Interviews

Conor (Modern Day Dads)

I've been an avid reader of Modern Day Dads for the past few years. The site initially found its way into my laptop's bookmarks via its Rad Dad series, where many musicians from the hardcore and punk communities have been interviewed about their thoughts on fatherhood. 

I was profiled on Modern Day Dads back in early 2015, and it's definitely one of coolest things interviews I've ever been asked to do. Since then, the site has only gotten bigger, with a growing readership and social media following. 

In this Q&A, I speak with Conor, the founder and editor of Modern Day Dads, about the site, his life, and how music has helped him through the years.

This should be interesting because outside of your social media posts, I know nothing about you! I guess a great way to start is for me to ask you where you born and raised.

I grew up in a small college town in Alabama. As inconsequential as I would like to think my time there was, both the good and bad that comes with living the south definitely had an impact on the way I view the world. Because I was surrounded by peers that belong to the "good old boy " culture, I quickly found out that I wasn't, nor would I ever be one of them. For the first 14 years of my life, I navigated the world as one of the very few punk rock skateboarders in town, and crafted a pretty thick skin both mentally and occasionally physically, as kids riding around with green hair on a skateboard were a pretty good target for abuse from the frat boys, rednecks and cops.  

Did you give your parents a hard time?

I think many of my own experiences give me a unique perspective on how to handle issues that my own child my face. I got in my fair share of trouble here and there as a kid mostly related to skateboarding, to be honest. Before I got too far down a path of self-destruction as a teenager, I found a group of friends that introduced me into hardcore music. I immediately was attracted to the music and message mostly because it was a further extension of my own rebellion. I was rebelling against my own scene, where most of my peers were getting wasted, I was reading about Hare Krishna and learning to make vegan food. (Thanks Ray!)

 

This is my Mom and me, her at 17 years old. Not an easy path for her to take, but she took it and was able to raise four more kids after me and work towards her now successful career. So with today being the #womensmarch, I want to send some love out to the mothers out there. I'd march a million miles just to say thank you to the strong, brave and powerful women like my mother that raised a child no matter how much of a "burden", or "inconvenience" or "distraction" from their goals. Women like my wife who is talented and independent but also a fiercely dedicated mother. I'd march another million miles for the dads that have stepped up and been a part of their children's lives as much as they can. I love seeing passionate people standing up for what they believe is right...especially when they share that passion with their family, and even more so when their passion IS their family. Salute to all the women today, especially mothers...we wouldn't be here without em'.

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When did you discover hardcore/punk music? 

I was very fortunate to grow up around punk and hardcore, though sometimes I say it was a bit of a curse as I never really got to experience the bliss of ignorance about the world around me. Some of my earliest memories were overhearing Dead Kennedys play from my uncle's bedroom, or flipping through my mother's notebooks and finding things like the lyrics to "Guns of Brixton" scrawled on the pages. 

At that time we all lived with my grandparents, my mother, my uncle and I. My grandparents were always supportive of any type of art and it's one of our favorite family stories to share how my grandfather caught the tail end of a Dead Kennedys show that he brought my uncle to in the '80s. 

I'm pretty sure my uncle had a hand in getting me my first skateboard, and at that time there was no one on earth that I thought was cooler than my uncle Ken. I'm proud to say that both of us can still be seen skateboarding and listening to hardcore with him still running Prank Records, in my opinion, one of the most important labels in hardcore and crust of the '90s to now. 

I'm very fortunate to share the ethics and sense of urgency of both skateboarding and hardcore with my kids, though the landscape has changed a bit. I don't think being a skateboarder will get you beat up anymore, but really, what's normal human being would want their own kids beat up for having blue hair? It's better now. 

SEE ALSO: 2017 interview with Anthony Pappalardo (In My Eyes, Ten Yard Fight, Author: Radio Silence Hardcore Book).

Who were some of the bands/records that changed your life as a teen? 

It's funny because most of the music I listen to is the same music I listened to then. My first real influence musically was Metallica. They were fast, heavy, and blew my mind as a kid. I remember getting some hand-me-down cassette tapes that also really set me down the path; one would be the filth side of the shit split and another was a cassette with no name on it that I later found out was early carcass recordings.  

