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An early member of the San Francisco Bay Area punk scene, his is a story with unexpected turns and twists before arriving at the present: helming a tattoo and piercing parlor, fatherhood and an impending marriage. Now 49, the lead singer of a newly re-formed Fang has made stops along the way at contrition, and possibly gotten a glimpse at a hard-fought redemption.Sam McBride’s story started well before he took a life in August 1989, went on the run, and was subsequently incarcerated for six years before his release in 1995.

Murder is always going to be a lightning rod…

“What I did was inexcusable,” said McBride.

But minus any possible excuses, the circumstances of his crime make for compelling viewing, and touch on the drug-fueled excesses of the times. In an unembellished interview, he tells OZY about his life behind bars, prison yard politics and prison rape, a program he led where serial killers created books on tape for blind kids, and beyond — right up to and including a reckoning with the night in question, a night that could be claimed to have been the worst of at least two lives.

Murder is always going to be a lightning rod — and within McBride’s tightknit punk community his name still sparks the most intense set of reactions. But it’s a lightning rod that draws a heat and light that can either illuminate the dark or obliterate any real understanding of what’s happening in the shadows.

Two rows of mostly shirtless men in a prison yard. The back row is standing, the front row is crouching.

Prison Days.

Source: Courtesy of Sam McBride

So sit back and settle in for the first of OZY’s new longform interview series, Secret Sides, where stories are told, and unfold, in the most unexpected of ways.

This piece was originally published 6/4/2014 and updated as of 11/2/14.

Eugene Robinson

Eugene S. Robinson


Eugene S. Robinson digs that which can be dug from the business end of culture cool + aims to look as stylish as possible while doing so. He also has a "sunny" personality. And, yes, you can keep those quote marks right where they are.

Why you should care

Because there but for the grace of God goes you. Or at the very least, someone like you.