The Punk Vault

Government Issue interview with John Stabb

When I was a young up-and-coming punk back in high school (this is going back a lot of years now!) I got a copy of the Flex Your Head compilation and immediately fell in love with almost every band on there. One of the ones that really grabbed me was Government Issue, not only did they have one of my favorite songs on that comp, (“Lie Cheat and Steal”), but on top of that, I thought they had a cool name. I instantly wanted to hear more. A couple more compilations later and I found a copy of Boycott Stabb at a local record shop and borrowed money from my friend who was with me at the time so I could buy it. I played that record so many times that I am surprised I didn’t wear it out. Being the completest that I am, I had to have all their records.  It was my mission to find them all. I succeeded in my mission, and turned on all my local friends to a great band. When I started my fanzine, GI was one of the first bands that I wrote to for an interview and somewhere I still have a few flyers that Tom Lyle sent me when I wrote to him. When GI played at Dreamerz right before You came out, I finally got to see them play, and I did an interview with John Stabb and J. Robbins after the show. They were both a couple of really friendly guys and that just made me appreciate the band all the more. Government Issue weren’t like the other bands from their hometown of Washington DC. At the time, they were the only one that didn’t break up, despite the many line-up changes. They also didn’t really sound like most DC bands either. Luckily the fine folks at Doctor Strange Records  had the good sense to reissue the band’s recordings so their legacy will live on. What follows is an interview conducted via email with John Stabb Schroeder, vocalist and founding member of GI.

When did you form GI? We’re you in a band before this? Who was the original line up?

It was the summer of ’79 that Peter Murray (who went on to be in Red C/Artificial Peace/Marginal Man) and I formed “The Stab”. Pete was singing and playing guitar and he wanted me to be the drummer. Foolishly, I went out and purchased a set on sale! I couldn’t play the drums to save my life but it was still fun trying. Soon enough, we found a bassist named John Berger and a second guitarist, Kenny Alberstadt. I decided drumming was not my forte and placed myself in the role of vocalist/shouter of the group. Soon enough Kenny brought his younger brother Marc into the picture as a drummer. That was fine and dandy till it all kind of fell apart. Pete was caught up with college studies, so we kept it going without him. Kenny and John both left after graduating. in early 1980, so it ended up just Marc and me. We hooked up with a new guitarist John Barry and Marc’s high school bud Brian Gay (who was already playing in The Indians) for a bassist. All three of these dudes hated “The Stab” name and we ended up calling the new group “G.I.” This came from a line in a Black Market Baby song called “World at War”. The lyrics were “I want a war/I want to be a G.I.!” which was one of my favorite songs at the time! We thought that G.I. stood for “Government Issue”, but I found out many years later that it actually stands for “General Issue”. Oh well. And that was the original Government Issue line-up.

What got you into punk rock in the first place? How old were you? How old are you now?

At the age of 19, I hated everyone in my neighborhood and most everyone at the local high school. I wasn’t exactly the most liked person in my school years, always got picked on and beat up most of my childhood-teen years. I had a lot of hate, frustration and loneliness in me. I ended up doing delinquent things with my other bad influence friends and ended up relating to the juniors in my senior year. We got stoned a lot and skipped class. I needed some kind of outlet! When I escaped the education prison (or barely graduated) you could say, punk rock was a way to channel it all. When I listened to the Sex Pistols Never Mind The Bollocks, I wanted to be in a fucking band! And I figured if Johnny Rotten could do this then why couldn’t I? I was an angry young fuck and wanted to attack the world. Government Issue was my weapon of choice. I’m 40 years bold now! My new group, The Factory Incident is my creative outlet and where I’m at now. We, as a whole, have some of the punk ideals of not putting up with a lot of needless guitar solos and all that pretentious bullshit that usually go hand in hand for rock bands. I’m not so angry anymore but still working on my own, pardon the pun, issues. I like myself a lot more than I did when I was in G.I. But most of my insecurity hell was fed by stressful destructive relationships. I’m as close to being in my “happy place” now as I ever will be.

We’re you pretty tight with that whole “Dischord group” or were you an “outsider”.

