Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Talking trash (pop) with Palmyra Delran

Palmyra Delran (Photo by Albert Mitchell)


By Andy

If the song is enticing enough to produce copious goosebumps and if she wishes it's nestled in her own songwriting arsenal, then it resides on Palmyra Delran's crucial-tunes list.

"Sometimes I'm like, 'Dammit, I wish I wrote that song!" Delran exclaimed over the phone from New York on a recent Monday. She referenced "Cupid" by Sam Cooke and "Picture Book" by The Kinks as examples, but she probably could have gone on for hours about her affinity for musical gems, many of which she delivers to listeners on "Little Steven's Underground Garage" on Siriusxm.

Delran -- whose band history includes The Friggs, Pink Slip Daddy, The Coolies and the Doppel Gang -- marked her fifth anniversary with her "Underground Garage" deejay gig in May. She also gets cooking with "Palmyra's Trash-Pop Shindig!" show on Siriusxm.

"It's just been a dream. Steven is the coolest guy, he's like, 'Tell your stories, you were in an all-girl band,'" said Delran, adding that her boss wasn't searching for pro deejays, "I think he just really wanted some music slobs (laughter) who could rise to the occasion or something."

During her four-hour shifts, she's required to hit upon some Ramones, Beatles, Rolling Stones, British Invasion, girl groups, R & B and power pop, along with digging into her specialties like the Trash Pop Treasure or some weird holiday that she matches up with a song.

A Trash Pop Treasure is a forgotten tune that's at least 10 years old and should have been a hit in her eyes. "We haven't heard that Marshall Crenshaw song in a couple of years, you know?" she cites as an example.

How about a favorite in that realm?

"It is hard and I'm gonna probably punk out here. Within my Trash Pop Treasure, I try to hit my favorite types of music. I do a lot of power pop because there's a lot of power pop bands that are like, 'Who the hell is that?' Like I just played The Miamis last week and it was like, 'Only New York people remember those  guys,' you know what I mean?" she said, adding that Northern Soul, glam and sleazy blues tunes are also on the table.

A There's Something Hard in There fave in the Trash Pop Treasure bailiwick was "It Shows in Your Face" by The Gas. On the holiday front, who could forget National Wear Your Pajamas To Work Day with "Punk's Pajamas" by The Strange Boys?







On her Siriusmx shows, you can surely hear Delran unleash some of her top tunes and stories from her rock 'n roll journey. She's pals with Debbie Harry, who was directed her way when the Blondie singer was searching for a guitar teacher. And then there's the time, which Delran recalls with a cackle, when Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys took bites out of food backstage and put the pieces back on the table. Delran and her friend cracked up at that scenario in the '90s, but the topper came when Wilson signed her pal's 8-track Beach Boys tape without even commenting on the archaic musical vessel.

A SPECIAL PROJECT

When Delran's slinging her guitar and singing, she lists The Coolies as being one of her fave and most meaningful projects with Kim Shattuck and Melanie Vammen of The Muffs and The Pandoras. One-hundred percent of the profits from the six-song "Uh Oh! It's...The Coolies" EP -- released last July on Little Steven's Wicked Cool Records -- went to The ALS Association Golden West Chapter. Shattuck passed away from ALS last October.

"When I met Kim, it was like literally instantaneous, we just started laughing and it was like, 'OK, alright, I'm staying in touch with this one,'" said Delran, who met both Shattuck and Vammen when they were playing in The Pandoras in the 1980s. Delran reconnected with Vammen in recent years and now they're a tight duo. "She's my gal," Delran said.

During the trio's early phone conversations, Delran recalled, "We would just yak for hours and laugh and just laugh, but the whole time Kim would always joke around with me about, 'Let's start a band.'"

When Shattuck became sick, they began planning a single to benefit ALS, and that turned into an EP, which sold out of its three pressings. When they approached Little Steven about the music in the works, Delran said, "His comment was, 'Wait a minute, two Pandoras and a Frigg, what do ya want?'"


Shattuck and Delran (Photo by Dave Hummel)


ALL MUSIC, ALL THE TIME

Delran was born in New Jersey, moved to Spain with her Spanish parents and the family returned to Jersey for good when she was 6. She traveled to New York City in the '80s and '90s and moved there in '99.

Despite massive gentrification, "There's still a really cool energy here. I can walk by Bob Dylan's first apartment or where Andy Warhol's Factory was, it's right down the street from me. I still imagine those people walking around those streets, even though it was 40-50 years ago. It's still really cool to me," she said.

Delran added that she scopes out vital spots in musical history when she visits Memphis and other cities.

"What else is there in life that's gonna give you that feeling? Such awful stuff going on right now -- if you can go there and just be like, 'Wow, I betcha Bob Dylan wrote that song in that apartment; Oh my god, it's The Brill Building'... you can just feel good for like eight seconds," she said.

At age 8, she entered the world of rock 'n roll when she began listening to the Rolling Stones with a friend of her's five older brothers.

