Tuesday, April 13, 2010


(Interview originally conducted Nov. 2005)

You meet a lot of interesting people on the road. One night last fall I met a fella they call "Ratboy" in Fresno, CA. One of the most peculiar people I've ever talked to. It's too bad you can't hear the intensity of his voice here, as he tells his life story. We spoke for almost 2 hours, this is only the first 40 minutes or so of our conversation.

Where you a mischievous child?

I was indeed. I grew up in the 1970's, I’m 35 now. And so... my parents divorced in '77. We were living in Southern CA and my mother, my brother, and I moved up Oakers, CA a small mountain town 45 minutes outside of Yosemite National Park, a couple hours to Fresno here where we currently sit and uh... yea... as far as mischievous and prank phone calls and things of that nature that... that’s when things really started getting interesting.. I... I was uh... of course immediately aware I was not going to have any mainstream socialization abilities or experiences at all. But there are things I can do to keep things at a livable, sane level of interest. So the phone.. Yeah... the phone I immediately ran up on the phone as my tool at that time. The phone and of course my mom’s record collection.

What did she listen to?

Well, she would... she... uh... break out... she let us look at it and you know if I wanted to listen to a Supremes record that was cool, but she kinda... it would seem to me kind of uh... was discouraging, but I probably took an interest probably in her Stones records, her first Doors album or something, you know? In that context, you know, up in the mountains.. That stuff for her was pretty interesting. And my aunt would listen to some stuff that I would uh... enjoy. A guy my age, whether he admits it or not, is always gonna have a soft spot for Bon Scott AC/DC. For instance... uh... I openly admit, proudly, and will talk for hours, about Cheap Trick so.. I’d listen to their music.. So... there was stuff from my aunt too but um yea... just uh... music, horror movies and uh... fuckin’ with people on the phone and uh...

What was your best prank?

Well, I had all kinds of stuff. There was also stuff that we can get to later where beyond the phone I would go and do organized, physical... um... harassment of the neighbors. A “ding dong” ditch things that would catch fire and become even more. We would throw rocks at cars... stuff that was even dangerous and jackass, but the phone was my favorite of course because this... people have to understand... all of your readers who are not 25 years of age or older, that the phone used to be a usually well-mounted item which had a dial... a circular dial... um... yeah... Our house....this is something that’s gonna blow away any 15 year old ...our house was on a block that had uh... a block party line. In other words um... not party like “we’re having a good time” but party as in a large group of people. We had to share it. You could pick up the fuckin’ phone.. What I’m saying is... and there could be your neighbor talking to somebody on the fuckin’ phone, ya know? You had to share it ... there was a whole other level of decor that you had to have just to participate in the technology back then. The party line..it was called... the party line. And of course I was... as you know.. Which I’ll get into, what I did do... I was tempted when I’d pick it up and hear these people talkin’, to do stuff. I knew whoever it was, if it was somebody at the end of my street there was no hope in hell I was gettin’ away with it. So you’d call somebody up on the phone and they would receive the call on a phone that was of no higher technology than yours and if they didn’t know who you were and you didn’t push it to the point where you were somehow uh.. Hey James, what’s up? This is my friend James from up the hill. This guy is a witness to some of the stuff that I was just about to describe. This guy has actually seen me do these things!
James: Old school stories, huh?
Steve: Old school stories.

[brief interruption]

