Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween Special: Making a living at the funeral homes

Jerrald Bennett, owner and funeral director of local funeral homes, Harper-Swickard and Caudill King, already has his casket - and vault - picked out for when he dies.

"I've got everything written down for me, what's to happen, and my family knows what it is," Bennett said. "I got my casket picked out, my vault picked out. (It's) Solid bronze. 48-ounce polished bronze."

Jerrald pulled a catalog down from the top of his desk in his Harper-Swickard Funeral Home, which he also lives above. He flipped to a page, and pointed to a glowing bronze casket with bright red interior.

"And as fat and heavy as I am, this is gonna be a monster for six guys to carry," Bennett said. "It's called a Promethean."

Bennett has lived above the place he works, above the Harper-Swickard Funeral Home, located at 720 Monroe Ave. in Charleston, for 5 years.

"There was an apartment built here when this addition was put on, and it has been used on and off since 1952," Bennett said.

He owns the entire building.

When somebody dies, wherever it may be, one of the two funeral homes is called - either Harper-Swickard or his other one, Caudill-King, located at 1117 Jackson Ave. in Charleston.

"We make the pickup. We use a minivan most of the time; it's a little more discreet," Bennett said. "Folks kind of appreciate that. They don't really like everybody in the neighborhood to know what's going on."

Before the funeral homes picked up the deceased themselves, it was handled though the city, and ambulances would come out. The problem was, nobody ever paid for the ambulance service.

Once Bennett and his associate and fellow funeral director, Shawn Livingston, find out what kind of service the family of the deceased wants, they either embalm the body or if the family wants cremation, Bennett and Livingston prepare the body for the crematory, located in Sullivan - about 30 miles from Charleston.

As for the wake, or visitation as they call it in the funeral business, it can be held at either funeral home.

Depending on what cemetery the family chooses, a traditional funeral will cost about $6,400, and that includes a minister, a musician, flowers and a half dozen death certificates, Bennett said.

Bennett became involved with the funeral home business because of personal reasons.

"I lost my father at a young age and the funeral home that home we used, we did not have a lot of money, but they didn't treat us any different than they did folks with lots of money," Bennett said. "So it's my way of passing (that) along."

Associate funeral director and embalmer, Shawn Livingston, attended mortuary school at Carl Sandberg College in Galesburg when she was 30.

Originally from Charleston, Livingston wanted to go back to school, but couldn't for a long time because of her mother's conflicting opinion on Shawn attending mortuary school, so she attended nursing school and became a registered nurse. She works at William Houseworth's office when she is not working between the funeral homes.

"He's an OBGYN. I get to see both ends of it (life), comin' and goin,'" she said.

Working with life and death day in and day out, Livingston sees a wide range of people come and go into this world.

"I get a lot of deliveries and I don't like to have the two come together."

Luckily, it doesn't happen often, she said.

At her job, Livingston enjoys one aspect of it more than anything else.

"I really like the embalming, I've just always wanted to do it," Livingston said.

She learned about ancient preservation procedures in mortuary school.

"They used a lot of oils. They actually removed organs," Livingston said.

Today, not much of the old way of doing things carries over, but one thing does.

"Just the respect," Livingston said. "That's carried over. They respected the deceased and so do we."

In school, Bennett was very interested with the ancient preservation methods as well as the entire history behind embalming.

"How they (Egyptians) got everything out of that tiny little incision without - I mean, I think…it's about three inches long, the incision to get all the internal organs out," Bennett stammered.

"How?! And they put them in the canopic jars, about four jars and each one has the specific organs that they were to have. They weren't mix and match. They were very specific on which jars they were to go in," Bennett explained.

"And then the poor people went in the tar pit, you know that, right?" he said.

Even more recently, in our country, embalming and preservation was once a new procedure.

"When did basic America started embalming? Do you know? Think about it," Bennett asked. "Civil War, quite honestly. The surgeons - the doctors were the actual embalmers and when a surgeon performed surgery on - say you got shot in the arm - and they didn't know if you were gonna make it or not, they would put the surgeon's business card in your pocket and when you died, the surgeon got to embalm you, and that's how he made his money, shipping bodies home," Bennett said. "And that was the first war where bodies were able to be shipped home, because embalming had made enough advances. And President Lincoln did outlaw that before the war was over, by the way. He thought it was unethical."

