Where have all the true punk rockers gone?

Johnny Rotten is on VH1. Sid Vicious’ death is going on its 21st anniversary. Jello Biafra goes on spoken word tours, and The Ramones just finished playing another corporate luncheon.

Punk has become a word music journalists throw around lightly, like `eclectic.’ Everybody is a punk, they even called Cyndi Lauper a punk, and the mainstream music industry has got every 8-year-old duped into thinking members of Blink 182 are punks because they have tattoos and run around naked. R-i-g-h-t.

But punk rock isn’t about hair cuts, attitude or image. Punk rock is about three small words: Do It Yourself (D.I.Y.). If ever there is a group in the year 2000 that epitomizes punk rock with the same anti-Rod Stewart fury and independent ethos that the Clash had in 1977, then it is Southern California’s own Face to Face.

Only this time around the aging rock star out to protect his millions isn’t Rod Stewart, it’s Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich. And this time around Face to Face is out supporting the future of the D.I.Y. ethic by headlining a tour sponsored by Napster, the controversial online music trading source which has the mainstream music industry up in arms.

It’s a very grassroots and do-it-yourself medium and it just carries the movement into the future, said Face to Face singer-guitarist Trever Keith in a telephone interview Friday.

We all use Napster ourselves and we don’t see anything ethically or morally wrong with it, Keith said about members of his band.

It is for these reasons that Face to Face, along with up-and-coming groups Saves the Day, Alkaline Trio and A New Found Glory, is headlining the Napster-sponsored tour that will appear at the 9:30 Club Sept. 6. Keith describes Face to Face, which also includes drummer Pete Parada, guitarist Chad Yuro and bassist Scott Shiflett, as primarily a live group.

Face to Face is first and foremost a live band, he said. We put all the energy we can muster into every live show, he said.

It’s that same restless musical energy that Face to Face channels into its live show that appears on their new record Reactionary, released on Face to Face’s own record label, Lady Luck Records. The record was written in two months and recorded in three weeks, which contributed to what Keith called a pretty live and natural spirit.

Face to Face also included fan input on the record, allowing them to vote for their favorite of the 16 tracks made available. From the two million votes tallied, 12 songs emerged as the album. Keith said it was better to have fan input than the usual selection from a small group of A&R people. It was also a rewarding way to get people interested in the record.

I’m always looking for new ways to promote a record, he said.

According to Keith, a lot has changed in the music scene since Face to Face emerged out of Los Angeles in 1991.

The scene we started out with has completely dissolved, Keith said. Pop punk got popular into the mainstream. In fact, pop punk has turned into almost boy-band music, which has forced real underground to get grittier and gnarlier.

As for being now a more fatherly punk group to the younger up and coming groups, Keith said we’re very supportive of the next group of new young bands coming up. I think the three bands that we’re touring with are some of the best out there in the genre.

Still, Face to Face isn’t ready to pass the torch just yet, but the details of the future are still up for grabs, according to Keith.

Who knows what the future of punk rock will be, he said. I’ve even got people telling me that we’re not punk rock. But to me punk rock is supposed to be about individuality, freedom, and speaking out against things that aren’t necessarily right that people are duped into believing are true.

Keith said he doesn’t understand the Napster debacle.

Maybe Metallica is just a mouthpiece for the corporate labels, he said.

Similarly-minded cynics may also pass off Face to Face’s punk ethic as a continuing fad, or an angle to market more records, but Keith thinks otherwise.

We embody the spirit of punk rock, Keith said. We embody that spirit in that we do what we want, how we want to do it.

Face to Face plays at the 9:30 Club on Wednesday, September 6.

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