"I still don’t take no shit from nobody!"
Interview with: Debbie Dub, originally conducted July 2011
When I think of Debbie Dub, I remember her as a sort of punk ambassador. She had the right personality for the job. Debbie had good people skills and frequently arranged meetings between people that didn't know each other but who she felt would work well together. She also booked shows, produced records, managed bands and had a fanzine called Starting Fires but her strongest contribution was her ability to communicate comfortably with people from all walks of life, making anyone who was around her feel as though they had known her for years.
When L.A. bands played in San Francisco, Debbie would frequently be there to greet them. Likewise, when San Francisco bands played L.A., it was Debbie who would show them around town. Debbie understood the nature of both cities and respected the differences between them. She eventually moved to San Francisco, but not before leaving her mark on L.A. I remember her as spunky, articulate and outspoken. I think you'll agree that she still has those qualities.
1. What was/is your contribution to the punk community?
In the early days, I think just being part of the scene was a huge contribution. There weren’t very many of us, and we were just making it up as we went along – which means I helped create it! Producing the first Negative Trend single is one of my lasting contributions. The record is famous now but we couldn’t give them away at the time.
It’s nice to know that I was the driving force in documenting a band and music that people are still listening to today and that otherwise would have been lost. My fanzine, Starting Fires, was short lived but had an impact. Both projects were very much part of the do it yourself culture – I made copies of Starting Fires at work when everyone else had gone home.
I did a lot of booking shows and promoting bands that helped get the word out. I put on a show at the Whisky on May Day 1978 that I think was the first time X played there, along with most of the other bands at the time. Because I travelled a lot, I contributed to the cross -pollination of the different scenes. My friends from Phoenix came out, I introduced Don Bolles to the Germs and the Consumers became part of the LA scene.
For most of '78 I split my time between SF and LA, and booked bands from both cities in each other’s clubs. I tried to inject some meaning and seriousness into the scene, which was often met with resistance. I wanted punk to be fun but also to change the world.
2. Which artist, band concert and/or show had the most impact on your life?
Patti Smith. Even before she recorded her first record, I read her poetry and she used to write for Creem magazine and I would go through each new issue looking for her articles first. I was going to high school in Phoenix, Arizona and felt totally like an outcast. She was just so cool and fierce; I wanted to be like her more than anything else in the world.
By early 1977 the punk rock scene was really revving up in LA. Both home grown bands and visitors from NY and London were playing and the spirit was electrifying. That first Damned show was insane, I loved every minute of it, especially the harangue from their manager: “you fat
fucking Californians in your fat fucking Cadillacs!" I still think the 1977-78 LA bands – the Dils, X, Weirdos, Bags, Screamers, Middle Class – produced some of the most exciting music in those beginning days of punk.
Mid-1977 I left for Europe for six months and the Slits were my favorite band to go see. Every show ended in a riot! I still can’t believe that Ari Up has passed, she was such a vital force. When I got back to LA the scene had exploded! I guess that means it went from 100 people to
maybe 200, almost all of whom were in or had started bands. I loved all the bands, the energy was incredible.
Went to see the Sex Pistols in San Francisco and fell in love with the scene there – The Avengers, Negative Trend, the Sleepers – LA and SF were two separate scenes, both very different and yet at the core very much the same.
3. What was the role of women in the early punk scene?
The great thing about punk rock was that for the most part, women were treated as equals. I loved the freedom of being able to say and do what I wanted, publish a fanzine and manage bands and it was just accepted.
4. What is the legacy of punk in your life?
Now I work for a union and I edit the newsletter, so publishing and changing the world are still important parts of my life. I’ve just found a less destructive outlet and learned how to channel my anger in ways that are more effective. I still don’t take no shit from nobody!
5. What are you listening to now?
I just went to see X in Ventura. They were awesome! Thirty plus years later they still sound great. In September I’m going to see Philip Glass do a series of shows in Carmel and Big Sur. I mostly listen and go out to see jazz, but the early punk rock is what still gets my blood going.
6. Do you have any funny or interesting stories?
A billion. Funny, interesting, sad, crazy, chaotic. Before there was really a punk scene Jeffrey Lee Pierce and I used to go to Watts to buy blues and reggae records. I still remember him with his brown hair in a kind of page boy cut, and white boots, we would stick out like a sore thumb.
For the longest time, I had a hard time thinking about the old days at all, because of just how many friends we lost. It’s easier now but still when I look back, I’m stunned by the amount of raw talent and creativity that got snuffed.
7. Are there any punk women from the early scene that you feel have not been adequately recognized?
All of them. I don’t think you can underestimate the impact that women had on the scene. We were equals in standing but also in numbers. When you think about it, for a phenomenon filled with such over the top aggressive music and attitude, it’s amazing how many women played vital roles in shaping the scene. I don’t think there had ever been anything like it before in terms of women’s participation.
8. What is something we should know about you that we probably don't know?
I’m happy now. I live near the ocean and I surf, scuba dive and love the water. After all the craziness, I’ve found peace.