Thursday, May 31, 2012

Die Kreuzen part 2: Reunion-gig review

Look for this article's author stage diving in a dinosaur suit at 1:08 of  the above video, shot by Martin Defatte at the Die Kreuzen reunion gig.

By Sahan Jayasuriya

Twenty years is a long amount of time. We’ve seen plenty of reunions where decades later, artists attempt to re-create the magic that once was and fail miserably at it. There’s something to be said about the artists that decide to leave things in the past, out of respect for the music. There’s also something to be said about the artists who re-emerge decades later, completely on top of their game. To say that this statement describes Die Kreuzen’s reunion show in Milwaukee, Wis., this past weekend is a gross understatement.

An incredibly diverse crowd of old familiar faces, young punks and just about everyone in between gathered at Milwaukee’s Turner Hall Ballroom this past Saturday for the Lest We Forget benefit show, which featured many mainstays of the Milwaukee scene from the last 25-plus years. While other Milwaukee greats like the Dominoes and the Tense Experts delivered top-notch performances, the true stars of the evening were Die Kreuzen, who played to a packed house with incredible precision and energy.

Any doubts quickly disappeared as they took the stage, launching into “Man in the Trees," the first track off of the classic "October File" LP. With a large variety of material to draw from, the band’s 11-song set did a faithful job of representing their releases, from circle-pit ragers like “In School” to the hook-laden “Elizabeth” to the slow-burning “Number 3.”

Die Kreuzen's Kubinski (Martin Defatte photo)

Dan Kubinski had the entire room in the palm of his hand, delivering his vocals with incredible emotion and honesty. Keith Brammer energetically played his ripping bass lines, locking in with Erik Tunison, whose tight drumming sounded even better than the records. Although guitarist Brian Egeness’ absence left some rather large shoes to fill, his replacement Jay Tiller played as though he had been a member all along, almost perfectly replicating Egeness’ unique guitar tone. Their set ranks up there with My Bloody Valentine’s 2008 reunion as being the best reunion set I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing.

Together, the four members put on one hell of a show. If there’s anyone who had a better time than the audience, it was the band members themselves. Will this be the last time we will ever get to see Die Kreuzen? Who knows. If it is, they truly couldn't have gone out on a higher note.

"It was amazing. So many old friends, and it was incredible playing for a lot of people who had never gotten a chance to see us. Just a good time all around. Poignant but exciting."

-- Keith Brammer

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Die Kreuzen singer tells the tale of his band's reunion gig / Exclusive

Daniel Kubinski leads the way for Die Kreuzen at its May 26 reunion gig. (Peggy Howe photo)

By Daniel Kubinski

Lest We Forget is/was a gathering of us punk rockers, rockabillys, avant-garde rockers and otherwise so-called "outsiders" who made up the Milwaukee, Wis., music scene back in the late 1970s and '80s.

It is a benefit for the Liver Foundation... ailments of the liver seem to thrive here in Milwaukee. The older Milwaukee scene lost many of its brethren in the last 10 years and so very many over the past year... quite sobering.

For years, my old band Die Kreuzen has been asked to do "reunion" shows and we've actually been offered a bit of cash to pull one show off... that type of thing never really interested any of us. Seems as though we'd be selling out and/or doing it for the wrong reasons, and to be honest, I think we would be denying our past.

A very good "past" or history, which had a spine and a backbone and, in part, ideas that were to fuck with the mainstream and bust up the rules, and, of course, to create on our own terms ...which was always our main focus. Be creative, try different things within our music and to try very hard never to do the same thing twice musically.

To simply have the band join up again to sell tickets and rape our band name (that we worked so VERY fucking hard on) for the sake of selling a few tickets and making some slimy promoter money from our good name seemed to fly in the face of things we believe(d) in now, and then. I'm not saying we wouldn't enjoy making money from our band... I think in fact we would like that, hence our dealings/talks with major record labels back in the day. I am saying that simply doing something because "you can" isn't always the right thing to do or the fun thing to do... things should be done for the correct reason, and that leads into Die Kreuzen's recent appearance at the Lest We Forget concert in Milwaukee.

Keith Brammer (remaining photos: Jennifer Austin)

We wanted to celebrate life and remember our friends who couldn't be with us... and fuckin' tear it up with the people still around us! You could say that gig had been building for 20 years... it was, in fact, almost exactly 20 years to the day that Die Kreuzen played its final show in April of '92. Keith (Brammer), Erik (Tunison) and myself really wanted to be part of the Lest We Forget concert-- it is a cause very near and dear to our hearts.

I believe Brian (Egeness) really wanted to be here, too, but his life is somewhat complicated and busy, and free time for him is very tight. So when Brian couldn't commit, I reminded Keith and Erik that we actually do have someone in the "family," so to speak, that might be able to help us make this appearance work. Guitarist, drummer, artist and Deputy Sheriff Jay Tiller of the legendary Couch Flambeau had actually sat in for Erik on drums at a Die Kreuzen gig in Minneapolis when Erik had mistakenly double-booked himself to work out of state (yes, we did have day jobs!) and also play our gig. You can hear that gig on a pretty decent bootleg that's floating around out there.

Anyways, after giving it some serious thought, we decided to ask Brian if it would be okay with him if we did the Lest We Forget gig with Tiller on guitar. Brian responded very enthusiastically with a "yes, but you need to play 'All White' and Jay has to use my old aluminum neck Kramer guitar" (which Jay has actually owned for 20 years or more). So we had a green light from Brian, which was awesome... now to approach Jay.

