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God save The Queers

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Joe King and company: "I don't have a hateful bone in my body, and I never will."
  • Joe King and company: "I don't have a hateful bone in my body, and I never will."

Imagine notorious punk-rock stalwart Joe Queer sitting alone in a van, parked outside a Rhode Island bar called Patty's Beach Club, and surrounded by throngs of young partiers who look like they just wandered off the set of a low-rent MTV Spring Break.

"Our backstage is on a beach, and there's not much privacy," says The Queers frontman, whose band is currently out on tour with mainstream ska-punk act Reel Big Fish. "There are a bunch of 20-somethings running around with captain hats and sunburns, all vaping and drunk. We don't play for a few hours, so I'm just going to hang out in the van."

After decades of filling moshpits and stirring up controversies, the New Hampshire native, whose real name is Joseph P. King, can take pretty much anything in stride. In the nearly three decades since releasing their prematurely titled debut album Grow Up, The Queers have played countless stages, gone through dozens of bandmates, and indulged in more than their share of touring musician habits.

But even a punk-pop band known for live favorites like "Punk Rock Girl," "Kicked out of the Webelos" and "Ursula Finally Has Tits" is likely to grow up sooner or later. "Usually when we go on tour, we don't drink," says King. "We're too busy. Everything focuses around the band and the show. We're pretty serious about it."

There have, of course, been exceptions, like the infamous mid-song brawl between band members when their drunken former bassist joined them onstage during a 2015 San Diego performance. "He got onstage and he started acting like a jerk, but I didn't see him knock the drums over continually," says King of the incident, which has racked up more than 80,000 YouTube views. "And then [guitarist] Chris Fields hit him in the face, and all hell broke loose."

But that's all water under the bridge now. "The next day he apologized," says King, "and I was just like, "No problem, I understand, people have forgiven me in the past. Plus, he didn't ruin the show, so we're all friends now."

Onstage, the Queers also have a flair for absurdist cover songs like "I Enjoy Being a Boy," which was originally recorded by the funny-animal kid's show band The Banana Splits. They also released a track-by-track rendition of The Ramones' Rocket to Russia album, mention of which prompts a particularly bittersweet memory.

"This is a true story," says King. "Back in the day, we got to be pals with The Ramones, and I sent a four-song cassette tape to Joey Ramone. He told me that he really liked them, which was a real ego boost for me, and asked me to work on songs for the solo album he was making. I was like, 'Oh, man, my hero wants to work with me!' And I really had to pinch myself, I was just like walking on air for a few weeks."

Joey subsequently sent King a cassette tape of a song called "I Wanna Be Happy." "It was just one verse of him singing and playing acoustic guitar, and Ben Weasel from Screeching Weasel and I did the bridge and chorus. But it was too late. He got too sick to sing it." The Ramones bandleader died in 2001, leaving Joe and Ben to release their own version a year later.

Today, The Queers are as busy as ever. More so, actually. "For the past 15 years, I've thought the band was going to slow down," says King, "but we did 130 shows last year, and this year we're going to do 140. It's unreal." After the current tour, King will start work on a new Queers album ("I've got a ton of killer pop songs") and continue to produce bands he likes, a habit that goes back to him recording the debut album by Colorado Springs punk heroes The Nobodys.

He'll also continue to deal with controversies first set in motion by that fateful choice of band names. "We thought it would piss people off, so that's why we liked it," says the equal-opportunity offender. "We got shit from rednecks when we used to tour with Pansy Division, and now we're getting do-gooder, goofball white people trying to act like they're offended or something.

"I don't have a hateful bone in my body, and I never will," King insists. "I've never gotten shit from any gay people because of our name, and I don't really give a fuck what color your skin is. I don't care where your dick is, if it's not up my ass. And I don't care who you go out with — man, woman or beast."

King, who says he's so leftist that he's "over the cliff," misses a music scene where irreverence was still the norm.

"When I started out years ago, people had more of a sense of humor" he says. "We used to laugh at this stuff and put it into context, but now it's like,'You're a racist, you hate people.' And I'm like, "No man, I was just goofing around.' And now there's things you can't goof around about. They're serious, you know what I mean? It's a weird, weird time."

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