Interview with James Spooner (Afro-Punk, The High Desert)

Interview with James Spooner (Afro-Punk, The High Desert)

In this episode of The Truth In This Art, Rob interviewed James Spooner, James Spooner is a graphic novelist, tattoo artist, illustrator, and filmmaker, who directed the seminal documentary AFRO-PUNK which premiered at national and international film festivals, including Toronto International and The American Black Film Festival, and they discuss his latest work, The High Desert: Black. Punk. Nowhere. , Afropunk and much more.

00;00;10;12 - 00;00;30;10
Rob Lee
Welcome to the truth in this art. I am your host, Rob Lee. Today, I have the privilege of being in conversation with an American tattoo artist, graphic novelist, filmmaker and the co-creator of the AfroPunk festival. Originally from New York City, now living in L.A., Los Angeles. Please welcome James Spooner. Welcome to the podcast.

00;00;30;21 - 00;00;31;29
James Spooner
Hi. Thanks for having me.

00;00;32;16 - 00;00;45;04
Rob Lee
You think thanks for popping on like I had that that that really corny inclination of saying it's going on Jay spoon but that's not that's not what we're doing just because it wouldn't be the.

00;00;45;04 - 00;00;46;23
James Spooner
First time I heard it. That's fine.

00;00;47;04 - 00;01;11;19
Rob Lee
It's just I had this question I asked someone the other day, and I might try to work it into this conversation. But I want to start off with kind of like how how you present, how you frame yourself, because I gave that copy and paste bio. But for you, what is that most interesting characteristic that you would say this truly defines James Spooner or what have you?

00;01;12;00 - 00;01;26;29
Rob Lee
I had a an interview yesterday to all the superlative. This is who this person is. And her response was, first and foremost, I'm a human. And I was like, I appreciate that. So for you, what would be your kind of thing with all the tattoo artists, graphic novel, filmmaker, all of that? What is the thing for you?

00;01;27;19 - 00;02;12;04
James Spooner
Well, I mean, I definitely put art as a high priority in my daily life, and I don't really know how to get around that. It's just always, at least since high school, been just a reason to wake up in the morning. I am a father and I take that very seriously. I am also a partner. I am in a relationship and I work very hard to like not mess that up on a daily basis.

00;02;12;20 - 00;02;16;18
James Spooner
Yeah, I mean, I'm just a person trying to find balance between all the things I love.

00;02;17;09 - 00;02;40;10
Rob Lee
Yeah, that balance is important. And when it's off, I just have that thing in my head is like the balance is off. There's almost like a disturbance in the force a little bit. It's like the balance is off. And I'll say that to my partner, mostly in those, those kind of like interpersonal situations, like especially like an office culture, it's just like, yo, somebody is not in office today because people are just yelling something stupid.

00;02;40;10 - 00;02;58;09
Rob Lee
What's happening here? And you just kind of just chalk it up. The balance is off. So, you know, I think being able to maintain balance, especially when you're doing multiple things because you're, you know, art is art is a thing. Like I've kind of looked over some some of the graphic novel stuff and was like, Hey, it's kind of super talented.

00;02;58;29 - 00;03;25;20
Rob Lee
So tell me, tell me about the process of putting together the graphic novel, The Coming of Age, graphic memoir, The High Desert, and your current concurrent culture. Curating the second book entitled On Black Punk Down and a Punk Anthology. Could you describe the feelings in putting something together? Talk about the process and some of the feelings with revisiting, especially with the the graphic novel coming of age, graphic novel, High Desert, revisiting some of those experiences.

00;03;27;10 - 00;03;31;29
James Spooner
Well, I guess just to kind of give it a little bit of background.

00;03;32;08 - 00;03;32;17
Rob Lee
Please.

00;03;33;24 - 00;04;05;21
James Spooner
The memoir takes place over one year, and my middle school, high school age time and I at the time, I lived in this very small town in southern California called Apple Valley. And there was like when I say this is a small town, it's like if you're going from Los Angeles to Vegas and you need to stop for gas, you would stop in the town, the big town that's next to our town.

00;04;05;27 - 00;04;33;23
James Spooner
You know, like like our town was the small town. And that town, that's really just the town to get gas, you know? There's no real reason to for anyone to, like, visit or, you know, it's just the American small town, right? Right in the desert and in this place. This is where I found punk rock. And I was one of two black kids who was in the scene.

00;04;34;06 - 00;04;58;02
James Spooner
And there were a lot of racists, not just like regular racists, like microaggression or racist like that was happening, but just like, you know, Nazi skinhead kids, you know, people just walking to school, people yelling nigger at me, like just as I walked with my trapper keeper, you know?

00;04;58;12 - 00;04;58;23
Rob Lee
Right.

00;04;59;04 - 00;05;00;19
Rob Lee
It's like, this is not the outfit.

00;05;01;10 - 00;05;47;19
James Spooner
You know, like, yeah, it is just really like, you know, it was a at the time it was normal. So this is just what it was. But, you know, obviously, looking back, it was a really like terrible environment to grow up in and so with the book, I really wanted to, you know, first and foremost, wanted to write a love letter to punk rock, you know, but because punk rock is so much of my life, my community, my family, I feel like I was raised by punk rock and so many ways.