"When I'd go to her place, the older brothers would be like, 'Oh, check this out, this song' and I just felt like I should be hanging out with these brothers. They pretty much corrupted me," laughed Delran, noting that her sisters and her friend listened to bands like the Osmonds before Mick 'n Keith and the boys hit her scene. "I was like fascinated that the Rolling Stones peed on a wall, that story really got me."

Who knows if there was any public urination reported on the day Delran and her friend saw the Stones live in 1978 at an outdoor concert. When the show was in full swing, the friends inched their way through a heap of drunkards and wedged themselves near Richards' spot on stage to witness his guitaristry up close. That was a great day, she said.

Delran soon got into artists like Patti Smith and Blondie and checked out gigs by the Cramps, Buzzcocks, Iggy Pop, Madness and others at the Hot Club in Philly. She remembers defending herself for liking Smith when some of her friends weren't on board with the punk poet.

When Delran became a musician, she found her second family and the music flowed even more freely. At that point, "Everyone gets it, you don't even have to explain why you like these bands, and then if you're lucky enough to find musical soulmates -- and I'm lucky to have a handful of those."


Delran a-rockin' (Photo by Albert Mitchell)


Friday, June 12, 2020

Keeping the beat with Coriky's Amy Farina / Feature story

Amy Farina drums with The Evens in Seattle in 2013. (Cat Rose photo)


By Andy 

Amy Farina vividly remembers the day when she first fixated her 12-year-old eyes on the drum kit sitting in her dad's garage. It was like a parting of the seas, she said, and the youngster eagerly ventured inside.

"It was like, 'Wow, I wanna do that,' so I started banging away," said Farina, whose pop bought the kit, an amp and PA for her older brother, Geoff, a bassist. Dad saw playing music as a constructive activity, which his children firmly embraced at the outset and they continue performing in the music realm to this day.

Today, Coriky -- which features Amy (drums, vocals), her husband Ian MacKaye (guitar, vocals) and Joe Lally (bass, vocals) -- unleashed its self-titled debut on Dischord Records. Two songs, "Clean Kill" and "Too Many Husbands," were released digitally in February and May, respectively, to spread the word on the album, which is best described as a Fugazi/Evens amalgamation but with arms stretching all across the post-punk and indie landscapes.

Coriky began playing in earnest five years ago and recorded the album 1 1/2 years ago, so Farina said the songs feel distant to her. With the two full-album precursor songs fresh in people's minds, Farina hopes the total package resonates with fans when they fire it up on their turntables. The album's release was delayed from March 27 because of the COVID-19 pandemic and closing of independent record shops. 

"I hope it brings something to somebody somewhere, (that) would be really amazing," she said. "I feel just lucky to have been able to make some music. I guess it's all pretty surreal. I think when I was younger and I was in bands, everything was so immediate -- you know, you write a song and you play it for your friends or you play a house party. The energy was instant, and it's not that way now. For us, it's really, we do a lot of toiling by ourselves and it's hard to know if it's even music, it's hard to know what it sounds like or what effect it has."

With the few shows the band has played over the past two years, Coriky has received copious positive feedback. They hoped to tour this summer, but those plans were canceled due to the pandemic. Farina said it's a gift to be able to play with MacKaye and Lally and she looks forward to getting the trio back in action soon.

On the gigs they have played, Farina said: "People, they come out and they're enthusiastic and it feels like we're connecting with people. The close friends who have heard the record have all had nice things to say, so it's been good. It's still a little abstract to me ... There's so much other life that goes on that it's pretty trivial, the record."


LIFE-SAVERS

Farina said that music and art are essential parts of her being, and she moved from the Harrisburg area of Pennsylvania to Washington, DC, when she was 18 to study fine art at the Corcoran School of Art -- which is now part of The George Washington University -- and play music.

"I feel art and music -- like so many other people, you included, I'm sure -- those things really, they saved my life and they really define life for me," said Farina, who teaches music and art enrichment at some DC schools.


Cat Rose photo


A few days after her arrival in DC for college, Farina started the band Mister Candy Eater with a pair of Dischord employees, and later played with Lois Maffeo, The Warmers, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists and then The Evens with MacKaye, who appreciated her drumming and provided encouragement.

Ever since her foray into drumming, Farina played what she felt was interesting to her and that's remained consistent throughout her career.

"Over the years, I've done a lot of studying. I practice and I study because drums are really like my meditation. I could spend all day just trying to learn. I tend to come at things kind of backward or sideways or whatever," she said.

Farina first grew up on a steady diet of The Beatles and classic rock and also soaked up her mom's jazz records and other eclectic sounds wafting throughout her home. Later, Geoff turned her on to punk rock at age 12 or 13 and she began blasting the sounds of Minor Threat, 7 Seconds and more of the fast-'n-hard stuff. (She later attended a ton of punk shows in Harrisburg, DC and Philadelphia.) 

