In SOMA’s “Dungeon” at 555 Union, downtown, San Diego’s premier purveyors of anthropophagic rock flail away at half-strung electric guitars, drums, the walls, the crowd, each other, and their equipment at a volume reminiscent of the PSA North Park plane crash.
Punk. It’s not going away. In fact in San Diego, it has taken on a more bizarre permutation than was promised or conceived 20 years ago.
The shadow of that rough beast, punk, roused from idiot slumber, from dreams of CBGB and the Mudd Club, has slouched toward the Gaslamp district and is waiting to go on. That four-headed beast — pale, bloated and staggering under the weight of a case of Milwaukee’s Best, hurriedly guzzled, belched, and farted in Peter Small’s van in SOMA’s parking lot — calls itself Dahmer’s Diner.
Small is the guitarist and spark plug behind Dahmer’s Diner, though he denies he is the band’s leader. “It’s a democracy,” says drummer Corn, sometimes known as Corn Alias. It is useless to attempt to pry a real name out of the percussionist. Small prefers his nom de guerre as well.
Members of DD are killing time and a case of beer with friends in the darkened vehicle. Small’s form can be made out in the light of a nearby street lamp. Closely shorn blond hair reveals an ovoid head set off with startlingly large, electric blue eyes, like luminescent robin’s eggs. Small is a large man; 24 years old and six feet tall, he wears a black T-shirt and baggy, frayed black slacks. In the half light of the street one can imagine him in another time with a Heidelberg scar along his cheek and black turtleneck, a U-boat commander glazed with lager. Corn is elfin, wiry, huddled like a thief in the shadows, his shoulder-length hair limned with a gaslamp halo. The others in the van are only voices, sinister silhouettes.
“I hate the whole racism thing,” Small is saying, “Me, personally, I hate about 90 percent of the human race. I don’t care what fuckin' color they are, what sexual preference they have, nothin’. People just suck. The Rodney King thing pissed me off so bad. I was outraged to the fullest. I’m not sayin’ I was shocked to see cops beating a person. That shit happens 24 hours a day. It’s what it turned into, the riots, the Reginald Denny thing... I would love to fuckin’ murder every racist in this world.”
Jeffrey, the bass player, in a sleeveless shirt, takes a leak outside the van and returns. A tattoo on his forearm looks to be a kind of coat of arms with the word “Kelly” beneath it, but he passes into and out of the light too quickly to see his face or study the tattoo. “If it makes people think about something and show some emotion, then it’s done its job.” Jeffrey says. “There’s so many people who don’t, like, show emotion and stuff like that. I want people to learn about shit. Like, if they see something that could go either way...[they should] find out about it instead of just making an assumption by what they see only. Did I use the word right? Assumption?”
“We’ve got a song, man,” Sam, another shadow, the singer, lyricist, and Jeffrey’s twin brother, speaks up from around a can of beer. “We’ve got a song that deals with that, it’s called ‘Burn in Hell, I’m a White Man.’”
“It sounds,” I venture, “as if the band’s real hard-on is with hypocrisy.”
“Define that word,” Jeffrey asks. I do.
“Oh, hypocritism. Yeah, yeah. I hate that.”
The opening acts on this Saturday night’s all-punk review, Product, Deadpan, CTD (Construction Through Destruction), and the Riverbottom Nightmare Band have prepared the crowd for the headliners by lobbing musical Molotov cocktails at the congregation of skinheads, punks, children, hustlers, junkies, speed freaks, XTC fools, ball-bearing-eyed bouncers, existential desperados, and shell-shocked stragglers from SOMA’s upstairs concert hall.
