This quote comes from an interview with longtime professional skateboarder and artist Jason Adams:
There are times I would have said skateboarding, or punk rock saved my life. To be honest, now I wonder if it saved my life, or ruined my life. It’s an inspiring thing and I think people make it out to be bigger than it was, but it’s no different than good art or good writing. If you think of it as a social clique, I would never jive with it, just like I didn’t jive with a lot of skaters all of the time. You can look at it two ways. It can be this beautiful inspiring thing that gives you hope. Or these things can be distractions, and that’s the negative way to look at it. I’m going back to life is shit… We need distractions. Is it a distraction, or a beautiful inspiring thing? To me it’s an inspiring thing, and it’s different to every person; it could be like their religion. It’s our religion basically and we can take it as seriously, or as lightly as we want to. It’s really dramatic to say it’s saving your life, or it could save your life. There’s a lot in that statement.
Herein lies the question: Does punk rock save lives? Can something so attributed to juvenile delinquency, counter-culture marketing, and destruction/nihilism save a life? For anyone who’s spent what they have of a lifetime involved in punk rock or skateboarding, the obvious answer would be an intensive “yes.” The response itself to the essence of a dogma seems about correct in a generalized fashion, but seeing the above quote from someone who has spent so much of their time “in the grind” shows that there is a deep, intricate, and complicated dialogue associated with considering punk rock or skateboarding to be that thing which saves you from things like mediocrity, or even one’s own fear of unknowing. I couldn’t begin to count the number of times I’ve acknowledged a wooden toy with wheels as the thing that has given my life some sort of direction, even if that direction has little in the way of stability, either personal or (mostly) financial. But when one has things of greater responsibility, such as a family like Jason Adams, the path of “honorable aesthetics” becomes a very blurry and uncertain place.
The Shrine seems like a band whose collective lives have been kept/shaped into a form of creativity through the aesthetics of skateboarding. Sustainability be damned; in an increasingly uncertain future, the idea of placing one’s ideals into that which could, by more conservative terms, “last,” it becomes that the most logical idea is to do the young things while you’re young. The Shrine dedicates themselves to being “a pool-skating, acid-eating, rip-roaring trio,” and why not? Who knows when the day will come when you can no longer drop into a pool again, right? The idea is so ingrained from an outside perspective that the employment of oneself into the seemingly daft world of punk rock and skateboarding has a limited timeline, so why not go with the cliché and “burn up before fading away?”
Except this is not what happens. Most of the skateboarders I watched as a kid are still skating or involved in skateboarding, crawling up to their 40s or even 50s. Punk bands of yesteryear are either reuniting or continuing to work. The documentary Refused Are Fucking Dead now has to consider the Refused reunion of this year. On both sides some are more successful than others, some in relative obscurity, others in various forms of acknowledgement and financial success. One of the most abused poetic metaphors the Robert Frost “road less traveled” image (criminals: calendars, greeting cards) has taken on its intended reading. A thorough and complete reading of Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” shows that the two roads are not different in any way except for perception by the poetic subject. The line “and that has made all the difference” is one of the most empty and void forms of consolation ever, and yet it is the most appropriate for skateboarders and punks. No, I’m not talking to you, Paul Rodriguez AT&T advertisement (you’ll see it if the advertising has been effective); you will be fine, at least until the trend ends. Between those who question whether or not punk rock saved your life, the real question is what choice else did you (the philosophical “you”) have? Of course one would take to the way of the punk; it was the best choice for the opportunities given. Except now, the path of punk ethos is very little different from any other form of life direction. Either way, it’s stress and hard work, and what may have “saved your life” is more accurately described as having given you “a life worth suffering.”
This all comes back to a band like The Shrine, something I would consider to be a wonder of paradox: three non-conformists who work hard, three musicians who play both collectively and technically very well, who don’t give fuck-all about the advancement of music as an art while stealing from their favorite parts of their heroes and throwing away the rest. It’s an amazement of non-intellectuality that is smart and dedicated within its own aesthetics. Rockists? Sure, but who’s to say that they don’t adhere to their own form of anti-hierarchy? If anything they could have their own platform as an argument of cultural importance, as skateboarding constantly gets ascribed to pre-teen adolescence (something only kids do) and a marketing value (I’m looking at you, new Spider Man movie); that they have an involvement in skateboarding doesn’t allow them to be full rockists. Skateboarding within its dedicated world has pushed to be considered as an art form and a critique of architecture and the use of public space. The Shrine might not push themselves to be considered artists or “high art” (I can already hear Spicoli-style laughing at the word “high”), but for a band that’s as dedicated as it is irreverent, it’s hard not to consider them as some form of artistry. They take the intensity from the straight-edge scene, steep it the psychedelics of early Black Sabbath, and own up to the enjoyable thing that pop provides: the hook. They use both aesthetics from warring punk/classic rock camps (and are the umpteenth-so band to steal those “S” things from Kiss). They have to ignore their idols as much as they have to appreciate them. Henry Rollins’ didacticism would not suit their “got no solution/ For the revolution” aesthetic, but Black Flag’s nihilism does. Being that this, outside of writing within the core skateboarding community, is the usual discourse for what kind of music is associated with skateboarding (1, 2, 3), it’s not a matter of The Shrine being “skate rock” more than being influenced by the aesthetics of unknowing that skateboarding provides. Their influences lie in their own constructed history, not one of critical importance. Whether they like it or not, The Shrine are their own example of acting as, yet disavowing, cultural anthropology.
But at this point I might have over-intellectualized The Shrine and Primitive Blast; as I said above about skateboards: It’s a wooden toy with wheels, right? In John D. Rutherford’s translation of Don Quixote, he states in the translation notes that “there’s nothing more illogical or irrational than a metaphor, saying that something is something else.” Relying on skateboarding, punk rock, or anything to save your life might not be the most practical modus operandi, but it’s an incredibly human approach. The Shrine are looking for nothing to save your life, or their own, and they’re not looking to do anything but make heavy, evil music. Is there anything smarter or more real than that?