00;05;47;27 - 00;06;23;01
James Spooner
I also have no problem critiquing it, just like you would a cousin or a parent or something, you know? Yeah. And you know, the kind of things that that my friends let slide the kind of racists, you know, yeah, I'm friends with this Nazi, but he's cool kind of fan or the Nazi says I'm cool. So then I'm good with them, you know, like those kind of things that happened, you know, happened to me when I was just 13.

00;06;23;26 - 00;06;39;14
James Spooner
You know, these are those are things that I really wanted to critique because I think there are a they reflect a larger society. You know, now, in terms of were you asking about process or were you talking about like more motivation?

00;06;39;28 - 00;07;05;17
Rob Lee
So yeah, it's it's the second part too. So the second part is, is the process. And, and I think I want to make it a little bit more general than initially I had it. Can you walk me through the process of taking on like, like new work or what have you? Like, what is that the first thing that you're doing, whether it is putting together a book or whether it is and kind of maybe dabbling with filmmaking again or anything else, that's a creative interest of yours.

00;07;05;28 - 00;07;10;07
Rob Lee
What is that first thing that you're doing? What's in the middle and what's that that kind of end of the process?

00;07;10;17 - 00;07;44;01
James Spooner
Well, I think I'm like a lot of people. I start a lot of projects and, you know, sometimes I either lose interest or I don't, you know, and sometimes the ones that I lose interest in, I come back to or I revisit in a different way at a different time when I'm ready. You know, I've definitely got like more ideas than I have lifespan, you know, to, to get to.

00;07;44;12 - 00;08;24;29
James Spooner
But really I usually start with a lot of note taking, you know, brainstorming just kind of like I do, I do a lot of most of my work outside of tattooing has been really like personal memoir. Even even AfroPunk was like a documentary was like, I would consider it a memoir. I just didn't put myself in it. You know, I let other people tell my story, you know?

00;08;24;29 - 00;08;44;08
James Spooner
So yeah, it's just kind of a lot of like, what do I want to talk about in this piece? Like, what am I trying to, you know? So there's, there's like there's a bit of discovery as you go. But I think starting off with like a clear intention.

00;08;44;17 - 00;08;44;24
Rob Lee
Yeah.

00;08;45;25 - 00;08;53;06
James Spooner
Is, is really valuable. So that way you don't meander into places that you don't waste time doing stuff you don't need to go. You know.

00;08;53;22 - 00;09;01;11
Rob Lee
It's like, here's the essentials. This is on one path. Why does this fit into what ultimately I'm aiming for?

00;09;01;11 - 00;09;36;13
James Spooner
And yeah, was like, Oh, I would love to tell this story, but it doesn't, it doesn't serve the larger story. So I have to just drop it, you know, and then, you know, once in the middle, like once I'm in it, I usually get this sense by the time I'm in the middle space, I'm like, okay, I've already involved other people, you know, I've interviewed people I've taken photographs of people I've, you know, invested other people's time.

00;09;36;24 - 00;10;01;27
James Spooner
And I have a certain obligation to that to complete it, you know, and also, I'm kind of like I always ask myself, like, if I wasn't doing art, what would I just, you know, like, what would I do? I know a lot of people just go to work and then they come home and they watch like 5 hours of television and then they go to sleep, right?

00;10;02;10 - 00;10;16;09
James Spooner
And I do that. But in that, while I'm watching that without 5 hours of television, I'm also like drawing. You know, I try to organize my day where it's like, what can I do during that 5 hours?

00;10;16;20 - 00;10;19;00
Rob Lee
You know, like, yeah.

00;10;19;00 - 00;10;25;23
James Spooner
Because, you know, that's just sitting there. Seems like I. I don't know how to do that.

00;10;26;22 - 00;10;38;10
Rob Lee
Do you enjoy kind of working on multiple things kind of one time and just seeing like, all right, I've been working on this. Let me switch gears. I'm running up towards a block. So, for instance, I kind.

00;10;38;10 - 00;10;38;25
James Spooner
Of hate it.

00;10;39;03 - 00;10;39;26
Rob Lee
Oh, right. Okay.

00;10;40;03 - 00;10;55;05
James Spooner
Yeah, I, I feel like once I could commit myself to a project, for better or worse, everything else follows away. And I have to.

00;10;55;20 - 00;10;56;08
Rob Lee
Just.

00;10;56;26 - 00;11;43;08
James Spooner
Force myself to stop in order to just, like, eat or walk the dog or, you know, go pick up my kid from school or whatever it is, like take a vacation, you know, like that kind of stuff is really hard for me and it, but it's also, it's essential to my mental health because I have definitely, you know, in my, in my twenties when I didn't have all those outside responsibilities just like worked myself into, you know, like I stay up until I feel like my eyes are bleeding and like I'm sleeping under the you know, like I fall asleep on the keyboard or something, you know.

00;11;43;14 - 00;11;43;23
Rob Lee
Like.

