Interview #17 Mr. Issa, Good Clean Funville (nowhere near, USA

Hardcore may seem a barren wasteland of angry dudes with no sense of humor. Well, once in a while, some jokers show up and encourage everyone not to take themselves so seriously. Good Clean Fun put out some terrific music with lyrics that turned a mirror to their primarily straight edge fans. Songs like Coll-edge and In Defense of All Life, while touching on topics of veganism and drug-free life choices, also go over the top in a way that reminds us all to chill just a bit. Vocalist, Mr. Issa (pron. ee-sa), still maintains a vegan, straight edge lifestyle with his wife and two kids. His answer about being a good father will make absolute sense to some, and very little sense to people who aren’t well-acquainted with hardcore music. (I think it is quite possibly the perfect answer to this question.) Without further ado…

Name: Issaissa and wife native foods
Age: 44
Number and ages of children: 2 daughters — Ferris: 8, Cameron: 3.
Location: Outside of Washington DC

Warm up question. “You swore you’d be edge til eternity… and now you’re pledging a fraternity!” I crack up every time I hear the Coll-edge song, the lyrics of which are clearly a result of divine intervention. How did you arrive at your tongue-in-cheek style with Good Clean Fun?

Ah, I see this is going to be one of those hardball interviews. I’ll do my best to respond politely to your antagonistic questions.

Coll-edge is interesting because anyone with eyes can see that MOST people stop being straight edge. This wouldn’t be such a big deal if half the hardcore songs out there weren’t about staying true til death and getting stabbed in the back. No one wants to think about their friends (or they themselves) breaking edge. So this was a fun way to approach the topic in a humorous way.

good clean fun on stageWhat are your personal drug and alcohol-free recreational outlets? What are your favorite things to do with your children?

Well, as a parent, I no longer have any free time to do anything on my own. My one solo entertainment pleasure is going out on Thursday nights when there is a big movie premiere. I can’t leave until everyone is asleep. So punk!

With the kids: books, kid movies, parks, electronic sets (the older they get, the more fun their toys become for me!).

What pieces of art, music, literature, etc., inspire you at this stage in your life?
Do other parents have time for this sort of thing? I can’t imagine… mostly I listen to the same music I’ve listened to for the past 25 years. To try to give an answer…I think there are some movies that have passed the test of time (and are kid-friendly) that really impress me. Singing In The Rain, Ferris Bueller, The Karate Kid, PeeWee’s Big Adventure…good stuff!

IMG_4347What does being a good father mean to you?

Hmm…this answer could take pages and pages and still not adequately express how I feel. So I will try to boil it down to hardcore: When I’m gone, I want to be like the Minor Threat Discography to them. Something that is filled with great memories and reminds them of incredible times we had together—but also something that laid the foundation for how they live their lives and see the world.

How does your partner feel about your drug-free choices?

My wife is XVX as well. Otherwise I would probably drive her crazy.

Why did you decide to be drug and alcohol-free as a father or beforehand? Are there other major life choices that complement your decision?

issa tour van

Good clean times in the tour van

N/A – Straight edge forever.

How do your experiences as a son influence your choices as a father when it comes to drugs and alcohol?

I’m sort of curious to see if my kids take up drinking…it’s not something we’ve ever talked about with them, but obviously, they never see us doing it. My parents didn’t drink…so I never really thought about it.

As a son, what is something you would you like your dad (or mom) to know?

I really like the scene in Back To The Future where Marty tells his parents to go easy on their future son if he ever sets fire to the living room rug. I’m sure I would like to retroactively tell them a few things of that nature.

How will you talk to your children about drugs and alcohol? How will you address drug and alcohol use among the friends of your children?

This will probably end up being entertaining…not sure how best to approach it when the time comes though.

IMG_4357How do religion, political ideology, or other philosophies play a part in your choices as a father?

We aren’t religious and we tell our kids to try not to ruin things like God and Santa Claus for other kids.

What pitfalls exist for drug-free fathers? How successful have you felt at overcoming them? 

The biggest change (by far) for me in being a father has been going from being a professional punk to having an actual job. I’d created a social circle that was mostly vegan and straightedge, so it is a bit jarring to experience the “real” world, especially in an office setting.

I don’t eat the food (birthday cake, lunch meetings, etc) or ever go to Happy Hour, so everyone thinks I’m weird and anti-social. Punk in general ruins you for being an office worker—this is not a bad thing!! – but suddenly having to provide for a family after being used to living extremely frugally (read: being broke) is probably the number one pitfall for me at least.

 IMG_4067What are your greatest hopes for your children?
All the usual stuff. I want them to have wonderful lives, be happy, and make a positive difference in the world. I hope they find their version of the punk rock scene to be a part of…in whatever form that may take.


I needed to pick Issa’s brain on some other pressing issues: national politics, racial and gender relations in hardcore, and FUN of the good, clean variety…

We are in the midst of a somewhat unusual election year, with a tough battle on the Democratic side between Clinton and Sanders, and a huge Republican field that’s been narrowed to Trump, Cruz, and Kasich. Would you care to weigh in regarding your hopes for this year’s election and the challenges the next president will face?

I think we’re at a turning point in this country. Either we elect Bernie Sanders and change directions, or we continue our downward spiral. I realize that sounds extreme, and I don’t mean to take away the progress we’ve achieved over the past half century when it comes to some aspects of equality in society. But the separation of the haves and the have-nots has become unsustainable.
My hope (and my vote) is that Bernie gets elected. My expectation is that Hillary gets elected. My fear is that one of the Republicans running gets elected.
issa sound board studioNot many bands inject fun and humor in straight edge and hardcore. I can think of a couple: you guys and Crucial Youth before you. Were you in any way attempting to carry forward that band’s torch when you started Good Clean Fun?
Crucial Youth is one of my all time favorite bands. Not sure if anyone can tell that. We would like to think that we picked up their torch and ran with it. We were lucky enough to get to play a few shows with them—it was awesome. They are all great guys even if we had some heated discussions about the 4 food groups.
I recently did an interview with the drummer from the band Ghost Key. He has openly spoken about what it’s like to be black in the hardcore scene. With punk and hardcore often being overwhelmingly (depressingly) white, how did you first become attracted to the scene? How has being a person of color shaped your views of the scene?

There were a few high-profile black members of the Washington DC hardcore scene over the years. That certainly helps. Hardcore was always overwhelmingly white but that wasn’t a problem the same way it was in other places in society. Even back in the old days when there was a White Power movement dancing around the fringes of the scene, I never doubted that anyone had my back.

issa fireside flyer

Anyone got six bucks and a time machine I can borrow?

To give a quick counterpoint, as an adult I’ve worked at some large companies as a software engineer. Almost always, the only other black people in the building are the janitors. In that situation, you feel it and you hear it in the way people talk. I definitely did not get that same feeling from the hardcore scene.

I can’t talk about this subject without mentioning that both of those situations are extremely male-dominated. I was continually disappointed with hardcore in general for not being more friendly to women in the scene.
What’s next, musically, for you?
Playing songs on the guitar for my kids. That’s about it.
 issa acoustic guitar
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