Sheer Terror's Paul Bearer on Occupy: "We're Way Too Comfortable in America to Die for What We Believe In"
Ugly and proud
When it comes to New York City hardcore, Sheer Terror is one of just a handful of bands from the '80s to still be around and playing shows.
The band's lead singer, Paul Bearer, got into punk rock as a kid in Staten Island. He's got a face like a bulldog, knuckles like rebar, a heart full of granite, and a chin made of steel. The guy's got a voice like a rockslide, a sick sense of humor, and the soul of an artist.
Now 27 years after joining one of the meanest bands in the world, Bearer and Sheer Terror are coming to Miami for their first-ever show here. And thanks to Idle Hands Productions and Speedfreek Promotions, we here at Crossfade were able to talk to Paul in NYC while he sat surrounded by drunks after midnight on a Tuesday.
Here's what he had to say.
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Crossfade: Watsup man, what are you doin'?
Paul Bearer: I'm workin'...surrounded by drunks.
Babysit. Doin' security at the Hi Fi Bar in the East Village.
When's the last time Sheer Terror played Miami?
I was down there with my band Joe Coffee a couple years ago. Maybe 4 or 5 years ago. But with Sheer Terror, I haven't been to Miami since '94.
Where'd you play?
Actually, it was in Davie, Florida.
Damn, dude. That ain't Miami. That's about as far from Miami as you can get in South Florida. So this will be Sheer Terror's first-ever show in Miami?
Yeah, I guess so. What the fuck do I know. I thought it was right next door. Definitely lookin' forward to the show, though.
What are you pissed off about these days?
Just the general ignorance of the population. It's hard to pinpoint one certain thing ... The left, the right, the in-between -- They all find something to rally around. And then two weeks later, they forget about it.
What do you think about the Occupy movement?
Y'know what? It's not a revolution unless the government is afraid of you. Unless you're throwing a brick through a window and fighting for what you believe in, and not just takin' up space in some stupid park. The cops come and clear it out and then it's done? That's it? You're not gonna do nothin? You're not gonna fight back? Really? Nobody takes a stand. It's typical in America, unfortunately. We don't take lessons from the outside world. They want change, they take it by force. We're way too comfortable over here to die for what we believe in.
What do you think about the music industry nowadays?
I don't even pay attention to it. Honestly, whatever they listen to or anything that's selling, I haven't the slightest idea. We were always on the outside anyway, and I like it like that. Not tied to any one label. Do different things with different people. I book all our shows and do all that shit. It could be fuckin' over, but after 27 years I'm in the best position. We're doin' good. I don't wanna be on top of the world, 'cause then you fall off.
Working on new material?
Right now, we're writing a new album, but it's no rush. This is Sheer Terror. We don't wanna put out a piece of crap. It's gotta fuckin' kick ass. It's gotta be hard and heavy, or why bother. I'm not just gonna play the same shit for the rest of my life. I have to create.
So you're an artist?
I've always been. Whether it was writing or painting or singing or acting. Everything is art, it just depends how you do it. I'm not walkin' around wearing a smock and a beret or anything. This keeps me out of prison and keeps me alive. To get these things out of my system and communicate what I'm feelin' and connect. I'm doin' it 'cause if I don't, I might as well be dead.
Making shit is awesome.
The end result, the bottom line is I just wanna be happy eventually. But perfection is a moving target. So if you can just be happy doing what you do, that's all that matters. I was never meant to work in an office, never meant to kiss ass. I've done construction, carpentry, plumbing, landscaping, dug ditches. I worked on a private golf course as a groundskeeper and I loved it.
I have no problem doin' physical labor. If I was a millionaire that would be great, that would be amazin'. But that's not why I'm doin' it. I'm never gonna be dissapointed 'cause I'll still be who I am.
Where you from originally?
I was born in Staten Island, New York.
How'd you get into punk music?
When Sid Vicious killed his girlfriend Nancy in 1978, that happened in New York. I saw that shit in all the papers and I thought it was the craziest shit ever. Then around '79 or whatever, I went to the library by my house and they had Never Mind The Bollocks on cassette tape. I stole it from the library and I still have it to this day. Ever since then, around '80 or '81, I started sneakin' out of the house and goin' to shows and buyin' every record I could get my hands on.
You remember the first punk show you went to?
I honestly can't. I'd see The Ramones, The Clash, The Stranglers. It coulda been at the Palladium or a smaller club, Maxie's or CB's.
Well, something about it made you love that shit.
It got the hooks in me and that's all I wanted to do. I liked Kiss and shit like that, Cheap Trick. But that was, like, rock star shit. The punk thing was, like, you went and saw these bands and then you actually get to meet them and hang out and you're like, "Wow, I can do this too."
What was your first band?
It was called Fathead Suburbia. That was in 1982. I was 14 years old. That was my first time on stage. We had two singers, and I sang backup. The other guys were like these jazz guys who were in their 20s. We played two shows.
What did you do after that?
Just playin' with friends in the studio. We'd record shitty demos or whatever and plan to play out and it would never go anywhere. Then in late '84, I answered an ad for a singer. I was the first one to show up. And 27 years later, I'm still doin' it.
What do you think about the Lower East Side now?
It's another world from what it was like when I was a kid hanging out and running around, a completely different world. Gentrified is putting it lightly. Whatever was New York City about this neighborhood is gone. Everything is overpriced, unless you're a millionaire. It's sad in a way. But when it was dangerous, it was fun.
You want now to be more like then?
Nah, the way people think now is different. It's way more cut-throat. When I was 14 years old, all I cared about was goin' out and seein' shows, sending away for 45s in the mail. But I don't want to be 14 now. I want to be 14 then.
So if Sheer Terror at Churchill's is some kid's first show, what do you say to them?
Oh geeze. Ignore the animals. If you see the animals acting a certain way, don't do that. Have a good time, enjoy yourself, and don't try to be something that you're not.
Anything else you wanna say?
I've said it a million times: Punk rock saved my life. This is who I am and what I do. I don't have a choice. Fuhgettaboutit. This is how I get shit outta my system. To create something and see it on vinyl or on video, whatever, I never thought I'd be able to do that. It's incredible. It's kept me out of prison. I look forward to comin' down. A best friend of mine, Steve Poss, the most annoying Jew in the world, is turning 45. It's gonna be a good time.
You gonna hit up South Beach?
I'm not one for clubbin'. Or, like, pastels. If anything, I'll hit up as much Cuban food as I can, without a doubt.
Sheer Terror with Trust No One and Nobody's Hero. Saturday, March 17. Churchill's Pub, 5501 NE Second Ave., Miami. The show starts at 9 p.m. Call 305-757-1807 or visit churchillspub.com.
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