The (mostly) unedited Barker Gee interview for Fluke issue 11, 2013

Dead Rat Beach, Oakland, CA 2012

FF: Tell me about your first guitar.

BG: My first guitar. I had pretty conservative parents, I lived in the

middle of nowhere.

FF: Where did you live?

BG: Well, my dad was in rehab a lot while I was growing up so I lived

in Memphis, I lived in Blytheville, Arkansas, I lived in a town called

New Madrid, Missouri. New Madrid is where I went to high school, a

great school but I was never in that town except when it was time to

go to class because otherwise I was always in Blytheville with my

grandparents. In any case, my mom was pretty strict. I told her I

wanted a guitar and she was like, “Whatever, you gotta work on the


FF: How old were you?

BG: 11 or 12. She was like, “That’s not happening.” Had my dad been

there, who was a musician, he was in a pretty popular rock group who I

don’t want to say the name of but I’ll tell you – Black Oak Arkansas,

for a little bit.

FF: Didn’t Carmine Appice play drums for them at some point?

BG: I don’t know, I never liked them.

FF: No, Tommy Aldridge, that’s who it was! At first, I almost thought

he was your dad because you have Tommy Aldridge hair. He also played

with Ozzy.

BG: He might be my dad. (laughter)

FF: Now we’re getting somewhere!

BG: No, me and my dad look a lot alike so I’m not trippin’. But

basically, my mom was like, “No! You cannot do that rock and roll

thing, look at your pops, he’s in rehab all the time.” My dad is like

the sweetest person in the world and my mom knows that but she also

knows that he’s a wild one so she didn’t want me to do that. So, I go

work on the farm and she’s doing her thing working on the farm.

Meanwhile, I sneak off and go find all the right pieces of wood and I

find all the right wires and everything. I got all the tools to make

the guitar so I made my first guitar and hid it from them. I’d play it

in this little water pump shed on the farm, where we’d irrigate the

crops. This nice cool place, it was dark and perfect.

FF: What songs were you playing?

BG: Ones that I just made up, I never really cared to know the other

ones because those people could play them just fine so I’d just kind

of make up my own things. I didn’t have any formal training because no

one even knew I had...the shittiest guitar ever. And of course it was,

I didn’t know how to tune it but it sounded pretty good to me. And

then they found it and they were like, “What are you doing?” and it

was so embarrassing. I was like, “You wouldn’t give me a guitar!” My

dad came home and told my grandma and she told them, “We’re going to

get this kid a guitar, we’re going to do it right.” They went to the

pawn shop and bought me an acoustic guitar for fifty bucks. I wanted

an electric guitar but I told them that it was better than my guitar

and I thanked them. They knew that I was going to do good because when

I was a little kid I didn’t speak too much but my grandma had a piano

at her house and I just sat on the stool and I would play songs. They

were like, “He can’t talk but he can play piano, he might be autistic

or something.” They knew I had it in me because my dad was a musician

and here I am not willing to talk but playing songs on the piano. They

got me the guitar for Christmas and said that if I was still with it

by my birthday and was doing good, they’d get me an electric guitar.

My dad told me, I think he said, “If you can play ‘Stairway’ by the

time it’s your birthday, I’ll buy you any guitar you want.” Some

impossible song to learn and he couldn’t have bought the guitar, he

didn’t have the money, but I learned the song anyway. I did pretty

damn good, I thought, or in hindsight I definitely think that. At the

time I thought, “I want the electric guitar! Whatever it takes, I’ll

play this shitty ass song.” I wanted the electric guitar, it didn’t

matter what kind. I just wanted one that gets loud and one that I can

jump on my bed with and really be like, “I got it, yes!” So, I learned

how to play “Stairway (to Heaven)” and I said, “Pops, I learned how to

play ‘Stairway’, what’s up?” and he was like, “It’s not your birthday

yet.” He was kind of...mad but he was stoked at the same time. He

didn’t have the money to buy it so he was like, “I never told you

that!” He’s not a shitty guy, he’s like the sweetest guy in the world

but he’s kind of having a laugh about it because I totally did it. So,

he told my grandma and she said, “I’ll do it, don’t worry, we’re happy

he did this. He’s not in a lot of trouble yet.” Because I would get

grounded and I could just sit in my room and learn all these songs.

Perfect! I got grounded a lot, that’s probably why I got good at


FF: What was your relationship like with the other students at your


BG: I was the only punk and they thought I was weird but I was also

really funny so I got by. The way the fat kids survived.

FF: How did you discover punk rock in Blytheville, Arkansas?

