Saturday, May 04, 2024

Suburban Voice blog #153--in memory of Gary Floyd


Gary Floyd passed away recently so I’ve decided to repost the interview I did with him for Suburban Voice, which originally appeared in issue #41 from 1998. I saw the original Texas lineup at Rock Against Reagan at UMass Amherst in 1983 and the SF lineup in 1984 at The Channel. After this interview, The Dicks did occasionally get back together and I saw them at Great Scott in Boston in 2007. Since guitarist Glen Taylor had passed away, Davy Jones from the Hickoids was with them at that show. Their early discography was eventually re-released, except for the “Live At Raul’s” split album with the Big Boys. The Dicks are one of those bands I’m really glad I got to see live and it was a pleasure doing this interview.

 "Mommy, mommy, mommy..." bawled Gary Floyd to start the Dicks' classic 1980 single, "Dicks Hate The Police." A warning that "you'd better stay out of my way... I've had a bad day." The Dicks had two incarnations--the first, based in Austin, TX, featured Gary, guitarist Glen Taylor, bassist Buxf Parrott and drummer Pat Deason. The band moved to San Francisco in '82 but only Gary ended up making it a permanent move and he started a second version of the Dicks with guitarist Tim Carroll, bassist Sebastian Fuchs and drummer Lynn Perko. This lineup stuck until the band's breakup in '86 and Gary and Lynn moved on to the bluesier Sister Double Happiness. Alternative Tentacles recently released a compilation of Dicks' material recorded between '80 and '86, just about all of which is out of print. There were three albums--a live split with the Big Boys, recorded at Raul's in Austin, "Kill From The Heart" (these first two with the Austin lineup) and "These People" And, of course, there was the "Hate The Police" 7" and a later 7" called "Peace" and appearances on the "P.E.A.C.E." compilation and "Cottage Cheese From The Lips Of Death" compilation.

 As was the case with many of the early Texas punk bands, the sound wasn't easily classifiable. Strains of blues, hard rock and funk were incor- porated into a gnashing, aggressive punk framework. Cantankerous but also versatile and, with the Dicks, Gary's powerful, mournful vocals were a potent weapon, as were the socially-aware lyrics.

 Gary still calls San Francisco his home and, at the age of 45, remains musically active with his new band, Bootcamp. After Sister Double Happiness, he did five albums (released in Europe) with his own Gary Floyd Band, described by Gary as more folk-country-blues. I recently had the opportunity to interview the former Dick over the phone...

Did you grow up in Texas?

I grew up in Arkansas, until I was in the fourth grade. When I was a pretty young kid, we moved to Texas but I grew up partly in Arkansas but, basically, yes I did grow up in Texas. That's where I developed most of my bizarre ideas. Palestine, Texas.

What part of the state?

East, about 150 miles from Dallas.

So how did that create your warped ideas or outlook?

When I was a little kid in Arkansas, some people moved next door to us and I was a little third grader and they had this teenage son who was a weirdo, sort of beatnik guy and he had a huge picture of the Mona Lisa hanging in his room upside down and he was an artist and sort of different from the other kids in that town and he was a big influence on me. There were obviously some (laughs) wild seeds in me and he was the water that made them come alive. Being gay... I always knew I was gay, although I always had little girlfriends and stuff. They were just like sisters to me to prevent any un-gay ways of acting. I tried to create some façade to hide that. A school that was pretty much newly integrated and seeing the same bigotry towards people of color and the same sort of nightmarish feeling that I was getting from these people and having to hide, because I wasn't open nor did I come out until I left school. Also, the radical sort of music in those days. All of those things gave me a feeling of being a little bit different and you start to cultivate your own ideas and sometimes maybe they become a little more radical when you feel sort of alone. I'm not trying to make myself seem pitiful or feel sorry for myself... they were miserable years in the fact that, at school, I was hated. I was popular as sort of a class clown but I suffered because I did really bad in school, I hated it but I also knew that something was happening that I was going to be all right. Sometimes, those feelings can produce a lot of positive things. You don't really know it, always, but I sort of had an inkling of it because I knew I'd get out, someday.

