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Tell Me A little Q&A

Passion and conviction have never been issues for Pennywise.

In August, the Los Angeles-based hardcore heroes released their ninth album (all for Epitaph), "The Fuse," another swift kick to the teeth of the powers that be. Maintaining the band's iron-clad sound and signature So Cal swagger, vocalist Jim Lindberg's dress-down diatribes are hammered home by guitarist Fletcher Dragge's raucous riffs and the relentless rhythm of bassist Randy Bradbury and drummer Byron McMackin.

So there may be some pamphlet-passing in the mosh pits when the band, on a nationwide tour with H2O, Death By Stereo and A Wilhelm Scream, slams into the Town Ballroom, 681 Main St., at 6 p.m. Sunday. Call 852-3900.

Just before sound check in Norfolk, Va., Dragge took some time to talk about the state of his band, his so-called peers, and our union.

You've undoubtedly had chances to move to a major label over the years, but you've never left Epitaph. What has kept you there?

It seems like we got smart a long time ago. When Offspring jumped ship from Epitaph and went to a major label, we did the math, and we could see that you could tour all you want, but if you're not selling albums, you're not going to stay on the label. The big labels don't care about the music, it's all about dollar signs.

Epitaph appreciates our music. They were there for us when we were nobodies, and they'll be there for us when we're nobodies again. It's like a family for us. The kids who work there are like us -- they're punk rockers who believe in what we do. It's not some guy in a suit who drives a Porsche, says, "This guy's gonna be your producer; this guy's gonna direct your video," and doesn't give a (damn) about music.

So what goes through your mind when I say the term "punk-pop?"

Oh, wow. Well, for me, those two words don't go together. I think of bands like Blink 182, Good Charlotte, New Found Glory and that's just stuff I'm not into. You know, if you're taking a pop band approach, adding distorted guitars and loud drumbeats doesn't make you punk. I know those guys and they're good guys, but I don't consider those two words to go hand-in-hand. The look might be punk, and they might like punk bands, but it's not really punk music.

It's kind of troubling to think that a kid nowadays can turn on the TV or radio, hear one of these bands, and think that it's punk. But spending $500,000 making a record and having videos on MTV is so far from what punk rock is all about. The real bummer is that they then think they're into punk, but it's a totally different way of life. That's why when we play live, we always bust out a cover of Black Flag, Minor Threat or the Dead Kennedys, and hope that the kids check them out and see who inspired us.

You've also always taken on the responsibility of making socially and politically conscious music, and I'm guessing that with the current social climate, you find yourself fending off the "un-American, unpatriotic" nonsense.

Sometimes, but we drew a line in the sand a while ago that if you're a Republican or Bush supporter, you're not listening to us. We have a chance to take a stand onstage, and these days, too many people are afraid to speak out, that they'll be branded as un-American. And that's completley ridiculous - speaking out is at the core of our freedom.

We're trying to take a stand, 'cause we can't sit back and watch George W. Bush go to war with the world and create so much hatred toward America, and have Halliburton and big corporations running America and making billions off of people dying.

It's not like we sit around and talk about this all day -- we still have fun. But for us, as a nation, to think that we can piss all these people off and not get some back -- we're gonna reap what we sow.

-- Seamus Gallivan, Special to The News

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