Old interview with Spoonboy

From 2006. The introduction from my fanzine from that era follows:

Based in the D.C. area, the Max Levine Ensemble resolutely do it themselves. They do it well, too, and sound like a caffeinated hybrid of the Buzzcocks, Ted Leo and your mom’s favorite ’60s pop group.
TMLE’s often on bills with hardcore bands, but instead of making one want to punch one’s neighbor, TMLE makes one smile and dance. It’s actually not such a bad way to feel.
Ensemble drummer Nick Popovici has played in bands including, but not limited to, the Pietasters, the Shakedowns and the AKs.
It’s not really apparent from this interview, but the band’s singer/guitarist, Spoonboy, has a good sense of humor and is a man of his word. Upon learning that my musical underpinnings are woefully limited, Spoons said that he’d make me a mix tape.
As I type, the tape’s in front of me. I’m using Spoonboy’s tape-deck to listen to it. A wise man once said that music should be shared.
Check out TMLE online at tmle.terrorware.com. This conversation was conducted in the summer of 2006.

Do you want to give me the band’s bio to start out?
Well, we started almost 6 years ago, we were in high school. We started out a cover band. At the time we were just getting into punk and political music, radical politics, stuff like that and I started the band cause I wanted to play cover songs that our friend Max Levine — who introduced me to a lot of that music and a lot of those ideas — suggested. We played in a ska band that wasn’t very good, and he would be like “Your band should cover this Propagandhi song.” The point of starting the band was playing those songs he wanted us to play. But pretty quickly we started writing our own songs.
Bepstein, who plays bass, has been in the band since the beginning, but me and him have been the only constant people. A lot of the kids who played with us in high school are doing different stuff now. Nick’s been in the band for 3 years. And now it’s pretty much just the 3 of us, but there’s been about 10 people who have been in the band.

What kind of instruments did they play?
There was one trumpet player, three or four drummers. Bepstein used to play second guitar and we had a bass player.

What other kinds of songs did you used to cover?
We used to cover like Propagandhi and NOFX and we would play oldies, cause they were pretty into 60s pop music. Now we don’t have many covers, except for the AKs.

Which AKs’ song?
“Divorce Court.“

[I saw you leaving the Goons’ show at the same time as NOFX and Fat Wreck Chords’ Fat Mike and you told me you’d started a new band]
Did you get to talk to Fat Mike?
No. I thought about what I wanted to say, cause I think he does really bad things with punk. I really don’t like Fat Wreck Chords and I don’t like NOFX.

But you used to like them?
I never really liked NOFX, but other kids in the band did, so we covered “Murder the Government,” but I really like Propagandhi a lot, so I wanted to be like, “Thank you, for Propagandhi.”

Can you elaborate on what you think he does that’s bad for punk?
I mean, how Fat Wreck Chords operates is they pick up bands that are getting more popular and give them better distribution and stuff. But a lot of the bands are meathead, tough-guy punk, like apolitical. For years and years, Fat Wreck Chords was really apolitical, the kind of punk that the jocks at your school get into.

Like Sick Of It All?
Yeah, and it’s really poppy and really accessible until it becomes the face of what punk is, which is shitty, because for me it’s a lot more of a politicized idea.
More recently, since Bush has been re-elected or since he was first elected, it’s [Fat Wreck Chords] gotten a lot more politicized, but it’s very liberal, leftist politics that don’t get to the root of it.
I don’t feel “Rock Against Bush” makes any sense when Bush is just the symptom of systemic problems.
He just really directed this faux political movement. I think he thinks he’s doing a good thing . . . He did the Punk Voter thing, but it’s just a recruiting campaign to get punk kids to vote Democrat.
People vote for their own reasons, but it doesn’t get to the root of the problems.
For me, punk is something that is about rejecting power structures. Any punk kid will say that it’s about not conforming, you know, whether or not they’re a politicized person. They’re trying to live outside the status quo, and having Punk Voter or “Rock Against Bush” is surrendering your power to these people. They’re Democrats, they’re a little to the left of the political spectrum of Bush, but it’s still like, “Work for the system, surrender your power to these people.”
It doesn’t seem punk to me. Punk Voter seems like an oxymoron.

