Paul Bearer has a face like a bulldog, knuckles like rebar, a heart full of granite, and a chin made of steel. He has a voice like a rock slide, a sick sense of humor, and the soul of an artist. When it comes to New York City hardcore, his band Sheer Terror is one of just a handful of groups from the '80s still around playing shows.
Bearer got into punk rock as a kid on Staten Island, and 27 years after he joined one of the meanest bands in the world, Sheer Terror is finally coming to Miami for its first show here. Producer Idle Hands and promoter Speedfreek put New Times in touch with Bearer, who was surrounded by drunks on a recent Tuesday after midnight in NYC.
Here's what he had to say about his music, the state of punk, and his first trip to the 305.
New Times: How'd you get into punk music?
Paul Bearer: When Sid Vicious killed his girlfriend Nancy, 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, '81, I started sneakin' out of the house and goin' to shows and buyin' every record I could get my hands on, goin' out searching for shit or waiting for it to come in the mail.
Are you working on any 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', to connect. I'm doin' it 'cause I have to, 'cause if I don't, I might as well be dead.
You remember the first punk show you went to?
I honestly can't. I'd see the Ramones, the Clash, the Stranglers, coulda been at the Palladium or a smaller club, Maxie's or CB's.
Well, something about it made you love it.
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 got 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 onstage. 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.
Do you ever wish the scene today is more like it was back then?
Nah, the way people think now is different. It's way more cutthroat. I don't want to be 14 now; I want to be 14 then.
Sheer Terror at Churchill's might be some kids' first show. What do you say to them?
Oh, jeez. 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 you're not.