Born January 31st, 1950 in NY, USA Mykel Board has spent his life immersed in the cultural underground – First as a yippie radical in the 1960s and 70s, then as an active member of the global punk scene from the late 1970s to today.
An accomplished writer most known for his long running column in punk magazine Maximum Rocknroll, Mykel has also released books to much acclaim, and is also a musician and record label owner. Having played in bands such as Art, Artless and Swanic Youth – Whilst also releasing music through his record label, The Only Label in the World, which Mykel started in 1980. Activities that helped to cement his place in the international punk community.
Importantly, Mykel also played a pivotal role in the career of (in)famous performer and musician GG Allin. Releasing some of GG’s earliest recordings, assisting with concert bookings and also appearing on a split 7inch record featuring GG along with Mykel’s band Artless. Activities which Mykel outlines in-depth, in the recent comic ‘Digging GG’. Written by Mykel, with art and publishing duties handled by Scott Corkern of Spo-its fame.
Aside from his creative endeavours Mykel is also a lifelong traveller, having visited 71 countries & all but 1 continent so far! Bringing him a wealth of experiences that have informed his life, politics and artistic work.
Mykel is also one of those much needed humans who takes the effort to create connections and bring people together. Which he has done throughout his life in the underground culture scene; and also through his two long-running, open to the public groups, ‘Eat Club’ and ‘Drink Club’. Clubs which do, pretty much as they say – Namely provide a vehicle for people to meet up, become friends and chat over food and beverages. An invaluable service in today’s increasingly fractured and individualistic world.
He writes, he travels, he performs, he brings people together and stands up for what he believes in – All in all, Mykel is best summed up by that age-old Yiddish word: mensch and he’s a punk one at that!
Wanting to get to know him better and learn more about his myriad of activities, we sent Mykel some questions to answer over email.
Take a dive into his world, below…
Name + D.O.B?
Legal Name: Michael Board
Pen/Stage Name: Mykel Board
Born: January 31, 1950 ,11:55PM
City, State and Country you currently call home?
New York, NY, USA
City, State and Country you’re from?
Hicksville, NY, USA
Please describe some memories – such as art, music, friendships, adventures, study, romance, politics, travel, work, religion, crime… anything really – from the stages of your life noted below:
* Your childhood:
My very earliest memory was from about the age of 2. My father held me in his one arm (the other lost in France in WWII) pretending to drop me so I’d hold on tighter.
* Your teenage years:
Didn’t get laid until I was 20… in Amsterdam: A girl I met at a demonstration against the coup in Indonesia where US backed Suharto took over that country. She was a squatter in an abandoned post office.
I remember after sex she said WOW!
I felt so proud.
* Your 20s:
Attended Beloit College in Wisconsin, that had a work-study program – I found a job (unpaid) writing for an anarchist newspaper in London. I lived in the Lin Piao Commune. (His name is now often written as Lin Biao). According to the others living there, Lin Piao was the guy who killed [Editor: attempted to, but actually failed] Mao Tse Tung (now often written as Mao Zedong).
During my stay in London, I took a side trip to Amsterdam. (See above for more details.)
I lived in Chicago for a couple years after London. Had my first sex with a guy… I liked it. And from then I decided that gender makes no difference in sex partners.
It’s the friction that counts.
I took a lot of photos at rock concerts… especially CBGBs.
Early in the decade, I discovered the NY Dolls and often went to see them. Once, they stopped dressing up and I asked someone what happened. “Don’t you know?” came the answer, “Glitter is dead. It’s punkrock now.”
After awhile I thought I had to eat or get off the pot. So I started an anti-band where the only instrument was a metronome. I picked the most extreme name I could think of: ART, THE ONLY BAND IN THE WORLD.
* Your 30s:
After ART, I started a band called THE ROLLING STONES. I picked the name because I thought it would get a lot of people into the clubs to see us. It didn’t work. The clubs wouldn’t advertise us.
