Transcript - Episode 652: Nate Powell

The term "love letter" is criminally overused in this industry, but you'd be hard pressed to find a more appropriate phrase for Fall Through. The book finds cartoonist Nate Powell reconnecting with the punk rock touring days of the 90s. Before his career as a cartoonist, Powell played in bands, including his time as one of the longest tenured members of Little Rock's Soophie Nun Squad.The artist joins us to relive those times and discuss his friendship with civil rights pioneer, Congressman John Lewis.

Nate Powell  0:12  
Good circular way of processing time and attributing. I mean, yes, it's like, doing doing follow through with something I've wanted to, like, it allowed me to think and talk and explore a lot of, you know what, what was a huge chunk in a very transformative central chunk of my life for so many years. But I'm simply just not interested in telling that story. As it as it happens in the real world. And, but I find that fiction is more useful in terms of being able to kind of circle back around and revisit things and sort of pick out what is relevant what I do associate with something else, and be able to just kind of like, helicopter a little elements out and plop them into a fictional world, or, you know, patch them on to other characters. And I find it's a, it's a much healthier and more interesting and more fun way to kind of process a lot of the stuff that shaped us.

Brian Heater  1:22  
Were you ever a journal person? Do you have anything that you can kind of consult from us, okay.

Nate Powell  1:27  
And for for fall through, I actually, like I, I used to be a true journal devotee from about 1995 to probably like 2013, or 2014. And a lot of it is, like parenthood just kind of like, made it so that I'm like, Oh, I haven't written a single thing about my life and three months like, and it doesn't matter. It's like, it was one of those things where like, one of the best things about parenthood is how stuff that doesn't matter that much just instantly melted away. I'm like, Oh, I don't have bandwidth for that kind of stuff anymore. And so basically, like, I still all of my writing, and all my thumbnailing still happens in the same, like black cover sketchbooks that I've been using for most of my life. But it might be like, when I start a new one, I'll try for a couple of days to like just, you know, do free writing to be like, Oh, to catch myself up for posterity of what's going on in life. And then it like, I just I feel like I don't need journaling in that way anymore. As a cartoonist, I kind of feel like that may be a spot where I've finally leveled up when like, I'm putting enough of my own thoughts and feelings and working it out on the page whenever I do my fiction. And it's actually not that necessary. I definitely, like I journaled more as I was doing what became save it for later. But a lot of that was simply because I was, I really did need to process a lot of what was happening during that authoritarian power grab. And then very quickly, I realized that this is something that's going to hit that's going to shape into something that that is going to have an output. So that was sort of a hybrid in many ways, those dates

Brian Heater  3:20  
lineup, like kind of one to one with Sufi non squat, it seems like so this, this was kind of a rich vein for you to go back and read those experiences.

Nate Powell  3:30  
Without a doubt I like. I feel like like I used to be like, I was the band parent in Soufiane squad and most of my bands, except my final band where the drummer was actually like, more organized and more connected to the rest of the scene than me. And it was nice to kind of be like, just yell and play bass. But yeah, with Sufi, like, I, it's interesting that I've finally reached a point where I can no longer remember, like the exact dates and the exact bill of every show that we played, which used to be like a point of pride, and now it just no longer matters as much. But yeah, like the long process of doing this definitely had to do with assembling and reassembling these increasingly streamlined list of lists of key moments and incidents, which planted some kind of seed or resulted in some kind of larger realization about this, this little world that I grew up in and through and to just kind of let them sit for long enough until I figured out whether or not they actually had a place in this fictional story.

Brian Heater  4:42  
You describe yourself as the band parent doesn't surprise me at all like that tracks with what I know about you. And you know, you've obviously you know, written about your, your your brother a bit I wonder how much of that kind of ability to come in and not run things. But to oversee things and to make sure that everybody's okay is a product of growing up with your brother.

Nate Powell  5:08  
Well, that's an interesting point you bring up because especially the older I get, the more I realized that like, that's where my, you know, self centered, youthful vision of what I want to do with my life as an 18 to 27 year old or whatever made me, you know, less rely, like less reliable as a family member and as a brother, but also somebody who didn't really, I was still too immature, and self centered to really understand that I could play a role. A lot of that changed in 1999, when I started working professionally with people with developmental disabilities. And then like, that was one of the largest changes in my entire life was recognizing that I can, I can, you know, put all this work into this as a career and as a way of life. And what I've learned from living, you know, with my brother and with my family is something to extend outward. But also, even more importantly, finally, I was ready to be a better brother. And my, like, just learning and understanding more about the autism spectrum and developmental disabilities really helped me kind of finally become the brother that was closer to, you know, the brother that I would rather rather be

Brian Heater  6:33  
what was the initial impetus for, for taking that job?