Erik Tunison, top, Jay Tiller, below

The concert organizers were working full force by the time we had Brian's blessing to work with Jay and they were busy working on getting one of Milwaukee's best-known and most popular bands The Oil Tasters back together for the show. The Oil Tasters' bass player, Richard La Valliere, lived in New York City at that point (just a few months ago) and they were starting to come to an agreement for their appearance at the concert when we all woke up to the news one sad day that Richard had died of a heart attack! After Richard's memorial service here in Milwaukee, we all went for a drink and to talk "Richard" for a while to ease our pain. Tiller and I were standing among friends together and I just knew that I should ask him now... so I did! He smiled and said "shhhhh, nobody is supposed to know yet, Keith already asked me and I told him I think we should do it!" Okay, I thought... let's make sure Erik can get here as he lives in Amsterdam and then, if he can do it... let's commit!

Needless to say, it worked out and we told the promoters to go ahead and start using the name Die Kreuzen in their advertisements.... WOW! This was going to take some work is what dawned on all of us next. Erik started to visit the Amsterdam Jam to play his drums and Keith, Jay and I started to meet up with our friend Dan Hanke, drummer extraordinaire, to start shaking off (probably more like scrape off) the rust. Rehearsals went extremely well! The early material we had picked to play actually came back very quickly to Keith and I while Jay and Dan were playing those songs really well, too. It took me a bit to get my voice where I could hit some of those high notes for the later tunes, but eventually I started to do the old thing pretty good... cool, we can really do this and we can do it right, awesome!

A few days before the concert, Erik flew into town and we started to rehearse in my living room, which is basically a band rehearsal spot. The first night, we did each tune in our set 3 times in a row; by the third time through, things were getting and sounding better. The second night we did "the set" three times in a row. The last set was perfect... exciting!!!! By Friday night, we were feeling pretty good about the set so we invited some friends over to watch/listen to our final rehearsal. Also in attendance for the rehearsals was Matt Stenger, who flew all the way in from the north of England to witness the first Die Kreuzen gig in 20 years. Matt is the curator of the Die Kreuzen fan site, "Counting Cracks, The Die Kreuzen Archive," which can be viewed here: --Matt is not only the sweetest and nicest guy ever, he has put a TON of work into the site, so please have a look!

Die Kreuzen rehearsal.

Also, it was rumored that some of today's more recognizable pop stars might be in attendance. For example, Ryan Adams wanted to see/hear the show and would call Keith to make sure things were going smooth and to say that, "hey, if you guys want to record anything, you should fly out to California and hang at my studio and create some new music".... really? Ryan Adams, you say!!? Yes, that really happened! Neko Case was tweeting about us and it was rumored that fellow punkers Keith Morris and Dimitri Coats from OFF! might fly in to check it out! Wow.... REALLY? Holy shit man! How do these people even know about our little band, and would they all really come across the country to see us play? Turns out none of them could make the show, but they were, in fact, all thoroughly excited about our "reunion." Pretty exciting for us little punk rockers, I must say... fuckin' hell, I LOVE Neko Case! Anyway I digress...

Tickets for Lest We Forget were being bought in California, Georgia, Illinois, Minnesota, Texas, Florida, New York and even further-away places like France, England and Spain... wow, I was kinda starting to feel a bit of pressure... people are really expecting and wanting something from us. Our set time kept expanding. First, we were to play 15 minutes like every one of the other 13 bands on the bill... then 25 minutes... then 30 minutes ... then 40 minutes! Now we were doing a full-blown set!
Suddenly, it's Saturday May 26th and were are supposed to be at Turner Hall where the concert will take place at 1 p.m. Sound check at 2, doors at 5, first band at 6. Turner Hall is a massive old building just to the north of downtown Milwaukee, ancient wooden floors, a beautiful old balcony that lines two thirds of the hall and it's staffed by some of the nicest, coolest people in the industry... I was so very happy we were playing there.

It just so happens that Die Kreuzen had all been together at Turner Hall for the first time in 19 years one year earlier to accept our Wisconsin Area Music Industry (WAMI) award and be inducted into the WAMI Hall of Fame. So it was only fitting that we should be playing there on that stage.
Sound check went well, although it was kind of scary for me to look out over this massive empty room that would soon hold just over 1,000 people... and the concert would sell out-- around 7 p.m., the last ticket was sold. All of our hard work, the rehearsals, the relearning of songs, the traveling, all the preparations involved were all about to come to a head.

Some of Milwaukee's finest took the stage before us: Liv Muller, The Ex Cleavers, The Dominoes, 3 on Fire, The Tense Experts and Sacred Order all threw down monster sets. You could feel the excitement in the air. All the people in the crowd were busy with "I haven't seen you in years," "you look great" and so on. I tried to walk through the crowd a few times, but I never got anywhere because there were so many old friends to talk to.... at one point, I had to stop going into the audience because when I did, I'd have to shout above the band that was currently playing to talk with people and I could feel my voice getting a bit hoarse. I needed my voice on that night, I wanted to sing it like I and the fans remembered it sounding. By the time Sacred Order had finished playing, I was so excited I could hardly contain myself, couldn't wipe the smile off my face.... fuck, I'd been waiting for this moment for 20 years!