BG: My friend Zach Dees, who is the only person I still talk to from

there. We became really good friends because he was the funny fat kid

and I was the funny punk kid and he was really into horror films and

all this really creepy shit. Everyone was like, “You guys are weird”

and it’s true, we were weird. We’re still weird and I love him for

that. He got out of that place the same way I did – somebody found

something in him and gave him some money to get the fuck out of there

and go learn about what he wanted to do. We would hang out at school

and stay over at each other’s houses on the weekends. He showed me the

Jerky Boys movie when I was eleven or twelve years old. There was this

song called “2000 Light Years Away” by this band Green Day. I thought,

“Whoa, cool name, Green Day.” Then, you know, you go stay with your

grandma in Memphis and you got Camelot and there’s the older punk guy

working there and you’re like, “Hey, what’s up with Green Day, can you

order me the tape?” and he does that and then tells you about a couple

of other bands. You read the Green Day liner notes and you find out

what a “Blatz” is (laughter) and maybe Sewer Trout, and you find out

what Lookout Records is and the dominoes fall and it’s all good. So

then you go digging around in the medicine cabinet and you find the

peroxide, you find a chain, maybe make your own wallet out of duct

tape, and then your grandma takes you to the mall and you get a Green

Day shirt or something. You get all the weird catalogs and someone

mentions Maximum Rocknroll at some point. Then you go to a smaller

record store and you pick up a copy of Maximum Rocknroll.

FF: Where did you get the copy of MRR?

BG: I went to St. Louis with my mother, to go get another psych

evaluation, and I was like, “I have to go to this record store, you

dragged me here kicking and screaming, I promise I’ll be good if you

take me to the record store.” That was Vintage Vinyl, a big record

store in U City, on Delmar. I was like twelve and I got Maximum

Rocknroll and I wrote to every single address in there, saying “send

me stickers, send me catalogs, send me anything.”

FF: What did you get in return?

BG: A lot of funny notes, lots of stickers, lots of catalogs, lots of

free shit. Some of the notes were kind of making fun of me and some

were like, “Here, take all of this shit” because they understood that

I was living in the middle of nowhere. So, a lot of people helped me

and a lot of people gave me a lot of fuel, a little anger with that,

but a lot of sweet people hooking me up, that was nice, you know? So

you got the guitar, now you’re playing punk songs, and you’re like, “I

want that electric guitar.” You know what punk is and you’re like,

“This is what it is, I can only play punk with an electric guitar,”

which is not true but when you’re young and dumb – whatever. So my

grandmother said, “I’ll buy you any guitar. Any guitar.” My dad took

me to the music store with my grandmother’s blank check. Rosemary Gee,

the sweetest lady. I find this Ibanez Blazer for $120, it was the

shittiest guitar in the store but I loved it because it was beat up.

The pick guard was kind of broken, it was perfect! It was wood grain,

black pick guard and I was like, “This is the one I want.” My dad

seriously tried to talk me out of it for like an hour, he asked if I

would rather have the Stratocaster and I said, “No, this one is

better, I promise!”

FF: How’s West Oakland treating you?

BG: West Oakland is a beautiful, sprawling lawless land full of

freaks, wingnuts, punkers, queers, dykes and crazy shit going down,

all the time.

FF: Where’d you get your jeans?

BG: Oh, my jeans (laughter)? There’s a million home bums and I don’t

have a job, I just do whatever I want, I’m a reducer by trade. I take

garbage and I sell it, just like my friends on the street. I know them

all very well and I help them out in their time of need. I was about

to go to Europe for the Neon Piss tour a few months back and a bunch

of them knew it, they were really stoked. They were like, “Take

pictures so I can see what Europe looks like” because some of them

will never know. Some of them have never left Oakland. They’re all

really cool. One of them, my buddy Rob, asked me what I needed before

the European tour and I told him I needed a new pair of jeans because

I couldn’t keep sewing this pair with dental floss. He asked what

brand and size and he came back in ten minutes with the exact pair I

wanted. I asked him how much he wanted and he said four bucks so I

gave him ten and he was like, “Whoa, no way!” I give him breakfast or

coffee sometimes or when things are slow for him I give him my cans

and he gets me my jeans and stuff. He gives me all these cool little

things – like this whale paper weight thing that’s hanging on my wall

here, he gave me that. Not just him, there’s a few guys who give me

stuff. There’s a lot of crazy stories out there on the street.

FF: Tell me about your tape label.

BG: Oh, Pave the Amazon. I was wheeling and dealing in...I’m hesitant

to say junk, but used things, shit that you can sell to keep yourself

alive. I had a bunch of crap from some dead guy, I went over to his

house to clean out all of his stuff and I just hoarded it all in my

basement. While I was selling it, this one guy who also does the same

thing and who may or may not be into meth was like, ”it’s all gotta

go, folks!” He had a tape duplicator and I’d been looking for a tape

duplicator for a long time so I can do this tape label. I go over to

his house and I trade him all this shit that’s garbage to me and that

I couldn’t sell and he’s stoked. He had a use for this garbage and

this tape duplicator is the best you can get, it’s industry standard

for making pro tapes, like the Lionel Richie tape.

