The Other F Word Interview: Dan Schafer (Vapid)

posted by Richard Gill

In anticipation of THE OTHER F WORD having its Minneapolis premier this weekend as part of the Sound Unseen film festival I decided to talk to a few of my fellow “punk rock dad” pals and get their opinions on what it’s like to be a touring musician in a scene that’s historically a young person’s genre while at the same time trying to be a responsible parent and good role model for your kids.

Dan Schafer is best known for his membership in such well known punk rock bands as Screeching Weasel, The Riverdales, Sludgeworth, The Methadones, and most recently Noise By Numbers, and Dan Vapid And The Cheats. He’s also hands down the most awesome dude I ever met through my previous career as merch guy / tour manager for hire. Out of all the people I’ve been on tour with he’s the one that I keep in touch with more than anyone else (which, admittedly isn’t that much lately since we both have kids). It’s very interesting for me to see people treat him like some sort of punk rock hero because that’s not how I see him at all. If anything Dan downplays his, for lack of a better word, fame which in my opinion makes him that much more the embodiment of what being in a punk band is all about. Everyone is equal, no one is above anyone else.

Dan’s a relatively new father so I was interested to hear how things have gone thus far for him and how he plans on approaching his role as his son gets older.

SBC: Neither of the bands that you’re in at the moment have really done much in the way of extensive touring. In the future do you see yourself spending as much time on the road as you used to or just doing short tours here and there so as not to be away from your kid for that long of a time?

DS: Tours here and there. Being a musician and my wife a chiropractor means I stay at home and watch the baby. As most parents can attest, childcare is very expensive and the bands I play in don’t make enough to compensate for the price of daycare. My plan is to play music as much as I can while maintaining my role as a father and husband.

SBC: How tough was the decision to leave Screeching Weasel in terms of your personal beliefs / feelings about that whole situation vs. knowing that you were about to have a kid and the money you made with that band would certainly be helpful?

DS: Technically, we were fired when we forwarded our statement to Ben before it made it to punk news. But who cares, really. It was very difficult and stressful because I wanted to keep my job and minimize drama. But I also knew after knowing Ben (Weasel) many years I would be fired and become his newest target or object of hate if I publicly disagreed with his behavior. I also believe that If i had privately discussed his “Ben Weasel act” as he likes to call it, the outcome would have put a strain on our working relationship that has had lots of ups and downs throughout the years and ultimately lead to the same result. He was my employer and I was an employee. Period. So there were no good options. Having been put in this position before my wife and I were about to have a baby was very nerve racking and stressful at the time. As anybody about to have a child can attest, having a baby can be financially stressful.

SBC: In what ways, if any, has coming from a punk rock background influenced your thoughts on parenting? More specifically growing up with the whole “fight the system”, “question authority” mentality of that whole scene and now being an authority figure yourself. Is that someting you plan to instill in your child in terms of values, etc.?

DS: I think the point, at least for me, with punk rock was being yourself. Being who you are, being an individual. Growing up I felt like an outsider and didn’t relate to a lot of other kids and loved music. So, eventually I discovered punk rock and it spoke to me. I think what I want to install in my son is for him to pave his own way. To have the courage to be himself even if he occasionally takes some shit for it. And to think for yourself, not blindly follow the crowd. Asking questions is how you find truth, how you get to know who you are. I want my son to feel comfortable with who he wants to be.

SBC: There’s a line in the film by Jim Lindberg where he says, and I’m paraphrasing here, “As punk rockers we thought we were gonna change the world and maybe the way we do that is by raising our kids a little better than our parents raised us.” (note: the actual end of that line is “the way we do that is by rasing better kids”. Pretty much the same idea.) Do you think that’s an accurate statement?

DS: Yes. But it’s also a question for ourselves and our own shortcomings, however painful it might be. We all have them and need to accept it rather than fight, deny or runaway from them. Our parents thought they had our best interest in mind and did plenty wrong. I think it’s only natural that we will fall into problems from our generation as well. Maybe if we acknowledge our shortcomings we can better understand them and be better parents. We will never be perfect and that’s okay. Most parents in my experience have trouble or some kind of “blind spot” when it comes to themselves or their kids.

SBC: In my home my son likes when I play Cheap Trick or Ramones records just as much as when I play Yo Gabba Gabba or Sesame Street songs. Being that you’re a pretty big power pop guy have you thought about doing a kids record in that style? Because if anyone could do it it’s you.

DS: I haven’t heard any kids music/records yet and the thought hasn’t crossed my mind. But, never say never. I’m a new a dad. We’ll see what unfolds. It would be interesting to do a follow up on punk rock parents every few years to see how perspectives have changed. I’m sure you’d see some big changes.

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011 at 9:00 am