We had our friend Chuck read a poem before our set, which reads:


Raise your voices up. We are not the ones who loved the silence, but the loud streams of noisy song and revelry. Revelry may kill us even as it sets us free. I rejoice in who we are, in the music which we love, in the loud laughter shared, in the private moments lost in sound, in the deafening ring trailing afterwards even into sleep, in the scratchy voices, in the lovely voices, in the shrieking voices and dissonant chords, in the bad food, in the nights continuing into dawn, in the parties, and vices, and desires met and unmet, in the wow of watching lovers kiss, and drugs taken swiftly when no one looked, in the drinks backstage or in the bar, in the endless sharing of music of every sort. No moment of silence, please, but to raise a loud triumphant scream in the face of death. Here we are you bastard, here are your bleary eyed sons and daughters, who you will sweep away with your rakish scythe. Listen to us roar, listen to us roar in a million decibels, so that the night explodes with our voices. No moment of silence for any of us, but a blast of guitar, a wailing voice unanimous, a fearless rage against the inevitable. No moment of silence. No moment of silence!

And then it happened, the second Chuck finished reading his poem and the final names of our departed friends rolled off the giant movie screen behind Erik's drum kit...Die Kreuzen walked out into the light from the shadows of 20 years and threw down as hard as we old punks could!

The smiles from the 1,000-plus people in attendance were absolutely infectious... fuck, the whole place had one giant smile! As we jammed through the set, a mosh pit broke out... young teens and 50- and even 60-something-year-olds were fucking slam dancing with each other!! Kids who had never even seen us back in the day were singing along with us. Check out some of the You-Tube vids from the audience... you can hear them fucking singing that shit with me!

I could not control myself. My body just wanted to thrash about and leap through the air. I guess that's dancing, or at least my style of dance. It was all I could do to stand with the mic and sing, I felt like I could spontaneously combust at any moment from sheer exhilaration! Not just my happiness and excitement, but also from everyone in the room-- it was electric... it was so unreal. It was like we were all in the same current of electricity.

That 40-minute set went by so fast and then it was over with. I've never felt anything quite like that before: the love, the brotherhood, the kinship.... life! We had just celebrated life in the best way that I personally could possibly imagine. We, all of us, the audience, the bands, the staff, our sound man Joe who came from his home in Pennsylvania, our production man Darren who came from Minnesota and worked so very hard and our light guy Bob... none of these guys even asked for any $... We/everybody, all of us, had all thrown down one hell of a party!

Like Chuck's poem had said, everyone in attendance had let death know it wasn't always going to be easy... we're going to make a big noise that says "FUCK YOU" and we are going to love each other, be creative, live life and be who we are no matter what anybody else thinks. Young and old, we all said it and felt it.

To use a cliche': the stars and universe were in alignment, the bands, the audience, the building itself was perfect. Then the stage was wrecked, the work was done, and we, Die Kreuzen, had fuckin' done it man... our way. We did it for a good reason, a damn good cause! We did it because we wanted to, not because someone was offering us money; we did it for our friends either living or dead; we did it because, like in the old days, we give a fuck. We did it because we're brothers, and brothers will always be close. We did it one last time!

Or will it be the last time you'll hear and feel Die Kreuzen alive? Tilburg, Holland is calling... and I hear we're selling records in Japan.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Henry Rollins: 51 years strong, no signs of stopping / Interview

Maura Lanahan photo
By Andy

If you were around the Southern California beach areas of Redondo, Hermosa and Manhattan back in the early 1980s, there was a pretty good chance you saw some of the members of Black Flag hanging out.

When Henry Rollins rolled into town from Washington, DC, to take over vocal duties for Flag, he was easy to spot: first with a shaved head and muscles galore, and then a mane of hair and an endless supply of tattoos.

My brother, Ed, and I met Henry in 1982 at a gig in Hollywood and then began hanging out at the SST office on Phelan Avenue in Redondo. You could usually find Henry there, or maybe you'd spot him taking a long walk from his Hermosa pad up Artesia Boulevard to SST. Cat once sold him a greeting card when she worked at Guild Drug on Artesia, on the Manhattan side of the street.

On stage, Henry ripped it up, backed by Flag's pummeling tunes. It was everything punks could hope for in a band and singer. We couldn't get enough of it.

In action with Black Flag. Ed Colver photo (courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics)

Following his time with Flag, Henry formed the Rollins Band and has been a non-stop, tour de force on the spoken-word circuit for many years. He's also authored copious books, acted in movies, and DJs these days on KCRW 89.9 FM (and on the Web) out of Santa Monica College.

His latest playlist included a variety of tunes from the Rolling Stones to the Misfits to Mississippi Fred McDowell (country blues) to Iggy and the Stooges to Ennio Morricone (composer for Spaghetti Westerns).

On the book front, he recently released "Occupants," featuring his photos taken in Bangladesh, Burma, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Northern Ireland, Saudi Arabia and South Africa, matched with his no-holds-barred writing about these places.

Here's a Q and A via e-mail that I conducted with Henry over the last two days:  

*You've traveled the world, speaking and playing with your band --  is there an interesting, eye-opening cultural experience or two that has stuck with you?

Of all the places I have been, it is perhaps Afghanistan that was the most compelling. I can’t get my head around how people survive there. It is a very rugged bit of territory and the people are extremely tough. In travels, I have seen a lot of people living in harsh conditions. How well they stand up to it is a constantly humbling thing.