FF: What’s the thing with the Lionel Richie tape, you’ve mentioned

that a few times today?

BG: Oh, I got Janelle this Lionel Richie pin and she was like, “I just

had that tape!” and she said that to three people and they all said,

“Oh, I was just listening to that!” It’s so funny because it keeps

coming up. But in any case, I got the tape duplicator and he also had

all these blank tapes that came from a church, because that’s where

most people get them. If you’re looking for a tape duplicator, check

every church because they record the sermons and sell them. Little do

they know, cds are a dying format and cassettes are coming back and

they’re all out there for the taking. They just look at this as

garbage so you can give them twenty bucks for a machine that’s worth

eight hundred bucks or something. I got the best one, fortunately, and

I’ve had a couple more since then that I’ve given to friends to start

their own tape labels. But when you call up the church to ask about

the tape duplicator, ask them if they also have tapes because they

usually got a shitload of them. I kind of made that work for me,

whatever length they were, and I’ve put out every release so far from

those extra church tapes. Even if the albums weren’t that long, I made

it work. The Huff Stuff Magazine demo is only twenty or twenty-five

minutes long but the tape is fifty minutes long on each side so the

way I made that work is I played the tape forward, the album goes and

it ends. You’re up at 3 a.m. so you’re feeling a little crazy and you

want to listen to the tape backwards so you put the tape upside down

in the four track and it plays the record from the very end to the

very beginning, backwards. So you kind of feel like you’re on acid. It

was all free for me, these tapes. It was all garbage and I named the

label Pave the Amazon because it’s funny. I came up with Pave the

Amazon because this environmentalist guy who I argue with - but I love

him - was like, “You want to put out tapes, that’s an environmental

crime!” but I’m like, “I’m a fucking reducer, man, it was garbage.

It’s not going to the big dump in the sky, people are listening to it”

and I went back to reading my ancient Harper’s magazine. There was an

article about somewhere in Brazil where Amazon Road was being paved

over because people were using it so much and I thought of “Pave the

Amazon.” Environmental crime, my ass. I went to my friend, I was in

New York, and at the time I had this band called Huff Stuff Magazine

and I wanted to call the label that but not really. I had ten

different names and he’s over there at the coffee maker and I’m like,

“Aaron, what do I do about this?” I’m riddled with indecision but

there’s an easy answer so you ask your friend. Aaron said, “You got a

way with words, you just don’t know what they are quite yet.” I

rattled off a bunch of names for him, like Huff Stuff Magazine, Actual

Factual Art, Pave the Amazon. He said, “Pave the Amazon,” so there’s

the name of the label. I get all these funny Bay Area environmentalist

people, many of them are my friends, who are like, “What’s up with

that?” and I try to make up a different story just to kind of rile

them up and the actual story may be really good but I give them a more

boring story for them to kind of hate me or something, because it’s

fun. Like “Make the Collector Nerd Sweat” or something. You do the

smoke and mirrors where they’re mad at you but they’re walking away

mad and you’re like “haha.” (laughter) Meanwhile, back at the ranch,

you’re doing the right thing and you’re sleeping easy, living off the

church’s garbage.

FF: So tell me about the (fake) ‘80s band compilation.

BG: It’s not out yet. I don’t mind talking about it because the people

who are going to buy it probably will read Fluke first, then go buy it

and have a laugh at the people who will be fighting to get one of

three-hundred copies and they’re going to be convinced that they

really are bands from the ‘80s. They’re at home at their computers,

googling all these band names that never existed. But the idea is that

there’s all these bands from the ‘80s, you’ve never heard them. Don’t

kid yourself. You can pretend, and many do, that they’ve heard of

these bands. There was this DJ in New London, Connecticut, on WHMU, a

college radio station. He would play all these demos on his show and

it was like a curse. All the other DJs would make fun of him because

every band he played on the radio would break up. His name was Lance

Chance Menanski. They called him “Take a Chance Lance.” Try it, I bet

you won’t. The hand of fate puts those bands down, every time he plays

their demos, he thinks he’s doing the right thing but all of the bands

break up a few weeks later. He’s pissed when they do but he has all

these obscure demos. You find all these recordings around, his


FF: Old school punkers.

