One excellent Tuesday night in 1985, after coming home from a Bible meeting, I found KPFA. KPFA is a community radio station in Berkeley that's still on the air. Tuesday nights were reserved for a show called "Maximum Rocknroll," which showcased punk rock at the time.
I knew it was the devil's music, as I had been taught over and over again at the Kingdom Hall. The Watchtower Society, which is the leadership of Jehovah's Witnesses, had album burnings of what they gathered as Satanic music, to get rid of all of Satan's influence.
Satan, according to the JWs, has a few different agendas, but very high on his list is making Jehovah's Witnesses leave the religion by putting messages in music.
Hearing punk rock spoke to me like nothing else ever had. The anger-fueled vocals and raging, simple, and in-your-face music saved me. I knew there were others out there just as angry as I was.
Except that I interpreted their songs to fit my dilemma. While many bands were pissed off about Reagan, I was just plain alone and pissed. Black Flag's "My War" was an anthem, a fight song, to keep my head straight. I listened to Suicidal Tendencies so I wouldn't kill myself.
Suicide runs in my family and I've lost friends to it. I have seriously contemplated ending it all during various dark periods of my life. When I walked home from school, I even prayed to Satan to be mugged and shot in the head.
I prayed to Satan to make a Playboy magically appear under my bed, but that's another story.
Back to music... I found college radio and I was learning about bands like Agent Orange, DRI, DOA, Specimen, Minor Threat, and The Necros.
Some of my other naughty Jehovah's Witness friends would buy the records and we'd record them all for each other. The albums had to stay hidden because they were Satanic paraphernalia, and it's easy to label a cassette, "Journey's Greatest Hits," and not get caught with punk rock.
Gabe Dagsland is the main character of my novel. I love this guy. He's a complete misfit, dork, but he's still way cooler than I ever was in high school. He makes mistakes, but handles other situations the way I wish I could've handled them. He's more like Potsy than The Fonz, but is a bit self-deluded that he could actually be like Henry Rollins. Me, I wasn't even as cool as Potsy, but had Rollins self-delusion as well.
I gave Gabe some of my musical journey. Early on in the novel he's a fan of U2, Michael Jackson, and Duran Duran. Those were borderline safe within the Jehovah's Witnesses and gave him something in common with the love of his life, Jasmine.
Michael Jackson was still a Jehovah's Witness during the 1980s. George Benson, also mentioned in the novel, is still a Jehovah's Witness. Safe bets that Satan wasn't handing them lyrics to lose our faith.
As Gabe grows up, he clings to punk rock. It was as important to him as it was to me. He gets a little more help from his cousin Karen who is not a JW. He enters her world and it's a relief of sorts.
Putting posters of rock bands or sports heroes on your wall was an absolute no-no as a Jehovah's Witness. Gabe gets a hold of a poster of Einsturzende Neubauten. His parents think it's a city in Germany and not an industrial band, so he gets away with it. Even though Gabe isn't necessarily a fan, it works as another spoke in the wheel of his secret rebellion. The poster ends up becoming a symbol of its own later in the novel, but you'll have to read the book to find out the meaning.
While writing the novel, I couldn't concentrate with music in the background until I was well into later drafts. Then, I listened to a lot of doom metal, mostly from Southern Lord Records including Sunn O))), Boris, Om, and anything I could get my hands on that droned me into a hypnotic state.
Wait a second. The Jehovah's Witnesses are right. I listened to Satan's music and now I'm no longer a Jehovah's Witness.
Satan is one sneaky bastard.