Did you eventually gravitate towards Austin?

I got drafted in 1972. I'm 45 years old. But I also, this is another thing I was speaking of had prepared myself from seeing people slaughtered and what I felt was a really unjust war against the North Vietnamese and the Vietnamese, in general. I'd developed a lot of very strong political ideas and I had signed up, when I registered for the draft, as a conscientious objector and I was accepted. So, when I got drafted, I had to do two years of alternative civilian work so I was placed in Houston. I moved to Houston in '72 and I worked as a janitor in a charity hospital, which was a job that they offered as alternative work. I worked there two years and that's where I came out and started doing lots of LSD--which I don't do anymore nor have I for years--but that's where all the things started happening that happen to young people when they move away from home. Then I moved to Austin.

 How did you discover punk rock?

There was a guy named David Powell, who's actually on death row now in Huntsville, TX. This was in Austin. He would come and visit some people me and some people I lived with who were all into music, although I wasn't playing any music then. I'd been in bands in high school but then I wasn't in bands for a long time. He would come down and he brought some singles, one day, from England and they were the Sex Pistols. "Pretty Vacant." It was actually awhile before I heard of the Sex Pistols here that he had these singles. I guess some friends sent them to him. He had the Runaways, things like that and I thought this is really good. I'm sick of Genesis and fucking Yes and all that shit. Actually, at that time I started listening mostly to older blues music. So, through this guy David Powell I heard of it and then I started buying my own stuff. Then I moved to San Francisco and I saw the Sex Pistols play their last show. After that, I moved back to Austin and Raul's, this little club, was open and I started the Dicks.

When I talked to Dave Dictor [of MDC] awhile back, he told me that you had the band name and put up flyers before you even had the band together.

(Laughs) That's very true. There was actually a Dicks prior to Buxf, Pat, Glen and myself and it was just me and these other two guys who couldn't play anything, but we looked good (laughs). So we said, "people that can't play their instruments actually get on stage and make some noise and call themselves a band, so why don’t we go one step farther and not even do that.” We’d put up the Dicks are playing at a certain address and they’d be made-up addresses. So by the time the band finally got together with real people, people had sort of heard of it and were going, “I guess we’d better go see these guys. They’ve been around for awhile (laughs). But, in fact, we’d never been around.

You were telling me that, during your childhood, it was difficult being gay and feeling different. Did you feel that you'd finally found a community that accepted you the way you were?

Well, yes, that's very true and, not only that, but almost all the really good bands in Austin were either fronted by or had gay people in the band. People were pretty open about it then. It wasn't like people were trying to hide and the other thing about it was that people weren't really making a big deal about it. They weren't getting up and giving speeches for gay rights but they were just sort of being themselves and that was really wonderful. That's extremely refreshing. And after years of also not fitting into gay bars, because with mohawks and bleached hair and being fat was another thing that was very unaccepted. All of those sort of mixed in together. I really didn't like the queer bar scene. So Raul's fit all those things. It was really wonderful. Queers were really obvious in that scene and the people that weren't, if anybody didn't like it, we'd tell them we'd beat the shit out of them. Get a bunch of queers to beat your fuckin' ass. It usually never came to that. There was always a lot of mutual respect.

What I always saw with the Texas punk bands was there was quite a bit of musical diversity— sort of an assimilation of many different styles. You had the Big Boys, who were one of the best bands-funk-punk.

Very true. You had bands like Standing Wave. There were lots of bands around then. I can't remember all of them.


SV: Even the Butthole Surfers didn't fit any set style.