BG: Old school punkers, you know, people who went on to do better

things, some went on to die. I have put together a compilation of

these ‘80s punk bands and I think I’m going to call it “Golden

Moldies.” “Pave the Amazon presents Golden Moldies” and it will come

out whenever I can find a few more golden moldies. It’s almost there

and a lot of people ask me about it because they’ve heard of it. I’ll

play you a song or two. But yeah, there are a lot of people doing good

things with their cassette labels and they’re hard to find because

there are only so many church tapes out there. If you want to buy

blank tapes, you can go online and just google “bulk blank cassette

tapes” and they have all the links there and if you want to hear some

more golden moldies besides from the Pave the Amazon comp, you can

check out my buddy Greg Harvester’s blog. I don’t have the internet

but I’ve heard of it and people have told me about his blog


FF: Where can you get the internet?

BG: That’s what I want to know! But anyway, Greg’s got a blog called

“Remote Outposts.” He finds all these old demo tapes but he was there,

he was in a million of those bands. He was in one of my favorite bands

The Grumpies. But he has a lot of demo tapes of all those sick ass old

bands like Impractical Cockpit and Butt Hand aka Street Legal but if

anybody asks you, their real name is Butt Hand. Some of the shittiest

and best music you’ve never heard. They’re out there, it’s all out

there for the taking, it’s free so check out Remote Outposts.

FF: Aaron used to do compilation tapes of Bay Area bands in the ‘80s

and ‘90s, it’d be cool if you did that here.

BG: Oh, like of current bands? Yeah, there are so many. Oakland has a

weird thing going on where there’s a lot to fight for but there’s a

lot to be happy about. There’s a lot to hate, there’s a lot to love

and I think a lot of people have time on their hands because they’re

artists. There are so many good bands here, yes, thank you for the

tip. I will do that, I can already think of ten bands if I can get

them to agree to be on it. They might go, “Pave the Amazon? What’s up

with that?” (laughter)

FF: Why do you think this cassette revival has come about?

BG: Out of necessity. High prices at the pump, economic turmoil at

home and abroad. I think punkers don’t have any money and they should

protect each other and certainly try to at least capture the moment

any way they can but sadly it costs so much to put out records and

punkers are poor. That might change but I doubt it. Don’t know, don’t

care, most of us are poor…

FF: Or at least broke. I think there’s a difference between poor and


BG: I agree, I agree. So we’re broke and all of our money goes back

into our creative endeavors or our rent or whatever it takes. You

gotta live and I think it’s really easy to find a tape anywhere and

put tape on top of the holes and record over that Lionel Richie tape.

Bands like Autonomy, Subclinics, Poison Control, Nasty Intentions,

Dirty Looks, 40 Watts or Red Thread - they never had the money to put

out their own records although several of those bands got deals with

labels but they initially had to put it out themselves and I think

other bands should too, initially, if not again and again and again.

FF: What was your favorite band before you discovered punk rock?

BG: California Raisins (laughter). I had this tape that smelled real

weird and cool. It actually smelled like grapes to me and raisins come

from grapes. It kind of smelled like that artificial grape taste. Do

you remember those children’s chew up Tylenols and there was the grape


FF: Yeah, certain tapes smelled like that and some of them didn’t.

Maybe it was a certain cassette manufacturing company that had the

grape smell.

BG: The California Raisins tape definitely smelled like a grape to me.

Whether that’s real or not, I don’t care. It was real to me, my great-

grandmother bought that tape for me. I get a lot of tapes and maybe I

smell them (laughter). Maybe that’s weird but I don’t care but

occasionally a tape will smell like that and I’m like yeah, “Ruby, my

great grandma.” She shot two of her husbands, she’s the toughest lady

I know. Actually, this guy who I thought was my great grandpa - for my

entire life I never knew who my real great grandfather was because she

ran them all off (laughter) – he was a Memphis mafia guy, he owned a

burger joint on Union, right down the street from Sun Studios. He told

me, “Yeah, Elvis played there.” When I was 15 or 16, my grandma told

me that he wasn’t actually my great grandfather. He was afraid that

Ruby was going to shoot him so he refused to marry her but they lived

together so as a kid, I thought he was my great grandfather.

FF: So why did she shoot her two husbands?

BG: The first one had stepped out on her so she shot him in the arm or

the leg. It was just a .22 and she was just teaching him a lesson.

FF: Just a .22 in the arm, no big deal. (laughter)

BG: Yeah, so they second guy would stay late at work because he had

to. It turns out that he wasn’t cheating on her but she’s a crazy lady

and she’d been through this before so she was like, “I’m tired of you

coming home late, this is what I got for you” BAM! and he’s like

“Damn!” (laughter).

He was like, “I got friends who can vouch for me, what do you need!?”

and she said, “I don’t need anything from you but to shoot you just to

teach you a fuckin’ lesson!” So, he bounced and W.C. came along. He’s

the guy I thought was my great grandfather, he was a sketchy guy who

refused to marry her because he thought she was going to shoot him.