*What was your impetus for getting into photography and putting together your recent book "Occupants"? What did you learn from the experience?

I go to a lot of places and take a lot of photographs. As the years went on, I upped the level of my gear and ambition. One thing lead to another and I thought I would do a book. Coming from the DIY mindset, these things are possible, so I went for it. I don’t know what I learned from it. Perhaps the subtle art of color correction.

*Playing with Thin Lizzy and the Ruts have got to be some top moments. What were those shows like?

The Thin Lizzy event was good but sad. The more the band played, the more you were reminded that Phil Lynott was gone. It was like a rock and roll wake.

The Ruts show was very intense. It was a benefit for a man who actually played it, who died about 100 days later. The Damned were there, the UK Subs, all kinds of punk luminaries backstage, all basically saying goodbye to (Paul) Fox post show. It was a great event but very, very heavy.

(Editor's note: The 1996 Thin Lizzy show in Dublin was in honor of Phil Lynott, who died on Jan. 4, 1986 -- 10 years to the day of this gig.
Henry sang "Are You Ready?" with the remaining members of the band, and guitarist John Sykes introduced Henry like this, "We've got the meanest motherfucker in town coming up now, Mr. Henry Rollins -- come on Henry."

For the Ruts show on July 16, 2007, Henry filled in for original singer, Malcolm Owen (who died in 1980), in a London benefit for guitarist Paul Fox, who died of lung cancer three months after playing this gig.)

*What did you learn from being in Black Flag and the rigorous practice and touring schedule that came with it?

In my opinion, that’s the way you get your music together and make the live shows good. You really have to work. This is what Black Flag was all about. It was the Ginn/Dukowski method and it worked very well. It’s hard on the band but that is what it takes to kill it live. Being in a band, a real band with real ambition is a very hard thing to do. Most bands are not successful. They are usually not all that good and if they are, they rarely have the intensity to take it to the degree needed to get it over the wall. It will break you to pieces, so you have to deal with that.

Maura Lanahan photo

*You've been friends with Ian MacKaye for 30-plus years-- what's kept your friendship going? What are the most important aspects of a solid friendship?

Ian and I have been for many years. He is my favorite person. We don’t see each other all that much. We live many miles apart and we are both very busy people but it’s always good to see him. We have a lot of shared history.

As to what makes a friendship work, I really don’t know. I don’t think about it. Ian is my best friend and that’s about as far as I think about it. I am not the one to talk to about building relationships, I am not all that good at it.

*You gave a Sonoma State University commencement speech a few years ago-- was that just as important of an event as any of your other speaking engagements? What was your main message to the graduates?

It’s important. It’s their day. You want to tell them something good but not take up too much time onstage. They want to be with their friends and family on this very big day. I think the most important thing was to remind them of their great achievement and hopefully encourage them to go out there and change things and make things better. That’s what I tried to do. The president of the university told me I did a very good job. I was nervous about it but I did it and was honored that someone wanted me there.

*When you're assembling your playlist for your KCRW radio show, what's your mindset? Is there a certain theme you're shooting for, trying to educate the audience with some rarities, or just having fun?

I am trying to make a play list that is fun and challenging. Hopefully, the listeners get their heads around something that’s a little different. It’s a way to communicate. Knowing that there are a lot of young people listening, I try to instill a little history and some things that they might not encounter otherwise.

*Who are the most inspirational musicians you've played with or seen play, and why?

Ian, certainly. I guess the one person who moves me the most is Iggy. There is something about when he is out there with the band that is more than music.

*Who was the most memorable person from the SST or Black Flag family, and why?

Chuck Dukowski would be the one for me. He’s a good man with a tremendous intellect. Greg Ginn was someone I learned a lot from. He was a person who taught me what not to do. Working in an opposite way than he did, I always pay band members in my bands all their royalties and publishing and don’t rip them off. Things are much, much better when you do it that way.

*You're 51-- what are the next 50 years going to be like for you?

Very eventful and very busy.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Getting down with The Basements, Piggy and The Fucking Eagles in Seattle

Kurt Bloch joined The Fucking Eagles on tambourine. (All Cat Rose photos)
High-energy, rabble-rousing garage rock, R&B, punk, etc. were the name of the game when The Basements, Piggy and The Fucking Eagles blasted the Funhouse crowd last Friday evening in Seattle.

The Basements featured Carmella on vocals, Kurt Bloch on drums and Jim Sangster on guitar; former Black Flag singer and Red Cross drummer Ron Reyes went the guitar route with Piggy; and former Seaweed bassist John Atkins led The Fucking Eagles on guitar and vocals.

After digging on The Basements' version of the Sonics classic, "The Witch," Cat chatted with Bloch after the show and quipped, "Hey, you played 'The Witch,' just like your brother did with WOOL."

Bloch: "Oh, yeah, that's right. But you gotta remember, living in Seattle, everyone played that song when they were in a band at (age) 16."

Here's some of Cat's pics galore of the night's festivities:




Sunday, May 20, 2012

From Black Flag to Piggy: Ron Reyes is still raging after all these years

Ron Reyes with Craig McKimm of Piggy in Seattle. (All Cat Rose photos, except where noted)
By Andy

In the summer of '81, a buddy and myself trudged up from the Strand in Hermosa Beach, Calif., and climbed through a window of the infamous Church, where Black Flag once lived and jammed.