Nate Powell  6:38  
Well, actually, like, I had never thought about doing a job that wasn't, you know, food service work or, or whatever. Like for me, and this is like, in those first few years of sleeping on squad touring, and recording and playing shows, and coming up with like, increasingly more elaborate ideas for the band, where Sootchy was these central organizational force in my life for many years, however. So I was, I was home for the summer, getting ready for a couple of tours that summer working in a pizza place. And one of my brother's old high school friends came over to visit, who I remembered from the early 90s was always just this nice, cool guy. And it was basically like, hey, I want to talk to you about something because I've been doing work for adults and developmental disabilities. And I think you would do really well in this line of work. And there's a performing arts and visual arts center. For adults with developmental disabilities here in town, you should go apply for a job there. And as it is, with a lot of things like it took, it took this, this old friend of my brother, actually saying the words and all of a sudden, I was like, wait a minute, I can do that with my time. And basically, like from that job, then I moved into increasingly more like move more into individuals, private lives, like from day programs, fine arts centers, and stuff into group homes, and then into private residences into job coaching and all kinds of stuff. But a lot of it was like, I just simply had no idea that there was work that wasn't shit work. It wasn't like service industry work. To me, it was just like getting by. And so that was, you know, I was also like, I was 20 or 21 years old. So it just never occurred to me that I could spend my time at a job doing something meaningful, and also do meaningful things in the rest of my life.

Brian Heater  8:48  
This isn't a direct parallel, but I recently

Nate Powell  8:52  
got one I think I'm up seconds your Oh, sorry. Yeah,

Brian Heater  8:56  
I for some reason, I'm just gonna turn my camera off. Hopefully, that'll help but I'm convinced that I'm getting. I'm getting FiOS next week, and I convinced I'm convinced that spectrum knows that and is throttling my internet. But yeah, I so, you know, I think that our politics are, are fairly similar on most issues, and I had kind of a similar moment recently, where, you know, I, I feel like I've, you know, preached this certain, certain amount of compassion and empathy, but wasn't really living up to that from the standpoint of like, you know, I'm not doing like volunteer work and so so toward the end of last year, I started volunteering, there's a food pantry, where I am at greens like a couple blocks away. And it was it was that thing of like, I don't know why I didn't wait, why why didn't I do this? You know, six months or two years ago, and it for me part of it, it was this, I love it, by the way, and part part of it was this worry that it was going to be sort of like, depressing, you know that this is my free time, and it's going to be going to be a bummer. But it turns out to be incredibly rewarding. You

Nate Powell  10:18  
got, I'm glad you made that step. And like, I don't know, a lot of it is really just the way we make assumptions of how we would spend time that we're not spending or that we're spending in a different way. And it's just nice that, you know, we can always surprise ourselves and be like, Oh, I was just wrong about how I would handle this situation, or what I would get out of it, or how much it would or wouldn't take away from other parts of my life. You know, that's those are like the actual times of growth where you're like, Oh, I was wrong about that, or whatever.

Brian Heater  10:54  
You described the process of working on this book, as as, you know, to certain extent processing some of those emotions in a similar way that your your previous book was about the current moment. And I'm wondering how much of your Connect Connection or recognition of this, this notion of art as a therapy, in a sense came from that experience of working with those people?

Nate Powell  11:28  
Um, let me think. I don't well.

I think you could make the argument that yes, this is something that's like a real kind of like slow, slow burn, slow crawl, creativity, evolution that might go all the way back to the kinds of changes in perspective and sort of my re education process. And by that, I don't mean that in like a, like a totalitarian communist. But like, my, my post collegiate working as a professional reading, and, you know, reading up on my field, and working with people with disabilities, during the period of time where I was writing and drawing swell and the whole, which was, I was trying hard, and I succeeded in not being directly influenced or inspired by the people who I I worked with at the time, however, yes, that was sort of the major theme of those mid 2000s years, while I was working on that first graphic novel. Simply, like, so much of my awareness was shifting and expanding, but people but developmental disabilities, were becoming a new center of my life. And I feel like to change, I don't know, like, I feel like as, as my path and doing my solo work continued. The next big shift was come again, actually, it was this where I sort of leveled up by like, leaning more into genre and being comfortable with it, embracing it, but recognizing that like, Okay, now, like I, I'm a new parent, like I've sort of like, left the full immersion into the punk underground, and I've been, like, embraced and accepted in this new, very similar creative community of indie comics. And that feels great, but a lot of the questions and reflections that I was working out about changing ideals and changing a lot, you know, the ways our lives change, and all that being okay, a lot of that got worked out in the book come again. And so once I finished that, I was like, Oh, this is the strength of fiction. For me, like as I hopefully grow to become a better writer, so that I can actually like rise to this challenge. You know, again, with the exception of save it for later this this is really proof of concept that I can work all this stuff out on the page and it doesn't seem like this navel gazing thing that is all about me working out my stuff on the page. And in fact, like, that's not that's not unique. That's that's the role of fiction much of the time. So I think you know, when I jumped into doing fall through I was very much of that mindset, but at the same time, once I'd had most of the story written out and worked out except for like surprises that popped up along the way, that's when the world shut down. And so there there are then these extra layers not only like this part of my this era of my life that I was no longer as closely connected to, but then re realizing as I was beginning to draw the book, how much of the world inside fall through revolved around this other thing that had been yanked away from all of us, which is just people breathing on each other, and sweating on each other, and touch dreaming close quarters. Yeah, and like being invited into strangers basements in a non creepy way to like, go listen to people yell their hearts out. And, and so yell for in a lot of ways, especially just like physical proximity and physical contact. And you can really, I mean, you can really see it on the page, like I started getting into just like mixing up white ink every day. And they're just like 1000s and 1000s of droplets of sweat, and breath droplets throughout the book, that is my pandemic therapy process on the page. And it just really allowed me to kind of like, you know, people are afraid they're gonna, they overuse these kinds of terms, but people are still, they still haven't unpacked their pandemic baggage. Like, yes, it allowed me to mourn the loss of those spaces, and the loss of that way of relating to other human beings. And if it weren't for drawing follow through, it would have been much more difficult to get through 2020 and 2021. Before there was some kind of return to that kind of intimacy.