I was then and continue to be friends with Ian. We don’t hang out or anything but I think we both consider each other a friend. Others from the “heyday of hardcore” have come and gone in my life. I considered most of them a friend because it felt like one big punk rock family at the time. I’m a passionate guy and felt close to these guys. Henry Rollins doesn’t consider me a friend, more of just an acquaintance. That’s too bad, but life goes on. I’m finding out more and more that the people I really thought were my tight friends were merely just people in the same local punk scene. There was a time when I lived at Dischord House with Ian, Jeff Nelson, Sab Grey, Eddie Janney and Richard Moore. They let me crash there for a month. I did their dishes and cleaned the house up in payment for their generosity. Those guys seriously needed a full-time maid! They were young and sloppy dudes. There were some really fun times we shared in that wacky house. I knew most folks from the early mid period Dischord records era. Eric Lagdemeo from Red C, Sab from Iron Cross and Peter Murray were my buds. So were all my G.I. band members, especially Marc Alberstadt. I still feel friendly toward most of those original Dischord guys. People like Ian, Alec (MacKaye), and Eddie are truly genuine people who will talk to anyone whether you’re in a band scene or not. And that’s the best way to go for me, too.

According to the book Dance of Days you got a lot of shit back then for the crazy clothes you wore. Was that your way of “being punk”. Did you do it as a way of separating yourself from the others in the scene that adopted that “punk uniform”. 

At first I was hugely influenced by one of the master entertainers of punk, Jack Grisham of TSOL. I was really into slicking my hair back with vaseline and wearing old war uniforms. I wanted to be Jello Biafra Jr. because I loved that first DK album. Whatever. Then the first TSOL EP came along and I loved that more. When their Dance With Me album came out I had to buy it. I’d gotten into the Damned’s horror-styley and TSOL seemed to going for that. They became my favorite band at the time. Sure, I dug Black Flag, Circle Jerks and the other Cali- bands like everyone else in DC did, but TSOL really spoke to me. So many dismissed them as being “glam fags” with their horror make-up but I bonded with the group for being misfits (unlike those NY clowns, The Misfits who I really don’t like) in the punk scene. G.I. played a local gig with TSOL in ’81 and I was blown away by TSOL’s musical as well as visual presence. Jack told me about wearing thrift shop clothes that irritated people and I couldn’t wait to change my somewhat dull image. I think I took “Clown-core” to a new level with my bondage clown pants and goofy polka-dotted shirts. Some of my fellow scenesters gave me a hard time for digging TSOL and dressing so wacky. I didn’t care. Ian teased me about it but went out and supplied me with this bright green hideous tuxedo outfit because it had “Stabb” written all over it. Then I really got into the psychedelic stuff like the Seeds, Electric Prunes, Blues Magoos and chose a thrift store tacky psychedelic look to be different from the other basic t-shirt and jeans punks. At this point more people than Ian were finding things that thought would suit me and having fun with helping me make an “anti-fashion” fashion statement. And I wore all that shit onstage and off. I did want to separate myself from that basic DC punk look. I’ve always dug trying to create my own thing clothing wise. I wasn’t refereed to as “the Punk rock David Lee Roth” for nothing! I take that as the highest form of compliment.

That whole “straight edge” thing really exploded after Minor Threat gained popularity. What are your views on it? Were you then into that at all?

Oh lord, here we go again. It’s a fine Minor Threat song. So many outside WDC have made it into something almost religious. Whatever. I hate the term because nobody seems to understand what Ian wrote the song about in the first place. It’s just an “anti-obsession” song. But when people start becoming fascist about their so-called “Straightedge” stance, it becomes a false thing. I didn’t drink or do drugs in the early punk scene because I felt I always had to be aware of things at a show. Hell, I was a space cadet half the time without that nonsense in my system. Jeff Nelson, Tom Lyle and some others in the scene drank beer and smoked pot. Big f’n deal. And everybody knew alcoholics and junkies in the band scene who we were still friends with. Sadly, Ian and I have lost a few friends to that shit. I don’t like to see creative talents wasted. That said, there was one G.I. tour where all of us (thanks to the influence of a couple alcoholic girls we brought along) drank after the shows. But I’m such a lightweight that a bottle of Malt Duck was enough to have me sloshed. It was actually pretty foolish of us to get into the alcohol party on that tour but we were being immature punk rockers. Nowadays, I’m still a light drinker and enjoy a frozen strawberry daiquiri or Mike’s Hard Lemonade once in a while. I’ve got alcoholic friends who still drink. I just don’t want to see them become a statistic. And I refuse to let them drive drunk. One of my friends is gone because of that. I wish I could have helped to save him. He’s the one I wrote “Teenager in a Box” and “Last Forever” about.

