Bob Suren’s new book, Crate Digger: An Obsession with Punk Records — out now from Portland publishing house Microcosm Publishing — tells the story of the author’s love affair with punk music. The journey takes Suren from band member to record storeowner, fanzine editor, radio show host and record label founder.
“For many years I was self-employed,” Suren tells EW, “but for many years punk rock was my boss.”
As well as a personal memoir, Crate Digger chronicles the Florida punk scene of Suren’s youth while also touching on legends in the national punk scene such as the Dead Kennedys and Flipper.
Throughout it all, Suren remains the ultimate fanboy. His enthusiasm for the music and culture of punk rock, conveyed in an engaging and conversational tone, is undeniable.
EW caught up with Suren before his reading in Eugene Oct. 23 at Wandering Goat in the Whit.
What initially appealed to you about punk rock?
I’d been listening to hard rock and classic rock stuff and somebody handed me this mixed-tape and it blew me away. It was more extreme and it seemed to have some content to it that was more important and more interesting than what I was hearing from Cheap Trick and Blue Öyster Cult. It had some social commentary to it. It felt important and I wanted to be involved. I just dove in, and I went deeper and deeper.
From where we stand in 2015, has the internet been good or bad for independent music like punk rock?
The internet is great for hype. You can put out a record; you can let people know about it a lot faster than ever before. I used to run a record label. I wouldn’t put out a record unless it sold 2,000 copies — we’re talking seven or eight years ago. These days record labels only sell about 300 to 500 copies. The internet will get your name out there. If you have a new product you can let people know about that in seconds, but people, don’t buy records like they used to.
As a former record store owner, does the vinyl revival give you any hope for the future of music in physical formats?
I wish I could’ve ridden it out a couple more years. I don’t know who these people are who are spending $16 on Eagles records. My friends who run record stores — I hope it lasts for you. I would never run a record store again. It was stressful and it just pulled on me in every possible way. I hope it’s not like a real estate bubble.
I have a personal theory that bad politics make good punk e.g., in the ’70s, punk was great because the economy was terrible; in the ’80s, punk was great because Reagan was terrible. Based solely on that hypothetical premise, which 2016 Presidential candidate is best for punk?[Laughs.] If Trump was in the White House, his face would be on every record cover with a mushroom cloud behind him.
Bob Suren reads from Crate Digger 6 pm Friday, Oct. 23, at Wandering Goat, followed by a performance from Eugene punk band Bad Luck Blackouts; free. All-ages.