Ron Saccoccio plays bass for Annapolis, Maryland punk band The Alements, runs a punk record label named Snubbed Records , and has his own roast of coffee called Punk Rock Joe Coffee.
He has also been producing and co-hosting the Our Brains Hurt Podcast since its creation in September of 2020.
I don't see any other way to save live performance other than mass non-compliance and just pushing forward. How do you think we get to the point where the punk community values personal autonomy again?
One of the coolest motherfuckers to ever walk the face of the Earth was Johnny Ramone. Johnny was the attitude behind The Ramones and truly exemplified the punk rock spirit. If punk rock could be captured in a single image it would be one of Johnny on stage, wide stance, hair partially covering the permanent scowl on his face, while he shredded his Mosrite guitar at 1,000 miles per hour.
Johnny famously — or infamously depending on your politics — said “punk is right-wing.” Given right-winger’s stances on some social issues, I’d have to disagree with the statement as it sits, but I understand what he meant when he said it. It represents keeping government away and having a DIY attitude of getting things done.
We don’t need government, we don’t conform to societal norms, and we don’t care what you think. That attitude coupled with the fact that ALL people were welcome were the things that attracted me to the punk scene. I fell in love with punk at a young age and it gave me a feeling of fitting in, a feeling that until then I had not experienced.
So, what the fuck happened? How is it that a large chunk of the punk scene is FOR allowing the government to force you to get an injection? I think it’s two things; social media, and Donald Trump.
Social media has created a ton of ugliness between people of different beliefs. It has created temporary, and sadly, permanent rifts between friends and family. It also puts a lot of pressure on people to conform to certain ideas, rules, and positions lest be outcast by your tens, hundreds, or even thousands of followers.
It’s the ultimate virtue-signal platform. Social media allows you to sit alone in a room and still show the world “oh, what a good boy am I” by making certain posts you know will please your followers and produce those likes that everyone is so addicted to.
Communicating via social media is dangerous because context and nuance is lost and a right or wrong mentality is created. This is how people fall into political teams and how polarization increases. Right now, the country is extremely polarized politically and unfortunately, like many other things, Covid has become political.
The punk community, being anti-racist and anti-fascist, rallied behind a deep hatred of Trump and his voters — often times, using very fascist techniques to project their hatred, but that’s another topic for another time. With Trump gone, Covid became the issue used to continue the fight against him and his voters. I think one of the biggest reasons the punk community is pro-mandate is because the media has done a great job in making it seem like every unvaccinated person in the country is a fat white man from the mid-west with a MAGA hat on, when in reality the unvaccinated look like everyone. A large percentage of the black community remain unvaccinated today because of a justified lack of trust in the government.
Now you have a punk community that is generally very liberal focusing all that Trump hatred on the new boogeymen, the unvaccinated. When you let hatred and fear fuel your opinions and thoughts, facts no longer matter. Instead of researching and looking at all the available information you begin to avoid information that might go against your team’s narrative. You are now in a cult.
So much information is now being recognized by the CDC that spits in the face of mandates and lockdowns. However, the Covid obsessed either avoid this information or refuse to believe it. They need the doom and gloom, because it’s become their identity.
Let me also say this, I’m fully vaccinated, including a booster. I’m overweight and I believe the vaccines do help those who have comorbidities in not becoming seriously ill. But that is, and should be, a personal decision. I’m not anti-vax, I’m anti-mandate, and despite popular opinion those are two very different things.
In order for the punk community to begin valuing personal autonomy again people need to start speaking out against the current narrative. What you’re doing with Music For All is awesome! I have been afraid to speak up on the issue myself since I run a record label, have a podcast, and sell coffee. I didn’t want the people I work with to suffer the consequences of me speaking my mind. One thing I told myself a few weeks back was that I’m done being quiet. I’m going to say how I feel and I don’t give a fuck what other people think. I’ve been to a few shows over the past two years and I’ve had the opportunity to talk to fans and bands. Most people I talk to are sick and tired of the current restrictions. We need to realize as a community that the people who are afraid to speak up about the current situation outnumber the people who are going to try to shoot us down. It’s just like cancel culture. For some reason the quiet majority lives in fear of the vocal minority and the result is killing art.