Smiling, Bennett looked at me and said, "You should go to school to be an undertaker."

"Yeah?" I asked, confused.

"Yeah! You're from Chicago, you'd make some serious money," he said.

After school, Bennett came into possession of the titles to both buildings after his old boss, Greg Jerden, "downsized," said Livingston.

As a funeral director, Bennett enjoys his job. The drive and dedication he had with his father's passing carries over to this day, and his passion shows. At funerals, he, as well as Livingston, often comforts the families in their time of need.

"It's just getting to help people at a very difficult time," Bennett said. "If it's someone I know closely, it's more difficult for me. Infants, you know, babies are - I just can't imagine what the family is going through, but those are very tough for me as well."

The only part of the job Bennett and Livingston dislike even slightly are the late-night phone calls of somebody dying.

"When you get called out at 2 o'clock in the morning when you're sleeping, we do go when the death occurs. We don't wait till the next morning on a hospital or a nursing home death," Bennett said. "I've actually made a removal in Tinley Park before."

The embalming process is quite intriguing. Post-mortem human preservation has been practiced since long ago, dating as far back as the ancient Egyptians.

"You put the person on the embalming table, which is basically a table with a recessed curve and there's a channel around it, so the fluid will go in the channel and then down the drain," Bennett explains.

"To embalm a body, you make an incision into the skin, pull out the artery and the accompanying vein," Bennett said. "It's thick and very elastic. The veins are translucent; you see the blood right through them. You inject the fluid into the artery; you drain from the vein. Basically, what you're doing is using the embalming fluids to push the blood out."

If you're lucky, it can be done in one injection. If the person's been dead for a while, you're very likely to have to use more than one injection, Bennett said.

Bennett starts at the jugular vein because it's the most accessible and the largest.

"And from a pressure standpoint, you want to go from large down to the smaller," Bennett said.

If all the blood cannot be drained through the jugular vein due to damage, he resorts to using other points in the body. The most incisions Bennett has ever had to perform on a body to drain its blood were eight.

"If the hands don't clear, you have to come down into the ribs. You have to make a hole into the vessel," Bennett said. "If it's a normal case, (it takes) as little as 40 minutes. In any complicated case, where you have several sites, it can take several hours. Some funeral directors use formaldehyde, (but) we use a glutaraldehyde-based fluid. It's from the same family, but at this point, it's not known to cause cancer. Formaldehyde can. Glutaraldehyde is not necessarily as firming as formaldehyde, but you don't need that for preservation."

After suturing the wound closed, the director hides it with clothing.

"Typically, the embalming would take place before we make arrangements with the family, but we have to have permission," Bennett said. "Once the family comes in, we're all set and then once we have the clothes, we'll get them dressed. If it's a woman, we usually contact the hairdresser and have them do her hair and we try to have the makeup done before they come."

Inside the prep room, Bennett and Livingston use an assortment of tubes to drain blood and pump in the embalming fluid. The tubes are reusable, but the scalpels are not, Bennett said. The directors also need cotton to clean up messy areas. But the eye caps and mouth formers are tools I had never seen before.

"Folks that wear false teeth that for whatever reason, they aren't with the person when they die, we're able to put that in there so their mouth looks normal," Bennett explained. "This is the mouth former," he said as he put one in my hand. "What you do is, you put that in the mouth, you fill it out and to get the mouth shut, you use little spring-loaded device. You drive one of these into the lower jaw and into the upper jaw and tie them together. You just turn them back. You spring load it, just grip it and you have it in.

"Those (eye caps), you put inside the eye (for) muscle contractions," he explained.

"People with pronounced buckteeth present a challenge getting the mouth closed. I'm talking where they're sticking out," Bennett said. "I do know guys that have actually removed the teeth to get their (the deceased's) mouth closed, with permission of course. I never had to do that.

"What I do, is I just fill out the inside with cotton to raise the lower lip up to meet the other one, 'cause I'm not about to remove somebody's teeth, even if I had permission. It's too much," Bennett said with a cringe.

After the body has been embalmed, makeup is applied to the deceased, usually after the body is dressed.

