Since forming the Queers in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in 1981, Joe Queer (aka Joe King) has found himself under attack from Democrats and Republicans. The left has taken offense to the band’s name, a word that has been used to attack gay people over the years. The right has taken the Queers, who will play the Boulder Theater on July 12, at its word and attacked group members for being gay, which they’re not.
To King, it’s a load of nonsense. The frontman and guitarist, who is the only remaining original member of a band that he calls a solo project, says he longs for the days when punks — and indeed liberals — had a sense of humor.
“In the old days of punk rock, all these bands were laughing at themselves, and they got their point across through humor,” King says. “The Dead Kennedys, Black Flag, the Circle Jerks, the Dickies, the Angry Samoans, Flipper, X — they were funny, but they had a message. They were laughing at themselves. I don’t think the new liberals are really offended. I think they’re just looking for a reason to say they’re offended. They completely take everything out of context. It’s so insincere, this faux outrage. Just fuck you. I’m sick of it.”
When I bring up Black Pussy, the retro-rock-and-roll band that has recently found itself in hot water over its provocative name, King says he can relate.
“Black Pussy, to me, is a provocative name, but I think it’s funny,” he says. “And, no, I don’t think for a minute, whether they’re black guys or white guys or black girls or whatever, that it’s a put-down of black people. I feel bad for Black Pussy, but I applaud them for not being drawn into a fight they don’t care about anyway. Good for them. Just fucking play.”
King describes himself as a liberal and says he’s “so far to the left, I’m off the cliff.” But his left-wing punk credentials are still occasionally revoked because of the things he defends. For instance, King decries leftist attempts to ban alt-right spokespeople like Milo Yiannopoulos from lecturing at colleges while taking no issue with figures on the left some view as equally provocative.
“I’m really worried about the guys closing down the right-wing speakers,” King says. “I don’t agree with a lot of what those people say, but let them speak. It’s free speech.”
King found himself under fire after “liking” a Facebook support page for Darren Wilson, the white officer who shot Michael Brown, a black man, in Ferguson, Missouri.
“I get called a Nazi and racist because of our name, and then because I had an opinion about the Ferguson thing,” he says. “I’m liberal as hell, and I was taken aback by how quickly people attacked me. To this day, I’ll get snide comments. I was jumped by Nazis as a gay person, even though I’m not gay. I fought Nazis, so to be called a Nazi is lame by this alt-left.
“I’m getting more scared of the new liberals than I am by the right wing,” he continues. “We’ve got to, as liberals, step back. If one of us has a different opinion on something, we can’t attack each other.”
Getting into brawls with Nazis who have confused the band with its former label-mate Pansy Division (of whom King says, “They were cool, they got the joke, but back then nobody had thin skin”) might have earned the Queers cool points from the left, but they were swiftly deducted over the Ferguson thing. King doesn’t much care, but then, his is a band that has always taken its own road and learned along the way.
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“I didn’t go to college, so I learned through music,” King says. “I always thought you’d have to be Bob Dylan’s roadie or guitarist to pick up these little bits of wisdom, but I realized there’s a lot of lessons to be had right here at this level, where we’re at. You take your bumps and bruises, and at the end of it, you’re a better person than you were starting. I learn from it, and I’m determined to be a better person than I was before. I’m a big believer in karma. I see bands do stuff that I would never do in a million years. It’ll bite them on the ass. I try to stay on the sunny side of the street and not put money in front of everything else, and things seem to work out.”
King has joined a currently nameless band with the two remaining Ramones, CJ and Richie, and is working on a new Queers album. Before its release, the Queers are coming to Boulder.
“We’re gonna do some new and old songs,” King says. “We don’t play with a set list. We know sixty or seventy songs, so we can wing it — see how the crowd’s going. Our whole thing is we get up there and go bangbangbangbangbang like the Ramones. Then we stop before the last song, say a couple of words, do the last song and call it macaroni. The crowd knows it, especially in Colorado. We do about ninety songs nonstop in a half-hour, then get the fuck out of Dodge.”
The Queers, Wednesday, June 12, the Boulder Theater, Boulder Colorado, 2032 14th Street, Boulder, 303-786-7030.