At 11:00 p.m., the bad boys — among a handful of not-very-good-in-the-first-place boys — of San Diego’s punk scene take the stage like a patrol of long-range reconnaissance grunts seizing a hot landing zone. Members of Dahmer’s Diner quickly salvage any microphones, patch cords, mike stands, amplifiers, and monitors that haven’t been wasted by previous skirmishes and launch into a barrage of eighth notes like raking gunfire over the mortar fire crumpcrumpcrump of the bass drum. Singer Sam Quentin, 24, looking like a vampire scarecrow in black leather and dyed jet hair, screams the only words that will be intelligible for the next 40 minutes, Morrison’s line, “NO ONE GETS OUT OF HERE ALIVE!” With that nod to Love Songs of Ancient Aquaria, the band hurls itself into an original piece, “Rodney King Pinata,” a puckish reggae satire with all the musical subtlety of C4 explosive and the lyrical nuance of a street corner psycho with Tourette’s Syndrome screaming at God into an out-of-order pay phone.
Later, in order to retrieve the lyrics, Quentin has to close his eyes, bob his head as if imagining the stuttering chatter of M60 fire or a high-speed, multiple-18-wheeler pileup on the freeway. He chants the words as quickly as they can be spoken in a slurred frenzy.
RODNEY KING PINATA
- Pinatas come in many different shapes and many sizes
- I see the man with a stick in his hand an evil plot, he got an evil plan.
- Little Piggy and the stick that he got
- "Go on man, we got to stop 'em to stop!"
- I, I don ’t wanna he a pinata etc.
- Think it’s a party, they kick me in my ass
- Standing around me with their baseball bats
- knock me to the floor, they kick me in the head
- video shows that they all want me dead.
- Pot-smokin' man above me
- got the baseball bat, try to hit me from a tree
- hang me from a rope, say that I’m no fun
- try to hit me, now he shoot me with a gun.
The lyrics are impossible to make out live, and in fact, the group rarely performs the song “in concert” because, the singer explains, “We don’t really remember how it goes — how we did it that time in the studio. It just kind of happened.”
“Let me say this for the record,” Small says. “It is an anti-racist song. A lot of people took it the wrong way.”
You won’t find Dahmer’s Diner on the bill at the Cannibal Bar in Mission Beach. In fact, DD has been banned from all but two venues in town, SOMA and Cafe Chabalaba, though they are embraced at certain clubs in Austin, Dallas, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, among other places. While they have been interviewed by the punk rock press ’zines from places as far away as Holland, they have real trouble in San Diego. These Santee boys, graduates of Santana High School, have even been banned from the Spirit Club, where G.G. Allin once shat upon the stage and inserted a microphone in his rectum. (Allin’s act was met by cries of encouragement and applause. Allin died in May, a possible drug overdose.) Dahmer’s Diner, when they appeared on that venerable stage, was 86ed forever, locked out. The police were called. The talk was of nudity, underaged girls, and much destruction of property.
All four members of the group shun, they say, drugs, but embrace beer enthusiastically — as long as it is brewed in Milwaukee.
ALL YOU CAN EAT
- Killed my first at Grandma’s house
- Smashed his head, he flew back on the couch
- You might laugh and joke around but what I've done is world renowned.
- People taste the same wherever I go, black, white, brown, red or yellow.
- Fucking dead bodies might sound strange, but at least my silent partners won’t call me deranged.
- Cookin’ some stew. I’m cookin’ for you stir up the pot, throw in some pooh fingers, toes and testicles, teeth for croutons, shove ’em up my hole.
- Put me in a padded cell I just might eat myself write a book, it would really sell of the appetite I have to tell.
- One part me, two parts you
- a pinch of salt, but we’re not through slightly chilled and seasoned good.
- What do you think of my new food?
- La, La, La,...
- People taste the same, etc....
“Just yesterday,” Corn says, “I tried to call Sally Jesse Raphael and then Geraldo, trying to get us on the show.”
“We’ve had some problems,” Small adds. “With lawyers that represent Dahmer’s victim’s families. Apparently they filed suit against the Jeffrey Dahmer movie and some comic books. Not against us, so far. I just think that’s fucking great, man. These lawsuits have sold so much of what they are suing against. It’s not like we’re riding on the Dahmer thing. We’re not trying to get banned.
