Set 2 | Shaun Steiniger
210 S. Walton Street sits sandwiched in between Commerce and Canton down on the lower eastside of Deep Ellum where a handcrafted sign that reads, The Kustom Shop, hangs in the window. Though Shaun has been in and out of Deep Ellum since 1994, he’s lived in this building, which used to be a hotel speakeasy along the Central Track rail line back in the twenties and thirties, for about the last four years. There’s no denying it – the place has a very distinct energy about it. It would be naïve to think the dormant history of the building is the sole contributor. Shaun has a very powerful presence about him in a subtle way. The first night I met him, I was sitting at a table on the front patio of Buzzbrews down in Deep Ellum. It was around 4am, and I had just finished a shift at work and wasn’t tired, so I naturally gravitated toward the only place open at 4am that serves coffee and has Wi-Fi. Shaun sat down at a table across the patio, and after a few minutes asked if he could sit with me. Unbeknownst to me, I had taken his table. No one understands more than me the importance of writing at your table. Every bar, coffee shop, bookstore I have ever gone to write at, there is a table I consider my own. It is one of those ineffable things that can be so conducive to the creative process (yes, we are all bat shit crazy, we know). We spent the next hour discussing music, art, writing and street mentality i.e. how you carry yourself when you leave your house every day. We clicked on all cylinders and have been friends ever since.
The more I get to know Shaun, the more and more impressed with him I am. He is a walking wealth of knowledge and an incredible musician with a vast database of musical history stored up over a short lifetime of experience. Through him I have been introduced to local music I would have never discovered alone. Though he was born in Garland, Dallas was always in his backyard, and there is no doubt about it - Garland and Dallas are two culturally distinct places. As a young teen in the 90s, he was the only punk rocker at his high school, and after picking up the guitar at an early age, Shaun found himself drawn to Deep Ellum looking for other like-minded kids to play with. In Deep Ellum, he found the outlet he had been looking for and started playing in a band called Mad Franklin. Over the years, he’s played with a variety of different bands from Public Enema to Smart Aleck to the Swingin’ Dicks, Super Sport, Blackout Riot, and most recently under the name of the Chingaderos. Though a majority of our conversation was spent discussing punk rock aesthetics and the DIY ethic, Shaun tells me he’s been heavily influenced by Americana, Ska, and most recently experimental, instrumental prog rock bands like Explosions in the Sky. His interest in genre bending gives his music a unique sonic tonality that is very markedly ‘Shaun’. I have heard him approach rifts in a way I haven’t heard elsewhere, for instance, taking a blues rift and making it sound like sludge metal then tripping a chord back creating a high droning, spacey atmosphere. That ability to maneuver seamlessly across the fret board comes from years of practice, passion, and experience, something Shaun has developed on his own after devoting the time and making the committment to constant improvement. This harps back to the DIY mentality him and I both agree is a keystone in punk rock music. The DIY ethic exists in other genres as well, but I would argue is found nowhere more pointedly than in punk rock. The "pull yourself up by your own bootstraps" approach because no one else is going to do it for you, and for that matter why should they? If you want something, take the initiative and go for it. If I have learned anything from Shaun over the past few months, that’s the take away.