Punk buccaneer

Jonee Earthquake rumbles below the surface
By BARRY THOMPSON  |  November 24, 2008

NO PILLAGING: If he had to work with customers on his day job, Jonee would have to dress like a mailman instead of a pirate.

Anyone who's dabbled in New England punk circuits during the past 30 years probably doesn't need an explanation of the Jonee Earthquake Band, since he or she has almost certainly shared a bill or two with them.

Everyone else, I'll wager, might be curious about the pirate thing.

"It's kind of my style," says singer/guitarist extraordinaire Jonee Earthquake, taking a break from his day job at the post office. "When I was in Venice, I bought what they call a Venetian boatman's hat, and everyone said, 'Ah, Jonee's a pirate.' I said, 'Works for me.' "

Earthquake isn't one of those weekend-warrior pirates who dons the square-culture uniform come the work week. He's a pirate in real life. Which is why he doesn't deal directly with customers, since that would require him to dress like a mailman, not a pirate. Also, he's too nice of a guy to loot and pillage.

This affinity for swashbuckler chic is derived from an early-'60s UK band, Johnny Kidd and the Pirates. Witnessing punk's nascent stage during a half-year stay in England, Earthquake was inspired to start a band of his own upon returning to Manchester, New Hampshire, in 1979. It was in the course of auditioning drummers that first encountered an ambitious young gentleman named GG Allin. Although Allin never actually showed up for the audition, he nonetheless proved to be a handy person to know.

"The GG Allin I knew was certainly more reserved. You could tell he was starting to become what he eventually became, but the early shows were a lot tamer than the later ones. In the early days, all us punk bands were going about it the wrong way by going to bars and saying, 'Hey, we're playing new exciting music that you haven't heard before. You want to give us a gig?' Those audiences weren't into it. The club owners and promoters weren't into it. GG came along and said, 'Fuck those places. We'll rent the halls, we'll get a PA, and we'll run the show.' "

Earthquake eulogizes his legendary/notorious friend with a respectful lack of sentimentality when he intones "Don't fuck with me!" in "The Ballad of GG," one of the 72 singles TJEB have self-released, self-manufactured, and sold for a buck a pop. "This way, people hear our songs right away and they can take them home, rather than waiting until the whole album comes out. It's a lot of work, but it's kind of our thing."

Quite the value, they surely are: anthemic, blistering, surfy, mildly self-referential ditties like "You'll Never Play This Place Again," "DIY or Die," and "Up with Piracy" (a verse of which includes the line "Fuck those cunts, Metallica") doled out with the kind of pop-craftsmanship and intensity one develops only by playing rock and roll non-stop for 30 years. And since you knew better than to jump to conclusions about Obama and Bill Ayers affiliation, you should accord Jonee Earthquake the same courtesy. Just because he used to hang out with a dude who pooed on stage doesn't mean he himself is prone to such behavior. Having been to a handful of Jonee Earthquake Band shows in my day, I can attest that they do the opposite of shitting on stage. Indeed, they bring quite the ruckus.

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