“Just our name itself cannot be used on radio or MTV, so we don’t expect a record deal. We’d never change anything, even though there is no record company in San Diego, for sure, that would put our record out. We’ve been contacted by some big labels (RCA), and that’s fine, but they’ll want big changes, so fuck that.”
“We just played a club in Vegas,” Small notes.
“The places we go to,” Corn says, “we pretty much know the promoter. We set it up direct.”
“We have people that are into our band basically, the West Coast/mid-West Coast circuit. We have people in each state that are willing to set up a show.”
“We wanna play in Milwaukee.” Two voices in the darkened van speak in unison. “There is no place in San Diego we really want to play anymore,” says Corn. “Except maybe Las Colinas [Women’s Detention Facility]."
“By the way, we only drink beer with Milwaukee in the title. Did I say that?” Corn rummages through an empty 12-pack. “We wanna get endorsed by Milwaukee’s Best.”
“Maybe the Ambrosia Chocolate Factory [in Wisconsin, where Jeffrey Dahmer worked],” muses Small. “One day Dahmer brought a head in his lunch box. Stuck it in his locker just for the rush, to see if he’d get caught. I know everything about the man.” Jeffrey contributes with the observation that “What Dahmer did was not that outrageous. Cannibalism has been around since the dinosaurs.”
What is the attraction? Cannibalism? Sex?
“Probably,” Jeffrey says. “Power. You know how, like, being in managerial positions is a control thing? Eating people is the ultimate control. The total, ultimate control is, like, having bits of other people in your system.”
Corn elaborates, “You know, like, Dahmer would shoot this acid solution into his victim’s brains so they weren’t quite dead, but he could do whatever he wanted to their body. If that didn’t work, he’d use hot water, but they ended up dying too soon.”
“Jeffrey had a problem,” Small allows, “with people staying with him. That’s why he killed his first victim, because he met this hitchhiker and the guy wanted to leave and Jeffrey said, ’No, you’re not going to leave this time.’ I’ve read all the books. We did an interview in this serial killer fanzine from Chicago, and we got his address. We’ve sent him a letter and we’re going to send him a tape, but he probably won’t get it. The prison might not allow it.”
“Yeah,” Corn nods in the darkness. “We tried to send another guy in prison a tape, and they sent it back to us saying it’s illegal to send him that.”
How would members of DD characterize their fascination with Dahmer?
Small answers, “The thing I think is great is that it just goes against society so hard. People are so shocked by it and yet people aren’t willing to do anything. People were living next door to this guy, and there were smells of burning flesh, acids, saws going at 3 a.m., body parts in his Dumpster. The trashmen saw this and didn’t question it. Nobody questioned it. But when they busted him, everyone was shocked. So this is how far society has gone. This guy was a homosexual. He was at gay bars every night taking people home and murdering them.”
“It’s not that we don’t care about the people he killed,” Corn says. “It’s not like, ‘They were fags, they deserved it.’ ”
“The bottom line about the whole Dahmer thing, to me, is that I love to see people shocked,” Small says. “Yet you look outside your door and you see all the shit that’s going on, how can you be shocked? How can anyone have the nerve to be shocked by us? Yet they are, and that’s what we’re about. We get crowds. People come.”
“Yeah,” Corn nods, “people know what we’re about. They pay to see us and then they get pissed off. What’s all that?”
When the band runs through a brief half-hour set, the crowd seems not so much pissed off as ambivalent. An errant, anticlimactic energy is in evidence in the darkened, spray-painted Dungeon. Skinheads with topknots and tattooed scalps slam' each other desultorily, as if uncertain if the music, for the moment, is over — or not. Corn jumps offstage onto the dance floor and pulls down his pants, revealing pubic hairs, detumescence, and a pale, almost ultraviolet, skinny ass. A handful of teenaged girls react with hands clapped to their faces, but otherwise. Corn’s display is all but unnoticed.
Coming offstage into the dressing room, Quentin, Small, and Jeffrey seem disheartened. “That sucked!” Quentin says.
“You guys weren’t happy with your performance?” I ask. “It sucked!" Quentin shakes his head.
