Monday, November 25, 2013

Punk Rock Docs

One of my pet peeves is how punks are often portrayed in popular culture. Too often they’re the lunkhead with the ridiculous clothes and hair who is treated like a running punchline. The image of the idiot punk is so ingrained that they’re almost automatically assumed to be falling down drunks who are little more than comic relief devoid of personality or prospects whenever they pop up. In my experience, it’s the direct opposite. Punks are the musical smart asses: the intelligent kid in the back of the room who can do the work but just doesn’t take it seriously. It takes a keen mind to zero in on society’s myriad failures in a way that’s hilarious, excoriating and trenchant all at once.
But some punks have taken that a step further by putting their diplomas where their mouths are, earning some serious academic accolades outside of the mosh pit.

Milo Went to College

The brainiac: Milo Aukerman of the Descendants

How he’s smarter than you: The original punk rock nerd, Auckerman defied every musical convention of the time by writing unabashedly geeky songs about striking out with girls, coffee and wanting to grow up and own a home and a maybe a boat. Not exactly the image of raging punk rock rebellion, but it just worked, making the Descendants the innovators of pop punk. But that wasn’t just some stage persona; the bespectacled Auckerman lived up to the nerd hype. The Descendants’ first album was called Milo Goes to College because at the time Auckerman was off at the University of San Diego studying molecular biology. Doctorate in hand, these days Auckerman can be found lab coating it up around the halls of DuPont where he’s a plant researcher in between the Descendants’ periodic resurrections.

Against the Grain

The brainiac: Greg Graffin of Bad Religion

How he’s smarter than you: When he’s not fronting the most verbose punk band on the planet, Graffin is running with the tweed-jacket-with-leather-elbow-patches set as a life sciences and evolution professor. Not content to be merely brilliant in one academic track, Graffin studied anthropology and geology before getting his doctorate in zoology from Cornell Univeristy. Putting his degrees to practice, Graffin has been a guest professor at both UCLA and Cornell. While Graffin’s lyrics pack a ridiculous amount of intellectual punch in the space of two minutes, using anthropology, physics, chemistry and archaeology as metaphors to make his point, he decided barreling punk rock may not give him the space to fully express himself. Graffin has written or co-written several books that touch on anarchy, evolution, atheism and humanistic morality. Not bad for a teenaged punk from the Los Angeles ’burbs.

Punk and Biology—Keep Em Separated

The brainiac: Dexter Holland of The Offspring

How he’s smarter than you: Bryan “Dexter” Holland was in line for a doctorate in molecular biology from the University of Southern California when this whole punk rock thing took off. So he dropped the books and decided to make The Offspring his priority. While he’s stepped from academia to the stage, Holland has kept one foot firmly in the lab. He says his doctorate work is still in progress. In 2013 he contributed to the paper Identification of Human MicroRNA-Like Sequences Embedded within the Protein-Encoding Genes of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. You’ve got to have at least a master’s to even decipher what the hell that even means.

What's His Escape Plan?

The braniac: Lane Pederson of Dillinger Four

How he’s smarter than you: You’ve kinda gotta be crazy to pile into a van and travel cross country in attempt to make punk rock a way of life. Dr. Lane Pederson would know. When he’s not pounding the skins for poppy Minnesota hardcore goofs Dillinger Four, he’s a clinical psychology researcher and author of several well-regarded tomes on the science of behavioral therapy. That’s not exactly the kind of sideline you expect from a dude who’s part of a band best known for such intellectual odes as “A Floater Left with Pleasure In The Executive Washroom.” But I bet he’s got a pretty good explanation for the psychology behind it.

Doctor Who?

The brainiac: Dr. Know of Bad Brains

How he’s smarter than you: Dr. Know was awarded an honorary DFA in badassery from Hilly Kristal University in 1983. It’s right there in his fucking name.


Anonymous said...

Not to mention Max Ward (625 Thrashcore, Spazz, WHN?, Plutocracy etc) - Ph.D in Modern Japanese History from NYU, and now an assistant professor of History at Middlebury College

Survivalist said...

you should probably pick up the book Punkademics edited by Zack Furness.

There are way more relevant academics to this blog than some over the hill pop punk musicians.

Daniel said...

I'll add: Dr Dan Yemin. brilliant bands, and great writer in Paint It Black