She was also a huge Minutemen fan around that time, adding that "I always thought George Hurley was the coolest drummer." Not one to get stuck in a box, she was also fueled by the hammering drumbeats of John Bonham and myriad rockers along with jazz and other styles. 

"Mostly I just listened to music and really wanted to be in a band and played drums by myself in the garage," said Farina, who played orchestral percussion in the community symphony and learned how to read music as a pianist before she picked up the sticks.

Nowadays, Farina feels in a comfortable zone playing alongside MacKaye and Lally in the Coriky camp. While she does like singing -- which she did in The Evens as well -- it's the drumming that really drives her musical journey.

It's an extended family affair with Coriky as Farina and MacKaye's 12-year-old son Carmine does his part to make things happen. The youngster enjoys the tours and gigs and considers himself part of the band, Farina said.

"He loves music, he's a great listener. He's like really tuned in, he loves all kinds of music, he always has," Farina said. "He has a lot to offer in terms of his impression of things, and he often will say, 'Yeah, that's not like your best song' or 'I really like this part.'"

Coriky songs are out in the world today for all listeners to weigh in on.


Coriky art

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Drumming up doses of music, life lessons and laughter with Jon Wurster / Feature story

Jon Wurster with the Bob Mould band in Seattle in 2014. (Cat Rose photo)


By Andy

Sometimes it hits you right away.

Even at the tender age of 10, Jon Wurster knew he wanted to be a professional drummer. A Plan B simply didn't exist for the Harleysville, Penn., youth. Like all musicians, it's about locating the right people to help bring their dreams to fruition.

Many years have since rolled by for the steady, strong-armed and upbeat 53-year-old skinsman, who found top-notch musical comrades along the way while carving out a successful career upon the drum seat for countless gigs and studio sessions. He was right all along with his early aspirations, and now Wurster finds himself cemented behind the kit and in the thick of social change on Bob Mould's riveting "American Crisis" single that dropped into our chaotic world last week.

Part of the lyrics in the video scream: "World turning darker every day / In a fucked-up USA/ Can you look in the mirror and tell me everything's alright? / This American crisis keeps me wide awake at night."

"Oh yeah, Oh my god, this is the greatest," Wurster said of the lyrics over the phone from his home in Chapel Hill, NC, on Monday. "Unfortunately, it's the perfect time for a song like that. I just think people are rightfully taking to the streets, and I think it's a great song for the times."

People in Wurster's circle of friends have identified with the scathing lyrics.

"I can't tell you how many people I heard from who I haven't heard from in quite a while who loved it and people who I didn't think even liked rock or loud music have been saying, 'Oh my god, this is great, this is the time for this song.' And I love that people have been saying, this is the last guy (Mould) of that era who's really doing it at this level," he said.

Mould (guitar, vocals), Wurster and Jason Narducy (bass, backing vocals) finished recording the upcoming "Blue Hearts" album -- set for release Sept. 25 on Merge Records -- not long before the COVID-19 virus outbreak in the United States.

It's Wurster's sixth consecutive Mould album and the fifth straight for the trio, which delivers songs like a wrecking ball to the skull during its live shows.

"The great thing about playing with Bob is, because it's so intense and it's so physical, I had to train to tour," Wurster said. "So I'm already in good shape to tour, and then the touring is just like an Ironman challenge. So by the end of that, I'm in the best shape of my life. Luckily we do it fairly often, so I have to maintain my health, which is a great byproduct of the gig."

From Mould's solo tunes to Husker Du nuggets, Wurster has a blast from the first wallop to the final chord.

"Luckily Husker Du was in my DNA, 'cause I knew the songs well enough to just kind of jump in. So for me, playing with (Mould) is for a guy my age, it's like playing with John Lennon. And Jason's a great player, great singer, great to hang with," said Wurster, adding that "In a Free Land" is his favorite Husker song in the set. "The toughest one is always 'New Day Rising' just because it comes at the very end of the night, so I'm completely tapped out" (laughs).

Playing the songs that were powered and finessed by former Husker drummer Grant Hart -- who passed away in 2017 -- is an honor for Wurster.

"(Mould) always said, 'Don't feel the need to imitate anything. Do 'em the way you wanna do 'em.' I try to be true to what Grant does, but for the first several years, I just couldn't really do those (signature) rolls even close to the way he was doing them. I feel like I've gotten a lot better at it now. He's just the master of that," Wurster said.


Narducy, Mould and Wurster in Seattle in 2014. (Cat Rose photo)



FROM PAST TO PRESENT

Growing up in the farmlands of Harleysville, there wasn't any pop culture to latch onto, said Wurster, who remembers his mother playing her two Isaac Hayes albums and tuning his radio to the hits of the day.

"I loved AM radio, I loved listening to the hits of the early '70s and whatever was happening, The Raspberries, the Hues Corporation 'Rock the Boat' was a big one," he said. (Editor's note: The first single I bought with my own money was "Rock the Boat," which I still own.)