“Ahh, don’t take this the wrong way, but, well....how could you tell?”
“It wasn’t happening,” Jeffrey says, and for the first time in the light I can see that he closely resembles Quentin, except for the singer’s dyed black hair.
“Are you and Sam related?” Jeffrey looks incredulous. “I told you. We’re twins, man. We’re brothers.”
“Oh. Yeah, I forgot.”
“Brain damage. The ’60s,” Corn says. “You know that big skinhead out there? Just look for the biggest guy out on the floor. He was yelling we sucked, so all his little cronies obviously are so afraid of him that they fuckin’ didn’t like us either. But some of our friends are out there too, and they’re saying we sucked too, so....”
I mention that I liked the one that seemed to be called “Drive-In.” “Some good energy in there and some nice chord changes, but I couldn’t make out the lyrics at all.”
Quentin obliges me by bobbing his head and rattling off:
- Tonight we're goin' to the drive-in.
- I got the car $o jump on in
- gonna shoot some smack, veins full of junk gonna fuck some slut in the hack of my truck
- Drive the drive-in tonight
- Yah, my girl's gonna be pissed
- but so am I ’cause the movie I missed
- runnin' from the law, stayin’ outta sight
- but you can find me at the drive-in tomorrow night.
Noticing Small’s imitation Stratocaster, I see that it has only four strings on it. “You break some strings? Is that what happened?” Possibly I was thinking that subtleties in the material were lost as the result of a flailing mishap onstage — musical overtones beyond the range of my middle-aged auditory spectrum.
Small looks at his guitar and shakes his head. “No, I hardly ever use more than four. Sometimes I use five, but I’m not sure what to do with that extra one."
Small’s guitar is strung with the B string missing, but with a duplicate low E string where the high sixth E usually rides. He sets his guitar upright against a corner of the cinderblock dressing room, whips out a can of Zippo lighter fluid, and whizzes on his guitar, holding the Zippo can as if it were his dick. He tosses a match onto the fretboard and pickguard and sets the instrument on fire. No one in the crowded dressing room remarks on this except Small himself. “Fuck,” he says. “Fuck.”
Turning to Corn again, I ask him, “Would you say that you guys wear this public disdain and disgust for conventional musical constructs, moral systems, and outrage at irrelevant codes of public behavior as a kind of badge?”
Corn throws back his head and laughs wildly, “Hah-hah! I like it. Yeah! We get it out, but in San Diego — only here at SOMA.”
Why are you willing to book Dahmer’s Diner, and most other club owners around town are not?” Len Paul, 42, owner and ringmaster of SOMA, stands at the corner of Union Street and smiles, scratching his day-old growth of beard. His hair is thinning on top, and he would look somewhat out of place if he did not have the unmistakable air about him of someone who ‘owns the joint.’
“My mentality is different than those other people. I’m in the live-music business. I provide opportunities to bands, and I don’t make judgments in terms of their political statements. We just bring people together under the guise of music. It’s kind of neutral turf where people can express themselves musically.
“One of the reasons why a lot of places won’t book them is because the crowd that follows them.” Paul indicates the gathering on the sidewalk and parking lot. “They don’t do a lot of the stuff they might at other places out of respect, simply because we’re the only ones fortunate enough (in town) to do eight shows a night legally. We’re not a coffee shop, and the police department sees that we don’t have lawsuits against us and we take care of our own business. We don’t have problems. We try to give them complete flexibility, but obviously there are limitations and they work with us. They compromise. When you’re dealing with people under the age of 18, you’ve got minors, their health, and safety to think of first.”
What is Paul’s offhand impression of Dahmer’s Diner?
“I’m from the East Coast (Detroit), so I would have to say they have more of an East Coast kind of edge. Their message is a little more satirical.”
“And yet these guys are all from Santee, basically.”
“Yes, but they have that thing that was more typical of San Diego’s punk scene in the ’80s. That rebelliousness.” The club owner smiles paternally as if he were describing trained, carnivorous mammals at the Wild Animal Park.