There were lots of people that didn't fit into the categories. I think that's one that still makes Austin pretty nice is that people are just concerned with pleasing themselves, musically, and if they find a crowd, that's great and, if not, at least they've pleased themselves. The Dicks always felt that way. Some of that very early stuff, I listen to it now and think, "god, that sounds a little bit bluesy and that sounds a little bit this or that but it still has the drunk edge, punk rock sound." But everybody was just making their own sort of music but somehow it all clicked together. It was pretty diverse but the thing that was pretty nice was there were so many bands that you could just have people in bands in the audience and it would be packed. They supported each other. There were a few little upsets in the community, there... it almost becomes like beauty shop talk. For the most part, people really supported and liked each other. I think one of the biggest influences on that was Randy Turner of the Big Boys. He could pretty much cross all those boundaries. Even the straight "I wish I could look like you but I'm afraid to" people loved him and the hardcore punks loved him. He was a big reason that a lot of the Austin scene got along, I think. He just sort of crossed the bound- aries of getting along with people and people followed his example, in a lot of ways. He's a really great guy.

I met the Big Boys when they played here in '83 and they're still one of the nicest bands I've ever met.

They definitely were. Nobody ever said that about The Dicks (laughs). But even the Dicks would say that about the Big Boys, who we played with so many times. And Randy and I were old friends, way back when we both had really long hair. We were just waiting for something to happen.

And Biscuit was quite a bit older. I think he was in his mid-30s when he was in the Big Boys.

I believe. I didn't ask him. I was 26 when the Dicks started but, that's great. I like being older. Especially now, at 45. You can be a total fucking asshole and people will just accept it--"Oh, he's old... let him be an asshole!" (laughs)

Let's talk about the Rock Against Reagan. Any thoughts on that? I heard, at the time, that it was basically a front for the Yippies.

While it was happening, it was one of the most miserable experiences of my entire life. Years later, I can still bust out laughing with people who were with me on that tour about situations that happened because it was so flipped-out. The Yippies sort of ran that out of their office in New York, so it was barely together. They said that they would feed us. You were guaranteed at least one good meal a day and it turned out they had gotten a donation of like 3 or 4 thousand packets of turkey dogs. So you would all descend on this town and go to some poor motherfucker's house who said you could stay there in the middle of, like, Buttfuck, Ohio. All at once, these two or three buses and our van would pull up in this usually suburban neighborhood where some kid lived. And all of these monsters would start getting out... mohawks, hippies, dogs, babies who shit in their pants, disgruntled people. The Crucifucks, DRI, MDC, Crucifix, a bunch of hippies and the Dicks. And they'd go in and throw on this huge pot of boiling water and have thousands of these turkey dogs. I haven't eaten meat for ten years—I don't preach about it, I don't care what people eat, but I don't know what the vegetarians were doing back then. Then there was a huge discussion, one day, because people didn't want to help clean up and they felt it was their right to not clean up if they didn't want to.

That's anarchy, you know!

Well, that's exactly what their argument was. And I was holding up a huge picture of Stalin going, "You kids clean up or we're going to kill you." It was just unbelievable. Thank God for the Crucifucks. The Dicks and the Crucifucks sort of kept each other sane on that tour by just sitting back and going, "oh, God, what did we do? Why are we here. It’s three months—three fucking months! It was quite amazing. I don’t know what political good it did.

Probably not much.

Probably not much. It almost made a Republican out of me! That's not really true but I would certainly never de-pend on that situation to lead my world. Fuck that.

It also seems, in retrospect, kind of a strange liason because of the old cliché or stereotype that hippies are punks' sworn enemies.

You know what? They really were after that. (laughter) There were some big hippies that were trying to make a big cultural statement. I don't know. I ended up pulling a doorknob off the door at the Yippie headquarters and throwing it across the room and it stuck into a wall. It was very chaotic, but it was 1983. I hope everyone involved with that is doing well now and everyone's happy.

Did that sour you on the punk or hardcore scene, at all?

No, because I didn't really consider that punk or hardcore. I consider it punk bands dealing with that but it was run by people who weren't punks at all. They felt like their past as rebels or something had given them permission to take on the punk yoke and it didn't at all. For the most part, it was people smoking a lot of pot and mak- ing decisions for 50 or 60 people and it just didn't work. But, no, it didn't sour me on that at all. It just made me think I would never get involved with anything like that again, although I'm glad that it happened because when you burn yourself real bad, you’re not going to stick your hand in the fire again. So somehow, you thank the fire.

