fix written by none other than the groups' vocalist, Steve Miller. Steve has been cool enough to let us use this and we're chuffed to bits to present it to you. Let's stop wasting time and dig in...

Without a tinge of self-consciousness, four Midwestern guys - in the factory town of Lansing, Michigan, no less - picked up and delivered the punk rock goods in 1980-81. I have no way of knowing why this serendipitous magic went down, but I have a guess: We didn't know any better.

The boys in the band were all plagued by idyllic childhoods and healthy appetites for booze. We had no choice but to fuck things up.

Craig, guitar, was pure aggro, fed by the politics that he was being exposed to as he attended Michigan State University. He was moody and amped up, betraying a creative nature that made him sometimes sullen. We both had strong personalities and battled often as people. But we meshed well when it came to music. We bonded over disdain for almost everything.

To look at drummer Jeff was to see a college guy on the move. He took engineering classes at MSU, drank beer on the weekends with his buddies and watched football. He was even tempered, stocky like a linebacker and grew up in Northern Michigan, where punk rock meant the Cars. He was also a beast on the drums, the one guy among us who seemed to get better every day. He didn’t listen to music; he absorbed it and spit it out. Jeff could also be a bit of a space case, but we always gave him the respect he earned.

Mike played bass, and he was my pal since high school. I would watch him change over the 22 months of the Fix from a kindly guy into a hard-drinking, often foul-humored behemoth. He stood 6-foot-4 and was an ex-jock with little drive for much of anything but playing music. He was a steady workhorse in that arena.

I had wanted to play guitar but when it was decided Craig was the axe man, I took one for the team and became singer. I was scrawny, mouthy and angry. It worked.

Ladies and gentlemen, for better or worse, the band.

We started out, like other bands of that era and those immediately proceeding, with one leg in the dress-up stage of musical caterwaul that the New York Dolls and the Stooges purveyed, and an arm in a simpler fashion realm that allowed nothing to speak but the music. The latter won out for no tangible reason. I suppose hitting the thrift store on Michigan Avenue got to be an annoying habit rather than a pleasure, especially as we became attached to rehearsing every day.

The cast was set quickly, especially when you consider that the end product was decidedly both flamboyant and progressive. And to think it was all started at a local prep bar in East Lansing, home of Michigan State University. When you have the 1979 Big Ten champion basketball team and an academic program that is reputed to be among the tops in the nation, complemented by a pulsing auto manufacturing scene, there is little room for iconoclasm. But that was the word when Mike and I stepped into the basement of a little nightclub called Dooley's. It was a benign college joint in the main puke-on-your-shoes section of town, which was the only area to see any kind of music in Lansing.

Dooley's hosted the Stranglers on April 5, 1978. The British louts would eventually end up scattered due to drug habits, but at the time they were a vibrant and thudding representation of the British scene. Both of their LPs were in rapid play at the apartment Mike and I shared. While this show was held in a bar that held around 400, we were accustomed to seeing bands in venues like Cobo Hall - where we all saw Black Sabbath and Uriah Heep - or even Masonic Auditorium - where we caught Lou Reed and Patti Smith. It was out of context to see a headline band on a stage that was 5 feet tall.

We walked up to Dooley's that night in a slight rain and were greeted by some protesting lesbians who felt that singing about peaches on the beaches and the merits of pubescent girls was indecent and sexist. Hairy-faced bitches paraded the sidewalk, signs in hand. We dug the anti vibe the Stranglers evoked. Clad in jeans and t-shirts with Pony hi tops, we paid our $5, wandered in and snagged beers.

The Stranglers ambled onto the stage, fired up "(Get a) Grip (on Yourself)," and the Fix was born. The Stranglers lacked both pretense and perfection; it was cacophonous and bitter. The guitarist, Hugh Cornwell, wasn't playing anything complicated, certainly nothing that we couldn't figure out.

We went to Kmart the next day and bought a guitar. We spent the next two years learning to make a racket with it.