This a piece jeff did on George Haye of the iconic PPP.
React Records did some reissues of some of these but i know little about that.
All the shirts in this piece are original and belong to @XNUHROX
So big thanks to him for hooking me up with all the images!
A few months ago, while at lunch at work, I was reading an old issue of Schism. I came across an ad for Positive Peer Pressure clothing company. I have always been a fan of the shirts and I started to wonder what George Haye was up to these days. After a little research, I was able to track George down. He was excited to do an interview and talk about old times. George is a great guy with an interesting, positive outlook on life. Read on.
This is a response to the first email I sent George, asking some basic questions.
Re your question: I’m 33, and I used to be 18. I’m sure that’s older than some people and younger than others. My thoughts: it’s never been about age, and that’s even more apparent now that we’re talking about stuff I was doing when I was 18… So, here’s my thought: everyone else who was 18 when I was 18 is 33 now, just like me. And hardcore continues, as it always has. I think I’m older than a lot of the kids now, because I’m older than them, but I’m also younger than a lot of the guys in the scene when I was 18 because they were older than 18 then. (I know this language is a bit silly, but it points out how silly our old fixation on age always was, and still is.)
Hardcore/Straight Edge question — Short answer: I love hardcore, and I love many aspects of the straight edge philosophy, but I love a lot of other things too. If asked what inspired me more the music or the message I would likely say the message, although it would not have inspired me for long without the music!
Positive Peer Pressure always was against conformity. It always has been about doing your own thing. So, if someone listens to ONLY hardcore, that’s OK with me. If they listen to NO hardcore, that’s OK with me. If they are somewhere in the range in between (like me, I love hardcore and listen to it, but I don’t listen to
ONLY hardcore), then that’s OK with me too.
Personally, I love hardcore. I love a lot of other things too. It takes guts to fight to stay out of groups and cliques and concrete shoes that friends can pour for you so that they can control you and prevent you from listening to music that they don’t listen to, or wearing clothes that they don’t wear.
That’s what PPP was always about. Heck, my message never was “drinking sucks”, it was “IT’S OK NOT TO DRINK!”. And, I wasn’t going around saying “fuck you if you do drugs”, I was saying on my shirt “DON’T NEED DRUGS.” It’s about personal choice, and to me that’s the positive side of hardcore. The negative side of hardcore is when you get stuck needing to look exactly a certain way and listen to exactly certain music. Some things never change, and what I like most about straight edge and hardcore is the positive spirit and the openness to personal choices than can be different from the heroin-crowd, etc. To this day, I still do not see why the hell alcohol is such a big thing in the world. What a waste. And hard drugs — what are people thinking?
And that’s something I do not like about other aspects of straight edge and hardcore — the concrete shoes,
the “you must be exactly like this” mentality. That has nothing to do with anything except brain washing
and forfeiting your own personal freedom!! I ask – why even pretend to call ourselves rebels if we so gladly try to be like everyone else that calls themselves “straight edge”?
For example, there’s an incredible band by the name of Mano Negra that I’ve had a real kick out of. (No
longer together as a band.) Does it matter to me if any of my fellow Earth Crisis, Dag Nasty, and Bad
Brains fans have even heard of Mano Negra? No. Does it matter to me if any of them would even like Mano Negra? No. (Does it matter to me if some folks who like Bad Brains would NEVER listen to something anything like Earth Crisis because it’s way way too different for them to handle? No, that’s their choice.) Again, why even bother pretending that we are rebels if we so gladly label ourselves and don’t stepout of our “roles”?
Tell me a little about yourself.
I’m 33 but I won’t be for long. I still live in California. I still have never been to Europe. Among other things, I listen to Manu Chao, ride mountain bikes, watch hockey games, and read poetry.
In a previous email, you sent a pic of you backpacking in South America. Is that something you are really into? Do you have any good stories from that trip?
One of my favorite things to do is to go to other countries and see how life is lived there. Of course, even if you go cheap, it’s still impossible to get time off, so I’ve not traveled too much yet. So, OK, a story: I plan this awesome trip to Chile.. On the second day of the trip, I break my foot windsurfing! Cool, I guess THAT was meant to happen. SO now what? Doctor says “wear cast / no hiking”, I immediately find the oldest school mountaineering boots you can imagine, and I wear them for 90 days straight! Foot’s healed! George painfully walked all over, and saw so much of, dear Chile!
I was watching Letterman last night and the guy who was pinned under a boulder and had to amputate his arm was on explaining the ordeal. You popped into mind, knowing that you are an avid fan of hiking and the like. Do you think you could have done the same in that situation? What sort of
preparations do you make before you go out? Could you imagine being in that position?
