Aaron Cometbus - Biography
Aaron Elliott (born May 20, 1968), better known as Aaron Cometbus, is an American drummer, lyricist, self-described "punk anthropologist," novelist, and author of punk rock zine Cometbus.
Born in Berkeley, California, Cometbus started writing fanzines in 1981 with Jesse Michaels (later of Operation Ivy and Common Rider) and started his own after Michaels moved to Pennsylvania in October 1981. Cometbus became an active participant in the Gilman Street Project and was a founding member of Crimpshrine, a highly influential East Bay punk rock band which also featured Jeff Ott. After the demise of Crimpshrine, Cometbus formed Pinhead Gunpowder with a handful of people from the East Bay punk scene, including Mike Kirsch, Jason White and Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day. He also toured as a roadie with Green Day a few times and played drums for a few shows after the departure of John Kiffmeyer and before Tre Cool joined. He has played in a multitude of short-lived bands that generally release just a seven-inch or two before breaking up (see Band history).
He is a co-owner of the used bookstore in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Book Thug Nation.
Cometbus is most famous for publishing the zine Cometbus, which he began in Berkeley, California in 1981. Cometbus has self-published the usually-handwritten zine ever since, despite a few breaks. The name Cometbus was coined by Gregg Turkington during the early days of the magazine when the name changed from issue to issue. Cometbus consisted of band interviews, personal diaries, artwork, and observations on the punk subculture in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. The zine captured a slice of life in Oakland and Berkeley, California from the late 1980s through the 1990s. This includes squatting, collective living, falling in love and other perils of the punk rock lifestyle. Cometbus's writing is characterized by stories of loneliness and alienation, tempered with episodes of brightness and perennial hope in the ability of humans to connect to one another.
Cometbus has a very identifiable aesthetic: the author almost always uses black and white, and uses his photocopier as a tool for distorting and manipulating images and text. His handwritten print, in which almost all of the zine's issues are written, is very identifiable and is often closely associated with the zine. This aesthetic follows Cometbus to his bands, where he often does the layouts and artwork.
On August 1, 2002, Last Gasp Publishing released Despite Everything: A Cometbus Omnibus (Last Gasp of San Francisco; September 2002, ISBN 0-86719-561-4), a 608-page compendium of selections from 43 early Cometbus issues which are long out of print and often difficult to find.
From 2004 to 2006, Cometbus took a hiatus from writing Cometbus to pursue publishing his writing through other channels. Cometbus came out of retirement in 2006 with the release of Cometbus #50, the 25th anniversary issue of the magazine, which features interviews, short stories, book store reviews, and more of its usual type of content.
Cometbus #51, The Loneliness of the Electric Menorah, was released in September 2008. It chronicles the history of Moe's Books and other longtime businesses on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, California.
Cometbus #52, The Spirit of St-Louis, Or, How to Break Your Own Heart, A Tragedy in 24 Parts, was released in 2009. Cometbus says in his blurb: "It all starts with the story I've told so many times it's turned stale and tired from overuse. There I was, dropped off in a city far from home. I didn't know a soul or have a hope, and so on..." Both issue #52 of Cometbus and the novel I Wish There Was Something That I Could Quit are rumored to be about his stay and relationships in Pensacola, Florida.
Cometbus #53 features contributions from Maddalena Poletta and a cover by Eisner Award winner Nate Powell. Released in 2009, it features a lengthy piece on art, comics, and the early days of punk in NYC in the mid-1970s that is largely derived from an in-depth interview Cometbus conducted with John Holstrom, the co-founder of the legendary Punk Magazine.
Cometbus #54, In China with Green Day, released in February 2011, is about Cometbus' and Green Day's tour of Asia in 2010. Oddly enough, considering the title, they do not make it to mainland China at any point.
In addition to writing for his own zine, Cometbus has contributed stories to several other zines such as Absolutely Zippo, Maximumrocknroll, and Tales of Blarg, occasionally writing under the pseudonym Skrub. His work is easily recognizable by his distinctive, block-lettered handwritten script. His handwriting also appears in the liner notes of early Green Day albums and Jawbreaker's Etc. compilation.
Double Duce (Last Gasp, 2003, ISBN 0-86719-586-X) is a novel based on Cometbus's life in a punk house called Double Duce, and collects material published in Cometbus issues 32, 35, 37, 38, 41, 42, 43, and 45.
A novel titled I Wish There Was Something That I Could Quit, was published on March 15, 2006. This novel was loosely based on his experiences in Pensacola, Florida during the start of the Iraq War and is arguably his most political work.
He has also released a few smaller collections of short stories, Mixed Reviews and Chicago Stories (self published, 2004), a small collection about Chicago originally published in "Cometbus" issues 35, 37, 38, 41, and 45.
His latest book, Add Toner, was published on July 15, 2011.
Two collections have been translated into French, including En dépit de tout (1997). Double Duce has been translated into German and was published by Lautsprecherverlag as "Doppelzwei" in 2004.
- S.A.G. (East Bay CA; 1982–1984)
- Crimpshrine (East Bay CA; 1984–1989)
- Screeching Weasel (Chicago, IL; 1988 (two shows))
- Sweet Baby (a.k.a. Sweet Baby Jesus) (East Bay/Northern CA; 1989–1990)
- Pinhead Gunpowder (East Bay CA; 1991–2001; 2008, 2010)
- Mundt (Northern CA; 1992)
- Strawman (San Francisco, CA; 1993?)
- Shotwell (San Francisco CA; a.k.a. Shotwell Coho) (1994)
- EFS (Berkeley CA; 1995)
- Cosmetic Puffs (Eureka, Ca; 1995)
- Redmond Shooting Stars (Eugene, OR; 1995–1996)
- Cleveland Bound Death Sentence (Minneapolis MN; 1997–1998; 2004)
- The Retard Beaters (Chattanooga, TN; 1997–1998)
- Harbinger (with Robert Eggplant, formerly of Blatz, and John Geek of Fleshies) (East Bay CA; 1997–2001)
- The Blank Fight (with Rymodee of This Bike Is a Pipe Bomb) (Pensacola FL; 1999–2000)
- Astrid Oto (Asheville NC; 1999–2001)
- Colbom (San Francisco CA; 2001)
- End of the World News (New York; 2002–2003)
- Crybaby MacArthur (Brooklyn NY; 2004–2006)
- The Thorns of Life (with Blake Schwarzenbach and Daniela Sea) (Brooklyn NY; 2008–2009)
- Scooby Don't
- T. Zatana
- This Bike Is a Pipe Bomb
- Flipside Interview - Cometbus interview from 1986
- Maximumrocknroll Interview - Cometbus interview from 2000
- Punk Planet Interview - Cometbus interview from 2002