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Poison Idea

Death punks Poison Idea are the self (and fan) proclaimed “Kings of Punk.” Stirring up trouble for over 34 violent years, the band are finally touring Australia. However, vocalist Jerry A., aka Jerry Lang, is no stranger to what horrors lurk Down Under.

“The last time I was in Australia was back in the ‘90s,” Lang warmly recalls. He talks while roaming the weird streets of the band's hometown, Portland, Oregon. “I played with the Hard-Ons,” Australia’s equally legendary punk rock export. “We did the Big Day Out and travelled around to Melbourne and Adelaide – all the Big Day Out cities. I got to check out everything. On one show I preferred to drive instead of fly. I got to see the Outback and shit, it was fuckin’ beautiful.”
 
During that road trip, Lang “fell in love” with our pretty yet lethal country. The sight that won him over, tourists usually run a mile from.
 
“It wasn’t a beautiful vision or a romantic sunset," Lang recounts. "We stopped and I was in this bathroom, and I saw this spindly black spider in the corner. I was like, ‘Fuck! Look at that spider, man!’ So I got the guys to come look at it. They’re like, ‘That’s a blah blah blah spider, one of the most deadly spiders in the world,’” Lang deadpans. “Eight out of ten of the world’s most lethal spiders live down there. It’s pretty insane.”
 
Poison Idea formed in 1980. Cutting ten records and touring widely, they disbanded in 1993. Since 1999, Lang reformed the band with varying incarnations and success. He's seen bandmates leave, come back and even get arrested. In 2006, veteran guitarist Tom "Pig Champion" Roberts passed away. Now, they're heading to Australia for the first time with a mix of members both old and new. Long time fans will welcome back Eric "Vegetable" Olson on guitar, rejoining after 25 years. Lineup changes are by no means rare. Difference is, they're a world apart from acts dominated by one or two "bandmakers."
 
"All these other bands have big personalities," Lang says. "I mean, you look at the Dead Kennedys, and that's Jello Biafra's band. But when they got Brandon Cruz, it wasn't really the Dead Kennedys anymore."
 
Poison Idea are notorious for whipping up explosive live shows, once fuelled by drugs, alcohol and punk rock mayhem. After 34 years of battling addiction, injury and heartache, why does Lang press on?
 
"Revenge," Lang laughs. "I have a really addictive personality. With booze and food and fuckin' everything. If people say you can't do something, you just go out of your way to prove them wrong. There are times when I say, 'I wanna give it up, I'm tired, whatever,' but someone will say, 'You suck!' and that's all it takes. I'll come back and say, 'Fuck you! I'm gonna do this, I'll show you!' I'll do it just to spite them. But it's fun. It's always been fun and I'm still having a blast."
 
Poison Idea play to more than a few generations of punk rockers these days, usually in crusty dives and sweaty clubs. Crowds packed in to see them are often more entertaining than the act they paid to see.
 
"I get up there and laugh my ass off," says Lang on the view from the stage. "Last time in Seattle, one guy was bangin' his head against the stage. Someone did a handplant on the back of his head and put his face right into the monitor wedge! SMASH! It's better than television."
 
From the beginning, they've earned respect not only from punk rockers, but almost any band that add distortion to guitars. Powerfully driving a hardcore sound and borrowing heavily from hard rock at large, bands from Nirvana to Pantera once pointed to this steadfastly DIY crew as influences.
 
"We don't have a choice," Lang says on staying true to core punk values. "We're not commercially accessible in that kind of way. I don't think a band like Antiseen will ever be on Top of the Pops and I don't think Poison Idea ever will either. I didn't think Turbonegro would, but they changed my mind. They're ready to endorse their line of Turbonegro Levi's products."
 
Finishing that thought, Lang's stung by disappointment. "If you wanna play that game, that's fine. Just put it back into the community."
 
Lang doesn't see our current "me generation" supporting each other. A punk rock sense of community 30-40 years on doesn't stack up.
 
"The hippies were cool in a way because they got big pieces of property, built communes and took care of their people," Lang observes. "I don't see the punks doing that. I don't see punks buying acres of land and take care of old punks. It would be nice to see that."
 
These old punks blazed the trail for young fans today. To give thanks for their service, Lang feels the new guard ought pay at least some of their success forward.
 
"I go around and see that some of the first generation of punks have bad teeth... they're fucked up. They have medical [complaints] and stuff. They need assistance. Foo Fighters, Guns n' Roses, someone with money. Throw a couple bucks in their direction. We need to put the idea in somebody's head. There are a lot of old punks that need help. Seriously."
 
BY TOM VALCANIS

POISON IDEA play the Bendigo Hotel in Collingwood on Saturday May 17 and Sunday May 18.