Left of the Dial features interviews by musical journalist, folklorist, educator, and musician David Ensminger with leading figures of the punk underground: Ian MacKaye (Minor Threat/Fugazi), Jello Biafra (Dead Kennedys), Dave Dictor (MDC), and many more. Ensminger probes the legacy of punk’s sometimes fuzzy political ideology, its ongoing DIY traditions, its rupture of cultural and social norms, its progressive media ecology, its transgenerational and transnational appeal, its pursuit of social justice, its hybrid musical nuances, and its sometimes ambivalent responses to queer identities, race relations, and its own history. Passionate, far-reaching, and fresh, these conversations illuminate punk’s oral history with candor and humor.
Rather than focus on discographies and rehashed gig memories, the interviews aim to unveil the secret history of punk and hardcore ideologies and values, as understood by the performers. In addition, Ensminger has culled key graphics from his massive punk flyer collection to celebrate the visual history of the bands represented. The book also features rare photographs shot by Houston-based photographer Ben DeSoto during the heyday of punk and hardcore, which capture the movement’s raw gusto, gritty physicality, and resilient determination.
Interviews include Peter Case (Nerves, Plimsouls), Captain Sensible (The Damned), Tony Kinman (The Dils), El Vez, Charlie Harper (UK Subs), The Deaf Club (an oral history of the landmark San Francisco club), Mike Palm (Agent Orange), Gregg Turner (Angry Samoans), Ian MacKaye (Minor Threat, Fugazi), Jello Biafra (Dead Kennedys), Gary Floyd (Dicks, Sister Double Happiness), Mike Watt (Minutemen, fIREHOSE), Shawn Stern (Youth Brigade), Kira Roessler (Black Flag, Dos), Jack Grisham (TSOL), Keith Morris (Circle Jerks, Off!) Fred “Freak” Smith (Beefeater), U-Ron Bondage (Really Red), Vic Bondi (Articles of Faith), Lisa Fancher (Frontier Records), Dave Dictor (MDC), and Thomas Barnett (Strike Anywhere).
What People Are Saying
“David Ensminger is the right mix of intellectual and real-ass emotional punk. He is a historian and has walked the life…I recommend everything this man is up to!” —Dave Dictor, MDC
“David is one of the rare scene insiders who also has a depth of knowledge of the social and political context for the punk and hardcore moment. His love for the scene and understanding of its importance is unique, well-researched, and valuable.” —Vic Bondi, Articles of Faith
“David Ensminger is one of the few music writers who 'get it.' He's a rockin' drummer, a knowledgeable writer who's actually engaged with the wide world, and he's done time on the front lines of punk rock. As an interviewer he gets the inside picture and know's where it belongs.” —Peter Case, Plimsouls, The Nerves
“David is one of the very few people that I've ever agreed to do an interview with. Why? Because he grasps the relevant importance of the punk movement in a historical context, local and international, which is crucial to the subject.” —U-Ron Bondage, Really Red
“Ensminger burrows into punk’s essential contradictions and creates space for the marginalized of the movement to make a riot of their own. The stories and observations collated here benefit from the author’s street-scholar sense, as he makes critical connections between what bound the subculture together.” —Denise Sullivan, author of Keep On Pushin’: Black Power Music from Blues to Hip Hop on David Ensminger's Visual Vitriol
About the Author
David Ensminger is a Humanities, Folklore, and English Instructor at Lee College in Baytown, TX. As a writer covering music, art, and contemporary issues, he has authored Visual Vitriol: The Street Art and Subcultures of the Punk and Hardcore Generations and contributed to Popmatters (where he publishes a monthly column), Maximum Rock’n’Roll, Houston Press, Art in Print, M/C Journal, The Journal of Popular Music Studies, Artcore, Postmodern Culture, Trust, and others. He is also a longtime drummer, including a stint in the Texas Biscuit Bombs with Biscuit of the Big Boys, and a digital archivist of punk and vernacular culture.