Brian Heater  16:29  
On the flip side, save it for later must have been very difficult in some ways, because there's a sense in which you were almost kind of wallowing in the world falling apart in real time.

Nate Powell  16:41  
Yeah, and like, save it for later process was, was absolutely nothing like any book I've ever done before, and probably never again. Yeah, basically, like, By the beginning of 20, by the end of 2017, I recognized that I had all these these moments, and these, these changes that had happened in my private life and my family's life, you know, stuff that's now documented in the pages of the book. But the impetus for turning it into something was recognizing that these were not unique experiences to my family, necessarily, that in fact, just one year into the previous regime, people had kind of bottled up. And like, whether it's people being like, Oh, we didn't have enough bandwidth for talking about like the personal aspect of what living under this authoritarian power grab is like, or when it's doing to our kids, or to us as parents, or adults, or neighbors or whatever. But recognizing that people were already kind of shutting up and normalizing it. And so my idea was actually, to make this book as quickly as I possibly could. I wanted it to be like 96 pages and finish it in six months. And I remember like talking with my agent, about it, at MOCA in 2018. And then I went back to my hotel room or something, and I wrote the first 40 pages of it, just in one sitting. And I was like, I may actually draw this book in six months. And thankfully, you know, like that, that I also evolved past that. But it was very much a real time creative process, because once I really got rolling, then I had to acknowledge just how constant the upheaval and the chaos was, and recognizing that when your kids are growing, you know, like, I started that book when my, my older kid was five, and then finished it when they were almost eight years old. And, or maybe, yeah, maybe they were eight, but like, so much can change in three years, or two and a half years along that along the way. And so yeah, it was a very different kind of like truncation and acceleration of time for that book.

Brian Heater  19:12  
Time, passes differently when monitoring children, you know, it's really easy to lose a decade. And then you see somebody's kid who you haven't seen in 10 years and you realize, like, exactly how much time that is,

Nate Powell  19:29  
without a doubt. And the fact that this to tie this sort of back into the the Sci Fi and like scientific theory, in fall through it's funny that especially when you're encountering other like friends and acquaintances, who are also parents, and it's like you've both been in these bubble universes, or you're both and living these separate lives at different quantum speeds. And so it's hard Like, everything seems normal to you with how you've experienced your life. And either you feel like sometimes you get this feeling like, oh, this old friend of mine has changed so much, or be like, Oh, their life must be pretty stagnant. Nothing's really going on. When that's never the case, it's like, the same always applies to you, when someone else is seeing you for the first time and forever is that that sense that you know, that you yourself are the are the constant in terms of like, the way time passes and the way you flow through the world? But, you know, just like some major relativity business going on, that

Brian Heater  20:38  
was that was an unexpected element, I will say and there's a lot in this book that I think you're probably just a little bit older than me but there's a lot in this book that I really related to on a personal level growing up in the East Bay and you know, we had like look at out there with Gilman and then a what's called Santa Cruz and we were put on how shows but there's, there's I just I don't know if this is an aside, or maybe this ties back into sort of the Sci Fi mystical element of the book. But the story of her going coming to town and trying to find William Burroughs was something like that I found so deeply relatable.