Are your lyrics political?
Not too many are overtly political. We don’t have many songs about the government, straight up, or anything like that. But I think a lot about all the songs I write and I live my life from an anarchist’s perspective, and all of the lyrics, even if they’re about a romantic relationship, they’re coming from an anarchist’s perspective. There’s a lot of lyrics about how I feel about power and how I feel about the law and how I feel about traditional relationship structures. It may not come off as overtly political but I still feel they are.

What is an anarchist’s perspective?
Well, I should just say, for the sake of me representing the band, I can talk about my own perspectives as an anarchist and that doesn’t necessarily mean that the band is on the same page. We play music together because we’re friends and we like playing music together and I express myself creatively from an anarchist’s perspective but that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re an anarchist band.

Do they have similar politics as you?
Bepstein has pretty different politics. On more basic, like how to live life things we agree, but he comes from a pretty conservative background and so whenever I talk about anything political it’s important for me not to have my political views represent his. We don’t agree on everything but we agree on being friends and making music together.

What don’t you guys agree about?
He thinks the government is a good thing. I don’t believe in God, he’s pretty into Judaism. I don’t know if he’s into capitalism, but he’s not as skeptical as I am. More or less he wants to live the kind of lifestyle that he grew up in, which is like suburban upper-middle class and that’s pretty different from my point of view. But two people should be able to get along regardless of their politics as long as they’re not jerks.
Did you want me to answer about an anarchist’s perspective?

It’s very important for me not to put myself in one group or fly under one banner, cause I think that’s silly. Any ideology as an absolute is flawed; I don’t think there are absolutes, I think there are different sides to everything.
But I started identifying as an anarchist a few years ago, because I feel it encompasses that.
It’s not a dogma, there’s not strict rules about what anarchism is except you don’t believe in hierarchy, you don’t believe that people should have inherent power over each other. You believe that everyone should treat each other equally on like a government level. It’s impossible to have someone else represent you, truly, and not have them exert unfair power.
It has a lot to do with deconstructing all the social ideas that you’re brought up in and understanding how deeply entrenched we are, living in this society. Ideas are just drilled in our brains. It’s a really long process deconstructing that.
That’s the kind of stuff I think about all the time, so that’s what I mean by an anarchist’s perspective

Why do you go by Spoonboy?
No comment.

What does your band sound like?
You could say weird pop punk. It’s poppy, it’s punk, it’s really fast. We try to be as loud as we can and still fit our amps in our station wagon. It’s not hardcore and it’s not like pop punk you hear on the radio, so it’s weird poppy punk.
We try to mess around with song structures, especially in the newer songs, like not just do verse chorus stuff, so that’s pretty different from most pop punk.

Who are some of your favorite bands locally and overall?
Locally, I think the best bands right now are Mass Movement of the Moth and the AKs. Chugga Chugga just broke up, but they were really great.
There’s the duo of How We Tie Knots and Attentat, they have the same singer. They’re two different bands, but they’re similar. They’re poppy punk. I like that they’re overtly political. Sometimes that comes off as really brash and I feel that can turn people off from political ideas sometimes but a lot of times you need bands to be really out there and to be right on.
Um, Fugazi.
This San Francisco band called Hickey, they’re really great. They‘re awesome at messing with song structures and making pop-
punk sound really heavy and still sound pop punk. I really like
Dexy’s Midnight Runners. I like Word Inferno Friendship Society a whole lot.
Propagandhi. Jawbreaker.

How do you know the AK’s?
They wanted to play at my birthday
party when I turned 18 but I didn’t know them. I thought that was weird. Then I went through a gradual process of going from “What the fuck?” to “Oh man, this is sweet.”

Can you still download all your songs online? (tmle.terrorware.com)
It’s still on our website. We’re hopefully gonna start learning how to manipulate our website. Someone set it up for us and we want to put more stuff to download and stuff like that.

Do you think that cuts into your album sales?
I don’t care (laughs). I think that music should be shared amongst everybody. Sometimes I get e-mails from kids who wanna cover, like I made an acoustic CD, it’s kind of better distributed then Max Levine Ensemble is.

