Chances are, if you went to a punk rock gig in England circa 1978-1999, or a punk rock gig in the Bay Area circa 2000-2012, then you've already seen Pete the Roadie. An almost ubiquitous presence in the North Cal punk scene, Pete can be seen working like a dog, making sure the stage gets loaded, the mic stands stay up, and the band has everything they need.
An original punk rocker from England's first wave, Pete was worked with many of the most famous bands in punk including The Subhumans, Amebix, Neurosis, Chumbawamba, Fugazi, and Jello Biafra. While he's old enough to be your dad, gig after gig he proves that he still has the enthusiasm of an 18 year old.
Because Pete is still doing the necessary but uncelebrated hustle of roadie work, staff writer John Gentile met up with Pete around the corner from an Antisect gig where they bonded over smuggled beer and hand rolled cigarettes and talked about Pete's perspective on punk, his time roading for Fugazi and his brand new band, Kicker
Do you call yourself a roadie, a stage hand, or something else?
I'm a roadie. I'm a stage manager. I'm security. I'm a tech. You don't need no job title.
You're originally from England but you live here, now, correct?
I'm English. I'm no colonial.
How long have you lived in America?
I've been here for 13 years.
When did you get involved with punk rock in England?
I was an original 1977 punk rocker.
How did you start roadie-ing?
Well, I started with the Subhumans. I went to a Stupid Humans gig [proto-Subhumans band], and because I was their local kid, going to all their shows, when they got bigger and more popular they asked me to roadie. At that time I was, "Well, what do I do?" And they said "You just carry stuff." And that's how it all got started.
And you toured with Amebix during their original run, correct?
I did the Amebix tour a few years ago. Also, I worked for Amebix during the last century when they were going. Actually, I worked for Amebix when the Subhumans split. They were just like twenty miles down the road.
What other bands did you roadie for when you lived in England?
I did Amebix in Bath. Smart Pills in Bath. Chaos UK in Bristol. I was putting on shows as well. Eventually I had my own booking company, "Road Crew Booking" and I was bringing in bands, predominantly the states to Europe. me and my wife, Missus Roadie, would set up tours, transportation and equipment, merchandise, I was doing Christ on Parade, Scream, things like that.
A lot of book purport to document punk's early days. How accurate do you think those depictions are in general?
I think it's pretty much accurate. I mean, everybody and their mother has "seen" the Sex Pistols and they did like 39 gigs, so you know, it's pretty fuckin' accurate. You do get caught up with a lot of books about people's shenanigans and whatnot. You know, my wife, Missus Roadie, has been on me about writing a book about all of it. You do like reading about people's escapades because you relate to it. About being a young punk in England. You were despised, you were absolutely despised. We definitely troughed the road for punk rock now. You couldn't get served in pubs, you were attacked by the public. You were hated, you were saying, "There's no future" and we were absolutely fuckin right. So you lived through all of that, it was like thirty five fucking years ago. Jesus.
Why do you think that you've remained in punk while so many others have left the movement over the years?
Well, I've always been employed on the road. Good bands. Good punk bands. When I moved to the states with Missus Roadie, I was employed immediately by Neurosis. Smaller punk rock bands around the bay area. I'm not being big headed, but I do a fuckinâ good job, and I think that's why I work for Jello Biafra now and his band Guantanamo School of Medicine. I do a fuckin good job.
What is the key to being a good roadie?
You're there for the bands and you're to help the bands, and you should be able to do what they need you to do. You need to run a good stage because they depend on you. I'm good at it and that's why I've been doing it for so long. Again, this is not being big headed, it's a lot of fuckinâ work. To me, it's totally fuckinâ worthwhile and it makes me smile.
Do you think modern kids just don't want to work hard enough?
No, I don't think anything about modern. I think it's about the kids. Some people are doing it for, "the glory of the gig." Stuff like that. "It's okay to be back stage and drink the bands beer" and stuff like that. It gets lost. People that think roadie-ing for punk bands is just a beer fest is wrong. They fall by the wayside.
