Monday, July 14, 2008

Jason Peterson - Arizona Straight Edge

Youth Under Control, Photo courtesy of : Jason XXX

Jason Peterson played guitar in Youth Under Control and Wind Of Change, bands best known for putting the Arizona straight edge scene on the map in the late eighties. He also was the one behind the classic Step Forward artwork, perhaps his first creative graphic endeavor that would end up leading to some very, very major work in the advertising world.

Perhaps one of the most financially successful people to come out of the hardcore scene, it's worth noting that twenty years later, Jason is still straight edge and even gets to wear a Schism shirt to work while designing a new worldwide Coke print campaign. We asked him for some memories and he delivered, this is part one.

-Gordo DCXX

When did a straight edge scene in Arizona develop and how?

I am originally from the east side of Cleveland, Ohio. When I was eight years old my parents split up. My mother went to work and left my older brothers and sisters raise me. My oldest stepbrother was into punk rock since the late 70s. He saw the Sex Pistols play back in the day. When I was 12 he started feeding me Black Flag, Minor Threat, GBH, etc. He used to shove socks in my mouth for listening to Adam and the Ants.

My first shows in '83 and '84 were Black Flag, Suicidal Tendencies, Dead Kennedys, Husker Du, Necros, and lots of local Clevo stuff. I was hooked. I studied every band, every fanzine and I would try to see every show. I started writing reviews for MRR and Alterative Press (a local Clevo zine at the time), as well as designing layouts for zines of friends. I started drinking and smoking pot at 13. I thought it was the punk rock thing to do. I was hanging out with a much older crowd. I used to get drunk before junior high school.

I remember sitting on the floor in my room studying the covers of Kids Will Have Their Say/SSD and Brotherhood/DYS while listening to The Crew/7 Seconds, which had just been released. I was reading the lyric sheet over and over. It felt like something bigger than just the music. They weren't being ironic like the Dead Kennedys when they sang "kill the poor." The positive message hit me hard. At that point I knew I would go nowhere if I continued down the path I was going. My small group of friends and I all went straight edge, a few of them would eventually go on to form Confront.

In the summer of '85 my stepfather was transferred to work in Phoenix. This was a new beginning for me. Straight Edge made so much sense to me, I have never considered another way to live my life. One of the first people I met in Arizona was this skater kid with dyed jet-black hair named James Palmer. We met at an outdoor JFA/Necros show. The show started at noon in the 110-degree Arizona summer. Palmer came from a very similar broken home. His parents ran a local bar so he saw first hand how fucked up booze could be. We were the only two kids at that show with X's on our hands so we naturally clicked.

The older west side guys like JFA, Mighty Sphincter and Junior Achievement established the Arizona HC scene. It was an awesome mix of dusty skaters, cow punks and Goth kids in creepers. They were always drugged out and sunburned. They were the furthest things from straight edge. "Beach Blanket Bong-Out" was not just a song; it was a way of life. Those shows were so much fun. Looking back, I think the diversity is the reason I was always open to everyone in the HC scene. It wasn't until a few years later that the proper Arizona straight edge scene developed.

Youth Under Control, Photo courtesy of: Jason XXX

Run us through the evolution of your bands - Youth Under Control and Wind Of Change. Releases, various shows, etc.

Palmer and I started Youth Under Control in '85. We went through a load of different line ups in the beginning. We wanted a straight edge band in the vein of DYS/SSD. I think we printed shirts before we even had our first practice. Our description of a "tour" was pushing our amps in shopping carts and playing in our parents' garages. We struggled to find like-minded straight edge kids to be in the band. We tried to convince local skater kids to become straight edge but it never worked. I was always the SXE salesman but quickly learned that if you don't deeply believe you will not last.

We finally got it together in the spring of '86. The line up was Jim Wall, Palmer, Eric Astor and myself. We recorded a demo and opened up every show that would have us. We played with Justice League, 7 Seconds, Bl'ast!, Youth Of Today and every local band in the Phoenix area. I remember we somehow got booked on a show in Toronto with Youth of Today and 7 Seconds, we plotted every plan in the world to get there, but in the end couldn't pull it off.

Astor and Palmer left in '87 to play in Last Option. Al-X Dunham and Brian Fuller filled their spots. That summer, we played our only out of state show in LA with Insted, Underdog and Ill Repute. Youth Under Control ended up playing around 45 shows with the last show in a flower shop in downtown Tempe.

Wind Of Change started the very next day...



chad said...

awesome to read about these lesser-documented scenes! keep up the great work guys, can't wait to read the next part.

Anonymous said...

That's pretty cool how they got started such great music.

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