Skateboard champion and punk-rock vocalist Duane Peters has been an idol of the underground skate-punk movement for nearly three decades. Known among his fans as the Master of Disaster, Peters is largely credited with pioneering the counterculture that unites skate-boarding and punk music. Skin-headed, missing his two front teeth, and festooned with tattoos and safety-pin earrings, he has been skateboarding since the late 1970s, and has led such punk bands as the U.S. Bombs and The Hunns. A heroin user in his earlier days, Peters renounced drugs in his mid-30s. Peters, who turned 40 in 2001, remains a strong presence in extreme sports and alternative music.
Peters's parents divorced when he was a child in Anaheim, California, and Peters went to live with his father, a used-car salesman, in nearby Newport Beach. A rebellious youth, Peters often skipped school. Hoping to discipline his son, his father sent Peters to live for a year with relatives on a farm in Michigan. "I went to school every day that year because there was nothing else to do," Peters told Rich Kane of OC Weekly.
Returning to live with his father, Peters dropped out of school at age 14. By then he had discovered the underground skateboarding scene of the mid-1970s. Not having the money to buy a skateboard, he made one for himself by sawing off a piece of wood and nailing on roller-skate wheels. He spent his days skate-surfing the sidewalks of Newport Beach and nearby Balboa. "I just wanted to skate all the time and didn't want to have to go to work," he told Kane of OC Weekly. "I didn't want to grow up."
Invented Skateboarding Tricks
In the days before skate parks, youths such as Peters and his friends liked to practice skating in empty swimming pools. Breaking into neighbors' backyards, they skateboarded in underground pools until the police chased them out. In pools and empty half-pipes, Peters honed his skills and started inventing his own signature skateboarding tricks. Like his idol, motorcycle stunt rider Evel Knievel, Peters often injured himself, earning the nickname Master of Disaster. At 16, practicing in a 14-foot pipe, he perfected an upside-down, 360-degree loop, a stunt that seemed to defy gravity. With this trick he caught the attention of Skateboarder magazine; soon he was offered money to perform in skate shows, and even made a skateboarding appearance on the 1970s television show That's Incredible! A regular winner in skating contests, Peters had developed a reputation in the skateboarding subculture.
In 1978, Peters, then 17, discovered punk rock. Hearing a recording of punk band The Ramones, he took an instant liking to the music. Soon he was collecting records by such punk groups as Generation X, the Dead Boys, and the Sex Pistols. Peters and some of his friends cut their hair in punk styles and started frequenting punk clubs such as the Cuckoo's Nest in Costa Mesa, California. Eventually Peters and his cohorts started forming their own bands and performing in Southern California clubs. Out of the skateboarding subculture, a new punk-skate subculture was born, with Peters at the center.
"A lot of us were from broken homes," Peters told John Roos of the Los Angeles Times. "We were freaks and misfits. That's why we found punk rock, and it took us in.… We suddenly had somewhere to go."
Influenced by drug-using punk-idol Sid Vicious, Peters and his friends started experimenting with heroin. It didn't take long for the skate-punker to become hooked. For the next 15 years, he struggled with addiction, spending all of his skateboarding prize money on drugs. As a junkie, he was often in trouble with the law, charged with drug possession and trafficking. In and out of jail throughout his 20s and 30s, his time behind bars amounted to six or seven years. Peters quit using heroin in his mid-30s, substituting alcohol for drugs. When he developed liver problems, he eventually quit drinking, too. Living a clean, drug-free lifestyle, Peters became more active in music and skateboarding.
Fronts '90s Punk Bands
In 1994 Peters formed his punk band, the U.S. Bombs, with guitarists Kerry Martinez and Chuck Briggs, bassist Wade Walston, and drummer Chip Hanna. Signing with Alive records in 1996, the group released its first album, Garibaldi Guard. In his husky voice, Peters barked out angry lyrics he had penned himself; many of his songs conveyed defiant political and social messages. As a concert performer, Peters became known for his highly physical onstage manner. Fusing his skateboarding style with his musical performance, he would pull stunts and turn flips, often deliberately abusing his body.
|1961||Born in Anaheim, California|
|1975||Drops out of high school as a ninth-grader; discovers underground skateboarding culture|
|late 1970s||Invents own skateboarding tricks; begins earning money performing at skate shows|
|1978||Discovers punk rock music|
|1980s||Sings vocals in punk bands; performs in skateboarding competitions|
|1994||Forms punk band the U.S. Bombs|
|late 1990s||Launches recording label Disaster Records|
|1999||Forms punk band Duane Peters & the Hunns|
After five years with the U.S. Bombs, Peters put the band on hold to form a new group, Duane Peters & the Hunns (later known simply as The Hunns). This punk-rock quintet released its first album, Unite, in June 2000 on Disaster Records, a recording label that Peters had co-founded with independent record executive Patrick Boissel. The same year, he announced his engagement to longtime girlfriend Trisha Maple. The couple did not marry, however; by 2002 Peters had a new squeeze, Hunns bassist Corey Parks.
Peters lives in Huntington Beach, California, and continues to perform with his two punk bands, the U.S. Bombs and The Hunns. In January 2002 The Hunns released a third album, Wayward Bantams, on Peters' recording label Disaster Records. With his record company, he has assembled a roster of punk bands, such as the Crowd, Smogtown, and the Pushers. Peters also continues to participate in professional skating competitions, pulling such stunts as lay-back roll-outs, sweepers, and tail-slide reverts. "I feel good about being 40," he told OC Weekly in June 2001. "I'm still skating better than most 25-year-olds. I still look alive onstage. I don't see me slowing down. I'm just trying to get wiser."
Awards and Accomplishments
|1977||Featured in Skateboarder magazine|
|late 1970s||Featured on television show That's Incredible!|
Maintains Hardcore Following
Through his drug addictions and rehabilitations, and during his long and varied punk music career, Peters has continued skateboarding. As a member of the skateboarding club Beer City, he has participated in contests nationwide through his late 30s and into his early 40s. Within the skate-punk subculture, he has maintained a devoted following, and is celebrated as a pioneer.
Kane, Rich. "Duane's Addictions." OC Weekly (Orange County, California; June 22, 2001): 21.
Libes, Howard. "How the Skate Punks Conquered Europe." Los Angeles Times (August 11, 2002): I-16.
Roos, John. "Skateboarding, Punk Inspire a Hunn's Salvation." Los Angeles Times (December 5, 2000): B6.
"Duane Peters Interview." Skaterock.com. http://www.skaterock/com/features/duanepeters.html (January 24, 2003).
"Duane Peters & the Hunns." Disaster Records. http://www.disasterecords.com/Hunns.html (January 24, 2003).
Sketch by Wendy Kagan