Jim Testa has edited and published Jersey Beat since 1982, reviews music for The Jersey Journal and writes regularly for Punk Planet and other magazines. He is probably the only writer who has been published in Rolling Stone and Maximum Rocknroll. This interview was conducted via e-mail, explaining the combination of question 1 & 2.
How have you seen punk rock change since you became involved with it? Is it better now or worse than when you got involved?
Jim: Everything changes. Some things are better today. Some things are worse. Depending on how you define "punk," I've been into it ever since I saw the Ramones at CBGB in 1976. If things hadn't changed in all that time, there would really be something wrong.
Do you think there's anything wrong with punk?
Jim: Sure, there are a lot of things wrong with punk today. People who are only into it because it's trendy. People who are only into it for the money. Too many bands who all sound the same. Too many records coming out to even begin to keep up with them all.
What's good about it?
Jim: What's good with punk is what has always been good about punk. If punk rock inspires just one kid - boy or girl - to turn their back on the shit they hear on the radio and get shoved down their throats on television, and inspires that kid to pick up a guitar and write a song, or put together a fanzine, or try and put on a show, and if in that effort that boy or girl is introduced to the concept of independent thought and free will and doing things because you believe in them, not because someone tells you to do them or because they'll make you a lot of money, if that happens even once out of every 100,000 kids exposed to punk, then all the other bullshit is worth it.
How have you seen the crowds or the people at shows change?
Jim: Lately, the biggest change I've seen is that they've gotten younger. Since "Dookie" became a big hit, I've started seeing kids as young as 8 to 10 at shows. That never used to happen. I wonder what those 10 year olds will be doing when they're 15? The other big change I've seen lately is more and more crowds at shows getting totally apathetic. Not dancing, not singing along, not getting excited, not even smiling. It's like there's this whole new generation of kids who don't know how to have fun. It's scary.
Do you see any problems with the way people act at shows?
Jim: I obviously don't like mosh pits when the actions of a few violent assholes interfere with the enjoyment of other people. On the other hand, I've been saying that since the first time I saw slamdancing, which was probably back in 1979 or 1980, so it's [not] exactly a new problem. Also, see question 5.
What can we do to make the scene better?
Jim: Take responsibility for our own actions. Do stuff - be participants, not consumers. Treat each other with respect and kindness.