"A lot of the makeup is the same that we use, but if somebody has some trauma that you have to cover up, then you go to mortuary makeup, which is a heavier makeup that covers bruising and such better," Livingston said. "And if the deceased has a favorite lipstick that, you know, she always wore or a favorite nail polish, we just have the family bring in her makeup.

"You might use a little more concealer on 'em, but a lot of times, that's cause they scratched themselves or something and their skin dries out cause there's no fluid circulating through your system like in a live person," Bennett said. "I guess you could say it kind of browns or darkens."

Most of the time, the family brings in the clothes the deceased is to be buried in. It is not often that the funeral homes have to dress the deceased.

As of late, funeral services and traditional burial procedures are diminishing.

"Cremation rates are up quite a bit," Livingston said. "People are doing cremation and not so much having services or visitation and it's kind of becoming a disposable society. Visitations used to be two and three days before the service and now they're just maybe two hours before the service. Business-wise, it's taking away our jobs and what we need to do. That's just the way it is. Cremation doesn't generate as much revenue, so it hurts the business."

But to Bennett and Livingston, the funeral homes are a living.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Q&A with Matt Senreich, co-creator of Robot Chicken

Squid Pro Quo: How did you and Seth Green meet up?

Matt Senreich: "We met on J-Date, and it was love at first sight. That’s what Seth always says and for some reason people laugh at that. Um, gosh how did we meet? I was working at Wizard Magazine, which is a magazine about comic book and toys and video games and the like and gosh, this was back in like 1996 or 7 and uh, I called his publicist to interview him and within 3 minutes he called me back saying he was a big fan of the magazine and I interviewed him and we just became friends after that."

SPQ: How do you get all those toys to make the episodes?

MS: ”We build a lot of them in house now, but we have a guy who is our toy wrangler and he goes out and checks eBay and goes to all the toy stores and calls all the people and its his job to get toys. Ever since we’ve been up and running, we’re now in this great scenario where a bunch of toy companies actually send us stuff when we need it, which has been really nice but the older stuff you have to go out and hunt, which is the best job ever."

SPQ: Has there ever been times with old toys - where you don’t want to play with them, but you have to?

MS: “We got a vintage Batmobile and it was like pristine condition and it was heartbreaking because we bought it for our first season and we had to destroy it for animation - it gets blown up - and I remember Seth was actually filming a movie in Hungary and I called him up at the wee hours saying, ‘Hey, our animators need to destroy this’ and he’s like, is there any way we can do, you know and he tried throwing out like eight different methods to try to save it and I was like no, can’t have that, no, can’t have that, we’re gonna have to destroy it. And he’s like, ‘I guess we’ve got to destroy it’ and it was just heartbreaking for both of us because we always wanted that for ourselves. And we were hoping to keep it in our office as soon as we were done filming it, but no, it got destroyed."

SPQ: Oh man, at least you got the pieces, no?

MS: "Those pieces had been used in many different other segments, but they are shattered into crumbs by now."

SPQ: Man.

MS: “Yeah, heartbreaking.”

SPQ: That is heartbreaking. I saw your Star Wars special, I thought it was very clever, very hilarious. I read another interview with you guys that says you’re working on another one, right?

MS: “We are! We actually are just finishing it up and it’s going to air, I think it’s November 16, so yeah, it’s right around the corner.”

SPQ: Are you guys big Star Wars fans, or geeks, I should say, as well?

MS: “You know, Star Wars is a movie I’ve seen more than any other. It was on HBO when I was growing up every day. I probably watched it on video tape three times more than I’ve watched it on television. But yeah, it’s the movie that got me into this business.”

SPQ: That being said, who shot first, Han or Greedo?

MS: “Oh, Han."

SPQ: OK, awesome. I was gonna say, if you say Greedo, I don’t know if I can go on with this interview.

MS: “That’s the version I saw. Just to show you, I still have the HBO video tape that I have from watching it over and over as a kid on VHS, so that’s the version I like to watch whenever possible."

SPQ: So Seth Green is also involved in Family Guy, but he’s doing Robot Chicken with you. So what’s it like with him doing both those shows, is there competition, how does that work?