00;11;45;15 - 00;12;04;13
James Spooner
One time I woke up and I just had this, I, I was sleeping and I heard this like crack in my neck. And I thought it was just like, I don't know, sound like a knuckle crack, but it was like I had there was so much pain. I like I broke something in my neck.

00;12;04;17 - 00;12;05;21
Rob Lee
I don't know. And I like.

00;12;06;01 - 00;12;18;19
James Spooner
It felt like it. I woke, I stood up to like, oh, maybe like in the middle of the night. So, like, maybe I'll shower and like loosen it up or something. And I fainted on the way and like my head went through it with a cable.

00;12;18;29 - 00;12;20;10
Rob Lee
Clang Oh.

00;12;20;10 - 00;12;45;02
James Spooner
And that was like because I didn't rest. Like, I just, you know, I had this crappy desk and a crap like a crappy workstation, you know, and I would just, like, be hunched over in this bad posture for months, you know? And it's just like, yeah, so I have to have these outside things that tell me to chill.

00;12;45;18 - 00;13;03;03
James Spooner
Um, but if I had, like, a second project, you know, it's like, it's so hard to put aside the first project to work on the second one, you know, like, because I'm always just like, I could be finishing this.

00;13;03;03 - 00;13;22;17
Rob Lee
Yeah, I do this podcast and I do a movie review podcast and this one takes up the majority of my time and I have the day job and I'll say, I get crap from my partner. She'll say, like, Did you sleep in the studio on the floor again? She's like, You have a beard? I was like, I was busy being productive.

00;13;22;17 - 00;13;38;25
Rob Lee
She was like, No, you fell asleep after you did a podcast and you were watching wrestling or something. That's what happened. And I was like, You know me so well, but it's kind of that thing where I get energized from like this. The space that I'm in currently, this is where all of my cool stuff is that this is where I feel at my freest.

00;13;39;03 - 00;13;59;13
Rob Lee
And I'd never want to put a bed in here. I want to keep it as a creative space and as where I do my work. But sometimes I might get tired after doing like four podcasts in a day and I want to be on task and I think recognizing I think you touched on it very well of knowing when I need to take these breaks for my mental health and being aware of that.

00;13;59;13 - 00;14;17;26
Rob Lee
Like if you're doing 15 interviews in a week, you're taking in a lot of extra energy sometimes and talking with folks and them sharing maybe at times intimate details that are a part of their process or what's baked into their work. And it doesn't just go away. I'm actively listening. So I'm like, Wow, I am tired. I need to rest.

00;14;18;11 - 00;14;33;16
Rob Lee
And it might be, let me take a week off or two from doing this in this way, because I'm running a little too because I'm I'm in my late thirties, so I'm real old too. I'm coming up on 40. So it was like a run a little too much. Now I need to slow down, you know, take a breather, have dinner.

00;14;34;12 - 00;15;05;27
James Spooner
Yeah, definitely. I'm having that awakening right now about my age because I. I book this, like, really intense book tour that is taking me all around the country. And it's exhausting. It's exhausting booking it. It's exhausting doing it, you know, like that. And it's a lot, you know, like and then I'm there and I'm on and I'm excited and I'm, you know, I'm enjoying it.

00;15;06;11 - 00;15;30;12
James Spooner
And then I leave and I'm like and I am exhausted and I got to do this tomorrow or, you know, I got to get on a plane at 4 a.m. because now the TSA makes you wait forever. And all of this, you know, I mean, it's just it's a lot. And, you know, I'm in my mid-forties. And if it was if it was when I was doing this in my twenties, it was it was fun.

00;15;30;12 - 00;15;31;24
James Spooner
It was chill. I don't remember stress.

00;15;32;04 - 00;15;32;12
Rob Lee
Yeah.

00;15;33;08 - 00;15;36;26
Rob Lee
It's like, oh, this is different. This is great. It's like, are you sure you remember it? Well.

00;15;37;07 - 00;15;55;13
James Spooner
Yeah, I mean it, you know, it could be. But I remember even like, you know, going on tour with bands and when I was a teenager and like we didn't have places to stay, we were like dumpster diving for food. Like, I mean, it was real survival out there. And we were having the time of our lives, you know?

00;15;56;06 - 00;16;17;05
Rob Lee
Yeah, yeah, that's. That's great. So I got this next question. I have a bigger one after this, but I have this next question because if you'd like to talk about arts and culture in this podcast, and it's incumbent upon me to ask about like some of the things that from your vantage point, identify a culture or scene specifically in punk from from your experience.

00;16;17;05 - 00;16;28;10
Rob Lee
Like what do you, what would you say are some of those traits that you're like, that's punk. That is. And that may be a weird question, but what are some when you think of punk, what are some of those things that pop in your head?

00;16;29;24 - 00;16;54;03
James Spooner
I definitely have I definitely have strong feelings about what I think is fun. And I guess I should preface by saying that, like punk rock has been around for over 40 years and 40 years is a good amount of time to build a diverse community, you know, with a lot of opinions and a lot of lanes, you know.