When you did Legless Bull who paid for it? Did you ask those Dischord fellows to put it out, or did they offer to do it? Why did you only do one pressing when the some of the other singles at the time had second and third pressings?

The deal we had with Dischord was this. Ian wanted to put a proper record out with us. We had already recorded a great demo at another studio but he wanted to get us in Inner Ear, produce it, and put it out on Dischord. Sounded great to us. We’d have to pay for the sleeves and lyric sheets which ended up to be a thousand (one pressing) for $500. Dischord paid for the recording time and pressing which was around $500. That was the deal all the original label bands did. At first we were all excited about having this record to sell at shows and stuff, but once Brian Gay split to art college in Chicago, we had more time to think about it. Marc and I, in particular, were not thrilled about how the record sounded so tinny and raw. For him, there was too much hiss on his cymbals and that bugged the drummer. I didn’t like that either and hated my vocals on it. We both decided not to re-press the thing and move on. It actually took me several years to really accept the thing, because I really found it musically and lyrically embarrassing. It was never our goal to make it this hard to find item. By the late ’80s, Dischord was having some financial problems and Ian asked me if they could re-release it (along with all the other original Dischord EP’s) for their compilation “The Dischord Years”. Ian told me there was so many requests to re-release Legless Bull and he loved the record himself. That all surprised me but I came to figure out the EP was a pure and honest thing for us at that time. I could be proud of it again. I was happy to help out my friends at the label and flattered that so many think so highly of my first crazy EP. That’s still pretty cool to me.

Was the decision to leave Dischord after Boycott Stabb your idea or their’s? 

This question seems to come up all the time for me lately. In 1982, Boycott Stabb was to be the next release on the label, Ian and Jeff needed to get Out of Step out at the time to have an album to sell on tour. That’s more than understandable. But we were pretty gung-ho about getting our record out and Tom found Derrick Hsu at Fountain of Youth Records to pay to release it on his label. We got Ian to produce it and that was very cool. So, the bottom line is that Dischord was too busy with Minor Threat and we moved on. Hey, who wouldn’t want to stay with one of last few honest and trustworthy (I still get proper royalties for Legless Bull and Flex Your Head) labels left on the planet. I think the bands that left Dischord to take major label deals were quite foolish. Hell, if we’d been able to stay on Dischord to the end, we’d actually have gotten paid. Alas, our time spent with Giant/Rockville Records was an experience in “learn by getting burned”. Dischord’ i the best, man.

Do you think that being on a label other than Dischord helped the bands, or harmed them?

Oh, obviously the bands that took those major label contracts regret it now. Dischord won’t give you the monster promotion and stuff that a major will. They won’t hook you up with a bus or set up your tour plan. Sure, they won’t provide you all that crap. But Dischord will not use you as a tax write off the way a major label will because you’re not selling enough numbers. G.I. actually was looking toward getting a major label deal toward the last few years but I’m glad we didn’t get one. It was enough getting screwed by our own indie label. I’m glad that I don’t have the “man, that major label sure shafted us” stories to tell like some folks I know. I will never take a major label contract. No fucking thank you.

Do you know what Derrick Hsu of Fountain of Youth is doing now? 

Derrick got pretty screwed by our former label too, when they took over our back catalog and no longer runs a label. He recently just closed his own business, “Old Forest Books” in the WDC area and does online book stuff. The last time I spoke with him, he wanted nothing to do with even speaking about the whole ordeal of trying to run a record label. Believe me, I understand where he’s coming from.

How did you end up doing records with Mystic? Was working with Doug Moody as bad as some of the bands made it out to be? How did it work getting your songs back to put on the CD? Did he ever release records without your knowledge like some folks claim (ie: Video Soundtrack 7″)? 

