Tim Barry currently plays with Avail, volunteers at a homeless shelter, works with Food Not Bombs and the Richmond Animal Rights Network, rides mountain bikes and plays basketball. Photo courtesy of Lookout! Records.
How have you seen punk rock change since you got involved with it?
Tim: I sometimes wonder if punk rock has changed since I became involved with it, or if I have changed since I became involved with it. There are so many little things you can go into. If I think back to the shows I used go to when I was younger, I don't know if the younger kids feel like this now, but it was really scary to go to a show. There were lots of different groups of people, violent groups like skinheads. There were punk rockers and skinheads and mods and that was it and everybody tiptoed around skinheads. I don't know. That's a really tough question. I'm really bad at these questions. It's obviously more mainstream today. The shows are bigger. God, I don't know how I can answer that question to be completely honest. I don't think I can answer it because I can't tell if punk rock has changed or if I have as I've grown older watching it. I see it from a different perspective now too, because I'm in a band. I don't know. Bad answer. I apologize. During interviews, when people throw comparison things out to me, "How do you think the Virginia scene differs from the New York scene?" I can never answer it because they all seem exactly the same. Weird.
Is it better now or worse than when you got involved?
Tim: Neither. There's good and there's bad in everything and whether it's through a time period, I think that remains the same. There were a lot of good things about when I was going to shows in the mid-80's in D.C. I was very lucky to see and be around a lot of bands that I now look back on and think are really great and at the time, I did too. There were a lot of negative things. There were a lot of 21 and over shows. That's where we grew up, in the D.C. area. I don't think it's worse. I'm in a different position, again, too because I could say that it's better now because I'm lucky enough to be in a band and travel and stuff like that so my perspective on that has changed. If I look back, I was going to shows and they meant a lot to me, but now I get to play shows and travel and meet people and see things and see the world, so in that sense, for me, it's better now but there's also the cool part about being ignorant to all the politics of it when I was younger and going and enjoying the music, and again, nowadays, I am not as ignorant to that and see it on a large scale like with people signing to major labels and playing high door price shows and things like that, so it's better and worse is my answer. God, I'm really choking on this interview.
Do you think there's anything wrong with punk?
Tim: I think that's up to individuals and to be completely honest, when we do talk about punk rock, as we are now, unlike a lot of people I know, it's not the focus of my life it was five years ago, so a lot of times when people discuss punk rock or the punk rock movement, it bores me, so I don't focus a lot of attention on what could be fixed, what's wrong with punk, what's wrong with punk rockers, what's wrong with the punk movement politically and things like that. I've gotten to the point where I just don't care. I'm not a punk. I've grown up listening to punk music, and a lot of my ethics were brought to me care of punk rock, but I think I've changed in the sense that I really like the music, I like the energy, I like playing it, I like to be politically involved in my community but it's not under the flag of punk, so today I wouldn't know what the hell is wrong with punk or what needs to be changed.
What's good about it?
Tim: I think one of the most important things that's good about punk is it's a great outlet for expressing things, period, whether it's through punk art, zines, music or dialogue in Maximum Rocknroll or doing a fanzine or doing interviews. I think it's great that the bands that you really look up to, the people are generally pretty damn approachable, whereas if you wanted to meet Mariah Carey, it would be absolutely impossible, but if you wanted to meet or correspond with someone like Ian MacKaye, there's a huge chance you'd be able to do it. One of the greatest things about punk is allowing people to open up as a person at young ages. A lot of people obviously get into punk rock when they're young and it turns them on to a whole new world, a whole new underground. If I look at it again from a personal perspective, I don't think I would be as empathetic to the problems of the world and so on if I didn't get into punk rock music. Punk rock music turned a lot of people that I'm close to into politically active people and not apathetic pieces of shit sitting around, watching TV, which is not a bad thing, but I think that's one of the most positive things, that it could be personally revolutionary as opposed to the punk movement being revolutionary as a whole and open people up. [I rambled on a bit about punk here. See the essays elsewhere for a more elaborate description.] People tend to say in interviews a lot, "Do you think the punk movement is revolutionary? Do you think it will have some impact in the world?" I always say that it already has an impact because it influences people. It's a crock of shit that a bunch of punk rockers are going to take over the government and proclaim anarchy and shit like that, and people really get distressed when I say that. They say that I'm being cranky and jaded or whatever. I think that's an absolutely realistic statement and I think it hurts people's feelings because it's the truth, but they don't understand the good in what I'm saying. It's changed me, it sounds like it's changed you and it's changed most of the people I'm surrounded by. As I said, these are really active people today, like my friend Chris who I used to do a record label with is now a union organizer in Las Vegas and he's big-time. He works with people, he works for people. It's great. My friend Adam Thompson, who also roadies with us, is an amazing intellectual. He's a great writer, he works with Earth First!, he has a show on Free Radio Berkeley. All these amazing and inspiring people who really influence other people, non-punks too, and where did it all stem from? The punk movement. They're beautiful people. Now, they're not going to go and take over the White House or anything like that, but they're going to continue to influence people until the day they die and maybe, in the future, those people that have been influenced by them are going to keep it snowballing and maybe things will get, how we feel, in our eyes, a little bit better in the future.