What label is it on?
It’s on Plan-It-X

Is that what label Max Levine Ensemble is on, too?
We’ve released our own CDs and Plan-It-X distributes them. We’re gonna put out our next record on Plan-It-X, so that will be a little better distributed.
I used to live in Bloomington. I lived in the same house as the guy who runs it, so we do stuff with them cause they‘re friends.
But I put out that acoustic CD a couple of years ago and sometimes people e-mail and ask me if they can play the songs.
I don’t want ownership, of any kind, of the songs. It’s awesome when other people play them.
There’s been a couple of times where I’ve written people and they didn’t expect that, they thought I was going to be weird, and that’s the coolest thing, to just be like, “No, it’s music, it’s for everyone, here’s the chords. Fuck with it, do what you want.”

When did you live in Bloomington?
I moved there in 2003 and moved back here this past August.

Why’d you move out there?
‘Cause I’ve lived here my whole life and I had a lot of friends out there; some friends of mine from other places were living there. I had a really really nice house; it’s really easy and cheap to live there. And there’s a lot of good music. So it was a  cool thing to do for a couple years.

What brought you back?
A bunch of complicated things, but the reason I’m staying is cause I feel like most people in the world have it pretty hard and Washington, D.C. is a hard city to live in.
It’s just difficult, like there’s obviously a lot of contrast between poverty and the people in power.
And just having the most powerful government in the world here, it’s like bad karma, like bad vibes, not that I believe in karma or vibes or anything, but I kinda do (laughs).
I don’t know that I want to stick around here forever, but if I thought about a different place to live it’d be based on convenience, like where it’s more comfortable to live. Given that there’s some much oppression in the world, I don’t feel comfortable making that decision in my life, to be like, “Oh, I should be living somewhere that’s really easy and comfortable.”
A lot of priviledge goes into that, so for now I feel like it makes sense to live here where I have to face and be reminded about the things that upset me about the world.

That makes sense. So, was it easy to keep the band going when you were living in Bloomington? Did everyone else go out there too or did they still live here?
They still lived here and I would come back every few months to do a small tour, a few shows, something like that.
Kind of a weird transition, coming back, cause we got used to being less active, but then me and Nick wanted to be more active, but Bepstein was still in school, and now he’s got a job, so there’s a lot of pressure to pick up the pace, but now it’s gotten more comfortable with the pace, and Nick’s going to go to school in the fall.
It’s better now than right when I got back. Kind of an adjustment thing, you know?

Mmhm. How should I spell Bepstein?
B-e-p-s-t-e-i-n. He also goes by John D. Bepstein.
Also, it’d be good if you could mention that he’s the mascot for the Baltimore Orioles (laughs).

Really, that’s his day job?
More or less.

You have a day job?
Yeah, I’ve been walking dogs in the city.

Do you like it?
Yeah, I mean I like it a lot more than a lot of jobs I’ve had. I really like animals, I like walking around.

I know a lot of people who have done that – seems like it would be a cool job. TJ from Alleged Bricks does that. Marni (from the Twats) does that.
I think a lot of punk people do. It’s a pretty easy job.
It’s a really weird industry — I don’t know if you’d call it an industry but, like, a weird market. I’ve started to learn about it and I’ve met this woman who owned a dog walking company. She let me in on how the company exploits the dog walkers. I know I’m getting the short end of the stick in terms of how much money I’m making.
It’s still a pretty good job

Do you want to start your own dog-walking business one day?
I would participate in something like that. Lots of people are doing that, like John from Aghast, I think he’s starting a dog-walking company.

What does it mean to you to be playing Fort Reno?
I really like Fort Reno.

You’ve played there before?
We’ve played there three years in a row and then we didn’t play there last year because of a bunch of stuff and now we’re going to play again.
I think it’s really cool. It’s an  awesome DC tradition, a sweet part of DC culture. It goes up and down in terms of how good the schedule is every year, how many people come out to the shows. But free outdoor shows, you can’t really argue with it.

