“Death is more universal than life; everyone dies but not everyone lives.” This quote, accredited to the mysterious A Sachs, could not be truer and more appropriate when talking about someone like Lance Hahn of J Church, who passed away Sunday at the way too young age of 40 due to complications associated with kidney disease.
Throughout his life, Hahn wore many hats: punk chronicler and freelance writer, record and video retail rat, Honey Bear Records kingpin, member of Cringer from 1984 to 1991, and since 1992, the lynchpin of J Church. But for all that Hahn had on his plate at any given time, his biggest role in life seemed to be “nice guy,” judging by the outpouring of kindness shown to him during setbacks in his life and from the reactions of friends and admirers upon news of his death.
With Hahn’s medical bills escalating this summer, a group of forward-thinking labels (No Idea, Cat Food Money, Vinehell, Jerk Off, and Tic Tac Totally) banded together to issue the J Church/Cringer tribute album Let’s Do It For Lance! to help him out financially. When Hahn and partner Liberty Lidz’ apartment and $40,000 worth of possessions were destroyed by a fire in 2002, benefit shows were quickly put on in Austin, New York, San Francisco, Japan, and England. He added, talking to the Austin American-Statesman in December that year, “There was something in Luxembourg also. I keep getting these checks in the mail from these shows. At first, I felt a little awkward about accepting cash, but people wanted to help.” The punk community has a stellar record of always helping friends in need, but Hahn’s status has sparked eager calls to arms whenever immediate action was needed.
A transplant from Hawaii (Lidz says, “He claimed to be the first person in Hawaii with a Mohawk.”), Hahn was a longtime fixture in San Francisco’s punk scene, where he cranked out (almost) innumerable releases with J Church, ran the Honey Bear label, and contributed regularly to Maximum Rock'n'Roll. At the beginning of this decade, Hahn and Lidz relocated to Austin where Lidz was attending graduate school. He continued to put out J Church albums (the band was then peppered with local Austin players), worked at a record store, managed a video store, and continued to write his book on the history of anarcho punk, which was nearing completion at the time of his passing.
No death is inconsequential, but there is something truly sad when the music community loses a vital mover and shaker. In a world where fashion unfortunately always eclipses passion, Hahn’s dedication to genuineness, in his life and music, will be sorely missed.