Mystic offered us a very sweet deal. Instead of suffering through one week of the WDC/MD area sweltering humidity soaked summer, Mystic flew us out to Cali for a recording session and handful of well-promoted gigs. We’d be fools to turn that down and Doug Moody and his assistant, Phil treated us with kindness and generosity. I’m more than aware of the horrible rep the label and Doug himself has but at the time they couldn’t have been nicer to us. We truly had a blast hanging in Hollywood with some really cool people, listening to Doug’s stories of all the famous musicians he’d worked with and playing gigs. We even were provided with a driver and a Winnebago camper to a few shows. Beats the hell out of riding for hours in a smelly cramped van. Now, I have no problem with that experience but it’s true that Mystic has released a few records we never saw a dime from. The only official stuff we did with them were Give Us Stabb Or Give Us Death, Live, and a few cuts on Mystic compilations. All the other stuff they did on their own and we didn’t bother to fight with them about it. And like Dutch East India, Mystic has no say what we release, period. We did have some serious bullshit to deal with Dutch East in the beginning but we own all our own material now. Nobody can tell us what to do. If we decide to re-release it all on vinyl again they can’t do anything. Nobody owns the G.I. name but Tom and Me. We make sure everyone who played on whatever album gets their fair percentage. Dutch East did give us royalty advances which we sank most of it into our studio recording costs. We did sign a contract with them foolishly and learned through getting burned. They haven’t given us a cent for any of our catalog they’ve sold for the last 15 years and I’ve heard Dag Nasty got nothing for Field Day from them. But for us, thanks to Doctor Strange we’re getting paid for our past work.

And keeping with the topic of labels you’ve been on with a bad reputation, what was the deal with Lost and Found? Did they have your permission to put those records out? Did you see any money for them?

Lost and Found… let’s see. Tom was trading flyers and live tapes with someone in Germany. This German punk tells Tom that he’s going to put out a live G.I. EP because he’s a big fan. Tom says something to the effect of “Yeah, right. You go ahead”. And he figured the guy was joking. When we get a box of these Fun and Games EP’s, Tom realizes these folks are serious. Then Mr. Lyle has a brainstorm: why not get these guys to put out an authorized double live bootleg of G.I. so we can sell them at gigs to help the band. Our weasel label, Giant, is okay with that as long as there’s a mention of “Government Issue can be found on Giant Records”. Not only did we get a fair share of the albums, but Lost and Found actually sent us a royalty check for our troubles. Apparently, from what I’ve heard, G.I. may be the only band this label put something out by who’ve received any money. The word around the punk scene is Lost and Found are rip-off artists who’ve put out plenty of bands without their permission. But those two G.I. releases put out by them are the only ones we were notified about. I’ve seen other stuff out there on compilations and such that we’ve never gotten a copy or dime from.

How were you treated by Giant/Dutch East?

At first Dutch East treated as well and even formed the label, Giant, to put us out as their official début band. They sent Tom all the royalty checks and he gave every member from whatever line-up their fair share. Tom and I made the most being on every G.I. release. I can honestly say by mid-1986, I made about a thousand bucks from various royalties. I didn’t work for a few months while the money held out. But after that, we got an advance on our royalty that the band sunk entirely into our next record’s studio costs. We spent a few thousand on each of our later sessions like You , Crash and Strange Wine. We didn’t divvy that money up amongst each other. We always placed our funds back into the group. But years later, Dutch East still puts out our back catalog and we’ve seen absolutely no money from them since the group split in 1989. I’ve wanted to take them to court for years but figured they’d just drag things on for years and bleed me dry on lawyer fees. Tom actually hunted around to find a label who’d give us the best deal on re-releasing our catalog. Doctor Strange made us the best offer. We’d have complete artistic control and actually receive royalties on a fairly regular basis. A sweet deal and you couldn’t find an honest and nicer bunch of folks (outside of Dischord) to work with. The owner, Bill, and the guys on the staff rock! They’ve all treated us with the utmost respect and kindness, which is something Dutch East could learn a few hundred things from.

Did you keep copies of all the different GI records over the years?

That, sir, is possibly the only regret I could ever have when it comes to G.I. I know you’ve saved or found every one of our catalog and compilation cuts on perhaps every colored vinyl pressing. You’ve got it all, brother Mike! Sadly, there was a time period in my life towards the last years of G.I. that I felt desperate for money. I placed an ad in Flipside magazine reading “John Stabb of Government Issue is selling all his original Dischord recordings”. So, I sold my first pressing Bad Brains Pay to Cum with original lyric sleeve and my Legless Bull for $80 each to some kid in Germany. The rest was sold to a local record store for a decent price. Over the past say twenty years (some through the joy of eBay) I’ve managed to collect some of my old G.I. recordings, but my girlfriend owns more of my own vinyl than I do. She truly scored on eBay. I’ve got about ten of my old G.I. records, a few things on comps, a handful on cd and a few on cassette. But thanks to Reflex Records in Belgium re-releasing the vinyl I’ve got some of my old ones again. I actually prefer the stuff on cd, but the colored vinyl is pretty cool to look at.