Then I started a punk band: ARTLESS. The idea was to take all the principles of punkrock and stand them on their head. Punk music with contrary lyrics: Republican, anti-feminist, etc.
I was still a regular at CBGBs, though now sometimes I was on the stage. We did a couple European tours and an American tour with a driver who was an Elvis impersonator.
I started to write for Maximum RocknRoll during this time. I also had a record label called: THE ONLY LABEL IN THE WORLD. One of the releases was the YOU’LL HATE THIS RECORD RECORD… a compilation of the most hated bands in America. It was through this record that I met GG Allin.
* Your 40s:
Did some tours with ARTLESS… at the turn of the decade (1990) I was living in Japan, teaching English. I lived there for two years.
In 1995, I lived in Mongolia for a year, also teaching English. I wrote a book about my life in Mongolia. It was titled after a local proverb: EVEN A DAUGHTER IS BETTER THAN NOTHING.
* Your 50s:
I went to Times Square on New Years for the millennium. There were a million people in Times Square. No food. No toilets. I had such a good time I decided to do it every millennium.
At the turn of the millenium, Jughead from Screeching Weasel published a book compilation of many of my Maximum Rock’n’Roll Columns. It was called I a Me-ist because, in a letter, someone called me a “Me-ist” because of my writing. I said then, if I ever wrote a book it would be called I, A Me-ist.
* Your 60s:
A reformed ARTLESS did a short US tour, including a Boston show on the 20th Anniversary of GGs death.
This was also the time I was fired from MRR by an editor who took the position under the knowledge that Tim Yohannan, the diseased original editor, said, as his legacy, that George Tabb and I couldn’t be fired by subsequent editors. We were anyway.
It was a great joy when MRR had to stop print-publishing at the end of the decade.
It was even a greater joy, when a new on-line editor said she was refusing to publish ANYTHING written by a white man.
NOTE: From my 20s through my sixties, I traveled a fuck of a lot. I’ve now been in 71 countries… on all continents except Antarctica.
* Your 70s so far:
More aches and pains.
Loss of the urge to get laid (It’s not worth the effort. Porn is much better… you never have to make it breakfast, or explain a limpy.)
I also lost the urge to perform on stage in front of others… very similar to the lost of the sex urge.
What role did toys play in your childhood?
My childhood was a very normal 50s childhood. My main toys were a Lionel electric train set and a hula hoop.
1. “If everybody believes something, it’s probably wrong.”
2. “Never trust a fart.”
3. “If you die in debt, you win.”
When and why did you first become interested in music, writing and everything creative?
… and any pivotal creative moments / influences?
I had a zine in high school (in the 1960s!) It got me in trouble and my parents were called to the school to meet with the principal.
I also got in trouble for refusing to stand for the pledge of allegiance.
As a kid I loved to read. The first author (after Dr. Seuss) that I can remember loving and wanting to read everything, was Mickey Spillane.
I hated gym and sports in general. I was always the last guy to be chosen for a team. I liked baseball, though (The Yankees) and pro-wrestling.
One of my childhood high points was when my father took me to see Bruno Sammartino wrestle at Madison Square Garden.
If you had to explain your creative endeavors to some recently crash-landed aliens…
What would you tell them?
I’d quote Kingsley Amis: “If you can’t annoy somebody, there’s little point in writing.“
Who are some of your favourite artists, writers, filmmakers and musicians?
…and what is it about their works that so inspire and move you?
In art, I love Picasso and the Surrealists. They saw the world in a way that no one else did. They refused to be bound by the limits of “reality” and often they had more than a little humor in their work.
Movies; I love Eraserhead, Tetsuo, El Topo… all surreal.
I also like Chinese and Japanese gangster movies and Spaghetti Westerns. I like blood and sex in movies… but I don’t like war movies.