00;16;54;22 - 00;17;59;07
James Spooner
So there are lanes of pop that I have zero interest in. And, you know, if I stumble across those worlds, I feel like, yeah, these are my people, you know? Yeah. And then there are the opposite, right? So for me, like, and I and I travel through a lot of it throughout my life, you know. So for me, where I landed in my kind of like heyday was the DIY punk scene, which is very focused on putting on our own shows, not worrying about like the, the club circuit, putting together, you know, zines, putting out our own labels, you know, like I was a kid in high school who like the lane of punk I

00;17;59;07 - 00;18;26;16
James Spooner
lived in was we as a community did not buy records that had barcodes on it. Like that was a stance, you know, I'm saying, yeah, which meant that you really couldn't buy records at a record store, you know. And this was in the nineties when record stores were where you got records, right? So, so it limited the, the lane.

00;18;26;16 - 00;18;58;08
James Spooner
It didn't feel limited at the time, you know, because there was because kids were so productive. But, you know, I got records that shows, you know, I had my own distribution. I had my own record label. I traded records so that I could sell records that shows that were of other bands, you know, and other labels. And it was it's really a community that feeds into itself, you know.

00;18;58;24 - 00;19;47;01
James Spooner
So that's a lot different than, you know, the New York hardcore scene that it is reliant on record stores and all the various bars in, you know, in the city or the Warped Tour kind of punk scene, you know, or I don't know. There's there's a lot of different like lanes and it really I think a lot of it has to do with like where you live, you know, because if you're in the suburbs, you don't have access to the bars or whatever that are also doing all two shows.

00;19;47;01 - 00;20;12;06
James Spooner
So you're going to put on a show in like the VFW hall or in your friend's basement or something. And although I lived in New York City, I liked that stuff better. So I traveled out of New York City on the weekends to go to, um, to that lame, you know, and it's also way more political and engaged and just not about like being like a tough guy or something, which was a lot of what New York was about, you know?

00;20;12;17 - 00;20;16;16
Rob Lee
Hmm. That makes sense. That makes sense. Thank you for walking us through that.

00;20;17;01 - 00;20;19;00
James Spooner
Yeah.

00;20;19;00 - 00;20;39;20
Rob Lee
So we've had some experiences. I want to talk about this, this question here, having a wide awake, a wide array of interests that aren't, quote unquote, black. I had a hard time in middle school and in high school. Ironically, I started to come out of it, like not really fitting than feeling like, Oh, am I black enough in my this?

00;20;39;20 - 00;21;00;13
Rob Lee
Am I that? And I went to an HBCU and that's when I started to come out of it. But I still struggle with it at times. Like, Hey, I like Japanese wrestling. That's not black. There's only one black story. Or I remember I met one of my good friends at the time. I knew that he was straight edge and he was like, I didn't expect a black do to know that.

00;21;00;13 - 00;21;21;05
Rob Lee
And I was like, I'm listening to the very bravery and a mix of that and like The Clash. So I'm just here doing this and I've become more discerning of who I spend time with, in who I invest energy in, because I'm aware of that now. So I've come across this notion of finding a tribe. Can you describe what it means to to find your tribe?

00;21;21;05 - 00;21;30;16
Rob Lee
And what was that kind of moment for you or you still experience in that? And kind of like as you matriculating and get older?

00;21;30;16 - 00;22;01;23
James Spooner
Yeah, I mean, I think that looking for a group of people who understand you, make you feel validated or like make you feel like a valid person, you know, like those are quests that probably everybody is going through at some point, you know. But it's definitely more difficult if you are in the minority and in a community, you know.

00;22;02;06 - 00;22;27;22
James Spooner
So being a black punk rocker as a as a as a teenager, there was definitely a lot of like prioritizing, you know, like, okay, am I going to do I want do I want to hang out with the black kids because they're black or do I want to hang out with the kids who like the same kind of music as me and have the same politics as me and whatever?

00;22;27;22 - 00;23;05;16
James Spooner
Right. And it is that's I feel I really feel for people who don't have an option to like pick both, you know, and I would say New York City. So it was and I went to a school that was very like racially diverse and I lived downtown in the village. So I was able to mix. I was able to like hang with kids of color who were into the stuff I was into, whether it was punk rock skateboarding, you know, I mean, I was in Washington Square Park.

00;23;05;16 - 00;23;40;15
James Spooner
I was hanging out with rappers like whoever you know, just weird, right? And a lot of them were black and or people of color, so it wasn't terrible. But then when I started, like I said before, going to the suburbs, it shows because that felt more like the kind of punk that I wanted to embrace. Then I was hanging out with a lot of white kids and I couldn't help but feel out of place at times, right?

00;23;40;17 - 00;24;06;02
James Spooner
Yeah. I couldn't help but recognize that privilege in a way that they didn't. And this was like before we were, as a society, talking about privilege, you know? Right. And, you know, I think that, like, there was definitely a time where I was like, fuck this punk shit, hang out with black people. And, you know, I moved to Crown Heights.

00;24;06;02 - 00;24;34;05
James Spooner
I was like, in the fucking thick of Caribbean culture. I'm Caribbean. So I was like, These are my people, you know? And I quickly realized that, like, I'm I don't jive with the mainstream regardless of what race they are, you know? Yeah. So I love my family, but I'm not down to go to church, you know, I'm not down to like watch Tyler Perry movies or whatever.