The punk community should be rallying AGAINST government mandates, AGAINST lockdowns which have permanently closed so many punk venues, AGAINST the media pushing fear to divide the masses, AGAINST Big Pharma controlling the media and making billions off the vaccine, AGAINST Big Tech and their censoring of ideas, AGAINST having to show a passport to get a cup of coffee, AGAINST judging people on vaccine status, and AGAINST the elites who consistently break the very rules they force on other people.
Instead, the punk community did the most un-punk thing ever, it conformed.
Were you able to book your upcoming March 19th show at the Pie Shop without mandates or restrictions?
Unfortunately, the March 19th DC show requires proof of vaccination. It’s the rule in DC right now and there’s no getting around it. The new law went into effect last week and they are no longer accepting a negative Covid test within 72 hours of the event.
I’ve been doing shows at the Pie Shop in DC for a while now, long before Covid. I’ve developed a great relationship with the owner and talent buyer and although I don’t agree with the mandate, I understand that they are forced to do it in order to make a living. Having said that, when I originally booked the show, they were still accepting a negative Covid test to get in. The negative test allowed people to enjoy the show without being forced to receive an injection.
Now that that option is gone, because of DC law, I won’t be doing shows in DC until the negative test is reinstated or of course if the mandate is entirely relaxed. The show on the 19th is already booked and we will move forward with whatever we need to do to make that show a success and a good time. But that will be the last show we do in DC as long as people are forced to vaccinate to get in.
Again, I want to stress that my problem is not with the Pie Shop, I love that place and I love the people who work there. They have always been super gracious to me and all of the bands that come through there.
If anyone reading this ever goes to DC stop by the Pie Shop, their pies are ridiculously good.
What were some of the difficulties you experienced running your record label Snubbed Records the past couple years?
Running a record label in the 2020’s is tough. Honestly, bands don’t need labels anymore. There really isn’t anything a label can do for a band that the band can’t do itself unless you’re a huge label with tons of money and resources.
My label, Snubbed Records, is really more of a community of bands playing local shows and putting out records at a local level. I run the label with my friend Thom, and we don’t have the resources to book tours, especially national and international tours, we also don’t have the money to press thousands of records.
We do local shows and we help local bands get their music recorded and distributed. We do have a couple of international bands, one from Brazil and one from Germany and we have bands from across the US. However, when Covid shut everything down the record label went on a pause which it is still currently on. There’s no way to sell records when bands can’t play shows, especially when the bands aren’t known nationally.
Once things open up for good we will reevaluate our situation and move forward from there. Physical copies of albums are so pricey. No one buys CDs anymore and vinyl is so expensive that it doesn’t make sense to press, especially now that I have a daughter going off to college this coming Fall. So, we’ll see about the record label. I love helping great bands be heard which is why I started it, I might just need to go totally digital for financial reasons.
I always thought it would be at least culturally interesting to live through something like this — and assumed some sort of super weird underground scene for art and music would emerge and thrive — but there doesn't seem to be one? Is there?! Am I missing it?
If there is one, I’m also missing it. It would be really cool to start some kind of underground scene for art and music! It’s a very punk rock thing to do. I really think we’re coming to the end of all the restrictions. You see other countries beginning to open up completely like England, Denmark and Ireland. Japan has been open for a while, if not for the entire pandemic.
I’d be willing to bet that the US and most of the world will be restriction free by the end of March.
An outdoor anti-mandate punk fest would be pretty rad though.
This interview is part of a series discussing mandates, restrictions and censorship with musicians and music fans —read more of these interviews here.
Thank you for reading!
Check out Ron's recent interview with the outspoken New York Hardcore legend John Joseph on the Our Brains Hurt podcast:
You can listen to Worst Foot Forward by The Alements here: