Megan Seling Interrogates John Pettibone of Himsa
Why are Himsa breaking up?
A little over a year ago, we had just come home from a tour, and I told the band, "I'm gettin' old, I'm hurtin'." I came back from that tour with a herniated disc in my back. It didn't help that we went to Century Media. It's a great label, and great people work with us, but so many bands are on that label. We weren't a priority like we were on Prosthetic. And a small lawsuit that happened between us and an ex-member... it just killed the momentum of the band.
What was the lawsuit about?
Writing. He thought he deserved more. And he didn't do much for the band, let's just say that. He came from a different world than we did. He wanted everything given to him, and that's not us—we always worked for it.
You've been doing music for a long time. You've been in bands since you were how old?
Eighteen, and I've been touring since 1990, whether in a band or working for a band. All those years, it's just like your life is passing you by. So I went to the guys, and they could all see it. So we were like, "All right, let's give it a year." Things were good. We had a headlining European tour, and it was fun and everything, but we came home broke. The cost of touring now is outrageous, and everyone has to get paid before the band. I was going into debt. It sucks because the band's been around so many years, and we thought we had reached a certain level where it would be comfortable to tour, and it was just getting worse and worse and worse.
You have fans all over the world. Have you heard of any fans coming in from out of the country for your last show?
There's one kid coming from Italy! I tried to talk him out of it. I said, "Dude, I'll send you merch, whatever. That's a lot of money!" But he said he's coming, so I'll put him on the list. He can save that 10 bucks [laughs]. That loyalty—that was always what Himsa was about. The kids who always came and supported us, whether they were there in the beginning or later, that's the part of it that I'm sad to let go of. Hopefully those connections will stay.
You were one of the first guys I saw with a pompadour, then everyone had a pomp. You got a devil's lock, then everyone else did, too. You're such a trendsetter. There was even a term for kids who dressed like you, "Petti-clones."
[Laughs] And I don't want to be! I didn't start the "Petti-clone" thing. Someone else came up with that title. Coming from hardcore and punk rock, I've always been into fashion. As much as kids don't want to say it, everything has trends to it—especially music. Half of music is the image. Before I discovered hardcore, I was really into the goth scene—this was the early '80s—so I had the trench coat and teased Robert Smith hair.
I bet your high-school yearbook pictures are awesome.
There's some craziness. There's one picture my mom still holds onto, it was my eighth-grade graduation, where she made me dress up like Miami Vice. I love my mom, so I just did it with a smile on my face—white jacket, pink shirt, spiked frosted hair. After that, instantly—goth kid, anti everything. My dad ran a cable company in North Bend, so we got all the cable we wanted. Late at night they had Bombshelter Videos. They showed Poison Idea and the Accüsed, but they also showed the Cure and a lot of alternative bands. I saw that and there was an instant connection. So I was like, "Fuck this, I want a Morrissey coif." I never tried to be fashion forward, it's just stuff that I would do because I got bored. I get bored easily.
You're still straight edge, right? How long has it been?
Shit, it's going on 22 years? 23? I forget. My soon-to-be wife drinks, so do my parents. It's always been a personal thing [for me]. It does help working at the club and throwing out drunks—it's just like, "I would be that guy if I did drink." I've seen friends of mine who were straight edge for years decide to start [drinking], and it's quite a sight.
You were in a locally produced punk-versus–straight edge movie, Edge of Quarrel, which featured the Murder City Devils, Botch, and Rocky Votolato, among others. It's kind of a cult classic. Any chance of a sequel?
It'd be amazing! Dave Larson [director] has always talked about doing something. Botch and the Devils would have to play again. Dave had mentioned, because in the end I befriend the punks again, he wanted to do the next thing like the straight-edge kids come after me, but they're more violent this time.
You're kind of infamous for a violent incident at the Old Fire House in Redmond, where you jumped off the stage and punched a kid...
Oh yeah, that one still comes about. Or there's the YouTube footage of me fighting a guy at Hell's Kitchen that comes up a lot.
Have you ever taken an anger-management class?
I haven't. A lot of people, a lot of friends, say that [I should]. And it's true—I'm a recluse, I like to keep to myself, but I snap. I like to fight. I always have. I've taken training and stuff—years of martial arts.
What is some of the training you've had?
I took kung fu when I was young, karate, boxing...
Can you break a stack of two-by-fours with your hand?
Never did that kind of stuff. I was more into the combat. I wanted to hit people, not wood! And I'm not tooting my own horn. I've had my number of ass beatings. I've gotten the shit kicked out of me. I've woken up from being knocked out, not knowing what happened. I think people need that. I don't walk around with a chip on my shoulder at all, and I don't look for confrontation. But I'll stand up for myself and my family and my friends if need be.
What's some of the gnarliest shit you've seen after years of touring and working at clubs?
During one of Undertow's first tours, we were down in Southern California, lost in Compton. So, you know, four white kids from Seattle, scared shitless, trying to get gas in the middle of the night in Compton, and we were stopped at a light. The gas station's off to the left, and we see this guy running across the street, full bore. We were like, "That guy's running way too fast. He's not just getting somewhere, he's being chased." All of a sudden, there's a bunch of dudes chasing him from behind. A guy pulls out a shotgun—pow!—blasts the guy right in the middle of the gas station. I don't know what happened. I mean, we freaked out—we just gassed it. We were on empty, too, and we were like, "No, we'll push the rest of the way!" We just had to get out of there. That was pretty brutal.
Himsa play Sat Aug 16, El Corazón, 9:30 pm, $10 adv/$12 DOS, all ages. With Book of Black Earth, Wolves in the Throne Room, I Declare War, Killing the Dream, They Come in Swarms.