So, after that, you moved to San Francisco for good and started the second version of the band?

The original band moved out here but the other guys didn't like it that much and, after that Rock Against Reagan tour, we went on our own little tour, sort of coming back to San Francisco and stopping through Austin but, this time, the Dicks had a manager, Debbie Gordon, and she and I were looking very forward to getting back to San Francisco. But we played a couple of shows and had a week off in Austin. The other guys, in a roundabout way, said they really didn't want to come back and I couldn't see staying there so, whether it was a good decision or a bad decision, I decided I was going to come back here and re-form the band and I did it. I'm glad I did it because there was another album and single and two more tours and that's where I met Lynn Perko, who later was in Sister Double Happiness with me and is one of my dearest friends. I'm not sure that staying in Austin for myself would have been good. I probably would have quit because I wanted to do something a bit more chal- lenging. Unfortunately, Glen Taylor died, which is a very sad thing, but I would like to believe that this Dicks' thing that came out [the compilation] could sort of be a remembrance of him. I loved Glen. Glen and I were very good friends, although I didn't talk to him much the last few years. I don't talk to many people in Austin for no other reason than I don't write letters and I can't call long distance on my telephone.

I was just looking at issue #6 of Maximum Rock 'n Roll where you
guys were on the cover.

Boy, that was great. That was just before we left to go on that tour and I realized, one night, I think it was in Detroit, maybe I should have worn something different for the cover of this magazine because those Detroit guys really didn't like me. A lot of people were freaked out by that. As liberal as you thought--first of all, I don't have any illusions that the punk rock thing was any kind of great utopia. I think it was a beginning of a new lifestyle that people could get into and I'm not talking about dog collars and mohawks. I'm talking about a different artistic, free way of thinking but it wasn't some great hope that happened. It was a different kind of music and people got into it, just like there are still hippies that won't change from 1967. There are still punks that won't. I see people walking around San Francisco all the time and they're like 16 and they look like they're going to a nostalgia party.

It's the same here. That style is still popular.

Yeah, it's still very popular and that's fine. I'm glad people do whatever they do but sometimes people change, sometimes they don't.

Anyway, you guys were presenting yourselves as a communist band. How do you feel about communism, these days, or any sort of political ideology, for that matter?

I was pretty young. The main thing that always got me strange was the difference in people's economic situations, like some people having nothing, some people having everything. It's even more intense now. People dying on the streets, now. Then you have your Bill Gates type people. Not even him--millionaires are very common now. And people dying on the streets are very common now, of hunger and just cold and I always felt there was something wrong with that. No matter what, I always felt there was something weird and wrong with that. I got very influenced by the idea of equality. Maybe it was a mistake, but I started reading--but, I didn't read very much of Marx and Lenin and all that kind of stuff. But I never got so much into the theory that I was able to become an intellectual about it and I'm really glad of that. We always said we were for the the Fun Party. But, no, I'm not a communist anymore. I'm not anything, anymore. Something has to tell you something's wrong whenever the leader of the country dies, they overthrow the government. I don't follow that but I'm closer to a socialist than I am a Republican. I still think there should be a little more equality in the economy but I got much more into a spiritual life for awhile. I'm not talking about crystals or moonbeams. I studied a lot of old Hindu scriptures and actually went to a monastery and studied that for a year. I quit Sister Double Happiness and just studied and met some really non-dogmatic, wonderful spiritual teachers whose philosophy was, if there is a heaven, atheists who just do good for no reason are more likely to be in heaven than Christians that do good to go the heaven. It's a very good philosophy, I think, Just do what's right. Not hurting people and that also softened and took away a lot of my hard-edged political drive. It didn't blind me or make me apathetic but it opened up a whole new part of my life and I'm really happy that it did.

I was going to ask you about how you'd gottten into the Eastern philosophies and religions. It seems as though those get looked upon as an oddity in this culture.

