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California Calling’s Joe Sib

Joe Sib has a 30-year history with punk rock, tracing back to a pivotal visit to the Winchester Skateboard Park in Campbell, California in 1981. It was that day, spent among the concrete, skaters, and the sound of Buzzcocks’ “Hollow Inside,” that led Sib down the path toward stirring up pits in San Francisco, fronting his own bands (most famously the surf-flecked pop-punk quartet Wax and the SoCal supergroup 22 Jacks), co-founding SideOneDummy Records, and recounting the entire journey in the one-man show California Calling. “If I would’ve got into heavy metal, I don’t think I would’ve been able to say ‘Yeah, I went on the road with Maiden,’ ‘Hey, I went out on the road with Van Halen,’” Sib told The A.V. Club, on the phone from his home state. “I just happened to be in the right place at the right time, with 7 Seconds, The Adolescents, getting a chance to meet Joe Strummer, going on the road with the Ramones, Social Distortion.” 

But, as Sib tells it, California Calling is about more than just one life in punk: It’s about life-changing moments like the one he had at Winchester. It’s about the thrill of discovery, scored to “everything from Elton John to Black Flag,” and accompanied by more than 60 photos from Sib’s personal archive. Before bringing California Calling to the Capitol City Comedy Club tonight, Jan. 19, Sib spoke to The A.V. Club about the show, and how he wishes it could use some of the photos in his mind.

AVC: At this point, can you say whether you prefer doing the one-man show or being onstage with a band?

JS: There’s something about being onstage with a band—I love it, man. You come out there, you’ve got you and your four friends, and it’s: “Take no prisoners, let’s just rip everyone’s faces off.” As far as being in a band right now, I don’t know if I miss it that much, because I really wanted to get back onstage, and this really answers and has that part of my life again. I’ve been onstage since I was 16, and I’ve toured, and I love being on the road, and I just don’t take that for granted. Getting that opportunity to come to a club and have people show up, and have people want to hear the stories and see the photographs and laugh—it’s all entertainment. And I love that. And I feel grateful for it, because there are a lot of guys that don’t get that opportunity anymore.

AVC: All the props and pictures in the show suggest that you never throw anything away. Are there any pieces of memorabilia that you’ve lost that you wish you could’ve used in the show?

JS: There’s always a photograph in my mind that I wish I could print out. I’ve been able to be a like fly on the wall at special times. You know, seeing Flogging Molly at a show in Phoenix, which I’ll never forget. We all flew down together; the plane almost fucking crashed on the way to Phoenix—it was like a scene out of Almost Famous. I wish I had that video that I could play for everyone. I wish I had the video of the first time I saw Social Distortion at “The Mab” in San Francisco. The first time the Ramones came to my hometown and I met Joey. Those are the types of things I wish I had—all I have for those memories is the actual memory itself, and my words. I wish I had pictures of my parents when they were together and hanging out, and it’s the ’70s, and they’re barbecuing and having people over to the house.

AVC: Part of the musical journey of California Calling involves you branching out from artists and records your parents introduced you to. Now that you’re a parent yourself, how hard is it to fight the impulse to steer your kids’ tastes?

JS: I don’t want to be one of those parents that makes my kid wear the Clash shirt—I hate that stuff. It’s just silly. I don’t want them to be in the get-up—I always trip out on that, when parents get their kids the punk-rock hairdo.

My parents turned me on to everything from The Beatles to Jerry Vale to Vikki Carr, Elton John—a lot of different kinds of music being played at different times. And I was always able to venture into the record cabinet and pull out what I wanted to hear, whether it was Ray Charles or an Eagles record. As I’ve been raising my kids, it’s the same thing. Sure [my kids] know everything on SideOneDummy, because I’m listening to the demos in the car. [SideOneDummy] just signed The Sounds, so the whole Christmas break was listening to The Sounds’ record, and we collectively listened to it together—and they have opinions on it. My son likes Beethoven, and my daughter likes pop music. Sometimes she says, “Oh God, I don’t want you to know I like pop music,” and I’m like, “Why?” And she’s like “Because I know you don’t like it.” And I’m like, “Music is for what you’re into. It would be weird if you liked what I like.” And I feel like, in the household, we’ve made that open to them. 

AVC: In a previous interview, you said you’d like to hear about everyone’s life-changing moment—their personal “Winchester Skate Park story,” if you will. Is that something you’ve considered for a future project—talking to other musicians and lifelong friends about the moments in their lives that led them to where they are today?

JS: The woman that directed the show, Sydney Walsh, when she and I came together and started talking about the show, I had one thing in mind—it was going to be all about punk rock. And each time I would tell a story, she was able to find different parts of it and put the magnifying glass over it. And that came with the Winchester story, came with that first time I heard the Sex Pistols, came with the first time I went to a show without my parents. Those have definitely been the areas of the story that people identify with—whether it’s Brian Fallon from Gaslight Anthem telling me about the music he grew up listening to, or being at a show and hearing different musicians talk about how Kiss, or The Stones, or Devo were influential to them. I’m on the Venice Boardwalk right now—I’d love to ask everybody’s [story]. “Hey man, tell me the first record that changed your life.” “Tell me that moment that you remember hearing that song that every time you hear it, you have a memory that’s connected to it.” What is it—smell is your No. 1 sense for memory, and song and music is the second? Maybe sometime I’d love to get together a handful of people, because everyone has that story.

AVC: Are there any stories that you’ve wanted to include in the show, but couldn’t because someone asked you not to tell them?

JS: No. When I went to Northern California, my mom came to both shows, and she was like “Are people going to hate me after the show?” It’s funny—I was standing with her in the audience in San Francisco, and people came right over to meet her. No one’s come to the show and asked, “Hey, why’d you tell that story?” I’ve put so many different stories in it, about so much different stuff, that it changes all the time.