I was never particularly moved by punk in the first place. I liked the Ramones when I saw them at CBGB in New York in 1976. I was 25, full of Quaaludes and Schaeffer beer, so when they sang “I Wanna Be Sedated,” I was nodding and drooling sagely, even though I thought they might have taken more time to learn to play. With the movie Rock and Roll High School, I developed a real affection for them. But aside from the odd Patti Smith performance, I basically hated it — the Sex Pistols, the Clash, and the like—and was encouraged when I started hearing groups like Blondie and Television.
It seemed the punk scare was over and veering onto an experimental and more musically ambitious frontage road to the overly produced, sterile mainstream rock that spawned punk in the first place. When it took longer than I thought it would to die (like disco), I decided to ignore it until it went away.
It is now 17 years later and I still have no response to the (What? It’s not a class of music or even a style — more of an attack) phenomenon other than a vague sense that any anarchy is better than none. Trying to understand punk in my 40s, I turn to Greil Marcus’s new collection on the subject. Ranters and Crowd Pleasers. I find I don’t understand it either. I’ve placed it in a pile under my copy of Finnegans Wake. Joyce first; I’ll crack Marcus later.
Peter Small’s parents live in a large, well-appointed, pastel-pink/beige home in the rural Santee housing development known as Singing Hills. The development is protected by a security system (locking gate and intercom) and is surrounded by mountain views, winding roads, scattered ranches, and of course, dozens of other homes that look identical and are built very close to that of Jessie and David Studley. Protected picnic areas are in evidence along the residential lanes called Boxwood, Buttonbrush, and Willow Glen. Ample space is provided for the many recreational vehicles belonging to the homeowners, including that of the Studleys.
David Studley is Peter’s stepfather, a dapper-looking regional director of a local insurance company. He is 52, with an even gaze, wearing a blue, short-sleeved dress shirt and patterned tie. His wife is also an insurance agent, Jessie, 49 (“I don’t understand why he (Peter) won’t use his real name”). That Jessie is Peter’s mother is immediately evident: arresting large blue eyes in a fair, round face beneath well-coiffed blond hair. She wears a string of large, pearl-like ornaments around her neck and a blue business dress that matches her husband’s shirt. They sit together on the pale peach or beige sofa in their spotless living room that seems to change hues subtly in a narrow range: faded coral, peach, beige, pink, pearl, Navaho white, blanched ochre clay. There must be a hundred names for the different versions of the same basic color in the room. Muted floral prints are framed and echo the quiet upholstery patterns and tones. The room looks like a set for a daytime talk show with the word “Family” in the title.
“I’m shocked,” says Mrs. Studley. “I realize it’s a catchy name [Dahmer’s Diner], but it’s pretty strange. At first it sounded like a joke and we laughed, but over the long term...” She looks at her husband, “I think it’s kind of a bad idea. It’s not the way we raised him.”
“I would have cringed at the thought,” says Mr. Studley.
“I never encouraged any of the children to learn any music at all, because I’ve never cared for the musical lifestyle — all the stuff that goes with it. I never gave any of them any musical lessons until R__ [Peter] begged. He had no interest in sports or anything, so I thought, all right, give this kid guitar lessons — he’s tone deaf anyway. I never even made him practice. I didn’t care if he was a success or not. He hated it. He never practiced at all.”
Does she have any understanding of what her son’s band is doing?
“Absolutely not. I don’t understand it. They’re very nice kids. I guess it’s political statements they’re trying to get across.”
David Studley says, “I don’t think any of the kids have been in any kind of trouble whatsoever. I know R_has never been in any trouble. Maybe we’re just not used to their era.”
“He has a very good relationship with his [biological] dad and with Dave,” Jessie points out quickly. “He’s very intelligent. He should have gone on to college. He never had a problem with school or learning anything, but he’s always been different."
“R has always been what R wanted to be,” says
Mr. Studley. “He’s very creative. He does a lot of his own designing. We thought he would eventually go into — whattyacallit?”