Operation Ivy was a huge one as it introduced me to a slew of bands that frequented the Gilman scene and from there the list could continue for days.  

 

Punk's not Disney. #disneyworld

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Tell me a bit about your life when you were in your 20s. I know that for me, it as a period where I made a ton of mistakes, but I had fun along the way.

I feel like I straightened up fairly quickly in my teen years and my 20s were where I really sewed some of the wild oats. Fairly quickly after turning drinking age (true til' 21, right), I began drinking pretty heavily. At this point, I was tattooing for a living and traveling, which sounds a lot more thrilling than it was. I'm a bit of a homebody, so the nomad life wasn't for me at all. Drinking became a crutch that I would battle pretty heavily for the next few years. During that time I ended up meeting my future wife, and by 23 I went from a guy that thought only of himself, to a brand-new dad figuring out how to put everyone else in front of my selfish desires. It took some work, but I'd like to think I'm exactly where I need to be. 

SEE ALSO: Best Song on Every Sick of it All Album

Speaking of your wife, Jessica, she runs Modern Day Moms, the companion site to Modern Day Dads. How did you guys meet?  

My wife and I are one of the many who can thank the flash in the pan known as MySpace.com for our first contact, though we only met once we found out we had a mutual friend, who incidentally told me she was perfect for me. He was completely right. I was a transplant to the area and so was she, we were like two sore thumbs sticking out in another po-dunk town and once we met we didn't spend a day apart in almost 11 years now.

How old were you when you had your first kid, and how much did it kick you in the ass those first few months?  

Somewhere in the back of my mind I always knew I would be a father. Maybe, subconsciously, I just wanted a chance to right all the wrongs I felt like my own (absent) father did. I have always enjoyed the company of children and I am a big kid myself, but it's much more than that when a child becomes your responsibility. There have been a million moments where I've said to myself "don't screw this up!"  

There's an honesty that children have that somehow seems to fade away as we get older that I honestly admire and instead of trying to mold my kids I always try and give them guidance but let them be themselves.  

As for if it was a kick in the ass, it most certainly was. The biggest change wasn't so much the schedule or missing out on the bar scene as much as it was the extreme sense of responsibility and levity I felt, to myself, my child and to my wife. It's an honor and privilege that I take extremely seriously, but that's a weight I've imposed on myself and am gracious to bear it. 

 

Just some best friends doing best friends stuff.

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What was the biggest surprise for you with your first kid? In my case, it came down to learning to be more patient. My wife was more of a natural when it came to that department.

With my first child everything was a surprise. The entire thing was learn as you go! In retrospect, I suppose the biggest surprise is how much your children actually are paying attention. This is why I think being a positive role model for your own kids instead of the old "do as I say not as I do" attitude is important. You don't have a huge window of time in the scheme of things to model yourself as the example that your child needs, so I do think it's important to make sure you're the best version of yourself that you can be. 

 

Being a dad to two girls means eventually you have to play beauty shop. No big deal.

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What inspired you to start Modern Day Dads? Did you have any prior experience in desktop publishing before that?

My wife who runs the wildly successful Modern Day Moms blog acquired the Modern Day Dads domain name after a few years of trying to scoop it up. I am a bit of a caveman when it comes to the Internet, so when she asked if I would post to the Instagram, I remember asking her, "Am I supposed to post pictures of food or something?" No, I had no experience, except having no filter and an Internet connection.

Somehow it morphed into what it is today which I would describe to a stranger as part punk rock fanzine, part diary, bad humor, and part reminder to myself to stay the course.

 

Rad Dad Feature with Richie Birkenhead! If you know hardcore music, you will be stoked to read this. •link in profile•

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How long did it take for the site to get some traction, traffic wise, and how did you go about getting the word out about the site? 

I can't explain it but it seemed like over night. I guess the page filled a void that didn't exist in the online world. I've told people many times that I don't know how to blog and have no real experience with the online world, maybe that's what people relate to. I try to be honest, open and truthful in my experiences as a punk rock dad. If it resonates I'm grateful, if you don't dig it, then it's not for you anyway. It's all organic and I'm stoked people seem to dig it. 

SEE ALSO: 2017 interview with Jorge Rosado (Merauder).

Who have been some of your favorite Rad Dad interviewees to date?