Wurster went from just a listener to a player as well when he noticed the drummers in bands. They were fun to watch and his parents indulged in their wide-eyed son's new fixation.

"It's the worst instrument for a parent to have to deal with, and I stuck with it, so they got me a drum kit. My neighbors, I feel guilt to this day that they had to put up with me, but I feel good that I stuck with it and kind of got where I hoped I'd go," said Wurster, who took some lessons and played on a drum pad at home before receiving his first kit -- a four-piecer with blue sparkles -- for this 12th birthday.

Wurster later graduated to a Slingerland kit that he used in his first two bands, Hair Club for Men and Psychotic Norman. He joined Hair Club at age 14 in 1981 -- playing with older guys, including a 28-year-old, he laughs -- and they barreled through originals with a slight Specials and new wave influence along with songs the Ramones covered like "Let's Dance" and "Do You Wanna Dance" and the Plasmatics' take on "Dream Lover."

Norman came into play a few years later and sounded like an amalgamation of the Fall, the Minutemen and the Ramones with Kermit the frog-like vocals. They opened for the Minutemen about two months before D. Boon died, and also played with Die Kreuzen, Suicidal Tendencies, Rat at Rat R, Useless Pieces of Shit and more. 


Wurster with Psychotic Norman in 1985 while opening for Suicidal Tendencies. (Courtesy of Jon Wurster)


Early on in Wurster's foray into punk and hardcore, he befriended drummer Dean Clean of The Dead Milkmen, who rehearsed about 20 minutes away from his home. Wurster notes with a laugh that he was given production credit on the band's debut album "Big Lizard in My Backyard" for pressing the record button on the cassette machine for two songs. Wurster was later mentioned in the band's song "Stuart."

It was Clean who accompanied Wurster to his first punk gig in 1983 at Zadar in New Hope, Penn.

"Could it be any uncooler, for my first hardcore show to have been the Dead Kennedys maybe two days after watching the punk episode of 'Quincy,'" he said with a cackle. "First band was Autistic Behavior from Jersey, and while they were playing, a little slam pit started, 'Oh, I'll join in on this,' (laughs) like first show ever and, of course, I'm just like on the ground. What was I thinking?"

Another memorable gig a year later was when Wurster skipped his high school prom to attend a show across the street that featured the Meatmen, YDI and the Obsessed. He learned later while reading an interview with the Meatmen's Tesco Vee that Glenn Danzig was "manning the cauldron or the pit" by shoveling dry ice for the rock smoke show.

Those experiences got the musical ball rolling for Wurster, who later performed with roots rock band The Right Profile in 1986 before hooking up with Superchunk, who he still plays with to this day along with The Mountain Goats.

Some high points of Wurster's career have been drumming on Nick Cave's version of T-Rex's "Cosmic Dancer" at Village Recorder in Santa Monica and performing in a band with Fred Armisen, Bill Hader and Seth Meyers for their "Documentary Now!" spoof of the Talking Heads' "Stop Making Sense."

The Cave session was a "monumental experience," said Wurster, noting that the late music producer Hal Willner invited him to perform on the Marc Bolan tribute project.

"I've been so lucky that I've been around for random great things like that," said Wurster, who has also played on an REM Christmas single, joined Narducy as the rhythm section for the Pretenders one night and played with Charlie Daniels in a television commercial, among heaps of other performances.

While Wurster could name his most influential drummers for days -- Hart, Chuck Biscuits, Earl Hudson, Reed Mullin, George Hurley and John Bonham (even though he hates Led Zeppelin's music) are a few -- it's Steve Jordan, formerly of the David Letterman Band and Blues Brothers, who fills the No. 1 slot.

After The Right Profile became the Carneys, Jordan produced their five-song demo tape at The Hit Factory in New York City's Times Square in 1989. Wurster was especially stoked to be playing on the same vintage drum kit that Jordan manned during his "Saturday Night Live" performance with Neil Young for "Rockin' in the Free World."

Wurster said that Jordan brought a human side to the session along with connecting emotionally to the music.

"He was such a guiding light during that whole time, and I was having childhood issues coming up during this whole period, so I felt like I was losing my mind in a very dark place, and he was just great. He never actually showed me how to do anything, but I just kind of soaked up his vibe. As we'd do a take, he'd play the tambourine with us out on the floor, so we're all kind of like playing as this one organism," Wurster said.



LIFE LESSONS AND LAUGHTER

Whether he's drumming or hanging out with his bandmates, there are life lessons to be learned. It's not just setting up, ripping it up and packing the gear up for the night.

There are times when you need to put yourself in other people's shoes to put your finger on the pulse of a situation.

"A big thing is because you're around people 24-7 on the road, you realize when someone's not having a good day, when something has just happened that is really a big deal for this person, but not for anyone else, or for you and not anyone else," he said. "You have to see it through their eyes. You have to say, 'Oh, this is a big deal to them and I'm gonna do what I can to either stay away or help them if they want help.'"

