Matt Wobensmith publishes Outpunk and runs Outpunk Records.
How have you seen punk rock change since you became involved with it?
Matt: It's gotten more diverse in style and politics, and conversely, certain elements are that much more purist and conservative.
Is it better now or worse than when you got involved?
Matt: Again, certain things are getting better - mainly, feminism becoming realized in punk; queer participation and co-option of punk; the use of punk's "outsider" identity for people on the fringes to identify with, however surface it may be. Those things are the true personification of what punk is about. On the worse side, punk has gone through an identity crisis, and now that lots of people appreciate its music and style, the remaining holdouts of the punk identity are trying to define themselves by their "politics." For example, militant animal rights, the anti-major label stance, the poverty trip, straight-edge, etc. - all are not inherently bad, but on a larger level represent the surface level fake politics that punk is barely capable of conveying. On an institutionalized level, punk politics are ignorance personified, and embody the racist, sexist, and classist structure that it claims to be different from. Punk ideology works in a make-believe world; it works as entertainment and fantasy. But in reality, it does nothing to solve world problems; it doesn't empower the truly oppressed because it's all about the views of an overprivileged class. Punk rock is not a valid political movement - It's a collection of idealistic and mostly naive people who yearn for more, yet settle for less.
Do you think there's anything wrong with punk?
Matt: Yeah, in a nutshell, these things come to mind: stupid, ignorant, racist, sexist, homophobic, classist, elitist, fake, cult-like, ancient, ultra-conformist, brainwashed, totally afraid and not something I identify with, thank you very much!
What's good about it?
Matt: It allows people truly on the outside - some women, queers, people of color, fat people, and on - to find a niche where they can feel accepted. They use its ideas and pretense to make an identity that includes them. It provides some relief for all people to escape from their horrible surroundings. Entertainment does that for people, whether it's Screeching Weasel, Arnold Schwartzenegger, or Monday Night Football.
How have you seen the crowds and people at shows change?
Matt: More women, more queers; more affluent people; more Asian-Americans but less African-Americans.
Do you see any problems with the way people act at shows?
Matt: I'm glad moshing is going out of style - it's stupid and dated. Shoegazer dorks are starting to annoy me, though. People don't dance and they should. They don't dance because they're too macho, too uptight, too uncreative; a combination of these factors.
What can we do to make the scene better?
Matt: Destroy it. From the ground up.
Final thoughts? Anything you'd like to add?
Matt: It's 1996. Stop fooling yourselves!! There are people who are invested in feeding you nostalgia when you could be creating and enjoying your own. You are being manipulated! Consistency is overrated. Punk makes you conform big time - it makes you think you have to know all the answers to life at age 18 and then hold on to them forever. You're supposed to brag about how long you've been true to the cause. It's fucked. Listen: change is life. If you haven't changed, then you haven't grown. If your goal is to stay the same, then you're living in a fucking cave. There is a HUGE world out there and you are not a part of it. It's OK to admit you were wrong or naïve; reinvent yourself constantly! Most of the people interviewed alongside of me in this zine are fucked. I hate to be read in the context of such stupidity and narrow-mindedness. They don't have anything to say. It's one big in-joke that isn't funny, one without a greater meaning or context in the crazy fucking world we live in. Or rather, the one I live in. If I had to be around these people, I'd have to kill a few of them. You don't control your landlord, or your boss, or your family. If you get involved in a subculture, it'd better be exactly what you want and need. If not, then you look pretty stupid - you chose to be there. If punk sucks, it's not because you suck; it's because you finally woke the fuck up from your dream and decided to get real. Quit bullshitting like it's not true - you can fool everyone else, but look who's the real fool.