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A Conversation with Joel Bull

Written by: Melody

Joel Bull, writer, musician, and supporter of the xsisterhoodx and what it stands for, talks to me about growing up in Huntington Beach, Ca during the explosion of the punk scene, while witnessing the birth of the hardcore and straight edge scenes. I chatted with Joel about his roots in the scene, and his monthly events that cater to those who live a SOBER lifestyle. Joel recently celebrated seven years sober on April 14, 2007. Born in LA, he has been a long time resident of Orange County, which is also where he hosts some of his sober events. Although Joel is involved in a few different businesses, including his own production company, he is also a writer and recently published his first book in March of this year.

Recently I had the chance to speak with Joel Bull and this is what he had to say

What are your musical roots, and connections to the hardcore/straight edge scene?
I got into punk music when I was 14. There was a girl at my middle school that tore off my Led Zeppelin shirt in the hallway one day so I made the decision to cut my hair and get into punk rock once and for all. Most of the punks from the late 70’s were already growing their hair out. Being punk in 1981 was scary because the jocks wanted to kick your ass and the hippies were always a threat too.

The bands me and my friends listened to were: Bad Brains, Stiff Little Fingers, Bad Religion, Dead Kennedy’s, Ill Repute, Descendents, Raw Power, DOA, Circle Jerks, Suicidal Tendencies, Wasted Youth, MDC, 7 Seconds, Doggie Style, Plain Wrap, Broken Bones, GBH, Exploited and many others. That’s who and what punk rock was back in the early and mid 80’s.

I think punk rock really started to change in the early 90’s. I formed my own punk band in 1990 called HFL. We played shows with Sublime, Korn, Pennywise and a lot of other bands. The early 90’s were awesome but punk rock started to get soft. The whole idea of starting my own band (HFL – Hard Fast & Loud) was to let people know what punk rock was like in 1981. There were a lot of riots at HFL shows. One time someone died at one of our shows. Some racist’s skinheads were mouthing off to some gang bangers in Riverside and one of the gang bangers pulled out a gun and started shooting people. One guy died. I really disliked the violence and loved the scene so it was really hard to stay involved with it. I was getting death threats from people I didn’t even know around that time. HFL broke up in 1995 due to everyone in the band except for me getting strung out on heroin.

I was on the first Punk O Rama tour with the Bouncing Souls, H2O, US Bombs, Union 13 and Straight Faced which was the band I worked for. Later on that year we did a tour with Vanilla Ice. One of the tour dates was in Salt Lake City and Vanilla Ice got socked up by one of the guys in the LOD crew. Story has it the first person to punch Vanilla Ice would get a full sleeve of tattoos from a local tattoo artist. Go figure.

I was also friends with some of the guys in monster crew which was a hardcore straight edge crew. The straight edge movement went like this: Sloth Crew, Monster Crew and LOD. I was friends with a lot of those guys. I always admired the SxE scene because they were doing positive things for the most part. But, I use to see those guys fuck up people on a regular basis too so I wasn’t totally into what they were.

There were so many different factions of people and crews within the straight edge scene like vegans and vegetarians, etc. I like what straight edge was built on. To me the SxE kids were cool because I always got along with them. Toby Morse from H20 is a true pioneer of the straight edge movement. When I was growing up around that scene the band that made the difference in Orange County was Uniform Choice but it was Ian Mackaye and Minor Threat that set the tone for a lot of people in the SxE scene.

Problems with the scene that need a change?
Being sober or SxE is a positive thing for sure. But, people tend to find other ways to let their anger out. Be it violence, abuse, racism, etc. People are people but when you’re young and trying to find your place you may slip and fall in the cracks. Older people have a huge impact on the youngsters around them. If you’re fucking around carrying guns and selling crack then most likely the people around you are going to be doing the same things. If you live a positive life that will have a positive effect on people; some will hate you for it but if it’s what you believe in your heart, what others think wont matter at all.

Do you think it is important to have strictly sober/SXE events? Why?
As for having SxE shows or events: I do think it’s important if it’s done right. I’ve been on huge tours like Family Values, Projekt Revolution and Ozzfest. I’ve seen a lot of shit go down. Those events aren’t for everyone. The small shows usually turn into big shows when it comes to something positive and sacred. You need to regulate your event if you’re making it a non-drinking place. I just had a sober dance party and some drunken guy showed up at the door wanting in. My door man could smell the booze on the guy’s breath. I didn’t let him in. When you’re newly sober the last thing a person wants to smell is booze on someone’s breath and if you’re straight edge that may be the way you feel too. 

Tell us about your upcoming sober event.
The next Clean & Sober Dance Party I host will take place Saturday June 30th, 2007 in Costa Mesa, CA. Go to my myspace page for more info. We held the first Clean & Sober Dance Party on April 28th and it was a huge success. If you don’t want to be around people that are drinking come out and have a good time SOBER!

Find out more about Joel’s productions, sober parties, and ideas on how you can throw sober events in your area.

Mother, wife, small business owner.

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