In Conversation with Joe Queer

When you’ve been on the road for over 30 years, you learn things.
When you’ve been on the road for over 30 years, you learn things.
There’s a specific genre of punk that’s just … fun. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, weaving in topics like anti-fascism and American hypocrisy with boobs, fast food, and vomit. The Queers embody the genre.

The fast, silly, Ramones and Beach Boys-inspired ass-punk outfit from New Hampshire have been around since 1982 and released dozens of EPs, studio records, and live albums.

Apart from prolific recordings, the Queers have toured relentlessly, averaging 120 shows annually in the past three years. And it looks like 2018 will maintain that pace.

Unsurprisingly, they’ve seen numerous lineup changes, with the current roster listing bassist Cheeto Crash, drummer Hoglog, and guitarist, vocalist, and sole remaining original member Joe Queer.

When you’ve been on the road for over 30 years, you learn things. We caught up with Queer via email to talk touring then and now, playing Phoenix, and keeping a sense of humor.

“We don’t use a set list onstage,” Queer says. “We play so much we don’t need one — I’ll start a song or yell one out and off we go. Keeps us on our toes and it’s a lot of fun that way.”

That vibe reverberates through crowds, who bring the same energy today that they brought in the 1980s and ’90s. But Queer says that overall things are less intense.

“The punk scene — out west anyway — was super violent,” he says, adding that people would fuck with you for no reason at early ’80s shows.

“You’d be standing there and some asshole would just walk by and cold-cock you on the side of the head, and walk off and laugh with his idiot buddies,” he recalls. “It was crazy back then. However, a good crowd is the same now as back then for the most part — minus the violence.”

Back in the day, Phoenix was known to get wild, too. Queer has played spots like The Clubhouse, Nile Theater, and Boston’s, but he remembers his band’s first show in the Valley. It was at a small (now long-gone) strip mall club with Screeching Weasel. And it was packed.

“Some idiot let off pepper spray in the pit, so Weasel only played a short time,” he says. “We luckily got our set in before that went down. Oh, it was a scene man. Phoenix always has good energy I think.”

Current events can help fuel that punk energy, too.

The Queers still perform the first track off their 1993 album, Love Songs for the Retarded, “You’re Tripping,” which features lyrics including, “I hate white power / I hate your band / Can’t you see / This ain’t Nazi Germany.”

Queer says they perform it with, “élan — not to mention glee!”

However, things can get complicated, especially because political correctness and sensitivity aren’t a chief concern for the Queers.

“I’ve been anti-Nazi my whole life playing music. We’ve been attacked by Nazis and skinheads because they thought we were gay — or hated our name,” he says. “Nowadays, we get crap from people saying our name is demeaning toward gay people. It’s unreal — you can’t win for losing. It’s all virtue signaling.”

Queer says punk bands used to get their message across by having a sense of humor. “They were goofing on themselves first and everyone got the joke.” But, he adds, that approach doesn’t hold up.

“So much stuff is taken out of context and twisted around these days,” he says, “It’s like no one has a sense of humor anymore.”

The Queers are scheduled to perform with The Dickies at Pub Rock Live on Thursday, April 5. Tickets are $17 to $20 via Pub Rock's website.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Lauren Cusimano is Phoenix New Times' food and drink editor. She is a journalist and food waste writer based in Tempe. Joys include eating wings, riding bikes, knowing everyone at the bar, talking too much about The Simpsons, and falling asleep while reading.
Contact: Lauren Cusimano