Are there some fairly well-known bands on Plan-It-X?
Defiance, Ohio and Ghost Mice are the biggest bands. When I got into it a few years ago it was a lot more pop-punk stuff but there’s kind of this folk-punk thing that’s been going on. There’s a lot of variety on the label.
Operation: Cliff Clavin is one of the bands I like a lot. They were the first band that I heard about — just really good, fast political punk that influenced our stuff. And the Bananas are a really terrific pop-punk band from California that write really incredible songs. They were one of the first bands that I heard on Plan-It-X. That stuff, even though it’s been around for a long time now, it’s still really exciting music.

How old is everyone in the band?
Me and Bepstein are 22, Nick is 21.

What are your goals for the band?
Bepstein has some really specific goals, I can tell you his goals. He wants to play with Dillinger 4, Presidents of the United States, and Green Day.

How would you feel about playing with Green Day?
I don’t think it’s really something I have to worry about.

Would you be into it though?
Yeah, I’d be into it. It’d be weird; I’m sure it’d be worth it. It’s a situation that I wouldn’t want to play in under other circumstances but knowing it’s Bepstein’s dream I’d be totally into it.
I’ve never been a huge Green Day fan. Pinhead Gunpowder, do you know them?

It’s a band that Billie Joe Armstrong is in with Aaron Cometbus. Do you know his music?

They’re a terrific band. He’s in a bunch of terrific bands. Pinhead Gunpowder’s one of them. Cleveland Bound Death Sentence, really good. I should make you a mixed tape.

You should. A mix CD. I don’t have a tape deck.
Okay, I’ll try. I’m house-sitting a house that has a CD burner in a couple weeks. (Spoons, a man of his word, did make me the tape. I enjoyed it, ed.)
But, um, goals of the band (pauses). We kind of had to decide to not tour much for awhile which is kind of frustrating cause i‘ts something I really like.
Right now our goals are just to do tours on the weekends a lot and stuff.
I guess to make music that’s meaningful to me and hopefully be meaningful to other people, turn other people on to ideas that are cool for them. As far as our level of popularity, we’re pretty satisfied with it. We’re not thinking about that too much, just trying to have fun.

Do you feel like right now the band is as big as its ever been?
I think when we first started, that’s as big as the band has ever been, because we were in high school and we got everyone from our high school and other high schools to come out.
It was different. Now there’s people who know of us all over the country. We played with a band from Japan that already had our record, which is cool.
But yeah, I guess the more you play, the more people hear about it. I mean, the vast majority of people are not going to be into our music and that’s cool.
We’re not going to have any plan to reach everybody, but there‘s gonna be a certain kind of person who listens to a certain kind of music and has certain kinds of ideas who really likes it. Getting to more of those people is cool, it’s a fun exchange.
A lot of those people probably have have something offer me that I’ll really like also.

What sort of causes have you guys benefited?
Recently we’ve done shows for Green Scare Political Prisoners. We’ve done a lot of shows for small community spaces, like the Electrik Maid. We did a benefit record for the Bloomington Bikes Project, a community-run project. We’ve done shows for a couple of other groups in Bloomington, like a books to prisoners program and a food pantry program and a lot of benefits around here: cancer research, Food Not Bombs. As long as it’s not for something shitty, we’re definitely into helping it.

What does Mass Movement of the Moth sound like?
It’s funny cause we just played in Indiana and I brought some of their CDs to distro and had to field that question a couple times.
Basically, when you try to describe it, it just sounds really bad. I feel like when you tell someone it’s a screamo band with prog-rock and ska influences, they’ll be like, “That sounds really bad.”
They‘re a heavy band and they mix it up and have really cool genre-specific breakdowns. They experiment with their music and I know they have a lot of fun writing their music. I’ve never been like, “Check this band out,” and had someone go to the show and not come away like “Damn, that was good.

I think they’ve gotten a lot better. I saw them maybe 3 years ago and I thought it was disorganized, but the past couple times I’ve seen them they were really good.
Yeah, they’ve definitely come together a lot more this past year and a half. Maybe a year and a half ago they got Joey to play drums and when that happened it was like all four of them were on the same page and got super-tight, which is funny cause the way I met them was through their old drummer, John.

