Someone may go into Punk Rock Dad thinking it’s going to be this gonzo guide to being a father, but you really do come off more like Ward Cleaver.
Well, that’s the funny thing, and I think a lot of dads understand it, is that you absolutely lose your cool when you become a dad. It’s liberating, in a sense, because you know that you’ve lost your cool, and you don’t have to pretend anymore, and it all becomes about your kids and everything that entails. Just last night, a group of guys called me up; it’s Wednesday night at the local bars, and they’re all, “Everyone’s out. We’ve gotta go. We’re gonna go tear it up.” And I’m just like, “You know, I’m putting the kids to bed and watching American Idol. I can’t do it right now.” And they’re just like, “Oh, man! You’re the worst! You’ve sold out!” And I’m just like, “Well, you know, I guess so, but priorities change.”
Who still has the most growing up to do: your kids or your bandmates?
Oh, my bandmates, by far – and it never ends. It just gets worse and worse. When we started out, we were all kids, and punk rock was about who could be the most hardcore and the fastest and the craziest, and that was all part of it, being on tour and just being absolutely crazy. And now, twenty years later, I have a wife and we have kids in elementary school, and I’m trying to impress upon them the opposite idea of, “You shouldn’t do stuff like that – stuff like I did and what the band is known for,” without sounding completely hypocritical. So, that’s the rub.
People might think that keeping a musician’s hours would prepare you for the sleepless nights of early parenthood, but that wasn’t true at all for you, was it?
There’s a total difference between staying up late and partying and throwing back a few beers with your friends, and sitting there with a screaming baby that you can’t get quiet because, you know, they’re just crying; they don’t need a reason. That’s a different kind of sleep loss, and I can see how some parents lose it.
You’ve spent most of your life immersed in a musical subculture that’s rooted in questioning authority. What sort of problems does that create for you as a disciplinarian?
I imagine it’s gonna present a lot more problems when my kids are teenagers, but I think it also gives me perspective to be able to say, “This is what happened to me as a kid.” I have plenty of examples of what happened to me when I tried to skirt the law or did things that were dangerous. Hopefully, if I can just say to them, without sounding like too much of an ogre, “Let me give you a word of advice when you want to drink and drive. You’re gonna lose your car, or you could kill someone, and these are the dangers of it.” It’s up to the kids to take your advice or not, and sometimes learn things the hard way – hoping that they don’t, of course.
Do you worry that raising your kids in a punk-rock household might have an adverse effect on how they turn out later – like, what if they rebel by becoming straight-laced MBAs who look back on Dad’s whole life as a Peter Pan fantasy gone wrong?
Yeah, you know, that’s totally likely. My kids aren’t at all into punk rock; they like Top 40 and what’s on the Disney Channel – which is great for them. I’m not gonna force my angry music on them. But when they’re ready for it, I want them to understand that there’s all kinds of expression that they should be exposed to. But at the same time, I want them to find their own way – and that’s what I’m trying to get out in the book, that if you can just show your kids all the different perspectives and try to give them an informed choice and let them decide for themselves, I think we can probably bring up a generation of kids that are a little more open-minded. Because that’s what it’s all about, and hopefully that was the aim of punk rock, to try to get people to change the status quo.