Nate Powell  21:27  
I hear Yeah. Well, what's wild is not only is the the setup for all that. True, not for me specifically, but in terms of like American, the American punk community, William Burroughs until he died, like from the late 70s or early 80s until his death in 95, or 96. lived outside of Lawrence, Kansas, and and was known to just at random, infrequently just appear at underground shows. But famously, one of the first punk venues in the American in the American expanse was this kind of like outhouse in the middle, like on the edge of a cornfield outside of Lawrence is a real place. Chris Stein writes some really great stuff in a bunch of his photography books about going and playing at the outhouse, or just visiting in the outhouse, even like in the 80s, recuperating there through his illness, but bandmates and Sunan squad, like we had a whole Kansas City contingent who went to went to Kansas City Art Institute in the mid 90s. And sort of a major thing was like, oh, yeah, I was at this 24 hour diner, the Jayhawk last night. And it's like 3:30am, who shows up but William Burroughs and he's like, you know, 8080 years old. And then, yeah, hearing just the it's like, this is where like the other theme of just the way that the mythologizing of a community's history happens very organically. And it's rooted in these actually crazy occurrences and coincidences. But in order to turn it into a story, that that is woven into the larger subculture, or whatever, eventually it gets a little flattened, a little simplified, gets mythologized, and he realized I wanted to put Burroughs in there also, because he's like, he probably killed his wife. And he's pretty, pretty messed up, dude.

Brian Heater  23:39  
So for the people who don't know they were playing a game of he called it William Tell, and he shot his wife. Yeah.

Nate Powell  23:47  
So like, yes, many very, very sketchy marks against him. And I enjoy just sort of like the hero worship in the in the sort of like, idealistic vision that Diana is one of the dueling main characters has regarding what she feels is Burroughs creative role as it relates to her. And so she's able to ignore all of these things. Because she sees like the, the opportunity to be in the same physical space as him for one time only as something that has like cosmic significance. And it makes absolutely no sense to anyone else. And yet, it's what an entire leg of a tour was booked around the one in a million chance that that burrows would actually show up at the show

Brian Heater  24:39  
in terms of this getting back to this idea of processing in real time. I'm wondering if a book like this, that, again, is tied to a very specific moment in time and that's tied to a very specific part of your life whether to a certain extent it was necessary to have distance to write this without

Nate Powell  25:01  
a doubt, I think, you know, like the the earliest seeds, the one, like when I tried to actually write something that was more of a personal reflection that was like back in 2007. Right, like a year after Sufi nun squad was defunct. And then the the timeline of this is like this is over a decade in the making, like in 2013, I created the band diamond mine for what became come again, which I was just writing at the time, and I made a Yeah, and so, like I knew they were Arkansas fictional first punk band. And that led me down a bunch of rabbit holes that are, that relate to fall through entirely, but each one is quite a long journey. But basically, like, from there to actually realizing that it was okay to finally, um, you know, open up the luggage, not the baggage, but the luggage that had a lot of experiences that I had in in with bands. And as part of my hometown scene, it was probably a good six or seven years before I was like, I think all of this is one book. And I feel like that happens a lot. I'll get, you know, a strong, specific idea that I that's the big idea for some book. And I'll start kind of like working with it and waiting for characters to emerge. And then I'll have some other idea. And it'll take, you know, two or three years before I realized that both of those ideas are the same book. And so I had to, like I had to merge several ideas over the course of several years before I realized they were all pieces of the same puzzle.

Brian Heater  26:49  
At the same time. Was it clear because again, this was such a formative time for you and and, you know, it is the kind of thing that I think does need to be preserved because there are so many elements of this that just don't exist in society anymore. I was thinking, today I got I got I got an ad on Instagram or Facebook for a an igloo thermos or like an igloo container. branded with Dookie on it. Oh, Dookie igloo. And I was just thinking about how you know when when Green Day signed to a major that they were not allowed at Gilman anymore. And that was this big deal and just how much society and this idea of things like selling out has just completely for better and for worse, kind of evaporated in the meantime.

Nate Powell  27:48  
Yes, without a doubt. And like, what's funny is like, there are a lot of touchdowns like that, that I like, there are some that I intentionally avoided because I thought they were well really it's like, I wanted to make this a short book or short for me. And so I was like some there's some things that didn't, that I didn't bring up at all that were so instrumental in the forging of this era. Like the release of nevermind plays no role and is never mentioned. And yet it was this huge catalyst. And sort of like, the second wave of that was when Dookie came out was sort of like pushed the anti corporate DIY underground, even further underground and sort of started the process of us eating our own, which has an extra layer of meaning for us in Little Rock because Green Day, the full touring version of Green Day for many years was 40% people from Little Rock. And like Jason white, the other guy Green Day the second guitar guitarist Yeah, he was in Chino horn, and many other bands and Little Rock. So like the opening quote to the book fall through is a quote from Chino horde. And so it was a very weird dynamic to be locally. You know, just so proud of our friends and like the kids who are a couple years older than us who started finding finding their place across the country and then like settling into this wild success and staying humble and staying great. But sort of coupling that with this larger you know, like seething tension and reactionary attitude across the world of punk but But America in particular. And a lot of it was was yeah, like youthful posture, you know, posturing and stuff. And the good thing is that I think you know, like, virtually all that melted away and people realize how like, what nonsense so much of it was and a lot of it's because like yeah, you just have this like very incorrect, inflated idea of what any degree of success means. But even like 10 years later, it was really like sad and frustrating that like, on Sufis, last tour we played some shows with against me. And that was right before they signed to a major label. It was like in 2006, but they were already getting their tires slashed at every show in America, just because they went from no idea records to fat records, which was still is still an independent label.