Now on to Doctor Strange. Was it difficult to get your recordings back from the previous labels for the CDs? What will be on volume three?

Dutch East put up a stink and threatened Doctor Strange with a lawsuit if they re-released any G.I. The bottom line is our lawyer said “put up or shut up!” and we own our entire catalog now. Dutch East is still milking their back G.I. catalog and putting them in the stores. The thing is the Doctor Strange releases are selling quite well and theirs aren’t. Suckers! We won and they lost. There isn’t going to be a “Volume Three. At least not at this present time. What is next is tentatively titled Strange Wine- Live at CBGB August 30, 1987. We’ve decided to release the complete concert intact instead of just the seven cuts. Tom re-mixed the whole deal and we’re pretty excited about it. Who knows if we’ll ever put out the Beyond collection again, but Dischord is putting Ian’s version of “Asshole” from that on the Dischord Anniversary Box Set.

How was it that you avoided the “DC curse” and remained a band as long as you did? For a while you guys held the record for the DC band that stayed together the longest. I think Fugazi holds that title now.

I used to think it was a “DC curse” too, but now just think that some of these bands like Rites of Spring were so volatile and were meant to explode after one record. And, unlike G.I., most of the other local bands were able to keep their original members in-tact till one left and they decided “Well, that’s it, we’re not a band anymore.” I respect Ian’s integrity about keeping the original line-up together. Tom and I both knew if we always had Marc Alberstadt within the band it would be three-fourths of G.I. We weren’t too thrilled when our bassists wanted to move on but replacing them was necessary. When Marc left the group, Tom and I both wondered if we should go on. But through Marc’s urging to keep it rolling, we did. By the last few years with Pete and J. as the rhythm section, me and Tom knew we had the perfect line-up. If J. or Pete decided to leave, G.I. would’ve disbanded because that was our peak. Where else could we go from J. and Pete?

Over the course of time, you guys really progressed both musically and lyrically. Was this just a natural evolution of being in a band that long and learning to play better, or were you eventually trying to distance yourselves from punk?

Well, I certainly hope so! My running joke is that we learned to play our instruments and discovered some harmony and melody, god forbid. And because of this, we did lose some of our really hardcore fans who wanted the old school “bang and howl” experience. Hey, I graduated the old school so why should I be kept back? If you asked say Tom, J., Marc, Pete or I what kind of music influenced us on different albums, each one of us would have a different answer. We never really tried to distance ourselves from punk per se. We all dug punk stuff and I’ll always have a lil’ punk in me that needs to cut loose. But we didn’t care to be grouped into a label that limited us. Who says you can’t use Hammond organ or electric sitar in punk? My lyrics went from angry young man to moody older man. Love and the torturous involvement of being in a bad relationship fueled my inner fires. I wasn’t writing about hating things anymore but on being torn up inside. It’s the people that relate to my lyrics that never gave up their caring about G.I. And that’s a pretty nice feeling to this day.

Where were you during “revolution summer”? They made no mention of GI during that section of the book Dance of Days. Also, during the middle point of your career on, you didn’t seem to have any attachment to the rest of the DC scene. Was this done on purpose?

I’ve answered this question in as many ways as I can possibly think of. Hmmm… I dug some of the bands associated with the Revolution Summer like Rites of Spring, but didn’t feel like it was this huge new movement. I even took part in a few protests like the big Anti-Apartheid one outside the South African Embassy but I didn’t like the sort of religious experience attached to these bands at shows. Man, people threw fucking flowers at Rites of Spring onstage and cried. Like they’d just seen the Messiah or whatever. C’mon, gimme a break. I was always taking the piss out of the all-too seriousness in the DC music scene and called a group of G.I. gigs in December our “Degradation Winter” thing. We had nothing against attending or playing any of the Positive Force benefits. We played one and it was great. I think the newer bands just wanted to have their thing and distance themselves from punk rock dinosaurs like G.I. I will admit at that time that our following at shows was getting out of control with stupidity and violence. I guess I would’ve distanced myself from that if I was in their shoes, too. So, we never went out of our way on purpose to avoid being part of their gig.