David: Well, not exactly. Whattyacallit? Special effects. If you could see some of the pranks he used to pull, you would have thought it was just unreal.
David: He quite often would go down into our big garage and design Halloween kind of things, from a mask to a fake leg...
David: One time he called his mother and said, “Hurry, come in quick!” He had designed a leg in a pair of Levi’s. He was laying on the floor like he had broken his leg, and this very realistic fake leg was sticking out. It was hilarious — except that a lot of children wouldn’t do this.
Mr. Studley looks at his wife for confirmation. She nods.
“He read newspapers before most kids learn how to read at all. R__ can accomplish anything R_wants to accomplish.”
What other interests did Peter, er, Rhave as a child?
“Well,” says Jessie, “I’ll tell you. He really didn’t have any other interests except for scars and masks and body parts and stuff. I’ll tell you though, the sight of actual blood isn’t good for him. It bothers him. At one point we made him shoot a gopher that was caught in a trap and wasn’t dead. It ruined him for days.”
“He never,” David Studley says, “ever wanted to go hunting with me. His dad is an archer and has been a deer hunter. He’s never gone with his dad except dove hunting a couple of times.”
“He always bucks the normal ways of society,” Jessie adds. “You can almost hear a cryout,” David says.
That DD is so often interviewed by fanzines (even ’zines from Europe) is difficult to appreciate. Recently they have been interviewed by Goat magazine from Spring Valley, “A total Satanic ’zine,” says Small. “I’ve never seen it.” In a 1993 interview with the San Diego free fanzine 360 (“burningnaked-screamingmen862words” by Scott Puckett), the band members are quoted typically:
- 360: What topics do you write songs about? What are the Dahmer themes?
- Corn Alias (drums): Horror (screams).
- Peter Small (guitar): I think most of the songs are about death and sex.
- Corn: And evil. You see, the Dahmer’s theme is due to our
- lack of sex. We think of different evil ways of performing it...
What the group might lack in terms of a coherent philosophy, they make up for in stories of pointless violence, random strangeness, and the gratuitously gross. The same interview includes this anecdote:
- 360: Didn’t Jeff set his pants on fire at one show?
- Com: Actually, Jeff didn’t do it to himself. Somebody lit him on fire. He didn’t even know his legs were on fire (laughs).
- Peter: The wonders of alcohol!
- Corn: Jeff was a burning inferno and didn’t even know it.
- Our friend started pounding on his leg and Jeff screamed,
- “What the hell are you doing?” And our friend screamed,
- “You’re on fire!..."
At DD’s headquarters — around the corner from a Circle K along Shadowhill Road in Santee — where Small lives and the band rehearses in an almost soundproofed and airless room. Small shows me his comic book and pornography collection. He plies me with artwork that has been done on the band’s behalf by friends and followers. Much of it is good artwork, but probably legally obscene.
On the back patio of the four-bedroom house. Small, Jeffrey, and a few girlfriends and buddies down Old Milwaukee and toss empties onto an overflowing series of plastic garbage bins. Small and Jeffrey compete with Tales from Dahmer’s Diner, wacky misadventures that date back to third grade.
Interrupting one of the band’s friends who was regaling the boys with a story about how he cut away some dead flesh after a cast had been removed from his foot, only to discover in the bathtub that the flesh was not as dead as it had looked (howls of pain), I asked, “You guys really don’t take drugs, do you?”
Jeffrey: “I smoked pot in high school. I got all of that out of my system. If you think about cigarettes, it’s easier to get off heroin than cigarettes. And I think there’s so much useful shit you could do with cannabis. You could make paper out of it, you could make rope, stuff. But they refuse to do that because they’re cutting down trees and shit. Plus, pot smoking is better for you than cigarette smoking."
Small: “I just look at people that do use drugs, and I think they suck. Look at someone who is on speed. You don’t wanna be around them. No one we hang out with is on drugs. I shouldn’t say ’never,’ but it’s nasty and I don’t think you need that. With all the shit that’s going on in this world, I don’t need to be drugged up. I’m enjoying the ride.”
