“In the morning, the sun fills my room. I think I’ll call in sick today and keep my afternoon.” -J Church
Lance Hahn, the prolific and luminary front man for the Austin-based punk band J Church, passed away on October 21, 2007. Following a long and enduring struggle with kidney disease, Hahn finally succumbed to complications on October 12, falling into a coma before passing away this past Sunday. He was 40 years old. His legacy, unforgettable.
Best known for his extensive work with J Church, Hahn (the only original member and prolific out the ass songwriter) had produced scores of EPs, singles and albums in the 15-year history of the band. Started in 1992 after the dissolution of Hahn’s first band Cringer, and a move from Hawaii to San Francisco, J Church embodied a smarter take on the diluted and sappy pop punk scene of San Francisco. Named for a San Francisco bus line, J Church would only retain Hahn as an original member through its entire existence, though he often employed the help of many friends to deliver the message, including former Jawbreaker drummer Adam Pfahler.
Hahn’s song writing skills were unmatched. He had a knack for writing two-minute rock songs that were punchy, catchy and biting, combining socially conscious diatribes with downtrodden anecdotes about the remote sectors of society. Prostitutes, addicts, illegal immigrants, dead end jobs and pinup girls were his lyrical canvas. Only he wasn’t rising above their lifestyle and passing judgement. He was offering glimpses into these unknown worlds though song, helping each listener to understand the true definition of being stuck between a rock and a hard place. Through J Church’s lyrics, Hahn had become the ambassador to the peripherals of society, passed off amongst bittersweet pop songs. And at a time when pop punk in SF could have very easily amounted to a successful career, J Church shirked the mainstream, embracing their DIY roots, manufacturing their own singles (on Hahn’s own Honey Bear Records) and playing basements across the U.S.
In 2000, Hahn relocated to Austin, TX, where he managed Vulcan Video Store. In the time since, he had produced three albums and a split EP through J Church, endured the loss of everything he owned through a house fire, continually contributed to Maximum Rock n Roll and was additionally in the process of completing a book about the history of anarchist punk bands. It was also during this time that Hahn began battling kidney disease. And most recently, the DIY community had come together to produce a benefit comp for Hahn, whom did not have health insurance at the time of his death. The comp, entitled “Let’s Do It For Lance!” featured a variety of bands covering J Church and Cringer songs.
And here’s where it gets personal. I never knew Lance Hahn. I stood near him when he played John Hiltz’s basement in Westfield, NJ sometime in 1994, and I saw him walking down the street in Austin once, but that was as close as I had ever come to the guy. Still, he touched me. Very deeply. Through his music. His life, and his experiences, were a window to a world I never knew.
And he remained a motivating factor to me throughout my life following my introduction to J Church. Here was a guy that essentially utilized every minute of his life on earth to follow his true calling, unrelenting and defiantly passionate til the very end.
Rest in peace Lance Hahn, and thanks for the music. Your spirit lives on.