Brian Heater  30:34  
That's the no effects guys label. It's not even like epitaph. Yeah, it's

Nate Powell  30:39  
like, those were like, really crucial moments that were like, sort of marking these generational shifts, but also marking the the weakness and the vulnerability of being such a part of a creative subculture that's really like defined and maintained by 16 to 24 year olds, and recognizing that you don't have to play by a 16 year olds rules anymore. Once you realize that these are rules set by teenagers, perhaps in another decade. This

Brian Heater  31:12  
is an important point. And this is something that I think about quite a bit. How much of growing up and you know, becoming an adult is the process of in therapy, they call them core beliefs, like they tell you to reexamine your core beliefs, and how much of it is that process of realizing what things you were holding on to were, in some cases arbitrary, and in some cases, actually, perhaps harmful?

Nate Powell  31:41  
Without a doubt, I'd say like as it relates to, as relates to punk like one of the other themes that I that I have Jody is the main character and narrator. But I have Jodie ruminate on is that is her realization that punk is essentially just what is leftover that has not been rejected yet at any point in time. And that that's like, it's always like, a rolling notion of rejection. And so whatever is not rejected in a moment falls under the banner of punk. But the fact that the ways in which I feel like that still hits me every once in a while, and to me, it's intertwined with more of like, a, you know, Generation X. Like I'm I'm still technically tail end of Generation X, but like a Generation X X inial. Dinosaur idea of like, as, as, as you mentioned, a few minutes ago, like the the notion of not selling out as an overriding ethos that is its own, it's like, it's its own ends, that justifies whatever needs to be done to not sell out, even if that's an undefinable thing. But yeah, like, I feel like a lot of it is just like, requires constant kind of reevaluation of like, you know, recognizing when you have an immediate instinctive distaste for something and sort of questioning what what it is, inside you that's actually finding like such an aversion to a decision, or the way that something might look or appear from the outside. Yeah, it's a, it's strange,

Brian Heater  33:35  
I don't mean that to discount punk ethos at all, because I think a lot of that was very foundational for me, and I'm sure that there are things that I've carried with me into adulthood that that stemmed from that time in my life for you. How central of a role did punk play in forming your picture of the world and your political outlook?

Nate Powell  33:57  
I mean, I'd say it real I'd say what actually

gave me a social conscience and sort of exploded my concept of power and inequality and stuff wasn't it was Chris Claremont X Men and thrash metal like just prior to punk. But, like, basically anthrax and X Men together, really kicked the door open. Prior to that, as documented in my book, any empire. I had the fortune as a child of having like, like, my dad was always he was a career Air Force dude. But was, was very cautionary about my GI Joe kid leanings towards like, this cartoony notion of military industrial complexes. But like the conversations we would have, even in childhood, were very eye opening and sort of made me Eddie, he was also my Sunday school teacher. So like, when heavy metal kicked in, along with like Days of Future Past. That's really when things got set on a certain course. And punk, which would be the next year, eighth grade, punk. I think its largest contribution at the time for changing my worldview was more on the micro than the macro, because I kind of already knew what was going on for me. And in my limited 13 year old way, what I was interested in fighting against and fighting for. But punk allowed me to see that there were other young people in my town, who were also doing their own thing, and that all of these interests overlapped with each other already. So it's recognizing that like, there's already this like whisper network of teenagers who are writing and drawing and yelling about stuff, and they're already meeting right now. And like a hidden place in a park, to yell about all this stuff, and pass around their ziens and sell their tapes and stuff. A lot of it was recognizing that. I never cared that I was that that, you know, it was me and three or four of my friends. I didn't feel alone, but it wasn't recognizing that like, Oh, you're definitely not alone. There's something that it's already been in motion. That is that is really made as a haven for this type of, you know, concerned creative, bored, pissed off. kind of person.

