‘No end in sight’

Local punk activist band the P.A.W.N.S. heads to Europe

GARDEN PARTY <br>The P.A.W.N.S. (from left), Will Kneital, Ray Dehated, Zeke Optimo and Saint Anne preparing for their upcoming tour with an outdoor show at the S&amp;M House.

GARDEN PARTY
The P.A.W.N.S. (from left), Will Kneital, Ray Dehated, Zeke Optimo and Saint Anne preparing for their upcoming tour with an outdoor show at the S&M House.

Photo By Chris Schreiber

“We’ve never been very good at being idle,” said Ray Dehated, guitarist for local political-punk icons the P.A.W.N.S.

In between organizing their punk cooperative Manifest Destiny, running Black Lodge recording studios, booking shows for other bands and otherwise just having a good time, Dehated and his wife, vocalist Saint Anne, have also put together a performance tour that will take P.A.W.N.S. through six European countries in three weeks, beginning July 1 in Paris.

Last summer, the band made a similar tour that took six months of planning and had them playing a month and a half of shows. Dehated said that not only did they break even financially, something that’s nearly impossible on a U.S. tour, but they also met an amazing crew of people around the European continent who shared similar philosophies.

P.A.W.N.S. stands for “power and wealth need slaves,” and it represents the band’s ideology opposing materialism, greed and power—a posture that creates a unique sense of solidarity among fans.

“We’re not so big that we can maintain a huge fan base in the U.S. and in Europe,” Dehated said, explaining that they plan to continue touring Europe and playing locally but want to avoid doing another solo U.S. tour. “We’re just looking for our people.”

This tour is different for P.A.W.N.S. in that Dehated and St. Anne will be joined on the road by bassist Zeke Optimo and drummer Will Kneital. This current line-up has had time for only a handful of practices together, but Dehated feels more confident than ever.

“The lyrics have always really been the main focus,” Dehated said. “Just recently has the music achieved a level of art that I’m really proud of.”

The band certainly isn’t lacking for musicality or road experience. Kneital has been touring with such bands as the Jocks and This is My Fist since he was 16, and Optimo is the technological mastermind behind nearly every local album recorded lately, as well as the creator of the essential local show calendar/newsletter, chicolist.com. He even co-owns the Black Lodge studio with Dehated and has teamed up with the P.A.W.N.S. on the last eight years’ worth of projects.

Of course, Dehated and St. Anne have more of a history together, going all the way back to being born and raised in Santa Cruz.

At 16, Dehated got a job fixing the volume control boxes at the local drive-in theater. One Christmas his boss asked what he had wished for, and they went out together that afternoon and bought Dehated his first PA and a $200 microphone. He used the equipment for his band called Political Science, a name that stuck until P.A.W.N.S. was formed.

“All us girls were the biggest hecklers,” St. Anne said. She and her friends changed the lyrics to Political Silence’s socially conscious songs a la Weird Al Yankovic so that songs like “Sold Out” became songs about “Soda Pop.”

St. Anne was always critiquing and making suggestions to the Political Silence singer, so when she and Dehated finally moved up to Chico, she assumed the position as lead vocalist. The result was a hyper-paced, politically minded punk band that is equal parts aggressive ‘80s SoCal punk like Black Flag and British anarchist-punk like Crass.

Years, albums and hundreds of shows later, P.A.W.N.S. is still creating the kind of social commentary through music that it has become known for.

And there’s no end in sight.

“Anyone who knows us knows we’re not doing this to be comfy," Dehated said. "We’ve outlived most of the record labels and punk bands we’ve known. We’re lifers. It’s the way we live."