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Al Park on Christchurch skinheads, 1980s


“When I left Christchurch in 1980 and went to LA, the skinhead thing was just emerging. It was based around the Gladstone, which I’d loved from playing and booking bands, and they were all there when I came back in 1981.

“Then in later years when I was at Echo Records I got to know some of those skinheads and I had to treat them like human beings. I couldn’t convince them any different, but I watched some of them change. They were getting older, having relationships with people, having kids and things.

“When we had Al’s Bar, I supported the metal thing for a while, because they supported me. A ragged bunch of tough metal freaks from Rangiora came in and, but I turned them around in terms of coming to my bar.

“They were idiots, but it was best not to put the barrier up ...”

“One night I got up on stage when two women from different factions started fighting. I was so f**ked off. When I get angry there’s another Al behind knowing exactly what I’m doing, but the person out front is going, ‘Don’t f*ck with me!’ I’ve had to pull it a few times in my life and that night I told them to F-off! After that everything they did was totally respectful. It was a major turnaround.

“The leader was an older married guy. They’ve lost a few mates to suicide and I’ve seen that little community thing with this one guy guiding them through. He’s still there, still married with kids. It is quite interesting to see.

“The way we communicate is so important. I remember Chavvah, who was my bar manager, telling them one night, ‘Don’t you ever disrespect Al’.

“Using the words respect and disrespect was a big thing. They were idiots, but it was best not to put the barrier up – to friend them, talk to them. And if they ever laid any sh*t, you’d say, ‘Don’t lay any of that on me, man!’ Be totally up front with them.”  

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