00;24;34;05 - 00;24;56;12
James Spooner
Like, this is it. It doesn't it doesn't, like, move me, you know, they move me, but that doesn't move me. Right? But that is it. But, but I would even if I don't want anyone to hear that sentence and then be like, oh, you can't hang out with black people. Because I did. I found, you know, I was DJ and party promoter.

00;24;56;12 - 00;25;24;03
James Spooner
I like soul music. I deejay that kind of music. And I found like the house scene. I found the, you know, that like kind of early neo soul scene or whatever. And I recognized that that was a lane of black weirdos that were just not necessarily punk. Yeah. Or into rock and roll, though. There was a very eclectic taste.

00;25;24;03 - 00;26;03;27
James Spooner
We were there to, like, dance, right? Yeah. And I liked that. I liked that. And I like hanging with those people. But then I started to miss Punk, you know? So that's when I made I started making Afro Pop around that same time because I wanted to explore this very question, you know, and in this exploration, I found that not only do black punks have similar stories of, like, feeling like outsiders, but a lot of like, quote unquote normal black people feel that way too.

00;26;03;27 - 00;26;14;07
James Spooner
People who like, you know, just work or corporate job, people who like were the only black person in their fraternity, people who whatever it is like.

00;26;15;08 - 00;26;15;17
Rob Lee
Yeah.

00;26;16;04 - 00;26;25;11
James Spooner
There's like there's there's always this this like this lane of this monolithic lane of what black people are supposed to do. And then there's all the other black people.

00;26;25;23 - 00;26;27;00
Rob Lee
Yeah, you know. Yeah, right.

00;26;27;00 - 00;26;48;24
James Spooner
And I feel like I don't know if there's more of the others or not, you know, it doesn't feel that way, but you know, the other day I was in the park and I was listening to this. What is it like? The the guy who the maintenance man for the for the park. Right. He was just me. And he was like the gardener?

00;26;49;00 - 00;26;49;06
James Spooner
Yeah.

00;26;49;27 - 00;26;50;18
Rob Lee
The caretaker.

00;26;51;02 - 00;27;00;19
James Spooner
Yeah. You know, like he and and he was talking to his friend or he's talking to some guy about how black people don't do this job. Right? Black people aren't like.

00;27;01;16 - 00;27;02;13
Rob Lee
Horticulture or.

00;27;02;13 - 00;27;26;11
James Spooner
Horticultural lists or whatever, you know? And I was like, what a boring life that black people we're not allowed to be. We were not allowed to garden. Yeah. Yes. And the other day, my kid was you know, she's into rock stuff and she's learning bass. And she was talking to her cousin who's just like super basic. And she was like, You're playing bass.

00;27;26;20 - 00;27;29;08
James Spooner
That's some white people shit. And I'm like, Bass.

00;27;29;22 - 00;27;31;21
Rob Lee
No place. Like.

00;27;32;00 - 00;27;53;15
James Spooner
Are we like, you know, like we're so tight and conservative as a as a people. Yeah. We that even when we do some authentically black shit, like play bass, it's like, you know, what are you playing hip hop songs on that bass, you know, like, you know, because if you're not in the roots that you're not like, you can't beat a bass.

00;27;53;21 - 00;27;54;25
Rob Lee
There's no instruments for you.

00;27;55;20 - 00;27;56;10
Rob Lee
I mean, it's just.

00;27;56;28 - 00;28;26;29
James Spooner
It if you have to laugh because it's so ridiculous, you know, so, so that said, you know, in making AfroPunk and creating, you know, doing shows and, you know, I was finding my community of like, oh, I don't have to compromise. I can find black weirdos who are like indie rock and who are into just other stuff, right?

00;28;28;22 - 00;28;50;12
James Spooner
Like I don't even care what kind of music you listen to if you're in a Japanese wrestling and you're a black person, we probably can relate. Yeah, saying so I'm into that. I'm into those kind of people that said it. It's like now I live in Los Angeles. Los Angeles is super segregated in a way that New York is.

00;28;51;16 - 00;29;31;21
James Spooner
New York is segregated, but there is just it's different. All right. So now I find myself missing black people, you know, like I have black friends, but not as many as I had in Brooklyn, you know? Right. So when I find myself in a room and I'm like one of a few people of color or the only black person in this collective dinner party or whatever, like there is a mourning, you know, I do feel a loss, but I'm also thankful that I know that it's not impossible.

00;29;32;01 - 00;29;57;15
James Spooner
You know, I'm saying because I feel like there are a lot of black people who seclude themselves into a world of white people and don't believe that there are any black people out there that they could connect with, you know, and that feels like some internalized racism, you know, because they haven't even given their birth community the choice to or the options.

00;29;57;22 - 00;30;13;16
James Spooner
They haven't even delved in far enough to find that like, oh, you know what, not all black people are, you know, I don't I don't want to make a stereotype, whatever that whatever, like this super basic black thing is, you know.