Band life has also helped Wurster deal with his short annoyance fuse. If a rental drum kit isn't what he requested, he challenges himself to nix the worries and play through them. If a flight is late or cancelled, there will always be a next one.

"I don't take those events as personally as I used to," he said.

And then there's laughter. Plenty of it.

Wurster teams up with Tom Scharpling on the The Best Show, an internet radio call-in comedy program. It's a huge part of his life and he's proud of the mammoth box set, "The Best of Scharpling & Wurster on The Best Show," that the Numero Group released in 2015.

"It kind of works hand in hand with the music thing in a way because most of the ideas that I get for the calls that we do come straight from being on the road. Like reading a sign wrong or just meeting somebody who I thought was just insanely great and weird or just situations that come up that are insane, they all get funneled into 'The Best Show,'" Wurster said.

The comedy creativity is akin to writing songs, he said, and it's a major plus to gouge away at Trump ad infinitum.

One of Wurster's funniest moments came while hanging out with Mould and Narducy before a gig in Toronto.

"You're just kind of sitting there looking at your computer or your phone and it's dead quiet, and it's the three of us and probably our tour manager, and Bob just goes, 'Oh, nooo,'" Wurster begins. "Jason and I look at each other and we're like, 'Oh, no, what's going on?'... and (Jason) goes, 'What's wrong, Bob?'... and he goes, 'This rabbit suit I wanted to rent for Halloween isn't gonna be available.' That was it (laughs). It was completely true. That's one of the funniest things I've ever seen anyone say."


Wurster in Seattle in 2014. (Cat Rose photo)

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Mould unleashes 'American Crisis' from upcoming 'Blue Hearts' album

Bob Mould in Seattle in 2014. (Cat Rose photo)


By Andy 

It's in your face, just the way it should be in times like these.

We're a troubled country and Bob Mould unleashed his blistering new song "American Crisis" today as protests continue in the wake of the George Floyd killing in Minneapolis. On Sept. 25, the song will appear amongst 13 others on his latest "Blue Hearts" album via Merge Records.

Speaking with Andrea Swensson of The Current in a Facebook live interview today, Mould -- a former Minneapolis resident -- said it was hard to watch the senseless injustice, but is amazed to see people taking to the streets and raising their voices.

On releasing "American Crisis" at this time, Mould said, "I've been really nervous for weeks, and especially in the last week. Everything has taken a turn that none of us could have seen, and now that we've seen it, we have to do something about it."

The blue in "Blue Hearts" references the Democratic party, he noted, adding, "Last time I had blue in the title of an album during an election year, we won! So I'm gonna try again." The date was Sept. 4, 1992 when Sugar's "Copper Blue" hit the scene and Bill Clinton won the presidency a month later.

Backed by bandmates Jason Narducy on bass and Jon Wurster on drums, Mould's guitar and vocals are in full-on rage mode on "American Crisis," which features the line, "Ringing in my head only goes away/ When I yell all the things that I shouldn't say/ Ringing in my head never goes away."

Mould said he's chomping at the bit to perform the raw and visceral songs on stage soon.

Hearing the new song transported me back to when I saw the Huskers in the early days and Mould one time nearly became unglued during a particularly frenzied version of "Out on a Limb." An hour earlier we were chatting and joking around, and then on stage he seemed bent on ripping his guitar strings and vocal cords to shreds. A scream into the microphone then was a precursor to a million more vicious shrieks that have blasted out of his mouth since.

"American Crisis" was part of Mould's musical arsenal when it came time to assemble the songlist for last year's "Sunshine Rock," but he felt it wasn't a good fit for the record.

Now's the time -- big time.

With "American Crisis" already penned, Mould branched out from there to complete his "Blue Hearts" journey. Looking back to 1983, he told Swensson it was tough touring with Husker Du as a closeted gay man and having right-wing televangelists, "Telling me I'm less than, telling me this is God's punishment for who I am and how I live. All of that kind of being feeling marginalized, you know, feeling less than, I was feeling that coming back during this current administration."

Now through June 7, all proceeds from "American Crisis" will go to Black Visions Collective
and OutFront Minnesota.

Click here for today's full interview.




Saturday, May 30, 2020

Slamming back in time with Necros' Henssler

Necros vocalist Barry Henssler, middle, ventures into the pit at Bob's Place. (Photo by Kevin Salk)


By Andy

There was plenty of raging punk rock unleashed by the four bands. And there was chaos in the streets.

On Oct. 1, 1982 at Bob's Place in the rough-and-tumble Watts area of Los Angeles, the Misfits, Necros, Social Distortion and SVDB held court in the gig space situated above a liquor store. About 1,000 diehards packed the place for a few hours to immerse themselves in the blistering tunes. Afterward, we watched from upstairs as the cops fended off the locals, who scrapped with some punks on the corner of 61st and Broadway.