What do you have in common with Mass Movement of the Moth?
Musically we have a lot in common even if it seems kind of different. I think that we’re both really into writing songs that don’t follow traditional song structures, bringing in different elements, keeping it interesting, trying to do something that’s challenging for ourselves.
And what our intentions are with the band: They’re very much into keeping into DIY and doing it cause it’s fun and they love it. They don’t have any aspirations to become popular, and they are becoming very popular, and it’s cool cause it’s definitely not something any of them are in it for.

Are they opening for you at Fort Reno?
I think they’re playing last.

Do you feel slighted?
No (chuckles). It‘s kind of always been the case, we’ve been a middle of the lineup band, especially at Fort Reno. I think they had the show booked and then we got on it, that probably has something to do with it.

What are the best and worst shows you’ve played?
Worst shows are shows that I didn’t want to be at, or we were just playing because we agreed to play.
Like if there’s some weird personal thing within the band or with people at the show. Sometimes those are also the best shows, cause if you get angry about something you can get it out when you’re playing music.
Some of the worst shows are shows where it feels like the person who set up the show didn’t really care about it, or asked you to come – or you asked to come and they wanted to have you – and then they didn’t really let anybody know about it, or, like, there wasn’t a PA.
It’s like, “I don’t understand why you set this show up.”

Where those normally out-of- town shows?

Yeah. But I mean, it happens sometimes. It’s usually not a close friend who’s gonna set that show up, although sometimes it is (laughs).
We’ll play shows where someone is like, “You have to come play at our party in the suburbs!” And we’re like “Yeah, that sounds sweet,” and then we go to some kid’s house and he’s booked 20 bands and wants you to play last, or something like that, and it doesn‘t seem like anyone’s really that interested.
We played a show like that a couple of years ago. It was really funny, because we waited and waited and waited and then finally it was our turn to play and the cops came and said that it had to be done in like a half hour and we were like, “OK, we’ll play two songs,” but the band that played before us had the PA and they were like “No, we have to pack our PA up.“
“What!?“ (laughs)
The funny thing about that show too was it was set up by a kid who got grounded, so the kid couldn’t even be there. The kid gave the list of bands to somebody else, and the list said Max Lavigne And Symbol. He must have heard over the telephone.
He showed us the list, like, “Which one are you?”
“Guess we’re that one. Kind of.”
I guess best shows have been — I always like a crowded house show where everyone’s really into it and having fun. We’ve played a lot of shows like that. It’s been really great.
Probably 3 years ago we played a show in Pittsburgh to like two people, we were on tour with this band Abe Froman; they were amazing, great band. That’s another band that was on Plan-It-X, they’re more of punk band. But we were on tour with them and two people came to the show but we all just danced really hard to each other’s bands and that was a situation where it didn’t really matter how many people were there.

I went to one show were by the end of the show I was the only person there. I was like, “This is awesome, this band is playing just for me.” I really liked the band. I was having a blast, it’s like my own private show
Yeah, as long as you’re feeling pretty good about it, those shows can be really great too.
[The aforementioned show occured when I helped book the band Jim… (www.hot-fat.com) at Steinhoff’s. Jim… is the Beethoven of the Adirondack Mountains, Ed.]

What’s Max Levine up to now, the person?
He is gonna go to law school in the fall. He lives in DuPont Circle.

How does he feel about having the band named after him?
He’s pretty into it. He’s a really laid back dude. He stopped listening to the same bands that we do a long time ago.
Not really that much of a political person anymore, either, but he’s still a really amazing person, an inspiring person to hang out with. He comes to our shows sometimes.

How is the DC scene?
It’s pretty good.

You’ve seen it go up and down, right?
Yeah, for sure.
I feel it’s been in a really good upswing. Right now at least, this week, it feels like it’s  going down. It feels like a lot of people are going to move away soon, a lot of bands have broken up.

Like who?
Have broken up? Shit, it’s really hard for me. If I had a list of bands, it’d be easier. 1905 just broke up.

I know An Alarm is breaking up.
Yeah, An Alarm is playing their last show.
I can’t really think of it, but it feels that way. It feels like less people are coming to shows. It feels like there’s less local bands to ask [to play shows].
I try to keep doing things that I feel positive about and not be too affected by what’s happening, like how many people are coming out to shows, how many bands are playing shows. As long as you’re still doing the stuff that you like, [the scene will] get better, get worse, get better.