My favorite movie ever is Pink Flamingos. Hilarious, outrageous, surreal, I’ve seen it 32 times in movie theaters and more than that on videotape. The first movie I ever loved enough to see multiple times, however, was The Wild Bunch.
As a lifelong member of the underground – first via the hippie movement and then through the punk scene – we were wondering…
* What advice you could give to those who want to stay true to the underground and their politics, but still survive in late-stage capitalism?
I used to be obsessed with “selling out.” Making money off your art, was somehow cheating… stealing from your fans. I loved that Minor Threat had a $5 limit on their tickets.
I’ve since changed my mind a bit.
It’s okay to make money from your art… and much better than working at something you hate so you can have enough money to do your art.
I think that one of the world’s greatest tragedies is the love of WORK (usually at something you hate) by both the left and right. One of the books that changed my life was The Abolition of Work by Bob Black. It put into words something that I’d felt for a long time. Work is not noble.
* …and what have you done yourself for money to exist and survive throughout your life?
At times, I’ve had to do things I didn’t like.
My worst job was driving a yellow cab in New York City. My shift was 4PM to 4AM. I had to pay to work and of the 12 hours of my shift, it took from 6 to 8 of them to break even.
Now, because of uber and lyft, drivers have it even worse.
For most of my life though, I’ve been teaching ESL English. I taught in Japan and Mongolia.
Most of my adult life I’ve been lucky enough to teach at a Japanese-owned school in New York. Classes were mostly one-on-one. Occasionally, I would lecture. My favorite was on “The Place of Jews in American Society.”
All my students in NY have been Japanese… Adult students, mostly here on business. They need to brush up on their English.
For many years, most of my friends have been my students.
Then COVID hit, and the physical school closed. And now I teach via Skype. I hate it. Staring at a screen non-stop for 90 minutes at a time.
The only good thing is that SOMETIMES, I get to meet my students in person and become friends with them.
I still love Japan and the Japanese people. While in Japan, I hitchhiked through the entire country. I’ve hitchhiked in more than 10 countries. Japan was the easiest. People gave me gifts to thank me for riding in their car.
If people wanted to check out your stuff, work with you or buy some of your wares – Where should they visit and how should they get in touch?
I love to correspond with people, though sometimes it takes me awhile to answer.
….and no matter where you are, you can read my blog at: https://mykelsblog.blogspot.com
What role do you think GG filled in both culture and society during his life?
… and why do you think he is still relevant today, 30 years after his death?
This would take a book to explain… and one that I’m not going to write.
So I’ll try to shrink it down to a paragraph or two.
Freud talks about 3 parts of the human psyche: the ID, which is the animal part: lust, hunger, fear, etc. All those things humans have in common with other animals.
Then there’s the EGO… the “I.” Self awareness, the urge to be loved or the urge to be known. The urge to become famous or rich or tough or some combination of those.
The last one of these is the SUPEREGO, the part that keeps the others in check. Like a psychic parent, the superego keeps the lid on the ego and id… controlling the anger of the ID from smashing everything around it… preventing the I Am The Greatest moments of the ego from stomping on those you feel are lesser beings. It is the source of our feelings of morality.
GG was the only person I’ve ever met who had no superego. He could be… and often was… a moral person. Not making fun of people he could easily have made fun of… but that didn’t come from an idea of morality, it was only that GG didn’t need to belittle others to feel his ego.
I’ve seen him give interviews and be very kind to many people it would be easy to rag on… fat people, people with stutters, people with IQs lower than my penis length… all easy targets.
He never took advantage of them or made fun of them.
GG is important because he showed that it was possible to live your life EXACTLY as you want to. There are consequences to that: jail, pain, death. But if you don’t have FEAR, you are really free even if it kills you.
Unfortunately, many people don’t get GG. “Oh, he’s that guy who shit on stage.” That’s it. Some try to imitate him.. but it’s a show. These people are not fearless.
GG was an example of someone who was fearless/without superego mom or dad.
