Stick To Your Guns: Punk's Not Dead

I f you feel that you know Corey Taylor – and being such an engaging and open presence in the metal community, many of you probably do – then you’ll know the sort of attributes that he values. Passion, intelligence, individuality, integrity, self-belief. Which is why, upon reflection, you shouldn’t be shocked by his decision to name-check Orange County hardcore outfit Stick To Your Guns as a band that he wants you to hear.

Musically, they may be miles apart from Slipknot or Stone Sour – latest release Disobedient is their fifth album of concrete-heavy, highly politicised, old-school punk inspired underground noise, but, speaking to frontman Jesse Barnett, it’s easy to join the dots. Here is a man who speaks in a fiercely articulate and committed way about everything from music and scene politics to society’s ills and everything else in between in a manner that would have Corey, never a man short on an opinion or two, nodding his head vigorously in agreement./o:p

“It’s very flattering,” laughs Jesse when asked for his reaction to Corey’s patronage for inclusion in this very magazine. “I mean, I’d be lying if I said that Slipknot were any kind of influence on us musically. But it’s pretty crazy. Here’s the thing, we’ve been in this band for 11 years now and I love the fact that things can still pop up and blow my mind. It means I’m not desensitised or cynical. And that’s great, that’s very important to all of us.”

For those familiar with Stick To Your Guns, you’ll know this to be true; their reputation for honesty precedes them, but for the many of you that are hearing about this band for the first time, Jesse is keen to have newcomers understand exactly what it is that fuels he and his bandmates./o:p

“When I started this band, I was just an angsty teenager,” he says. “I know a lot of people will think that’s pretty common, but my mom always says, ‘There’s angsty teenagers… and then there’s you!’

“I grew up in Orange County, and it’s a very beautiful place, but I hated it. It’s very sterile, very conformist, very suburban, everything is the same shade of shit brown and it was so suffocating to me. The cliché of the picture of the family on the wall looking happy but there being a darkness behind it was my reality.

“So it lead me to punk, hardcore and metal music. I had the tapes of Minor Threat and Black Flag, and also Sepultura and Metallica. But I attached myself to hardcore because, for me, it was screaming for something. It wasn’t music for escape, it was about addressing these people that run our country and are corrupt and saying, ‘You don’t have to be a part of that.’”/o:p

These old-school ethics are very clearly an integral part of Stick To Your Guns, but you can’t help but feel it should be an integral part of all alternative music. But, in these days of styled, generic, package tour metalcore, it certainly isn’t. So, are STYG outdated throwbacks or torchbearers for the true heart of hardcore?

“Well, it’s odd,” Jesse begins. “We’ve never really been accepted by the hardcore purists or traditionalists, because we don’t play the right chords and I don’t sing, quote-unquote, ‘properly’. So we’ve struggled to find our home in that scene. We don’t sound like straight punk for the punk kid, or straight hardcore for the hardcore kid, or straight metal for the metal kid. We’ve taken all of the different colours and just made… black.

“That uneven response has meant that we could find our own thing, so I certainly don’t look at it as a negative. I mean, I did use to, because I grew up going to hardcore shows and all I wanted to do was be accepted into that scene. But there’s a bigger picture here than what some kid says about us on a blog. We are screaming about something. While I write these songs, there is a goal. We are making a stance to make a better world, so I find that it’s better for us to have found our little niche.”/o:p

And, here again, is a parallel with the work of this month’s guest editors. When Slipknot arrived on the scene in 1999, nu metal was the biggest noise in rock and the nine boilersuited, mask-wearing psychos were viewed with much suspicion, and often hostility. Coming from an Orange County scene more famous for the likes of Avenged Sevenfold and Atreyu, there is the very real feeling that Stick To Your Guns are beginning to revel in being a unique and singular voice in this environment.

“Look, I hear this all the time,” shrugs Jesse. “These guys going, ‘Why don’t you be more like Avenged or…’ whatever. I grew up in this scene and I know that there is Pennywise, Ignite, Inside Out –that’s Zack De La Rocha’s hardcore band – even up to Bleeding Through and more that are all from this scene. Those were the bands I grew up listening to and loving. Atreyu doesn’t totally encompass what Orange County is, people in the know will understand this. We’re just a continuation of that.”

Stick To Your Guns are the embodiment of everything that made punk and hardcore such a vital force in its inception, and Jesse must take a chunk of the credit for that. Put it to him that his intellect and articulate nature make him an anomaly in this world, however, and he’s quick to bite back.

“No, this is what attracts people to this music!” he states. “That’s what I loved about punk rock: these are intelligent people. Look at Milo from the Descendents: motherfucker’s a rocket scientist! Same for Greg from Bad Religion! So brilliant people and punk rock go hand in hand, because these people understand the art and they understand the depths and the meaning and the intention behind doing this as a form of protest. They are the people that have taught me that I shouldn’t stand for any flag or bow to any god or give a fuck about any border, that I and I alone own my shit. And that is the punk rock lifestyle right there.”


> * > Another great band - I > know their guitar player, Chris, really well. He’s been keeping me updated on > their new music and I gotta say it kicks ass. If you like heavy-ass music and > killer lyrics, this band is definitely going to be for you! *

Stephen Hill

Since blagging his way onto the Hammer team a decade ago, Stephen has written countless features and reviews for the magazine, usually specialising in punk, hardcore and 90s metal, and still holds out the faint hope of one day getting his beloved U2 into the pages of the mag. He also regularly spouts his opinions on the Metal Hammer Podcast.