Necros vocalist Barry Henssler remembers witnessing some beaten-up punks barrel their way back into the club. As the Necros loaded out their cabinets down the back stairs, some cops protected the area so the Maumee, Ohio, visitors would remain unscathed.

Two years ago in Seattle, Necros bassist Corey Rusk and I discussed that show, in which he played with a broken leg in a cast (he sustained the injury in a skateboarding accident in Denver earlier on the tour). He was stoked that I remembered the LA gig and said it was quite an experience.

It was the Necros' first gig in LA and it was an eye-opener, for sure, Henssler said over the phone from Chicago earlier this week.

"We had played out East at Irving Plaza in New York to somewhat large-ish crowds versus in Detroit where it was our little Freezer Theater club with like a hundred people or something. But it was astonishing how many people were there," he said. "It was just like a crazy, overwhelming... It was the first time I had seen an LA pit."

Henssler's voice cackled with laughter while describing what transpired within the realm of the slamming punks:

"I remember I came off the stage once and I got into the pit and it was like really violent. I was like, 'Oh, fuck, I gotta get the hell back on the stage or else I'm gonna be the one in the cast next.'"


Henssler. (Photo by Kevin Salk)


The Misfits were also on fire that night and their set flew by in a blur of energy. There was a mass of voices raised up front during the sing-a-longs, but I also remember Doyle scolding a fan for getting too close and whacking into his devilock. You can't win 'em all, I guess.

Prior to the gig, since we knew Henry Rollins and Dave Claussen from SST a bit, me, my brother Ed and buddy Pat Hoed lurked around the Misfits' van with them as Glenn Danzig consulted with Rollins -- who also limped around with a leg injury -- about what songs to etch onto their setlist.

Nearby in the parking lot, the Necros guys were hanging out and we chatted with them about their tour with the Misfits and Midwest hardcore. While we hung with the Necros, our jaws nearly dropped to the ground as we watched Doyle and Jerry Only hoist their amps over their heads like toothpicks and walk them into the venue.

Henssler said that tour across the United States with the Misfits was vital in the band's growth. The Necros were newly minted high-school graduates and bent on hitting the open road with their skateboards, drums and guitars.

"Where I'm from, man, it's very boring and not a lot of people get out of there. They sort of just stay there all their lives, and I was not about that. I just want to travel and see the world and just see what's what. It was super fun and the Misfits, they were like our older-brother band kind of for a couple years. It was so cool of them to bring us out on the road," said Henssler, adding that Danzig also showed them the ropes in the T-shirt-silkscreening and sticker-making realm.

With the Misfits jaunt under their belt and promoters' phone numbers in hand, the Necros launched another tour a year later. They had an album out, "Conquest for Death," and some momentum on their side, but they were essentially looking for some more good times.

"It wasn't like we had career aspirations, it was just we wanted to be able to travel and get gas and a place to stay and maybe food, enough for that day," Henssler said. "It wasn't like there's bags of gold at each stop just waiting for you to pick 'em up (laughter)... You're playing some shithole in Tucson, right?"

A few years later, the Necros would up their game with massive LA gigs supporting Motorhead at the Olympic Auditorium and Megadeth at the Hollywood Palladium, but it was that gig at dumpy Bob's Place and initial LA trip that still resonates the loudest with Henssler.

"It was cool. We were super stoked to be playing LA. Growing up, we were really into skateboarding and like Dogtown, the Z-Boys and stuff, it was super inspirational," said Henssler, adding that photographer Glen Friedman hooked them up with Tony Alva for a skating session and they watched Jay Adams tear it up on a half pipe.

Henssler continued his trip down memory lane: "I had been reading Flipside and Slash, and California culture in general, 'cause of skateboarding and everything, it loomed large in my life like since the early '70s. I had every issue of Skateboarder magazine, so leading up to punk rock it was just sort of like this natural progression, so I was just really excited to go out there and play."

Leaving Maumee, Ohio -- where people chucked bottles at punks from their cars -- in the rearview mirror to hang out with Alva, the Big Boys and tons of other bands on the road was like finding some bags of gold after all.


Necros' Henssler, Corey Rusk and Todd Swalla. (Photo by Kevin Salk)


Some things remain the same: Bob's Place, above, and store last year. (Photo by Kevin Salk)


Original flier from the TSHIT collection.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Talking X's new release 'Alphabetland' with Bonebrake / Feature story

X's DJ Bonebrake. (Cat Rose photo)


By Andy

As droplets of rain plunked down upon my car's windshield and the dreary sky became further shrouded in darkness, I waited and wondered what another pandemic day would toss my way.

On this April morning, nearing 11 a.m., the eatery would soon unlock its doors so myself and the one other customer I spied in the parking lot could soft-step it up to the entrance, peek in to make sure all was safe and secure our to-go orders.

I reached for the door handle, but held back as the other guy carefully navigated the puddled lot and headed for the restaurant's door.

