The Retirement Of A Derelict Hero

The Retirement Of A Derelict Hero

A Farewell to Pat 'The Bunny' Schneeweis

Two weeks ago, a musician by the name of Pat “The Bunny” Schneeweis announced that he was done with the punk values of anarchism that had driven him and his music for over 14 years, and so the only honest recourse was to retire from punk-rock entirely. It certainly wasn’t the most dramatic loss that music, or even punk, had suffered in the beginning of 2016; but for a very tightly knit circle, it felt like the loss of an incredibly dear friend. It sounds cliche, but listening to Pat’s music made you feel like you knew the guy, and I think every member of the folk-punk community can recount a memory of when his music touched them most, and which iteration of his career they fell in love with.

I first started discovered his third band, Ramshackle Glory, in the middle of my sophomore year of college. This was a time I distinctly remember being dominated by a sense of disillusionment, anxiety, and loneliness. Around this period, my musical tastes were about as directionless as my moods, so I don’t entirely remember how I first discovered the song “Your Heart Is a Muscle The Size of Your Fist,” but I do remember repeating it four times after the first listening, and having the lyrics memorized by the next day. There was something raw and honest about the song, the singer screamed with pain and desperation, yet the cavalcade of acoustic instruments created a melody of beautiful hope. Every time they sung the chorus, I got goosebumps. One month later, I had the album “Live the Dream” memorized front to back.

In many ways, it's hard to separate the Pat from his music, because if you look at his discography from start to finish, his musical evolution paints a beautiful story of healing and redemption. He started playing with the group Johnny Hobo & The Frieght Trains, which, despite its ensemble title, sometimes just consisted of Pat playing guitar and a harmonica. As the title might suggest, Pat was largely homeless at this point in his life, as well as in the grips of an addiction to alcohol and heroin. The songs of this period were anthems of self-hate and destruction; a slow-death narrative of drunk-driving, chain-smoking, and angry politics too slurred and incoherent to be properly expressed. All the recordings from this time are harsh and grainy; the lo-fi relics of a man promising to drink himself to death unless sleep came first.

In 2007, Pat formed his next project, Wingnut Dishwasher's Union,and everything started to sound cleaner, and more refined. The sound quality was clearer, the instruments were crisper and more well-tuned, and there was more experimentation with electric and acoustic instruments, giving the sense of intentional musicianship, rather than just playing with whatever was on hand. The politics started to become more coherent as well, creating fantasies of freedom and happiness, rather than just destruction and pain. His anarchism became more of a quest for allies, rather than a self-imposed isolation. Most importantly, the pure self-hatred had dissipated, and been replaced with a desperation to find some sort of happiness.

In 2009, Wingnut Dishwasher's Union broke up, and Pat entered a rehabilitation program. Two years later, he reemerged in the punk community, completely abstaining from drugs and alcohol, and announced he would be forming a new act, Ramshackle Glory. One year later, they released their debut album "Live to the Dream," which I proudly stand and call my favorite punk album of all time. It’s an apocalyptic dovetail into the mind of someone who’s just seen some light at the end of a very dark tunnel, and has tried to take stock of everything that makes life worth living. By its midpoint, politics, religion, philosophy, drugs, alcohol, and love have all been put on the table and dissected meticulously. Songs like "Bitter Old Man" and "From Here to Utopia" make me fall back and re-assess the most basic tenants of why I’m on this earth, asking questions like “If freedom means doing what we want, don’t we gotta want something?” “We Are All Compost in Training” and “Never Coming Home” are two of the most heartbreaking tunes I’ve ever heard - tales of guilt and despair that question what it really means to hurt someone, and just how impossible forgiveness sometimes is. And yet, for all its sadness and nihilism, the album concludes with two of the most amazing tracks of hope – “Your Heart Is A Muscle the Size of Your Fist” and “First Song, Part 2.” – which build momentum before leading to the climactic line of the entire collection, a line that still gives me shivers; “But I try to have faith in the things that will happen, I get saved from myself when I do, so maybe 'god' isn’t the right word, but I believe in you.”

I realize that I’ve gone on and told the guy's life story (and there’s much more to it, don’t get me wrong) but I think it’s important to try to give all of this context to really express how much his decision to give up on punk hits hard. He gave a detailed explanation of his retirement with the release of his latest split with the Connecticut-based rapper, Caschi. The piece almost reads like a eulogy of his former self, as he describes just how much his music was dependent on both his journey towards redemption, and the proud political beliefs that had gotten him through this period.