I’m really glad he existed so we could see what it’s like.
I’m also glad there was only one of him.
Can you please share with us some of your favourite memories of GG?
My absolute favorite GG memory is the party we had for him when he signed a contract with Matador Records. It was at the Dugout bar. Gerard Cosloy was the big guy at Matador at the time.
GG and I were at the bar early. There were some others there, but I can’t remember who.
Gerard was late. When he arrived, GG pissed on him.
How did you and Scott come to collaborate on your GG Allin comic?
He asked me to write a few words… and I just went on and on.
Then he asked specific questions:
“Did you have a beard when this happened?”
“What was GG wearing when…”
“Who else was there when…”
He was obsessively concerned with getting it right.
In a fight between the following punk icons: GG Allin Vs Deborah Harry – Who would win?
…and why would they be victorious?
Sorry to disappoint.
This might be a good fantasy question, but GG Allin was tough, strong and pretty fearless.
Deborah Harry was sexy, but not physically tough.
GG would beat her in less time than it takes to say Heart of Glass.
Odds & Ends
In your 2011 interview with Quickdummies you say something very interesting, how in your opinion,
“Rock and roll-let alone punk rock-does not have the ability to create social change.
It’s too bad, maybe, but music can only reflect society… not make it.”
If you don’t think art / music can change society – What things / factors do you think can?
… and please provide some real-world examples.
Technology can and has changed society. The fact that I’m using a computer to answer these questions… sent to me over the internet… shows that.
Related: mass media can change society look at how people are willing to suffer because of Green panic… don’t take a shower, the earth needs that water! And look at how quickly media got people and cultures not accustomed to mask-wearing to change overnight.
If you could live in any place, during any historical era – Where and when would that be?
…and why would you choose that time and place?
I think I was born just at the right time. I lived through the 60s, 70s, 80s. Really exciting times.
Second choice might be at the end of the 1600s in Ireland… if I could be friends with Jonathan Swift.
What does God mean to you?
I have two views of God… a logical one and a utilitarian one.
Logical: God is the sum total of everything that exists.
Neither good nor evil, God simply exists and we are all part of that existence.
Utilitarian: God is a 9 foot tall woman in a leather bikini with a whip. Her job is to make your life as awful as possible… pulling all kinds of shit just to fuck you over.
Your job is to beat her at her own game.
If you give in and kill yourself as she wants you to do… SHE WINS.
If you stay and fight and go through all that shit and come out the other side… In other words, if SHE has to kill you in the end, rather than you doing it yourself… YOU WIN.
This inspires me to keep going.
Does sex change everything?
It used to, but doesn’t any more.
What are the top 3 items you own?
… and what is it about each of them that you so love?
The pictures speak for themselves, except maybe for the Thai Centipede whiskey I bought in the mountains of Thailand. They said that the giant worm was put in the bottle when it was alive.
I bet it died happy.
Please describe your last dream in detail…
I no longer remember my dreams.
Of everything you have done so far, what would you most like to be remembered for?
I once heard that Louis-Ferdinand Céline, my favorite writer, has as his epitaph: Ce connard qui savait écrire (‘This asshole who knew how to write’.)
That would be pretty good for me.
- Mykel Board – Blog
- Mykel Board – Facebook
- Mykel Board – Instagram
- Mykel Board – Email 1: email@example.com
- Mykel Board – Email 2: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Mykel Board – Wikipedia Entry
- Mykel Board – Discogs Profile
- Mykel Board – Amazon Page
- Mykel Board – Discogs Entry
- Mykel Board – 2011 Interview via Quickdummies
- Drink Club – Website
- Eat Club – Website
- Artless (Band) – Discogs Entry
- The Only Label in the World – Discogs Entry
All images supplied by Mykel or sourced online.
[Editor: Mykel has informed us that he is open to licensing the use of the many live photos he has taken over the years.
Contact Mykel for further information.]