Have you ever been on an extended tour?
What do you mean extended?
Have you ever toured for more than say, six weeks?
I roadied for Neurosis for one year for eight months of the year, and the next year, for nine months of the year.
What was the craziest thing to happen on that tour?
I don't know. I really don't know.
Is being on the road non-stop action like movies suggest, or is it really boring?
Well, it's fifty percent boring as fuck and fifty percent hard work. As soon as that tour bus engine stops, you're ready to work. That's the way it is. Some people think that roadie-ing on tour is full of groupies and cocaine and booze. Itâs not like that. It's fuckinâ hard work. But you do it, because you're in a position to do it and your lucky to be able to do it, do you know what I mean? I ain't got a nine to five job. I'm very lucky at the end of the day. I'm very, very lucky.
Both Amebix and Neurosis record some pretty conceptually heavy music. But, what are they like as people?
Well, they're fuckinâ friends. They're great, normal people, and that's all I'm saying.
You've also worked with Jello Biafra. Is he the same person on stage as he is off stage?
Yes, he is.
[Interviewer's note: Indeed, I am trying to pry some unknown factoids about our favorite bands, but Pete seems reticent to give me even a speck of dirt. It seems that Pete maintains a roadie-client confidentiality, something I can appreciate. What happens on the road stays on the road, as it were.]
What are some other bands that you've toured with that we might know?
Organized Chaos. Shrapnel. Fugazi. Chumbawamba. Scream. Christ on Parade.
What was it like touring with Fugazi?
They are really nice lads. Ian MacKaye, I got along well with him. I didn't work for them very long. I did eight gigs in England. They're really nice. I think that's a punk rock thing, as well. You shouldn't have a bad word for anyone. I only work for bands that I likeâ¦ and I've had plenty of offers from other bands. Maybe it's not the music I'm into, or maybe it's not the people I'm into, and I only work with people that I like.
So you only tour with bands that you like?
Well, I've had plenty offers to be road crew on bigger crews, and you would just become a number. You wouldn't meet the band, it's that higher end rock and roll and I'm not into that. I'm a fuckinâ punk. It's like, "No." Maybe you could earn some money, but I will not be a number. It's pointless, just pointless.
In your opinion, is punk rock a lot different now than it was 35 years ago?
Oh, fuck yeah. Punk rock now has broadened. There are so many different genres, cores of punk rock. You can walk into hot topic now with a suit and come out dressed as a punk and go to a Rancid gig or something. I'm not talking bad about Rancid, I'm just using them as an example. Do you know what I mean? In the early days there was none of that. You made your own clothes, you made your own scene. And now it's really easy for kids. It's so soft. But, it's good. If some kids goes to a Green day show or something, with the attitude of "I could do that" or writes a fan zine or starts a band or something, it's all good.
You recently formed a band called Kicker. Is that your first band?
It's my very first band.
Well, why start a band now?
You see I'm a roadie and I would never go to the dark side, but Maus and Dave and Toby, ambushed me outside 924 Gilman Street, convinced me to go have a jam with them and that's how it started.
Is the band just for fun, then?
No, we're fuckinâ serious.
Is the band named after the foosball flippers?
Kicker. After the Foosball table. But, we're shit at Kicker. We're absolutely rubbish.
What's next for the band?
We've got an album coming out on Tank Crimes. We have three seven inches out right now. The album will be out in August time. The artwork is fantastic.
What are some of the topics that you address on the new LP?
Being poor. Being punk. Can't play kicker very well. Being broken down and old. Major Chaos, our favorite superhero. Being abroad and looking at dull shit when you just want to drink lager and eat chips.
You've been married for a long time, something that might be a little unusual in punk rock circles.
I've been married 17 years to Missus Roadie. I've been going out with Missus Roadie for 23 years. She's my sweetheart, my best friend, and my soulmate.
What is the secret to maintaining a marriage in the punk rock life style?
Always be bloody honest.