I'll wait a bit, I thought, and that gave me time to scroll through my Facebook feed again, hoping to notice something that would brighten the day. And then came the message that X had just sent its new album "Alphabetland" into the internet society via Fat Possum Records on its Bandcamp page.

While these quarantine days all seem to bleed together and the numerals on the calendar all appear washed out and unrecognizable, April 22, 2020 will be remembered in fans' minds as the day X returned to the music world with a fucking bang.

New tunes are always crucial, but this 10-song stormer (complemented by an Exene Cervenka spoken-word piece) especially hit the spot at the right time. It was released four days shy of the exact 40-year anniversary of when X's watershed debut album, "Los Angeles," hit the stores.

"I felt we had something important," drummer/percussionist DJ Bonebrake told us in an email interview. "I thought we had an album that was as good as anything we had ever recorded. And, because Rob Schnapf was producing, we had our best sounding recording to date."

Original members Bonebrake, Cervenka (vocals), John Doe (bass and vocals) and Billy Zoom (guitar/saxophone/piano) deliver the songs with vivacity in typical X fashion and truly harken back to the band's early years. The majority of the tunes whip by quickly, packing the needed punch and lyrical insight into the minuscule time frame.

"We wanted to be able to play the new songs live, so we rehearsed the songs as if they were live songs not studio songs," Bonebrake said of the strategy for X's first new album since 1993's "hey Zeus!"

"It took so long to get around to recording a new record because the time wasn't right until now," he said. "What changed? Fat Possum Records, the company that recently reissued our first four records, said they would be interested in releasing new material by the band. That set the wheels in motion."

Bonebrake noted that X gathered at Mant Sound in Glassell Park, Calif., for a test recording session in January of 2019 -- four old songs and one new one -- to see how the original members would fare in the studio together for the first time since they knocked out 1985's "Ain't Love Grand."

"It went well, so John and Exene started writing songs for the next session, which didn't happen for another year because of our touring schedule and other delays," Bonebrake said. "So, in January of 2020 we recorded six new songs at Sunset Sound in Hollywood. Later, Exene recorded her spoken-word piece, 'All the Time in the World,' at Rob Schnapf's studio, which features Billy Zoom on piano and Robby Krieger from the Doors on slide guitar. Eight new songs and three old songs (one didn't make it!). The older songs are on the album because they sound good and they work."

"Water & Wine" contains some especially impactful lyrics: The divine that defines us/ The evil that divides us/ There’s a heaven & a hell/ And there’s an, “oh well”/ Who gets passed to head of the line/ Who gets water & who gets wine/ There’s a heaven and there’s a never/ There’s no tomorrow only forever.


Zoom, Cervenka and Doe. (Cat Rose photos)


X revisited some of its earliest songs, "Delta 88 Nightmare" and "Cyrano deBerger's Back," over the last two years, first etching them on a 2019 single and then including the pair on "Alphabetland," which will have a physical release date of Aug. 22.

The Doors connection also continues four decades down the road from when the late Ray Manzarek produced "Los Angeles" and played organ on three songs and synthesizer on one. A cover of the Doors' "Soul Kitchen" also found its way onto the album's final track listing. A demo of "Delta" and a rehearsal of "Cyrano" were both included as bonus tracks on the "Los Angeles" 2001 CD reissue, and a proper recording of "Cyrano" closes out 1987's "See How We Are."

So as the past and present superbly collide in the X world, Bonebrake couldn't be more satisfied with how the band is operating these days.

"What keeps the band rolling is commitment to the music and the need to make a living.
We all get along fine. We're like brothers and sisters. We disagree about some things but we're all in agreement about making good music," he said. "Being in X allows me to play music! That's all I've ever wanted to do."

It's a musical trifecta that is equal parts fun, a catharsis and a challenge for Bonebrake. "Los Angeles" and "Alphabetland" are certainly sturdy LP bookends to X's 43-year career, which has seen them experience nearly everything under the big black sun from A to Z.

"I'm proud of everything we've done. Some records are are better than others, some shows were better than others, but overall I think our percentage is pretty good," Bonebrake said. "We've all had our lows personally and artistically but I'd rather think about the highs. I think the string of albums at the beginning of our career were definitely in the high-point category. Also, I think our live shows over the years, although always inspired and intense, have improved. I think we're better now than we were 40 years ago."


***********

BONUS INFO

Bonebrake discussed the album's title:

"We named the album 'Alphabetland' because during rehearsal, Billy Zoom misheard the words alphabet mine as alphabet land. The song was originally called 'Mercury,' but Billy kept calling it 'Alphabetland.' After a while, it stuck as the title of the song and ultimately as the name of the album."

Here's part of the lyrics from the leadoff track to put Bonebrake's comment into perspective:

Tearing up the sidewalk
pouring wet cement
erasing your initials
alphabet wrecked
Molten river riding high
fever in the shine
No more words for you
alphabet mine, alphabet mine, alphabet mine






Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Goodbye, Dave Greenfield

Brian Walsby art



By Reject Girl

“There’s a dude with a mustache in that band. They have lengthy keyboard parts in the songs and CAN’T be punk rock!”