It was empty at that time and trashed, but we made our way through the mess and found the room where Ron Reyes showed off his apartment -- or closet -- in the classic 1981 punk documentary "The Decline of Western Civilization."

There was still some Flag spray paint on the walls and a bunch of broken bottles and other shit lying around. Not a bad way to spend some time, we thought, combing through the ashes of a South Bay punk hub.

I first saw Flag in '81 with Dez Cadena singing at the Santa Monica Civic, after Reyes left the band and moved to Vancouver, BC. Reyes did return to the area for a reunion gig in '83 at the Civic, so at least I got a taste of his crazed vocals in a live setting.

Fast forward to May 18, 2012, and myself, Cat and our friends were checking out Reyes' latest rockin' punk outfit, Piggy, at the Funhouse in Seattle. Reyes played some razor-sharp guitar and was joined by singer Izzy Gibson, Lisafurr Lloyd on bass and Craig McKimm on drums.

Piggy was on our agenda again the next night at Darrell's Tavern in Shoreline. A raucous gig again by the Piggy crew, and this time, Reyes got into Black Flag mode by singing "Revenge," "Police Story" and "Nervous Breakdown" with some local bands, Sioux City Pete and the Beggars and The I Love Myselfs.

At the end of the night, Reyes was a demon unleashed as he plowed into the crowd and nearly knocked over a table, but still sent beer bottles banging to the ground. People were stoked on the scene and left with their ears buzzing and faces beaming.

"Revenge!" in Seattle.
I caught up with Reyes at the Funhouse and chatted in the band's van:

** Your recent band, Piggy, how long have you guys been together?

Our new singer's been with us for just about two months, and prior to that, we were kind of in singer hell for about a year -- just trying out singers and couldn't find anything that worked for us. All in all, we've been together for about a year. (But with the singer scenario) we're kind of a new band right out of the gate.

** Tell me about the band and what you guys are all about?

I have no idea what we're about (laughs). It came about as just a desire for me to do something that I've never done before, and that's play guitar in a band. I really only picked up the guitar about a year ago, just when I started the band. I have a guitar around, but I never really played it that much, but I always wanted to. (We're) not really an all-star band or anything like that, just some local friends ... a from-the-ground-up type of thing.

It's not about trying to reclaim something from the past or restore something from the past or try to copy something from the past -- It's just Piggy.

Izzy Gibson and Reyes.
** How does it feel to be up there playing guitar in your own band? I'd be remiss not to say there wasn't a little bit of your old bandmate (Greg) Ginn influence there.

Oh, absolutely. Obviously, there's Greg Ginn and Ron Asheton and guys like that. Greg is a huge influence and continues to be a huge influence. When I was in Black Flag, he was really supportive of actually teaching me a little bit of guitar, and if things were to have continued, we had planned on me playing second guitar in the band. I started to play a little bit, and actually that was the last time I really played guitar was about 30 years ago. There's nobody that plays like Greg, for sure.

(On Reyes' playing)
For me, it's great because, for some reason, there's a lot less anxiety attached to it. As a singer, as a frontman, I have great anxieties about that -- always have -- and it's one of the reasons why I haven't done it for a very, very long time. It's not that I'm awful at it, but it's just that I feel like I'm gonna shit my pants, every moment I'm up there (laughs).

But as a guitar player, I'm just the guy in the back, and I'm not the focus. For me, it's a lot more free and more creative, too. It really seems easy to me.

Notice the Black Flag bars on Reyes' guitar.
** How do you feel about all your old buddies (OFF!, etc.) still rocking out and making viable music?

As long as it's viable, I think it's great. I think there's a lot of people that are trying to reclaim some of the old glory, and in some sense, you really can never go back to that. (Piggy) we play 'Jealous Again,' just kind of as a larf: 'There's Ron up there playing 'Jealous Again,' but he's not singing, he's playing guitar.' I can't play it like Greg Ginn-- it's not a serious thing, it's just fun.

If you're trying to rehash something or reclaim something or resurrect something, I'm not really into that so much, but it's good music, it should be played. I love the fact that the Descendents recently got back together and did some dates-- holy shit, I mean, who doesn't love the Descendents? Seeing them even after all these years, it's just amazing, right? It's fun.

In the sense of OFF!, sure they're firmly entrenched in a particular groove that's reminiscent of early Flag, but they also got their own thing going on. Keith could sing opera or whatever, and it'd still be cool, right?

Reyes flips the bird in "The Decline." (Courtesy photo)
** On his appearance with Black Flag in 'The Decline of Western Civilization': What do you think of seeing yourself back in those shoes?

(Laughter) It's funny that you should say that because I don't go back and look at it. But today, I had my friend Kyle Nixon (an old friend from Seattle's Solger), 'I said, dude, you gotta hook me up with some of those old videos,' maybe somebody might want to sing one of those old songs and invite me up to sing... and I go, 'I don't really remember the words to 'Depression.'

(They watched some You Tube clips) ... and were thinking about Scrawny Ronny up there. You know, a skinny little boy with a whole lot of energy. It's cool -- I love it. It reminds me a lot of my kids; now I've got two 17-year-old boys, and one of them is very much into that style of music. In fact, he picks up the guitar and plays some Black Flag stuff, and Descendents and a lot of other cool stuff, as well.

It's good, it's definitely a part of my history. I don't bask in it or anything, but it's fun.
** I think it's always fun just to look back on old photos or videos.

