Austin-based musician, journalist and punk rock icon Lance Hahn died Sunday after a long illness brought on by complications from kidney disease.
He was 40.
Hahn was best known for the prolific rock band J Church, which since its inception in 1992 produced dozens of singles, EPs, and albums of sharp, melodic songs mixed with punk attitude. As Hahn was quoted in 1995, “A lot of people write trying to keep track of all the records we put out. I can’t even remember.” (The band was only three years old at the time.)
Hahn also played in the punk band Cringer from 1984 to 1991, played guitar for the rock musician Beck in 1994, owned and operated the Honey Bear record label, was a long-time contributor to the international punk rock magazine “Maximum Rock n Roll,” and published the zine “Some Hope and Some Despair.” Many unfamiliar with Hahn’s music knew him as a manager at the Vulcan Video store on South Congress.
At the time of his death, Hahn was near completion on a book about the history of anarchist punk bands, portions of which have been excerpted in "Maximum Rock n Roll."
Born in Hawaii, Hahn was of the generation for whom punk rock was neither a just a genre nor a passing fashion, but a way of looking at the world. "He claimed to be the first person in Hawaii with a Mohawk," said his partner Liberty Lidz.
His band Cringer was one of the first thoroughly documented punk bands in Hawaii and - as Hahn put it on the Honey Bear webpage - the first band of his "that anyone really cares about."
After Hahn, by then a California resident, formed J Church, the band became a staple of the San Francisco punk rock community. The group’s catchy music, do-it-yourself work ethic and Situationist leanings were both a sharp contrast and perfect fit with hundreds of heavier or poppier acts.
Hahn and Lidz moved to Austin in 2000 so she could attend grad school. The Austin version of J Church included Austin punk stalwarts Chris Pfeffer on drums and Ben White on bass. (David DiDonato served as J Church’s second guitarist from 2002 to 2005.) These two line-ups produced three albums, a split LP and additional material.
Hahn was also profoundly well-liked by the American and international punk community. There were benefits held for Hahn around the world after his and Lidz’s apartment burned down in 2002, as chronicled here.
This summer, five independent labels (No Idea, Cat Food Money, Vinehell, Jerk Off and Tic Tac Totally) released "Let’s Do It For Lance!," a J Church/Cringer tribute CD to help defray Hahn’s mounting medical bills. (He did not have health insurance at the time of his death.)
More information about Hahn and J Church can be found at their webpage and MySpace page.
Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.
He will be missed.
(Photo by Dave Deluxe, COURTESY OF J-CHURCH.COM)
Published in Austin American-Statesman on Oct. 22, 2007.