Brian Heater  36:46  
Yeah, I often talk about this idea of sort of, like finding your freaks, you know, of an find that's obviously really different now on the internet. But, you know, there was that feeling when we were growing up and coming of age before that, where, you know, maybe you felt like an outcast, and maybe you thought there weren't other people that thought the way you did and, like the things you did, and then stumbling into that group is just such a empowering and transformative experience. Without a

Nate Powell  37:19  
doubt, and especially like, you know, I have two kids now who are tweens. And, you know, like, they are now connected in limited ways, you know, through devices to their friends. And I've it's been like a learning experience to recognize the like, oh, when they play Roblox, which to the non parents, that's this, like, incredibly strange and kind of awesome. Ope, like, open ended video game platform where people like build levels on their own and like, said, it's kind of like Minecraft. Yeah, yeah. It's, it's weird. And like, at first, like, the alarm bells really went off, but recognizing soon enough, and like, Oh, they're actually hanging out with their real friends through this medium. And they're having social engagement and making real connections and being creative. And so like, it is interesting to like, by placing the story in fall through in 1994. I mean, not only was that like, the the pivotal year of my youth, though, I was, you know, I was like a 16 year old and 94. So I, you know, I was a generate a punk generation younger than diamond mine are in the book when they're going on tour. But like, a lot of my books, they're, they're often placed in settings in which I still don't have to worry about cell phones and the internet. And, and, like, I knew going into this book, initially, like, I was going to have this band continue to be from 1979. And I was like, Okay, so for this story, I want it to be closer to my era, so that we have this kind of like, hardcore network that would have started around 79 or 80. So I'm like, what if I make it take place in the mid 80s. And it's like, at the end of diamond man, diamond mines long tenure as a band. And I was like, I still don't really connect with that very much. And this is where I like. This is where I wind up reverse engineering, important parts of the plot in order to work around the limitations like I painted myself into a corner by having this band appear and come again in 1979. And they didn't really make sense in the setting. And that was the point. They're like playing at a farmers market in the Ozarks at 10 in the morning. They look like these miss these maladjusted hippies, jocks, cowboys, and like roller skaters. And that's the way Arkansas punk is kind of cuz we're Arkansas. But I was like, Can they don't fit in their time? But I was like, why don't I just make the whole deal that they don't fit even within their world and misfits sound like why don't I just plop them down and 1994? And, and I will figure out what makes sense about the fact that they don't make sense, like the lack of internal logic by their existence. And I was able to kind of build up from that. So I wrote, I routed them so that like, Yeah, they really do exist. And in 94, they just don't fit for the time. And then I go from there. And I'm like, oh, it's because I've already like, flattened my idea of what punk was, even in my own era. Of course, they fit. Like, not everybody at the time was just like, looking like they were from the pages of maximum rock'n'roll or heart attack. But yeah, there's a lot of like problem solving and reverse engineering, that kind of helped me stay in a sweet spot, so that I still didn't have to worry about certain kinds of Connection, contact technology. I knew I'm running out of Get Out of Jail Free cards about that at some point. But you know, well, we'll see. We'll see how long it's gonna take before I have to have an internet Connection. And one of my books,

Brian Heater  41:24  
you're definitely brushing right up against that. And the timeframe that this book was set up. Yeah. This is one of those realizations that I had recently. And in hindsight, it's really obvious, but I read a penny Rambo's book, the last of the hippies. Have you read that? No,

Nate Powell  41:38  
I haven't. I've read the crass book. Yeah. Which is great. But I haven't read the last of the hippies. Yeah, it's

Brian Heater  41:47  
Yeah, I think it's pm press like, like the crass book. And it is really what it is, is an extended version of the liner notes from the first crash record, and it's discussing. I can't remember the guys name, but it's just it's discussing this hippie, who, you know, was friends with Penny, who you threw on this, and he put on this annual like event at Stonehenge every year. It's the first time I've really recall seeing somebody who is you know, it is about as punk as you can get being being crass. acknowledging how closely the punk movement was tied to the hippies and how it's regatta because,

Nate Powell  42:33  

Brian Heater  42:34  
there's this idea that punks hate hippies, you know, the dead milkman were big pushers of that concept.

Nate Powell  42:40  
And what Yeah, it's funny that like, I don't know, like, reading the entire that's exact title of the craft book that I read has an orange cover.

Brian Heater  42:53  
Is it story of craft

Nate Powell  42:54  
the story of crafts? Yeah. So like, I was so fascinated by that book. And it was so heartening and validating because, yeah, in exactly the same way that you were saying, so much of the book was basically like, bluntly, being like, I personally have never been an anarchist. Like I identify with kind of like, you know, democratic socialism. We were hippies we lived. Yes, dial house is a commune that is still alive and kicking today. But you like the pre crass pre punk art band exit that I think played those festivals you're talking about even like 7172 It's fascinating to hear that these are direct like to think that crass, possibly the first actual real punk band and our modern understanding is a direct extension of the peace movement in the hippie movement. And really like getting diving deep into first wave American punk. I mean, that's like, besides like the a amorphous undefinable nature of what links all these bands together sonically and philosophically, it's just the notion that there is a straight continuous line from hippiedom into what becomes punk and like Aaron comic bus in I think issue 53 or 55, or something, has a great Berkeley centered issue that connects like everything on Telegraph Avenue with punk, the peace movement, underground publications in America and comic books and presents it as a single continuous tree that spreads through time. It's amazing. Sure,

Brian Heater  44:44  
I've got that copy that somewhere. I'm gonna have to go back and reread that because yeah, that that is that's like, precisely my wheelhouse for sure.