Yeah, sure. Particularly when they were good times. If they weren't, it would be just like, 'Well, fuck that, I don't wanna go back.' I guess that's why some people in the Flag family don't really like looking back because they had tough times. But for me, I really had some great times in the band. And when I left the band, it had nothing to do with inter-band issues, it was more of external things that were happening in the scene.

Ginn and Reyes in the old days. (Bev Davies photo)
** On Black Flag's work ethic...

I think it got even way more crazy and intense after I left. Certainly by the time Henry came down. I had the opportunity to go down and see them and spend some time with them in rehearsals with Henry and Kira, that lineup, and it was monstrous how they would jam for hours and hours and hours and hours. It was pretty incredible.

It was great music, I love the fact that Greg was doing something that was groundbreaking. It was very unique.

** On playing with Ginn (and others) at Reyes' 50th birthday party gig in July 2010 in Vancouver (they played "Jealous Again," "Revenge" and an original song, "Broken."):

He shows up and we put a guitar in his hand, and he started playing and it was pretty amazing seeing him play after all these years. Being in rehearsal with him was pretty impressive. Our jaws were just dropping when he got in his groove.

** On Piggy, gigging and recording (they spent time in a Seattle studio on May 20):

We do have plans on getting some music out and coming back down and playing. I really wanna play down in LA, Redondo Beach as soon as possible-- I just think it would be a lot of fun. I'm not gonna get in the van and cross the country doing it (laughs), because that's just not what I'm into these days, but playing these dates and recording is a lot of fun.

In full-on Piggy mode. Piggy setlist below.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Brujeria's Fantasma -- Pat Hoed -- sheds his bandanna, shares his musical wisdom

Pat Hoed as Fantasma, left, gets a Brujeria crowd going. (All courtesy photos)
By Andy

He's the man behind the ninja and wrestling masks while plucking the bass. The laid-back dude off stage who sports a bandanna over part of his face and takes on the name Fantasma while barking out lyrics in Spanish for touted extreme-metalists Brujeria.

He's hung out extensively with Danzig and interviewed the Beastie Boys, Slayer and countless others as Adam Bomb on his "Final Countdown" radio show in the 1980s on KXLU 88.9 FM at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.

He's manned the four-string in heaps of bands, from the Nip Drivers to Down By Law to Santa Sabbath, a heavy-riffage Christmas present featuring Yuletide lyrics and costumes -- no Ozzy required.

Hoed with Santa Sabbath, above, and Nip Drivers, below.

It would be tough to find something that Pat Hoed, 48, hasn't done in his lifetime.

On Danzig: "I got to know Glenn pretty well, went to a couple wrestling shows with him. (Laughs) he's a very interesting guy, cool dude once you get to know him." Hoed befriended the former Misfits man while working at Def American Records in the publicity and tour-promotion department when the "Danzig" album dropped in 1988. He also worked a similar job at SST Records back in the day.

Hoed jumped into the wild world of punk at his first gig in 1978 with the Avengers, Go-Go's and the Flyboys at Baces Hall.

"The Avengers just totally blew my mind, how tight they were," recalled the lifelong Los Feliz, Calif., resident.

However … it was a singer in tight trousers that first "freaked" Hoed out when he attended a Tom Jones concert at the Greek Theater at age 6. 

"I remember crying as a little kid 'cos women were screaming so loud. And at that age, you don't associate women screaming with certain feelings for a man," he laughed at the experience that evoked feelings of "fear" and "terror" in the youngster.

My brother, Ed, met Hoed at LMU in 1982 and they bonded over Battalion of Saints' "Fighting Boys" EP. Before long, we all were attending punk gigs, like the infamous Misfits, Necros, Social Distortion show at Bob's Place. A year later, Hoed took a stage diver's boot to the head at a Minor Threat gig and developed amnesia as we walked him to the car and back home.

We spent many nights with Hoed at the radio station, and my friend John and I sat in on the Slayer interview with Tom Araya and Jeff Hanneman. (Slayer wanted to use portions of that interview for its "Soundtrack to the Apocalypse" box set, but LMU officials toted the firm hand of denial -- "It bummed me out, but oh, well," Hoed laments.) My own band, Sorex, took the interview hot seat with Hoed on one occasion -- it was a blast.

So, on a recent Sunday evening, I phoned Hoed -- who now works for Amoeba Music in the Web department -- and we chatted about his bands, radio career and the journey he's taken in this maniacal music world.

• Brujeria (means "witchcraft" in Spanish):

Hoed and his high-school buddy John Lepe (Juan Brujo in Brujeria) conceived the idea for the band while checking out metal groups like Terrorizer, Death Cult and Demolition at East LA backyard keggers in '89 or so. 

When they chatted with the singer from Death Cult about their music, Hoed said the guy spoke "in this real thick accent, and I said, 'Man, this guy is talking to his own people, but in English, why doesn't he do it in Spanish?'"

"That's where the (Brujeria) ball started rolling. (In Spanish) The attack of the words is different than English, it really suits metal and punk well."

According to the Brujeria Wikipedia article, "They perform under pseudonyms and portray themselves as a Latino band consisting of drug lords, concealing their identities due to being wanted by the FBI.
"(Their lyrics) sung in Spanish, are focused on Satanism, anti-Christianity, sex, immigration, narcotics smuggling and politics."

So, are we giving away Fantasma's identity with this article?

"We tried to keep it secret. Once the Internet age hit, it was like forget it, everybody fucking knows," Hoed said.