When you got J. Robbins in the band, did you have any idea he would go on to be such an indie rock superstar? Is it true he won’t talk about being in GI anymore? What is up with that?

I had no fucking clue. J. is an extremely talented guy. He’s certainly made his mark in the indie-music world. I really loved Jawbox when they began but had no idea they’d end up being on a major label or doing an arena tour with Stone Temple Pilots! Hey, I played one arena in my life and that was one too many. I think if anything that J. has no animosity toward anyone in G.I. but he needs to show folks he’s moved on. Time to focus on what you’re doing now. He’s producing, has his own label and up until recently had his own band Burning Airlines to talk about and promote. I understand that because I have The Factory Incident to tell folks about. I started Government Issue and of course I have no problems speaking to anyone about it now. Who knows, in five years I may feel like not talking about it. It was an important time in my life. I’d love to gain enough experiences with FI in eight years time. Right now, Government Issue is the only group I’ve been part of that’s accomplished a ton of stuff and lasted nine years. I guess it means a lot to people who cared to hear me talk about it. That’s cool. But like J., I have to tell folks about what’s going on now in my life. I doubt I’ll actually refuse to talk about my past in an interview. I just don’t want people to think G.I. was my one and only creative accomplishment.

Why did you guys finally end Government Issue? Do you still talk to any of the guys? What do you think of the projects that formed by them after GI (Lyle, Jawbox). What do you think about the stuff the people from “back in the day” are doing now?

This is the billion dollar question and if I had a dime for every time someone wanted to know this. Well, I wouldn’t be a struggling musician! The best answer I can give you is this: While all of our hearts were still in this monster called Government Issue, it was best to end it for good. I like Bob Mould’s interpretation on why Husker Du broke up. He said something like “We were like this locomotive going out of control and before it went off the tracks I jumped off”. I think if I would’ve stuck it out in G.I. another year, I’d be a miserable wreck. There were a few times Tom and I both were ready to pack it in. And at least one particular moment when I had a minor breakdown. Some people may say “Man, that’s corny, having a nervous breakdown in a band”. But I take responsibility for all my actions. And I chose to live my life through G.I. for nine straight years. I couldn’t separate the band from my own personal life. I really wish that I could have. I really tried to but it wouldn’t work for me. In order for me to come up with all those lyrics and the intense performances, I had to live Government Issue. That’s just me. I’m at my best when I’m at my worst in life.

Like I mentioned before, I dug Jawbox. I was all into their début album Grippe and their earliest shows as a three-piece. Down the line, I wasn’t thrilled about some of the directions their sound went into. I loved Burning Airlines first album because Pete and J. worked like a well oiled machine together! Tom’s solo recordings really didn’t rock my bones. His first effort was okay with some later leftover G.I. ideas and both Pete and J. playing on the record. But the second with all the Nine Inch Nails-ish stuff happening… I didn’t like that one at all. I really haven’t dug any of Henry’s “Rollins Band” albums but I saw his most recent spoken word gig and I was very impressed. He made me laugh a lot. I had no idea how much of a stand-up comic Henry had become. Sure, there’s a little darker bits tossed in but Henry can be very funny.

Had a major label come knocking on your door back then, would you have signed? 

Tom, Peter and I were hoping towards the last few years that someone would take an interest in our old band. But we couldn’t even get an agent to take us on because we were still thought of as that little punk band from Washington, D.C. G.I. never really got a lot of respect in the indie-music world, so getting to a major label was the pipe dream that I followed for the last few years. In the long run, I’m really glad we didn’t have any offers because I’ve heard all the horror stories from others like us who were more shafted than I could’ve ever imagined. All in all, I learned enough about getting burned just by being on an indie label so what the hell.

What is your favorite GI record and your least favorite? You is my favorite by the way.

