Tampa punk vet Bob Suren's new book Crate Digger to be published in June

A local punk-scene stalwart recounts his life to the tune of his favorite records.

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It’s virtually impossible to have been involved in Tampa punk during the ’90s and ’00s and not know the name Bob Suren. A musician, zine publisher, mail-order music distributor, show promoter, bootlegger, merchandiser and proprietor of Brandon’s late, great record store Sound Idea, Suren lived, breathed and spread the gospels of punk rock from his days as a misfit teen on Florida’s east coast up through the Brandon scene’s glory days, to the eventual shuttering of Sound Idea in 2008.

In the wake of a life-altering breakup and the demise of a T-shirt printing business — both in 2013 — the now-Austin-based Suren has written it all down for Crate Digger: An Obsession with Punk Records, a music-driven memoir due from Portland, Or.’s Microcosm this summer.

“It was not my idea at all,” he says about the book’s origins. Sometime in late 2012, Suren started posting anecdotes on his Facebook page. “Some memory would occur to me, something through music, a show or a poster or record ... it was always tied to some record. After I posted three or four of them, a friend suggested I should write a book.”

Suren had no idea how to even begin such an undertaking. Friends lent their experience, tips and organizational advice, and six months later he had the manuscript for Crate Digger. Months of trying to secure an agent or “in” with a large, widely distributed publisher followed.

“I thought it had real potential to be very accessible to all kinds of people, not just punk-rock people,” he says. “I wanted it to be in bookstores and libraries and airports.”

Frustrated with the mainstream experience, however, Suren eventually returned to the independent scenes he knew best. Within a week, he had a publisher. Microcosm founder Joe Biel was already familiar with Suren; he’d read Suren’s writing in punk zines and mags, and even ordered music from Suren in the past.

The resulting book is much more than a trip through the author’s record collection and basement-show memories. Sure, there are plenty of funny, crazy stories of concerts, tours and illicit activities, along with Suren’s run-ins and relationships with some of punk’s most infamous figures. And yes, most of the chapters are titled with a beloved album’s name — cleverly arranged alphabetically rather than chronologically, to give the feeling of flipping through someone’s well-ordered vinyl collection.

But several chapters are named after addresses or people rather than records, and Suren’s remembrances expand far beyond the compartmentalized niche of punk, to encompass universally relevant themes. There’s death here, and heartbreak; along the way, Suren discovered you can’t recount your life in music — or anything else that even partly defines you, really — without recounting your life.

“It’s about friendship and love and loss and failures,” he says. “It’s not just a bunch of stories about going to see the Ramones ... some of those chapters tore me up to write, but once they came out of me, I felt a whole lot better.”

Crate Digger: An Obsession with Punk Records will be published in June. Pre-orders are available at Microcosm and Amazon. 

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