Updated: Dec 1, 2020
Joe King, aka Joe Queer, has been the frontman of The Queers for the better part of 40 years! Here he sets the record for longest Q&A yet; discussing his dislike of Skyline Chili, whether or not GG Allin was a wimp, and why putting shredded cabbage on a grinder is fucking crazy. Enjoy!
Did you really know GG Allin, and was he really a wimp?
Yes I knew him quite well when he first started The Jabbers. He was living in Manchester, New Hampshire and we lived down in Portsmouth near the ocean. When I first met him he lived in a nice clean apartment with his wife, Sandy, I believe her name was. He had a button down shirt and wasn't crazy acting or looking at all. He had a long running ad in the help wanted section of the newspaper that said 'GG and the Jabbers are looking for punk musicians.' It was there for 3 years straight I think. I went up with my old bass player Don. Al Chappel was there. Can't recall who else. It was way back. We ended up playing a few shows together -- The Queers and GG Allin and the Jabbers. He sang Louie Louie with us and writhed around on the floor. It was pretty fun! He was such a fan of rock and roll -- The Stones. The Monkees. Paul Revere and the Raiders. The Turtles. Del Shannon. Motown. The Sex Pistols and Damned and Clash, etc. And of course our fave band was The Ramones. GG's brother Merle played bass in one of my favorite local Boston bands called The Thrills. Johnny Angel was the guitar player. Barb Kitson sang. They had 2 great songs -- Another Face In The Crowd and Heartbreaker. Check them out on youtube. I loved that band. Johnny could be a huge asshole back then but he's sobered up and is a super nice guy now. He's in LA. So I really respected GG cos Merle was in The Thrills. Me and GG hit it off cos of our love for the Ramones and he was into bubblegum stuff as well as punk. I remember one show in Manchester, NH -- Ramones show -- GG showed up in high heels and fishnet stockings and a mini skirt. This was about 1978. It takes balls now never mind back then! That show was great cos it was so small it was almost a meet and greet with the Ramones. I brought my Mosrite in and showed it to Johnny. He let me play his white Mosrite and told me about mine, it was mid level but not good enough to tour with which was exactly right as I found out later. He was all about those Mosrites and knew every little detail them. But anyway GG was there hanging out talking to Joey and Dee Dee. It was midweek and only 200 people or so -- it was freezing out that night -- so it was so fun to just talk normally with the Ramones and see what great guys they were.
I lost touch with GG after a while. Last time I saw him was when him and Merle walked into the Rat on a Friday night. No one recognized GG but me I think. It was packed but no one knew him really. This was years ago. By the time I worked my way over to say hello they had already left. I kept in touch through mutual friends when he was in prison and had plans to go see him in Portland Maine at his show there but he died a week or so before that show. I did get word to him that I was doing a song called I Knew GG When He Was A Wimp which he loved. The girl I knew that kept in touch with him showed me his letter. He seemed in great spirits at the time. After that I lost touch-he got out of prison and I was going to see him and he died. I had wanted to talk to him about doing a comp album of NH punk bands that me and him would 'produce'. He was totally into it he said-again this was via letter through this girl we both knew. Anyway he was something else. I find it sad that people only know him for his crazy antics onstage where he looked horribly fucked up in every picture I saw of him-when in reality he was a super great guy and normal and just a huge rock and roll and punk rock fan. He knew his music.
You’re originally from New Hampshire, right? Was the food in New Hampshire as shitty as it is in Vermont (that’s where my family is from)? I guess they have good food up there nowadays, but man... I remember thinking as a kid, “WTF are they eating up here?!” And do folks in NH put cabbage on their grinders like they do in Vermont? WTF is that about?
Yep I'm a NH boy. Grew up in North Hampton, NH. I always liked the food up there, but I guess it depended on who was cooking. I honestly don't know any sub shops putting cabbage on anything whatsoever. Not on a regular sub. Maybe if it was a hippy-owned place, they'd come up with some crazy shit, but normal sub shops absolutely no. Never saw that, and I owned a small restaurant/cafe in Exeter, NH, plus I worked as a cook in various restaurants around the area, so I was somewhat well versed in any weird food ideas or trends that worked into the food scene.
