You can chart punk rock’s elaborate family tree a thousand different ways, but if you’re talking pop-influenced, lewd, crude punk rock, all paths must go through Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to include The Queers. Masters of the Holy Trinity of teenage pursuits — partying, chasing the opposite sex, and making jokes of incredibly poor taste — The Queers went out of their way in the early ’80s to talk mad shit and pull no punches with classic anthems like “Trash This Place,” “Kicked Out of the Webelos” and “I Spent the Rent.”
Those recordings, made by founding Queers members Joe Queer, Jack “Wimpy Rutherford” Hayes, Scott “Tulu” Gildersleeve and Keith Hages, weren’t compiled and released on CD until the mid-’90s, by which point Joe Queer had taken over and rebooted the lineup. Which means Northeast Florida punks will get one hell of a treat for the new year when Wimpy — The Queers’ first drummer and original lead vocalist — hits town to play this classic material, backed by next-generation New Hampshire hell-raisers The Cryptics.
Folio Weekly talked about the rare co-bill with Hayes and Tino Valpa of The Cryptics.
Folio Weekly: Wimpy, how pleased are you to have The Cryptics backing you on this tour? And Tino, how excited are you to play with one of your heroes?
Wimpy Rutherford: They are awesome! They seem to know my songs better than I do.
Tino Valpa: If taking some of my favorite songs on the planet on the road isn’t fun, then I don’t know what could ever be.
It’s been 35 years since most of those seminal Queers songs were written. Do you think they still hold up?
W.R.: I have had a lot of people tell me over the years that A Day Late and a Dollar Short got them into listening to punk rock. I’m proud of that. And we have fans of all ages, so it seems to pass the test of time.
T.V.: Wimpy’s era of The Queers was the original influence that ignited our band. He may not have a name that every person recognizes, like Joey Ramone or Glenn Danzig, but to me, he is one of the most legitimate true originals still out there killing it today. It’s an honor to be able to play songs like “Nowhere At All,” “No Rules,” “I Didn’t Want None,” “I Didn’t Puke,” “I’m A Mess” and “Sucker Punch,” which I’ve loved most of my life. I’m also huge on all the tracks from The Drunken Cholos EP (the original Queers played under that name for one release, which we play most of). A couple of the songs I listed are by The Jabbers, GG Allin’s original band, whom Wimpy now sings for, too. I’ve always loved those guys and their live shows, so to play both older and current material is a real treat.
Wimpy, you’re a soil scientist by day. Is it unusual in that field to also be a born-and-bred punk rocker?
W.R.: I’ve run into several fans. Once, I was doing some monitoring on a construction site in Massachusetts, and all of a sudden, I saw two huge guys in hard hats running toward me saying, “Hey, are you Wimpy? Someone told us that Wimpy from The Queers was out here!” I’m not sure who gets more of a kick out of [me touring] — the fans or the other soil scientists.
The Queers have gone through a zillion lineups and a thousand very public arguments over the band’s legacy. Do you see Joe Queer much, and does he approve of your touring this early material?
W.R.: I see him every once in a while, [but] I have no idea how he feels about me touring. Joe and I are different people. I’m not sure what Joe’s views are.
He’s been vocal about his political views of late, which seemingly goes against everything The Queers always stood for.
W.R.: I don’t like any political punk. I like dumb, retarded songs with three chords and energy. Fuck politics.
The Queers represented the old vanguard of New Hampshire punk, and The Cryptics represent today’s generation. Is the punk scene still thriving in the Granite State?
W.R.: No way. There’s nothing here at all anymore. And if there was, there’s nowhere to play it.
T.V.: National acts can draw well here, and some local shows surprise me. For a band like The Queers, I feel like now would be a much better time than back then. But there seems to be a huge lack of young kids playing punk in New Hampshire. Zero kids from the local high school come out to shows, and there are no new bands that I’ve heard of. It’s simply not “cool” right now, I guess.
How about Florida? Do you have a lot of experience here?
W.R.: I have never played in Florida with The Queers.
T.V.: We’ve covered all of Florida at this point — two standout shows were 1) 2014 in St. Petersburg at Planet Retro and 2) on this most recent tour at a kitchen show in Tallahassee. People were losing it — some girl even crowd-surfed after jumping off the fridge. But Charlie and Wade in St. Augustine are always great to us and have hooked it up several times.