I’d suggest that everyone bring a knife, plenty of water, some food, the Minor Threat Dischord compilation CD, a jacket, a compass, and anything else you can think of whenever you hit the trail. The guy who saved himself by cutting off his own arm is a hero of mine. Inspiring. I cannot imagine how painful that would be, and who knows how the heck I would stay conscious while cutting off my own arm?! That is some kind of determination!
How did you get exposed to the scene?
Originally a metalhead, I had a penchant for ballistic music. Being a metalhead, I also saw a lot of drugs. I didn’t understand why you’d use them, but I respected my friends that did – or actually this quickly would change to: I worried about my friends that did.(!) Luckily living in Orange County, I got wind of the scene led at the time by Pat Dubar and Uniform Choice. The rest, as they say, is history.
What made you start making shirts? What I mean is, was there something that happened that pushed this from an idea to becoming a reality?
Spuds Mackenzie. Need I saw more? Maybe I need to: Bud Light t-shirts with alcoholic dogs on them were being worn by every kid in my school in Huntington Beach (Marina High School). What is rebellion? Well in high school, one form of fun rebellion can be doing diametrically the exact opposite of that which is socially required. Heehee. I wrote activist articles for the school paper and I printed crazy bold “no-drugs” t-shirts and gave them to everyone I could. I had the tallest guys on the basketball team wearing my shirts and standing on benches in “the quad”. (One of them, Mark Jorgensen, ended up playing for the Arizona Wildcats NCAA champ team, I believe. Yay.) That was just the beginning…
What sort of reaction did you get from the kids who weren’t into the message you were sending? (like the AC/DC vo-tech kinda kids)?
What do you mean? All of the kids at my high school were straight edge! Seriously though, more than anything they were completely shocked that I didn’t give a damn about being socially decimated, ostracized, marginalized for making my little (big) statements that were oh-so-uncool. Heck, I’ve always been in the out crowd and sometimes I still find myself there, happily. I was oblivious and never understood how anyone could ever care about what their peers in high school thought of them. It never occurred to me that it matters. Does it!? When did we learn that? I really must have missed that day. Truth: I never cared what anyone said or thought, unless…it was positive!
Did you do the printing yourself?
Heck no. I was clueless, but I found a 2 pack per day smoking lady with a big heart and a tiny hot tin warehouse t-shirt printing business who didn’t mind printing my propaganda (i.e.: SMOKING STINKS).
Do you still have the screens?
The screens are long gone, do you still have the original art? Kids would REALLY be into another run of those shirts.
The screens and art are gone/in another dimension by now. One thing I
can say is that they wouldn’t be that tough to duplicate the art and the
screens and if someone wants to make them and produce shirts, that would be
cool, just contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
How did you feel the first time you saw the cover of We’re Not in This Alone. Plain as day, there it is, an It’s OK Not to Drink shirt.
OK, I admit, I can be a hero worshipper. YOT are heroes of mine. Seeing my shirt on there was a total blast. Hey, I was an activist, a communicator. THEY were the real deal making the music and rapping the rap and doing it LOUD. It was awesome! I felt like my team made it to the world series, but different.
What was PPP Europe?
PPP Europe was a short-lived experiment. A friend of mine in Europe bought a bunch of shirts to sell over there at shows, etc. Well, what can I tell you? We were not businessmen. We lost money at every turn [somehow I had him pay me only $3 per shirt including shipping; well at least my heart was in the right place…].
There were 4 designs?
Yes: (1) IT’S OK NOT TO DRINK, (2) DON’T NEED DRUGS, (3) SMOKING STINKS, (4) THE PPP AUSSIE SHIRT. For the most part the message was about personal freedom and outrageous rebellion in the face of cemented social standards which to this day remain set in stone(!). We were saying IT’S OK NOT TO DRINK, and we were *not drinking*. But note that we were not saying that it sucks to drink or you are lame if you drink or anything like that. We were happy to positively influence our friends, but we simply did not look to see what everyone else was doing. “Our challenge was in house”, and it still is.
Did you have anything else planned, but never saw the light of day?
Who knows what this cat would have gotten into if it had not been for college and graduate school, literature and environmental law, casting a “disappear” spell on my free time!
Did PPP have any distribution? A friend said that every time he wrote to order a shirt, you were out of them.
I was busy and had no cash flow but kept stock most of the time. Let’s see, I remember shipping every shirt out of my parents house, by hand. I read/deciphered letters written in English with Polish accents, Brazilian accents, and even New Jersey accents. I wrote back my pen pals until my fingers bled. I was interviewed for fanzines and alternative radio stations in all the relevant world capitals: Amsterdam, Medellin, Lima, Jerusalem, Wash DC… Just a shy kid keeping busy. I kept T-shirts in stock very well for a long time, and lost only a couple thousand dollars all told, but at some point it all ended. Then, predictably, after that point, yes, when people wrote to order shirts, I was pretty much always out of them..