Do you think that community is an important part of the DC scene?
Yeah, totally.
There’s different parts of the punk scene and different communities. I’m more interested in a punk community than a punk scene. Cause just going to shows and listening to music and coming home and hanging out in your room, you can be isolated and one of the main things that punk is good for is helping people who feel isolated have something they can relate to with each other. And if it’s not a community, it’s just aesthetic. Aesthetic has its uses, but that’s not really what I’m interested in.
People have strong frienships in the punk scene and the political activist community and that overlaps.
Ties between people are the most important thing.
More than how good a band is, is how good people feel when they’re dancing to them.

Why should someone be part of the community?
They should only be a part of the community if they want to be. I can tell you things that I think are positive about it.

Yeah, tell me things you think are positive about it.
(laughs) I think it’s a good, challenging culture. Like artistically, the people who are doing it the best are the people who are trying to challenge themselves and do something differently and not have it be just whatever the fashion is or the status quo.
That’s something that’s really attractive to me about it. I think that people are active and into doing activities and really into learning about political issues and being involved in political and community issues.

I mean, I think it’s pretty limited. I think it appeals to mostly middle class white kids who feel alienated by white-bread culture and it’s something to come to and feel like part of culture that makes a little more sense to you. And it’s also pretty open-ended, so it can be whatever you want it to be.
In more aggressive punk scenes, it can be positive to get your aggression out. I think a lot of people are attracted by that.
I feel like a lot of my friends feel it’s important to not just focus on that, ‘cause some punk scenes are just violent, that’s all it is.
There’s not much of a community to that – unless it’s like a safe space to come get your anger out, and that would be a positive thing – but a lot of times you see those people acting violently in their language toward each other and stuff like that and it’s more of a perpetuating thing than a healing think, you know?

Is there anything you want people to know about your band? Anything you just want to get in there?
We’re not interested in being pigeon-holed – one of the most destructive things about how people perceive different scenes and communities is they see it, label it, that’s it.
Somebody said recently – and this is something that I feel weird about also – but we play all the same places and we play to the same people – which is really fun – but it’s just cause those are the people who asked us to play and I think it’s awesome that you’ve been asking us to play at the U-turn and I really want to play there. It sucks that scheduling has been so difficult.
As a band we’re open to trying out and playing anywhere, to different people, and as a scene, whatever small subset of the scene that we’re a part of, we’re super-open to anybody coming in and hanging out that wants to be a part of it and definitely have no intention of dividing ourselves off into one scene or another. We like to participate in as much different stuff as possible.
A lot of times somebody can look at the shows we play and be, like Magrudergrind for instance, I guess there was a rumor that us and Magrudergrind were rival bands, which is really silly because I really like Chris, the drummer — I don’t know the other kids in the band that well — and it’s just because the three people in the band don’t really drink. That’s not ‘cause we have any judgment about people drinking, it’s just how we live and so we play shows at drug and alcohol-free spaces a lot. And Magrudergrind plays shows where there’s a lot of drinking, and I think just because of that people have been like, “Those bands do not get along.”
That’s totally not true, that’s really silly.

Have you ever shared a bill with them before?
No, we haven’t. We really want to.

It’s kind of weird that you guys haven’t yet, huh?
Kind of weird, it makes sense for some reasons, but yeah, totally.

Do they ever play at Kay Spiritual Center?
It doesn’t really seem like they play all that much.

Right, they tour a lot.
Yeah, they tour a lot. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen them at Kay. I’ve seen them at Warehouse and I’ve seen them at a couple of house shows.