How have you seen the crowds and people at shows change?
Tim: New styles of dance man. Those kickboxers, have you seen that shit? It's great. It's fucking hilarious. You know what's also cool about that kickboxing shit, which is obviously kind of a trivial new thing, but it's an absolutely new thing, punk rock people have created their own ritualistic dances for the counterculture and it's unbelievable. I hate it when they do it when we play because they hurt people, but if you really watch them, it's unique and they made these up themselves and it is for nobody but us which is really strange because slam dancing has become so mainstream, you have to create it and take it to the edge. When I was going to shows in D.C., as I said, they're scary. We used to fight constantly. There were big brawls, there was gay-bashing, there were skinheads beating the shit out of punk rockers and vice versa. Nowadays, I don't see that at shows anymore. Shows are bigger today. With the amount of people coming out because of the popularity and the mainstream, I think a lot of the people don't have a clue about the punk movement, but if they're really interested in the music, they'll get informed through going to shows. I don't know. I think that's my answer.
Do you see any problems with the way people act at shows?
Tim: You have to take every show one show at a time. Obviously, if there's a fight, that's completely ridiculous. In fighting at a place where people are congregating to have a good time, meet people, hear music, share ideas, and then there's a fight, it's fucking ridiculous and completely pointless. I think people are really uptight nowadays because of the whole P.C. craze three years ago. I think people are sometimes afraid to express themselves the way they really want to feel. They're afraid to say the word bitch or dick or whatever the words may be. I think people are also really concerned of how they treat women at shows, like men treating women because they always want them to be really involved, which is great, but I think sometimes people are fronting and acting in a P.C. mode to be cool with people. I don't think that's as detrimental as people fucking beating the shit out of each other, but that doesn't happen in every city. You can take each show and pick things out that have been bad about it or good. I don't know.
What can we do to make the scene better?
Tim: Oh man, what the hell would make the scene better? Stop limiting ourselves to the boring, white, suburban culture. Let me give you one example, because that doesn't make any sense. We recently played New York City at the Wetlands, New York City, one of the most culturally diverse cities in the entire fucking world, and I looked into the audience of 400 or 500 or 600 people there. It was all white boys up front and a few white girls here and there. It amazes me that there's 600 or 500 people at a fucking show and they're all white people. I think we need to get over our little religion bashing shit. I'm not a Krishna but I go to shows and some Krishnas will show up and everybody will slam them and be like, "Oh, you guys are pieces of shit," but I think we need to have a little bit of cultural diversity within our totally homogenized punk rock scene and be a little more open to people who aren't exactly like you because they can contribute and make it a diverse culture as opposed to a one-culture movement. Just opening up, welcoming people like Latinos. Los Crudos does a great job of diversifying a completely white punk rock movement. I don't know. I'm not flowing today. My head is cluttered. I'm thinking about playing basketball.
Any final thoughts? Anything you'd like to add?
Tim: I'm bad at final thoughts. I had a good final thought earlier, but now I can't fucking remember it.