I really feel like everyone that has answered the questions we sent out has added a different dynamic to the feature. Some people have attacked it with humor, others with bits and pieces of wisdom they have learned along the way. Though it would be hard to pick a favorite, Roger from Agnostic Front was not only a huge catch, but how he opened up about his life really set the tone early on for the direction we were going to push the page. It was a message to dads that showed you don't have to be limited by your past or defined by your mistakes. It was heavy. 

The Miret Family

How about a dream get for Rad Dad? Who would you love to interview for the series?

Some of the features have been a long time in the making and I remember telling another rad dad, Sergio from The Eulogy, when he asked the same question how huge it would be to get Choke from Slapshot to talk about being a father. Surprisingly, he was very approachable, thoughtful, funny, and is a very realistic and progressive parent to some amazingly talented kids. To be honest, I thought he would tell me no and then threaten to hit me with a hockey stick. 

How do your kids react when you play heavy music? I like to play all kinds of music around mine, but my son is really receptive to hard rock music so far. It’s so cute to see kids discovering music.

It's fun letting your kids navigate music at their own pace. Sure, they hear what I'm listening to, but you'd be surprised how they pick out their own favorites. Out of my own collection of tunes my oldest loves the new Body Count album, and is a huge Descendents fan, along with the teen music the radio plays. I encourage her to like what she likes and not be ashamed to listen to music across many different genres.

My youngest, who is almost two, strictly likes heavy music. Her favorite is Amon Amarth, for some reason.  

 

The best way to teach our children is to be their finest example. Kids learn the most from parents that do and not just talk.

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You’ve been very candid about your struggles with weight loss on your site. Tell me about that. It’s a subject many people in our age group like to ignore, but it comes creeping up on you.

Well, gaining weight is a pretty normal thing as we age and life gets in the way. To be completely candid, most of my weight problems stemmed from anxiety and depression that I never really addressed appropriately. I ate and drank my feelings until I ballooned up to being almost 100 lbs over weight.  

I hated exercise and thought it was stupid, so I found things I did enjoy and tried to do them more frequently, quit drinking and started to learn about what healthy eating actually is. Skateboarding, bike riding, kettlebells, all unconventional ways to get fit but kept it fun. 

 

#flashbackfriday Start today. If you haven't already, today is your day. Im talking to you, from experience. I'm not a fitness professional or some juiced up dirtbag photoshopping my pics and selling protein powder. I'm just a regular dude, just healthier than I was. Before my kids were born I was a mess, a wreck, an absolute nihilist. It reflected in my actions, but also manifested itself physically. I was depressed, sick and tired. I was overweight, in pain and hurting. Having children changed my perspective. I realized I wasn't the center of the world and that they were the center of mine. I wanted to be around for them, to be able to run and play with them and to be a good example for them. Slowly but surely, and with a lot of trial and error, I embarked on a journey to get myself healthier, for them. I've stumbled along the way, but I've always managed to find the path again and that's what's important. Sure I ended up losing weight, but what was most important was finding myself again...feeling well mentally and physically and realizing that putting that extra time in for myself was also extra time I was giving to my kids.

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What’s the longterm plan for Modern Day Dads? 

Modern Day Dads has taken a life of its own. It's a community of friends and family, brothers and sisters and wherever it goes, it goes. It brings me a lot of joy and I'm humbled any time anyone tells me something I've shared has helped them in one way or another. 

 

Good vibes.

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If you had to pick one album that has inspired you the most throughout your life, what would it be and why?
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I've used music my entire life to help me get through my days. There have been bands that define the good times, bands that define the bad times, I've turned it loud when I was angry, I've turned it on when I couldn't sleep, I can listen to music and transport back in time or get stoked for a skate session, so this is the hardest question for me to answer.  

A great album is timeless, doesn't need much introduction, and says everything it needs to say on one LP. There are harder bands, heavier bands, but none more vital to my own life than The Clash's London Calling. My mother scrawled it on her notebooks, I scrawled it on mine, and my oldest hums "Guns of Brixton" from time to time. It's got emotion, it's got rebellion, it's got love and it's got truth...just like any good life.  

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Head to Modern Day Dads for a ton of cool content, and also give the site a follow on Instagram.

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