00;30;13;28 - 00;30;16;04
Rob Lee
Like we know there's.

00;30;17;10 - 00;30;36;20
Rob Lee
Why you're watching verses or whatever the thing is. And I think that it's interesting, like, you know, I like I like that you use like that the term like black weirdo and you know my my partner's from Brooklyn you're around the same age and she uses that terminology all the time. And she was a, you know, and still is a huge Prince fan.

00;30;36;20 - 00;30;53;15
Rob Lee
And she was like mid I was like the first black weirdo in my and she was like, that's who I look for. And like, these are the people that I want to be around. And she's like, Yeah, putting on eyeliner and I'm doing all of this different stuff. But then like now she looks like a Bratz doll. She, you know, she has like the red hair and and she knows these things about herself.

00;30;53;15 - 00;31;13;11
Rob Lee
And she writes really off color comics at times. And it's all of these different things. And she was like, I look like this, but I love horror movies and I drink beer. And these are things that, quote unquote, black women don't do. And and and I'll leave on this before this is this last and final real question. I, I go to blurred con.

00;31;13;11 - 00;31;37;15
Rob Lee
It's a, you know, event for blurbs in sometimes there you know is a focus in an area but it's also inclusive and I think some people kind of miss that. And it's like you're around people who have similar interests and, you know, you might not have like the same anime you're into or you might not be reading the same comics, but you're here under this kind of umbrella, this kind of banner of this is fandom, this is stuff that you're into.

00;31;37;15 - 00;31;49;12
Rob Lee
You'll enjoy this. This is fun and, you know, which is proof positive that your people are out there. Sometimes it might take a little more work to find them, but once you find them, that's a tight knit community.

00;31;50;15 - 00;32;16;18
James Spooner
Yeah. I mean, I think that that's the thing is like it takes somebody to organize it, right? Somebody was like, oh, okay. Like I want to have a convention for black nerds or, you know, people who are into fandom. Right? I can't be the only one, you know. Right. And then they they do it and then then the people come out and they're like, Oh, hey, I'm one of those, too, you know?

00;32;17;11 - 00;32;41;12
James Spooner
And that's, you know, I think that that that's what happens when people are vocal and organize and, you know, and challenge the status quo. Right. Right. We and we need that. You know, the the mainstream will always be there. There will always be a mainstream. And we need that mainstream so that we can push off it and be underground.

00;32;41;22 - 00;32;48;16
James Spooner
You know, absolutely. That's just it just has to be that way. But it's it can be a painful journey.

00;32;49;06 - 00;33;20;11
Rob Lee
I agree. I agree. So this is the last real question. And it's a bit of a ridiculous question, but also, I think it could be a timeless question. I mean, it's a time timely question. If you were to go back on the road and I know you talked about this a little bit as far as the book goes, but if you could go back on the road and do a temperature check and create like the afropunk 20 years later kind of dark because we're more than 20 years removed.

00;33;20;11 - 00;33;39;11
Rob Lee
It was 2000. When were you doing a lot of the filming? Right. And was released in all three. So what do you think you really learn? Do you think that you would kind of grab about the scene, you know, within like the black punk scene, like now versus over the last two decades versus what was in the original dark?

00;33;39;11 - 00;33;47;27
James Spooner
Well, I think the main the main difference, like all the things that are in the AfroPunk doc, I think, are still things that individuals experience.

00;33;47;27 - 00;33;48;04
Rob Lee
Sure.

00;33;50;03 - 00;34;44;03
James Spooner
But the difference overall is that there are more loud black and people of color in the punk scene who are organizing. I can just set right now and there are I've met and gone to the events of of several different so let me just let me start again. I mean as of now, there are, I don't know, 7 to 10 different festivals slash collectives of PFC punk bands that are focused on post-punk.

00;34;44;14 - 00;35;30;06
James Spooner
Right. And almost all of them are organized by black women or black nine non-binary people. And I find it interesting that they don't focus on black people. They focus on people of color within the scene. And and I think that that's just a reflection of the times, maybe, you know. Yeah, but, you know, the overwhelming feeling that I get is that punk is either a lot more brown than it used to be, or the brown people are a lot louder than used to be, right?

00;35;30;19 - 00;36;11;06
James Spooner
Yeah. I think that or I know that most of these festivals and these organizers created these festivals in reaction to AfroPunk not the film, but in reaction to the festival, right? You know, because the festival doesn't represent that. Right. You know, I think the stories I've heard is that, you know, they're young, they're are younger kids. They were they heard about AfroPunk back when it was still had some rock and roll stuff happening, you know, and and they were like, Oh my God, I want to go.

00;36;11;06 - 00;36;49;07
James Spooner
And it goes. And they finally went and they were like, Oh, this like is corporate. It is like, I mean, it's cool, you know, like, we get it. I'm not going to sit here, say that AfroPunk is irrelevant. It's not at all. It's valuable, but it doesn't have punk values, you know, it's just not it's run it's owned by a billionaire, you know, it's owned by the Essence Corporation, you know, like they it's not a DIY venture by any stretch of the imagination, you know.

