At first glance, Eric Paone does not seem your typical conservative true believer. The 35-year-old guitarist of the New Hampshire thrash metal band Candy Striper Death Orgy (yeah, no typo) has a flowing mane of hair, swears like he’s in a Make-the-Sailor-Blush contest and cackles as he relates dirty jokes. His band’s odd name was inspired by an…um, adult feature Paone and his friends checked out once in college, which is appropriate enough, actually, since the thrasher’s day job consists of running a string of adult bookstores christened “The Moonlight Readers.”
#ad#When he’s behind that counter selling “marital aids” and creatively titled magazines, however, Paone’s always wearing either a George W. Bush hat or button along with his Nuclear Assault T-shirt and Napalm Death shorts. Contradiction? Hypocrisy? Paone doesn’t see it that way.
“The commies have closed more porno stores from us than the Bible thumpers ever did,” he said authoritatively. “There are people on both sides that want to take away everyone’s fun, whether it’s for the kids or the environment or whatever. They’d have no porn stores and we’d all be riding horse-drawn buggies to work if it were up to them. Still, nobody believes me, but the Republican party really is the party of tolerance these days.
“I’d never start in on guys in my store wearing Kerry shirts or Howard Dean pins they way they start in on me for my Bush gear; for thinking different than them, basically,” Paone added. “I’d never stoop that low. Never. But liberals do it all the time.”
As one might imagine, supporting Bush in the last election cycle wasn’t exactly a cause celeb in the underground music scene and Paone took more than a little guff for his politics at shows and on online metal gossip forums. He’s been mocked and blacklisted, but never defeated, only emboldened. In fact, the worse he’s treated the closer he assumes he is to the truth, he said.
Paone’s experience speaks to a larger truth: There always has been a delicious-yet-maddening irony in anarchists and punk rockers–for who the individual is supposed to be supreme–vociferously supporting candidates that want to expand government and narrow the ability of individuals to function as they choose.
“These bands and kids are dumping on government all the time, talking about all this conspiracy theory stuff and how we’re like this Nazi fascist state, and then when it comes time to vote they fall for this mindless talk and vote liberal,” Paone said. “They vote for more government. They fall into the trap. They hate the government but they’re basically asking for it to run their lives.”
In order to make as clean a break with that way of thinking as possible (and to further enrage the people who wanted him to shut up), Paone recently went back and rewrote the lyrics to several older songs from the band’s 15-year oeuvre to take away any sort of lefty slant possible, turning some older bits on nuclear warfare and environmental devastation into ruminations on terrorism and a call to arms to fight it.
“I don’t want people thinking I’m liberal because I’ve got long hair and play guitar,” Paone lamented. “So I got to be careful to be very clear. I don’t want to get lumped in with these Rock Against Bush idiots.”
Paone talks about politics like the uncle who just discovered the Drudge Report, reeling off a litany of Clinton missteps and shortcomings from the 1990s and rejecting the Democrats’ desire to fight the War on Terror by “sitting around the U.N. building and feeling sorry for crazy terrorists.”
“People say to me now, ‘You’re starting to sound like Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh,’ and I just have to tell them, ‘Fine by me. I like those guys,’” Paone laughed. “I want lower taxes. I am all for cleaning up that mess in the Middle East. Try telling that to anyone raised on this Hollywood garbage, though. It’s impossible. They want everything handed to them and they don’t care if some working stiff has to pay for it all.”
A self-described right-leaning independent, Paone said he never liked John Ashcroft and was open to voting for a Democrat in the last election–he looked seriously at Wes Clark–but ultimately stuck with Bush when the “insanely liberal” Kerry was nominated.
“In the middle of a war they want me to vote for a guy who crapped all over his brothers when he came back from ‘Nam?” Paone asked incredulously. “I don’t think so. I never knew what he was talking about. His wife had more of an agenda than he did. I could vote for a Democrat in the future, but not any like of liberal like they put up this last time. And if it’s Hillary? Forget about it.”
It can be surreal to have a guy you once heard bellow “God bless nuclear warfare” at a dirty beach club explain his theories on skyrocketing gas prices.
“Look at the EPA,” he said. “We haven’t built a refinery in years. They know where the oil is in Alaska and how to drill for it without making a mess, but the tree huggers won’t let us go get it. GPS is good from something other than spying on ourselves, you know.”
According to mainstream-media mythology, Bush pulls the wool over voters’ eyes by playing the average guy, not by convincing them his policies are right. So, if that’s true, what does an adult-bookstore-owning thrash-metal guitarist have in common with our in-bed-by-10-P.M. president?
“I don’t want a president exactly like me,” Paone answered. “You know, I’m all for screwing or whatever, but I like that Bush has always been with Laura and is kind of boring. Clinton was a party animal who worked in as many ladies as he could, and look what that got us: A nuclear North Korea, Saddam spitting in our faces and Osama bin Laden having plenty of time to do whatever he wanted. Thanks, anyway. I’ll take boring any day.”
–Shawn Macomber is a Boston-based freelance writer. He runs the website www.returnoftheprimitive.com.