I love a good sub, though. They have some killer places in and around Beantown. One of my absolute favorite sub shops is in Stratford, CT, called Gaetano's. We always stop in there if we're passing through. We actually brought the Dickies in there last summer when we were on tour! Run by real Italians, and it's just the best sub you'll find in the US, in my opinion. I've knocked about a bit, but Gaetano's is the best! Check it out. In Stratford, CT, on Barnum Ave, I believe it is.
Food in New England is great, I think. But you have to stick with the local fare. Fish chowder. Fried clams. Go to Woodmans or The Clam Box in Essex, Mass. Or anywhere around there will have killer seafood. I worked on a commercial fishing boat -- my brother owns it to this day -- so I would always get fresh lobster and haddock and cod etc. Crab. Fuck I miss that living down here, I tell ya!
You’re now based in Atlanta, right? I’d imagine the food is way better down there than up north, no?
As I was saying, you have to stick to local fare. In New England, they have great seafood. Fish and chips. Kind of basic, I know, but it will be fresh. Fish chowder. Lobster rolls. Nothing I love more than a baked stuffed lobster with baked potato and corn. Down here, it's more collard greens, which I personally hate, and grits -- which I also hate. Southern fare, you have fried chicken and some good BBQ. Food has become a kind of universal in that you can find great BBQ in Boston and great lobster rolls in Las Vegas. I tour so much that when I'm home I like to cook and stay in. So I'll smoke ribs or make some homemade fried chicken w/french fries -- real french fries not frozen. I keep it simple and basic and honest. I love cooking and really miss it. I'd love to open a fried chicken restaurant down here. Cook everything from scratch.
Any favorite spots in ATL?
As far as food no. Fox Brothers BBQ is supposed to be good. As I said before, once I'm home, I'd rather cook here than go out. My wife is Japanese and likes to cook at home too. We hate spending money on food we can make way cheaper and way better.
Was there an album that you heard growing up that made you say, “I want to do that!”?
Hmmm.....well, I played trumpet from 4th grade right thru high school. Around my junior year in high school, I realized I could only go so far playing trumpet cos I couldn't hit the staccato notes-the really fast ones. My tongue is uncoordinated. So I picked up guitar and learned that. It was fairly easy after playing trumpet for so long. I always loved all sorts of music but the David Bowie album Ziggy Stardust really hit me. Not sure I thought to myself I want to play music after hearing it but it certainly inspired me to play in a band. Once punk came along it was pretty easy to jump from Lou Reed and Bowie and Mott The Hoople and The Stooges to the Ramones, The Damned and the Sex Pistols. It all kind of slid into each other.
Do you have any go-to meals, or restaurants, when on the road?
Gaetano's we always hit. We're pretty good pals with the crew at their main store in Stratford, CT. That may be our fave. Van's BBQ in Oakville, TX-exit 65 off I-37 on the way down to Corpus Christi from San Antonio -- that's a great place. Ironworks BBQ in Austin. Jitto's Subs in Portsmouth, NH, has the best steak subs in the world, so we always try to stop there. We like to stay away from the hipster joints that are overpriced and too cool for school. Where the waitpeople act like they're all on heroin and can't be bothered to be nice to you-just to let you know you don't rate in the lofty world they inhabit. You know the type -- the girl will be wearing a Jay Reatard t-shirt and horned rimmed glasses. Walking around as if she's on camera singing 'I Was Made For Loving You Baby' at the top of her lungs. We hate those dumps. We're more into honest meat and potatoes type places. We hit Panera Bread a lot. At least they have good bread and soups and salads. And pastries. It's fairly healthy compared to McDonald's or Subway. We love Jersey Mike's Subs too. Always hit those if we can. Spices Cafe right behind Streets of London Pub on Colfax Ave in Denver is another great little hole in the wall cafe. Kind of small and hard to find but it's got great food. Down the street is another 24hour place called Pete's Kitchen that does pretty solid breakfast meals all day long. Eh I could go on and on I guess but I'll leave it there. Any place with good honest cooking we like!