00;36;49;14 - 00;37;22;15
James Spooner
So the rock and roll bands that they have, it's just paying lip service to the name that they acquired, you know, in order to keep the brand. But, you know, it's it's an R&B festival, and that's fine. No, no. But these kids who are searching for their people got there and didn't meet their people, you know? So they're like, Well, fuck it, I'm going to do my own thing, which is how, how like things always happen.

00;37;22;15 - 00;37;59;21
James Spooner
It always grows like that. You know, the underground is always reacting to the mainstream. So, you know, AfroPunk started off as underground, you know, and then it became mainstream. And then so the underground has to react to it, against it, you know. Yeah. So, you know, I guess to answer your question, it comes back to the idea that, you know, when I made AfroPunk the movie, it was because there was no conversations happening around what it means to be a person of color in this this progressive white community.

00;38;00;03 - 00;38;30;24
James Spooner
Right now, those conversations are happening all the time. And there are, you know, break free fest in Philly. There is punk black. In Atlanta, there is black and Brown Fest in Texas, there is Chicanos in the pit in Texas, there's DECOLONIZE in London, there's the call of Noise in Berlin. Like it's happening all over the place. Yeah. You know.

00;38;32;04 - 00;38;52;21
James Spooner
And then in L.A., it's so brown that they don't even have to call it anything. If the brown thing, you know, it's just this thing where I wouldn't have even needed if I grew up right now as a in my early twenties or teens, I would never would think to make Afro pop because I wouldn't need to because we're already talking about it.

00;38;53;11 - 00;38;54;02
James Spooner
Yeah, I'm saying.

00;38;54;12 - 00;39;05;20
Rob Lee
Yeah, dig it. So that's the end of like the real questions. And I got a quick couple quick rapid fire questions for you. Don't overthink it. Don't believe them because we always do it.

00;39;07;05 - 00;39;08;00
James Spooner
Chatty over here.

00;39;08;00 - 00;39;27;14
Rob Lee
So no, no, no, no, no. I appreciate it. And I'm like it's I think in recently watching the doc, it's almost like this extra layer of being immersed into like what's going on, what's baked into the work and and also watching several interviews of yours on YouTube. I was doing some stalking. Sorry James. Don't know if the take.

00;39;27;14 - 00;39;30;09
James Spooner
But it's all good. I hope that I'm saying something different here.

00;39;30;18 - 00;39;33;19
Rob Lee
No, no, no.

00;39;33;19 - 00;39;37;20
Rob Lee
So. All right, first one. Do you collect anything? And if so, what do you collect?

00;39;38;22 - 00;39;48;25
James Spooner
I used to collect books. I had lots, but I got rid of a lot. I don't I don't really collect anything right now.

00;39;48;25 - 00;39;56;09
Rob Lee
This is a word that this is a question I really like. What is your favorite word in a language other than your primary language?

00;39;56;20 - 00;40;02;00
James Spooner
Oh Well, I really like the name Sheboygan.

00;40;03;14 - 00;40;05;07
Rob Lee
But Sheboygan. Yeah.

00;40;05;18 - 00;40;09;10
James Spooner
The Native American word. I've never been, but I just really like saying that word.

00;40;09;18 - 00;40;09;26
Rob Lee
Yeah.

00;40;11;01 - 00;40;12;24
James Spooner
So I would use that word. Sheboygan.

00;40;13;07 - 00;40;14;05
Rob Lee
Okay.

00;40;14;05 - 00;40;15;09
James Spooner
Yeah, it's fun to say.

00;40;15;14 - 00;40;27;24
Rob Lee
Sheboygan. I really I put a lot of that into what you mentioned, like putting in those hours, watching some television, what have you, what have you most recently binged?

00;40;27;24 - 00;40;32;19
James Spooner
OC Most recently, we just finished. We just finished Stranger Things.

00;40;33;04 - 00;40;34;09
Rob Lee
Okay. Yeah.

00;40;34;28 - 00;40;36;08
James Spooner
All right. That wasn't super interesting.

00;40;36;17 - 00;40;40;09
Rob Lee
Oh, no, not. Not at all. Not at all. I mean, I can talk about stranger things all the time.

00;40;40;09 - 00;40;40;14
Rob Lee
I mean.

00;40;40;29 - 00;40;45;02
James Spooner
I'm also. I also just binged. Dear Victor.

00;40;45;21 - 00;40;47;20
Rob Lee
Okay, I've not seen that.

00;40;47;20 - 00;40;48;04
Rob Lee
It's fun.

00;40;49;03 - 00;40;49;16
James Spooner
It's fun.

00;40;50;16 - 00;41;01;13
Rob Lee
I watch a lot of horror movies over the weekend, so I was just like watching in the Mouth of Madness, which just, I believe is a John Carpenter. And I was like, This is a bit much. It's like, Do you read Sutter Cane?

00;41;02;05 - 00;41;07;03
James Spooner
Yeah. I can't even have a conversation with you about where Stranger Things is. As scary as I get.

00;41;07;03 - 00;41;11;13
Rob Lee
Okay, fair enough. I mean, I watch a lot of horror.