Nate Powell  44:52  
Yeah. And that's really the beauty of the beauty of any creative movement is like, there. There's are always going to be this pressure to kind of, you know, except a certain way of remembering or thinking about that movement. And like, if I had to pick like a single theme and fall through that is not relationship based or feelings based. It's that sort of ephemeral fleeting nature of creative movements where something is happening, but it's undefined in this brief window, where where a free space is cleared out, and it's immediately followed by the urge to kind of define and simplify things so that you can talk about them in a certain way so that people know what you're talking about. And then you like lose 70% of the details that actually made it special and unique.

Brian Heater  45:48  
I think there's probably also a very real way in which like, somebody like the Ramones was was a reaction you know, they're these like street tough characters was a reaction to that peace and love scene. So obviously, there's just a lot of different factors, you know, you use the term a morphus, which is a good way to describe like, specifically that that that CBGB scene, you know, the kind of scene that unites like Blondie and the Ramones and without a doubt the dead boys and but yeah, it's it is it is a really, it's a really interesting Connection, especially from a political standpoint that, you know, the, the core beliefs that drive a lot of the punk ethos and the hippies are, are come from at least come from the same place. Oh,

Nate Powell  46:38  
yes. So I, I met my now wife, Rachel, back in 2004, when we were co workers working with people with disabilities. And in 2005, we started our thing. And very, very quickly, maybe even before we had a relationship when we were just coworkers becoming friends. Rachel is somebody who's never ever been punk even for a minute in her life, who is also the punk is person I know, who's like a true iconoclast. And, and has this incredible bullshit filter. And one of the very first, like personal jabs she made that me you know, like kind of changed the way I perceived my life at the time, where I was sort of explaining, you know, grounds like oh, yeah, yeah, like there's all kinds of punk stuff going on here in town in Bloomington, Indiana. You're probably like, aware of bits of it on the fringe because it overlaps with other kinds of music and stuff, but it's not. It's not the way you think, with whatever,

Brian Heater  47:47  
you mansplain punk to your future wife. And well, a lot of

Nate Powell  47:51  
it as I remember being like in my mid 20s was sort of like just talking about like, potlucks, dumpster diving, food, not bombs, bike workshops, you know, all kinds of stuff like this. And then basically, all Rachel said was, she listened in her now I'm a therapist way, but she listened. And then she was like, oh, yeah, they're just hippies.

Brian Heater  48:19  
Yes, they are. And your world came crashing down. And

Nate Powell  48:23  
and that was it. And I was like, they are MPs.

Brian Heater  48:28  
I went to school in Santa Cruz. And that is like, along with Berkeley, the apex of that of that intersection between those two cultures in a beautiful, beautiful way for sure.

Nate Powell  48:39  
The great Santa Cruz band Yaphet Koto, from the late 1990s. I love that band.

Brian Heater  48:45  
There were a lot of good hardcore bands coming out around the late late 90s, early aughts at Santa Cruz. A good riddance is probably the most famous Oh, yeah. Of that school. We haven't really spoken much about about March. Were you? Did you continue to be in touch with the Congressman towards the end of his life?

Nate Powell  49:10  
You bet. Okay. So the last time I got to see Congressman Lewis was like December 1 2019. We all flew out just for a day to New York City. Because he