A few years ago, in an interview with the radio show "A Fistful Of Vinyl," he’d described how he couldn’t play the songs from the Johnny Hobo and Wingnut Dishwasher days, because they were so closely entrenched in his experience of being an addict. In a lot of ways, his decision to stop playing punk is a similar choice, based on his inability to continue believing in the staunch anarchism that had previously marked his music.

Yet, it’s strange to consider both him and his songs this way; to conceive that the mindset that created the music I treasure, was probably something he was desperate to escape. In his own farewell, he wrote,

I have grown into a basically ordinary person, albeit a somewhat strange one. Nothing I write feels very skilled at communicating whatever it is I am trying to say, but it just seems important to tell you that I am not really an anarchist or a punk anymore. My viewpoint has changed dramatically in the last six to nine months, and this kind of politics and music is just not where my heart is anymore. I have no interest in convincing anyone of anything, so that's all that's important to say about it. I just don't want people to feel tricked when they buy or listen to my music.

On one level, there’s a beautiful honesty to this decision, a refusal to create art unless he fully stands behind what he’s saying. And yet, there’s just a very bitter-sweetness to knowing that the sorrow that had inspired some of the most powerful music I’ve ever heard, has finally been lifted. It’s as if, by watching someone’s process of healing, we started to fall in love with the disease, rather than the cure.

Folk-punk neither begins, nor ends, with Pat. There are countless acts that have all approached ideas of redemption, freedom, and anarchism, in immensely unique ways (Mischief Brew, Days N Daze, Andrew Jackson Jihad, Cottontail just to name a tiny few), and phenomenal new acts are constantly popping up in DIY punk communities on Reddit and Facebook. Yet, it’s still impossible to pretend that Pat hasn’t stood as one of the most influential figures in the genre’s history, as young as it may be. Type his name on Google and you'll be bombarded by photos of his lyrics tattooed on arms, and with stories of hearts healed and lives saved.

It’s easy to consider Pat’s retirement a loss, and yet there is another way of looking at it. It stands as a beautiful conclusion to a hard, yet beautiful, saga. I hope that in spite of all its moments of misery, his long musical journey has brought him to a point of peace and happiness. I can definitely say it’s done the same for me, and countless other listeners.

Cover Image Credit: Valencia Voice

Popular Right Now

This Is How Your Same-Sex Marriage Affects Me As A Catholic Woman

I hear you over there, Bible Bob.

It won't.

Wait, what?

SEE ALSO: To My Closeted Self, I Have Something To Tell You

I promise you did read that right. Not what you were expecting me to say, right? Who another person decides to marry will never in any way affect my own marriage whatsoever. (Unless they try to marry the person that I want to, then we might have a few problems.)

As a kid, I was raised, baptized, and confirmed into an old school Irish Catholic church in the middle of a small, midwestern town. Not exactly a place that most people would consider to be very liberal or open minded. Despite this I was taught to love and accept others as a child, to not cast judgment because the only person fit to judge was God. I learned this from my Grandpa, a man whose love of others was only rivaled by his love of sweets and spoiling his grandkids.

While I learned this at an early age, not everyone else in my hometown — or even within my own church — seemed to get the memo. When same-sex marriage was finally legalized country-wide, I cried tears of joy for some of my closest friends who happen to be members of the LGBTQ community. I was happy while others I knew were disgusted and even enraged.

"That's not what it says in the bible! Marriage is between a man and a woman!"

"God made Adam and Eve for a reason! Man shall not lie with another man as he would a woman!"

"Homosexuality is a sin! It's bad enough that they're all going to hell, now we're letting them marry?"

Alright, Bible Bob, we get it, you don't agree with same-sex relationships. Honestly, that's not the issue. One of our civil liberties as United States citizens is the freedom of religion. If you believe your religion doesn't support homosexuality that's OK. What isn't OK is thinking that your religious beliefs should dictate others lives. What isn't OK is using your religion or your beliefs to take away rights from those who chose to live their life differently than you.

Some members of my church are still convinced that their marriage now means less because people are free to marry whoever they want to. Honestly, I wish I was kidding. Tell me again, Brenda how exactly do Steve and Jason's marriage affect yours and Tom's?

It doesn't. Really, it doesn't affect you at all. Unless Tom suddenly starts having an affair with Steve their marriage has zero effect on you. You never know Brenda, you and Jason might become best friends by the end of the divorce. (And in that case, Brenda and Tom both need to go to church considering the bible also teaches against adultery and divorce.)