00;41;11;13 - 00;41;22;08
Rob Lee
What was your first show or album that like you you got, you know, like you could have went to a show, have you? And you talked about how albums and that situation earlier. So either your first show or first album.

00;41;23;04 - 00;41;26;06
James Spooner
Well, you can read all about my first show in High Desert.

00;41;27;12 - 00;41;28;02
Rob Lee
It's great.

00;41;28;02 - 00;41;44;16
James Spooner
First, it's my first. Okay. So actually my first first show, the first band I ever saw was shot on at the Victor Valley Fairgrounds. And you probably only know who shot. Honest.

00;41;45;03 - 00;41;46;10
Rob Lee
I'm I know who shot on ice.

00;41;46;21 - 00;42;21;16
James Spooner
They're like they're kind of like a fifties, like revival kind of like in the seventies, people like the fifties. So they were kind of like, anyway, it's stupid. But my first, my first show in the scene was the Christian Metal Show, which is at the Apple Valley Community Center. And that's in my book. And my second my first real punk show was this band Violent Outrage, played at Rock and roll.

00;42;21;16 - 00;42;38;22
James Spooner
And what's great about that is that that show is on YouTube, and the person who filmed it got bored of the band, walked into the audience, found me, started talking to me about music, and I was like such a poser. I was like.

00;42;39;02 - 00;42;43;22
Rob Lee
I don't like I like Sex Pistols, but I if.

00;42;45;14 - 00;42;51;21
James Spooner
But it's proof that I like these, like proof of life. I was 14 years old or 13 years old.

00;42;52;00 - 00;42;52;23
Rob Lee
I've been around.

00;42;53;08 - 00;42;58;02
James Spooner
There's a VHS, you know, of me at my first shows. Amazing.

00;42;58;26 - 00;43;11;08
Rob Lee
That's fantastic. Okay, here's the last one. And this is a little bit of a softball, but it also might be a little trolly. Name a four letter word that starts off with the letter P e? Yes.

00;43;11;21 - 00;43;13;09
James Spooner
A four letter word like a bad word.

00;43;13;26 - 00;43;15;28
Rob Lee
No, it just works for a letter. Yeah.

00;43;16;22 - 00;43;17;25
James Spooner
I don't know. Pale.

00;43;18;20 - 00;43;23;00
Rob Lee
Okay. It's interesting. He didn't say punk. Interesting. Very interesting, though. Truly, truly.

00;43;23;00 - 00;43;25;12
Rob Lee
There is.

00;43;27;12 - 00;43;37;12
Rob Lee
What are the questions used to be? What's your favorite, the first or first letter of your fate? Your favorite curse word. And just I kept getting f I was like, wow, this very has a very Salieri audience here.

00;43;38;01 - 00;43;38;10
Rob Lee
Yeah.

00;43;39;22 - 00;43;55;18
Rob Lee
So so I want to thank you for being on this podcast. This has been a lot of fun and it truly has been been a lot of fun. It's been a true privilege. And I want to invite and encourage you to tell the fine folks where to pick up anything, pick up your book, all that good stuff. Pretty much the floor is yours.

00;43;55;18 - 00;43;58;04
Rob Lee
Shamelessly plug and tell folks where to find you out of one and all.

00;43;59;00 - 00;44;41;14
James Spooner
Thank you. All right. Well, I'm easily accessible. Instagram Spooner is no fun is my candle. That's also Facebook slash winner herself on my tattoo work is monocle tattoo that's like the eyepiece monocle and those are also my icons so interesting to find and dot com and monocle tattoo dot com if you want to get the book the high desert it's you know it's a it's some major publication so you can get it at any bookstore or you can order it for you know it's just type in the high desert.

00;44;41;14 - 00;45;02;16
James Spooner
James Spooner and you'll find a bazillion to get it, you know and you can watch AfroPunk for free on YouTube and that's about all I got. Oh, you can you know, you can contact me for tattoos if you're in L.A.. I do both vegan tattoos and specialize on dark skin.

00;45;02;16 - 00;45;07;03
Rob Lee
So because you're your specialty, you came up with the vegan tattoo, you see, right?

00;45;07;23 - 00;45;12;19
James Spooner
I was the first person in California, you know.

00;45;12;19 - 00;45;18;17
Rob Lee
Big shout out to you on that one. But I think I'll have to hit you up when I'm out there in L.A.. I'm planning a trip, so we'll be talking.

00;45;19;01 - 00;45;20;01
Rob Lee
Okay? Yeah.

00;45;20;03 - 00;45;21;27
James Spooner
Get some fun, nerdy jump. I'm down.

00;45;22;01 - 00;45;31;17
Rob Lee
I'm here for it. So. So there we go. That's that's pretty much it for the podcast. So I want to again thank James Spooner for coming on. Spooner, you are fun.

00;45;31;17 - 00;45;32;02
Rob Lee
I'll say.

00;45;32;26 - 00;45;46;28
Rob Lee
And I'm Rob Lee saying that there is art community conversation in your neck of the woods. You just got to look for it.

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Rob Lee
Host
Rob Lee
naturally curious and a storyteller

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