Monday, December 6, 2010

Interview with Shaan Obney

Shaan Obney performed in the bands Le Shok and Nazti Skinz, and roadied for Wrangler Brutes for two weeks in the American south. I place him in the top 5% of roadies I've dealt with. This interview avoided any specific question (depths, operating speeds, specific nations he'd been off the coast of) that could land him in Leavenworth. This was also the first we'd spoken in half a decade.

SAM: I have a suspicious memory from your roadie days. What I recall is that you never showered or changed your clothes, but instead rose every morning, still dressed after sleeping on the floor, fastidiously cleaned yourself with two lint rollers - one for your back, one for your front - and then you were good to go for the rest of the day. Did this actually happen?

SHAAN: No. I actually showered when everyone was asleep. Because, at the time, I felt like I was imposing on the rest of the band....

SAM: That is good roadie behavior.

SHAAN: I would wake up before everyone else and I would shower, then I would wear the same clothes but I would change my underwear and socks. And then I would de-lint myself.

SAM: It set a powerful template for on-the-road personal hygiene.

SHAAN: I gotta say, the lint brush thing kind of haunts me to this day, because everyone expects me to have one.

SAM: They're not cheap.

SHAAN: That's true.

SAM: So after Wrangler Brutes broke up in late '04, you were so distraught that you immediately joined the Navy....

SHAAN: Exactly.

SAM: Where was your basic training?

SHAAN: Great Lakes, Illinois. It's about eight weeks.

SAM: My impression of basic training is that it is not fun.

SHAAN: You know what? It's not fun. But Navy boot camp is basically a two-month course on how to fold clothing correctly.

SAM: Really. You're not crawling through mud, or having the guy from Full Metal Jacket yell at you?

SHAAN: No running the gauntlet. After basic training, I went to Basic Enlisted Submarine School, which is another two months. Eventually I spent four years on the USS Boise.

SAM: And was that the excitement equivalent of Boise, ID? Or did you get a party sub?

SHAAN: On my first day on the boat, I was told that 'Boise' was an acronym for 'Being Onboard Induces Suicidal Emotions'.

SAM: What was your job?

SHAAN: I am a sonarman. I trained for a year to do that.

SAM: OK. I have the USS Boise up on Wikipedia. It's a nuclear sub!

SHAAN: Yes. The United States has no diesel powered submarines.

SAM: But no nuclear weapons on the Boise.

SHAAN: No, I was on the class of submarines that doesn't carry nuclear weapons. Although we can, technically.

SAM: So if some shit goes down, like with a Soviet sub, or a giant squid, you gotta ram 'em.

SHAAN: That would probably be a bad idea, because the front end of the submarine is actually made of fiberglass.

Pre-Man Shaan, as Wiggins The Roadie, Mississippi, 2004

SAM: I've heard rumors that your sub was stationed under the North Pole at one point.

SHAAN: We weren't stationed there. We were transiting from Norfolk to Japan, and we went under the North Pole and broke through the ice. But we were never 'stationed' at the North Pole.

SAM: Did you hop out in a ski parka like Rock Hudson in Ice Station Zebra?

SHAAN: I did go topside and walk around on the ice....

SAM: Holy fucking shit.

SHAAN: Yeah. I literally walked around on the North Pole.

SAM: Jesus. How was it? What's it like up there?

SHAAN: Well, based on it being winter, it was dark all the time, so it looked super fake.

SAM: It was dark but not pitch black.

SHAAN: It was kind of like borderline sunrise. You had enough daylight to see what was going on, but only enough that it looked like you were on some Universal Pictures sound stage.

SAM: So at that point, standing there, did you think 'wow, this was all worth it'?

SHAAN: Yeah. 'Nazti Skinz never got me anywhere near this latitude'. (Laughs) No, I kind of felt like 'what was I thinking'? There was some poor decision making to be had, and I was at the helm of the poor decisions made....

SAM: ...that led you from civilization to this barren wasteland...

SHAAN: Exactly. At that point the barren wasteland was kind of like a metaphor for my life. (Laughs)

SAM: And so, was this just a pit stop? Like 'here's you chance to see the North Pole, boys.'

SHAAN: It was pretty much like 'hey, we're at the North Pole, it would be cool to break through the ice. Just to say we did it.'

SAM: Wait a minute. That just makes it sound like it's a bunch of dudes in a van making a pit stop....

SHAAN: It is. I've always said to people that being on a submarine is pretty much like if you're on tour with a band and you were trying to go through Texas but you were stuck in some weird time warp and you just did it for six months straight.

SAM: But there's chain of command. Somebody must have made an executive decision to break through the ice...

SHAAN: I think it's one of those things where it's the commanding officer's discretion.

SAM: So you are telling me that it's like if Andy is driving and we happen to be passing by The Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz and he's like 'guess what? We're going to The Mystery Spot now.'

SHAAN: Pretty much.

SAM: Wow. Hey, that reminds me. Andy wants to know where is his jacket.

SHAAN: Oh! Yeah. I know what he's talking about. I lost it overseas.

SAM: "At the north pole" is what I think you mean to say.

SHAAN: If it makes the interview any better, yes.