Recently, when a friend had asked me what I was working on, and I mentioned Dahmer’s Diner, she asked with all sincerity, “Don’t you get a sense of evil out of people like that?” I mumbled something about the banality of evil and how I wouldn’t know and how you never knew, etc. But sitting in this Santee back yard (thrashed-out screen doors, crumbling stucco) with members of the band, their friends and “women,” I could only laugh. I felt I was somehow on the Island of Lost Boys with cases of beer and teenaged “women" wearing enough make-up to supply a funeral home in Palm Springs for a year — all of them trying earnestly to be “bad” in some way, but with no more promise in this area than Gerald Ford attempting ballet.
In the failing summer sunlight, I can see Jeffrey’s tattoo. It is indeed a coat of arms with the name Kelly beneath it. Jeffrey admits it is his real first name as well, though he has changed the spelling. The temperature is in the 80s, yet, through the gaping holes in Jeffrey’s Levi’s, it can be seen that he is wearing long underwear. I ask him why.
“I like to ferment my hemorrhoids. No, I just don’t want that Metallica or grunge look, that Seattle thing.”
“What goes through your mind onstage?” I ask.
Small: It’s kind of disturbing. I watch the people in the crowd, when I see blank faces, I feed on that.
Jeffrey: “I think about getting laid. Sometimes I look at R___and that twinkle in his eye... When I help him load up the equipment and watch him bending over that amp, sometimes...”
“We just played up in Pomona,” Small says. “A place called Munchies. By the time we got done, everyone thought we were homosexuals. I dig that. I thrive on that. They were all talking this shit, and they don’t know us or what we’re about. In San Diego we know what’s gonna happen, we know who is gonna be there, we know the routine. It’s just boring. Dustcough is about the only band I’ll go see here now. People here will go to a show with several bands on the bill, they’ll see the band they came to see and then leave. In I..A. or other places, the crowd is curious. They’re there for the night and they’re open to new shit.”
The conversation gravitates back to stories. Tales from Dahmer’s Diner:
A reminiscence of stabbing a classmate in the face with a pencil in fourth grade. .
Peter matches the pencil story with one of his own, only in his version he stabs the classmate in front of him in the ass.
Small has added blood and screams in his version, thus establishing his primacy as unspoken leader.
When the laughter has died down to a momentary lull, I ask Jeffrey about the scars on his left forearm. They look to be entry and exit bullet wounds. He tells me he was out in the desert shooting his dad’s Mac 10 when his hands became too sweaty to control the gun and he shot himself.
Quentin works at a record store in an EI Cajon mall, and his brother Jeffrey delivers packages for an air freight company.
Small describes his daytime job this way: “A lot of my work is kind of gruesome. I work for a maintenance company. I clean birds off of industrial rooftops. Dead birds, shit, eggs and nests and things. Sometimes human shit. A lot of these places are down by the border, and illegal aliens will climb to the roofs to watch for the Border Patrol. It gets pretty hard core. It’s kind of a sick job, you know, like, sometimes the birds are alive and shit, and I have to get rid of them.”
When asked, “How dangerous are you guys to young listeners or impressionable kids?” Small answers, “If you’re the type of person that already has these tendencies — let’s say you’re into death or whatever, obviously you’re not going to be listening to Top 40 music. You’re going to be listening to bands that are singing about that. That doesn’t have anything to do with the band telling you to go and do that. You were into that before these bands were even around. You were having problems in your mind before you ever heard them. You might listen to that band, and that might be the final push, you might kill yourself right after that. The thing is, it’s not the song’s fault. It’s not the band’s fault. That might be the final straw, but you were messed up long before that.”
Is the punk rock music of Dahmer’s Diner the kind of soundtrack you might imagine to be playing inside the head of a serial killer while he is performing the kinds of atrocities Dahmer did?
Again, Small answers. “I think if you got into the mind of a serial killer, I think you’d find it’s actually very quiet.”