Two weeks ago, local musician Abe White was shot in the arm in the Cooper-Young neighborhood. Around 2:45 a.m., police officers found White in the Mulan Asian Bistro parking lot. He was taken to Regional Medical Center, where he was in critical condition before being announced in stable condition a day later.
As a member of the Oscars, Useless Eaters, True Sons of Thunder, and the Manateees, White has been an integral part of the Memphis punk community. He's released records on world-renowned garage-punk labels, toured the U.S.A. countless times, and has the battle scars to prove it.
While White has a long road to recovery, the medical bills facing the Memphis musician are staggering. With no health insurance, he could easily be paying medical bills for the next decade. Thankfully, many of the Memphis musicians he has shared the stage with over the years are coming to his aid this weekend in the form of a benefit show.
I caught up with White the day before his latest surgery to find out how one of Memphis' most-known punk musicians is holding up. — Chris Shaw
The Memphis Flyer: What have the last couple of weeks been like for you?
Abe White: Well, man, pretty surreal, to be honest. I really don't know how to go about it. It's been pretty cool to see people be so supportive. But, it was pretty odd seeing people I don't even know trying to add me on Facebook and stuff. There's been a lot of support from people I don't know, which is cool but also kind of weird.
I think it's kind of a rude awakening for me. It's made me get back to the roots of people who I thought were friends of mine. I don't think this was necessary, but it has been a pretty enlightening experience in some ways. The situation sucks, but it has been overwhelmingly positive in terms of everyone's feedback. I guess I'm still taking it all in at this point.
What kind of surgery are you having tomorrow?
They're going to do surgery on my forearm, which is where I was shot. I mean, I was shot point blank with a .45 caliber. The bullet went through my arm and hit the bone. I like to keep things light and make jokes, but this situation obviously could have been a lot worse.
What was your reaction when you heard that a benefit show was getting put together for you?
Honestly, I didn't really want to publicize the medical relief fund. The first injury I had [a few years ago, White shattered his foot after trying to rescue a bandmate's cat from a tree] set me back about 75 grand, and there's not a chance in hell I can ever pay that back. Also, I wanted to pay the bands something. I didn't want all these bands to play for free. But I think the benefit is going to be a lot of fun, and I think people will see the camaraderie here, and that we take care of our own.
We're kind of a family here. The music scene is our tribe. Even though I'm a wildcard most of the time, I recognize that this is my family, and I'm glad that everyone came to my side here. I'm not just a sinister dude who writes dark music, and it was nice to see people acknowledge that.
Did the doctor give you any kind of timetable for when you'll be able to use your arm again?
I'm not really too sure. I know that from what I ascertained last time I talked to them, they were saying I'm going to get a plate in my arm. It is an outpatient surgery, so I'll go in tomorrow morning around 5 a.m., and I'll pop right back out tomorrow afternoon.
I'm hoping I'll be able to get ready for my upcoming tour in January. I was going to go on a West Coast tour with Lenguas Largas. Hopefully, I won't have to cancel that, because I've already canceled more tours than I'd like to.
How do you think this experience will influence your music?
I really don't plan on dwelling on this experience. I don't want to shed any kind of light through my music onto this situation honestly. I see it as a breaking point for a lot of the darker aspirations I had when it comes to writing music about Memphis.
I've been involved in a lot of real shit, but this is kind of like the breaking point. I'm kind of sick of composing music about fear, anxiety, and frustration at this point. I'm ready to take a fucking chill pill and work from a different angle.