MS: "You know, it’s actually really friendly between the two shows. I mean, Seth pretty much just acts on that show, so it’s always a nice surprise for him to go in there like when they gave us that nod on the 'Family Guy' Star Wars special. It was a really nice nod and in the writing process, we have a good relationship with them where we’ll call each other up and be like ‘Hey, we’re doing a thermal exhaust port joke, are you doing anything like that?’ and they’ll be like, ‘Yeah, we have something like it and we’ll compare notes and be like, 'OK, ours is totally different.' Um, but it’s been a lot of fun, because Seth McFarlane comes on our show and does the emperor voice and he’s redefined that character for us and its just been really nice. We take some creative trips together as well."

SPQ: Cool. I was looking at the Star Wars special, and did you say it premiered at Skywalker Ranch?

MS: “It premiered at Skywalker Ranch. Yeah, we took our cast and crew up to the ranch and screened it at their theater there, which has the most amazing sound system ever and it was just a nice little ‘thank you’ that they provided for working with them. I can’t speak highly enough of those guys."

SPQ: So George Lucas was there then, in attendance?

MS: “George was the surprise that we snuck in after we started airing, and our cast and crew didn’t know he was going to be there and we snuck him in and he watched it and Seth and I actually stood in the very back watching him watch it for the first time, really nervous to see what he was going to say and we just kept seeing his body shaking cause he was laughing and we’re like ‘OK, good, we’re doing something right.’ And afterwards he came up and spoke to our crew and I think everybody got a huge kick out of it and we just developed a nice, fun relationship with them.”

SPQ: Are you guys going to do the same thing with the second Star Wars installment then?

MS: “We were just up visiting and showed him the second Star Wars special beforehand. I don’t know if time will permit him to make our second screening or not. We don’t know what we’re doing for the screening of this one quite yet, we’re still worrying about finishing it. But he saw a rough cut, which he seemed to like a lot and he ever quoted it to us, which was quite flattering.”

SPQ: Is there a plot for the second one, kind of like how the first one was running on a lot of the Death Star stuff?

MS: “We kind of follow the storyline of the bounty hunters a little bit in this one. We still skip around the universe a lot and you’ll have a lot of random stuff in it, but we really do follow the sequence of who these bounty hunters are, how they were hired, what their storyline ends up being, and what ends up happening. You could say there’s a good Boba Fett mark in it.”

SPQ: Cool. I was looking at that, and you said you don’t know who he should sound like.

MS: “We just boiled it down to, he just sounds like Breckin Meyer now. He’s redefined that character the same way Seth MacFarlane has redefined the emperor.”

SPQ: I never remember Boba Fett ever saying anything in the movies.

MS: “He had a couple things. Then in the prequels, his character is there, he’s still a kid. And there’s Jengo that he’s kind of playing off of, and he is a clone technically of Jengo Fett. But yeah, it’s one of those things where we just try to make it so it can exist at the same time as all the stuff that they’re doing in the regular Star Wars universe. Ours is kind of like an Earth-Two, to make a DC Comics reference, of the Star Wars universe. This is an alternate view of what the Star Wars universe could be like in the comedy world."

SPQ: I thought it was hilarious when you had the random scene with Leia and Luke in bed saying, ‘Oh, that was wrong.’

MS: “We were shocked that they let us do that. It was very flattering."

SPQ: Final question, the production. Is it all in one place, how do you do the production?

MS: “Everything is done - we have a studio here in Hollywood and we have about 80 to 100 people working here. Everything from animators to a set department, puppet department, lighting, tech., editing - everything is done in-house. All our voice records are done here, we have a voice booth. It’s pretty much self-sufficient now."

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Ani DiFranco - "Red Letter Year" review

Widely recognized feminist singer/songwriter Ani DiFranco has just released her 20th album since 1990 titled, “Red Letter Year” on September 30. Outside the music, the red cover, picture of the moon and the album’s title confuse - until you start listening to it. Compared to her earlier material such as “Not a Pretty Girl,” Ani has mellowed out. A lot of the angsty undertones have vanished, and since have been replaced by feelings of happiness and warmth. There are still hints of her inner feminist surfacing through her words, urging change and equality, but “Red Letter Year” takes a more introspective look at Ani’s life.

