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

An Open Letter to the Person Who Still Uses the "R Word"

Your negative associations are slowly poisoning the true meaning of an incredibly beautiful, exclusive word.

What do you mean you didn't “mean it like that?" You said it.

People don't say things just for the hell of it. It has one definition. Merriam-Webster defines it as, "To be less advanced in mental, physical or social development than is usual for one's age."

So, when you were “retarded drunk" this past weekend, as you claim, were you diagnosed with a physical or mental disability?

When you called your friend “retarded," did you realize that you were actually falsely labeling them as handicapped?

Don't correct yourself with words like “stupid," “dumb," or “ignorant." when I call you out. Sharpen your vocabulary a little more and broaden your horizons, because I promise you that if people with disabilities could banish that word forever, they would.

Especially when people associate it with drunks, bad decisions, idiotic statements, their enemies and other meaningless issues. Oh trust me, they are way more than that.

I'm not quite sure if you have had your eyes opened as to what a disabled person is capable of, but let me go ahead and lay it out there for you. My best friend has Down Syndrome, and when I tell people that their initial reaction is, “Oh that is so nice of you! You are so selfless to hang out with her."

Well, thanks for the compliment, but she is a person. A living, breathing, normal girl who has feelings, friends, thousands of abilities, knowledge, and compassion out the wazoo.

She listens better than anyone I know, she gets more excited to see me than anyone I know, and she works harder at her hobbies, school, work, and sports than anyone I know. She attends a private school, is a member of the swim team, has won multiple events in the Special Olympics, is in the school choir, and could quite possibly be the most popular girl at her school!

So yes, I would love to take your compliment, but please realize that most people who are labeled as “disabled" are actually more “able" than normal people. I hang out with her because she is one of the people who has so effortlessly taught me simplicity, gratitude, strength, faith, passion, love, genuine happiness and so much more.

Speaking for the people who cannot defend themselves: choose a new word.

The trend has gone out of style, just like smoking cigarettes or not wearing your seat belt. It is poisonous, it is ignorant, and it is low class.

As I explained above, most people with disabilities are actually more capable than a normal human because of their advantageous ways of making peoples' days and unknowingly changing lives. Hang out with a handicapped person, even if it is just for a day. I can one hundred percent guarantee you will bite your tongue next time you go to use the term out of context.

Hopefully you at least think of my friend, who in my book is a hero, a champion and an overcomer. Don't use the “R Word". You are way too good for that. Stand up and correct someone today.

Cover Image Credit: Kaitlin Murray

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

Sorry People, But #BelieveWomen Is #UnAmerican

Presumption of innocence is a core American value


There's a saying: "Lack of faith and blind faith - both are equally dangerous". Believing sexual assault accusers who are women just because they are women besides being the very definition of sexist - prejudice based on sex - is setting a harmful precedent on the way justice is served in this country. See, what this movement has done is changed justice from "prove guilt" to "prove innocence", an important and incredibly dangerous difference. Where is the due process that our Founding Fathers envisioned, fought, and died for?

Due process is an integral part of the reason why we have the United States of America. It was so important to our Founding Fathers that they included it in the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eight (the Bill of Rights), and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution. It galls me to see how privileged modern day feminists are - so privileged they seemingly forget the freedoms this country affords them, so they may live their life, expect liberty, and be unhindered in their pursuit of happiness.

#BelieveWomen is a vigilante movement - and with vigilante justice the innocent always hang with the guilty, one of the very reasons for due process. I've heard the argument it's better to let innocent men rot in jail than have rapist men walk free, an argument, despite being incredibly moronic and unAmerican, that would not be made if the accused was a man close to the woman's heart. Because with the change to "prove innocence", the assumption will be guilt, and a confirmation bias will be created. Whereas if the assumption is innocence, the jury must be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime has occurred. I understand that a high percentage of rape accusations are truthful (I believe the number is in the high 90s), but the small percentage that are not means we cannot, in good conscience, assume guilt. To assume would damn some men to a fate they do not deserve, a fate they would have to endure simply because of their sex. Any real feminist should be appalled at how sexism is implicitly encouraged in this movement.

If you choose to #BelieveWomen in spite of everything I outlined, that is your prerogative, but you must #BelieveAllWomen. If your father, husband, boyfriend, or son gets accused, you must #BelieveWomen and stand with their accuser. Any less and your feminist privilege will show. Vocal #MeToo activist Lena Dunham has already shown her privilege - accusing actress Aurora Perrineau of lying about being assaulted by her friend Murray Miller. When the going gets hard, feminists rarely stick to their principles. And sadly, feminism - and the double standards it always brings - rears its ugly head once again.

Related Content

Facebook Comments