So yeah, the technology was so primitive back then, it was a big deal if you had an answering machine. If you could figure out how to use it to record conversations .... that was a big deal rolled into a useful tool... for entertainment and uh... I figured out the phone was gonna bring me sanity-giving entertainment.. I would... I guess I started out with just testing the boundaries of the whole concept. I’ll call up somebody random, preferably an old lady, ‘cause you know you get an old lady and as everybody knows, she will talk to you as long as you have anything resembling a reason for her to continue speaking with you.
Right before James walked in... that’s a friend of mine from Oakers... I’ve known that guy since.. Well... the first time I saw that guy he was literally wearing a diaper.. And I was friends with his older brother Jason, and Jason and I used to do this: we had a thing.... and this is great... this is gonna sound a little surreal so stick with me...this is the thing we did... I don’t think you’ll be surprised at all to find out that the only consistent society job I’ve had since I started working is a telemarketer. I hate dealing with people who are not hip and don’t get it in person. It’s awkward, it’s uncomfortable. I’m not a person given in to anger and darkness.. I’m sure fellas like you, I’m sure find it at the very least when trying to relate to these more “common people” in society... these “peasants”.. I’m sure that sounded pretty snooty.. I didn’t mean to say “worse than” but have certainly signed on to “the team” to “the big picture”..the “mainstream society outlook”.. That is at the very least awkward and uncomfortable... like I’m imagining scenes in my head where I’m killing these people... I mean I hate it. So a phone conversation with some distance and me in control of technology was definitely good... Anyway... back to the things I would do with Jason Clark... he and I would do these things for the school where’s we approach the neighbors door to door and collect money... sometimes you’d get a chocolate bar and you’d help the school or sometimes you’d do it to get a school jacket. Well, it occurs to me one day while we’re doin’ this... we’d do the circuit around our neighborhood and this is in pretty high elevation near Yosemite ... In the winter they’d get 3 feet of snow and the school buses couldn’t come.. The summer, ya know, it would be so ridiculously beautiful you could shoot Budweiser commercials there... and they have. I don’t think I can emphasize enough or set the scene here that we were in the mountains... Ok?... Bears and mountain cats...you know.. Deer were fuckin’ common... So we’re walkin’ around and it occurs to me that these people are giving us money and we’re holdin’ a clipboard with the official club or whatever we’re doin’ but I realize they ain’t lookin’ at it and it ain’t about them lookin’ at it, it’s about them gettin’ us the fuck off their doorstep as soon as possible. They were not interested in any kind of verification procedure and we were getting the money. That sat in front of my face a few times.. I must admit I wasn’t as sharp back then. Before the fuckin’ lightbulb actually went off..[laughs].. Haha.. You guys may of guessed a little bit where this is goin’...well I decided ya know, we could combine all the entertainment pleasure of the prank phone call thing with the occupational, monetary rewards of... ah... a true scam here.. This represents that opportunity. So yeah, we jumped right into it. We started goin’ around. I came up with the idea that we were uh... we were gonna um... [laughs] we’re gonna do..ah some kind of ah... really well-researched.. Like if they were gonna ask me questions about it to uh... we were having some kind of raffle for the school or something.. Really elaborate, too convoluted, complex... and Jason of course said no no you’re over complicating this.. And of course old ladies were the best.. This one gal in particular.. She was out in the middle of the forest.. So anyway we’re takin’ about pretty Deliverance-style accommodations up here in Oakers as far as access at the time..so anyway this one old lady... I think we must’ve broken into her house when we were in the 7th or 8th grade a few times. You know? And when I say breaking in, by no means do I mean something an inner city kid would consider like breaking in.. These people didn’t lock their homes... you could walk in and hang out in their fuckin’ house.. You know thinking back on it... the sky was the limit. You know this old lady... she wasn’t there... and she prolly wasn’t gonna be there for a long while. You could’ve gone in that house and vandalized it unmerciful. Done any manner of horrible fuckin’ things. Gone outside and watched the reaction. Have plenty of time to set up perfect vantage post... It’s amazing, we could’ve dranken the alcohol in her alcohol cabinet you know... set the bed sheets on fire..urinated in her closet... My thing was like I wanna find private stuff that would expand the characters.. Demonstrate the weaknesses of uh... give feet of clay to, or show the harsh light of reality, the human weaknesses of THIS person.. You know? When I discovered punk rock that’s when this all happened...

Yeah, I wanted to talk to you a bit about your musical background....

Yeah yeah... take it! You better guide the conversation man, because like an old lady myself I will start a ramblin’...

Yeah yeah yeah.... I did wanna ask you about bands you grew up on.. Phases you went through...

