If DR. STRANGE does not have it, then it probably does not exist. This may sound cliché, but it is the actual truth in regard to punk rock. For almost 15 years DR. STRANGE has been locating, archiving, and providing underground music to we who lurk in the shadows. Speaking of strange, how often do you come across an honest, reliable and genuinely friendly businessman? What is the meaning of life? If it means to enjoy your time on this planet making a living doing what you love, then the Doc has found it, and is qualified to hold the title, "Punk Rock Guru".
By: Marcus Solomon
The reason I wanted to interview you is because you are so dedicated and have been here for such a long time. You are deserving of some recognition for providing one of the best punk rock stores/mail orders on the planet. Have you ever been interviewed before?
Oh yeah, but its been a few years. It was for "FLIPSIDE" (magazine).
I find it a bit strange that one of the best punk rock outlets is in Alta Loma (Cucamonga, CA.), of all places.
A lot of people trip out on that, but this is my home and I love it. I didn't pick this place because I thought it would be good to put a record store here; I just happen to live here. It turns out to be a good place because Cucamonga is the 5th fastest growing city in the U.S. There are some 150,000 people who live here and people drive here from all over the place. You remember how it used to be….having to drive all the way to Long Beach to ZED RECORDS or to TOXIC SHOCK when they used to be in Pomona. People are willing to travel to find what they want.
Give us a brief history please. How did you get started?
The only music I have ever liked was punk; ever since I was 15. I'm now 37, so it's been a long time.
The first show you ever went to was a DICKIES SHOW, correct?
Yeah, THE DICKIES at THE WHISKEY in Hollywood…I was like 17 or so. It was about 1981 or 1982….such an awesome show.
When did you first go into business?
I was doing mail order; that's been about 13 years now; 14 years in October. The Doctor Strange label started a year after the initial beginning. That also started in October. For some reason everything happens in October. This October will be the 5 year anniversary of the retail store. I wanted a store because I was working out of my house with my friends and I needed a place to keep all the mail order stuff. So I got this store and we opened it up and thought, 'well, if anyone comes in, cool! If not, no big deal'. I was making a living off the mail order business, but now the retail store is more popular than I thought it would be. My whole goal was to be able to pay the rent and buy pizza whenever I want; I have done that.
The Zen success story; attaining a goal without having a goal.
Yeah! And I have been to a million punk stores and this one is the largest in all of California. I have been to stores in England, triple-decker record stores but as far as punk stuff goes, we have more.
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Its interesting that you have such an old building with actual architectural integrity.
This building is a historical landmark built in 1906. It was the first Post Office in Alta Loma. It's a really cool building. The place across the street was the first fire station. About 100 years ago, this was downtown Alta Loma.
It's interesting and synchronous that what is old is new again; the building itself and punk rock in general.
Exactly right.
The local politics are rather conservative. Have you experienced any backlash from that? Any problems with local government or the citizens?
No, nothing like that. This is a big Mormon area…stuff like that, but City Hall, they have been pretty cool. At first they were dicks, giving me a lot of crap in regard to what I wanted to do to the building but not for the content of my business. That's just making money; they make money by selling permits and regulating things for a profit. Cucamonga is well manicured, so I had to clear everything from the colors I wanted to paint to…all sorts of things. The worst thing they did was to make me take down the record store sign out front. I had done my sign in the same style as the old 1919 sign, but the city said "for 800 dollars you can apply for a variance…" Whatever. Forget it.
Tell us about the DR. STRANGE Record Label.
We just put out Government Issue VOL. II. (Vols. I & II comprise the entire Government Issue archive). I had been laying off the label for about a year do to the web page. I've been spending all my time and money into that but now that that is finally done, the label is coming back bigger than ever. We already have some great (the best in the Dr. Strange history) releases lined up:
The Skulls lp/cd "Therapy For the Shy" new stuff from this legendary L.A. punk band.
CH 3 lp/cd "Channel 3" all new material from one of the BEST
v/a cd "Barricaded Suspects" old Toxic Shock release with: Septic Death, Mad Parade, Killroy, Decry, Human Therapy, and more plus bonus songs
v/a cd "Four Old Toxic Shock 7"s" The early Toxic Shock releases from the early 80's; Noise From Nowhere, Peace Corpse, Massacre Guys and Red Tide
The Threats cd all new stuff from these Scottish Punks.
Even if the band is good, that does not guarantee the public will recognize that. The gap between good and popular is enormous. No genre of music is immune from style over substance.
Is that ever the truth. I am thinking of a popular punk band right now that fits that description. I don't want to mention any names though. (Bill quietly displays a vinyl release from a band that is very popular and definitely has the "look").
It kind of reminds me of the interest in G.G. ALLIN. There's nothing of substance in watching someone make a spectacle of self-loathing and destruction.
His old stuff is actually cool. When he actually sang. It was on Orange Records…from 1979 to 1980. It was actually very good music. Later on he became what he became. He was horribly abused as a child….that's what that was.
**(To the uninitiated: The now deceased G.G. ALLIN was a "punk rock" performer whose claim to fame was defecating onstage, eating it, various forms of violence against himself and those in his vicinity. He intended to commit suicide on stage but died of a drug overdose before this nightmare could become a reality. One year, I sent him a Christmas card and asked him not to do it. He responded with some flyers and a personal invite to his suicide.)
You are a living archive of punk rock information.
Yeah, I know a lot. There's a lot I don't know though. I have friends that know way more than I do.
What advice do you have for those just starting out in playing music today? Would you advise them to pursue art for art's sake?
Ha. Art for art's sake is easier said than done. I know a lot of bands that had integrity, but when money gets involved…(integrity is lost). But my advice to someone, not just in music, but anything…if you want to do something, go for it. My philosophy is, you're only going to die, so you may as well die without any regrets. If you try something and you fail, so what? To try is success in itself.
Now you are quoting Mahatma Ghandi. He said, "Full effort is full victory".
Well then, I have to totally agree. Self-respect is also very important; I have that for myself.
Define: "punk".
That's a good one. It depends on who you ask. To me, it's being true to yourself, maintaining integrity, treating people the way you want to be treated, and making change for what you think is the betterment of society.
That sounds almost like a religious philosophy. A lot of kids think punk is about being an asshole and simply being stupid in general. What punk rock gave me was the realization that I can dare to be myself without caring what society thinks of me.
I agree with that, but to those who think punk is about breaking windows and such, to them that's what it is. They are idiots and sheep-like followers, but I was young too once…I had a Mohawk, spiked hair, bondage pants, etc. and one day I realized this was becoming like a uniform, it was a form of conformity itself.
What of the irony of offering this "uniform" to the public?
Doc: That can become hypocritical if I analyze it too much. I know who I am and I like what I am doing and I don't care what other people think.
The only true revolution takes place in the individual mind.
Of course! Maybe I can help some people figure that out.