On January 20, 2007, Ani and her producer, recorder and mixer, Mike Napolitano, welcomed their daughter, Petah Lucia DiFranco Napolitano, into the world. In “Present/Infant,” Ani sings, “I fear my life will be over/And I will have never lived it unfettered/Always glaring into mirrors/Mad I don’t look better/But now here’s this tiny baby/And they say she looks just like me/And she is smiling at me.” Her modernized folky and bluesy vocals combined with her upbeat guitars, pedal steel guitar and vibraphone cause the listener to transcend into a bright, sunny day as she reassuringly sings, “I’ve got myself a new mantra/It says: ‘don’t forget to have a good time’/Don’t let the sellers of stuff/Power enough/To rob you of your grace/Love is all over the place/There’s nothing wrong with your face.”

Two other love songs that stick with a sappy resonance to the listener’s heart are “Smiling Underneath” and “Way Tight.” In “Smiling Underneath,” she makes it known that the superficialities of life do not bother her as long as she is with “you.” My favorite track is “Way Tight.” Its overall tone is bluesy and comparable to Norah Jones‘ soft, harmonious verses. It hides itself in the sound, but the song has an underlying pop theme to it, something I’m a sucker to. Her steam of consciousness lyrics give that romantic wonderland of hers away when she sings, “You are ever true/Ever new in love/And I mean that in the best and worst way/And I don’t really know what I was so mad about/But the full moon is about a week away.”

Rivaling her upbeat love songs that give off a wisp of dependence, Ani sings of her traditional independence, addressing what she will and will not do. Behind her love, there is no blind foolishness and she says it bluntly. In “Alla This,” Ani declares, “I won’t rent you my time/I won’t sell you my brain/I won’t pray to a male god/Cuz that would be insane/And I can’t support the troops/Cuz every last one of them is being duped/And I will not rest a wink/Until the women have regrouped.”

A lot of people will hear her bit about the troops and turn their heads, but if you empathetically look at what she’s saying, it’s not a jab. She takes a conscious stand. This, I respect in a nation swarming with people who choose apathy over any solid stance. She addresses a similar frustration in “The Atom” when she says, “Yes, messing with the atom is the highest form of blasphemy/Whether you are making weapons/Or simple electricity…The glory of the atom/Begs a reverent word/The primary design of the whole universe.”

Fans of blues, pop, indie, folk, funk and punk should check out “Red Letter Year,” as it showcases these genres and themes amidst its 12 tracks. The only thing Ani may have working against her is if listeners are just too set in one type of music or if her old fans are not accepting of her growth and rebirth as a feminist and as a musician.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Queers Are Here!

The first known usage of the term "punk rock" was in the Chicago Tribune on March 22, 1970 in an article about a New York band called The Fugs, where lead singer Ed Sanders described his solo material as "punk rock - redneck sentimentality."

Punk was not just about making a different style of music for the hell of it, which is a common misunderstanding. Punk seemed to be a necessary step taken in the 1970s by those across the globe who didn't agree with the pompousness and sentiment of the era's rock 'n' roll bands and society.

"Punk rock had to come along because the rock scene had become so tame that [acts] like Billy Joel and Simon and Garfunkel were being called rock 'n' roll, when to me and other fans, rock 'n' roll meant this wild and rebellious music," said John Holmstrom, founder of "Punk Magazine."

By 1977, the punk movement was in full swing. England had The Clash and The Sex Pistols. The U.S.'s punk scene stretched from The Germs in California all the way to The Ramones in New York. Australia had The Saints.

While it had a tendency to spawn in urban areas, punk was not just found in big cities. Many obscure towns birthed some of the longest-living and most influential punk bands of the era. One such place was in Portsmouth, N.H.

In 1977, then-vocalist John Hayes (also known as Wimpy Rutherford) was practicing with guitarist and current vocalist Joe King when his friend, Kevin came running in saying, "'Come out to the car, come out to the car, you gotta hear this tape I got,' Hayes said.

"So we went out to his car and we sat in his car and we listened to 'You're a Loudmouth, Baby' and 'PT Boat On the Way to Havana' and I've never heard The Ramones or anything like that before and that was the day - that was the actual day - that we just stopped doing all the shit we were doing and went down a whole other road. Once I heard the energy of that kind of thing, that just sent me right down the road."