Um... well.. The first, very first ones... I do a lot of shit to verify people...um... as I talk to them... I don’t do it with guys like you because you come pre-verified as the very fact of your existence.. The reason you are here is because you are pre-verified to say the least... and I test people to see... I don’t know how to say this without it coming out arrogantly.. I’m not gonna beat around the bush and eat up your tape finding out a way to sugar coat it.. I think... and as far as I know, and like I’ve said, I test people and have researched this to see if..um.., I’m the hippest guy I know... by my definition of hip, that I know... If you lived here there would be 2 of us... with you being a little hipper than me..because you have the fortune of being of what I call “the outside”, “the big world”.. You are actually from there and of that.. The very things I’ve worshiped. So I got... when I got hip... I got real hip and it got... and it was done very quickly. In the 80's in high school when you got into punk this was not um... about having a Blink 182 t-shirt, your fuckin’ cheerleader girlfriend, and high fives on the blue hair.. No no no no... you got your ass kicked. You got beaten up... instead of a high five.. You’ve got nooo guarantee of a girlfriend and certainly only a magnified level of harassment... because like I said I’m very tired, and at the best, awkward and uncomfortable. Each time I’m gonna make sure that it’s gonna go into the red and it’s gonna go into the red on their part as well.. We’re both gonna be fuckin’ uncomfortable.. But at least its gonna be entertaining for me because I’m smarter than them. And so yeah, I have taken psychical beatings .. I mean looking back on it.. The fact that I weigh a buck ‘o five and decided I was gonna let my big mouth run was gonna result in... a small mountain town in the 80s.. I’m lucky, things could’ve gotten... gone a lot further for sure. And when I got into punk rock one of huge fuckin’ things about it was... prepare to laugh... I was really into the Ian McKaye straight edge philosophy. But I already hated .. I could already see early on what that had become in that there were these bands advertizing 7"’s in Maximum Rock N Roll where the members visually looked exactly like the guys that I WISH I could find out ways to kill. Like my thing was.. Yeah they beat me up and you grow up and let that shit go and... or not. Now I’m ..I let it go and it doesn’t burn a hole in my gut.. But I was the super villain type.. I wanted to become these guys that I read about it my comic. I will someday Mr. Golassgo back and if I have any kind of success in anything and figure out a way to do something to... some elaborate revenge on a level of.. Have you ever seen that film “The Game”? Same director that did “Fight Club”... “Fight Club”... nobody likes that movie but me, but in 10 years from now everyone will admit it was the “Clockwork Orange” of our generation. Anyway... to go back real quick.. I put an asterisk next to my first memories of music...Anybody.. The reason I bring it up and I test people...anybody who is a “real deal” guy will remember and have these memories that I’m about to describe. The first fucking records... the first medium...you played them on.. My first records were given to me as a child between the years of 1974 and 1975. These years are also significant because in 1974 my mother Donna, God rest her soul, gave me my first comic book. My biggest aspiration in life and the reason I occasionally write for ‘zines... I’ve done stuff for Maximum Roll ‘n Roll, Terrorizer, PIT... all kinds of internet stuff... the reason I do that is not as a means to an end to itself, I am passionate about describing music and meeting bands and stuff and I would hope that’s the closest thing... My fantasy.. Being my real thing, and one time I was pursuing it, I almost got there... I hope to try again... is to write super hero comic books. I believe I could be the greatest writer of super hero comic books in the world right now. I mean I shit you not. I promise you on my son’s life if an assistant editor from Marvel were to call me up right now and say you got a one shot at Captain America , do it. I promise you.. I don’t know how to tell you in my deepest levels of human sincerity, I would whip it out and it would be publishable in no less than 3 fucking days. I would go right to town. The crazier of a character you got the better a job I could do. You know if you wanna give me Swamp Thing to play around with at DC.. We’re fuckin’ goin’ to town... So anyway, when I got into high school I found out about Oingo Boingo and I went to my first concert which was an Oingo Boingo concert. I tried to go to ones before but my mom wouldn’t... like INXS... before INXS broke big here with “The Kick” album, I was into them and their albums before that. Like I was runnin’ pretty fast for a sheep... I was running well ahead of the sheep in my flock. Like I had the speed of Wally West The Flash compared to those guys. I was inhuman, they couldn’t even see me. But by the time I found places where there were bigger flocks of sheep.. I was already... you know... runnin’ fairly fast, or I should say that I was still a sheep, just running fast. When I got into high school I joined drama class because I thought that might be something, and it was... there was you know the art fag guys in there. I look back on it now and call ‘em that but at the time these were the cool guys. It was cool that they wore all black and were pretentious and acted like these aloof characters in John Hughe’s films and shit. And uh... these guys... handed me my first fire. And I started making fires. I would go to make bonfires and these guys only made like a marshmallow cookout fire. They handed me my FIRST fire. A stick with some fire on it. They showed me some stuff. And uh... very quickly like I said, I was building bonfires way, way bigger than their campfires... in a VERY short period of time. And it got to the point where I was the biggest fuckin’ fire builder that I could see anywhere around me. So I started comin’ here to Fresno from the mountains ‘cause it was time to take it to the next level...

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