I'll say it one more time for the people in the back; same-sex marriage does not affect you even if you or your religion does not support it. If you don't agree with same sex marriage then do not marry someone of the same sex. Really, it's a simple concept.

It amazes me that I still actually have to discuss this with some people in 2017. And it amazes me that people use God as a reason to hinder the lives of others. As a proud young Catholic woman, I wholeheartedly support the LGBTQ community with my entire being. My God taught me to not hold hate so close to my heart. He told me not to judge and to accept others with open arms. My God taught me to love and I hope yours teaches you the same.

Disclaimer - This article in no way is meant to be an insult to the bible or religion or the LGBTQ community.

Cover Image Credit: Sushiesque / Flickr

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

I Grieve For Asifa, But I Also Grieve For The Death Of Humanity

May we never rest in peace

As a child, when I went to art class I would always draw vibrant pictures of the different cultures being celebrated around the world and how people of different religions are able to coexist with each other. Those pictures were filled with vibrancy. But today, that vibrancy is dead and with a shroud lying upon it.

Today, there is no peaceful co-existence; there's just tension over the kidnapping, gang-rape and brutal murder of an 8-year-old girl. 8 YEARS OLD. Let that sink in. What does a child normally do an at age of 8? Probably learning how to ride their first bike, trying to color inside the lines of a coloring book, and going to school and dreaming about what they want to do when they grow up.

But, that poor girl didn't get to do all this. She was gagged, kidnapped, drugged, raped, tortured and murdered. All this, under a temple - a place of God, a place of holiness, a place of worship. A place where people come to wash away their sins is where men sinned.

If there is an all-forgiving God, today, I hope that God DOES NOT FORGIVE. I hope that God makes this one exception for the sake of a young innocent child whose only fault was that she was innocent.

I always am proud to be of Indian descent but I can’t explain what I felt after reading about this story filled with hatred and I'm speechless, hurt and heartbroken.

Every time that I scroll through my social media feed is every time that her face haunts me, asking me if there will be justice. And every time I see her face, I feel a gut-wrenching sense of helplessness that I cannot do anything about.

The fact that in 'a social sovereign country', there is an angry mob on two sides of a line - one demanding punishment for all the accused, and the other, siding with the accused parties, justifying the religious sentiment that made for the pretext of the rape.

We - not they - are justifying the rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl because of religious undercurrents! WE ARE JUSTIFYING NOT JUST RAPE; BUT, GANG-RAPE. AND ALSO, MURDER. I say 'We' because when the history books are written and when the world talks about the incident - and they will - they won't say 'they' sided with the wrong. They will say: INDIA sided with the wrong! We do not get to excuse ourselves from this!

It's not just the question of a social media post, in the hope that the country's honorable Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, will have a change of heart and speak up against the horrendous crime and the accused. It's about the fact that there was a government elected with the hope that good days will actually come.But, is this the price that is payed for the good days? For the growing economy, for the job opportunities , and better living standards?

As I write this, my hands are trembling, my heart is pounding and my eyes are tearing up. I am angry and I am hurt. What hurts me is the incident that I wish had NOT happened and yet, it did. What angers me is my own helplessness.

Who do you turn to when one of the accused was a special police officer who requested to keep her alive so he could rape her one last time? Who do you worship when the caretaker of a temple conspired the kidnapping, torture and the murder?What kindness do we seek when one of the accused was invited from Meerut just so he could 'satisfy his lust' by raping an 8-year-old girl?

What do we do when one half of a nation actually justifies the rape in the name of some version of a God they've created?

No amount of words I utter will be enough to explain how I feel - how every woman and child should feel - right now. Today, I cannot write about the land of cultural diversity. Today, I can only lament about the land of communal monstrosity. Today, I grieve, not just for the victim. I grieve for a humanity that no longer exists. I grieve for the unborn children that every woman promises not to have because there is no safety for their innocence. And for the children who will never be able to enjoy their innocence in the sun. And for parents who wish they never had children.

Today, I grieve for her - no, she isn't a Muslim, or a girl child, or belonging to a lower caste. Today, she is India.

And so, I grieve for a world that is perishing because of the lack of humanity. May we never rest in peace.

If you still didn’t understand quite what I was talking about, click here to reveal a story that I hope and pray will be the last of its kind.

Cover Image Credit: Flickr Creative Commons

Related Content

Facebook Comments