Prisoner of punk


POSTED: Tuesday, February 03, 2009

If you were even remotely aware of Oahu's punk rock scene in the 1980s, you were familiar with Raoul of Devil Dog.

Raoul Vehill's reputation always preceded him. He was the scene's definitive wild child, the frontman whose off-the-scale performances became widely notorious—our very own Iggy Pop.

His life off-stage was equally frenetic and untamed. Combine the public and private and you'd have one hell of a read.

Now Vehill provides it, in a free-wheeling novel, “;Hawaii Punk,”; just released by a renegade press out of Bangor, a university city in Wales in the United Kingdom.

Enlightened Pyramid Publications calls Vehill's book a “;definitive account.”; Well, Vehill isn't calling himself a historian—he renames his old band God Dog in the book—and his colorful accounts of life in the islands is a literary mash-up of sorts.

“;My novel is too autobiographical,”; Vehill admitted via e-mail from his adopted home of Denver, “;but I changed names and character details to not be too ghoulish. I also mutated other experiences I had in other cities and smashed it into the narrative for payoff value. It's just a little more fictional than say, (Jack Kerouac's) 'On the Road.' It's the scene through the protagonist's selfish and immature eyes. There were people, bands and events that I couldn't include. It was hard to cut it to 400 pages. A couple of characters and events are total fabrication.”;

Vehill had a lot of time to put this book together. Let's just say he's been a ward of the state for three years and counting. That would be the state of Colorado, where Vehill wrote “;Hawaii Punk”; while doing time in prison and in halfway houses. In fact, he said that during a transfer from one facility to another, the guards ripped apart a notebook with the outline to his novel on the cover. (A portrait of a sheepish-looking Vehill in his prison uniform is on the book's back cover.)

  To say that Vehill's life has been bumpy would be an understatement—lucky for him, his artistic drive has never wavered.

He did find the time to graduate from Hawaii Loa College (before it became part of Hawaii Pacific University) in 1984, with a major in communication arts. But he developed a case of “;rock fever”; and moved to Chicago.

“;I left around late '89 or early '90. After I got sober, and had another band after Devil Dog, I just felt constrained by the island—though Oahu nourished the most beautiful times of my life—and (by) rock 'n' roll as my art form of choice. I wanted to go to Chicago to make films, since it has a world-class scene, and people told me it was cheap (to live there).

“;It was there that I hooked into a really cool network and made a handful of films that I'm proud of. ... I had a great thing going, but due to my own flaws, it fell apart.”;

Vehill said his recovery “;was retarded by marijuana, the only substance I abused until the beginning of the millennium. I relapsed hard in 2002, my life fell apart in four days, and I came to Denver.”;

Now he's an inmate in the Intensive Supervision Program of the Colorado Department of Corrections, stemming from a 2005 felony for assault with a deadly weapon. He's able to move about freely within the city limits, but wears an ankle monitor and, among other conditions, has a curfew.

If he stays clean, his sentence ends on Feb. 20, 2010.

“;FYI,”; he writes, “;chronic addiction and alcoholism is a miserable and ugly life choice.”;