What’s the shape of punk to come? Do you like Refused?
I can’t say that I don’t like them cause I don’t really know them.
The shape of punk to come . . . It’s a weird thing cause I think a lot about punk when it first came out and was a really groundbreaking thing. Since then, it‘s been co-opted and totally ritualized and it’s not so much of a challenging thing at all anymore.
I guess if there’s another thing I want people to know about us: In my participation in punk I’ve loved to make it something that’s challenging, have it be something that’s threatening on one level or another.
I understand that I participate in that ritualization of it.
I understand that there’s like one or two shows every night a week, and it gets boring. I get bored.
This is tangent, but that’s what’s cool about playing in really small towns where there aren’t a lot of bands, because in those places it’s not as much much of a boring thing, it’s more of something that’ll hold people’s attention.
The pessimistic view is that the shape of punk to come is more of the same, that it’s a safe space for certain people, that’s it’s a good culture for certain people to get involved in and there’s good ideas coming out of it, but also that it continues to be a riutalistic thing.
The optimistic answer is that hopefully we’ll be taking these structures that we’ve built as a functional punk community, we’ve got a few things that we do really well, and start branching out, using those structures to make more of a change in the world. Have punk bands be something that more people when they see a band are like, “Damn these people are doing something they really care about,” or “They’re really making art that’s challenging.”
Have the political aspect of it go beyond just talking about stuff at shows and raising money, although raising money is something we can do really well.
Start having people on the punk scene be more involved in radical activism and stuff like that, that’s what I can hope for. Just try to spread ideas more effectively. Not just spread our ideas, like, “I have ideas that I want to give to somebody else,” but have it be a discourse and have people exchange ideas.

You’ve toured the whole country?

How many times?
Max Levine Ensemble, or me?

You’ve toured solo as well?
I’ve toured solo and I’ve toured in another band.

What band?
Lava Lava. Max Levine Ensemble has done one tour to the West Coast, I’ve done a couple of tours that went to the West Coast and all over the country. Lava Lava did one tour that went all over the country
Max Levine Levine Ensemble has done a LOT of tours on the East Coast or the Midwest. We played around the eastern half of the country a whole bunch.

Do you have any idea how many records you’ve sold?
Both of our CDs we put out on CDR before we pressed them as proper CDs, so including CDRs we’ve probably sold more than a thousand of each of our CDs.
We have two split 7-inches and one of them we sold 300, the other one I know there have probably been 1200 or 1500 distributed. That was the one that was with Plan-It-X.

Who was that a split with?
Operation Cliff Clavin.

You like Operation Ivy?
Yeah I do like. They’re good.

What’s your take on what going on in Israel right now?
I just got back from a trip, so I’ve kind of just been getting some spotty coverage of it. Can you give me updates from the last 24 hours?

Like 8 Israelis were killed in a Hezbollah attack and that’s pretty much it. The G-8 Summit world leaders say Israel had a right to defend itself, but urged Israel to use restraint. The Lebanese Prime Minister had a press conference and broke down in tears and said that Lebanon would survive. That’s pretty much it.
I think that it’s an enormously complicated situation in the Middle East and I don’t know what the resolution is going to be. There’s so much politically-charged, religiously-charged and racially-charged baggage that everyone in that area has that I don’t know. It’s a hard situation ‘cause the dynamic is generally Palestinian or Muslim extremists guerrilla groups attack and then a really organized, powerful Israeli army fights back and it’s questionable who threw the first stone.
Coming from a Jewish background I’ve always felt like I wanted Israel to just be the bigger man, for lack of a better term, and just

Turn the other cheek?
Yeah, and it’s a perpetual cycle of violence. So I don’t know.
It’s hard because the Lebanese government is not a very strong government and they’re tied in with the terrorists to some degree.
My first reaction was: Well, why did Israel bomb that airport before they tried to get the Lebanese government to step in and get these terrorist groups?
It’s just enormously complicated. I don’t know what there is to say really. I hope that the violence ends.

Is Bepstein a Zionist?
Yeah, he probably identifies as a  Zionist. He’s pretty pro-Israel. And there’s a lot of reasons to be pro-Israel.
I personally don’t feel states are something that I’m into, but it’s important for there to be, given the history of Jewish people, it’s important for there to be a Jewish state. It’s unfortunate that because of people’s religious feelings that everybody wants to be there.
Jews want to be there, Muslims want to be there. If Israel could have been somewhere else in the world, where there wasn’t such a hotbed of religious extremism, it wouldn’t be a problem. But because it’s in the Middle East, I don’t know how it is going to be resolved and since they’ve become a state they’ve done all the fucked up shit that militaristic state governments do and so all their neighbors have reasons to be pissed off.


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