"We were just inspired by The Ramones and Black Flag and we kind of just wanted to start a band," said King. "We were fooling around with our instruments and then we just said, 'Let's start a band.' And that was really it, to just have a legal reason as it were, to drink and try to pick up girls and stuff like that," said King.

At this time, Hayes and King (also known as Joe Queer) played in a local punk band called The Bugs and another called The Falling Spikes. Then in 1981, Hayes, King and bassist Tulu declared themselves "The Queers."

"Joe and I were both just sick of the crap of the '70s, the music that was out and what people listened to, like fuckin' Steely Dan and The Eagles and all that kind of crap, and we just wanted to be anti all that," Hayes said.

King and Hayes just wanted a name people would remember that was provocative and also pissed off the art community.

"We just wanted a name that we could spraypaint around our town to piss 'em off, so that's kind of where it came from and it stuck with us," King said.

When The Queers started out, punk was just punk. There was no "this type and that type" like there is today.

"You were nasty and snotty and played power chords with no beats and it was really, everything was kind of similar," Hayes said. "The only dissimilar things you had was, you had the east coast American and west coast American and then the English."

The Queers released two 45 rpm records between 1982 and 1984.

"I remember when we put out the first two Queers records, it was so small then, I remember being at my house, I was a just little kid, living in my little apartment and in came a letter from Jello Biafra and he said, 'Hey, I heard your two singles on some radio station somewhere, where can I get a hold of them? Thanks, Jello Biafra,'" Hayes said. "So even people like that were already in touch with other people that were doing the same. It was pretty small, pretty close-knit. I sent him the singles, I sent him a letter back and I never heard back, but I had come to find out that the guy's an asshole."

In the mid-'80s, the bandmates went separate ways.

King got into the restaurant business, and owned a two-story bar/café in New Hampshire at the time that had burgers, nachos and things of the sort.

"It's creative and there's a good energy," King said. "A lot of people complain about the restaurant business, but it doesn't have to suck, you know, it could be really fun if you get a good crew in there." We had the dining room area (where) there would be a lot of grilled salmon and Italian food and stuff. It was a pretty cool place and I miss cooking. Every once in a while, I wish I still had the restaurant."

King took me back to the 1980s and early 1990s when he had his own place in N.H.

"I was really dedicated, it was a small place. We only sat 46 upstairs and 46 down in the lounge. Everything was fresh," King said. "So, I cooked my own turkey for the roast turkey sandwiches, I cooked my own roast beef, I cut my own French fries, I made my own tomato sauce - I used canned tomatoes - but I used as much stuff fresh as I could, whether it's a burger or whatever. There's a right way and a wrong way to make it, so I didn't just have a restaurant that I opened up to throw frozen French fries in the fryer, no. I didn't do that, that'd be kind of boring."

As King got into the restaurant business, original bassist, Tulu and Hayes went to Boston.

The bandmates were doing their separate things until 1990 when King put out the first record with bassist Greg Urbatis, drummer Hugh O'Neill and guitarist "Young" Sean Rowley.

"I owned the restaurant then, Hugh and B-Face (bass) worked for me - my friends, you know. We were the punks and so I said, 'Let's make one album. Let's get together and make one more album, we'll put it out ourselves and we'll call it a day, but at least it'll be a great punk album,'" King said. "OK, so we hadn't played in about a year, but we still had a bunch of songs. I met Ben Weasel out in Chicago, I sent him an old recording or something. And he got on Lookout! (Records) in 1992 or 1993 and I was working at the restaurant and Larry Livermore called me from Lookout! and he said, 'Do you want to make an album?' So here I am in N.H. and I'm thinking 'Hey, fuck it, I was going to buy a restaurant in Portsmouth, N.H. There was a great deal, I had the money, I was going to go in there at the restaurant downtown and Larry called."

At that time, Lookout!'s own Green Day was just hitting it big.

"I said, 'You know what, I haven't gone down that path in life and I need to learn those lessons. So I know I'll probably regret this, but I'm not going to buy that restaurant,' so I didn't buy it," King said. "The people went in there and they made a lot of money. But I went down that path in life with music and I traveled and that's what happened."

To King, it was weird because he and his friends just wanted to have fun and play on weekend and work the restaurant business.

