Former Initial Detonation guitarist Roger Hannifan hasn't played in years, burned out not so much from band life as from running a sound company. After it closed he opened the Blackthorn Pizza & Pub in downtown Joplin about a year ago, and tonight the smoky bar/ restaurant is draped in fake cobwebs and tiny hanging skeletons for Halloween. The Pogues are blasting overhead, a college football game plays out on a faded screen, and the sign on the front door reads, "God created alcohol to keep the Irish from ruling the world."
Hannifan, by Jennifer Silverberg
Though Hannifan rarely picks up his axe anymore, he says punker ethics nonetheless influenced his financing of this bar. "I started it the old punk rock way -- if you can't pay for it, you don't get it," he notes proudly, adding that he used the proceeds from his sound business to buy the furniture, décor, and the booze outright.
Drinking from a bottle of Smithwick's and smoking a doobie-sized hand-rolled cigarette, he discusses the unusual life trajectory that landed him so far away from his Orange County, California, Catholic school upbringing. He dropped out of high school before playing drums in the original incarnation of Total Chaos, the Pomona Valley hardcore act that later signed with Epitaph records. After quitting the band he eventually came to Missouri with his girlfriend Jeanene Maddox, whose parents were living in the small community of Thayer, just north of the Arkansas border.
The pair were excited about the low cost of living and even thought they could start a commune with their "squatter punk" friends. They briefly tried farming pigs and chickens. "But when you're dealing with people who are used to squatting and not working, that doesn't work out so well," Maddox says, in a phone interview.
Eventually the couple moved to Joplin, Maddox got a job as a punch-press operator in a barbecue grill factory, and Hannifan started a new band called Encrusted. The name was a play on the band's "crust punk" affiliation, a hardcore offshoot featuring metal-style riffs, grungy fashion and an anarchist sensibility.
Encrusted merged with members of a group called Satan's Ice Cream Truck in 1994 to form Initial Detonation, which featured Maddox as one of its singers and was one of the most successful bands to come out of the area. Espousing animal-rights, anti-sexist and anti-corporate themes -- "Slave and die for that American nightmare," Maddox sings on "Society of Robots" -- they sold not just T-shirts but political zines, books by Thoreau, seven-inch records, and $1.50 cassette tape compilations to support their tours.
Hannifan says the band was against copyright laws. "I had someone call me and ask if they could reproduce our music," he remembers. "I was like, 'Do whatever you want!' They said, 'Do you want residuals?' I was like, 'For what?' In the mainstream, everyone's suing each other [over copyright issues]. It's a song, man. Write another one."
Still, the band had lofty goals, and came close to achieving them. It received great reviews in publications like Maximumrocknroll and signed to Tulsa label Sensual Underground Ministries.
"They adopted an anarchist-thrash sound that was very popular at the time, and were clearly aiming for bigger and better things than playing local shows," Gabe Harper writes on his blog. In fact, the band was even scheduled to tour Mexico in 1999 before their drummer opted out due to his wife's mother's illness, Maddox says.
Initial Detonation dissolved shortly thereafter. Maddox and Hannifan too have since split up; she now lives in Louisville, Kentucky, works in customer service for a credit card company, and is no longer part of the punk scene. Even her appearance is dramatically different, because she went under the knife for reality show Extreme Makeover in 2004.
Hannifan still maintains his blond dreadlocks, grungy attire and ideals. He says he pays only $125 a month in rent -- including utilities -- to live above a different bar down the street. "Living within your means, or living well below your means, those are punk values. You didn't care about living fancy, having nice cars.
"For some it's a fad, for others it's a lifestyle," he goes on, gesturing around the pub as if to say, "It's modest but it's mine." Perhaps the one area where he's not totally true to his ideals, he confesses, is that he regularly pays his taxes.