These were the words out of my teenage mouth upon listening to the first Stranglers album, "Rattus Norvegicus." You see, everything had to pass through my strict punk rock formula filter when I was 16, while I was probably trying to scam a shoulder-tapped beer or trying to sneak into some show with the most bogus fake ID ever. A band that had prog elements like keyboard solos wasn’t going to convince ME.  No fucking way.

Thankfully, as my listening evolved (and I stopped being so lame, question mark), I recognized the greatness of The Stranglers. How amazing and original their songs and albums were. "Go Buddy Go" and "Something Better Change" (JJ kind of had the more punk rock voice, honestly), did that for me at first, which features prominent keys.

How about the finish of each song? Yours courtesy of the focus of this article, the late Dave Greenfield of The Stranglers. I’m so glad I heeded the words of people who were there and heard their music first in the '70s and early '80s. And just how killer the songs were. Every album was so different and they never followed any kind of a formula. It was always just THEM. Perfect tone, exceptional musicians and those keyboard parts.

What’s so funny is that someone in one of the most well-known punk bands, who was a main pillar of that band, was heavily influenced by prog music. It was not a Jethro Tull marathon, thankfully, that he gave us. Just Greenfield’s brilliance and massive influence on all those records and live performances. There are so many on youtube where you can just see him go off. He and Jean Jacques once taped an obnoxious French journalist to the Eiffel Tower, rumor has it. Dave WAS punk rock as hell. The man shined.

Greenfield passed away of complications from COVID-19 on May 3, 2020 at the age of 71. Another victim of this horrific pandemic. He had been in the hospital for heart-related problems, tested positive for, and was diagnosed with COVID a week before he died, and leaving his wife, Pam, behind.

Almost a year ago, I saw Dave with The Stranglers at Punk Rock Bowling in Las Vegas.  He was SO good, playing all of those keyboard parts and opening their way-too-short set with “Five Minutes.” Hearing his intro to "Five Minutes" from across the event center grounds, I remember running over from the beer line. Jean-Jacques Burnel was of course on bass and some vocals, still the imposing black-belt holder and NOT someone you’d want to fight. Vocals and guitar were done by Baz Warne, who has been with the band since 2006, filling the shoes of Hugh Cornwell. Jet Black, original drummer, hasn’t toured with them for years and is in his 80s now. Cornwell left the band in 1990. The band was excellent that day, and I was reminded of how I hoped that they would do some kind of tour after PRB, maybe hit San Francisco and play a full show, not a festival in the middle of the afternoon. So many people would’ve bought tickets, just like the shows they’d playing in Europe over the past couple of decades, never going stateside. What a shame for us here.

I don’t think anyone expected to lose Greenfield less than a year later. It just sucks so much. I’ve been listening to lots of Stranglers again over the past week. Greenfield needs to be celebrated. Let the party begin.

Born March 29, 1949 in Brighton, England, David Paul Greenfield joined The Stranglers in 1975. He spent his early years playing in bands in Britain and Germany, while working as a piano tuner and working in his dad’s printing business. He played the hell out of a Hohner Cembalet, Hammond L-100 electric organ and Minimoog synthesizer on their early records. Dave wrote a harpsichord arrangement while the band was recording "The Gospel According to the Meninblack," which the other guys hated. This ended up being the basis of their biggest hit, "Golden Brown." 

He sang lead vocal on one of my fave songs, "Dead Ringer," and also "Peasant in the Big Shitty" from "No More Heroes," their second album. Dave had this crazy talent, a composer who could just make any of those songs go in any direction, keep time or just produce weird, otherworldly sounds, like in "Rokit to the Moon." The beginning to "Hanging Around," as Jean Jacques’ bass comes in and slaughters you. I doubt many of you reading this need to be convinced. Dave Greenfield ruled. Apparently when his bandmates began doing heroin, Dave did it once and the next day was like, no way, never again, and quit right then and there. They didn’t get along at times, but Dave was a mainstay. He couldn’t leave and take his sounds with him. The entire Stranglers catalog owes so much to Greenfield.

Dave will be so missed. His bandmates spoke fondly of him after his untimely passing and I’m certain cannot go on without him. Who would want them to do so? Those guys played together for over 45 years, despite lineup changes and especially the departure of Hugh. What would "Get a Grip on Yourself" or "Tank" sound like without him? Unimaginable. How about "Dagenham Dave?"  Who else can emulate that? No one.

"Rattus Norvegicus" inked right on the ribcage next, in memoriam. Thanks, Dave.

Healing to all with this terrible disease. May we lose no more.

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Reject Girl has been a dj at KFJC 89.7 fm in Los Altos Hills, California, since 1996. She loves punk rock.