Quinn Norton is Peter James: Punk Rock and Reality, a Collaboration

I am Peter James. She is Quinn. She is so punk! Who knew you’d get her nail art for your birthday?

Peter was eight when she arrived here, in this house in Los Angeles, where I grew up. I had no idea what a punk was. I didn’t see them on TV. The first pop culture experience that struck me was an episode of The X-Files in which Bishop — a kind of “Ursus neoavaeum” girl whose father used to murder members of the Mafia — gets nailed on the head with an axe. That’s the first memory of punk I have. But Quinn was born in New York City, where I went to school and the first indie rock and the first hip-hop and stuff. I was like, I’m from now. I’m from Los Angeles, but I’m from New York and I’m from America.

I haven’t been a part of punk for a long time, but I recognized the style that was happening around me and all around the world and thinking about creating something that was unique and was smart, that was multi-hued, and was even more contained in that it didn’t care about stars or bands that were global or had stars or had any social distinction. It was just doing it the way it wanted to do it and empowering other people to do it that way as well.

Quinn was born into my mom’s family. Her father was from rural Ireland and became a prison guard and stayed in Ireland. So a lot of his influence comes from there and from California.

Even when I got her, she didn’t think she had a punk bone in her body. When she got her tattoo on her ankle she didn’t care. She had it done before anyone started paying attention to her. I put her together and said, “She’s not quite punk, is she?”

We’re not punk now, but still, like Quinn said, I wanted to create something unique. In the past, a lot of punk stuff has been about the underdog and about the straight-out-of-jail mumblecore movement. She told me she didn’t like them. She thought they were impostors, like she said, and she thought I was a phony. She was right. I still thought they were impostors.

Vicki Smith is the author of The Private Life of a Trenchcoat Woman.

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