Brian Heater  49:24  
had already made public that you know, battling No, no,

Nate Powell  49:27  
he had not. And this play this plays into this plays into the experience. So like, I hadn't seen it in several months. And prior to that, like we had spent years and years, literally every week, or every other week, meeting in some other city and basically being on an endless tour together for five years or something. So it had been a few months and he and Andrew and I met back up because New York City public schools were adopting all three March books. You know, throughout their curriculum, and it was this big deal. But when I saw him, yeah, he looked skinny. And I remember saying something dumb, but you know, it's like, Oh, I was like, Congressman, I was like, you think you lost like 20 pounds or something? And I remember Andrew just giving me like the eyes like, no, no, not right now. And I was like, oh. And it was about a month after that he came out publicly with it. So I actually found out by checking the news with everyone else. And then it seemed very obvious, you know, like, it seemed obvious in that instant that I read the news, along with everyone else. And I realized how much I put my foot in my mouth and put him on the spot. But then the world shut down, we had plans, like I was going to take my kids up to go see him speak, somewhere in northern Indiana, and he had to cancel because it was right after his diagnosis, and P and COVID was kicking up, but the world hadn't shut down yet. And so from that moment, on, like January 2020, on, I realized that no matter what happened with with Congressman Lewis, his health and his life, that our relationship needed to change. And so we still, like, played a role in each other's lives. And, you know, like, we loved each other, and we were friends, we're actual friends. But I realized that like, it was really kind of on me to shift the dynamic entirely into a friend dynamic. And, you know, Congressman Lewis, like, gets lonely, he got lonely, and like a lot of people would sometimes just like, not check in with him, because they assumed that too many people were checking in with them. And, yeah, so like, once a week, I would just make sure I called him and we would talk for a while. And just talk about like, normal, mundane stuff. And I finally got to ask questions about his cats and everything, you know, stuff that, like, I was always thinking about, like higher minded stuff, or, you know, we're doing our work stuff together, you know. And, at a certain point, around May, or early June, it got harder and harder to get in touch with him, because someone else had gained access to his phone, like a staffer who may not have his best interests in mind. And I completely lost direct contact with him, as soon as this individual sort of gained access, commandeered his phone. And so it was, it was very surreal and strange, that, you know, like, there were these moments during that the beginning of the pandemic, like his last time he ever came out in public was during the, like, during the massive, you know, upheaval and the waves of protests in May in June to 2020. When he was in DC, downtown, and just getting to, like, show my kids, you know, these images that were coming in and just, you know, seeing like, really is proof that he's, you know, he's in it to win it, and he's still out there, even under his incredible circumstances. And, and, yeah, but I, I, the last two, at least two months of his life, I had no direct contact with him. And that was just a real, really sad, unfortunate thing.

Brian Heater  53:36  
Do you think that your kids, you know, kind of throughout, were aware of the gravitas and the importance of this person?

Nate Powell  53:47  
Yes. And a lot of that is a, like Harper, my, my older kid was born, like the week I started working on March was born in late 2011. And so their life was literally surrounded by images of protest and historical images of the movement and images of John Lewis for my kids entire life. So it was probably around probably around 2015. When maybe, yeah, around 2015 Sometime when my kid was able to actually make connections, that the that this this person was not only somebody who I was now gonna, who I was going out into the real world to talk about this stuff with, but the ways in which that intersected with this mass push to fulfill multiracial democracy and this mass push to maintain white supremacy and racial inequality throughout the 2010s. But I think one of the biggest moments there was in 2016. I was just thinking about this this morning, when Congressman Lewis led that congressional sit in for gun control. And Republicans had the C span, feed cut, audio and video were cut. And so they were having to like, on the spot on the floor, like broadcast from their cell phones and iPads and stuff, electricity was cut in some parts of the chamber. But that was one of these moments where, you know, I made both of my kids come downstairs, and really just watch what was happening in real time. And to be able to show like a direct, simple application of the principles that I've been talking with my older kid about through the pages of March, but to see it in person, you know, mediated through the TV screen as something that was happening, right, this second was, I think, very impactful for my, my older kid, the

Brian Heater  55:52  
significance of him dying when he died was not lost on me, you know, it during during that time period. You know, but certainly, he experienced Trump in a very real way, you know, even more than most of us did. And I'm curious if in those really not that we're out of it, but you know, in those incredibly difficult year is whether he ever gave you any optimism that things will ultimately get better. Yes,

Nate Powell  56:25  
and this is where this is where the

the public, John Lewis is just was just simply who he was, for the most part. He you know, he's a little bit funnier in private, like a little snarky, er, but in general, like his, his sincerity and the kind of like gravity, like just the, the bombs he would drop. Occasionally, we're like, whoa, I'm in the presence of this man. Yes, like, whenever he would, like, if we would, if we would do a talk. And so I would ask a question that simply had to do with like, thinking in the medium term, in the long term about the arc of history, and actually, like, you know, successfully defeating these forces of white supremacy and oppression, you know, when he would talk to people about like, you know, a lot of his go to lines you like, if you want to tell me that things haven't changed, and they're not changing, you know, come walk a mile in my shoes, and I will show you change, and talk about, like, the arc of history being like, the fact that this is not the struggle of even a few months, a few years, but it's the struggle of a lifetime of many lifetimes. He 100% believe that and would privately convey that in so many words to us in these moments, like, it's where yeah, he truly like, from a very young age, like, as depicted in the pages of our work together, you know, like, that kind of gravity and intensity was with him from like, age five on and a lot of times, perseverance was like his was was his main thing. We were talking about issues like, essentially, like, I've seen this shit before, we're going to see it again. He wouldn't say shit, though. But, but you know, he's like, you know, like, this is the kind of thing that is going to continue recurring and we as a people are going to continue to need to remain vigilant and rise to the occasion. Like it's it is not something that is solved once. The the way of solving issues like this is continually addressing them and solving them. And for me, that's like, it's such a realistic, unromantic way that has no platitudes in it. That is also not depressing. It's like it's the only way forward. And so his like actual hope in humanity and hope in Yeah, like a movement that surpasses our own lifetimes is something that was so necessary to hear and so necessary to hear privately. And I know some time to let go