Government Issue Interview
with John Stabb
by Shawn Truitt
ST: Do you recall the first GI practice?
JS: The first official practice? I really can’t but I know it was an incredibly noisy mess and quite a racket of a summer afternoon for my quiet unsuspecting neighbors in my parent’s basement. The people in the neighborhood must’ve hated it, but my parents put up with it.
ST: Do you recall the first GI Show?
JS: Definitely! We were asked by my band friend, Ian (MacKaye), to play The Unheard Music Festival at an art/music/bar/restaurant/theater called, DC Space on 12/17-18/1980. A gathering of older/brand new DC bands in the Punk/Garage/No Wave/Progressive scene. Ian’s new band, Minor Threat, and many others such as S.O.A. (State of Alert), would play this 2-night event with established groups like Slickee Boys, Nurses, Untouchables, and Tru Fax & the Insaniacs. Ian knew of my band as The Stab but I informed him we were now Government Issue. Due to our drummer, Marc Alberstadt telling us the night before that he was too ill to play, I told Ian we might have to cancel. But he got his drummer friend, Rich Moore (Untouchables) to fill-in for our missing drummer. We used my friend, Andrew J. Ellen for the second night and called ourselves, The Substitutes. Twas a wild and chaotic 2 evenings for everyone. And certainly not the musically tightest experience for us! Ha!
ST: How did you guys know each other?
JS: The original GI met through friends or as Marc did – through (original second guitarist of The Stab) his older brother, Kenny. Bassist Brian Gay had already played with a few bands but went to HS with Marc. And John Barry, as I said, through my friend, Andrew. It’s not the stereotypical Punk rock meeting like “We all met in jail or in a bar getting drunk”. Pretty dull for us angry young men.
ST: Just a bunch of miscreants looking for a good time?
JS: We all wanted to make some radical noise and be seen by others. If miscreants would be considered a clean cut Jewish college boy on drums, curly blonde haired fella with a flat-top bassist, tall, old black trench coat/green Wellington boot wearing guitarist with Keith Richards spiky hair, and a big dork with tattered Punk – tees, cuffed blue jeans, and recently cut lopsided mohawk on vocals – sure, we were miscreants-ha!
ST: Why is there a limited catalog of GI releases?
Limited in what way? Recently, Doctor Strange Records have re-released most everything on CD sets or vinyl. First official GI release, Legless Bull EP was only a thousand copies on Dischord Records. At the time, that was our original decision because (mainly) Marc and I weren’t satisfied with how it came out. At the time it was recorded, Inner Ear Studios wasn’t the amazing studio it is today. I’ve come to terms with how raw it sounds but Marc still hates it. As for say the catalog of material we released with Rockville/Giant Records – they ended up being notorious rip-off artists to many groups including GI. Tom and I gained control of our material right before the Complete History Volume One (2 CD-set) was released. So, if anyone buys any of our catalog with the Rockville/Giant name from them – we shall never see a penny of the royalties. But Doctor Strange have been nothing but honest to us, the same as Dischord. We will see payment through them.
ST: Who influenced you musically for the band?
JS: It all depends on the time period, really. Early 80’s DC bands such as Untouchables,Teen Idols, Bad Brains, Sex Pistols, Clash, Rezillos, Ramones, TSOL, Dead Kennedys, The Birthday Party, to name a few. In the mid-80’s The Damned, Faith, Buzzcocks, Rites of Spring, Naked Raygun and the late 80’s Sonic Youth, The Damned, Robyn Hitchcock, Julian Cope, Echo & the Bunnymen, Psychedelic Furs.
ST: Who & What type of music influenced you as a child?
JS:Monkees, The Partridge Family, AM-Radio like The Sweet, Elton John, Raspberries. But I was much more into movies and TV.
ST: What instrument did you play as a child?
JS: Absolutely none. I still can’t play an instrument to save my life! Ha! That’s why I’m a frontperson.
ST: How does an old Punk stay alive in this cruel world?
JS: Still working on that one. If I ever figure it out myself, I’ll let you know.
ST: How many members have been in Government Issue?
JS: Luckily, unlike Spinal Tap, we never had a member explode on stage. Plenty including myself have been royally pissed off but, none blew up! Okay, here is the total including myself and the 2 current ones, 14 official members and 6 substitute players.
ST: What bands are you listening to today?
JS: It all depends what I’m in the mood for. The Damned, powerpop from 70’s & 80’s (20/20, Big Star), and I like to make up playlists with various stuff on my ipod.
ST: Any opinion on the current state of underground music?
I support any new punk/hardcore group if they’re busting their asses touring the land and making noise. Coke Bust, Supreme Commander, etc. The younger bands who’ve developed a following all the way from DC to Russia. More power to them! It’s the shit that’s out there that are trying to be the latest press darlings who are made to pose with the proper wardrobe and make-up for photos inside a slick, corporate, magazine like Alternative Press that I cannot stomach. I also dig some of my fellow avenging punkrock godfathers still doing it: 7 Seconds, Descendents, TSOL, OFF!, Buzzcocks, Wire, etc.
ST: What is your opinion on the state of internet releases, and do you think it is a good thing for music?
JS: Nothing wrong with all that. I’m a person who digs the packaging, artwork, and all that a record or CD has so I really don’t buy the internet releases.
ST: What does the future hold for John Stabb?
JS: Hopefully (if everything works out) more special Government Issue and History Repeated (my other band) gigs across the land. Getting a full album of History Repeated songs released to the public. So far, we have a load of songs/youtube live clips online and a split 7″ with Flat Tires (NC) on Rusty Knuckles Records. It would be nice if more GI records and the LIVE BOOTLEG SERIES that Tom [Lyle] put together online sell because royalties help us all survive. Also, I’m looking for any interested parties who would like to publish my completed memoirs “Hear the Scream” (stories of a mixed-up kid to angry young punk). Check out/like: Government Issue and History Repeated on Facebook.