"That's the point where we made 'Love Songs For the Retarded' and put it out ourselves, we pressed like 500 vinyls or something and called it a day, but here I am," King said. "Then all of a sudden, I went down that path in life and that's how I met my wife and all my friends now are through music, so this whole big life I have was all because I took that decision not open the restaurant and take a chance and go on the road and play music and meet people and learn about life. It all worked out."

Before 1993's "Love Songs For the Retarded," The Queers' 1990 release, "Grow Up," was the band's first and, undergoing numerous lineup changes over the years, The Queers today have over 15 releases between full-length albums and 45 rpm singles. The band's 2007 release, "Munki Brain," deviates away from straight punk and into bubblegum pop and surf.

It's rare that a punk band outlives The Ramones' 22-year career, but The Queers have done it and are still traveling the world.

"You kind of get to the point doing music where listen, all of want to party, at least a bunch of us musicians, want to party and do drugs and drink and not have to work a regular job and sleep with girls you wouldn't meet otherwise," King said. "You want to do all that stuff, but ultimately, it was something inside, that I had to do music. Once I started doing music, I realized it was all about punk rock to me, and music was about being the better person and learning about life and becoming a better person through it. People think it's just about playing a gig to a bunch of drunken people, but its so much more. It's like a journey; if you don't learn anything from the journey, then I should've just stayed in the restaurant."

To King, musicians are lucky to take on the job of going out and touring and playing music to lots of people.

"Not many people get to do a job where they cheer, you know? And say 'MORE MORE MORE.' That doesn't happen when you're flippin' burgers or writing for the paper or whatever, right? You know, if you don't learn from this lucky trip that you're on right here, then you might as well go manage a fuckin' Taco Bell 'cause you're a fuckin' asshole and you haven't learned anything."

"Like George Harrison from the Beatles said: 'We woke up one day, we're the biggest band in the world but then we looked at each other and said, 'Now what?'' So yeah, that's the way I look at it, it's all about learning about life," King said.

Over the years, a lot of now-famous pop punk bands have opened for The Queers.

"A lot of the pop punk bands that got famous like Lit or Good Charlotte or Fall Out Boy or Blink-182 and tons of those other bands - Sum 41 - but really, the only truly great one was Green Day. I'm inspired by it, it's great and that's cool and more power to 'em, I mean, I did it 'cause it was something inside, but bands like us, Green Day, Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Screeching Weasel, The Muffs, we didn't do it 'cause it was a career move," King said. "Now it is a career move. If you look like you dress at Hot Topic and got eye shadow on and you write some gay ass songs, you can get famous whether you have fuckin' talent or not, if you got the look.

"It was like a loser's proposition. You were either fuckin' 'Welcome to Burger King, may I take your order ma'am?' or a punk rocker. There wasn't any fuckin' safety net under you. You did it because something told you to do it. Green Day, they were going to do those songs on 'Dookie' whether they got fuckin' famous as hell or they didn't. They had those songs written - we saw 'em, they were showin' 'em to us - before 'Dookie' came out. Some of us got really famous, some of us got semi-famous and some died, some lived, some learned, some moved on, you know. But it touched all of us. Punk rock really did a bunch of cool people out."

King is now married, but playing more than 30 years of punk rock, he is definitely not looking to call it a day anytime soon.

The Queers, who tour a lot, can live off touring, but the band needs a break, King said.

"I'm opening up a recording studio and starting my first session next week, working with The Riptides from Ottawa, Canada," King said. "We're going to do a split with them and a couple other projects. I got a bunch of bands coming in. We're starting slow, but it's pretty cool. I'm spending all my money on stuff, but it's fun. To be honest, I'm more into getting behind the scenes. I see some of the newer pop-punk bands, not many of them really excite me and none of 'em can really hold a candle to Screeching Weasel or Mr. T Experience or The Muffs back in the day. So, I get inspired to show 'em how it's done properly."

Hayes is currently fronting The Jabbers, G.G. Allin's first band. The Queers' current lineup consists of King on vocals and guitar, The Bugs' Dangerous Dave on bass and backup vocals and Ryan from the Atom Age on drums.

At 7 p.m. Sunday, October 5, The Queers will be rolling through Urbana, stopping to play a show at The IMC, 202 S. Broadway, with The Independents, Roberta Sparrow and Dizzy Chair Time. Admission is $10.