Who Cares Anyway Post-Punk San Francisco and the End of the Analog Age by Will York
Updated: Apr 7
Who Cares Anyway is the new book released via Headpress Books which deals with the San Francisco music underground, from the aftermath of punk to the dawn of the dot-com era. The book includes interviews with over 100 musicians and artists including members of Faith No More and Mr. Bungle. It also features details on the inception of FNM and full chapters on FNM and Mr. Bungle records.
“This is a really cool book that describes a San Francisco that was such a unique and creative place, and which will probably never exist in this form again. Great stuff documented with detail and respect!” - Bill Gould
We spoke with the author, Will York, about the book.
What prompted you write the book?
To make a long story short: I was introduced to Amarillo Records (Neil Hamburger, Zip Code Rapists, etc.), Secret Chiefs 3, and Disco Volante as a college radio DJ in the late 1990s. After college, I moved across the country to San Francisco, and within a couple of years, I started getting opportunities to interview people like Trey and Gregg Turkington as a freelancer for the SF Bay Guardian, a free weekly paper there. Through them, I started learning more about earlier bands such as Flipper, the Pop-O-Pies, and the early FNM. And the more I learned about these earlier bands, the more I realized that there was a common thread running through all of this stuff—not just in terms of the people involved, but also their overall sensibility and sense of humor and way of interacting with the audience. So I was trying to understand and make sense of all that.
What is it about historic SF music that interests you so much?
I think it comes down to the fact that SF is (or at least was) a magnet for creative people (oddballs, eccentrics, weirdos) who didn’t fit in anywhere else. SF tended to attract a very different kind of personality than the kind that would be attracted to either Los Angeles or New York. And there wasn’t a big music industry presence there (unlike in LA or NYC), which meant that there was less of a focus on “making it” as a band than there was on just doing it. At the same time, this meant that bands from SF were often overlooked or misunderstood by the more mainstream music press. From my perspective as a writer/researcher, that was actually a good thing. since there were all these interesting bands and characters who hadn’t really been written about before—at least not in book form.
How does FNM fit into the narrative of your book?
They enter the story about halfway through—in a chapter on the Pop-O-Pies. At this point, it was 1983, and there had already been a few different “waves” or eras: the actual punk era (1977-1978), the post-punk era (1979-1981), and then the peak of hardcore (1982). Bands like Flipper and Toiling Midgets—both of whom had members that were there from more or less the beginning of the punk era—were sort of falling apart by this point, and hardcore didn’t seem to offer much room for evolution. So when FNM came along, it was during a sort of transitional period.
But for the first few years (1983-1985), they were very much an underground band, in the same way that the Pop-O-Pies or Glorious Din or Trial were. A lot of people dismiss this era of FNM, but even If they had never made another record after WCAL, they would have still gotten farther than 95% of the bands in the scene in those days—and they would be championed as an obscurity by the same critics who now write them off as an MTV one-hit wonder.
That said, the big difference between FNM and the other bands in the book is that they DID eventually achieve mainstream success. And before that (from, say, 1986-1988), they were sort of toiling at the bottom rung of the major-label world—still a long way from “making it,” but also a long way from playing the Mabuhay Gardens or the Sound of Music on a Monday night to a crowd of 20 people. So in the context of this book, FNM are the rare case where there’s an actual connection or interface between this (often very obscure) underground music world and then the mainstream pop culture of the era.
Then, of course, there’s also the Mike Patton/Mr. Bungle angle. Because when he moved to San Francisco after the Real Thing tour, that brought along not just the rest of the Mr. Bungle guys, but a bunch of other folks from Humboldt County. And that, in turn, had its own ripple effects on the SF scene. So even though FNM was no longer a “local band” by the early ’90s, they still had a major impact on this era through this odd twist of fate. (And even though they were touring with the likes of Metallica and Guns ‘n’ Roses, they would still do odd things at their own shows—like having Gregg Turkington’s band the Easy Goings open for them at the Warfield in 1992).
The unpublished interviews with FNM you refer to, when and how did these happen?
I had to think about this one for a minute. I think “unpublished interviews” is a description I used when posting about the book on the FNM Followers FB page (?). If so, what I meant was, they were interviews I had done with those guys (specifically Bill, Chuck, and Roddy) that had not appeared in print (or online) before. I do quote from other sources, especially Adrian Harte’s book, but I’ve come across books that rely exclusively on previously published interviews.
Anyway, the interviews with Bill took place way back in 2003 and 2005. The first one was for an article on the Pop-O-Pies for the SF Bay Guardian. A former coworker of mine put me in touch with Bill, and it turned out that he lived right around the corner from me, so we just met up at a cafe over on Haight Street. Then I did a more thorough interview with him in 2005 with this book (or something like it) in mind. I brought along a copy of Wiring Dept. from 1985, and we flipped through it and just sort of went from there.
The interviews with Chuck and Roddy came later. I interviewed Chuck (RIP) over Skype in the spring of 2017, not long before he died.
And as for Roddy, he was elusive. He was among the first people I reached out to back in 2005/2006 when I started doing interviews for the book, but it wasn’t until very late in the game—September 2020—that I was finally able to get him on the phone. I was in the late stages of writing/editing by this point, but I thought it was really important to have his input—not just for the FNM chapters, but also for the one on Glorious Din/Wiring Dept./Trial (which comes right after the We Care a Lot chapter).
It would have been great to read your take on KFAD and the other Mr. Bungle records. Any plans on a follow up?
Hmm, that’s a good question. With FNM, I think Adrian Harte’s book did a really thorough job documenting the later FNM (KFAD onward). I think Mr. Bungle merits a full-length book along those lines, but I don’t know that I’m the one to write it. That said, if anyone is interested in taking on such a project, I would be happy to talk to them and to share what I have in terms of interview material, contacts, etc.
Will also hosts the Who Cares Anyway Podcast. You can check out audio from the book launch will involved Bill G below. Also the previous episode is an interview with Trey Spruance.
Go out and buy a copy of Who Cares Anyway available from all good retailers.