You were invited to a United Nations meeting in Australia in 1989. Tell me about that!
The United Nations asked me to speak as a youth leader at the Seventh World Congress for the Prevention of Alcoholism and Drug Dependency held at Brisbane City Hall, Australia, September, 1988. Kings and Queens, Heads of State, and delegates from over 60 nations attended.. from places across Europe, Central America, Africa, and Asia, where I still dream of hopefully visiting some day. I of course made the official T-shirts. You see, Downtown Brisbane was never as colorful as on those days. Dignified dignitaries in traditional garb.. with turbans, African headdresses, and berets.. all wearing my PPP T-shirts!
How did they find out about you? What was your initial reaction when you found out they wanted to send you to Australia?
It is still a mystery how they found out about me! Well, when I got the invitation letter, my first reaction was more like “Shit! They caught me!” — kind of like I had been busted for being such a trouble-maker (That’s where my mind was in relation to the world at that time of my life.) Then, I slowly realized that this was an incredibly cool opportunity, and I was going down under!
Alas, I was a rebel. I noticed that many of the delegates were in fact somehow actually believing that they were morally superior to anyone who drank, or smoked. For them, there was a “right way” of living. They were doctors, lawyers, leaders, clerics. I was a pimply kid with crazy hair just counting the seconds until I could get away to listen to Hirax, Bad Brains, or Insted.
So instead of playing the part of a prophet and moralizing for a couple of hours, one day I ditched speaking on the panel and rather I wandered the back streets of Brisbane like a lost dog. I happened to become thirsty and then I happened upon the most insanely large Foster’s Lager you’ve ever seen! I nursed it back to my hotel room and I began literally counting sheep being driven into small blockades on TV (the national sport). I somehow convinced myself to taste the blasted Lager (my 7-Up drinking awareness did allow me to know how to open the can), and I did. My Dad came in silently slightly later and smiled. Yes, you see, this particular act was yet another act of rebellion (rebellion against the closed minds of some of the U.N. leaders), but it sure as hell didn’t taste good.
When you drank that lager, what were you thinking and what were your emotions like?
As far as that Aussie beer I tackled, I bought it because I had never wanted a beer before and therefore had never had a beer before, but I wanted one now. You see, there were lots of moralistic people at this U.N. Congress, and I was rebelling against them, if you can imagine that. They thought it was “wrong” to drink, and that people who drink are “bad”. All I was doing was saying “IT’S OK NOT TO DRINK!” — free choice –I just wanted to crack a little opening in the world for kids to crawl through who wanted to make a positive independent choice, for a change. Oh, and I was a sophomore in college — that’s about normal for a first beer, don’t you think? Anyway, it tasted incredibly horrible — just the astonishing fact of how horrible it was…was amusement enough to make me feel better about my foolish purchase.
Everyone has a good idea of how shows/the scene was on the east coast in the late 80’s (CB’s, The Anthrax), what was going on in California?
Late 1980’s on the California coast. Huntington Beach. Colorful time. Lots of lazy sunshine, spinning records, and surprisingly very little spilled beer. Fender’s was the place that everyone wanted to play – I can still vividly remember the first time I saw Uniform Choice play there. First, after school, the band and everyone else hung out with Big Frank and Billy Rubin (Half Off) at Zed Records in Long Beach, then we all headed down the road a mile or two to go off at Fender’s. But mainly, everyone “played wherever they could plug it in” which would often be some random spot such as the Bakersfield Civic Armpit Auditorium. No problem.
There were lots of cool shows from San Diego to San Francisco. And yes, we were fanatics.. Kevin Seconds said it best in “I Can Remember”: “I remember the H.B. kids so well, they’d bus to San Francisco…we’d dance along and sing the song until we were black and blue.”
Bl’ast! from Santa Cruz would thankfully come around from time to time and leave us deaf. Anaheim produced some of the most energetic bands including Insted and ska-sters No Doubt (ever heard of them?). Up the freeway from Anaheim, we’d catch Scott Radinski playing baseball for the L.A. Dodgers, then catch him singing for Scared Straight!
More fun “local” bands included Free Will (with Mike Hartsfield) from Lake Tahoe and Wind of Change from AZ. Oxnard’s Fred Hammer appears to have led the prodigious zine scene with his great “It’s Alive”. It all comes back to 7Seconds, however. Kevin and the boys truly tied together the music and the message in a way few bands ever have. Their awareness of their place and their time, their fearless pursuit of groove and originality in their music, and their indefatigable positive spirit have made them untouchable, timeless… – I know I will still be singing “Young ‘til I Die” when I’m a grandpa!
Do you still check out newer hardcore bands? Do you go to shows still?
I do go to shows still, but overall I am pretty clueless on what’s happening in the scene. Let’s just say I can’t wait for this issue of your zine to come out — maybe there will be some clues, so I can find out what’s