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

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Facing The Giants In Life

"Remember God has already overcame the World"

Through life we face many giants or mountains...some small and others large. Most of the time we think that God should just remove the giants and that should be it...I mean he is the all powerful God who can do anything right? While this is true he also, wants us to climb the mountains and face our giants, because he gives us battles bigger than ourselves to show that all things are possible with him. But God won't leave us to conquer alone but be our strength or you might say our armor throughout the battles.  For example the story of David and Goliath that many of you have heard but probably never had really broken down before. 

(1 Samuel 17:3) This story starts out with a valley between two mountains and the description of Goliath, a destructible, merciful giant. No one in Israel wanted to fight this giant, except one unlikely person David. He was just regular individual who was a slinger, how could he possibly kill this giant? And of course the King said that David was no match to defeat Goliath, and David started to tell about how he kept his father's sheep and how he had to fight off lions and bears, and if God can deliver him from those then he can deliver him from this giant. So the King sent him to fight. David started out in the armor that was chosen for him but decided that he had to be himself to conquer this giant and most of all have faith in God. So he chose 5 smooth stones and a sling, and went over near Goliath. He knew he had to keep his distance, and while Goliath had a sword and shield, David had a sling, rocks and the power of God. The battle didn't last very long, and ended in a victory of David after hitting the giant in the forehead with a stone.

 I love this story because it is such a good example of facing the giants and mountains in life. Yes, they may be larger then you are but you have to keep in mind that your God is bigger. You have to put on God's armor, stand firm, and keep climbing. You have to always be prepared and evaluate your focus and make sure your focused on God by spending time with him in different ways. A quote that I heard while watching a video by Jordan Lee Dooley said "Focus on your giants and you stumble, focus on God and your giants will tumble." And this quote is so perfect because you can't focus on what the enemy is telling you because he will always find ways to say your not strong enough, your not big enough, you are not able, like the King told David (1 Samuel 17:33).  But through the climb and battles always remember God has already overcame the World. 


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I'm Pro-Life, Just Not In The Way You Think

It is another thing entirely to work for the rights of humans after they are born.

This weekend marks the 45th anniversary of the Supreme Court case Roe vs. Wade that decided that a woman has the right to seek an abortion legally if she wishes to terminate her pregnancy.

Since 1973, this case has stirred up a lot of controversies, with many failed attempts to repeal the initial Supreme Court decision and both sides fighting for modifications to the initial bill, that would make abortion either more or less accessible.

The gravity of this debate has created a deep rift between people who identify as pro-life versus those who consider themselves pro-choice. Each side has vilified the other and there appears to be no hope of finding a common ground.

As someone who grew up in a deeply religious family, surrounded by people who have been deeply involved in the pro-life movement, I was exposed to these ideas from a pretty early age.

I know what it's like to be surrounded by people who wholeheartedly believe that a fetus deserves the human rights afforded to people who are already born.

These are good people.

I've also attended a fairly liberal university in California. I've worked with a poor immigrant community. I've volunteered in a hospital for people who cannot afford health care. I know what it's like to buy a pregnancy test in terror that it may turn up positive. I've seen what it's like to feel like abortion is your only option.

These are good people.

I don't know now where I fall when it comes to this issue. I guess I'd call myself pro-choice solely because I do not feel that I have the authority to tell another woman what decision she should make for herself and her family.

I love babies. I always have and I always will. I'm not a fan of abortion. If I could save every single baby, believe me, I would.

I agree with the end goal of the pro-life movement, but I disagree fundamentally with every way that they go about to achieve that end goal and I do not understand the correlation between people who fight for a child to be born, but will not fight for that child's rights after birth or when they find themselves in their own unwanted pregnancy. I am not pro-abortion, but I am pro-choice.

It is one thing to call yourself pro-life and to spend your Saturday mornings outside of a Planned Parenthood, either praying peacefully or harassing the women that have come to seek health care (hint: most actually aren't there for an abortion).

It is another thing entirely to work for the rights of humans after they are born; to fight to dismantle the social structures that led these women not to want to be pregnant in the first place; to promote a society that sets women and children and families up to succeed.

I know that birth control and comprehensive sex education help lower abortion rates. A movement that wants to prevent abortions but also tries to prevent these resources isn't focusing solely on abortion prevention, they're relying on sexual oppression to achieve their goal. And it's backfiring.

I'm pro-life. Just not in the way you're thinking of.

I'm pro-life for the over 20% of American children that are living in poverty.

I'm pro-life for the black men who are arrested at an extraordinary rate for largely non-violent offenses.

I'm pro-life for the 40,000 veterans that have fought to serve our country and then end up on the streets every night when they get home.

I'm pro-life for the 63,000 children who are sexually abused every year.

I'm pro-life for the men and women who need food stamps to feed their families.

I'm pro-life for the 45,000 people who die and will continue to die every year because they can't afford health coverage.

I'm pro-life for the 1 in 6 women who will be raped in her lifetime.

I'm pro-life for the immigrants in this country, both those who are here legally and those who are not, that are taken advantage of because of their vulnerable position in society.

I’m pro-life for the members of the LGBT+ community that are discriminated against and that commit suicide at alarmingly rates as a result of the harassment they receive.

I'm pro-life for the young women who find themselves pregnant in a situation that they cannot afford, that is dangerous for them or their families, and that would make their lives even more difficult. I stand by them and I advocate for their right to choose, even if that choice is not one that I would make for myself.

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