You and I both, mate. And from all the response I’ve gotten online and in person, it’s a lot of other folks favorite as well. I really don’t want to be egotistical about it but I still think You was the bands real peak. Sure Crash had a lot to offer and many people have told me that album was their all-time favorite. But there’s something about You that still seems to strike a chord inside people. So many tell me that particular songs made a huge impact on their lives. That’s a pretty cool thing to hear from being part of a band who put out an album that’s gotten so much praise. For me, it was the one record where I captured the sense of a really discontented self-abusive relationship I put my self-through for two years. Two years. I still can’t figure out what I was looking for in that one. At the time, I truly thought the songs were these positive love songs, but they were anything but. “Wishing/Too many regrets….” not very happy stuff. The person I wrote them about was so flattered that someone wrote these songs about her, but they’re not stuff I’d brag about. I still had a little residual madness to add to Crash but that damned You album, man! I still love listening to it out of anything we ever did. Even our longtime drummer and friend Marc Alberstadt said “Man, if this album doesn’t get you guys signed, nothing will!” He really loved it! And he claimed it was the record he always wished we’d done with him. He’s not a big fan of our recordings while he was with the group. So, that meant a lot to me for him to say this about the record.

The least favorite would have to be Joyride but not for the lyrical material. It was two years of depression where I had to have a breakdown to come up with the dire words. All that burned into a piece of vinyl that had to come out in the studio. I just despise it for the production. Tom was thrilled about Brian Baker mixing his guitar so high but I still feel it drowned out my voice and practically everything else. So, that’s the one.

Why did you record so many versions of “Sheer Terror”?

We never set out to annoy the entire world by putting the silly song on almost every G.I. recording. It just kind of happened. With the exception of the version on Legless Bull, Make An Effort and Boycott Stabb (my personal fave), placing it on say Joyride (where Mike Fellows did the vocals on it) and all the others weren’t planned out. We ended up having some studio time left and said “What the hell, let’s do “Sheer Terror”. But just wait till people hear my “Fatboy Stabb” electronica industrial version! This DJ friend of mine put together this insane mix. Man, I’d love to release that one! If it ends up getting popular in techno clubs, it will be the ultimate revenge on those people. Ha! You’re digging Government Issue, raver fools!

If you could go back and change anything about GI, what would that be?

Absolutely nothing. Zero. If all my journey through heaven and hell hadn’t happened during that time frame, I wouldn’t have learned so much. A close friend of mine once told me “You may not have all those book smarts that I did for going to college, but you got life smarts doing what you did”. He was envious of my just going for it instead of staying in a comfortable rut of a job he wished would’ve provided him more. He was the one I wrote “Man in a Trap” about. Everything in life should be a learning experience. I learned a lifetime being in G.I. and I’m still learning. Once you stop learning, it’s time to pack in your life.

I read in an interview of yours that you were working on a book? What is the status on that?

That would be The Evolution Of Sheer Terror and it’s still in the heavy editing and adding on stage. I’ve been working on it off and on for the past 20 years after G.I. ended. At this point, my girlfriend is co-writing it with me. And it’s better than I would’ve ever imagined it would be. It’s my memoirs of everything from early childhood to the end of G.I. I love writing and have kept journals of everything in my life from age 28 till about a couple of years ago. I’ve been so caught up in just working on the book and living my life that it’s tapered off to a snails crawl. I should write more in it, but I’m trying to focus on so many things. The Factory Incident, for one.

But I’ve had some financial setbacks in life that have pushed me into the unemployment scene more than once. I might be bursting my fans bubbles but being in G.I. was less than profitable. Doctor Strange and Reflex Records have been cool about payment, but I can’t live off of it. My goal is to have the book done by the end of this year and have a publisher crank it out sometime next year. But it’s a lot of bloody work! And my girlfriend and I both have a lot to deal with. We moved into a condo recently so I won’t ever have to go back to the many group houses from hell and some of the worst apartments anyone could bear to endure ever again! We also took on the adoption of a 14-year-old cat and I found an abandoned newborn kitten outside our place the other night. We’ve decided to raise the kitten ourselves. So, even though I’m not married with children (or on my second marriage like some of my former fellow punk compadres), we might as well be hitched. We’re living in sin with one fully grown cat and nursing a baby one. John Stabb Schroeder: loyal to his woman and kind to small animals. Maybe that’ll be the title of my next book. That or Stabb in the Cathouse!


Subscribe to The Punk Vault

Enter your email address to subscribe to this site and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 36 other subscribers