As for the bandannas the band members sport, Hoed said someone from Roadrunner Records came up with the idea to incorporate the border drug-dealer look.

"That was just a natural image to use -- with the bandannas -- and it's worked. Just something to set us apart."

Over the years, Brujeria has featured 18 members and released seven singles/EPs and three albums. The band presently consists of Hoed and Lepe as co-vocalists (Pinche Peach appears on vocals at times), Jeffrey Walker (El Cynico) of Carcass on bass, Shane Embury (Hongo) of Napalm Death on guitar, Adrian Erlandsson (Podrido) of Paradise Lost on drums and Gaby Dominguez (Pititis) on vocals and guitar.

The band once included Jello Biafra, Billy Gould (Faith No More) and Raymond Herrera (Fear Factory).

"So it's been like a big family kind of thing. It's a been a merry-go-round of characters," Hoed said.

Hoed and Lepe have remained tight over the years -- they're in Brujeria for the long haul.

"Even in those (early) days, we were pretty much grooving on the same records. I remember he was a big FEAR fan," Fantasma said of Juan Brujo. They met at age 13 at Loyola High and ran into each other at a Clash gig at the Hollywood Palladium on their "Take the Fifth" tour in '79.

Brujeria, which has gigged all over the world and at major festivals, recently returned from playing a string of shows in South America, including some "crazed" gigs in Brazil, Hoed said.

"It was great, but it was grinding, it was grueling: eight shows in nine days. All the cities weren't close enough to drive to, so we basically had to fly to every show," he added.

A new album is slated to be released this year, Hoed assured.

• On whipping up a crowd with Brujeria:

"I can almost make a direct correlation to that from just being a lifelong fan of pro wrestling. That's the thing I always noticed (as) a little kid, I'd say, 'Man, these guys, that's the thing, they can talk and they get a crowd riled up, they get 'em going, they sell tickets and people show up for the shows.' So that whole concept of show business and marketing was exposed to me through the crazy world of pro wrestling -- and it's gone on to the whole music thing."

• Band beginnings:

Played backyard parties with cover bands. It was his "training."

Hoed, right, with the Nip Drivers.
• Nip Drivers, first real band:

Joined the Mike Webber (RIP)-led pop-punk group in late '83.

"The one thing I learned early from him was that I wasn't a songwriter. I learned it's like a natural thing, those songs just come to you, you can't force them out of yourself. He had a great, great sense of melody and humor, as everybody knows from his lyrics. Great pop sensibility, kind of a blend of the best Sweet records like 'Desolation Boulevard' with the best Beach Boys songs."

• Left Insane:

Instrumental band, a mash-up of King Crimson, Descendents and Black Flag proportions. Also featuring Tony Cicero from Saccharine Trust and Paul Radabaugh.

When Bob Fitzer quit, Hoed stepped in to fill the talented bassist's shoes:

"It was intimidating at first, but eventually I just sort of fell into my own style of playing with those guys. I really learned a lot about playing with other guys, especially when there's not a singer. You really got to keep things interesting for an audience."

Down By Law, Hoed second from left, in Berlin.
• Down By Law:

Played with singer/guitarist Dave Smalley and his pop-punk coterie on two 7-inches, three or four tours in the '90s.

"Every band was a learning experience, and that was great because we got to tour with ALL. That was an education right there, seeing how Bill Stevenson and crew run things -- they're like a well-oiled machine, man, it's like the military the way they get things done."

On Smalley: "I respected him for his abilities. He's a great vocalist, and to this day, I play Dag Nasty's 'Can I Say' record very loudly, I might add, 'cos it's so good."

• God's Gift to God: A Killing Joke vibe.

• Black Widows: Instrumental, garage, hot-rod, science-fiction, spy, surf stuff. They dress in black ninja outfits.

• Slowrider: Hoed describes them as Santana Jr. At times, it was a nine-piece band playing soul, funk, rock -- late '60s, early '70s East LA sound as filtered through the 1990s.

• Foreign Object: Four guys, all pro-wrestling-related costumes and tunes. Enough said.

Top: Foreign Object, Hoed bottom left. And middle with the Black Widows, below.

• "Final Countdown" and interviewing the Beastie Boys in 1985:

"They didn't really wanna do the standard interview; it started off as an interview, and just sort of devolved into just clowning around. It was a good day. It was just really young, fresh-faced kids, and then we know a year-and-a-half later, they'd be on top of the Billboard charts, ruling the world with that ('Licensed to Ill') record."

During the Beasties' appearance, Hoed spun the instrumental version on the 12-inch "Beastie Groove" and the trio rapped the lyrics live. "That came off really cool," he said.

On MCA, Adam Yauch's recent death: "It's shocking, especially a band that is so influential to punk rockers and hip-hoppers alike."

Beasties' interview link:

So, looking back on more than 30 years of rocking out with a variety of bands, Hoed says playing bass is a "beautiful thing."

He's gone from backyard parties to revving up thousands of fans at European festivals with Brujeria.

"There's no thrill like that," he said of those major affairs, which usually feature headliners like KISS, Judas Priest and the like. "(The fans are) also gonna see your show, and you get that big roar from the crowd after you finish a song. I'll tell you, man, there's nothing like it."

