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Pulls Wisdom From the Ashes

The gun is leveled and the victim, cornered, turns his back with his hands held high. A scene from "Dragnet" maybe, or the evening news? No. In this case, the gun is a BB rifle and both parties involved are members of the power-punk band Pennywise. The scene plays out on the bonus DVD portion of the band's newest release, From the Ashes. Triggerman and Pennywise guitarist Fletcher Dragge explains how the shoot-out came about.

"It was an agreement between Randy (Bradbury, bass) and myself," says Dragge. "We were partying all night and I said, 'Hey, I've got this idea. We're both gonna get a full clip of BBs --- which is 60 --- in the back, from 15 paces, bareback. And you can't move, you've gotta take the whole clip.' He's like, 'let's do it!' So I did him and he did me.

"We refer to [the shoot-outs] as a 'cleansing' and there have been quite a few people that have gotten them. It's like 50 lashes to get rid of your sins for the day. It's kind of like confession. It looks a lot worse than it is --- there's no scarring or anything like that." Dragge adds that participants in the ritual wear goggles to protect their eyes, while the DVD packaging advises would-be jackasses to avoid trying the stunt at home.

The good 'ol U.S.A. Pennywise calls "home" is something the members care deeply about. The first line Pennywise vocalist Jim Lindberg utters in "God Save The U.S.A." is one of incredulity, "God, you must be kidding me!" And Lindberg keeps up with the manic pace of Byron McMackin's drumming, lending an air of urgency to the message to the nation --- get off your ass before it's too late.

Although Pennywise's music has long been filled with political commentary, From the Ashes sees the topic becoming their primary focus. The album's title is a general reference to America's re-grouping after the terrorist actions of 2001. According to Dragge, those horrific events shouldn't have come as a surprise to anyone --- they didn't to the band.

"For me, I'm not walking around scared of a terrorist attack. We've always believed that this was coming. So for us, we're way ahead of the game," Dragge assures. "We get to see firsthand how other countries feel about America because we travel. We get to see the real news, not the fake "Fox News" that we see over here.

"The real story is on the screen in Europe," continues Dragge. "In Germany and France, they're showing what's really going on in war zones. So we're just continuing to write songs that will hopefully open people's eyes to what's going on around them. It's not like we're experts, but we know one thing for sure: people are mad at America and it's a worldwide problem. If we don't get a handle on this, we're going to be the enemy of the whole world."

While the world stews, those as enlightened as the members of Pennywise realize that change begins with the individual, within the home, and then works its way to the outside. As patriarchs of such a large fan-base, Pennywise can ill afford to be bad role models, a little BB gunning aside.

The band will be taking a short hiatus this fall while the Lindbergs have a baby. Prepared, Dragge says the position of responsibility comes naturally. "The older you get, you start thinking about things like health care for your mom, where your tax dollars are going and why the streets in front of your house are still really bumpy if you're paying all these property taxes."

While the road is seldom a smooth one, Pennywise will continue to travel that road boldly. Dragge seems to concisely sum up the entire country's feelings. "We're just waiting for something good to come out of this nightmare."

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