So many things look odd in this culture.

But I read an article [in the Jewish Journal Of The North Shore] that referred to Buddhism and other Eastern religions as "cult" religions and I found that odd because, in the world, there are probably as many or more people who subscribe to that philosophy as the western religions.

Well, anything that the United States doesn't do or dictate is either a cult or terrorist. We're fixing to bomb Iraq over that very thing. They won't open up for unlimited searching of their country. I mean, cults, you see people die with their robes on and that's ridiculous. That's not religion, that's fanaticism. I mean, what about the cult of Jesus? Is that wrong? It's wrong when people misinterpret his teachings for their own political gains and their own bizarre politics.

Hell, yeah.

I mean, what did he ever say what was bad? I'm not a Christian but, at the same time, I probably like Jesus better now that I'm not a christian than I ever liked him when I was.

He had some good ideas...

He had wonderful ideas!! And you have other people like Rama Krishna who are very good teachers that have never done anything for their sexual or economic lifestyles to improve. They have no reason to do anything. They're just good. They stay busy helping people. There's a lot of people like that. Why not follow them? I'm not talking about follow them like sheep, because they don't teach that. They teach strength in your own self. That's why I like these people. I'm not going follow anybody blindly. I didn't do that with communism, I'm not going to do that with religion. I don't do that with anything, but I also do whatever I think is right, without thinking of the repercussions in the punk rock community. Fuck that shit.

Well, you're kind of removed from that anyway. What caused the Dicks to split up?

Things were changing a lot. The whole reason I got into the scene... I don't even know if it was the music or not. Probably not. But a feeling of togetherness with people who shared a lot of ideas, that there were a lot of old things that are dictating not only music but lifestyles. Yuppie shit was starting and the Me Generation and all this and it was nice to get into a cultural scene like Raul's that was sort of treading new ground. It had nothing to do with the Sex Pistols or the Ramones. It had to do with your own personal life changing and that was really cool. It sort of stopped being a positive thing for me when you would do shows and people were like... the skinheads were coming to shows and they'd beat people up and even the non-skinhead guys were so rough in the pit. It became really macho. They started looking so stupid doing that weird skanking dance. You see guys in Oklahoma, Miami, San Francisco and they’re all doing exactly the same thing. All at once it became a fad. Everybody, at this time, was copping an attitude of, "yeah, I'm a tough skinhead guy or I'm a non-skinhead or I'm a peace punk or I'm this or I'm metal-speed, blah blah blah." And we were starting to play a few slower-type songs and people were, like, "play faster" and it's like, fuck you, I'll play what I fuckin' want to play. I realized I was being put into a corner here by something that's supposed to be liberating. I'm out. So me and Lynn started doing another band, with Ben Cohen... we started Sister and it was like "this is great because I have nothing to live up to." Not that I ever really felt that way but people's impression of what you're supposed to be can be pretty powerful. You've got to play faster and you've got to be political and you can't be communist, you've got to be this, you can't be that. I had communists coming by the house, these groups, it was like Jehovah's Wit- nesses. They were coming by wanting me to endorse things and I'm like, “Me? I don't want to." That's the one thing about my political affiliations. I never joined anything. I was never a part of any group. I always thought they were like the religions that they hated the most. From organized religions to 8 people sitting in a room plot- ting to march down some street and overthrow the government.

And they repeat the rhetoric that's been drummed into them. I talked to a woman involved with a Maoist group last summer. Defending the cultural revolution, where all those people got killed and I’m like I'm not talking to you anymore.

That's the bizarre thing. All those things started being really oppressive. The idea of a movement or whatever punk rock started-be- ing this liberating movement all at once telling me what I can and can't do. I can't play slow music. And I don't want to be 29 or 39 or 45 and have a fucking mohawk. I don't want to do that. If you want to do that, fuckin' do it, but don't get an attitude with me about it. So we changed and we created something new for ourselves and I've always been very happy about it. The time had changed and the time was right to get out of that shit. But I've never regretted doing any of it...