Have you ever had Cincinnati-style chili? If so, thoughts? (my father, a native Vermonter, refused to try it because it has some of the same spices as pumpkin pie; that, and the fact that it looks like diarrhea).
Oh, I hate that crap. Skyline Chili. Yes, of course, I had it the first time I ever went to Cincy. My problem isn't all the shit that's on it or the flavor -- it's just that the spaghetti is so overcooked it is horrible. Plus, I just don't go for the unhealthy toppings, grated cheese, and all that other shit. I'm a huge fan of Italian cooking, and Skyline Chili on a plate of unsuspecting overcooked pasta isn't my cup of tea.
The Queers have been going strong for nearly 40 years. Where do you see yourself 5 years from now? Is retirement an option?
Eh probably I'll play the rest of my life. I'm a musician so if I'm alive I'll be playing. I enjoy it so much and it's what I do for a living so I'll keep going. I need to finish my book and another album plus i have my recording studio running and that keeps me busy. Great thing about music is there's always something to get you out of bed in the morning. I love the energy. And the laughs. It's a blast playing music and traveling. Never gets boring.
You’ve made yourself super accessible to your fans. Does that stem from some sort of old school punk rock/DIY attitude, or are you just a nice dude? I can’t even get ahold of my boss some days, but you’ve helped me out a few times already — I’m pretty sure I can’t email Lady Gaga and ask for advice, you know?
Oh, it's not a job for me-I love doing it. I've worked for a living. I worked on the fishing boat for 12 years off and on. After that, nothing bothers me about music. Touring is like a day at the Playboy Mansion compared to working on the boat or working construction. Or owning a restaurant. To me, punk was about being the same as the audience -- you didn't talk down to them -- you talked across to them. I'm no smarter than you or the next guy. Getting to do this is an honor, really. I came to a fork in the river years ago, whether to keep my restaurant (I was about to sell one and buy another one where I knew I could make a ton of money), but I chose music. I don't regret it at all. I would have more money in the bank if I did the restaurant, but I'd always have that thought in the back of my head-what would have happened if I played music instead of ran the restaurant? That would have bugged me, so I chose music, and here I am. I don't regret it. Most of the great things that have happened to me in music had nothing to do with money. I was broke a lot of the times I was having the most fun. I see some bands choose which tours they go on cos of money-in a lot of cases it comes down to a few hundred bucks a gig. Go on tour with The Queers and say The Dwarves? Or go on the Warped Tour? Most bands choose the Warped Tour stupidly. We went on tour with the Muffs years ago. It was 6 weeks. I believe the longest tour the Muffs ever did. They paid us $250 a night. Now on our own we could have made a lot more-but this was the Muffs!! True legends! We would have paid $250 a night to go on that tour! It had nothing to do with money but it's one of my favorite tours I've ever done. So much fun and getting to watch a legendary band each night. Hell they let me come up and sing Beat Your Heart Out most nights! Had nothing to do with money. We came home with money; that's all I remember as far as that's concerned but I remember the rest of it very very well cos it was so cool touring with them and Cub. The drummer for Cub was Neko Case! She's pretty famous as a hipster/indy/country singer now but she drummed for Cub that tour. So much fun and great music. Yeah we could have made more money doing some other tour but I wouldn't have missed that for the world! I tell that story to younger bands-don't worry about money-take the cool tour with great bands and you'll always remember that. Who wants to look back and think damn-I could have gone on tour with the Queers and The Dickies but I went on the Warped Tour instead? Yet this is how a lot of bands operate. Not my style.
Anything you’d like to plug, aside from your upcoming European tour?
Other than telling people about my studio -- Scabbey Road -- here outside Atlanta, no. I'll have a FB page going for it soon. I've had some killer bands in here lately. The Atoms from the UK did an album. Jack and the Meoffs from New Brunswick, NJ, did their album here. And finally, Bad Sex from Portland Or just finished a full album. We're having a blast so hit me up if you wanna work with me!!