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Have DOA, will travel -- adventures with Joey Shithead and his punk crew

DOA's Joey Shithead at Riot Fest, Chicago 2008. (All Cat Rose photos)
By Cat

DOA, DOA, where do I start?  Let me count the ways.  If any of you are fans of our blog, you have probably been wondering "why no DOA?" yet anyway.  Well here it is.  For me personally, besides Mudhoney, DOA is my most witnessed band, and for both Andy and myself, the band we've seen in the most varied locations (dating back to 1981):  London, Los Angeles, San Jose, Chicago, Vancouver, Victoria and, of course, Seattle. It is also the band that we have had to work the hardest to get to see on various occasions. 

You're always guaranteed a rollicking good time with the Joey Shithead (Keithley)-led band (born in 1978), which bats out the classics, like "Fucked Up Baby," "The Prisoner," "Smash the State" and countless others, along with later songs, like "Marijuana Motherfucker" and "Just Say No to the WTO." (Jello Biafra joins them on their new single, "We Occupy," and a new album, "We Come in Peace," is set for a July 22 release.)

When Shithead cocks his head, snarls and does a kick-spin with guitar in hand, it's a blast.

A few trinkets:


We made our way to The Mean Fiddler in London in 1993 as we were not going to miss DOA with Rudimentary Peni when we were in town.  Andy and I were stoked, as neither of us had ever seen Peni before.  This is where I first experienced a Snakebite and Black--(which I refer to as a Black Adder).  A proper Snakebite is a lager, such as Harp, and a cider, and the "black" being a dash of Chambord--wonderful! Nevertheless, the night was embedded on my memory and it was actually one of the only nights that we got drunk and lost in London trying to get back to our friends' house (Carrie & Nugar's) in Stoke Newington during that vacation.


In 2003, we had to check out Joey doing his spoken word when his book "I Shithead" came out --and with the handy Victoria Clipper, we jumped on to get there quickly as he was going to do a spoken word at Russell Books and then DOA was playing a 25th anniversary gig that night at The Cambie on Esquimalt Road. 

But little did we know that the weather was not a friend that day.  We were denied the Clipper (which gets you from Seattle to Victoria in 3 hours or so) due to the heavy winds.  So they diverted us on a bus, which took forever to get to the other side of the border, then we had to get on a ferry over to Victoria. 

The whole process took us about 6 hours vs. the 3, but we made it.  Once there, we were able to find our way to Russell Books and got there in time for the full reading. (Russell Books opened in 1961 in Montreal and then added a Victoria branch in 1991.)

During the reading, Shithead acted out one rowdy scene in the book by falling on the ground and kicking his feet up in the air while saying something about guzzling "three or four beer." (Not beers, but BEER as plural.)

As an added bonus, he performed "General Strike" and "You Won't Stand Alone" solo acoustic.

From "You Won't Stand Alone":

They climb the corporate ladder
 They take the kickback
 They'd sell out their mother
 Well, they can go to hell

Time to make a stand, time to have our say
 Don't buckle under, get in the way
 There's many ears to listen and many hands to help
 Time to wake them up and give the liars hell

Then we had to figure out how to get to the show-- when we looked it up, it did not seem that far away, so we started walking. After about an hour of walking, it seemed we would never get there, but we pressed on and finally found the place. 

When we arrived, we were beat and we sat at the bar and discussed our hardships with the friendly bartender who helped us mend ourselves with a nice cold one.  Then as we sat there, Mr. Shithead came and sat near us, and the bartender then relayed our story to him and he grabbed a poster to sign for us.  We said that no, that is okay, but being the cool person that he is, he insisted and signed the poster shown below, thanking us for coming the "long way around" to get there.

** Vancouver:

We heard about this "Vancouver Complication" LP reunion show in 2004 not long before we decided to head up there--Some of the bands on that record, including the Subhumans, were going to play w/DOA and had not done so for many years.

We did not think we would need tickets ahead of time, usually not a problem for most shows we want to go to.  But when we got there, we found out it was sold out.  We were not going to be denied, though.  We first got our way into the WISE (Wales, Ireland, Scotland, England) Hall's exclusive bar/lodge-- the guy at the front door was really cool and he let us go in there even though we were not members and let us play pool and buy some beer. (The club/hall dates back to 1958 for you history buffs.) 

After that, as people started to line up upstairs, we were able to get in line and wish for them to have some additional available tickets.  We ended up befriending a chick who was as determined as we were to get in and she started making friends with everyone until, lo and behold, she found someone with extra tickets---3 for us--awesome!  At that time, we had been without beer for awhile since there were no bars around; but we were able to get her in w/us downstairs to the special members-only lodge to get beers while we were waiting for the doors to open. 

They were totally cool to us and let us in (along with our new friend) as we had been there earlier; but everyone trying to follow us in were denied.  Nice.  When the show started, we cheered beers with our new friend, whom we quickly lost in the crowd, and proceeded to thoroughly enjoy the full show, which included Randy Rampage playing bass with DOA again.

Shithead at the Congress Theater in Chicago.
** Chicago: 

This was the Riot Fest in Chicago in 2008, and was not especially hard to get to or any extreme circumstances to overcome, but was a great show at the historic Congress Theater (opened in 1926). We could not believe that DOA was playing early in the day -- compared to many of the less-stellar bands that played-- and we were able to catch Joey after the show in the main photo at the beginning.

           Hopefully there will be more adventures for us involving their shows in the future-
                  Cheers to DOA, and may they continue to live long and prosper... 

Classic poster in Cat and Andy's upstairs hallway.