BERKELEY, CA–Nineties punk Drew Tolbert, 29, expressed scorn Monday for the punks of today, denouncing them as "phony poseurs unworthy of the word 'punk.'"
"These kids today have no idea what real punk is," said Tolbert, who called himself "Steve Spew" from 1992 until May 1999, when he was forced to revert to his real name to take a job at Roberto's Custom Auto Upholstery. "Those so-called punk bands they listen to today? Sum 41? Good Charlotte? The Ataris? They're not punk. Back in the day, man, we used to listen to the real deal: Rancid, The Offspring, NOFX, Green Day. Those guys were what true punk rock was all about. Today's stuff is just a pale, watered-down imitation. There's no comparison."
Recalling the glory days of the '90s, Tolbert waxed nostalgic for a few moments before condemning today's punks.
"They can talk all they want about how much punk means to them, but the simple fact is, they weren't there," Tolbert said. "These kids today have no sense of history. They don't know about Pennywise. They barely know about Epitaph Records. Most of them don't even know about Green Day's legendary appearance in '94 at the L.A. Coliseum. It was a watershed, one-of-a-kind moment in the history of youth rebellion, and if you didn't live through it, as I did, you'll never get it, no matter how punk you pretend to be."
Tolbert's disdain for the current punks encompasses not only their musical tastes, but also their style of dress.
"Punk is more than just a Mohawk hairstyle," Tolbert said. "For us back in the '90s, punk was a way of life. I see these kids today hanging around Gilman Street in their leather jackets with their wallet chains, and I just want to say to them, 'You think punk is a costume, man?' Back in'93, it was about so much more: It was a rebellion against outmoded belief systems. It was a cry of outrage against the repressive authority of the Clinton Administration."
"I saw some kid wearing a Sex Pistols T-shirt the other day–he couldn't have been more than 9 when the Pistols did their Filthy Lucre reunion tour," Tolbert said. "I was like, 'You can listen to the music, you can wear the T-shirt, but I was there.' I had fifth-row seats at that goddamn stadium, man, right up front, close enough to see Johnny Rotten's wrinkles. Did you see an original member of The Clash play during Big Audio Dynamite II's last tour? Did you see two of the four original Ramones play at the KROQ Weenie Roast in '95? You did not, but I did. I swear to God, they're like a joke, these people."
Tolbert, who dropped out of Berkeley Community College in 1993 to spend a year skateboarding and living off his parents, was once a major fixture of Berkeley's punk-revival scene, although he still rejects that label.
"'Punk revival'… what bullshit," Tolbert said. "Anybody who says punk was 'back' in the '90s doesn't know what they're talking about, because punk never went away. Sure, you didn't hear about it as much in the mainstream corporate media, but punk was always around for the true believers like me and my friends."
According to friends, the young Tolbert was a shy but well-respected member of his high school's yearbook staff before adopting a punk-rock stance upon his enrollment at the community college. He later formed a band, Absence Of Dissent, but the band broke up before completing any recordings or playing any gigs.
"We could've been huge," Tolbert said. "Bigger than New Bomb Turks, even. But all the greatest punk bands fell apart before their time. That's what happened to Darby Crash of the Germs, and that's what happened to us, except we didn't die of drug overdoses, and we came along about 15 years later. But the pretty-boy pretend punks of 2003 could never understand that."
"The thing I can't stand is when they get all self-righteous and act like I'm the one who doesn't 'get it,'" Tolbert continued. "That attitude is totally contrary to the whole inclusive spirit of what punk is all about."
Added Tolbert: "Don't try to be something you're not, man. That's what I say."